The Mask Slips

Author’s Note: I really like this part because more of Vershon shows through, but I don’t know if that really is good or not.

The Mask Slips

I hate being drugged.”

She almost laughed at that. Did she know anyone that enjoyed it? True, there were still plenty of addicts out there, but what happened to Vershon wasn’t his choice, wasn’t anything he did for fun. Judging from the reaction—or lack of one, she supposed—from Bonaventure, this was all too common. She wouldn’t be surprised if Vershon said those words when he woke up every time.

She found him eying her again, frowning as if he didn’t understand why she was there. She shrugged. Fair was fair, she supposed, since she didn’t know and had certainly given him every reason to think she wouldn’t be.

He’d called it a test, one she’d passed. She’d done what her instincts told her to do and brought him back, but from the way he kept staring, she’d say he didn’t have that happen much, now did he? He’d said the others wait for the end of training to run, but some of them must not have. Some of them must have taken the first opportunity presented by Vershon’s temper and ran for the hills.

She hadn’t. She should have, but she hadn’t.

Sounds like it’s an every day thing for you,” she said, leaning back against the wall, and he turned his from from her to Bonaventure. Did he really think she wouldn’t figure that out? “As a doctor, I know mood stabilizers have their place, but I can’t say that I think they work for you.”

Personally, I would rather not have them, but I am deemed too dangerous without them,” Vershon said, accepting the tea Bonaventure offered to him. Bonaventure really did seem believe in his tea. She supposed it might even work. Drinking it, focusing on it, and centering himself could stop some of the anger, restrain his temper and hold off the sedation. That was what he’d done earlier, before they went to the crime scene.

You aren’t really that scary.”

Perhaps not to you, given what you can to with your Talent, but to most aside from Bonaventure, that holds true.” Vershon sipped from his cup, his expression showing his distaste. Was the tea that bad? Or was he still nauseous? He was rather pale.

He was also right. She didn’t fear him, but then, she didn’t know what he could do, either.

And yet the office comes to you before Bonaventure, supposedly.”

Vershon shrugged. “With Bonaventure’s Talent, that has never surprised me. The government was quick to force him into service and keep him here, though I know he has his own reasons for staying where he is.”

Stopping after those words, Vershon put a hand to his mouth and grimaced. Shaking his head, he cleared his throat. “All I meant was—he will always scare them more than I do.”

Hmm. Now that was an interesting way to phrase it. Almost like he hadn’t meant to say that part aloud. She hadn’t even provoked him that time. She could maybe even work with this. “There is someone more dangerous than you?”

From what I understand, my mother was. That’s why they locked up my father, took me from my home, and most likely killed her.” Vershon put a hand to his head, his other one gripping the tea cup like he might break it. “Damn it. What the hell did they give me this time? It’s like I have no means of stopping my mouth from speaking passing thoughts in my mind.”

Bonaventure took the cup from him, adjusting the blanket around Vershon’s shoulders. Though the gesture was surprisingly affectionate, his face remained a blank mask, and his words were rather devastating. “It would not surprise me if they gave you something that would loosen your tongue as well as put you to sleep given how they tend to interrogate you over your intentions regarding your Talent if you activated it in anger.”

Vershon swore. “I am not having another one of those conversations. I don’t even remember what I might have thought of doing. I never do. That’s how it works with these damned drugs.”

They do not believe that. They never have.”

Do they even have a real doctor administering this stuff?” She couldn’t believe they did. No responsible medical doctor would treat him like this. “I doubt it. A legitimate doctor would know the possible side effects of the drugs include some memory loss as well as the lowered inhibitions or so-called ‘truth serum’ that they seem to think they’re using.”

She hated doctors like that, ones that gave other doctors a bad name, ones that didn’t practice good medicine, ones that were more of a menace to patients than a cure. Being a doctor was supposed to be about saving lives, not endangering them, and yet she heard of so many that did crap like this, and it just infuriated her. She was already angry enough about the way people with Talents were treated, but this was on a new level of terrible, something that shouldn’t have been happening, not ever.

