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.”

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: This is the point at which I said, “Oops, story’s… over.” Then I also said, “no, it’s not, there’s more so I have to keep going.” 40,000 words later, that was a huge mistake. I went back to this point and changed directions, and so while this is not an ending in some people’s opinions, this is where this part of the story ends. After the mistake in taking the story one direction, I’m not really thinking I’ll put up the next bit unless there’s a real interest in seeing it, just because I’m not sure it’ll work this way, either.

Not Just Trouble

“The rain stopped.”

“Enya, what are you doing? We’re supposed to wait here.”

She knew that, but she couldn’t help pushing the door open anyway. She couldn’t feel anyone or anything, not even Flint, and she didn’t like being so far removed from everyone else and what was going on. She didn’t want to sit alone and wait for something to come at her. She understood now what she’d done in hiding from her abilities, and she cursed herself for it, for leaving her and the others so helpless by her lack of control.

“Don’t go. I can feel Stone. He’s awake, and I can tell he’s doing better. We’re almost done here,” Terra said, taking hold of Enya’s arm. She looked at the hand and shook her head, pulling free as she stepped down onto the street.

“They might be, but that doesn’t mean that Cress is,” Enya said as she started toward where they’d left him. She didn’t know what she expected to be able to do; she knew she didn’t have control and shouldn’t use her ability, even if she’d had a lesson or two from Flint. She hoped that she wouldn’t have to use it, to rely on anything that she could do, but she knew something was wrong. She’d known it before Cress got out of the car.

“Enya,” Terra hissed, following after her. Enya knew she thought she was helping, trying to keep the one of them that couldn’t control anything close so that she could help if Enya got in trouble, but she didn’t want to need that, either. She was not a child. She would get better at controlling her abilities, and she’d make herself useful for a change. “Come on. They’ll be back at the car soon enough and—”

Enya watched the water flowing up through the streets, a flood rushing through the middle of the town, and she knew it was unnatural, even as she was soaked through by the rain pouring on top of them. She could see ice spreading across the street, heard glass shattering everywhere, and Terra caught hold of her arm, almost collapsing on top of her.

“Sorry. I feel… sick.”

Terra wasn’t the only one. Enya might not be as connected to fire as Terra was to earth, but she could feel how wrong this area was. She didn’t think Occie or Cress should get anywhere near here. This kind of wrongness could be fatal for a water elemental. Then again—this was where Cress was, and if he was fighting against that, he’d be in terrible shape, worse than anything he’d been through yet.

“Come on. We have to get closer. Cress is in trouble.”

“Trouble,” Terra said, and Enya almost rolled her eyes at the other woman’s mood, but Terra shook her head. “This is not just… trouble. I think he’s dead.”

Enya refused to accept that. She dragged Terra forward, around the corner, wishing she could use one of Flint’s tricks to warm up the street. The water was freezing, and most of the area had gone to ice. They’d have more normals to rescue, and they couldn’t afford to do that, either, not when they needed to get Stone and Cress away to safety.

Not that they’d abandon anyone to freeze to death, either.

“Oh, hell,” Terra said, and Enya looked over to see what had her cursing. She’d expected to see Cress on the ground, unconscious or worse, but that… that was something else. Lightning flashed along the edges of the darkness, a hole ripped right in the middle of nowhere, as though the fabric of space and time itself had gotten torn, leaving a dangerous vortex in its place, only it was not drawing either of them into it.

“He did it. He used Cress to break the barrier.”

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: The bond forming between Flint and Enya is… necessary. She needs his help so that she can control what she can do. She also needs a friend/brother-type like him, I think.

The Truth about Fire

“What’s the number one misconception about fire elementals?”

“They all smoke,” Enya said, folding her arms over her chest. She wasn’t sure she wanted to do this now, but they didn’t have a lot of time left at the lake. Just a little while longer, enough time for everyone else to load up the car and let Terra rest and Cress recoup a bit before they started running again. She knew it hadn’t been long enough—it never was. He couldn’t seem to get enough rest to rebuild himself.

“Yeah, exactly. Why do they all assume we’d want to do that? Think about it. We know what’s burning. We can feel it. The tar and the other things in cigarettes and cigars… Yuck. It’s not as simple as needing fire. We’re not necessarily pyromaniacs, but we are in some ways. We can get comfort from it, and we can give off heat…”

“When we lived on the end of that block, we never paid for water or heating. My parents could keep us all warm even in the worst of the winter, and the Washburnes made sure we had enough water. The whole ‘firebug’ thing is a bad stereotype.”

