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A/N – The following continues directly from Commissioned Interlude 12, where Amber and Dani learned one another’s true identities.
The second after Amber took in the revelation of just who Pack was under that mask, and before she had really processed it (considering that part would take quite a bit longer), voices just outside the stairwell made her shove the helmet she was wearing as part of her costume at this party back down. She wasn’t sure why exactly, given no one else would necessarily connect her to Pack, unless– “Get Holiday out of here!” She hissed. Now wasn’t the time to focus on any of that. “Downstairs, that way, go!”
There was a brief second of hesitation, as Pack–Dani–Pa–as she looked like she might object, considering the dangerous man still lying there nearby. But the approaching voices were getting louder, so she scrambled up and ran down the stairs. Holiday chased after her, and before the man could get up again, Amber was there. She had grabbed a steak knife from a table, and practically fell on top of him, putting the knife up to his neck. “Don’t move.”
In that moment, as Dani and her lizard companion vanished further down the stairwell, the nearby door opened and two police officers, clearly assigned to keep an eye on the party, came in. They stopped short, one of them blurting a curse while grabbing for his radio, while the other demanded to know what Amber was doing. He also ordered her to drop the knife, starting to pull the pistol from its holster.
“It’s okay!” Amber blurted. “I mean, Therapists Appreciate Westerns.” As soon as she gave the code, the man’s radio informed him that Amber was connected to the Star-Touched in some way. It wouldn’t necessarily mean that she was Touched, just that she was trusted by them. The abbreviation being TAW wouldn’t even prove she was That-A-Way, because every person given one of those codes was provided one using the abbreviation for a team or person they were most likely to be linked to. In other words, many girls who fit her general description of ‘older teen female’ and were given an emergency code like that used the TAW abbreviation for it.
The second they had confirmation that she could be trusted, the two men relaxed marginally. “What happened here?” one demanded.
“It’s a long story,” Amber replied, pushing herself up a bit. She took the knife away from the man’s throat now that he wouldn’t have a chance to escape. “We need to get everyone out of here, but first, you need to get people out on the nearby roofs and buildings. Look for a sniper, or… or something.”
“A sniper?” The older cop repeated, staring at her in surprise.
“Like I said, it’s a long story.” Amber looked down at the man on the floor. “It’s been one of those nights.
“And it’s not over yet.”
As it turned out, it really wasn’t over. Amber spent the next two hours working with the police and the Ten Towers Touched who showed up to deal with the situation once they used a remote that turned out to be in the pocket of the man in the stairwell to disable the cell phone jammer. They found one guy on a nearby roof with a rifle, but were pretty sure he wasn’t the ringleader. That particular person seemed to have gotten away for the moment.
On the other hand, everyone was safe. That whole situation could’ve been a hell of a lot worse. The bombs had apparently been implanted inside the walls using some sort of device to turn those walls intangible for a brief time, at some point before guests started arriving. The guy she and Dani had caught in the coat and phone room had been making the rounds to ensure they were all still primed and ready before detonation, considering the whole ‘embedded inside the wall’ thing was kind of sketchy technology. And if those things had actually detonated… Amber didn’t even want to think about it.
What she did want to think about, on the other hand, was… Dani. The other girl had vanished from the party completely as far as Amber could tell. Which was okay, because she really didn’t want her to end up being picked up by some cop who couldn’t look the other way. Amber had told them that she didn’t know who was behind the mask, just that Pack had shown up, probably to steal something, but changed her mind when she found out about the danger everyone was in and ended up helping. That should’ve been enough to give the girl a pass for this situation, but there was always the chance that someone might be a dick.
And… and wow. She really, truly did not want Dani to be arrested. Yes, she was a thief. She had stolen things, but… fuck. It was complicated. Or maybe she just wanted it to be? Dani broke the law, she was actively a member of a Fell-Touched gang, damn it. Was Amber’s reluctance to see her as a bad person because of some actual gray area, or her own personal feelings for the girl, or because of the whole Ministry situation?
Most likely, all of the above. But the main question was, did that actually matter? Was it enough to excuse not saying anything to anyone about Dani being Pack? For fuck’s sake, she had just helped save a whole hotel full of people. And before that, the very first time they’d worked together, she’d helped save most of a children’s hospital. Those bits by themselves should earn her some leeway, right?
