Chapter Eight

The inside of the club was, well. I don’t think you really want to hear about what was going on, nor do I really want to tell you. Suffice to say that I saw parts of people I could do without seeing ever again, and I saw some things I wouldn’t mind seeing on a regular basis.

Around midnight, Predator pulled me into her lap, arms wrapped around my waist. I might have objected if we’d been in any typical bar, but her sliding a hand into my shirt to rest on my bare stomach was tame in a place like this.

“My guy is leaving soon,” she whispered into my ear, “we’ll be leaving when he does.”

I nodded, and relaxed back into her, inhaling her scent. I didn’t know which one was ‘my guy’, and I can’t say I was fussed about it. It was her job, after all, I was just there to give her cover.

Not long after, she gently pushed me forward, and we stood, stretching casually. I downed my drink, we both threw on our coats, and we left.

Predator led me to stand next to a streetlight outside the club, a place I assumed would let her get a good picture of the guy she was following. She leaned into my space, getting me up against the streetlight. We made out a little. We had to keep it light because of public decency, and so she wouldn’t miss her mark coming out of the club, but we got into it enough that I was panting slightly by the time she turned back to the door.

I didn’t see much of the guy; by the time I’d gotten my wits about me, Predator had already taken the picture and pocketed her phone.

“C’mon,” she smirked, “let’s get you home.”

[*]

A couple of days later, she handed me an envelope, saying it was my part of the pay for the swinger’s club job. It was… more than I made in a month at my paycheck job. She smirked when I said that out loud, and asked if I was up for another.

We did a couple more, over the next couple months. I never saw any of the people she was following or taking pictures of, other than a silhouette, maybe a glimpse of hair. As far as I was concerned – as far as I am concerned – I was just out on a date with my girlfriend, one that she happened to be able to put down as a work expense.

She mentioned something about Flare having out-of-town business when I asked why she was taking me instead of him–

No. You know what? I’m done talking to you. I’m going to leave, and you’re going to let me.

[**]

The harsh light of the room throws all of the occupants’ features into stark relief, the four of them motionless as silence falls. The speaker, a dark-haired young woman with cafe au lait skin and fierce brown eyes, glares balefully at the woman standing on the other side of the table. Neither the recipient of the glare nor the man sitting in front of her seem affected, though the white-clad young man standing behind the speaker shifts from one foot to the other.

“You’re not in a position to make demands, Aiyana,” the older woman says, after a few seconds of silence. Her blonde hair is cut in a severe bob, her police uniform impeccable. The tag she wears on the breast of her uniform shirt names her “Gonzales”, though the man sitting at the table calls her Maria.

“Neither are you,” Aiyana counters, leaning back in her chair. “No one read me my rights when I came in, you won’t get me a lawyer, and I haven’t actually been charged with anything. If you won’t go by the law, why should I? I can leave any time I want, and I really think I want to, right about now.”

Gonzales scoffs. “We know about your only little trick, and we’ve prepared for it.”

“No,” Aiyana shakes her head, “you just think you know, just think you’re prepared. Don’t you think it’s a little weird that I never mentioned actually doing anything with my abilities?” She continues to glare as a hint of discomfort enters Gonzales’ face. “I get a superpower, and you really thought I wasn’t going to mess around with it, see if maybe I could do other stuff?”

Her eyes flick to the other officer, whose currently-obscured nametag says “Jones”. He hasn’t said much of anything during the time she’s been speaking, but something tells her he’s the one to look out for. His bored expression and slightly-slumped posture argue otherwise, but she’s not convinced he’s as out of it as his body language says he is.

“You think ‘codename Smoke’-” Aiyana jerks her head backward, at the man standing silently behind her. “-is enough to stop me from stepping through glass whenever I want, and you’re probably right. Powers aside, he could just tackle me and stop me from touching any mirror in the station. Jones could, too. I’m small, and not very strong.”

She leans forward, eyes harsh on Gonzales’. “But are you really going to take the chance that I can’t do anything except step through a mirror?” Aiyana raises her chin. “Because if you’re wrong, this could get really ugly, really fast.”