Flint shrugged. “Don’t think that we’re not, though. You and me, Maggie and your family, we’re exceptions, not the rule. I know plenty of us that are crazy. Those wildfires a few years back, that was one of us—”

“I know. Cress told me. He and the others had to stop him. It… upset him, I could tell, because he couldn’t find a way to get that guy to stop other than keeping him sedated constantly.”

“Treating everyone who isn’t a part of your little group as rogues—”

“Judge, jury, and executioner?”

Flint gave her a look. “Well, sometimes I’m sure they must have acted like that. Even if they don’t kill. Then again, we don’t have the same kind of… rules in the first place. Normals can’t stop us. If we did abuse our abilities against them… A single one of us could kill thousands of them and even their bullets couldn’t stop us. Maggie could get fires up high enough to burn them if she wanted, or she’d just burn the guns. Your earth elementals can block them, air can divert them, and same with water.”

“Tranquilizers would be better, though they might still be diverted.”

“Point being, someone has to keep the rest of us in check. Some of us aren’t out to abuse anything. Some of us are, and who’s going to stop them if they make that choice?”

Enya’s eyes went to the water. “Cress did, but then again, he knows what it’s like to deal with elementals who abuse their abilities.”

“I had a warped thought—don’t mind me, I get plenty of them—but could part of the plan have been to make him kill his parents? Maybe he was supposed to… cross to the dark side when he did.”

She shivered. “I hope not, but if that was true, at least he and Occie managed to resist that no matter what their parents did to them.”

Flint touched her shoulder, and she felt warmth spread over her, and she choked, fighting tears. She hadn’t felt this since her parents did. Comfort and safety, this feeling of warmth had nothing to do with desire or stupidity like what Sherwin did to her. This was the warmest, softest blanket, a symbol of care and kindness—she didn’t want to say love because that wasn’t what was between her and Flint but it had been like that with her family.


“No one’s done that since my family died.”

He grimaced. “Sorry. I seem to bring up a lot of bad memories for you without trying to. I’m not… Maggie and I used to do that all the time, more her doing it to me—Damn, she was so strong—but I wasn’t thinking—”

“It’s not… bad. I missed it. It’s just hard at the same time. I envy you, not being afraid of it or of yourself, and even having your sister with you for as long as you did. Aidan… he never got much of a chance, and I made things worse because he was more willing to work on his control than I was. Every time I did something, though, I… It was like someone else was in control of me, some other woman with fire, and all she wanted was to destroy. The only thing that stopped her was Cress, and he almost had to kill himself to do it.”

Flint took her hands. “If I wasn’t fire, you’d see nothing but burns on me. Maggie and I were pretty young when we found out what we could do, and it was out of control for a while. We did some horrible things to each other, but we both survived. I’m not scared. Anything you do I’ve probably been through before. I’ve gotten good at controlling things, have been for over twenty years now. Washburne is right—you can do it without him.”

She took a deep breath. “I bet he thinks he’s holding me back. He would.”

“He grounds you, and you ground him. That’s different. We all need balance, and it isn’t always found in a sibling.” Flint let go of her and reached into his pocket. He put his lighter in her hand. “Only if you want to. You don’t have to keep it.”

She opened up the lighter and closed it again. “If you don’t mind, I’ll just… hold onto this and adjust to the idea of it for a while.”

“Sounds good.”

“It must be frustrating, trying to teach someone who is so… slow, who’s such a coward—”

“No. Maggie once said that fire made her a real bitch, and I shook my head, trying to tell her that she wasn’t, but she had to fight against the same thing you did. I had to push her a few times, and she was the strong one out of the two of us. Still, there were times when she wanted to give up, when she said she’d rather die than go on with our ‘curse.’ She never killed anyone, but she came close a few times, and it scared her. She had me to pull her back and help her rein in the fire. You didn’t.”

“I had Cress.”

Flint shook his head. “Not in the same way. You’re terrified of causing a fire he can’t overcome because you—more than anyone else besides his sister—know how much it takes out of him to help you, and you don’t want to put him through it any more than he wants to see you hurt when you lose control. I guess, in a sense, you held back for him, so maybe he’s right in thinking he does hold you back, but I’ve only seen one elemental more powerful than he is—unless what I suspect about you is true—and so he can handle anything you throw at him.”

“He shouldn’t have to. He does too much already.”