Everything had already been so confusing. Now this? The revelation that Dani from school and Pack from… from everything that wasn’t school were actually the same person left Amber feeling like she was floundering out in the ocean. Her legs were kicking, she was treading water, but she could sink at any moment. She needed something to hold onto, something to be certain of, and she just didn’t know what that could be. Every thought she had could have been wrong, every time she thought she’d come to a decision, she dismissed it. She couldn’t trust her own feelings or thoughts. She couldn’t trust… anything.
“Well, that was an event, wasn’t it?”
The voice came from behind Amber, as she stood on the roof of an old tire shop several blocks away from the hotel where the party had been. That place was still being swarmed by the authorities, but she’d eventually managed to excuse herself, claiming she was going to go home and rest. Instead, she had come here, sending a text to Dani’s phone about where she was going to be.
And now, here was Dani herself, just stepping off Scatters the lizard-reindeer. She was in her actual costume rather than the one she’d worn to the party. Amber, meanwhile, had simply changed into street clothes.
For a few long seconds, the two of them stood there staring at one another. It was clear that neither of them knew exactly what to say to the other. A couple of times, one of them made a noise as though to speak, but no actual words came out. There was so much going through their minds that was impossible to sort through, even now, hours after the fact. Both of them had thought that they were ready for this, but being here in the moment was different than thinking about or planning for it. This was… a lot.
Finally, Dani reached up to push her hood down and pulled the mask off. She blinked that way a couple times before pushing the mask into her pocket. Still, she said nothing, simply looking at Amber with an expression that was more uncertain than any the other girl had seen on her face before. Her voice when she had first arrived had been casual, but it was the faux sort of casual. It was rehearsed, and now everything else she had planned to say had completely vanished, from the moment their eyes met.
It was Amber who eventually broke the silence. “An event? Do you mean the part where me, a bunch of other people, and a girl I… liked sort of almost got blown up? Or the part where another girl I liked showed up and helped me stop the bomb even though she’s a criminal?
“Or maybe you mean the part where both those girls turned out to be the same person.”
Swallowing, Dani kicked her toe against the building roof before offering a weak shrug. “Yeah, take that whole thing, flip it around a little bit, and that’s basically where I’m at right now. You know, the whole, one girl you like, another girl you like, and poof they’re the same person. Which, in most cases, you’d think would simplify the whole situation, but not here.” She snorted and leaned back to stare up at the sky with a muttered, “I guess we’re just special that way.”
“Special,” Amber echoed, following the other girl’s lead in staring upwards. The two stood there in silence for a moment before she spoke again. “Yeah, we’re special. So special that I’m supposed to arrest you. I mean, you’re a criminal. You’ve helped a lot with–with all that other stuff, but you still rob places, you steal things. You help Blackjack and all your other teammates. And you’re not gonna stop doing that.”
Another couple seconds of silence passed before Dani lowered her gaze from the sky to look at Amber directly. Her voice was quiet. “No, I’m not. I don’t mind helping out when it matters. You know, stopping the real bad stuff from happening. But I’m no hero. I’m a criminal. I’m a thief.”
“And I’m stuck trying to figure out if that even matters anymore,” Amber replied before taking a few steps over to the raised portion of the wall around the edge of the roof. Slumping down to perch on that, she added, “Sure seems like it doesn’t, considering I’m basically already working for criminals. The Ministry decides whether to let crime happen, and how much of it we’re going to be allowed to stop. Maybe not every single thing, but enough of it. The big things. It’s all a big game or something. And if I play the game the way I’m supposed to, by the rules, I have to turn you in. Which is something I should want to do.”
Dani waited for a few seconds, then moved over to sit down as well, several feet away. “Because I’m a thief and you’re a hero. I steal from people and you protect them. And now you know who I really am, so you could definitely get me arrested. It wouldn’t take that much, not with the record you’ve got. They’d take your word for it, enough to take me in and do a search of everything I own and everywhere I’ve been.”
A derisive snort escaped Amber, as she turned a bit to look out over the parking lot below them. “You know why it’s so hard for me to see ‘little crimes’ as not that big of a deal? I mean, yeah, you’re not actively murdering people or kidnapping children for ransom or whatever. But do you know why it’s been… difficult for me to agree with your, ‘not that bad’ sort of criminal thing?”
