Perfect 13-Vignette

Chances Are That Our Love Is Now Utterly Thoroughly Shot.

1 year and 9 months ago, or thereabouts.

“You don’t understand!” Edith screamed at Flint. “It’s the only way!” Her eyes were manic and unhinged, and she seemed to be coming apart at the seams. Literally: her form was fraying around the edges, coming apart into tiny granules that glittered in the firelight as they hung there. She was panting heavily, and bright crimson blood stained the clean white of her clothes. A woman lay at her feet. From where Flint was standing, it was almost possible to believe that she was fine, until he shifted his head slightly and the gaping hole in her chest became visible.

“Edith, please, you need to calm down!” Despite himself, he took a careful step back. “Just… please, calm down. It’s okay, I’m not gonna… just please calm-”

“I’M PERFECTLY CALM!” she screamed at him, voice ragged and raw. He took another step back, then winced as she noticed. Her chest heaved, and her eyes widened suddenly. “No, I’m not… I didn’t…” She stumbled backwards, all the anger seeming to drain out of her. “Oh god,” she whispered, looking down at the corpse at her feet as if for the first time. “Oh god…”

Flint took a cautious step back towards her. She didn’t seem to notice. She didn’t seem to notice anything at all, her vision funneled down to just the body. She sank- no, collapsed to her knees, like a puppet whose strings had been cut. “Oh god,” she repeated again, barely audible. “I didn’t… I wasn’t…”

Cautiously, Flint approached her; tense, light on the balls of his feet. He needn’t have bothered, though: in that moment, Edith probably wouldn’t have noticed if someone had shot her. He crouched down slowly opposite her. It made for a funny scene, the two of them crouching either side of a corpse, one all in white, the other in black. A small part of Flint noted, incredibly insensitively, that he could probably make a pretty good painting of it. Thankfully, it was only a small part, and he easily ignored it.

“Edith,” he said softly. She didn’t seem to hear him. “Edith!”

She looked up at him, eyes wide, strained and swollen with tears. “Flint,” she whispered. “I didn’t… she was…”

“Hey,” he said softly. “Just… breath. In and out, yeah? In, and out. In, out.” In truth, he was having trouble staying calm himself. Edith had fairly obviously just killed this woman, and now he was possibly contaminating a crime scene. Only the fact that she was breaking down allowed him to stay calm, giving him something to focus on.

She took a ragged breath, an d let it out, then another. Slowly, they began to calm and slow. When she looked up again, the panic was gone, but the horror remained.

“Better?” he asked softly. She nodded slowly, seeming unsure. “Okay, so maybe let’s move away from-” he caught himself before he could say ‘corpse’. “-here.”

She nodded mutely, and he reached out and placed a hand on her arm. Standing, he put a little pressure behind it, and she followed him onto her feet. Carefully avoiding looking down, she stepped over the body, eyes staring straight ahead into nothing. Flint guided her towards the door, doing his best to avoid the little fires that still burned in a few places, fueled by apparently nothing. They’d have to have been a remnant of the other woman's power: fire didn’t just keep burning on concrete on its own.

Once outside, he closed the door behind them, shutting away the scene out of sight. Edith brushed his arm off her, and slumped back against the wall.

“How did you find me?” she asked quietly, staring at the ground. She'd cut her hair short since the last time he’d seen her, but it was still long enough to fall down and cover her eyes.

“…we’ve been following you,” he admitted.

She laughed bitterly. “I guess I should be offended, but it's kind of hard, considering…” she trailed off. “We?” she asked instead.

“Long story.” He hesitated, not sure whether or not to ask. “E,” he eventually said, “and she looked up at the use of the nickname, “…what happened?”

For a second, it seemed like she might not answer. She turned her head away again, casting her face in shadow, but then she spoke. “It… it was mom.”

Flint reeled back in shock. “What?!”

“She’s got powers too. And she's the leader of some kind of… cult, almost. The Cabal of the Enlightened Savior, they call themselves.” The words were hesitant at first, but as she continued they began spilling out with more force. “They’re crazy, Flint, all of them. The worse kind of zealots, and barely even human. And she’s one of them. My mom. The woman who raised me.” Her tone was strained. “She… wants me to ‘join the family business'. As soon as she found out about my powers, she started testing me, pushing me.”

“How long?” he asked, horrified.

“6 months.” She gave another bitter laugh. “Just after I met you. I think that actually made it worse. She started thinking I was going to be ‘despoiled’.” She spat the word out like venom.

“Yeah, well, I guess we both know that wasn’t going to be an issue.” His heart wasn’t in the quip, but although she didn’t move her head, he saw the corner of her mouth quirk up slightly.

“She’s been having me come along on jobs; that’s why I have this.” She plucked at her white jumpsuit, with its crystalline patterns. “They started out… clean, I guess, but they just kept getting just a bit murkier and murkier until…”

“Until this,” he finished, but she shook her head.

“No. This was different. This as a test.”

“Of what?”

