took a deep breath and stood over Donovan. Though he was barely
conscious, he still knew what had happened. He saw how she had
turned on Troy. Finally, somebody saw things his way and she was
turning on her allies and joining his cause. He forced himself
to look up at her and grin.
followed with a swift kick to the head, knocking him out.
again, there was no shortage of carnage around her. Surrounded
by two demonic animals, Kathryn struggled to her knees. Renee
was on her stomach, clutching her back.
finished up a potion and crawled over to Renee. She saw how
drained Molly was and felt the need to say something, seeing as
she was the only one capable of doing so.
okay, Molly,” she said as Renee drank the potion.
this okay?” Molly mumbled.
an accident. You missed your shot. It happens. I'll heal him in
Sufficiently healed, Renee turned around and saw Troy in a heap
against what had been the garbage can. She gasped and shuffled
over to him.
faced Yuki, then looked down. “I... I didn't miss.”
only stared back, lost and confused. She wasn't sure what that
meant, or what it meant that Molly acknowledged it. “You... shot
him on purpose?”
down to bind Donovan's arms to the floor, Molly was more stern.
“Heal everyone up. Let's get out of here.”
Renee stood up. “No, wait... what are you saying? You meant to
worry about it. We aren't done here yet, so-”
attacked him!” Renee stormed up to her sister, livid. “You're
supposed to be our guardian and you... what, you stab him in the
back? What's going on?!”
looked at Troy again, but didn't flinch. “I have my reasons.
Perhaps you're better off not knowing.” With Donovan secured,
she walked away from the mess.
followed. “Not knowing what? That you still can't stand him?
That you're frustrated that you can't stop us from being
together? That you can't accept that I love him?!”
has nothing to do with it,” Molly muttered.
I don't care what his dad did to you. Troy's not like that!”
shuddered, then quickly jabbed back, “I can't take chances.”
shushed Renee momentarily. At least enough to want to know
Molly's reasoning without speculation. “What do you mean?”
around, Molly brushed past Renee. “As you said, I'm your
guardian. My job is to protect this entire unit. Like it or not,
that includes Donovan.”
“Completely helpless. I didn't even need a spell to knock him
out.” Molly bent down and picked up Kathryn's staff. She held it
up to Renee. “Did you see what Monroe did with this thing?
Donovan may have been on the brink of death.”
nodded, but still didn't understand. “Well, yeah, but-”
was fully capable of killing Donovan and looked like he was
about to. So I stopped him.”
killing Donovan? It was a ridiculous concept to Renee. No way
would Troy be that angry, that lost in the moment that he would
do something so dire. Troy was the level-headed one of the
group, and Molly's suggestion that he would kill somebody was
going too far. Renee wasn't going to allow it. Furious, she
stood in front of Molly, hand balling into a fist.
dare you say that?” The fact that Molly still thought so poorly
of Troy after all this time made Renee want to slap her. She
held back... barely.
you ever considered that you might be wrong about him? That no
matter what his dad was like, that he might still be a good
person in the end.”
held firm. “I would love to believe that, but-”
it's true. Open your eyes, Molly. He's more loyal and kind and-”
Kind?” Of all things, this set Molly off. “You don't know
anything about him, do you? You don't see what he's capable of.
Troy would turn on anybody if they disagreed with him strongly
not true. He's been fighting with you in the MST since-”
sure he'd trade guardians in a heartbeat. And it may have been
the right thing, but he did defy the MST to save you.”
Renee replied, “But he did save me.” She looked at Troy again.
“That's how I know. He went through hell for me.”
turned away. She was sick of arguing already, and really hated
getting to this side of it. She simply said, “I don't think you
realize the cost of his saving you.”
looked down. She didn't care for it either. “I'm sure it was
great, but just because you don't trust Troy the way I do
doesn't mean it's all right to think he could kill somebody.”
Yes it does.” Shaking her head, Molly added, “That's all I'll
Renee spun back around, raising her voice again. “That doesn't
make any sense! After everything we've been through with
watching Kurt die and Kathryn still bothered by Kamila, how can
you believe Troy would still do it?”
her foot on the floor, Molly spun around and snapped back, “I
was afraid he was going to kill Donovan the same way he killed
face turned white and Molly regretted saying it immediately.