“Because of your dad,” Dani immediately confirmed. “He was hit by a joyrider, someone who stole that guy’s car and rode around in it. The cops told you they were pretty sure it was just an accident. Whoever did it wasn’t targeting your father, or anybody. They stole the car to screw around in and your dad just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Amber’s eyes closed briefly before she nodded, turning slightly to meet the other girl’s gaze once more. “When you say you don’t hurt people, I always hear a ‘yet’ in the back of my head. You don’t want to, you don’t mean to, you don’t… you aren’t setting out to kill anyone. But neither was the person who hit my dad. Whoever they were, they were just out stealing a car to have fun, and they still killed someone, a completely innocent person.”
Once again, silence reigned between the two for a few long seconds. Each was lost in their own thoughts, sitting several feet apart while considering the truth of that. Finally, Dani shifted around, sitting on the edge of the roof with her feet dangling off. “You’re right,” she agreed. “Just because I’m not planning on hurting people like that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. But there is a difference between me and whoever hit your dad. If it was me, I’d fess up to it. Killing an innocent person like that, I…” She trailed off, shoulders lumping a bit before her voice softened. “I couldn’t live with myself. I wouldn’t be able to let that go and run away from it. I know it’s easy to say that, but–”
“I believe you,” Amber interrupted before Dani could push on. “I know you, Dani. I mean, maybe I didn’t know everything. I didn’t know you were Pack. But I know Dani, and I know Pack. And now I know you’re the same person. But the most important thing is, I know you wouldn’t be okay with killing someone like that. You’re not a monster. If you accidentally killed somebody, you would turn yourself in, because you wouldn’t be able to ignore it. You’re a thief, but you have a conscience. And that’s part of the problem.”
Her words made Dani blink in confusion. “Me having a conscience is a problem?”
“No, I mean yes, I mean–” Stopping herself, Amber sighed while running both hands back through her hair so she could clutch the back of her neck with interlaced fingers. “If you accidentally kill someone, you’ll turn yourself in, and I won’t be able to… I won’t be able to help you. You’ll be gone, and I don’t want–I don’t want you to be gone.”
“And that makes you feel even more guilty,” Dani guessed.
“It does!” Amber blurted with a quick, emphatic nod. “It’s stupid, I mean, it’s just… every time I think about turning you in, or doing anything I’m supposed to do, I feel sick in my stomach. They’d take you away, they’d lock you up. I don’t want that. I don’t want you to accidentally kill anyone, and I don’t want to turn you in, and I don’t want you to–damn it. I don’t want you to go away. And on top of all those feelings, I still know that this whole thing doesn’t really matter. We can’t stop all the crime in the city, the Ministry won’t let that happen. And right now the one specific criminal I could stop from doing more crime is a girl I like!”
After those last stammered words, Amber stopped talking. She sat there, a few feet away from Dani, while both of them looked out at the cars below. When she finally spoke again, her voice was soft enough that it was almost inaudible. “I kind of expected you to make a joke about this whole thing by now.”
“No,” Dani replied flatly. “Not right now. Not about this.” She folded her arms against her stomach. “It makes me feel sick too, you know. Thinking about you not talking to me anymore, or me having to go away. Not just to prison, but… but just not spending time around you anymore. I thought about what would happen if ‘Dani’ had to disappear. If I told Blackjack you knew my identity, he’d pull me out of that school so fast both our heads would spin. He’d get me a new civilian identity. There’s millions of people in this city, it wouldn’t be that hard to disappear. All I’d have to do is say the word and I’d be safe, as a completely new person. But…”
“But you wouldn’t go to our school anymore,” Amber finished for her.
Dani took in a long breath before letting it out slowly. “Yeah, I wouldn’t go to your school anymore. I wouldn’t be able to hang out with you. And that would suck.” She smiled very ruefully, glancing sidelong toward the other girl. “This shit is complicated, you know?”
Amber, for her part, made a noise deep in her throat. “Tell me about it. I wish there was a simple answer, but I’m pretty sure there’s not. It’s just messy. It seems like no matter what I do–no matter what we do, we’ll be messing something up. Or a lot of things.”
“Yeah, it does.” Dani kicked her heels against the side of the building a few times, lost in her own mind. Eventually, she added, “Maybe we should just put a pin in it and… call a truce for now. We can figure out what to do later. This was a lot, you know?”