“Yeah, and you all let him do it. It’s not that he’s the only one who can, but you’ve all fallen into a pattern where you assume he is and he always steps in and does it, so it reenforces itself. Go ahead. Burn me. You’ll see that not only can I handle it, I don’t need a water elemental to put it out.”

“I am not going to burn you. I might shove you in the water, though.”

Flint laughed.

Author’s Note: Time to accelerate things a little.

The Earth Calls


“I felt Stone. I know he’s alive.”

“We all know that,” Sherwin said, kneeling next to her. He put a hand on her shoulder, and she shuddered, falling against him. He frowned, not sure what was going on with her, but then nothing had been right with her since Stone died. Not that he was dead, but still…

“I felt him. Just now. Not that long ago. It’s… bad,” she whispered, shivering. He wrapped an arm around her and held her as she did, trying to calm her. He’d seen Cress go off with Moira, and he knew that his sister could use some help for a change, but he needed to get back. They both did, if what Terra was saying was true. They might have taken too long already, and none of them would forgive themselves for that.

“What is it?”

Sherwin looked up at Flint. “You seen Moira or Cress lately? Even Occie?”

“No, both the water twins were doing their best to act like fish and disappeared on me. Your sister nearly killed me because I got too close to her, and I haven’t seen her since. Limped out here to find everyone since I figured you were all down by the lake.”

“Stone…” Terra said, and Sherwin rubbed her back, trying to keep her calm. “No…”

“Are we that close? Can she really sense him?”

“Either we’re close or he’s in major pain or…” Sherwin grimaced, not finishing that statement. Terra started to sob, and he ran his fingers through her hair. If they didn’t get Stone back, they were going to lose her. That was clear. She couldn’t do this on her own.

He heard footsteps and looked up with relief to see Cress there. He knelt down next to Terra, taking hold of her hand, and she threw herself at him. He grunted, letting her hold on as that sense of calm washed over all of them.

“Hmm. Glad I missed when he did that for your sister.”

Sherwin frowned. “What?”

Flint shrugged. “If you think about it, a guy who can do that should get all the girls, right?”

“Like hell.”

“Boys.” Moira fixed them each with a pointed glare, making sure they knew not to step out of line. “How’d this start?”

Sherwin let out a breath. “She was fine, then she stopped, dropped to the ground, and she’s been like that pretty much ever since. She says she can feel Stone, but it’s bad. He must be in trouble. Not that we didn’t know that before, but… we might be running out of time here.”

Moira cursed. Cress shifted, gathering up a handful of dirt. He steadied himself and passed it to Terra, and the emotional backlash from that almost knocked him over as she focused on what the earth was telling her. The dirt fell free, and she went back to sobbing.

Cress pushed himself back up. “All I got from that was pain, so I’d say bad sums it up rather well.”

Moira bit her lip. “We need to move.”

“I’ll get her calm and then I’m going to need another hour or so in the lake. I’m sorry. I know it’s urgent, and I am not wanting to leave Stone where he is any longer than we have to—”

“We need you at full strength, or as close as we can get under the circumstances.”

“I guess that means no more lessons in control,” Enya said, giving Cress a worried look. Sherwin sighed. He wished he could help her. Hell, if any of them could do anything close to what Cress could, it would be nice.

“Not necessarily,” Flint said. “If we stick to the basics, you shouldn’t be able to do anything I can’t counter.”

“And you don’t need me, Enya. If you’re going to have control, it will be because you did it, not me, not even in a support role,” Cress said. He adjusted Terra’s position against him. “I think she’s about asleep now. Will you take her inside, Sherwin? Or Flint? Either of you would be fine…”

Sherwin moved in, needing to be useful. Terra felt tiny when he lifted her up, and he couldn’t remember when the last time she’d eaten was. They had to make sure she took better care of herself.

Enya bent down next to Cress. “You’re exhausted again.”

He gave Enya a small smile. “In pain, actually. I opened myself up to what the earth was telling her, and it hurt. Stone’s in trouble. Help me up. I have to get to Occie.”

Author’s Note: Really, it was past time for Enya to start learning control.

A Bit of Practice

“The lake is mine.”

“You can’t claim it. You’re not the only water elemental around here, you know,” Enya said, stopping to take off her shoes before she stepped into the water, letting it swirl around her ankles with a smile. She didn’t see Occie, but that didn’t mean anything. Water elementals had the kind of breath control that would make divers jealous. They could stay underwater almost as long as the fish could. “You look a lot better than you did when you got back.”

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.”

He smiled, shaking his head. “I don’t know that I ever gave a lot of thought to pets before. When we were younger, when you would have thought we’d have wanted them, we never really did that begging for an animal thing.”

