An Excellent Throw Rug

Author’s Note: So a while back when I had my fluff fest, Liana Mir gave me the quote “he’d make an excellent throw rug” as a prompt. This is what I came up with, and it seemed like a good piece to start off the themed snippets with a Sunday Silly.

An Excellent Throw Rug

“Why is Flint on the floor?” Cress asked, giving the other man a look as he stepped around him and into Moira’s cabin. He didn’t really want to ask, but he didn’t have much of a choice. They were elementals. They did the impossible. They saw strange things daily. Flint on the floor, doing a good impression of a rug, that wasn’t so bizarre, but if the man was actually unconscious, that made a difference.

“A difference of opinion.”

“Is that all?”

Moira shrugged. “Do I need more of a reason?”

“You expect me to say no. You know me well enough to know I’d say yes.”

She rolled her eyes. “Fine. He’s there because he makes an excellent throw rug.”

“Got tired of knocking him into walls, did you?”

“It was time for a bit of variety.”

Cress snorted. “And they wonder why we never dated.”

Not Cheating or a Unique Slumber Party

Author’s Note: So I had a bit of a downturn this weekend, and I asked for prompts to keep me working/writing and enjoying what I wrote instead of going into the hate cycle of my apparent love/hate relationship with writing.

This time isn’t fluff so much as “keep me writing” which could be fluff, but isn’t necessarily fluff.

Anyway, this prompt was Enya + pillow fight, and it ended up turning into two pieces that I went ahead and put together because one spawned the other.

Not Cheating/A Unique Slumber Party

“No fair. You’re cheating.”

Enya pulled the pillow close to her, looking over at her… friend and forcing a smile. She almost considered saying that no one could cheat in a pillow fight, but that wasn’t true. She wanted to say that this wasn’t cheating—if she wanted to cheat, all she had to do was burn that other pillow right out of the other woman’s hands, and it would be all over. She wasn’t cheating.

“I’m just used to fighting with a bit more opposition,” Enya said, not wanting to think about being fire, not right now. She was normal here, and she wanted to stay that way. That was why she was here and not with the others, so that she didn’t have to worry about fighting in other ways. She could have harmless pillow fights instead of infernos that killed.

“More opposition?”

“I… I had a large extended family. Kind of like a bunch of cousins even though we weren’t related by blood,” she said, letting out a breath. “And Sherwin always fought dirty—though Moira might have been worse. It usually meant that Cress would have to come in and calm us all down.”

“You sound like you miss them.”

“I do,” she said, closing her eyes. “I always do.”

“No fair!” Terra cried, though Enya would have said it wasn’t fair that she covered herself in a dirt mound to avoid being hit with a pillow or three, and she didn’t know where Aiden had disappeared to in all this chaos but she figured he was hiding out at one of the other houses because he’d been so insistent on not participating in the fight.

She didn’t understand that. Stone was bigger than all of them and always worried he would hurt them, but he was playing, and he’d even managed to get a few good hits in on Occie—the girl he swore he was going to marry.

Sherwin caught Enya around the waist, and she squirmed, trying to get out of the hold. She went to hit him with her pillow, but he kissed her, and she forgot all about the pillow fight.

At least—she did until all the pillows erupted in their faces. Coughing through the feathers, Enya glared at the culprit behind their impromptu feathering. At least she hadn’t been working with one of the waters—they’d be stuck that way if she had.


The air elemental shrugged, looking smug, but her brother wasn’t amused, and feathers flew again as he chased her around the room. The house shook, and someone bumped Terra, so the ground rumbled, and Enya found herself backing against the wall and hoping that she wouldn’t feel the need to use fire. Ever.

Water rushed over them, and Enya shivered a bit. Cress walked into the room, rubbing at his forehead. “Clearly it is a bad idea to try and sleep around the rest of you.”

She laughed. “I told you that you should have just joined us.”

He looked at her with a slight frown. “Like you wanted the wet blanket around when you were having fun.”

“It might have been more fun if you were a part of it.”

“New game,” Sherwin said. “Everyone get Cress.”

“We don’t have any more pillows thanks to Moira.”


Always Fine

Author’s Note: This one answered the prompt: Enya/Cress, “If you fit into my pants, I’ll kill myself.”

And it was supposed to be a fluffy bit, but because I set it before Enya rejoins the others, it’s bittersweet.

Always Fine

“Damn it. It happened again.”

“What?” Enya asked, rubbing at her forehead and trying to remember when it had rained so much. She didn’t think they’d predicted a storm this weekend. It should have been nice today. Her coworkers had a picnic planned. That was the plan, at least.