While Renee was still reeling, Molly stopped herself and calmed
down. Then she said, “I didn't want to have to tell you. I hated
telling Kathryn, but she had to know. I was hoping you didn't.”
why?” Renee squeaked, hand on her mouth.
fished for an answer. She still didn't have a good one. “Because
she was in the way.” Molly sighed. “The report was just as you
described it. Marie wanted both of you to escape, and needed
Troy's help. Troy didn't care.”
fell to her knees, shaking her head and trying to deny it. It
didn't work. Molly bent down and put a hand on her shoulder.
Renee took her sister's arm and started sobbing into it.
injured but now somewhat alert, Kathryn forced herself to her
feet and approached them. One look at Renee told her everything.
told her, huh?”
nodded slowly, then sighed deeply. “Lately, I'm starting to hate
being the bad guy.”
shook her head. “You're not the bad guy.” Then she looked up at
Troy, still unconscious in the corner.
never were,” she added.
was no spell around the sorry task of hauling Donovan back to
Central Academy. At least nothing available at the moment. Molly
called Marlowe and gave him the news, but in the end she was
still responsible for getting him back. So she left to retrieve
her car, leaving Renee and Yuki to watch over Donovan while the
minions restored the hallway and dark room to order. Kathryn had
no interest in sticking around and teleported away before Yuki
had finished reviving Troy. He was sent home with few words and
a number of awkward stares.
they were gone, Yuki tried to make conversation as she whipped
up a sleeping potion for Donovan. “Are you okay?”
leaned against the wall, staring down. “Just tired,” she
didn't know either. I wonder why she only told Kathryn.”
didn't want to hurt me.” She shook her head. “But Kathryn and
Marie were really close. The truth was more important to her.”
nodded, but said, “I guess so. I'm not sure how I feel about it.
I've always grown up thinking demons were the worst monsters
alive. I still can't picture Marie being with them. But if she
was...” She shook her head. “I don't know.”
think any of us know anymore.”
what happened to us? I used to be so proud to be part of this
unit. With everything we've been through and how we always
seemed to pick each other up. Now we're trying to kill each
kept her head down. They didn't say anything else until Molly
arrived. Even then, Molly worked on a transportation circle
around Donovan before saying anything.
didn't you just teleport him back to our house?” Renee asked.
“Parents,” Molly replied. “Besides, now I can give Yuki a ride
take me home too?” Renee stood up. “I don't feel like any more
stared back at her for a while, long enough for Renee to see the
look of disappointment. Just as she was about to ask about it,
Molly said, “Fine.” She capped her marker and added, “Get on.”
did, although they only traveled the short distance to the
parking lot, in front of Molly's car. The trunk door was up.
that it?” Yuki asked.
you have rather dragged him here?” Molly replied. “Help me pick
struggled to hoist Donovan into the trunk, especially as the ice
spell had made his clothes wet. Nobody suggested giving him a
seat, although Yuki and Renee were quick to hop in.
dropped Yuki off first, then returned home for Renee. As Renee
stepped out, she turned back and asked, “Any idea when you'll be
“Shouldn't be too long,” Molly replied. “If Marlowe really can
cover all this up, I could be back tomorrow.”
wrong?” Renee noticed that same resigned look on Molly's face.
“Nothing.” Molly turned away. “Don't worry about it.”
like to go with but...” Renee looked down. “I'm just exhausted.
It's been a long day.”
nodded, even though it was only 9:00 am and Renee wasn't the one
staring down another long drive to Indiana. Alone this time.
“Don't worry about it.”
made their farewells and Molly drove off. It was her job to
worry about it. She shouldn't have been this bothered by the
prospect of driving all that way on her own. Molly turned on the
radio, hoping for something to distract her, but got only a
weather report talking about the impending rainstorm coming in
from the west... certain to find her before long.
she left town, her cell phone rang. After answering it, Molly
made one more stop.
threw a bag in the back seat and joined Molly up front. “Where's
Donovan?” she asked.
Molly replied, driving away. “You don't have to go along.”
her house gradually fade from her line of sight, Kathryn said,
“You shouldn't have to go alone.”
drove on silently, leaving the city limits before saying, “Thank
I'm still kinda banged up and I don't want my folks seeing all
these scratches.” Kathryn held up her bandaged arm, but Molly
was already nodding.
didn't say much along the first stretch of road, appreciative as
Molly was of the company. It did make her feel better to see
Kathryn willing to go through another round trip to Indiana and
another stay at an academy she didn't enjoy. All seemingly to
make Molly just a little less lonely.
long stretch of curveless interstate, Molly asked, “Why do you
do all this?”
turned her head away from the side window. “Do what?”
