Chapter 23: Clarity

I stumbled into a makeshift medical centre on the ground, right below where the Sandman was floating. I say makeshift, but it was really more of a portable medical centre. I guess Wallace had chosen to deploy it. I didn’t know how I’d arrived here; all I knew was that this was where I needed to be. I held my hand to my chest as a trickle of blood ran down it, and tried to grab things with my other hand to attain some level of stability.  It didn’t work to well, and a trolley carrying medical tools flew out from beneath my hand the moment I put my weight on it. The mess of metal objects clattered to the floor, now useless because they were no longer sterile. I kept limping forward though. I had to make it here.

I pulled back the curtain, and there she was, lying in a pool of her own blood.

“Riley,” I whispered, and hurried over to her as quickly as I could. My body took control almost instantly, and I lifted her head up out of her blood to try and get a look at her. She seemed incredibly peaceful, and if it wasn’t for the blood, she could easily be mistaken for someone that was asleep. I pressed my fingers to her neck, and felt something. Every few seconds, I could feel a weak flutter against my fingertips. It was the tiniest thing, but it was proof that for now, she was still alive. Ideas instantly sprang into my head. I didn’t know what to do, I wanted so desperately to save her, but I couldn’t do that with my powers. I had my limits, and my minute control over biology couldn’t fix something that bad. I rested Riley back down on her side, and moved to where the knife lay, still embedded in her spine. There was always the possibility that, even if she was able to survive, she’d never be able to walk again. But that was infinitely better than the alternative. I ran my hand over the hilt of the blade, and pressed my palm to the torn fragments of her suit next to it. I grabbed onto the knife, and pulled it out in one fell swoop. Riley gasped as I did it, and coughed up even more blood. I was terrified by that, but it was only more signs that she was still alive.

I think my fear was what did it. That same energy that had turned a blood red earlier pooled around my hands. It was green this time, and it didn’t burn. The wound on my hand had been reopened after my powers wore out, but this energy sealed it. I could feel that same permanence I had felt when I fought Streamline, and I considered my options. There seemed to be plenty of the stuff on my hands, but I had no idea how it worked… fuck it. She needs to live.

I placed my glowing hand on Riley’s back, hoping that the energy would just close the wound. Hoping that it would just let her live. After holding my hand there for only a few seconds, the wet feeling of blood on my hand faded away, and I lifted up my hand to see the scar tissue where her wound had been. My hand didn’t have a scar on it, but I had far less energy in it now. I ran my hand over my own wounds, and although my body screamed in pain as I did it, it managed to seal them up, leaving jagged scars where they had once been. I looked down at my chest, where the most damage had been done, and saw the shape the Alphonse had carved into my chest. It looked like a crude trident, but it was mostly gone now. I didn’t care though, I could hear Riley breathing now, and see her chest rise up and down as she did. I lifted her up out of her blood, and used what meagre rags I could find to wipe the blood off of her. It was all down her side, because she’d been resting on it, and the ends of her hair looked almost cherry red. Once I had cleaned away her blood, I washed off my hands, and carefully rested her in a nearby hospital bed. I gently touched at my cheek, and of course, there was no scarring there. I could hardly wait for her to wake up, but my body decided I would have to, as I immediately collapsed from exhaustion on the ground next to her.

*

I woke up to the sight of a beautiful blonde girl poking me in the chest. I smiled as I opened my eyes, and a smile just as beautiful as she was rose onto her face. She stood up, and extended a hand for me to lift me off of the ground, and I gladly took it.

“You look like you’ve seen better days,” She said, and I smiled. She was kind of short. I mean, I was tall, yeah, but I couldn’t see her being taller than like, a foot shorter than me, so maybe like five foot three. Human height, the only thing I will willingly measure using the imperial system. I’m rambling. I need to stop that. There was this beautifully messy crop of blonde hair hanging around her head, and strands stuck out from beneath the glasses she seemed to have haphazardly plonked onto her face. I kept holding onto her hand as I smiled at her, and I felt an odd sense of comfort as I looked deep into her sea-blue eyes, and she looked back.

“I certainly have,” I said, and pulled her into a hug. I was still mystified by the fact that that had worked. I wanted to cry, and wanted to break something, I wanted… I wanted to kiss her.
“Are you okay?” I asked as I held her close to my chest. She started to cry into me.
“I don’t know. I barely even understand what happened to me,” She said.
“I don’t know if I want to,” I said, and she looked up at me.
“Then, I guess I should ask what happened to you,” She said, and I struggled to smile at her. I knew I was going to break down now.
“I thought you died,” I whispered, and she squeezed me as tightly as she could.
“I’m okay,” She whispered back, and I pulled out of her embrace.
“I’m going to do something stupid,” I said, and I lifted her head up. I kissed Riley, right there and then. It felt completely different to anything I’d ever experienced before, but in a good way. When she seemed to finally pull away, she had a goofy smile on her face and a pair of rosy cheeks unlike anything I’d seen from her before.