There is a doctor,” Vershon said, not looking at her. “If you are fortunate, you will never have any dealings with him.”

No,” Bonaventure disagreed. “He is not a doctor. There is a researcher. He may hold a degree, but he is not a doctor as you see it.”

Great. So we have one of them experimenting on us, too?”

No. He doesn’t deal with just anyone.” Vershon closed his eyes again, and she bit back her reaction to that. This guy’s focus was Vershon, wasn’t it? The overpowered product of two people with Talents, that must be like some kind of gift to a creep who was willing to experiment on humans. “Plenty go without attracting his notice. You would do well to be one of them.”

She swallowed. With what she could do, would she really be able to do that? If she used her Talent, that alone could be enough, couldn’t it? She was almost certain it was, since Vershon figured it made her immune to what he could do. “Is that even possible?”

Vershon looked at Bonaventure. He gave a slow nod, but made no promise.

You know, I thought your life was messed up before, when you were just spouting their rhetoric, but now, I really don’t know how you stand it.”

Vershon didn’t argue with that, either.

What did you learn at the crime scene?”

Very little of use. They’d destroyed it and raised a crowd by the time I got back with her,” Vershon answered, leaning back against the couch. She doubted he could move with those drugs still in his system.I believe the killer didn’t find what he was looking for, but I don’t know if we can use the trap I set up before thanks to them treating the crime scene like a tourist attraction.”

So the whole operation is compromised?”

Vershon shook his head. “No. I think something of it can be salvaged, but I don’t know. The trap is almost assuredly ruined, since they gathered a crowd, but if it was kept off the news media, then maybe the killer is unaware of the discovery. It would be difficult to go back and set up further surveillance in my current condition, but it’s not a complete loss.”

Bonaventure nodded. “Good.”

Help me up,” Vershon said, reaching out to him. “I need to—”

Not move, because they gave you enough to put down a man three times your size and you will probably regret any attempt to move, plus they’ll be coming for you anyway, so you may as well rest instead of being a stubborn idiot,” she said, blocking his path. “You can’t make this situation better for yourself by pushing past your limits again, now can you?”

Vershon grimaced, turning to Bonaventure. “Exactly what did you tell her?”

Nothing that was not necessary.”

I’m a doctor. This is all coming from that, not some pity party,” she said. “I didn’t hear what I did and start thinking you had a sob story I should cry over. Your life is a mess, that’s not in debate, but I am doing this because I am a damned good doctor, licensed or not.”

I will permit her to take you to your room,” Bonaventure said, and Vershon frowned. “If they wish to take issue with it, they can discuss it with me. You, if you wish to act as his physician, should take him away from here.”

She frowned as Bonaventure helped Vershon up, not missing the strained, white handed grip Vershon had on the older man as he rose. He didn’t look well at all, and she didn’t think moving him was a good idea.

No, he should—”

Vershon. We need to speak.”

Bonaventure’s eyes focused on the man in the doorway with clear anger. He’d seemed expressionless before, but now, looking at him, there was nothing but fury there. He would love to cause that man harm, and she wouldn’t be surprised if he was the one dosed by his restraint now.

You’re not taking him anywhere,” she said, moving forward. “In case you missed it, which you shouldn’t have, since you were the ones that did it, he got a heavy dose of sedative not long ago. If you combine that with his regular medication for mood stabilization—”

Oh. You. You’re the Talent that fancies herself a doctor, aren’t you?”

She balled her fists. “I am a much better doctor than you are, clearly. What I said is basic medical knowledge, which you are ignoring. He’s in no state to answer any questions. He shouldn’t move. He needs to rest. You need to leave.”

The cold eyes of the man in front of her dismissed her without even a glance, like she had said nothing. She almost felt like she must have gotten lucky he acknowledged her before.

She is still new,” Bonaventure said despite the tension in his body. “She just started training today.”

In that case, this is an excellent opportunity, isn’t it?”

Opportunity for—”

Something stabbed through her, but the sharp pain was quickly replaced by darkness.

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