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

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Hint 14. Lie

“You can pretend to take some time to think about it, Maya, but I know you’ll do it. You’re one of us now.”

One of us now.

Shark’s words echo round my head as I reappear in my bedroom, sighing. How did I get myself mixed up in this?

I wonder if Shark really does know more about my mind than I do. It feels like he’s asked the impossible of me, to steal serum activation information from The Facility. I don’t think I’m going to do it. It’s damned stupid, would make me an enemy of the state. Public enemy number three and an enemy of the state. That doesn’t sound like me at all. I’m a policewoman.

And yet Shark was so absolutely certain I would agree. He was so certain that it actually makes me more open to the plan, like I’m just waiting for me to come round to the idea too.

Shouting interrupts my silent thinking and I falter, cocking a head to listen. It’s Alex, his voice raised. He’s using his policeman tone, forcibly calm, not something he ever tries to be at home.

Oh God.

I rush from the room, not thinking, not realising that I’m still in yesterday’s clothes. It doesn’t even occur to me that it could be Jack Docklen in the corridor, that my apparent walk of shame might throw him off the deep end.

“She’s out, Docklen!” Alex is shouting. “How many times do I have to tell you!?”

Both men turn as I appear around the corner.

“Don’t,” I say, warning, as Jack’s eyes flash. “He’s not lying. I just got in.”

“Apparently you did,” he spits, eyes tracking over my bedraggled form.

“Don’t talk to her like that.” Alex snaps. They’re standing too close to each other already, squaring up, and as Alex speaks, he steps forwards. Jack bristles immediately.

“You have no idea what you’re dealing with,” he growls.

“Get out of my house.”

“Or what, Higgs? You’ll call the police?”

I choose this moment to intervene, placing a gentle hand on Alex’s chest and pushing him away.

“We’re going back to mine, Maya,” Jack says, wrapping his fingers around my upper arm. He starts squeezing way too tightly for me to feel like I have any choice in the matter. “I don’t want this buffoon getting in the way.”

“You don’t have to go with him,” Alex says, stepping back. It’s a gesture that gives me over to Jack, that doesn’t interfere with our proximity. But I know Alex, I know he’s trying to show me he hasn’t lost his temper as much as it seems like he has. He’s trying to win me over with a demonstration of his sanity.

I sigh, closing my eyes.

“Maya,” Alex says, “he’s acting irrationally, don’t go with him. It’s not safe.”

“Safe!” Jack exclaims. “If you knew where she’d been, Higgs, I’d be the one holding you back.”

“Alex,” I say, “I’m taking him home. Obviously we have some things to discuss. If I’m not back in an hour and a half, then something has happened to me. Understand?”

“Did you fuck him, Maya? I distinctly remember telling you not to fuck him.”

“I haven’t fucked anybody,” I say, looking between them. Hopefully Jack will get the message too. “I just managed to turn a major situation into a royal fuck up.”

“As usual.” Alex glowers just a second longer. “I swear to God, Docklen, if you touch a single hair on her head I don’t care if it gets us both kicked off the force; I’m breaking your jaw so bad you’ll never be able to smile like that ever again.” He storms away, slamming his bedroom door behind him, and I make us disappear with a pop.

I’ve hardly managed to get my footing on Jack’s laminate flooring before his entire weight slams into me. I stumble but he just keeps pushing back until my head cracks against the wall.

“Jack…” I begin but his forearm presses into my throat, stopping the words. I try to cough but he’s leaning against my chest. I can hardly breathe.

“If you even think of teleporting out of this,” he says, “I’ll break your legs. I’ll fucking do it, Maya.”

I try to speak but I can’t. He’s leaning all his weight down on his arm, crushing my lungs with his body. The edge of my vision is starting to close in already, bright explosions of colour darting across my sight.

He must see that I’m struggling because he lightens up and I gasp, air shuddering back down into my lungs with a grateful rasp. It takes me a good minute to recover and Jack just looks down at me, eyes dark with fury the entire time.

“You need to calm down,” I manage eventually, when I’m quite certain it’ll come out as an even command instead of a breathy splutter.