“Enya. I—I hadn’t realized this was where you lived.”

Right. There. That was her brain catching up to itself. She hadn’t realized that she’d heard his voice. He wasn’t supposed to be here, so her brain had started acting like it was a dream, but she didn’t think it was. “Actually, this is where I work. I live over—”

“Don’t tell me,” Cress said, cutting her off, pulling at his shirt, and she looked around, trying to decide if anyone else had seen them—him. Just him. She hadn’t done anything, had she? “And, no, this wasn’t you.”

“Are the others here?”

“Somewhere. We got separated.” Cress closed his eyes. “Occie’s over there. Other side of the lake. Probably worried. Did… Did you want to see them?”

Enya swallowed, tempted, but she shook her head. Even if she did, she doubted they wanted to see her. “No. I don’t. I’m not entirely sure why I’m seeing you.”

“Rogue air elemental. Real pain in the ass. Worse than Sherwin.”

“I didn’t think that was possible.”

He gave her a look, and she winced. They did know it was. A rogue air had killed Moira and Sherwin’s parents. Enya hadn’t forgotten, not exactly. She just put that in her ignore file and moved on, the way she did with everything.

“I hate when I don’t buy pre-shrunk clothes,” he muttered, and she looked back at him with a frown. His shirt clung to him in a way that had her mind going places she’d refused to let it when they were kids, and she forced herself to stop now.

“I thought everything was pre-shrunk these days.”

“No.” He tried to walk and cursed, pulling at his jeans. “I don’t suppose you have a spare pair of pants I can borrow?”

“If you fit into my pants, I will kill myself.”

He smiled at her. Then the smile faded. “I should go. Occie’s going to be worried, and Moira will be pissed—and worried—so I…”

“Yeah, go.”

“They’re all okay,” he said, and she couldn’t manage a response. He’d known what she wanted to ask but didn’t dare. “Really. Terra made a garden that won a contest—not that she was around to get the prize. Stone proposed to Occie again last week. Sherwin’s an idiot, as usual. Moira did this impressive wind chime concert the other night. She’s good at that.”

Enya nodded. She wished she’d been there to hear it. “What… What about you?”

He shrugged. “Oh, you know me. I’m water. I’m always fine.”

“Except that your clothes don’t fit.”

He laughed. “Yeah, except for that.”

She stood there, feeling awkward, wrapping her arms around herself. She could hear her coworkers somewhere behind her, laughing and joking as they fixed their picnic, and she knew she had to go back to them, but she wanted to ask him to take her with him.

She let out a breath. “It was good seeing you again.”

“You, too.”

Cat Versus the Elements

Author’s Note: Liana Mir wanted an AU snippet from Fire and Water based on this passage of it (from A Bit of Practice):

He glanced down at his chest before coming toward the shore to pick up his shirt. He pulled it on and shrugged. “I’m wet. A lot of things look better wet. Not cats, though. I don’t think it would be fair for one of us to have a cat.”

“Probably not. I might set it on fire, you could drown it, and Moira would end up knocking the poor thing out of the house with a gust of wind.”

Here it is.

Cat Versus the Elements

Legend said that cats had nine lives, and if they did, Chocolate seemed to be proof of that. The small, brown ball of fur belonged to Terra, a gift given to her by Sherwin as an apology of some kind. None of the others quite understood why he would give a woman attuned to earth a cat, of all things, but he just reminded them that a dog would dig up her plants and said no more.

It was probably better that he didn’t. Any time Stone saw the cat, he had a habit of turning a gaze befitting his name toward the other man. Of course, when the kitten placed a paw on him, she turned that big man into mush, and everyone was reminded that he was a gentle giant—when they weren’t teasing Occie about how he’d be with their kids.

Occie would take the cat from Stone’s hands, give her a gentle scratch behind her ears, and set her down. After this ritual, the two of them tended not to be seen for hours, though that never bothered Chocolate.

She had other mischief to find, and find it she always did.

She never seemed to regret it, either, though she probably should have after she startled Enya. Chocolate had no way of knowing that Enya had become a city girl in her time apart from the others, no idea that having something small and furry sneak into her sleeping bag would cause the reluctant fire elemental to scorch away all of that fur.

Terra and Enya didn’t talk for a while after that, though Enya did try and remind her that Chocolate would have been too hot in the summer with all that heavy fur. Chocolate was able to meet her namesake when Terra got a large box of gourmet chocolates as a peace offering, promptly shredding the ribbon that had wrapped it shut.