“Everything. I look at you and see somebody exceptionally
I'm just a big girl in good shape. In the end-”
not all. You have a good head. You see things for what they are.
And you're well-respected at school.”
Scoffing, Kathryn said, “So's everyone else on the football
“Kathryn, you could have the world at your feet and actually
deserve it. You could have won that student council election
easily. And probably do a hell of a job. Why waste your time
helping Troy? Or me?”
else is there?” Kathryn shrugged. “I always figured helping out
Troy would make me feel like I was doing something with my life.
Because I thought he needed it. For some reason I get the
feeling you need it now. I don't know. Maybe making your life
less miserable would do the same for me.”
I could believe that worked.”
world would suck if it didn't.”
of sucked anyway, but Molly saw her point.
everything I wanted,” Kathryn said. “So it felt good helping
Troy. Felt like I was giving something back. Watching out for
the little guy and all that. Now that it feels like I lost
everything, I guess this is as good a place to start as any.”
know what you can do for me.”
be here. Seems like you could use a friend.”
nodded, but frowned. “Yeah...”
chuckled to herself. “Kurt knew that too, didn't he?”
again, Molly said, “More than I did.” She paused, changing lanes
as an excuse to think, before answering. “Perhaps I'm more open
to it this time around.”
Kathryn leaned back. “I'm still gonna find you a boyfriend
was no way Marlowe and Smittle could justify letting Donovan
keep his demon now. So when Molly arrived, they checked Donovan
straight into the operating room. It was the last full day for
everybody else, so the campus was mildly active, but nobody
seemed to pay attention to an unconscious body being floated off
to the clinic.
timing did prevent Marlowe from being present, as he apparently
did actual student affairs work alongside his backroom meddling.
Molly was fine not seeing him, but it did stick her and Kathryn
alone with Smittle. They waited outside as Kiki literally beat
the hell out of Donovan.
a chainsaw?” Kathryn asked, trying not to listen in.
nodded. “Shame, really. Takes all the skill out of it. Give me a
hacksaw any day.”
shrugged. “The academy in New England developed magical surgery
techniques that don't involve weapons or power tools.”
League prissies,” Smittle said with a scoff.
shook her head. “Just glad this whole thing's over.”
couldn't have been that hard to bring down. It was five against
one. Demon was a tough mother, but wasn't that powerful.”
add in a place of power and a couple demonic wolves and it's a
different story,” Molly said sharply.
“Bollocks.” Smittle clicked his tongue. “He's fused with a
vrockrompir. That thing can't summon.”
scoffed and said, “Well, it did, so obviously-” She stopped when
Molly raised a hand. She was staring at Smittle, suddenly
you mean it can't summon?” she asked.
“Vrockrompirs are stupid little things,” he explained. “They sit
around all day and think of nothing but murder. With the curse,
they gotta be hard-wired for it, you know. Summoning a
creature's complicated. Only a Weaver could do that.”
saying Donovan did that himself?” Kathryn asked.
“Impossible,” Molly replied quickly. “Creature summoning is very
advanced material. Weavers don't hit it until graduate school. I
tried it once in January. It did not end well. He may have been
powerful, but Donovan was never that bright.”
shoved her bitten arm into Molly's face. “Well, how did this get
help,” Smittle said. Motioning towards Kathryn's arm, he added,
“And you might want to get that checked out.”
her arm back, Kathryn said. “What do you mean he had help?”
don't materialize out of thin air. Rule one of summoning is that
they have to come from someplace. Or somebody sent them there.”
Like a faction or something?” Smittle nodded.
shook her head. “I thought Donovan didn't align with a faction.
That's what kept him in the MST.”
about the demon? Somebody owned that monster before Donovan got
nodded again. “Sure. Why not?”
one were they again?” Kathryn asked Molly.
didn't answer. She was considering the possibility and didn't
like it. It was easy to treat this like an isolated incident,
with Donovan rebelling on his own and raising some hell before
being subdued and his demon eliminated. If he had some sort of
support network, however, things became tricky. It meant a
faction was still trying to get to her group. Purifying Donovan
would not have been the end of the story. Especially if...
to get that room checked out immediately,” she said.
that'd be smart,” Smittle replied, still fairly indifferent to
long will this take? I need to get home immediately.”
