For those who do not read Heretical Edge, the non-canon chapter for Summus Proelium was posted over the weekend and can be found right here
That joint, blurted outburst came, followed by silence. For several eternally long moments, Izzy and I simply stared at one another. We said nothing, we did nothing. At least, not outwardly. Inwardly my mind was racing along at breakneck speed along a crowded track, plowing its way through every other thought in existence just to focus on a single, solitary realization.
Izzy was Raindrop. Izzy Amor, the girl who had been living in our house, was Raindrop.
Oh my God, that explained it. That–that explained–okay not all of it. But it explained why my parents wanted her protected, why people might be after her, why she might have nightmares. It explained–it explained so much. So goddamn much that I’d been completely lost on suddenly made a lot more sense. I didn’t have all the pieces yet, but this was a pretty big one. She was Touched. She was Raindrop. She-she–oh. Oh fuck. Oh fuck, she was Raindrop.
And she knew who I was.
That second realization struck the first, plowing into it like a semi obliterating the racecar that had been the thought that Izzy was Raindrop. Because the fact that she knew my identity could be the single most dangerous thing in the world. Did I know her? Did I really know her, how she might react, what she might do, who she might tell? How much did I really know about her, given I hadn’t even known she was Touched until now? My parents, they’d taken her in. If they–if she thought they were–if she trusted them more than me, if she even let on at all…
Whatever Izzy or I might’ve said next, whatever we might’ve done if left completely on our own, we’d never know. Because in that moment, just before one of us would have had to make a move or say something, we both heard the sound of the balcony doors directly below us opening. The instant that happened, both of my hands reflexively snapped up as I lay on my back on the roof. I shot red and black paint at Izzy before slapping my hand against the roof and applying black and red paint there. Then I activated all of it together. The girl was silenced and yanked toward me, pulled right down out of the sky. She hit the roof (fairly gently, but I really was in a rush) completely silently, just before we heard the voice of my father, apparently talking on the phone. He was speaking Japanese, so I had no idea what he was saying. But he was there. Right there, so close below the two of us. If he had the slightest reason to suspect anything and climb up to look around, it could lead to a lot of questions. It could… God, oh God.
Izzy was lying next to me. The moment we heard Dad’s voice, both of us froze. Well, mostly. I lifted my hand very slowly, staring at the other girl while putting my finger to my lips. I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t trust even the quietest whisper. All I could do was press my finger to my lips like that while staring intently at her, pleading with my eyes for her to please, please just trust me and stay quiet. At least long enough for Dad to go back inside.
Would she listen? Would she stay where she was and not make a sound, even after the black paint wore off? Because if she was determined to draw my father’s attention, there wasn’t much I could do about it. Any attempt to fight with her, to keep her from getting to him, would make noise anyway. He would hear us, the scraping along the roof. I could silence the area around us, could silence both of us, but could I do all that and hold her down? And what about after those ten seconds? What about the next ten minutes, the next ten hours? If Izzy was determined to make Dad notice what was going on, what could I do about it?
The panic must’ve been written across my face, because Izzy’s hand rose. I flinched, but she was just pressing her own finger against her lips. Agreeing. She was showing me that she agreed, that she would be quiet and still. She wasn’t going to draw Dad’s attention.
Not yet, anyway.
My father’s voice droned on in Japanese in the background. He sounded happy about something, but maybe that was just because I couldn’t understand the actual words. Either way, he kept talking while Izzy and I just lay there, face-to-face and inches from one another. I could see the wheels working in her head. She was probably going through the same thought process I was about this whole revelation, only the other way around. I was Paintball. We’d worked together, fought together, we were at the theater dealing with Suckshot together, and helped to clean up afterward. All that time, while I’d felt like Raindrop was familiar somehow?
God, it made so much sense. It really did. It made more sense than I could believe. Izzy was Raindrop. Of course my parents would want her to be protected. Even if she wasn’t on their side openly yet, look at what they were doing for her. They could so easily groom her to be loyal to them once she knew the truth. They could ease her into it, show her all the good things that the Ministry was able to do, before gently breaking the truth about what it cost, the bad things they had to do to get to that point.
I had no idea what had happened to Izzy’s parents to get her here, exactly. I didn’t know what had given my parents the opportunity to take her in. I did believe that they didn’t want to hurt her, I’d figured that much out even before this whole accidental revelation. She wasn’t being held as a hostage against someone. But now? Now it made even more sense. She was a young, powerful Touched, a member of the Minority who would probably have her pick of adult teams when the time came. Fuck, getting the chance to ensure her loyalty must’ve made my parents positively dizzy with anticipation.