Amber shifted to look at her. “You mean agree not to do anything drastic either way and make the bigger decision later? I… guess we could do that. Kick the can down the road?”
“Yeah,” Dani agreed. She hesitated again, then pushed herself up and swung her legs back around to stand on the roof once more. “I should probably let you get back before somebody misses you or wonders where you went or whatever.”
Standing up as well, Amber nodded once. “Sure, yeah. That’s probably best. I’ll uh, I’ll head out then. I won’t say anything about–you know. I won’t tell anyone. We can talk about the rest of it later.”
The two stared at one another for another moment, before turning away by silent agreement. Dani moved over to where Scatters was patiently waiting, while Amber headed for the other side of the roof to teleport away.
“Could’ve gone worse, huh?” Dani whispered to her lizard-reindeer, rubbing her head a bit before scratching under her chin. “We should take off. I’ll get all you guys some treats, and–” Her gaze caught sight of Scatters looking past her, and she turned reflexively.
Amber’s hands caught her shoulders, pulling her forward as she leaned in. Their lips met in a desperate, hungry kiss, before those same hands slipped off the other girl’s shoulders so her arms could wrap around Dani’s back tightly. And for several long, precious seconds, the two were locked together like that. The strength in their legs left them both simultaneously, and they slumped down together, still kissing while they fell to their knees.
Finally, they parted, though only by a few centimeters. Their lips were still almost touching, as both girls opened their eyes to stare at one another. Dani’s voice was a whisper. “I… I don’t… what are you… Why?”
“Because fuck it,” Amber replied simply. “I thought it was hard, but it’s not. I know what I want right now. It’s you. Everything else, we can figure it out later. Right now, right here, I choose you.” Her voice cracked slightly through those last words. “You got a problem with that?”
When Dani’s answer came, it wasn’t in words. And yet the meaning was clear.
She did not have a problem with that.
Okey dokey then! Those two are… well, they’re gonna be working that out for awhile. But hey, hope you all enjoyed that. If so, it’d be fantastic if you could boost this story on Top Web Fiction, which you can do by clicking right here! Thanks! Your tags are: Amber O’Connell, Dani Kalvers, Hold On‚ How Many Teen Girls Who Roughly Fit Amber’s Description Are Regularly Involved In Situations Where They Need To Give A Code For Cops To Trust Them?, Scatters, The Real Question Is How Many Have Raindrop Type Codes?, Well Now Scatters Won’t Be Able To Go Anywhere For Awhile After Being Blinded By The Power Of Gay
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Everyone’s playing fast and loose with the whole secret identity thing. Hoping all the identity reveals are setups for a long-term payoff, not individual mini-payoffs because… the story’s been getting kinda fanfic-y, imo.
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As far as ‘secret identities’ go I’m already running at full forced suspension of disbelief… in a World with Supers especially tech supers there is absolutely no conceivable way secret identities are a thing, ever.
So to me it’s just a story enabling device in any case.
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Fanfic-y is good tho
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It sure can be
Woot! Gud things! Now… What to call them? Ami? Danber? Something else?
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Good question. Probably depends if they start openly dating as Amber and Dani or as Pack and That-A-Way…. yeah it’s gonna be Amber and Dani. Far too complicated the other way.
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How about Pack-A-Way? That-a-Pack?
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Haha, both of those are fun.
And just wait until/if Amber finds out her dad’s murderer is Whamline a.k.a. the psycho who has been playing hero and who has decided he wants to join the Scions. Especially as whether she does find out there is already a line forming who will want to off that bastard first and they aren’t going to rely on the legal system to do so…. I assume she will find out likely as Whamline brags when he tries to pull a murder stunt on her and or others because if someone gets to him first she will not have to choose between the law and vengeance which would avoid angst. Then again if she never does find out that would leave an unresolvable lack of closure as anyone else who knew is already dead which has its own form of angst so tradeoffs. *shrugs*
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Could be a final straw situation on Amber being in Minority at all. Avant-Guard could always use a member or two more.
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That’s gonna be incredibly complicated and not great for her, yeah. Poor Amber.
“Scatters the lizard-reindeer.”
Does he have a very shiny nose?
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Not a shiny nose, but she CAN glow over her whole body!