Kathryn grabbed Molly's arm. “Hey, hold on. You really want to
drive all the way back today?”
narrowed her eyebrows at Kathryn. “I don't have a choice. I need
you do have a choice. You can get somebody else to do it. Call
Yuki. Call Renee. Call that jerk agent from Columbus. Let
someone else do the legwork on this one. Jeez.”
frowning at Kathryn, Molly slowly relented. She didn't like
being bossed around and her natural reaction to resist, but
there was something about the stern look on Kathryn's face that
seemed downright motherly.
Renee and Yuki can find something together,” Molly said. It was
weird saying that, given their relative inexperience. But the
word was relative: Yuki was immersed in magic culture and Renee
had a good intuition and a magic book imbedded in her soul. It
was worth a shot. “They should be awake by now.”
made the phone call, Kiki stepped out of the operating room,
carefully holding a large glass jar. It was empty, but she
didn't treat it as such.
all set! Donovan is demon free and hopefully the bones will set
Kathryn asked. “We didn't break anything... I thought.”
sheepish smile, Kiki replied, “No, that was us. Had a couple
wrong turns along the way. But this guy's all set for disposal.”
fools will pay for this!” shouted the empty glass jar.
peered at the jar. “Wait, the demon's in the jar? I can't see
pulled it back. “The demon is the jar, silly! Its body is
long gone so we had to put it somewhere. This was the only thing
lying around that we could scrap.” She handed it to Smittle.
“Care to drop it off at Mount Doom?”
Smittle replied, taking it carefully, tapping it on the bottom
to shut up its occasional shriek.
was still facing Kiki. “Mount Doom?”
said Smittle. “We made a little volcano down the road for
disposing stuff like this. You got no idea how many third-year
Crafters try forging the One Ring during lab.”
was only going to be kept at the clinic overnight, so the stay
was to be mercifully short. Molly and Kathryn would be able to
pick him up and take him home the next day. Kathryn was
surprised that there was no formal hearing regarding the whole
'attacking everybody' thing, but Molly gathered that Marlowe
wrote the whole thing off as a spat within the unit while
wanting Donovan off the premises as soon as possible.
the short stay, Kathryn insisted on treating Molly like a real
person. Rather than settling for the dining hall, she convinced
Molly to head into town for actual food. Not only that, but
something more adventurous than fast food or standard sit-down
fare. They ended up at some Greek place, which Kathryn found
on her as Kathryn hated her selection while Molly had always
enjoyed a good gyro. “I haven't had one of these since we moved
out of Cincinnati.”
nodded while trying to figure out just what the hell was in it.
“Didn't you know about this place?”
not.” Molly sighed. The restaurant was only a ten-minute drive
from the academy. “Thank you.”
prob. Just don't bring us here again” Molly snickered. So did
everything towering over the both of them, it was nice to have
an evening to unwind. Molly never intended it; in fact she was
only vaguely familiar with such a concept. Kathryn relied on
them, but this one seemed to work on her better than most.
Strange as it was, she knew it had something to do with Molly.
perhaps the first time that Kathryn saw Molly as a typical girl.
And she could see that Molly was quietly enjoying the
opportunity to be a typical girl. This had been missing from her
life for ten years, and Kathryn liked being able to draw it out.
It felt like she was helping someone find themselves again, much
in the same way she had always helped Troy. In a way, she was
finishing Kurt's work.
I've always wondered: what are you doing after you graduate?”
Kathryn asked. They were watching TV on the couch, but it was
some generic sitcom neither of them were all that interested in.
“Sure hope you're not moving over here.”
shook her head. “I'm attending Marietta in the fall. Ended up
with a pretty good scholarship.”
What are you going for?”
turned to Kathryn, suddenly confused. “What do you mean?”
what are you majoring in?”
know. Never thought about that. I enrolled because my parents
expected me too. Like it or not, my future is here.” After a
long pause, Molly said, “Now that I'm 18, I guess I'm allowed to
tell them.” She shook her head. “I'm not sure if I want to yet.”
Snickering, Kathryn said, “I know what you mean. My folks just
wouldn't get it. Hope I can just keep quiet about that until
after I'm done with all this.”