Of course, peace with Chocolate around never lasted long. After the record-breaking heat wave, tensions were a bit high all around, all the more so in the overheated water elementals. Chocolate wouldn’t have understood what the argument was about, but she did become more acquainted with the rain that followed after than a cat ever wanted to be.

Not even being water could save Cress from Terra’s ire over the cat’s near drowning. Terra only stayed with the others to be close to her brother, since Occie would not leave hers. Chocolate didn’t hold a grudge, though. She still snuggled with Cress as she did everyone else—Enya said it must be because he smelled like fish because cats didn’t like water.

Cress let her do an impression of the drowned cat for that comment. Chocolate wisely avoided all that followed that, choosing instead to find the air elemental that was alone—almost alone—in the cabin. Had it not been for Flint’s choice of comment at the time, nothing might have happened. Moira liked Chocolate well enough—as much as Moira liked anyone, at least.

What she did not like was a certain firebug and a certain song, and in ridding herself of one irritating presence, she caught an innocent party in her gale wind, shoving both of them out the door. Terra scooped up her cat and disappeared into her garden for a while.

“I don’t think we as elementals should have a pet,” Cress said, and everyone would have agreed had Chocolate not come out of the garden with a litter of kittens. They cursed instead, knowing they’d lost.

Though this is not a part of the main story, you can read more by starting here.

Tempting the Dragon

Author’s Note: So I asked for prompts again, and as I was contemplating the one I got, I remembered that I hadn’t done this one. It didn’t really work with where things were in The Drought aka Fire and Water Part Two.

I thought that it would work to do a flashback, though, and while this is before Enya realizes she’s fire, I think it still fits.

The prompt: Enya: Love always wakes the dragon… — from “Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”

Tempting the Dragon

The kids at school wouldn’t stop talking about it. About him. About what he’d done. Enya didn’t know how he could stand the rumors going around, the names they were calling him behind his back—or even right to his face. Jerks, the lot of them, and she swore the next one that called Cress a freak was going to pay for it if they were dumb enough to say it in front of her.

Aiden told her to ignore it. He wanted her to do what he did—walk through the halls with his head down, never causing any trouble in class or disagreeing with anyone. He was shy to a fault, she had heard their mother say, and she didn’t know how he’d ever manage to pass speech when they had to take it in high school. Sherwin would pass with flying colors, she was sure, and everyone would be annoyed by it—by him—but Sherwin wasn’t the problem right now.

Cress was.

Well, it wasn’t like it was his fault or anything. No one knew what happened, not even Cress, but that didn’t stop them from blaming the whole thing on him. It didn’t matter that those bullies had attacked him in the bathroom, that they probably would have put him in the hospital if the plumbing hadn’t gone crazy. No, all that anyone cared about was that Cress had supposedly done that, reducing all the other boys into gibbering idiots afraid of all water, even the bottled kind.

She stopped at her locker, turning the dial to the first number of the combination. She let out a breath as she finished the combo and opened the door, letting it slam into the locker next to hers.

“Watch it. Why is it that you always shove that open like you hate the person with the locker next to you and you’re trying to take his head off?”

She laughed. “Maybe I do.”

“Oh. So you joined that club, did you?” Cress asked, leaning back against the lockers. “I guess I figured that we’d all stick together. All of us outcasts and potential freaks.”

“You are not a freak, Cress.”

He shook his head. “Things haven’t been the same since that day. I swear, I can feel things that I shouldn’t be able to feel—”

“Are you going to be coming out of a—”

“That is not funny. I can feel water, damn it, not that. It’s… It’s like knowing it’s going to rain but ten times worse. Like I could reach out and make it rain. It don’t… This isn’t right. Something’s gone horribly wrong with me, and it scares me.”

“Maybe you’re still traumatized by what those jerks did to you in the bathroom. Give yourself some time to recover. It’ll go away.”

He didn’t look at her. She knew he didn’t believe it. He must think he was cursed or something. “Come on. We’re going to be late for science.”

He grimaced. “I think I should ditch science.”

“What, afraid we’re going to dissect you this time, freak?” One of the older boys demanded, pulling Cress away from the lockers. “Why don’t you make it rain, huh? You can do that, can’t you, waterboy?”

“Let go of me.”

“You gonna make us? Why don’t you? Let’s see you use your freak powers. Give us a good show.”

Cress glared at Joe, trying to get his arm free. “Don’t you remember what happened the last time? Do you really want that? Those other boys are still muttering gibberish.”

“I bet you’re a one-hit wonder. I doubt you can do it again.”

“He won’t have to,” Enya said, stepping forward. “It doesn’t matter what he can or can’t do with water. I’ll kick your ass for him.”