She gives her words a few seconds to sink in, then says, calmly, “so I’ll say it one more time: you can let me out, or I can let myself out.”

Exterlude

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Third Interlude

[This interlude takes place after Chapter Five, and continues from there.]

“-reflection, twin, replica, copy, match-”

Aiyana touched the shower door, mouth firmly closed as she concentrated, then appeared on the other side. “I can’t believe you still have a dead-tree dictionary sitting around the house.”

“-verb form: reflect, match, reproduce, imitate, simulate, copy, mimic, echo-”

She appeared inside the tub again in an instant, eyebrows drawn together. “Aren’t a lot of those the same thing?”

“-from the old French ‘mirour’, which is from the Latin ‘mirare’, meaning look at.”

A deep breath, then she switched to her opposite hand. “The support is nice and all, but there’s no telling if I’ll be able to do more than just this.”

Franz snapped the book shut, then reached for his laptop. “No telling if you won’t, either. Predator got a whole bunch of stuff, why not you?”

“Flare only has one thing,” Aiyana muttered, popping through the shower door a few times with that hand.

“Flare only showed you one thing,” Franz corrected, fingers clacking away at the keys. “Would you show some random stranger everything you could do?”

She sighed. “No, probably not.”

“What are you complaining about?” Franz twisted his body to look at her from where he sat against the wall, “you’ve got superpowers! Live it up a little.”

“And my superpowers can be duplicated by someone kicking through the glass,” Aiyana grumped, “yay for-”

She appeared on the other side of the door with one foot raised in the kicking position. Surprised, Aiyana slipped and landed on her butt, yelping.

Franz, of course, promptly dissolved into laughter.

“Stop laughing, jerk,” Aiyana muttered, standing up and rubbing her backside, “I could totally punch the crap out of someone on the other side of a window, or something.”

Franz, of course, promptly started laughing harder.

That particular testing session dissolved into a sibling brawl, where the far more muscular Franz easily pinned his sister and tickled her mercilessly.

[*]

“What is that,” Aiyana asked flatly, stopped dead at the doorway to their dining room.

“Is one of your superpowers asking dumb questions?” Franz teased between bites of his cereal.

“Very funny, smartass,” Aiyana rolled her eyes, dropping her bag at the door and stepping forward to inspect the new addition to their dining room.

It was a pane of glass as tall as Franz, and probably twice as wide. He’d scooted the dining room table to the side to make room for it, and there was a good amount of space on either side. It was – somehow – supported by a sturdy metal base just long enough so neither glass nor base was sticking out. She pressed her palm to it, splaying her fingers across the glass.

“Figured you could practice your kung-fu teleport better with more room,” Franz commented with a forced-casual tone.

“How did you even get that in here?” Aiyana asked, flickering to the other side of the pane with only a split-second of concentration.

Franz snorted. “Half my job is being as buff as possible without losing flexibility, and the other half is coordinating with other people who are as buff as possible without losing flexibility.”

“No, the other half is putting up with little old ladies checking out your ass,” Aiyana smirked, teleporting from one side of the glass to the other at different points along the pane.

“At least I don’t get dirty old men choking the chicken after buying the pork,” Franz said innocently, “and don’t think some of those little old ladies at your work aren’t checking you out.”

Aiyana colored and lost the rhythm of her movements, giving Franz the evil eye. “I could say the same thing, y’know. You could totally have some repressed closet-bait old guy thinking about how you bent over just right-”

“Ew, okay, ew,” Franz cut her off, finishing the last of his bowl and standing.

Smiling victoriously, Aiyana trotted up to the kitchen to grab a dish rag. “How are we going to explain this?”

“If your lady friend needs you to explain why her glass-teleporting girlfriend needs a pane of glass in the living room, she is seriously too dumb for you to date,” Franz grinned, washing out his cereal bowl. “And besides, I’m an arr-teest and you’re a college student. We can totally get away with weird stuff in the house. Someone asks, we tell them it’s for an upcoming act.”

“And when no glass shows up in any of your performances?” Aiyana asked, scrubbing her handprints off the glass with the rag.

