A Few Words About Heroes, Pt 2


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“I don’t care if you think it’s a bad idea. We’re sticking together. I’m not losing anyone else today.”

Morena strode into the room determined. It was one thing to be ignored at the hospital, ignored in the cab, but she would not be denied, treated like she didn’t just put her life on the line. Or her blood, rather.

“Oh, there you are.”

Sophie was out hard on the bed. Even when Morena went to shake her awake, she just snored. Morena stifled a curse. There had been a look on Sophie’s face when she’d first walked in with the detectives. Blank, jealous shock.

She gave Nick a nod and then pointed to the sofa. “You take that one. I’m sure it pulls out.”

“Look, I get it. It looks like Irina and her Grandmother split town and you want to keep an eye out. But I want to sleep in my own bed after taking a horrendously long soak in a tub. And clean clothes. And mom’s dumplings.” Morena seemed to be eyeing the furniture and how best to move it. The thought was confirmed when she started pushing at the back of the couch. “Hey, can you just relax for a second?”

In between grunts to move the huge upholstered beast, she spoke, “What would help me to relax is if you help me move this and then check all the doors again.”

“No.”

The simple rejection of her request got her attention and she stood and faced him. Where was the scared kid from just hours ago who looked like he was pissing his pants? Replaced by this guy who’s face was split by a smile he tried to contain but ended up with an even more goofy look. She put her hands on her hips, stuck one hip out.

“What?”

Nick gave one incredulously laugh. “Just stop for a second. We just killed the bad guys. Both of them. Without even knowing there were two of them. I’ve never been so terrified in my life and now, man, now, I just wanna get out in the sun, go hug my parents, and eat like it was the end of the world…and we stopped it. We won!”

She shook her mane once.

Nick gestured to her. “And you look like you’re ready for an assault from zombie hordes of Resident Evil. You know, that couch would work better as a barricade.”

She tossed her head to look. Hmmm, not a bad idea.

Nick laughed, “I can’t believe you just considered that.” He took a few steps over. “Do you ever bring it down a notch? I mean, you kicked the shit outta a vampire. And we offed her. We survived. We’re alive and practically unscathed. Can’t you just enjoy that for a few?”

But what happens next? What else is out there? What are the ramifications of their actions? They need to report back to Sophie, needed to assess who these people were that helped move Jesper, needed to fortify their position and plan for the next assault.

“Jesus, can’t you just relax for a few measly minutes? You’re getting me all nervy again.”

No, she didn’t do relaxed. She didn’t even have a weapon to clean, which often took her mind off things. Her face remained blank. What was left to do?

Nick sighed heavily and took a few steps over. “Look, I appreciate this.” He meant to gesture to the soldier of badassness that she was but it looked more like a wave. “I mean, you saved my life back there. But right now, I don’t want to think about anymore death, or vampires, or any of that. I’m fucking ecstatic to be standing here and I want some unagi. And probably a beer. Maybe a shot.”

She just kept staring at him. She had been in this with him but right now, the utmost thought in her mind spilled out of her tongue from the dissonance in their reactions.

“You’re just young.”

He shook his head, his eyes getting big for a second, and then he responded, “Wow. Yeah, throw that one out. I’m young alright. Young enough to still want to savor the fact that in the course of twenty four hours I saw my life flash before me AND get to tell the tale. I’ve got a family to go home and hug. I suggest you go do the same.”

When he couldn’t think of anything more to say, he waved his hand again and walked toward the door. She spun to watch him go.

“We can’t just leave her.”

Nick paused with his hand on the doorknob. When he looked back at Morena, he wasn’t sure if his fatigued mind that was so high on life at this moment was tricking him into thinking she was talking more about herself than Sophie.

“She’s not going anywhere. Doc said she’d be out for hours. Plug in her phone and go home. I’ll check in on her later. Oh, and plug your phone in too.”

When Nick walked out and shut the door firmly, Morena got the sense that he meant much much later. If he came back at all. He had a family to think about. Maybe after seeing what he had to lose, he would decide that a young man didn’t need this in his life.

Morena felt very sad by that thought and couldn’t grapple with why. She looked back down at the couch she’d been trying to move. Did she really think a fully fledged vamp couldn’t just throw this about the room like a Lego block?

She came around the front of the couch and sat down, feeling very rigid and ill at ease with the angle and depth of the sofa back. She wasn’t sure what she should do next but going home seemed irrelevant. There were no hugs to be found there. The only hugs she’d had lately were from the creature in the crate straight in front of her. Jesper. She wondered what he looked like in there but as it was sun up, she wasn’t about to open the crate to find out, even in the darkened room.