Kathryn suddenly became somber. “Just hope they're still alive.
I was hoping to play basketball at college and use that to go
nodded. That seemed perfect for Kathryn. “So what's the
been talking off and on with some folks at Ohio State. They
really want me.” Kathryn nodded quickly. “I really want them.”
sounds... pretty impressive.” Molly still didn't see the issue.
that all the games I've been missing in January have made it
tough for them to come down and see me. And the one game their
coach was able to come down was the night of the Hageshoni
attack. He wasn't too happy about that.”
could only sit there in awe. She had no interest in sports, but
this was Kathryn's future and her MST engagements were throwing
a huge wrench into them. And yet Kathryn had never mentioned
didn't you tell anybody about all this?”
Troy knew,” Kathryn replied. “He just said that all this was
more important.” Molly shook her head, but Kathryn continued,
“And that the coach wouldn't have been that impressed anyway
since Kamila wasn't around to help out and everything with Kurt
got into my head and messed up my game a bit.” She sighed. “He's
probably right, but still...”
back to your involvement here.”
she huffed. “Still, I was invited to one of their camps this
summer so they could get a better look.”
don't say it's in July.”
let out a chuckle, almost accidentally. “June, thank God. It
might all turn out fine after all.”
a relief. That might be the only good thing about getting our
field assignment out of the way now: we won't have to kill a
summer with it.”
Kathryn slumped in her chair. “They still expect us to go on a
field assignment now?”
sure they do.” Molly stretched out on the couch. “It shouldn't
be a problem. Most of us still get along fine and Meg and Giles
can do most of the work. The job seemed more annoying than
about Donovan? Can we trust him?”
shrugged. “He doesn't seem to be the Yovoni's type. And he'd
have his dad around to keep him in line.”
sigh, she said, “I'm more worried about back home. I hope Renee
and Yuki find something.”
After a long pause, Kathryn said, “Were you really going to head
all the way back yourself?”
closed her eyes. “Yes. I really was. Without thinking. Just
because it seemed like they needed me too.”
nodded and smiled a little. “Glad I stopped you, huh?”
depends on them. I know I won't be sleeping tonight.”
smile turned into a frown when Kathryn heard that. There was
still a ways to go.
the clear urgency to investigate the dark room, Yuki and Renee
didn't get there until the following morning. They picked up on
the importance of scoping the place out, but they were so plum
exhausted from everything that they couldn't bear to return the
same day. Even a day later, they were still unhappy about the
are we looking for anyway?” Renee asked, silently wondering why
she was entrusting the youngster to take the lead on this.
“Anything,” Yuki said, finding the right key on her chain and
opening the door. “Either Donovan or his demon came here for a
reason and we have to make sure nothing bad is going on.”
pulled a large reference book out of her satchel. “Demonic
Symbols and What They Mean- revised fifth edition. Good thing I
shadowed Miguel a bit while he was here.”
pulled out what appeared to be a black light and flashed it
across the room, still standing in the doorway.
could barely see what Yuki was doing. “Shouldn't we go inside?”
making sure it's all clear.” She nodded and moved in closer.
There were faint outlines of a circle in the center of the room,
but nothing else jumped out at her. Yuki pulled out a penny and
tossed it into the circle. Nothing happened.
be safe.” Yuki stepped inside.
Renee was wondering why she was even needed. Yuki seemed
surprisingly capable of assessing the room. She was on her knees
rubbing her fingers into where the circle had been. Checking her
fingers for residue, she frowned.
it?” Renee asked.
“Nothing. Donovan had a circle active here and we really need to
know what it was. But it's gone now.”
Yuki checked the walls for other clues, Renee stepped into the
circle. Immediately, she started trembling and fell to her
out a half-shriek. “What's wrong?”
Controlling her breathing, Renee said, “It's like a miniature
dimensional gate. It would have let him send the whole room to
another world if he wanted to.”
crawled out of the circle. She panted, “It's the book. It's like
it recognized it for me.”
outside of it, but eying it carefully, Yuki, said. “That must
have been why Molly made sure someone always had an
anti-teleporting spell up. Where does it go?”
know. It feels like I could activate it again, but that's
probably not a good idea.”
someone else's circle to an unknown demon realm? I'll pass.”
calmed down, Renee smiled. “At least it's something we can
really. Molly already knew there was someone else involved.