Shaking his hands dry, Franz put on his best ‘disgruntled artist face’. “The other performers just don’t get it. It’s a statement about how we all take on traits of each other, and they just want to stick to the old flips and tricks!”

Aiyana snorted, and threw the dish rag at him, then pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Take on traits of each other, huh?”

Franz, struck by the same kind of thought, only dodged the rag on reflex. “Hey, that’d be nifty. Maybe you can steal powers, like that girl who kills people when she kisses them.”

Aiyana pulled a face, walking back to her bag and shrugging it back on her shoulder. “I hope not. That was the most traumatizing thing you’ve ever made me read.”

“Worse than Silence of the Lambs?” Franz called after her as she walked back to her room.

“You think I really read that?” She yelled back, then closed the door on his noise of indignation.

Chapter Eight

Chapter Seven

I texted Franz to let him know I wouldn’t be coming directly back home, and that I might have company when I did come back. His reply said he was going out to buy better headphones, and I facepalmed hard enough to ring down an entire grocery aisle.

The rest of my shift was the rest of my shift, and when it ended, Predator stood just outside the front entrance. She smirked when I walked out, and reached forward to trail one finger along my cheek. I shivered, and she winked.

“So,” she purred, raising an eyebrow, “where’s the nearest diner that isn’t completely full of grease?”

I shook my head ruefully, but managed to get us both to a place that wouldn’t have our arteries crying later.

She was right– I did make fun of her taste in food. For someone with a name like ‘Predator’, she had a distinct thing for sweets, and managed to coax the waitress into asking the chef if she could have pancakes, even this late at night. When that didn’t work, she went right up to the pickup counter and flirted herself some pancakes out of the chef.

“Do you like men?” I asked, when our food arrived, looking down at my pasta with relish.

“Nope,” Predator answered simply, sucking syrup off her fork. A pause, then, “what, are you worried about me and the chef?”

I shook my head. A stab of jealousy had hit when she’d leaned forward to give him a good look down her shirt, but… the way she treated him was so much different from the way she treated me that I felt silly feeling jealous. After all, she’d never used that sickly-sweet tone with me. (Had she?)

“I kind of figured you’d want to be exclusive,” she shrugged, spearing another piece of pancake. “Don’t worry, I’ll give the bad news to all the girls dangling off my every word.” She accompanied that with a smirk, and I stared thoughtfully down at my coffee.

“What girls?”

Predator shook her head. “C’mon, Aiyana, don’t get all jealous on me already. When you look like this, you get people who notice.” She shrugged. “I’ll cut ’em loose. Besides, you should know.” She used her fork to to point up and down my body. “After all, if I want all up on that, other people do, too.”

I blushed, mumbling something into my coffee. The rest of the meal went… well, pretty much like that. She did suggestive things with her fork every so often, hit on me blatantly, and I fumbled through responses like I was about five years younger.

Then, at the end, she said, “I need you to come to a club with me.”

I blinked. “Need?”

“Yeah,” she handed the waitress her credit card, leaning forward on the table when the dishes were gone. “I’ve got a client who thinks her husband is cheating on her at some club with some woman.”

“So, why do you need me?” I asked, playing with the end of my unused napkin.

“It’s… a swinger’s club.” She shrugged, leaning back. “I can’t just show up alone, despite how hot I am, and whoever I go with is kinda gonna have to look like we actually want to do each other. I usually bring Flare, but he’s not my type and I’m not his.”

I allowed myself a brief moment to wonder what Flare’s type was, before getting back to the matter at hand. “So, you want me to come with you to a swinger’s club so you can see if someone else is there.”

“Yeah.”

“Okay,” I shrugged, finishing off my coffee.

“Okay?” She asked, tilting her head.

“Yeah, okay.” I smiled, shaking my head. “Did you forget what I’m going to school for? It’s going to take a little more than an orgy pit and some openly masturbating strangers to weird me out.”

She nodded, taking back her card from the waitress, who seemed more than happy to get away from our talk of swingers and clubbing. “Well. I guess I underestimated you.”

“I guess you did,” I agreed, and that was that.