With her long legs, she felt like the couch was going to swallow her up, butt first. So she swung her legs up onto it, twisting and laying back, her head on the armrest. Then, she shifted a pillow under her head instead to be more comfortable.

What to do now? Well, there were so many questions. So many things to still clean up. But the reality was Morena couldn’t leave Sophie to wake up by herself and think poorly of Morena. That look on her face at the hospital when she’d walked in. She knew that look. She’d been staring at it in the mirror for weeks.

But something had changed last night and now that she had the time to think on it, she realized that she wasn’t jealous any more. She sincerely doubted that Jesper had been aware of the other threat and yet, she remembered his words. She would never forget them.

Nick. You need to make sure he’s safe. Watch over him.

Maybe Jesper had had an inkling that things could go sideways. Sounded like the text message he’d sent on decapitating a vampire was more instructions on the inevitable instead of a back-up plan. He’d sent her, vamped up, to protect Nick. He trusted her that much. It had been a long time since Morena had allowed herself to be close enough to anyone to be trusted like that.

And in hindsight, she’d delivered. The edge of her mouth ticked with urge to smile. Jesper had trusted her with protecting Nick and she had done just that, even though he hadn’t known it would mean facing another vampire. After he had apparently defeated his opponent. But she had managed it anyway. She’d fought the bitch and, with a little help, she’d won.

Now the smile was spreading over her lips. Maybe Nick was on to something about this strange euphoria after a brush with Hell. In the past, when she’d been in combat, or on protection detail, there was always some jackhole superior to report to, and paperwork, God she had hated the paperwork. There was always someone questioning her tactics, her approach, her execution, did she need to spend so many rounds, just how many perps had she engaged with, why had she pursued, why had she not pursued?

What gave her the right to disobey direct orders? So many friggin’ questions every time. So she was always too busy to just be grateful, to just thank her preparation, her discipline, her lucky stars even that this was not the last time, not her swan song.

Sure, she’d had some questions to ask and answer at the hospital. But the carefully constructed story around the truth of their injuries was easy and all too plausible. It gave her a moment’s pause and froze the smile on her lips. She hated calling in a favor. Favors tended to bite you on the ass when you weren’t prepared. She’d been burned by a favor that had been called in and called in badly.

But she realized she hadn’t really had to bend things all that much. Sophie was a friend visiting from out of town. While at the hotel, she’d met a guy. He wasn’t a good guy. He took her to a party. A bad party. She’d wanted to leave. He wouldn’t let her. He made her drink something. Nick, a good guy serving at the bad party, figured out how bad things were and he and a friend tried to get her out of there.

She really hadn’t spun things too falsely and as the detectives had begun to nod their heads affirmatively, she suspected this was a pattern they’d seen. The story had been Nick’s idea. She’d have to find out where he’d gotten it from. But from there, the two detectives, one an old friend of her uncle’s back in the day, and the other, a guy she’d dated briefly before leaving Seattle to join the diplomatic service, hadn’t needed much more evidence or more prodding. They bought in that a bad thing had happened to a good person and they went to do the right thing. They were the good guys trying to do right by a good person.

Sophie was a good person. The way she’d started crying after hugging Nick at the hospital kept replaying in Morena’s head. And then there was the look. It was more of a cascade, that look in her eyes when Sophie had looked up to see Morena striding in, not a blemish on her face. At first, there was shock. Nick was standing there just finishing up the ending of the slasher film “Bad Russian BarBQ.” Then, as Sophie’s eyes moved and took in how Morena moved without a hint of injury, there was the revelation. Her eyes widened. Then they narrowed and she’d looked away.

Morena needed to explain. She felt certain if she did, Sophie would get it. Why it mattered so much, she didn’t know.

Shit if she didn’t. Even though they’d been in different parts of the city, they had all fought the worst kinds of creatures last night. They were comrades now, compatriots. That kind of experience forged a bond. Sophie’s vampire class, her honesty, and her tutelage had saved Morena’s life and allowed Morena to save others. To be the hero again. It had been a long, long time since she’d felt like a hero. And maybe this time, she’d truly deserve it. She’d work harder this time, she wouldn’t lose focus, and she’d always, always remember who had her back.

She was rubbing her aching leg as she dozed off, the marrow deep in her bone pulsing, working overtime to repair the damage done when she’d kicked the door. That moment when she felt useful, needed, determined, and able, that feeling and the joy of being alive eased her into dreamless sleep.

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