We're trying to find out who.”
done with your black light?”
spectral light. Detects magic traces.” Yuki admired it for a
moment, then got around to answering the question. “Yeah, I
guess so. Nothing else turned up.”
let's try this.” Renee stood and turned on the light switch.
without feeling any ownership of it, Renee felt badly about the
place being in such a rotten condition. All the assorted fires,
sanctifications, ceremonies and everything Donovan had done
daily turned the small room into a miniature wasteland. The
walls were scorched, the floor was warped and Renee was
surprised the light fixtures turned on without failure or
explosion. Even after Donovan left, she couldn't see the room
ever used again, not even for storage.
tables and bookshelves that had been in the room were long gone,
replaced by a single folding chair and a small scattering of
books in the corner. With no other clues in sight, Yuki
“Anything useful?” Renee asked, scanning them as well.
shook her head. “No, it's the same fake magic crap he always
reads.” Then a title caught her eye and she mumbled, “Uh oh...”
what?” Renee leaned in closer. Her eyes widened immediately.
Awed, she said, “Oh my...” Then she paused. “I have no idea what
up the offending book, Yuki realized that she didn't either. But
it was definitely legitimate. “Yeah, that's true. I mean... why
would Donovan care about the military history of the Hageshoni?”
didn't have an answer for it either. “That's certainly
unexpected. I'll page through it when I get back.” She pulled
the phone away to glance at Donovan through her rear-view
mirror. He was staring straight up, still somewhat in a daze.
right. We won't have to jump through that gate will we?” Renee
“Absolutely not. I don't care what Marlowe says about secrecy.
If he wants to get to the bottom of this, he can jump down there
himself. The important thing is that it is closed. Good work.”
disconnected with Renee, pocketed the phone and stared at
Donovan through the mirror again. “Seriously, Donovan, the
Donovan's head snapped forward at Molly. “How dare you accuse me
of aligning myself with those beasts?”
why did you have a book about them?”
narrowed his eyes. “I have no such thing.”
the demon was with them instead of the...” Kathryn paused. She
never kept track of names. “The other ones.”
shook her head. “Why would that creature choose to defect to the
Hageshoni? The Hokoni hate the Hageshoni.”
I,” Donovan muttered.
why would a demon take over Donovan so he could read up on his
own group?” Kathryn asked.
added, “Why should a demon read at all? There are far more vile
good points,” Molly said, frowning. She wasn't used to Kathryn
and Donovan contributing to the speculation process.
Actually, she was surprised that Donovan was contributing at
all. They had already had the preliminary interrogation, which
was short as he remembered none of what happened after his
demon's conversation with Grandon Crostell. That talk ruled out
the Hokoni, so it was a perplexing development.
Furthermore, Donovan should not have been in any condition to
think. Demon extraction was about as pleasant as removing a full
crop of wisdom teeth, with the lingering effects lasting twice
as long. Donovan may not have remembered most of his possession,
but he definitely recognized the demon in his head, and that
absence was noticeable and jarring. Poking a tongue at where
your tooth had been is one thing: try doing it with your brain.
he seemed as responsive as could be expected. More importantly,
he didn't seem angry about the whole thing. Maybe Donovan would
be when he noticed that his magic ability was mortal again, but
for now he sat silently in the back seat and looked out the
window. Perhaps, Molly hoped, the whole experience had set him
right. Or at least right enough to stop being a distraction to
the group. That was plenty.
as Donovan didn't have any solo encounters with demons, Molly
figured he'd be fine. That was why they needed to get to the
bottom of all this; whomever Donovan's demon had been working
with, they probably weren't going away instantly.
failed to amaze Troy how instantly regular life seemed to resume
at school. Everybody went about their daily slog completely
unaware that anything out of the ordinary had happened. Today
was just the boring return to normality after an unproductive,
though hopefully exciting, spring break. Nobody was returning
from a magic academy, nobody was being possessed by a demon, and
certainly the school hallway was not moonlighting as a
hallway had cleaned up nicely, with few traces of the battle in
plain sight. Troy leaned down and spotted some claw scrapes on
the floor. Other than that and the new garbage can (and a
store's sticker on the side), there was no evidence of a fight.
