Don't Date Your Nemesis... And Other Helpful Hints For The Modern Superhero

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Hint 13. Don't Date Your Nemesis

Jack and I reappear at his front door, laughing.

“I swear to God, Jack Docklen,” I announce, “how much alcohol does it take for you to start spouting truths, you tight-lipped bastard? What happened to the drunk confession? Those were the days. These are dark times, when a pickled man can keep his mouth shut.”

Jack hiccups.

“If I told you my secrets, Maya, you’d never look at me again.”

“There it is!” I exclaim with a point. “Be melancholy. That’s it. Tell me all, tell me your deepest fears. Why else do you think I took you out drinking?”

Jack laughs. I realise he still has his arm around my waist from when we teleported here. I lean in slightly, making out like I’m a little more intoxicated than I actually am, using it as an excuse to rest my head on his muscled shoulder.

“Maya,” he breathes, moist breath trickling down my neck. “Do you want to come in?”

Shark would know…

Fuck Shark. It’s none of his business anyway. Amber had it spot on. Maybe I don’t have to pick

“Why, Jack, are you inviting me in for coffee?”

“If that’s what you want to call it,” he grunts, pushing me through the door.

I laugh again, throwing my arms around his neck. He turns, walking us towards the sofa. We only get halfway before he trips over my ankle and we tumble towards the floor. I catch us at the last minute, disappearing from existence and reappearing in his bedroom. Unfortunately I’ve not been in here before so I miss the bed by a good half metre and we tumble to the ground anyway.

Jack laughs but I’m winded for a second so I don’t get to join in.

“You alright, superhero?” He asks breathily.

I nod but I hardly manage to get through the movement before his lips are pressing down into mine and my eyes flutter closed. He runs a hand down my waist and over my hip. His whole weight is pressing me into the floor as my lips part slightly, running my tongue over his.

Get out of there.

Shark’s words explode behind my eyes with such force that the electric tingles make it all the way to my fingers.

“Maya? Maya?”

I blink away stars, focusing on Jack again.

“Sorry,” I say, “Just got a bit dizzy.”

“I’ll grab you a glass of water.” He scrambles up from on top of me, disappearing out of the room.

Get out of my head.

Come to the living room.

I’m busy.

Get out right now.

I sigh, pulling myself to my feet.

Chill Dad, I’m coming.

When I get to the living room, the lights are off. I can hear Jack pottering around in the kitchen but as soon as I see Shark, I don’t care. He’s standing outside Jack’s massive window, framed by all the sparkling lights of the city below. The sill is so thin his heels hang over the edge but I can tell from his look of thunder that he doesn’t care.

I throw my hands up angrily.

“What do you want?”

I don’t want anything, Maya. I’m rescuing you.

“Bollocks,” I say. “Fuck off.”

Shark scowls, stepping back. Now he’s just hovering out over the drop, supported by nothing. It makes me livid. How has he got two powers? That’s impossible. Everything’s a fucking secret these days.

Leave Jack Docklen and I’ll tell you. We discussed this already. I told you I’d tell you everything.

“I’m a big girl,” I say, “I can make my own decisions. If Jack’s so terrible, how about you tell me why instead of just forbidding stuff.”

Shark breaks his gaze. Casually turning his head, he spits, ignoring the distance it has to travel to the ground.

Jack Docklen can share his own shit.

“Well you’re useless then. Fuck off. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

Maya, this is the last time… His words drift off and outside I see him cock his head. He smiles. Fine, do what you like. The invisible barrier beneath his feet just seems to disappear. He drops like a stone, vanishing immediately.

I stand for just a second longer and then I turn, rejoining Jack in the kitchen. Except he’s not in the kitchen, he’s back in the bedroom and he’s passed out, flat on his back. I groan.

Shark, you bastard, you knew.

I give up, materialising back in my own bedroom. Shark is waiting.

“What do you want?” I demand.