“Don’t you dare try and policeman me, Maya. Don’t you dare.”

“What the fuck do you want, Jack? What the fuck!”

“That’s better.” He grins but it’s not good humoured. It’s spiteful.

He still has his arm pressed up against my throat and as he leans in, adding just the slightest pressure, I lift my arms. Hanging both hands off his bicep, I attempt to keep just enough space between his body and mine to allow me to breathe.

“I have perimeter security set up around this entire flat, Maya. I know Shark was here last night. Did you know Shark was here last night?”

My blood runs cold.

“Maybe.”

He leans in so close I have to turn my head, flinching slightly as his breath hits my face. I realise, ever so suddenly, that I’m in trouble. I can’t teleport away from this. If he’s touching me, he’s coming with me, that’s how it works, and I’m not strong enough to fight him off long enough to disappear on my own. If Jack finds out what I’ve been doing with Shark right now, it won’t be a case of awkward questions. Alex was right, he’s irrational. If I want to walk away from this, I’m going to have to lie.

“What does maybe mean, Maya?”

“Look,” I say, “he was here.” I release a hand to wave in the general direction of the window. “Over there. He was looking for you.” The words turn into a scream as Jack pulls me back briefly, slamming me into the wall again. “He was looking for you!”

“If he was looking for me, Maya, why did he leave with you?”

“You were fucked Jack! Out cold.”

“Did you sleep with him? Are you Whisper?”

“No. No!” Jack pulls us back, throwing me into the wall a third time, his entire bodyweight slamming into mine. I grunt as he pushes all the air from my lungs. This time, as we come crashing back against stone, my head hits the side of a picture frame. It falls, clattering to the floor, and I yelp, pain flashing out across my brow.

I’m crying, actually sobbing. I didn’t realise until now but now that I’ve noticed, I can’t stop.

“Did you think I wouldn’t know, Maya? Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”

“I didn’t do anything,” I‘m still sobbing, thrashing in his grip. An hour and a half was a stupid amount of time. I want Alex now.

“How did he do it, Maya? Did he use his sweet words? Tell you…”

“He knows how to use the serum!” I scream the lie, anything to distract him.

“What?”

“He told me.” I choke again and he forces himself to pull back so I can continue speaking. “He came last night to gloat, or to try and persuade you to join him again, I don’t know. I don’t know!” I pant and Jack balls his fists in the material of my shirt. “He told me to tell you. I was scared, Jack. Scared: he was talking in my head and this is how you’re treating me.”

Jack actually eases up slightly. I think he’s shocked that I’m crying and it’s making everything sound more believable.

“He scared you?” He asks, suddenly a lot softer.

I just nod, sniffing, and Jack releases me in a fury.

“I’m going to kill him,” he says.

I sink to the floor, pulling my knees into my chest. Jack drops to my side immediately, placing a hand on the back of my head.

“Hey, Maya,” he breathes, “hey, it’s Ok.”

“No it’s not,” I hiccup for added impact. “You thought I was Whisper. You thought I was the bad guy.”

“No, Maya…”

I hate myself for everything that I’m saying but I’m willing to do anything to get him to believe me, for him to think I’m harmless.

“You thought I was sleeping with him but I wasn’t. I was getting information. Information that we needed whilst you were lying flat on your back.”

Jack rocks back on his heels, thinking.

“I’m sorry, Maya,” he says. “I am, I am.”

I don’t say anything.

“If you see him again, do you think you could get more out of him?” Jack asks.

“I don’t want to,” I say, “if this is how you treat me.”

“Oh I won’t,” he croons, pulling me into his arms. “I know now. I know.”

I hate him so much. I just want to go home and get into bed. I don’t want him or Shark. I want Alex, who stood up for me no strings attached, who’s my friend without the distraction of physical attraction.

“I’m going home,” I murmur. “I don’t want to talk about this right now.”

Jack pulls back. Taking my face in both his hands, he gently pushes my head back so that I’m forced to look him in the eye.

“You don’t need to be scared of Shark,” he says, “I’ll look after you.” He leans in, placing a light kiss on my lips. I don’t even have to strength of will to push him away.


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