“That wasn’t stupid,” She said, and smiled at me, “That was good,” She whispered, and promptly covered her words with an adorable giggle. It was infectious, and I couldn’t help but smile at her.
“You’re gorgeous,” I said, and she stopped. She wrapped her arms around me once more.
“There’s one problem with that kiss,” She said, as she looked up into my eyes.
“Oh yeah?” I said, and she grinned at me, and planted a kiss on my chin.
“Yeah. That was Thunderbolt’s first kiss. Riley Parkinson’s still never kissed a boy,” She laughed, and I think I understood what she meant. She wanted it to be something special. I wasn’t going to argue with that. Riley, or I guess Thunderbolt, let me go and made her way over to the door. Just before she was about to open it, it swung open in front of her, and a teary-eyed May walked in. She pulled herself out of my sister’s grasp as the door flew open. She knew. She grabbed onto Riley, and pulled her into a massive hug. I felt bad for May, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what she would’ve been going through, losing her father and almost losing her sister so close to each other. But the joy in her cloudy eyes was very real now, and I doubted anything could take away from that.

Iris hurried over to me when she got a look at me, and punched me square in the chest. I probably deserved that. She pointed to my chest with a huffy look on her face, and I had to very awkwardly explain what had happened. I had to catch Iris before she fell over from the shock. May, still clutching Riley in her arms, wandered over to me when she heard that, and looked me up and down.

“Yeah, I’ve got nothing. How the hell did you fix that?” She asked, and I looked over at Riley. She shook her head at me.
“Don’t know. I just woke up in here. Well, she woke me,” I said, and pointed over at Riley. She made it very obvious that she didn’t know what had happened either. May grabbed Iris’ hand and the two of them ran off to find something for Riley to change into. As she watched them go, I headed back over to the blood-soaked metal table Riley had been lying on, and picked up the knife. I wiped the blood off of it, and hastily stuffed it into one of the larger pockets on my belt. I’d be keeping that one, but right now, I was far more concerned with just making sure the beautiful blonde girl by the door was alright.

*

It had been a good few days since Haven fell. Riley and I had spent a lot of time together, but now it was coming to a point where everyone wanted to know what had actually happened. I’d been through a decent chunk of the information I’d pulled from Haven, and like I’d thought, none of it had been flattering. Riley leaned up next to me on the couch in the Doughnut now, and Alan and Penelope looked at the two of us. Riley had convinced me to let the two of them in on what I found first, and it had been pretty easy for her. It probably would’ve been heartless to do otherwise.

“So, what did you find?” Alan asked me. He had been content with what I had told him back in Haven, so he was nowhere near as annoyed as I had thought he’d be. I drew my knife from behind me.

“He was a superhuman. I have no idea what his powers actually were, but there were a lot of knives involved,” I said, and twirled it around in my fingers. It felt like a bad idea to keep this for myself, but Riley had said she was alright with it, even after I told her how it had almost killed her.
“And?” He asked. He was pushing me pretty hard. I knew why, now. He’d been very close to his little sister, so the prospect that his father had let her die cut deep.
“While he was trying to kill me, he told me pretty much everything. If I asked him a question, he answered truthfully,” I said. I wanted him to engage in the conversation. I wanted Penelope to engage. They needed to get their feelings out.

“What did he tell you?” Penelope said. She had a very harsh voice when she wanted to.
“He told me who he killed. He drove a knife through my father’s chest. He had control of the bombs that caused the Ashes, and he was warned about St Andrew’s,” I said, and Alan slumped over in his seat. Riley clutched onto my hand as tightly as she could. I hadn’t told her that I’d fought my father’s murderer to the death. Well, almost.
“I need to know how he died,” Penelope asked. I would’ve wanted to try and comfort her before I said it if I didn’t know her as a person. She could take this, and Alan, well, the way he thought about his father, I really didn’t know.

“After I asked him about your sister, he killed himself,” The ugly moment exploded back into my mind, in full detail. I could even feel the pain. Alan looked up at me with a steel in his eyes. He looked conflicted. There was no good way to take that sort of news. Riley stood up, and ran over to hug Penelope as tears welled up in her eyes. Of course she did. I stood up, and went to sit with them as well, because I knew saying the next part would probably kill Penelope. She and Riley had been friends for so long, and she cared for her so much. I really didn’t want to say it, but the two of them deserved to know what kind of man their father was.

“Are you sure about this Riley?” I asked her, and she smiled at me. If she was sure, I had to trust her. She knew these two better than I did.
“May told you Riley ended up in a pretty bad way, right?” I asked them, and Penelope nodded into Riley’s shoulder.
“He stabbed her through the back,” I said, displaying the knife, “With this,” Penelope stared straight at it, and reached out her hand. I gave it to her, and she clasped it in her hand. That was a scary piece of her father, and she hurried to pass it back to me once she got a feeling for it.
“I don’t want to be related to that part of him. Keep it,” She said, and Riley smiled at her. She let her out of her embrace, and Penelope hopped up over the couch. She was probably still processing what I’d told her, but she seemed to be alright. Alan smiled, before heading out in the same way. I think they were both content with not ever talking about that man again. Riley slumped over on the couch, and I hurried to secret away the knife. I knew that thing was going to make her feel terrible, so I really didn’t want her to have to see. I sat down next to her with my arm around her shoulders, and I pulled her in close to me. I felt so much better just knowing that she was here.

“Are you okay? You know, reliving that?” she asked. I wasn’t too sure, but she was here.
“I’m more concerned with you,” I said, and she smiled.
“Well, thank you Eddie, but I missed all of that stuff,” And she kissed me on the cheek. God, she was cute. I flicked through the stuff on the news, and I found something that looked very interesting. A shopping mall downtown was being held up by an unknown man. I looked over at Riley and she grinned at me, before jumping up over the couch. Time to go back to what we do best then, and save lives.