“I came looking because I was informed the police had a lead on us…” he begins snappily, obviously doubting the truth of his information given the state I’m in. “I wanted to find out what you had on me but apparently my information was wrong.”

“Your information was wrong,” I announce proudly. “I was at the pub.”

“With Jack Docklen.” He stands, making to leave. “You’re drunk. I’ll come back tomorrow.”

“No! Shark, don’t go.”

I grab his arm and he swings round to face me. There must be something in my expression because his face softens.

“You’re one of us now, Maya. We’re professionals. We don’t go getting drunk with policemen.”

“I am a policeman,” I wail, drunkenly.

“No you’re not, you’re a superhero,” he smiles. “You’re Whisper.”

“I like that name.”

“I knew you would.”

Shark sighs, sitting on the edge of my bed, and I drop down at his side, leaning my head on his shoulder.

“How come you can read minds and fly?” I slur.

“Tell you what, Whisper, you sleep now and I’ll answer any question you like when you’re sober.”

“I like that name.”

“I know.”

*********

Consciousness hits me with all the delicacy of a flying sledgehammer and I groan, turning my head. Something is different from other Saturday mornings and it’s not my massive hangover. I have my head on a lap, not a pillow, and as I look up, I take in Shark’s sleeping form, propped up in a sitting position against my headboard.

Oh god. I hardly remember last night. He’s still fully dressed, I’m still fully dressed. That’s probably a good sign, right? I’m not sure. Did we… do anything?

“No,” Shark murmurs, not even bothering to open his eyes. “Can you try and panic quieter, please? I’m trying to sleep.”

“I’m panicking silently,” I say. “If you could take it upon yourself to stay out of my head for just a second, you could have all the peace you want.”

“Doesn’t work like that,” he says. “I even had to share your dreams last night.”

“I didn’t dream last night.”

He opens one eye, peering down at me with a smirk.

“Oh yes you did.”

I groan again, burying my face back into his stomach in shame. He laughs.

“At least I get to ask my questions now, right?” I murmur, voice muffled by the material of his shirt. There are some aspects of yesterday that I still remember, apparently.

Shark grunts, pulling himself slightly higher up the bed.

“I guess,” he says.

I want to throw an arm around his waist, make myself more comfortable, but I’m too awkward. I don’t want him to get the wrong impression. What if he thinks I’m too clingy? What if he’s not interested?

Shark sighs, breathy laughter dancing over his lips. He takes my wrist in his hand, dropping my arm over his waist.

“If it keeps you out of Jack Docklen’s bed, Maya, you can do what you like.”

“Maya! Maya!” I groan as Alex’s voice echoes through the door. “I know you’ve got a boy in there!”

“Bloody housemate,” Shark growls. “I knew I should have done something with him last night.”

Done something?”

“Maya, I know he’s there. I heard you two talking. Is it Docklen? Hi Jack!”

I growl, making to stand up.

“Excuse me a second while I go punch him,” I say.

Shark grabs my wrist as I stand.

“Let’s just go to mine,” he says. “If I’m going to be answering questions, it’s better if The Lady’s there anyway.”

“Fine, give me the address.”

“Actually,” Shark tilts his head, looking at me with a calculating expression. “I’m going to try a little experiment.”

“What?” I ask but we’re already standing in a plush living room. “What the hell just happened?” I didn’t bring us here. I’ve got no idea where here even is.

Shark grins, pleased as punch.

“That was exciting,” he says.

“What did you do?”

“Fiddled around in your subconscious and then pressed go.” He looks around what I assume is his flat with a smile. “Sit there,” he gestures to the sofa, “and I’ll grab you something to drink. The Lady’s not in right now. Tea? Coffee?”

“Tea, please,” I murmur, dropping onto the couch. I’m too hungover to be angry at his blatant violation of my head.

I hear the sound of a door opening as Shark is away and The Lady’s voice echoes around the flat.