[*]

A few boring, school-filled days passed before she let me know it was time to go chasing after the unfaithful husband.

Despite my claim to Predator, I’d never actually been in a swinger’s club. I’d been in some… interesting situations, including a number of really wild house parties, but never a formalized type of club, where the stuff was all built-in instead of jury-rigged or hid under someone’s bed most of the time.

I googled the place she told me, threw on a slightly-nicer shirt and pair of jeans (what? The dress code said casual was fine!), and went downstairs to meet her when she said she was at the apartment. Franz gave me a toothy smile that definitely meant I wouldn’t be able to maneuver around him much longer without introducing them, and I gave him a bright smile before disappearing.

Predator greeted me with a kiss that, well, didn’t leave any doubt as to what we’d be getting up to after the club.

“Do I have to do anything?” I asked, once we were in the car and on our way.

“Nope,” she answered easily, “just stay near me, and enjoy the show.”

We drove for a few minutes in safety, then I piped up, “these places take their privacy seriously.”

“Mmhmm,” she hummed, “and I won’t be taking any pictures while we’re inside. All the lady asked for is proof he’s been going to the place with the woman she thinks he’s cheating on her with. So we go in, wait for him to leave, and snap pics of him leaving, with the club’s sign clearly visible.”

“That’s it?” I asked, surprised. I had honestly expected that we’d have to somehow sneak pictures of him in the act with someone (or multiple someones) while on the lookout for employees.

“That’s it,” she confirmed, pulling into the parking lot. “Well,” she amended, eyeing me, “that’s it if you want it to be it.”

I pursed my lips. “What do you mean?”

She shrugged, turning off the car and turning to me. “It’s a swinger’s club. If you wanna swing, we can swing.”

The first thing that came to mind was a definite negation, but I tilted my head, thinking it through. I wasn’t really a jealous person, truth be told. Sometimes I got jealous urges, but it was more if I thought my partner would be neglecting me in favor of someone else. This would be something we were doing together.

On the other hand, we had just started dating. I didn’t want to risk shattering this strange, brand-new thing we had.

“Not… tonight,” I decided, reaching over the center console to rub my thumb along the inside of her wrist. (I saw her pupils dilate, felt her arm flex underneath mine, and a smile curled the corner of my mouth.) “I’ll think about it, though.”

“Okay,” she said, nodding. “Let’s go catch a cheater.”

Third Interlude

Second Interlude

[This interlude takes place between chapters four and five. It contains sexual themes, but no actual sex.]

“Well? Aren’t you going to invite me up?”

Mirror bit the inside of her cheek, searching Predator’s eyes. The urge to take control, to force the issue reared up, and Predator hauled hard on the reins. ‘Down, girl,’ she thought to herself, ‘this one needs a little finesse.’

A beat, then Mirror nodded, hesitantly looping her arms around Predator’s neck. “I- yeah. Come up-” She flushed in that way dark-skinned people did, where it was more a change in their face than them getting red. “Come up with me.”

Predator chuckled, running her nails lightly along Mirror’s back. “Lead the way.”

Swallowing hard, Mirror stepped back, dark eyes searching Predator’s one more time before she turned to her apartment building.

Predator watched her walk. The sway to her hips caught her eye, as it had the first time she’d seen her, and she felt no shame at her open appreciation. Mirror had to be unaware she was dead sexy. The way she moved, her surprise at Predator’s attention; either she didn’t know or she was way better at playing this game than Predator, and that wasn’t even worth thinking about.

Mirror managed to get them inside the building, but fumbled with her keys at the apartment door, and Predator came up behind her, hands braced on either side of the doorframe. She dipped her head, running her nose along the length of Mirror’s neck and inhaling. Mirror shuddered, and Predator’s gut clenched in response.

“I’m going to devour you,” the words slipped from Predator’s mouth, and she skimmed her lips along the side of Mirror’s throat, “I’m going to devour you, and you’re going to like it.”

Mirror’s knees buckled, and Predator caught her with a quick arm wrapped around her waist.