As to what Izzy herself was thinking as she lay there staring at me in silence, I had absolutely no idea. I had no clue what could possibly be running through her head just then. Did she have the slightest idea why I was so terrified by the prospect of my father finding us? Did she think it was just normal secret identity stuff, me not wanting my parents to find out I was Touched? Was there an inkling in her head about just how serious it all really was?
I didn’t know. I couldn’t read her mind. All I did know was that she stayed quiet, silently staring at me while the two of us listened to my father’s voice. For a minute, then two minutes, then three, we laid there as still as possible. I prayed that whatever deal he was making, or arrangement, or whatever it was, would be settled soon. It was the middle of the night here, but still business hours in Japan. I knew from all those clocks in my room that there was a fourteen hour difference between Detroit and Tokyo. So two-thirty AM here was four-thirty PM there. No wonder Dad was making a call so late.
Despite everything going on with Izzy right now, I really wished I understood Japanese. Or that I’d had the forethought to grab my phone so I could record him and use the translation app.
Instead, I lay there, staring at the younger girl until I finally heard my father wrapping things up. I still didn’t speak the language, of course, but I recognized it in his voice. He was saying a few last things, offering thanks and a couple pleasantries. It was the same thing in any language, apparently, coming from him.
He disconnected the call. Then there was silence. This, of course, was the most dangerous moment. If he got curious about any sound he might’ve heard up here, if we relaxed a little too early and accidentally allowed him to hear something…
There was a long, heavy exhale. Dad sighing. I couldn’t tell if it was a good sigh or a bad one. Whichever it was, he tapped the railing a couple times, rapping it with his knuckles. Then I heard the creak of his feet moving back across the balcony, followed by the squeak of the sliding glass door as he closed it behind him after stepping inside.
Still, I didn’t move. Not yet. He could have simply closed the door without going in. I waited for a few seconds, straining my ears to listen for anything, any indication that he was still there. Getting nothing didn’t make me feel any safer. So, I painted my shirt black. Doing so made Izzy’s eyes widen, but I kept my finger to my lips. Then I maneuvered myself around, very carefully peeking over the edge of the roof to look down toward the balcony while trying to show as little of myself as possible.
Empty. It was empty. He was gone.
Which left Izzy and me laying there on the roof, staring at one another. Even with Dad gone, the two of us still didn’t say anything. Not at first, anyway. We just stared in silence, each of us clearly fighting for the right words. Or for any words, really. Because what the hell could we say?
Finally, I spoke in a very, very soft whisper. “In my room. Talk there. Not here.” I would feel at least marginally safer having this discussion in that kind of privacy, rather than out here on the roof. And it would give me a few extra precious seconds to think about what I was going to say.
Izzy hesitated before giving me a silent nod. It looked like she was having just as much trouble as I was to find the right words. And she was probably just as grateful for the moment to think.
So, the two of us very quietly moved off the roof and found our way back down the building to where my own balcony was. With a bit of paranoid glancing around, I hopped down before slipping into my room. Izzy was right behind me, and I turned to shut the sliding door.
Even then, I didn’t speak right away. First, I moved to open my bedroom door, peeking out into the hall and looking both ways before shutting it. Then I turned back to Izzy, who was still standing near the balcony door. For a moment, I just watched her, our eyes meeting. This was it. No more excuses. No more waiting. I had to say something, right now. It might be one of the most important things I ever said in my life, given how easily Izzy could destroy said life.
So, of course, the first thing that managed to pop out of my mouth was a flat, “Hi.”
Izzy, for her part, seemed just as lost on a response. Her mouth opened and shut a few times while her expression twisted with obvious confusion before she settled on an identical, “Hi.”
But as inadequate as that single word of unnecessary greeting might have been, it did its job of starting the conversation. As soon as the greetings were over, I blurted, “You’re Raindrop. You’re part of the Minority. You–you’re–we were…” My hands were gesturing off outside, awkwardly trying to wave off into the city where the two of us had fought together.
“You’re Paintball.” Izzy’s voice made it clear that she was still reeling from that. Possibly even more than I was reeling from the revelation of her identity. “He’s not–I mean he’s not a he. You’re a–you’re–it’s you. All that time, all those things you–we did, and you–it was you.”