“You don’t scare me, girl.”

She shook her head. Why were boys always so stupid? Why did they always assume that a girl couldn’t do anything? They were such idiots. “Any one of us girls could take you any day of the week.”

“What do you think, freak? Your sister going to prove that she’s just like you?”

Cress lunged at Joe, but two of the bully’s friends caught him, holding him still for their leader. Joe rammed his fist into Cress’ stomach, and Cress doubled over, grunting. Enya wished Stone were around. No one would bother them if he was. He was so big, and everyone was scared of him. Still, she could do something. She had to. She jumped on the back of one of the ones holding Cress in place, wrapping her arm around his neck and cutting off his air.

“Get this brat off of me!”

“All right, all of you, break it up! I mean it, now!” the hall monitor shouted, and the boy Enya’d jumped on slammed her back into the lockers, knocking her off. She moaned, rubbing her back as she tried to stand up again.

“I told you to stop,” the monitor said, dragging Joe and the other boys away. Enya glared at them as they went, almost wishing she had a freak power that could make them all pay. She’d get them back for this. She swore it.

“Next time, he won’t have a monitor to save him.”

Cress put a hand on her shoulder. “Don’t say that. Just… let it go. Really. You don’t need to do anything to them, Little Fire.”

“Don’t call me that. It sounds so… patronizing.”

He let out a breath, shaking his head before he reached out to touch her cheek. “You didn’t see your face when they had me. There was… I saw something in your eyes, something… odd.”

“You’ve seen me angry before.”

“Yeah, and that was different. I…” He bit his lip, and she frowned at the worry she saw in his face. “I’m afraid your name might be more fitting than you know.”

Though this is not a part of the main story, you can read more by starting here.

Things to Regret

Author’s Note: So I was supposed to be getting additional prompts to help me fulfill the ones for Sunday Scribblings or Carry On Tuesday, and I guess I could stretch this one into working for Carry On Tuesday, but I’m not really sure I want to link it since I’m a bit… hesitant to share the second part. I might take it out since it is too… overt for what I was trying to do with this story.

Still, I could say it uses all of these pictures as prompts. One, two, and three. Maybe four, if one squints.

Things to Regret

“You ever think about soulmates?”

Enya frowned, looking across the table at him. That was an odd question coming from him, but then again, the whole evening was weird. He’d asked to meet instead of talking on the phone, and when she got there, she’d been surprised to see he’d picked a bar. She was even more surprised to see him actually drinking. “You have got to be drunk to be asking me that, and I thought you water ones could just… shift that right out of your system. How can you be drunk?”

Cress shrugged. “Can be if I want to be, and right now I want to be.”

She frowned. That wasn’t like him at all. “You had a bad day, then?”

He shook his head, lifting the glass to his lips and finishing it off. “Not discussing that.”

“So you’d rather discuss soulmates?” Enya grimaced. She didn’t like this. She had a feeling something bad had happened, and it might be wise if she got away from the window and anything else that might hold a reflection. “You are in a weird mood. What happened?”

Cress made a point of staring at his empty glass, letting his eyes cross. “How do I convince Occie to leave, Enya? I can’t stand in the way of her happiness forever. Her and Stone… They are soulmates. She won’t admit it, and I know it’s my fault. How do I get her to go?”

Enya almost snorted. He wouldn’t get that to work. Occie would never leave him. If Stone couldn’t get her to do it, nothing could. “Beg her in tears like you did me?”

“I didn’t cry. I never cry. I’m immune. I’m water.”

She did snort that time. “Sure you are.”

“Don’t mock me. I don’t want to be mocked. I want another drink,” Cress said, getting up. She didn’t think he should have made it to the bar and back in one piece, not with the way he’d been acting, but it was possible for him to have shed just enough of the liquor to regain his equilibrium for a moment. He came back with two glasses, but he didn’t offer one to her. “I don’t know why I’m doing this. I never wanted it. Why did I drag everyone else into it?”

“You’re a good leader?”

“Not amusing. I’m terrible at this. They should revolt.”

“This isn’t a dictatorship. It never was. They could walk away at any time. It’s not like you’d kill them if they tried to go. You let me leave, after all.”

He nodded. “Sometimes I think… I think if I could just be that much better, that much more in control, if I could… I want to send them all away. I don’t want to force them to do this anymore.”

“You never forced them to stay.”

He grunted, emptying another glass. He set it down, swallowing without a reaction to the burn of the alcohol. She hated that he could do that. He pissed her off so much sometimes. He turned the glass over and shook his head. “I think I killed someone.”