“I-” Mirror squeaked, “-you can’t- someone- my brother-”

Predator turned her head away from Mirror and inhaled deeply, closing her eyes to sort out the ambient scents.

“Someone left this apartment not long ago,” She purred, her hand coming up under Mirror’s shirt to smooth her palm along the other woman’s stomach. “A man who smells of talc powder and sweat.”

“Man that smells like-” Mirror arched backward as Predator began to kiss the side of her neck, “my brother’s an acrobat. He must have gone out for the night.”

“Long enough for you to smuggle me into your room,” Predator agreed, nipping at Mirror’s jaw before releasing her.

The door opened into a dark apartment, and Predator waited until her eyes adjusted before she stepped inside. Mirror moved inside right away, slipping off her shoes and walking toward the back of the apartment quietly.

Predator shut the door behind herself, taking off her shoes and stalking behind Mirror. The other woman opened the door to a room that (probably) belonged to her, and Predator lunged, pushing Mirror onto her bed.

“God, I-” Mirror didn’t manage to catch herself, bouncing on the mattress and looking up at Predator with wide eyes. “Close the door, my brother might come back soon-”

“Just relax,” Predator cut her off, but closed the door and locked it with a swipe of her thumb.

For a few seconds, they stared at one another. Mirror’s chest heaved, and she propped herself up on her hands, biting her lip. Predator reached up to the buttons of her blouse, chuckling when Mirror’s eyes widened.

“I put a lot of work into my body,” Predator smirked, opening her shirt one button at a time. She shrugged off the dark blouse, not caring where it fell. “Come find out just how much.”

Chapter Seven

Chapter Six

‘Meet me at bar at 7. Kisses, Predator.’

“Feels like a booty call,” Franz commented, squeezing a stress ball in one hand.

I groaned and buried my head in my hands.

“She even waited the usual two days to text you.”

I shook my head, not disagreeing, just in disbelief. When the text had initially come in, I’d stared at it for a long time. Maybe I was just behind the times when it came to texting after you had sex with someone you weren’t dating, but I had expected something between that night and the… booty call text.

“You gonna text her back?”

Franz, of course, took every possible opportunity to poke at me. There was a little bit of older-brother protectiveness, but I knew it was also him enjoying the chance to give me hell about my sex life.

“No,” I answered, sliding my phone shut and putting it in my pocket. “I’ve got a shift starting at five. She can wait until I get back.”

“You’re just going to leave her hanging?” Franz teased. “Cold, Ai.”

I rolled my eyes and grabbed my keys. “When you finally manage to ask Kara out, then you can give me dating advice.”

His dramatic gasp followed me out.

[*]

“You look so cute, in your little apron.”

I whirled around, brandishing the price-checker like it was something more than a hunk of plastic.

Standing in front of me, looking more amused than anyone in her position had any right to, was Predator. Her hair hung loose around her shoulders, and she smelled like… something, some cologne different than last time.

“I’m working,” I managed, raising an eyebrow.

“You didn’t return my texts,” Predator said, like that excused it, “I got worried. It’s not safe for Named, you know.”

“No, I didn’t,” I snapped, peeved at the whole situation, “and thank you for taking as long as possible to tell me about it.”

She eyed me, and I folded my hands over my chest. I had to work to stay mad; what I really wanted to do was go on break and get her up against the wall of the loading area in the back of the store.

“Are you always hot and cold?” She asked, jamming her hands into her pockets. “Because it’s already starting to get old.”

“Sorry if I don’t welcome you with open arms when you stalk me to my job,” I fired off, turning back to what I had been doing.

“I told you, I got worried. And I thought you could figure out that it was dangerous; if I can track you down, so can other people.”

“And here I thought you were the best,” I quipped, scanning something almost savagely.

“I am the best, but that doesn’t mean I’m the only one.” I heard her sigh in frustration. “Look, Mirror- Aiyana. I like you and all, but I’m not sure how much longer that’s going to last if you keep treating me like this. If you didn’t want to see me, all you had to do was say so.”

What I meant to say was something witty about silence not equalling consent. What I ended up saying was:

“I don’t sleep with people I’m not dating, okay?”

