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.
“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.
“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.”
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.