“Oh, hell.” She reached over and took his hand. No wonder he was drunk. That kind of guilt could destroy him. She knew it liked to kill her. “What happened?”

He didn’t look up from his glass. “You heard about the fires?”

She cursed. She’d thought as much, she’d wanted to be wrong, but she knew that she wasn’t. “I was wondering if that was a rogue. I take that it was?”

Cress jerked his head, just one brief nod. “Moira had to sedate him. I couldn’t keep him calm. He set something on fire the moment he came around. Tried to make it one of us most of the time.”

“Did anyone get hurt?”

“Terra got pretty burned. Occie and I had a hell of a time calming Stone down after that.”

Enya had never liked Terra that much, but even so, she didn’t want the other woman hurt. “Is she okay now?”

He shrugged. “You know us. We heal faster than most. Accelerated genetics and extra dimensions will do that to a person.”

Damn it. The rogue hadn’t only hurt Terra. “What did he do to you?”



He lifted up his full glass, toasting her in a mocking way. “Cress is fine. Cress is water. He’s powerful and untouchable, and nothing ever hurts him. Nothing bothers him. He doesn’t cry, he doesn’t get hurt, he never loses his calm. He can’t be burned, and he can’t—”

“Get drunk?” She couldn’t help mocking him, but then again, she shouldn’t. This wasn’t funny. None of it was.

“That, too.”

“You are such a liar. Everything bothers you. You care about everyone, all of the team, and you’re an empath. You don’t get the luxury of not feeling anything. You are cursed by feeling too much. You always have been,” she said, thinking of all the times her moods had drawn him right to her even though it was the last thing he wanted. “You’re hurting now, or you wouldn’t be drinking.”

“No one else thinks that. They think I’m some kind of… robot or alien or something. I’m impervious.” He gave her a gleeful smile when he came up with that word, polishing off the last of his drink. “Yes, that’s what they think I am.”

“You’re not.”

He stopped, frowning at her. “How is it you know me so well?”

“You show yourself to me. You always have.”

“Damn,” he muttered, and she almost hit him for that one, drunk or not. Then he leaned forward and puked all over her. All she could do was groan.

“Cress, you bastard. I’m covered in—are you alive over there?”

He didn’t answer, and she sighed. He had to have passed out. She should have expected it after seeing him drink that much. She grimaced. She couldn’t send him back to the team—she didn’t know where they were, and he was in no state to tell her. She’d just have to take him home with her, then. He could sleep it off on her couch.

“Come on, Washburne. I guess after all those times you spent taking care of me, I can take care of you for a change.”


Cress opened his eyes with a grimace, blinking at the sunlight and groaning. He could not believe what an idiot he’d been. He knew better than to drink—or at least he knew how to flush the alcohol out of his system if he did drink—but he’d done it anyway.

Of course, that wasn’t his biggest mistake. He knew that the pain of the hangover didn’t compare to how much he’d be hating himself for dragging Enya into his mess. He had no business calling her, and to drink like he did, in front of her, acting like such a fool… He hadn’t wanted to sedate the rogue, he knew what it would mean for him, locking him away and cutting him off from his element. That was death for someone like them. Maybe Cress hadn’t used the water in the man’s body to kill him, but he might as well have considering what constant sedation would do to the bastard.

He shook his head, walking down the hall. He would wake Enya and apologize, and then he’d make it up to her somehow before he left to rejoin the others. Occie would be pissed at him for leaving without telling anyone, and he wasn’t looking forward to dealing with that, either.

He pushed open her door and leaned in, but his voice caught in his throat before he could say anything. She was all tangled up in her covers, hair wild and spread across her pillows, the red highlights threatening to overwhelm the browns of her hair, asserting themselves more as the light crept in from the windows. He had to smile, though he shouldn’t. Even in sleep she didn’t get much peace, did she?

He could help her with that. He knew that. He wanted to. He could calm her, make it so that she slept better than the proverbial baby.

No, he couldn’t.

He closed his eyes, leaning back against the wall. He’d seen it there, one instant like they said life flashed before a person’s eyes. He could see himself with her, living the life normals did, waking up next to her and lying around in bed all day. If he took it far enough, he could see their whole lives—growing old and gray together—and that he couldn’t allow himself to think about.

He had to go. Now. He’d condemned the team to a life none of them wanted, and he could not abandon them, no matter how tempted he was. Tempted. Damn, he was an idiot. She’d never given him any reason to think she felt anything for him besides friendship.