There was a long pause, in which I silently cursed whatever mind-to-mouth filter Predator broke just by existing.

“Is that the problem?” She asked, sounding amused. “Then date me. We’ll go to some place that’s still open when you get off shift, you’ll make fun of my taste in food, I’ll bitch about the service-” her voice lowered, “-and then you bring me back to your place, and I’ll make you scream.”

I flushed and fumbled the scanner, but managed to turn around without dropping it. Swallowing, I searched her eyes. One sign – one sign – that she was jerking me around, and I’d tell her to high-tail it.

As best I could tell, she looked sincere. Amused, not nervous in any way about asking me out, but sincere.

“Tell me your name,” I hedged, searching her eyes. She opened her mouth, and I cut her off. “Your birth name.”

She pursed her lips, and for a few seconds I really thought she was going to leave. Then:

“Anna,” she answered finally, crossing her arms over her chest. “My birth name is Anna.”

I nodded slowly, then darted forward for a quick kiss. “I get off at ten.”

“No, you’re getting off at eleven,” Predator smirked, brushing the backs of her fingers against my cheek, “but I’ll be here at ten for the pre-party.”

I managed something like a nod, and she turned to leave. “Kisses, Aiyana.”

Second Interlude

(8tracks) The Named: Predator & Mirror Mix

(8tracks) The Named: Predator & Mirror Mix

Exactly what it says on the tin. This is an 8-song playlist I put together for a little… mood music, so to speak, for Predator&Mirror. The mix album art is done by a good friend of mine, whose works I will link properly once I can work out how exactly one links to such things.

Track list:

Take Me On The Floor (The Veronicas)
Between Breaths (Blaqk Audio)
Blackout (Breathe Carolina)
Heart Song (Automatic Loveletter)
The Game Played Right (Emarosa)
Power & Control (Marina And The Diamonds)
This Suffering (Billy Talent)
Watch Me Bleed (Scary Kids Scaring Kids)

Honorable Mention:

Suspicious Character (The Blood Arm)
Suck It Up (She Wants Revenge)
Blue Monday (cover by Orgy)

Chapter Five

I’ll be blunt– class the next morning sucked. After Predator left that morning, I’d only managed to catch a few hours worth of sleep, then I had an entire day’s worth of classes. I had expected to be a little tired from hanging out in the para bar the night before, but I hadn’t expected to be kept up into the small hours of the morning.

When I got back home, I pretty much collapsed into bed. I’m not sure how long I slept, but I woke up to knocking on my door.

“Hey, Aiyana, I made food.”

My brother’s voice, casual but tinged with concern. I groaned but rolled out of bed. Franz would leave me alone if I asked, but the more I blew him off, the more worried he’d get.

“I’ll be down in a second,” I called, pulling my shirt over my head and throwing it onto my bed. “I’m gonna grab a shower.”

He said something that got muffled by the door as I walked into our shared bathroom, and I locked the door that led to his room before turning on the shower.

Our apartment layout was weird, to say the least. The whole thing had been built by some lottery winner however long ago, who’d had each individual apartment designed according to the people who were going to live there. He’d housed friends, former coworkers, family members- whoever was down on their luck in his life got their own apartment, with only token rent.

When he’d died, his son hadn’t been half so generous, and started demanding rent more on par with what this part of the city charged. A lot of them moved out at that point, and he opened the building up to people outside his dad’s original tenants. The rent was a little higher than the other places in the area, but the building was sturdy even with the weird layout, and the neighborhood was safe.

To get back to what I was saying in the first place, our three-bedroom also had three bathrooms: one shared one between my room and Franz’s, the private one just off of the office, and the main bathroom. It also had the kitchen slightly elevated from the dining room, and the living room was crammed in off to the side like an afterthought; it was practically part of the hallway that led from the front door to the bedrooms and kitchen. I had no idea who had lived here before we did, but they’d made some really, really strange requests of the architect.

Not long after my brother knocked, I wandered out into the dining room, barefoot and patting my hair dry with a towel. Franz puttered around in the kitchen, washing dishes and wiping down the counters. I’d feel bad about not helping him clean up, but the plain fact was that despite everything he made being delicious, Franz somehow managed to utterly wreck the kitchen every time he cooked.