“Your parents were evil, though.”


Enya glanced back at the house. “Flint suggested trying something simple out here by the lake. Moira told him to stop pushing me. I don’t know if he’s coming or not. He said he was right behind me, but with the way those two can fight…”

Cress waded further into the water, letting his hand turn around in an idle pattern, creating ripples across the surface. “You don’t want to know what I know about that.”

“She does like him, doesn’t she?” Enya grinned. “I knew it. That’s just their way of flirting.”

“Seems to be. Could be something else.”

“You’re the one that reads emotions.”

“Yes, and Flint’s would seem to be genuine, but what I do is not an exact science. I don’t always know what it means when I feel things from other people, and I know part of the time, I’m making it worse by trying to shut it all out. I don’t want to feel everything. That stuff is… private.” He let out a breath. “I think the worst is when I feel something from Occie. She’s my sister. I really don’t need to know that kind of thing.”

“She holds a lot of it back for you, though.”

“Too much.”

“Maybe what you need is someone else to help you when you’re down, not just her. We found a decent fire rogue. Maybe there’s a rogue water somewhere who could help balance you.”

He shook his head. “I don’t want another water elemental. I don’t want to burden my sister, but this… Well, it’ll all be over after we get Stone back. We’ll have him, we’ll destroy Aether, and we’ll go our separate ways, finally. Everyone gets to be free.”

“Even you?”

He frowned at her, and she stepped closer to him, deciding it didn’t matter if her pants got soaked or not. “Cress, you got denied a lot of things, probably more than the rest of us because you were responsible for everyone, and you should be able to have the same freedom.”

“I suppose.”

She rolled her eyes, prepared to start arguing with him when she felt something warm pass by her, skimming across the water.

“Neat trick, huh? Maggie could make it last a lot longer, and she always was proud of the whole flame defying the water thing. She thought that was something special.”

Cress stirred the water, and Enya would have sworn he was soothing it this time.

“That wasn’t what I intended to show you, though. That takes quite a bit of practice.”


“You don’t have to do this, you know. I can hear how tense you are already.”

She sighed. “I’m sorry. It was… That fire was probably the worst night of my life, and it wasn’t like I… came into this thing easy, either. We were playing in the street, Sherwin was chasing me, and I hit the car mirror—next thing I knew, everything was on fire and people were screaming and…”

Cress put his hands on her shoulders. “I think everyone was terrified when they first figured out what they could do. Everyone but Sherwin. He was always so upset about being the last to know. When the water started going everywhere, I think I was screaming the loudest, even though it wasn’t after me at all. I was back against the wall where I’d hit the mirror, and nothing got close to me, but it was still frightening. I don’t know what I would have done if my attunement had been fire.”

“You couldn’t be anything but water,” she said, leaning back against him for a moment. She looked up at him. “So… you think you’re up to being the hero that puts all the flames out again? You know it won’t be easy if it gets started.”

“You know that never stopped me before.”

She nodded. He hadn’t had even a quarter of the control he did when he grabbed hold of her that day and stopped the fire that had taken his parents’ car and the lawn. Somehow, though, he’d managed to keep it from hitting the houses and taking them all. That might have been the first time he used the rain, but she wasn’t sure.

Flint cleared his throat. “Okay, if you’re sure you want to do this and you think you’re ready for it… We’ll do something real simple. I know it might sound frightening, but it’s fine. I’m here, I should be able to handle any fires we start, and if I can’t, your friend will make sure they’re out, okay?”


“All right. I’m going to start something small, and all I want you to do is make it bigger.”


Cress shifted his hands from her shoulders to her arms. “Don’t panic yet. I’m with Flint. Making it bigger would be easier than throwing something out there and telling you to put it out.”

They both had a point. She took a deep breath, signaling for Flint to try it. She watched the small flame, trying to reach it without touching it, but all that did was give her a headache. She sighed, stepping forward to put a hand near it. The flame rose up, and she jumped backward, trying to breathe herself calm.

“Did you do that?”

Flint shook his head as he looked at the fire, making it disappear. “That was you.”

She bit her lip, and then Cress’ arms were around her, and she didn’t want to think about anything. She didn’t know if that was a victory or not, and she didn’t want to know right now. She closed her eyes. “Am I a big coward for wanting to stop there?”

“No, Enya. You surprised me. Didn’t think you’d try touching it. I’m proud of you.”

“I didn’t really do anything.”

“That’s not true.”