He let out a breath, forcing himself away from the wall. He should help her clean up, but if he stayed—No. He couldn’t stay. He knew that. If she hated him for leaving, then… Then she hated him. It was what he deserved anyway. He shouldn’t expect anything like forgiveness from her, and he wouldn’t. Not now, not ever.

Author’s Note: So… Cress was on his own, and it was a bad plan…

Forcing the Flood

“You like the rain, don’t you?”

“Don’t you?” Cress asked, feeling the drops cease even as he spoke. He could start it again, but if he did, all he would do was exhaust himself, and he knew that was not in anyone’s best interests. The idea was to get the others enough time to extract Stone, and he could do that, but only if he was careful. He had to do this just right, keep the balance between him and the head of Aether, let the man think that he had Cress where he wanted him.

Trouble was, Cress knew that the last part was true, regardless of how the rest of it turned out.

“It has its uses.”

“Everything has a use. Not all of them are practical or good, but they all have uses.”

“True.” The other man smiled, giving Cress a look that made him want to shudder even before the words that followed it. “What do you suppose yours is?”

“I have no interest in finding out what you want me for,” Cress told him, being honest about it. He was a coward. He didn’t want to know. He couldn’t get a good sense of the man’s emotions—there was a smugness to him, he did seem all too pleased with himself and the situation—but beyond that, Cress couldn’t pin him down. He did not like this, but then he’d come here knowing how this would play out. He had no illusions about the outcome.

“That cannot be true. Curiosity and fear always win out in situations like this. You need to know what I’ve got planned for you, and if you don’t know, then you can’t possibly combat it, now can you? You’re practical enough to know that you need that information.”

“I don’t know that we should consider me… practical.”

The other man laughed. Cress wasn’t going to bother calling him Smith, that wasn’t his name. That didn’t fit. It was a cover for the normals, a lie to obscure what he was to anyone who might stumble on Aether, but his real name would be like the rest of theirs, a dead giveaway. “You are a leader. That means you make decisions based on what is best for all concerned, and that must assume some practicality.”

“Why are we discussing semantics?”

“To give your team time to get what they came for. Or are you going to deny that you’re here for the earth elemental?”

“If you know about that, why are we talking?”

“You and I have more important matters to discuss. He was bait; you knew that all along. That is why you met me here and not there. You have already made your decision, haven’t you?” The other man smiled. “Yes, of course you have. You’re loyal enough to give up everything for them, and I knew you would be. Tell me, do you know why we have to break the mirrors?”

“I have theories.”

“I will tell you mine. We break them to shatter our illusions of ourselves. We must be able to break free of the confines of normalcy, of what this world tells us is impossible. We can control elements, but only by first accepting that we can.”

Cress shrugged. “That’s one way of looking at it. You going to say there isn’t another world on the other side of the barrier, that it never bleeds through because it’s all in our heads? The line is arbitrary, and we simply hide behind it because we’re not capable of facing how great we are?”

“I find your tone less than amusing.”

“I find your ego overinflated and annoying.”

The other man took hold of him, and Cress shuddered as all of his abilities went haywire at once. He could feel emotions—too many, damn it, way too many—from everyone around him, maybe for miles. He couldn’t be sure. It hurt too much. Rain pelted down, challenged by the flow charging up from the street, pouring out of everywhere, and things started to freeze across the street, glass cracking and bursting, the windows shattering through all the buildings.

He was dying.

In that instant, he understood—the other elemental was going to bleed him dry. His abilities would kill him, as he’d always figured would happen someday.

The hand came off; he fell to his knees, sickened by the emotions rolling off the other man. “Oh, that was incredible. I’ve been waiting for someone to come along with half your skill, but you… now you’re a gift.”

Cress forced his head up, glaring at the elemental. “What are you going to do?”

“Oh, come now. Don’t you know?”

He didn’t have the energy to argue with the bastard. “No.”

“It’s time we saw the other side, don’t you think?”

Author’s Note: The trouble with plans, even bad ones, is that they get used. That’s the point of them.

Following the Bad Plan

“Let me out here.”


“Terra’s awake again. That means we’re closer to Stone. That also means that if we get much closer, he’ll be able to sense me. I’m going to give him a reason to come see me, and that is your window. Go do what needs to be done.”

“This is a very bad idea,” Enya said, reaching for his arm. He looked down at her hand, and she pulled it off with a sigh. “Please. Be careful.”

He gave her a slight smile, opening the door and jumping down. He shut it behind him, and she moved to the window to watch him as he walked away. She didn’t like this. She knew she was still useless—she and Flint hadn’t gotten much of anywhere with training—and Terra might have been awake, but that didn’t make her capable of anything. Cress shouldn’t be on his own.