“I’m turning on the fire and I’m having a dog day. Don’t judge me.”

Shark’s footsteps patter on laminate flooring.

“You’ve been drinking, Lady,” he says darkly.

“More than that,” she replies. “Why are you calling me Lady? We’re home.”

A weird shiver washes up my spine and a second later The Lady pads into the room on four feet.

A dog day, of course.

She freezes and I stifle a laugh. I’ve seen this woman nearly shoot a man in her human form and, if anything, this great copper werewolf should be way more terrifying but there’s something inherently comical about the look of shock on her canine features. She scrambles backwards, tripping over her own tail. I just smile.

The Lady changes back into her human form and from the panicked way her hands fly to her face, covering everything only at the last minute, I don’t think she did it on purpose.

“Oh shit,” she says, peeking out at me from behind her fingers, “well that solves one mystery.”

Shark arrives, pushing past her at the door.

“Go and put your mask on,” he says. “And if you could sober up just a little, that would be fantastic. It’s 11am.”

She sneers, mocking.

“Chill out, dad, it’s just latent inebriation. The hangover will catch up to me in a minute.” She makes to leave but as she turns towards him, she freezes. Leaning forwards, she wrinkles her nose, sniffing. “You stink of beer,” she says, “hypocrite.”

“Not me,” he growls, pointing to where I’m sitting guiltily. “Her.”

The Lady grins, removing one hand to point at me too, as though she’s so pleased she can’t quite think of words.

“Yes!” She says, “I knew I liked you. Did you get laid too? I got laid.”

She walks over, holding out a hand for a high five and I take it. I can’t help myself. She’s a cold-blooded killer but I like her.

“I did not,” I say, glaring at Shark. “Someone got in the way.”

The Lady straightens, cocking her head with some strong sass, even while she still manages to cover half her features with a single palm.

“Drama,” she says.

“Get your mask on.”

The Lady laughs, walking from the room.

“If you like her enough to show her the flat, Shark, you like her enough to show her your face.”

I try and stifle my grin but I can’t and Shark just glowers.

“Come here,” I say eventually, patting the empty sofa seat. His shoulders relax ever so slightly and he joins me at my side.

“You live together?” I ask. That makes no sense. He could definitely afford a place of his own.

My blood runs cold as it hits me. They’re not… together, are they? This isn’t some weird, open three-way thing.

At my side, Shark shudders.

“I wish I hadn’t had to hear that,” he says. “She’s my little sister.”

“Your sister?”

“Only little by this much,” The Lady announces, back in the doorway with mask firmly secured. She holds up a hand, finger and thumb barely a centimetre apart. “But oh my god, question time. Alright. Welcome to the team, Maya. Some forewarning would have been nice but I’m not complaining. Shark hasn’t had friends in years.”

“We’re twins,” he says as she walks over, flicking the gas fireplace to on. She smiles, warming her hands for a brief second before dropping into an armchair opposite.

“Wait. Twins?” I’m still trying to get to terms with the fact that they’re related.

“Of the non-identical kind,” he says, “obviously.”

I look between them. It’s hard to tell if there’s any resemblance with the masks in the way. He’s got a real strong man’s jaw and she’s a lot more delicate. His hair is a dark, muddy blonde. Hers is a bright, rusty red. But perhaps they share the curve of their lips, the same high cheekbones.

“Which leads us onto last night’s question,” Shark continues.

What was last night’s question?

“Wow,” he says, “you really don’t remember? And you gave me such a hard time about it.”

“I did?”

“Spouting off about secrets.”

“Oh…” I grin guiltily. “The two powers thing. Sorry.”

Shark sighs.

“The Lady and I are, not surprisingly, the result of a study…”

“At The Facility?”

“Indeed.”

As we speak, The Lady’s face darkens.

“If we’re going to talk about that place then I’m leaving.”

Shark holds up a hand and she remains sitting.

