Author’s Note: Backtracking to Cress…
The hate had cut through the rain and made him stop, giving Cress pause. He couldn’t always pinpoint the emotions he could feel through his empathy, but he did this one. Hatred, strong and lethal, directed at him almost like a weapon. No, wait, not at him. At the water. He hadn’t meant to start the rain, but he’d been unable to rein himself in when his own emotions had been in so much turmoil.
Those particular emotions were ones he hated feeling the most. Desire was a private thing, intimate, and getting the sense of that from anyone almost merited the heaviest rainstorm he could summon just so that he felt clean again.
He preferred it when he couldn’t sort out the emotion at all, when all he knew was that something was off. He could calm and soothe without knowing all of the details.
He glanced up. The rain stopped.
The sense of hatred faded into confusion, and he looked over to see a man standing on the sidewalk, his appearance far too much like a fire rogue for Cress’ liking. He took out a lighter and flicked it open and shut, not using it for a cigarette or anything else. Cress wasn’t in the mood to deal with a rogue, especially not a fire one, but he would if he had to.
He made a few more drops fall on the rogue, smiling when one of them extinguished the lighter’s flame—that was an accident with impossible timing—but it worked to intimidate the other man enough to make him put the lighter away and give Cress a curt nod.
They understood each other, then. If the rogue did anything, Cress would douse him just as he’d done that little flame. He turned away, looking for the bus stop. The safe-deposit box was not anywhere near their stopping place for the night, and he should have waited for Moira and Terra to get back, but he had needed to get out of there before something disastrous happened.
“Most of your kind would have doused me without a warning.”
Cress didn’t look at the other man. He could have made a few comments about the general state of fire elementals, but he wasn’t looking for a fight. He would much rather this one just left him alone. He had a bus to catch. “I’m not like most of my ‘kind,’ as you put it.”
The firebug nodded. “True. Most of you can’t mess with the rain, just all the other sources of water… including the human body.”
Cress gave the other man a long look. He had a pretty good idea where that hatred came from now. “Was that what killed your sister?”
“What would you know of that? If you had any part in with that bastard, I’ll—” The firebug broke off, shaking his head, trying to move his hand and failing to do so. “Damn you. You’re a pushy lot, you water jerks.”
“If you are referring to the fact that you’re half-frozen, you’re mistaken, that’s not me,” Cress said, his eyes going across the street, to the dark windows of the SUV he’d noticed in passing, not thinking much of it until now. “I’ve never been all that talented with freezing things, but I suggest you take this opportunity to leave. He won’t be as generous as I’ve been.”
Cress freed the other man from the water rogue’s hold, throwing it back at the car. Another few seconds and it might have killed the fire elemental, judging from the ice on the vehicle. Cress took a deep breath, crossing the street.
It was time that the two of them got properly introduced, after all.