“Me,” she said quietly. “And my loyalty. That… woman,” and her composure broke for the briefest of seconds before she recovered it, “was a contract killer. Mom hired her.”

“To kill you?”

“If she had, I might have let it happen.” She didn’t sound like she was joking, and the sheer misery in her voice made him want to just wrap his arms around her and not let go. “But she didn’t. She hired her to kill Eve.”

Flint gaped at her. It was almost too much to take in. He’d met Edith's mother. She had seemed nice, if a bit strict. Hearing this about her was causing some severe dissonance in his mind. “That’s… Jesus, E. Why didn’t you tell me? About any of this.”

“Eve. If it was just me, I would’ve gone to the cops, but she’s using her as leverage.”

“Jesus,” he repeated, leaning back against the opposite wall. “E, I’m so sorry. If I’d had any idea…”

“You’d have done… what? I know you think you’re some kind of kung fu master, but these people… they’re fucked up, Flint.”

“I know,” he said grimly. “I met those two, the smarmy guy and the creepy woman, the last time I tried following you.”

“Crusade and Schism,” she said grimly. “I remember. And even after that, you thought it was a good idea to follow me again?”

“Well,” he said awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head, “it wasn’t exactly my idea.”

“Then who-”

“Pick up yer fuckin' phone, Flint!”

At the sound of the voice, Edith shot up, her head snapping towards the source. Stalking down the hallway towards them, rifle in one hand, phone in the other, was Lisette.

Edith snarled, and pushed herself off the wall. Salt began swirling around her as the edges of her body faded away. She raised her hand to point at Lisette, who seemed unfazed, but Flint stepped between them. “Whoa whoa whoa!” he interjected hastily. “She’s not here to hurt you.”

“I’ll be th' judge of that,” Lisette snapped.

“No you fucking won’t,” he snapped right back. “Back off.”

“Flint,” Edith growled. “What. Is. She. Doing. Here?”

He sighed. “She’s the long story I was talking about.”

“Do you know what this woman has done?!”

“I know she’s trying to take down your ‘Cabal’, and that’s something I thought you’d be able to get behind.”

“She has tried to kill me. Multiple times.”

Lis shrugged. “Nothin’ personal. I got hired to do a job, I’m doing the job.”

Edith snarled again, but Flint stepped forward and put a hand on her shoulder. “E,” he said quietly. “I know. But without her, I wouldn’t have found you.”

The anger seemed to drain from her in a blink, and she slumped back. “Maybe that would’ve been better,” she said, almost inaudibly. She just seemed… empty. Like the life had been drained out of her.

“Hey. Edith. Look at me.” Reluctantly, she raised her head to meet his eyes. “We’ll get her out. We’ll take them down. I promise.”

She shook her head. “No, you won’t. You can’t. They’re too-”

She cut off suddenly, surprised, as he pulled her into a tight hug. She stiffened for a moment, then relaxed into it, clinging to him tightly. “We’ll figure something out,” he whispered in her ear. “I promise you that.”

She began shaking, head buried in his shoulder. “You’re an idiot,” she said, voice muffled by the fabric. But there was laughter, underneath the sorrow.

For a minute, they just held each other in silence. Then, Lisette coughed, loud and obviously faked. “If we’re done with this touchy-feely shit?” she drawled.

Edith stepped back, dropping her arms to her sides and staring over his shoulder at her. “You are,” she said flatly, “the most unpleasant person I’ve ever met.”

“Then ya need to get out more,” she replied dismissively.

“Lisette, please,” Flint interjected. “She’s just been through something traumatic.”

“What, killing a guy?” she snorted. “I did that when I was ten. Get over it.”

Edith choked, looking like she was halfway between rage and abject despair. Flint spun on her. “Lisette. Please go wait outside.”

Pfft. Whatever.” She turned and strolled off, and he turned back to Edith, still struggling with her conflicting emotions. “I know this is hard, but I think right now, you just need to not think about it. I’m not a psychologist or anything, but I don’t think wallowing in despair is going to help.”

“…I killed her, Flint. It was her or Eve, and I killed-”

“No,” he said firmly. “Later, maybe, but right now, we need to focus on saving Eve. Can you do that for me?”

She took a deep breath. “…yeah. Yeah, okay.”

He smiled at her, trying to hide his own nervousness. “Alright then. Let’s go talk with Lisette. She wants to make a move as soon as possible, but I’ve been talking her down.”

Edith frowned. “Uh, could we maybe… do something about… that?” She gestured towards the closed door.

Flint smacked his forehead with a hand. “Oh shit, right. What can-”

“I’ve already called my guy,” Lisette said, sauntering back towards them. “He’ll handle it.”

“You have a guy for disposing of bodies?” Edith asked, disgusted.

“In this line of work? Yea-duh I do. You two are gonna need to get some new clothes, though: he’s gonna need to burn those ones.”

“What, both of us?” Flint asked, and she pointed at his shirt. He looked down to see patches of dark crimson were Edith had held him. “Ah. Shit.”

“Sorry,” the culprit said meekly.

He sighed and began pulling off his shirt. “Great.”

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