“I’ll do it quick,” he says, “like ripping off a plaster. I’ve been able to fly since I was ten but the mind reading thing developed later. In a way it was practice over time. I always knew what Lady was thinking and then, one day, I just knew what everyone was thinking.”

“I bet they loved you,” I say.

“Fucking protege,” Shark spits, “until we escaped.”

“Escaped?” I ask.

Shark’s gaze flicks to The Lady briefly.

“Let’s not go there right now,” he says and I decide it would be wise to heed his warning.

“Do you have a second power?” I ask her. She just shrugs.

“In a way,” Shark says. “She’s faster than other people. She reacts faster, moves faster, thinks faster.” He grins. “She’s also pretty quick to anger.”

Lady rolls her eyes.

“Thinks faster is the key one,” she says. “Shark looks like he’s got it all down but he’s just mouthy. I’m the brains.”

“I’ve got the charm,” he says.

“I’ve got charm too.”

“You’ve got something,” he replies, “but it’s not charm.”

I laugh as she scowls.

“Did you make up your own name?” I ask her, “Or did he get to pick yours too?”

“Joint effort,” Shark says.

“Why The Lady? You can change your shape. Why not ‘Vixen’ or something sexy like that?”

“Oh yeah, people would really take that seriously,” she sniffs. “Shark and Vixen. We’d sound like a petting zoo.”

“I don’t know what your childhood was like but you went to some pretty weird petting zoos.”

Shark laughs but The Lady’s face drops. She answers the question seriously.

“I call myself The Lady because if other people get to make up names, I start becoming The Beast or some variant thereof. I want people to remember that I’m human first and foremost, even when that’s not what I look like. Even when I’ve got four legs, fur and fangs.”

“Besides,” Shark says, trying to lighten the mood. “Now that you’re here, it’s perfect. She’s Lady and you’re the Tramp.”

I wait for Lady to laugh before I allow myself to join in. She does it easily though, swinging between smiles and scowls like it’s nothing. I guess if Shark can read her mind it’s alright for him but it’s a little unnerving not knowing where she’s going to be next.

Relax, she likes you. She spent half her childhood in a cage. This stuff is difficult for her.

I keep my face blank, pretending I haven’t heard the words he put in my head. That’s a very personal detail. I’ll ask him about it later.

“What’s Jack Docklen to you?” I ask. “When we first saw you, you reminded him he was a friend but ever since you’ve only spoken like he’s an enemy. Why did I need ‘rescuing’ last night?”

“No way!” The Lady’s eyes light up. “Your Shark interrupted night was with Jack?” She laughs, throwing her head back. “I almost slept with Jack too. Look,” she says, pulling up her shirt, displaying a long, thin scar, trickling over her ribs. “Almost.” She reiterates.

“Almost,” Shark repeats. “Only reason the bastard’s still alive.”

“Jack did that to you?” I ask as she drops her shirt.

She just shrugs.

“I deserved it: you saw his back?” She polishes her nails on the front of her shirt. “That’s my handiwork.”

I did not see his back but I think I may be a little afraid to now.

“Ok,” I say, “so you were friends but you’re not anymore?”

“We can’t tell you that without giving away secrets that aren’t ours to give.” Lady leans her head back, resting it on the sofa. “I miss him, though,” she says.

“He’ll be back,” Shark says.

“You’ve been saying that for years.”

“So his past isn’t as squeaky clean as they make out in the paper, then,” I say. “You worked together?”

This time my question is met with silence. I have a copper’s instinct so I know to change the topic now, before I push them so hard over Jack that they don’t answer any more of my questions at all.

“Alright, Jack’s secrets are his own.” I lean forward, sitting on my hands. This next one’s a risky one. “The Sapient+ serum - where is it? Do you know how to use it?”

Shark and The Lady share a look.

“No, Maya,” Shark says eventually. “We don’t know how to use it. That’s why we need you.”


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