“I’d just get him killed if I went after him, wouldn’t I?”

“I’m going to have you and Terra stay with the car,” Moira said. “You two will back us up if anything goes wrong, and you know it probably will.”

“The useless ones are your backup? That is a bad plan, Moira.”

“Enya, you’re not useless. Even without control, you’re not. If things go real bad, and they might, you will be there to deal with it. I know that. I’m also hoping that the more we can help Stone, the better off Terra will be. We’ll see what happens, but I hope we don’t have to call on you.”

Enya grimaced. She let out a breath, feeling Flint’s hand on her shoulder. She looked over at him and he smiled at her. She wanted to be reassured, but she didn’t feel like anything could at the moment, not with Cress off on his own.

“He’s a strong, stubborn bastard, but if you’d kissed him, he’d have had a lot more of a reason to make sure that he came back.”

“Oh, gee, why didn’t I think of that?” She pushed his hand off her shoulder. She didn’t need to think about that, refused to go there. Cress was struggling, and she knew that, and she wasn’t about to complicate things the way Sherwin always did.

“Who says you didn’t? You just didn’t act on it.”

“Shut up.”

Flint shook his head. “I think one thing most of you have overlooked is the value of having something to come back to. Most of you shut yourselves off from what you want and what you care about to do what you do, and while that can help, it can hurt, too. Maggie and I always went into a fight with some plan of what we were going to do when we got out of it, something worth keeping ourselves alive for, and I stand by that. It helped. Come on, Oceana. Wasn’t it better after a fight to be able to go to your husband and have some time alone?”

“After she got her brother leveled out, you mean?”

“I didn’t ask you, Weatherly.”

“Enough. We are not going to start fighting among ourselves before heading in there. We’re nervous and worried, but we are not giving in to that. We will not let our own emotions work against us. We have to be careful, and we have to be quick. Stone needs us, but we have to balance that against the fact that Cress is out there alone. We can’t afford mistakes.”

“Other than the one we made letting him go off alone,” Weatherly muttered, and his sister gave him a dark look. He lowered his head. “Sorry. I’m… You know me. My mouth runs off when I get nervous.”

She nodded. “I know. All right. We’re almost there. Cress has started his distraction, if that rain is anything to judge by. We need to be ready. Terra, you can feel Stone now?”

“Barely. It’s like… I think he’s sedated.”

“Makes sense.”

“I should be able to help flush it out of his system, if we get to him. The trouble is going to be in getting to him,” Occie said. She sighed. Enya looked at her, and the other woman closed her eyes. “Cress feels fine for now, but we don’t have a lot of time.”

“Let’s go.”

Author’s Note: Most plans are bad plans. Especially if I make them.

The Plan No One Likes

“Anyone got a plan?”

“Shut up, Flint.”

“Well, I know I’m just along for the ride, but you know you can’t go in there without one. It’ll get us all killed. I know that your friend has been in there for too long already, but think about it—your most powerful person is running near empty, you’re missing one, and you’re gimped because your earth is half-out of her head and Enya doesn’t have control.” Flint looked around the car, daring someone to argue with him, and of course, they couldn’t. They might want to, none more so than Windy, but they knew he was right. “We can’t go in blind. There has to be a way to get out, and we don’t even have a way in besides overexerting ourselves making a path.”

“We can by-pass plenty of security measures with any of our given talents,” Sherwin said. He shrugged. “It’s never been much of a problem before. We can usually hear someone give a password if it’s a vocal one, and Moira’s good at twisting the wind into a convincing echo. If there’s something on a keypad, Terra or Stone could pick it up, and then it’s just a matter of getting the order right, which isn’t that bad. It doesn’t take much to disarm anyone, and if we just want to pass through… Well, Cress has put them to sleep in seconds in the past.”

“You can’t rely on him to do everything.”

“Build the plan away from me as much as possible.”

Windy cursed. “Damn it, Cress, you do not get to be the distraction.”

“Yes, I do. I am the one who can stand against him on my own the longest, and I’m also one that he’ll be able to feel when I get close. I cannot be a part of any sort of stealth. Ideally, I’d be somewhere else entirely when I got his attention, forcing him to leave the area where he is holding Stone devoid of any elemental defenses. Normals are easy to deal with. Rogues are not.”

“You should take your sister with you.”



“Occie gets to be with Stone.”

“That’s Terra’s role.”

“It’s Occie’s.”

Flint shook his head. “You’re not going to get him to back off on that. The prisoner gets his wife as the one he wakes up to. I’m with Washburne on that much, at least.”

