Fire and Water

- A Serialized Novel -

Enya Royston has hidden from herself and her abilities, fearing the destruction that always comes with using them.

Author’s Note: Moira and Cress have an interesting relationship, close but not at the same time. They trade off leading rather well, though.

Leadership Conference

“Team dynamics have changed a lot lately, haven’t they?”

Moira jerked, cursing him, and Cress smiled. Not many people got to do that to her, and he was one of them. The water thing, cooling down everyone’s mood, should have given him away, but he sometimes slipped past. He always enjoyed it, more than he should have. He did not know why.

“I’d ask you to keep him away from me, but you’re not in charge anymore. I am.”

Cress nodded. He would not forget that any time soon. “I know.”

Moira’s eyes went to the distance, darkening. The wind was picking up despite Cress’ presence, and he knew that. “He’s new. It makes sense that he’d push. That he would ask questions. That he needs explanations that we don’t.”

“That doesn’t make them any easier to give.” Cress shrugged. “Why should they be? We don’t discuss these things among ourselves, so why would a stranger know?”

“He wouldn’t. Shouldn’t.”

Cress knew Moira would never revisit any of those old wounds. He understood. He’d done his best to put all of his childhood behind him, to lock it and all memories of his parents away in some dark corner of his mind. All that mattered was what happened after that day. “I didn’t have much of a chance to help you back then.”

Moira shrugged. “Enya was hysterical. She’d just lost everything, and you needed to keep her calm so that it didn’t happen again.”

He’d been selfish. She knew it, she’d accused him of it in the past. Sure, he couldn’t be everywhere, but where he’d chosen to be was still selfish. “You lost Aidan.”

Moira closed her eyes. “I’m punishing Flint for that, aren’t I?”

“That’s one way to put it.”

She shook her head. “I don’t need another fire elemental around screwing with my head.”

Cress gave her a look. She was still reacting emotionally, and she’d hate hearing her own words now when she looked back over this conversation. “Aidan did not screw with your head. His loss, though, added one more to the tally, enough to persuade you that loving anyone meant losing them. That all we got out of life was a freakish ability and death.”

She pretended not to acknowledge that, turning it on him again—or trying to. “I’m not the only one who chose not to have a relationship.”

“I don’t deserve one.”

“Why would you even think that?”

“I’m the cause of all this, aren’t I? That man crossed my path, not yours, and I led you all down this one out of fear.” He dared her to deny it, and he was not surprised that she could not. He knew hidden underneath her support and her restraint was a great deal of anger, most of it directed at him for all he’d done to get them into this mess.

“There were plenty of dangerous rogues that we stopped that no one else could have.”

“That doesn’t mean that we had to give up all of our lives for it. You know that as well as I do. Why did you follow me, Moira? You never should have, not when you blamed me for making the choice I did.”

She winced. “You already said why you didn’t go back for Aidan. Don’t do this. We don’t need to drag up all of the old wounds.”

He looked away, letting out a breath. “If you can trust me, if you can look beyond my selfishness and all it cost, then dealing with Flint is nothing.”

“I can handle Flint. What I want to know now is what I’m going to do with you. Where is your head these days, Cress? Was that a one-time thing, trying to get yourself killed with that water elemental or should I be locking you up for your own safety?”

He shrugged. “I can’t say I’d change my mind about what I did then or that I wouldn’t put myself between him and the rest of you again if the situation arose. I… I admit that the possibility of him only wanting me has been weighing on me. If it would spare the rest of you, if it got Stone back to us—”

“No. He doesn’t get you. I don’t care why he wants you, he doesn’t get what he wants.”

“Do you think I was… bred to be this way, that they did the rest of it to twist me into it, all for whatever he had in mind? If it’s about the barrier or about… I don’t even know. He called me competition, but why would he want that?”

“Something he can do that takes too much out of him that he wants a proxy for? He needs to make you into someone capable of doing it so that it won’t kill him?”


“Could go back to the barrier. Could be that pulling it down would kill him.”


“We’re stopping him. We’ll get Stone back. We won’t give him anything he wants, no matter what he wants it for,” Moira said. She frowned. “You’re slipping. I don’t know how you coming over to comfort me ended up with me reassuring you.”

“Never said I came to comfort you.”

She rolled her eyes. “You did. You always do. You can’t stand feeling our pain.”

Cress lowered his head. “Aidan loved you. I think I told you that before, but I might not have since I know it would seem like an empty platitude after losing him. What good does love do, anyway?”

“You, of anyone, should know that.”

He snorted. “Because I can sense emotions? That doesn’t mean I understand them or ever know if what I feel is… right. No, it’s not for me to know just because I ended up with that particular ‘talent,’ though I have to wonder if it’s a curse—I think the key Occie and I found might lead to another safe-deposit box, one that has all the details of what they did, and while a part of me needs to know and knows that all of you should know—”

“You’re afraid of what we’ll learn?”


Moira nodded. “Not all of the details have to come out. Only the ones that tell us what he’s after, not ones that would only… humiliate you. Or Occie. You give me your word that you’ve told me what we need to know, and I won’t even ask to look at what you find.”

“Why would you trust me with that?”

“Because, despite whatever they might have done to you, you’ve led us for twelve years. I trust that. I’ve seen you in action and know what you’re capable of and what you’re not.”

“I hope so. I’m not entirely sure I trust myself.”

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