“And you’re you,” I managed a bit awkwardly, staring at her. “This whole time, you’ve been… and my parents…”
“They know,” Izzy quickly put in. “They know who I am. Silversmith and your dad, they’re friends or something. They–he said I’d be safe here. Silversmith, I mean. After what my mom–” She cut herself off, looking briefly stricken before her head shook. “But you–they don’t know about…”
I was too busy reeling from what she’d said to respond immediately. Friends. She thought my dad and Silversmith were friends. So she didn’t know the truth. She didn’t know. Dad was keeping her in the dark about his true identity, at least so far. What exactly did that mean?
Finally, I got it together enough to shake my head. “They don’t know about me. They can’t. They–” Fuck. What was I supposed to say? How much could I tell her? My mind was racing, panicking. My heart was in my throat while beating so hard it might just explode. If I told her the truth–but that would mean–and if she didn’t–and if she ever–oh God. Oh God, what now?
She must have seen the terror flashing through my eyes. The next thing I knew, Izzy had crossed the distance between us, her hand raising to take mine. “Cassidy?” Her voice was gentle, more like she was the older one between us. “What’s wrong? It’s okay, I’m not–” Something seemed to catch in her throat before she pushed on. “I’m not gonna tell your parents, I swear. If you don’t–I mean…” She trailed off again, staring at me indecisively for several long, silent seconds before finally asking, “Do they hurt you? Have they ever…”
The implication made my eyes widen, and I quickly shook my head with a blurted, “No! No, they’d never–I mean they’re not–I mean I’m just…” Fuck. What did I say to that? They never abused me, but they still weren’t good people. They treated me like a princess, while being supervillains who ruled over almost all crime in the city? How was I supposed to tell her that?
If I told her. If I said as much as I knew, I would be handing my entire fate over to someone else. I had spent months by this point having no one to trust, no one to really talk to about what was going on. I’d come close with Paige just today, but she was out of it for now.
I was so tired. I was so… empty. I loved my family, but they were… they were doing evil things. And I had nobody I could trust. Nobody to vent all of this to. I had spent so long, so much time in these past couple months just entirely incapable of talking to anyone, holding all my feelings in, terrified of being found out, unable to totally relax even in my own house…
I slumped. My knees went weak, and I sat down, almost falling. My butt hit the floor as I drew my knees to my chest, hugging my legs. As my forehead pressed against my knees, I felt the tears start to come. My shoulders were shaking. Nausea, born both of terror and emotional exhaustion, rose through my body and I nearly threw up. For a little while, I couldn’t do anything other than lay my head against my legs like that and let the tears come. I was done. After everything that had happened just today, with all the Paige revelations and all that fighting, let alone the emotional trauma of the past couple months… I couldn’t do it. I needed a minute. I needed far more than that, but that at the very least. I needed… I needed…
Trust. I needed someone to trust. I needed someone to talk to.
Izzy was there. The girl had sat herself next to me, one hand on my arm. She hadn’t said anything for awhile, just… sitting there watching me. When my eyes opened, blinking blearily through the tears, I saw her gaze meet mine. She looked confused, but patient. When our eyes met, the girl spoke quietly. “Cassidy, whatever it is, whatever happened… I won’t tell your parents. I won’t tell anyone you don’t want me to, I promise. I swear. I just–I’ll keep your secret. I won’t tell anyone about you being Paintball, or about… anything else. I know you don’t have any reason to believe me. You barely know me. But I won’t.” Her hand squeezed my arm, voice sounding firm. “I swear. No matter what happens. No matter what you tell me, I won’t tell anyone else. Whatever it is, whatever happened, I just… I just want you to know that I’ll keep your secret.”
For a moment, I didn’t say anything to that. My eyes closed briefly as a few more tears fell. The emotional exhaustion was still there. Worse than ever, really. Yet, there was something different about it, a sense that someone had thrown a life preserver into the ocean where I had spent weeks drowning. It was right there, inches away. All I had to do was reach for it.
The boat that the preserver had been cast from could be dangerous. It was that sense of the unknown, the terror that even staying here in the cold, remorseless water could be safer than what awaited if I reached out and took the offered aid. To say nothing of the danger it could put Izzy herself in. Whether or not I trusted her wasn’t the only issue. If she knew the truth, she could be in serious trouble. Especially if my parents even suspected she might know anything damaging about them.
And yet, she was already in danger. She was here. She had powers. My parents obviously wanted her to join them. That was why they were keeping her here, why they spent so much effort taking care of the girl. They were going to try to openly recruit her eventually. They would try twisting her to their side.
Realizing my eyes were still closed, I opened them. I met the other girl’s gaze one more time. I felt the certainty of my decision. “Izzy,” I started.
“I need to tell you the truth about my family.”