“Wife?” Sherwin sputtered, staring back at Oceana. “You two got married? You never told us, but you told the new guy? What the hell is wrong with this picture?”

Oceana shook her head. “I didn’t tell anyone.”

“I did,” Cress said. She frowned at him, and he shrugged. “It was relevant to the discussion at the time. It is not now, other than to say that I feel you should be able to be with Stone after all this time, and that he needs you. In fact, he would be better off with you and not with Terra, as stabilizing her would drain him too much in his current state.”

Windy shook her head. “That still means leaving you on your own with this bastard who is more powerful than all of us, so why would we do that? Come on, Cress. I already told you—sacrificing yourself is not an option.”

“I’m not planning on dying, just on buying the necessary time, which we all know I am capable of, no matter what my condition. I led us away from Stone when he wasn’t dead, when he could have been saved, and that is a mistake I will atone for. I think using his interest in me to our advantage is for the best, and if I simply count upon you to do what I know you can do, then there is a minimal risk to me.”

“It’s still a risk,” Enya said, biting her lip as she watched him. “You don’t really have to do this. We’ll find some other way. It’s too dangerous.”

He shook his head. “I doubt there is any other way, and I will be fine.”

Flint looked at him. “Let me be the distraction. The bastard knows me, too. He killed Maggie. No one likes your plan—”

“No one trusts you enough to let you be that big of a part of the plan.”

That was a kick to the gut, but he didn’t hear anyone arguing with Washburne, either. Flint nodded, clipping his words as he spoke. He didn’t want to be so pissed, didn’t want to care what any of them thought of him, but he did. “Fine. If that’s the way it shakes down, that’s the way it goes, I guess.”

“This plan sucks.”

“I think we all agree on that much, at least.”

Author’s Note: Occie and Cress had to have their conversation…

Not So Tranquil Waters

“Never seen you take such a back role. Ever,” Oceana said as she joined her brother, aware of what he was watching and how careful he’d been to stay out of the line of sight of everyone on the shore. He was as close as he could be, yet far enough as to be out of range, not letting his empathic abilities bleed over to them.

“You know I can’t teach her what she needs to know, and I can’t be the reason she thinks she can control it. She has to know that it was her doing. Not mine.”

Oceana nodded. That part she approved of, and she was proud of him for stepping back at this point. “True, but are you sure it’s just that?”

“Are you saying something about Enya and Flint?”

Her eyes went back to the shore. The two fire elementals were getting close, fast, but then it wasn’t much of a surprise. Oceana figured that he wanted to have someone like a sister again, and Enya needed him as a teacher and a surrogate for Aidan. It had the potential for being more than that, too. “So the thought has crossed your mind.”

Cress shrugged. “If it’s going to happen, it will.”

“Damn it, Cress, why do you have to do this?”

“Not sure what you’re upset about. Enya needs to make her own choices. She has to decide her own path, and her control has to be hers. She is the one who needs to take responsibility for it, and that means that I cannot have a part in it, regardless I might feel about trying to help her. I didn’t come out here for her, anyway.”

“No, you came out here for a quick rinse and renew that patches you up for a little while, but not long enough. It’s never long enough anymore.”

“We don’t have time for me to stay in the water as long as I would need.”

“You can’t kill yourself to—”

“Stone is dying.”


“Terra called it bad. I could filter it more when she went through it. He’s been cut off from the earth, and when you’re injured and cut off from your element… That kind of pain is distinctive, and it’s worse than anything I’ve ever known. If we don’t go to him soon, he will not make it back no matter what happens.”

She closed her eyes. “Cress…”

He put his hands on her shoulders. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been so blunt. I just… We don’t have a choice. We have to go. I didn’t even want to take this time, but I had to. After going through that, I… I needed something from the water.”

She nodded, putting her hands on his face. “You know how much Stone means to me, and I know you’re not even skimming the surface of what that did to you, so don’t start apologizing. Just try not to get yourself killed because you know what he is to me. I need both of you, not just the one. Don’t ever make me pick.”

“Funny. For years, I did, and you picked me.”

She sighed. She had a horrible feeling that one way or another, she’d lose one of them, and a part of her wanted to stop this before it started. She could save her brother. She knew that. She could keep him here and make sure he stayed safe. Stone was already injured; he might not make it out no matter what they did. The practical thing to do was to pick Cress.

“Come on. We have to go.”


“We are not leaving him behind. Not again. That time I swear he was dead, I couldn’t feel anything from him, but this time he isn’t, and I won’t do it. I can’t make the same mistake twice.”