“What’d you make?” I asked, draping the towel around my shoulders so my hair wouldn’t drip onto the floor. It smelled like breakfast, but I’d learned long ago that another quirk of the building was that I could always smell whatever our downstairs neighbor had been cooking.

Franz grinned crookedly. “Tested out a tamale recipe I got from Kara.”

I rolled my eyes, taking a seat at the kitchen table. Franz and our down-hall neighbor had been flirting around some kind of relationship for years, with no results beyond her occasionally being here at all hours and him sending them leftovers when he knew it was something she’d like.

He brought down two plates, then plopped down next to me, digging in immediately. I followed his lead, moaning the second the food hit my tongue.

“God, this is good,” I managed around a mouthful of tamale. It was spicy without being gut-burning, and the chicken fell apart in my mouth.

We made it through the meal in comfortable silence, and I collected Franz’s plate along with my own. He leaned on the counter as I started to scrub at our plates, and I could feel a ‘brotherly talk’ coming.

“So, what’s her name?”

I fumbled the plate, very nearly letting it slip out of my soapy hands and onto the other one. “What?”

“Well,” Franz drew out the word, and I could hear the smirk in his voice. “The shoes were too small to be a guy, and there was definitely someone in there with you last night.”

I dropped my head. “Franz,” I groaned, “please tell me you couldn’t-“

“That girl was into some weird role-playing, little sis,” Franz went on, barely containing laughter, “I mean, who wants to be called ‘predator’ in bed?”

Dropping all pretense of doing the dishes, I reached for the kitchen rag, wiping my hands dry. “It’s… complicated.”

He frowned, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “I figured, since I still don’t know her name. You don’t usually just fall into bed with someone without introducing me to them, lady or not.”

I grimaced, leaning back against the sink and crossing my arms over my chest. Neither of us had to say that if it’d been a guy I’d brought home last night, I’d have introduced him to our parents way before he’d gotten my clothes off.

“I’ve had one-night stands.” I protested, a weak attempt to throw Franz off the trail.

Franz snorted. “As far as I know, it was just the one, and you felt like shit afterward.”

I looked away, studying the many pots and pans hanging above the center counter of the kitchen. He had me dead to rights and we both knew it. I could care less what other people got up to, but sex outside of a relationship wasn’t really my thing. I’d make out with anything with two legs while drunk and single, but my pants stayed on and so did theirs.

“So, what kind of complicated?” He pressed.

What I’d meant to say was, “I don’t want to talk about it, and I don’t think she’ll be coming around again”, which was true, even if it wasn’t the whole truth. I knew Franz would drop it if I asked, and since Predator didn’t really seem like the relationship type, I was pretty sure they wouldn’t meet.

What I ended up saying was:

“I can teleport.”

I looked back at my brother just in time to see his skeptical look. “If you didn’t want to talk about it, Ai, you could have just said that.”

I shook my head slowly, then started walking toward the bathroom. “C’mon,” I told him, “you’re not gonna believe this shit.”

[*]

He did, eventually, believe me. It took a few times of me teleporting to the other side of the bathroom stall, but he took it in stride after he realized he wasn’t dreaming and I wasn’t screwing with him somehow.

“So, you met this girl through some parahuman website because she was stalking you, went off with her alone after some fire guy you’d never met vouched for her, and then brought her home,” Franz said slowly, after I’d told him everything. I winced. Put like that, it sounded a lot worse than it was. “And you still don’t know her real name, how she found you, or anything about her other than she’s a PI with a creeper Name.”

I didn’t answer. I wanted to protest, to say that it wasn’t really like that, but the more I thought about it, the more it was exactly like that.

“That’s… uncomfortably accurate,” I agreed at last, cradling my head in my hands. Franz wrapped an arm around my shoulders, and I leaned into him.

Eventually, he changed the subject to his work, and I teased him about the massive crush one of his clients had on him. Predator and the parahuman stuff still lurked underneath the surface, but it could wait until another day.

Chapter Six