The dark room, of course, was still an unholy mess, but nobody
ever went in there.
didn't ask questions about how he had gone down during the
fight. He was dismayed at the timing of it, but assumed somebody
had missed or failed to take out an enemy. It wasn't as if it
had never happened before. By his count, it was the fourth time
he had been knocked out in battle. He was mostly used to it by
had no trouble shrugging it off, recuperating over the weekend
with some DVDs and college basketball. At one point, he called
Renee, but she was busy checking something out for Molly. Again,
he didn't ask questions.
Monday, everything seemed to be normal again. Donovan was back
in school and not terrorizing anybody and classes functioned
about as well as they could with all parties on a post-break
hangover. Troy fell right into it, feigning an interest in class
while daydreaming about the inevitable field assignment
assisting Vincent Wagner.
great until lunch.
barely seen Kathryn that day, again not unusual as she had a
life and frequently had other things going on before school and
during breaks. A brief sighting in the hallway had been the only
reassurance that she was there. It was jarring when she never
appeared at lunch.
considered the possibility that Kathryn was still mad at him.
Now that he thought about it, they never really did resolve
their argument. But that was what lunch was for. It would have
been the perfect chance to talk things out. Their ever-curious
classmates were always quick to swarm around any sign of
conflict, so low voices and calm attitudes would be necessary.
She certainly wasn't going to be mad at him forever, so he found
it hard to believe that was a factor.
in silence for most of the period, bored out of his mind but
trying not to turn to Renee. She was still probably sitting with
her sister and despite Molly's inability to stop them, he was
still conditioned to keep the relationship a secret at school.
Troy wanted Renee to determine the best time to go public with
it, as there were all sorts of socio-political implications to a
hookup and Renee could determine the collective response better.
cleaning his tray in record time and sitting in silence for
several minutes, Troy caved. Nothing involving the term
“socio-political” was worth this kind of boredom unless it
involved diplomatic exile. He turned to Renee's usual spot for a
glimpse of her.
Molly and Kathryn were having a damn good time over there. Yes,
Troy felt the knife in his back from seeing Kathryn, but that
was overshadowed by the feeling of revulsion from seeing the
smile on Molly's face. Normally, her smile only emerged when
making a snide comment or breaking somebody. At any other time,
she wore a straight face or worse. Here Molly was simply
listening, yet had a calm grin, free of smugness or conceit. It
was the first time Troy could recognize that she was in a good
was something disgusting about that. Molly never appeared to be
happy ruling others or leading her unit of magi. Troy had always
penned her as someone incapable of joy. Now she was off her
perch, out of power and generally shunned at school.
Furthermore, her unit was splintered, staring into an ugly field
assignment and frequently possessed by demons. Yet now she
chooses to start smiling.
couldn't hear exactly what was going on, but saw that Kathryn
was talking. From her gesturing, it sounded bawdy. Molly
confirmed it, momentarily recoiling in disgust. She didn't
silence Kathryn, however, nor did she lose that smile. It was no
worse than the way Marie had always reacted to anything
licentious. Troy sensed that Kathryn's presence and Molly's
sudden pleasant side were not a coincidence. When not mired in
angst, Kathryn generally had that effect on anyone willing to
accept it. But Kathryn had been mired in angst for the last two
months, with no signs of recovery prior to this.
knew it was a bad idea, but he had to see what was going on. He
certainly had nothing better to do. He picked up his tray,
dumped its contents in the garbage and took a long circle back
that just so happened to pass by them.
feel the joy draining from their table as he approached. Molly
instantly reverted to her former self, making Troy wonder if
what he had seen from a distance was an illusion. Kathryn
frowned at him and Renee stared up blankly.
their reaction, he tried to sound friendly. “Hey, what's going
he directed the question at Kathryn, Molly coldly replied,
response made it hard for him to fake nice, but he pressed on.
“What are you talking about?”
stuff,” said Kathryn. Right girl, wrong tone. Such a blunt
non-answer made it clear that Troy wasn't welcome.
slowly, he mumbled, “Oh... okay...” and walked away.
was nothing else to do. He couldn't straighten things out with
Kathryn in front of Renee and Molly. Things were far more
complicated than he expected, which was both problematic and a
little annoying. He'd have to hunt her down and talk later.
