Author’s Note: Working with Cress in the past is interesting. I figured I should share this, even out of order, because he asks a few questions that lead to his later choice, and that is a big part of who he is and his relationship with Enya and the others.
Edit: This isn’t quite so out of order now. It was written to follow “Trouble in the House of Water,” and so now it does connect to more of the story.
“Why do you always find me?”
“I’m the best there ever was at hide-and-seek,” Cress said, and Enya gave him a look as he sat down next to her. She would never admit how much she wanted to see him, how she’d been tempted to go by his house and stay there. Even outside his room would have been fine. She thought it was kind of pathetic, but he had that effect on her, so soothing and relaxing, and she thought she’d scared Occie earlier—she’d scared herself—so this was just what she needed.
She’d turn into him and take more of it if she could.
She wanted to hurt Sherwin. She’d seen him with Moira after their parents had died, and he’d held her and comforted her, and he’d held onto other girls at school in the past, too. He had listened and hugged and been good to them. She’d lost everything and her “boyfriend” couldn’t hardly look at her.
“Am I a monster?”
She’d almost forgotten Cress was there, and that was weird, but then he wasn’t very talkative all of a sudden. “What makes you so sure of that?”
“Because even if the fire was your fault, you didn’t want them dead.”
Even if. He said that like he didn’t think it was. He had never blamed her for it, even though he’d almost gotten killed putting it out and keeping her sane afterward. She didn’t understand him. “Yeah, like that makes a difference.”
“It does. There might be a thin line there, but with the abilities we have, we could do terrible things if we wanted, and the difference is wanting to. We could embrace the darkness and be monsters, all of us. It would be too easy to do. You know, the human body is seventy percent water, right? If I messed with that just a little…”
“You wouldn’t, though. You’re too good for that, and you don’t hate anyone enough.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be with Hannah right now? I thought you had plans.”
“I’m not supposed to see her. She’s a normal.”
Enya snorted. “Like being one of us is something anyone would want if they could have it. Sure, I can play with fire. Trouble is, everyone gets burned afterward—to a crisp. They’re all dead. If I could give it up, if I didn’t have to have this—”
“Would you? Would you be normal if you could?”
She frowned. “Why are you asking me that?”
“I… I don’t know. I just think normals are a lot freer than we are. We might have some abilities, but you’re right. Who would want them? Water’s not that great. I’ve had ‘groupies’ following me, getting their depressant fix off what I can do, since I first broke that mirror.” He lifted his hand, tracing his fingers over the faint scar that marked where the mirror had gouged him, a scar that none of the others had. They hadn’t been marked when the glass shattered, but he had.
Did the fact that his blood had spilled when it happened make it so he had more control? Was that why he was more talented than the rest of them?
She took his hand, wondering if he was thinking the same thing. “Water is a huge part of what you are, Cress.”
“Yeah, but fire’s not a part of who you are. Not in the same way.”
He shook his head. “I think you, if you got away from here, you could be almost… normal. You’d never have to be fire again. Would… would you like that?”
She nodded, leaning into him. “Anything to keep the monster away. I’m so scared of what happens the next time the mirror breaks. What if I kill one of you?”
“Make it my parents. We’ll all be better off.”
“That is so not funny.”
He grimaced. “I’m sorry. I… I just fought with them, and they’re being so unreasonable, and I swear they… They’re talking arranged marriages. They’ve got a girl who’s water that I’m supposed to… well…”
“That’s not right. I mean, Hannah might not be the right person for you, but you should still be able to have a choice in the matter.”
He frowned. “What’s wrong with Hannah?”
Enya shrugged. She figured it would be weird if she wrapped an arm around him, but she wanted to get more of the feeling he didn’t even mean to give off. Yeah, she could see why people were addicted to this. She closed her eyes and almost laughed when she caught the scent of fresh rain even though it had been dry for the better part of a month. “Hannah’s a spoiled brat. She always gets what she wants, and right now it’s you because she wants the most popular guy in school. She’ll ditch you when she gets a chance, and she’s not good enough for you.”
He grunted. “Hannah’s different with me.”
“Sure. Tell yourself that. If she breaks it off, don’t come crying to me.”
“You know, for all that I’m attuned to water, I can’t remember crying once in my entire life.”
“That’s okay. I’ve cried enough for both of us.”
He sat back, putting his head on his arm and looking up at the clouds. She hesitated, but he patted the ground next to him, and she settled in, wondering if he’d start rearranging the clouds into shapes again. She loved that game, but he hadn’t done it in forever, and she didn’t know why.
“You’re going to be in trouble when you go home, aren’t you?”
“Does that look like a rabbit to you?”
“No—wait, yes. It does now,” she said, smiling and allowing herself to be distracted as he started to contort other shapes in the clouds, knowing she should send him home so that he didn’t get in trouble but unable to tell him to go. She’d keep him here with her, always, drain him until there was nothing left, and the worst part was that he’d let her do it.
Just a few minutes more. She’d get up and go—if she didn’t fall asleep first.