It was Renee. Wrong girl... better tone. She sounded concerned
about something, but at least she chased after him.
led her outside, he asked, “What was all that about? When did
Kathryn and Molly become such good friends? And since when has
Molly ever been in a good mood?”
shrugged. “Since she and Kathryn got to know each other a little
better, I guess. It's good though. Molly needs someone else to
leaves me hanging though.” He shook his head, not wanting to go
further. “I'll talk to her later. I suppose if Molly lightens up
it would be all right to hang out.”
so sure about that,” Renee mumbled.
Grumbling, Troy said, “Is she still bitter about us? She didn't
look like it.”
do you know when I first realized that I was in love with you?”
around. They were outside now, and alone, but it was still a
sudden question. One of those emotional turning point questions
that he always found dubious.
Especially since the answer seemed obvious. Smirking a bit, he
replied, “Well, I figured that whole rescuing the princess bit
shook her head slowly, eyes to the ground. “It was when you
turned me down. When you said you were staying with Marie.”
blinked. That made no sense at all. She went on: “Now be honest.
If there were no other factors and you just had to choose
between her and me, you'd pick me, right? I mean before you knew
who she was.”
sounded like a trick question, but he nodded. That much was
when I wanted to take you away from her, you didn't let me. You
stood by her. You couldn't stand to break her heart like that.
That's when I thought you were real.”
nodded. Good sentiments, until he realized it was past tense.
you kill her?” she asked suddenly. Troy shuddered. He should
have seen it coming.
moment's thought, he replied, as neutrally as he could, “She was
trying to stop me. I had to do my job. I had to save you.”
wanted was for you to save both of us.”
turned around and grunted, “It would have been impossible.”
the idea of rescuing me in the first place. You did it anyway.”
Raising her voice, she said, “Troy, you know what she did for me
down there. And she knew that she would never be able to be with
you. She just wanted to get out alive.”
wanted us to turn on the MST.”
instantly replied, “Which you already did when you went down
there. And if showing a little mercy to a friend would be
treason, then we shouldn't be involved to begin with.”
looked over his shoulder. He was surprised to be hearing this
from her. Kathryn, maybe, but not Renee. “The MST is my life. I
can't just leave it. What they did to you was awful, but it
doesn't change the fact that my future is with them.”
like your father?”
after what he did to you?”
paused. “It had to have been for a good reason.”
abandoned you. He abandoned Molly too and she's never forgiven
surprised.” He shifted his eyes. “Is that her excuse for being
so bitter about everything?”
Renee replied. “He forced her into this, then left her with
nothing.” She sighed. “Question is why you're not bitter about
just not.” Troy shrugged, turning and staring at her, trying not
to show any contempt for the topic. “I adjusted, okay? I dealt
with it. Kathryn helped me get through it. That's why I'm kinda
pissed she's being so uptight about all this.”
moment, Renee felt her heart sink. “Uptight?!” she cried. “Marie
was our friend! Don't have you have any feelings left for her at
a demon! She let the whole mess happen!”
to! You can imagine what they'd do to her if she didn't! She
didn't want to see us get hurt. And when she found out what they
were going to do to me, she wanted to stop it. Didn't you
consider the possibility that Marie meant what she said down
there? That she wanted us out of the MST because she knew what
they'd do to us? That she wanted to save us?” After stopping for
a moment, her voice went soft. “You couldn't have tried to save
her? Didn't you owe her that much?”
wanted to save you,” he said.
me?” Renee repeated. “Nobody else matters to you?”
scoffed. “Well, until now, Kathryn...”
know. Maybe if she stopped pretending that she could be friends
with Molly.” Troy snickered. “I'm sure Molly would have torn
believe that's true,” said Renee solemnly. “Otherwise she never
would have reacted like this. Marie hated Molly... but I don't
think Molly ever hated Marie.”
not true.” She shook her head. “I don't know why you'd believe
that. She loves me. She may have loved Kurt too. And she has
nothing but respect for Kathryn. In the end, the only one she
really hates is you.”
sneered, but Renee looked up. “And now I'm starting to see why.”
doesn't give her an excuse to-”
didn't let him finish. “For years, she was mistreated by your
dad. He left her desensitized, scared and alone. Only now is she
starting to get some real friends that can pull her out of
starting to turn away from his influence.” Renee paused, took a
breath, and stared into Troy's eyes, still distant. “You're
starting to turn into him.”
why she tried to keep us apart.” She looked down again. “And I
think maybe she was right to do so.” Without facing him again,
she turned around and walked back inside.