“Please, please!” I begged, dragging my body forward inch by inch, ignoring the burning pain. “You can have it, you can have me! I’ll give you everything you want if you just let them go!”
He seemed to consider my plea, pressing his lips together for a moment. I could practically see the cogs turning in his mind. “Fine.”
Relief flooded through me, and I finally caved to the pain I was going through. Blood seeping from multiple wounds, deep blue-black bruises forming everywhere, my head ringing...I was exhausted. Staying awake just long enough to see my family released, shakily running to the safe zone behind police lines, everything faded to black as he approached me.
I awoke in a huge king sized bed, surrounded by fluffy feather pillows and smothered in the softest, nicest smelling duvet I had ever had the pleasure of sleeping under. So, understandably, I was incredibly disoriented. I was used to my creaky wooden bed, ten year old mattress and thin blanket in the run down apartment my family lived in. This, though, this was luxury. As I sat up, I saw that this was a penthouse, with a huge glass window.
I tried to get out of bed, but found my legs were too weak, and crashed to the floor, knocking a glass off the bedside table as I did. It was barely a minute before footsteps thundered towards the door and it slammed open. “Esper!? Are you alright?”
Esper? What? That was my hero name. And that voice, it...it was familiar, but not. When the owner of the voice came into view, I saw a tall man with blonde curly hair and sharp features.
He scooped me up and gently placed me on the bed. “Esper? Can you hear me?”
“Of course I can hear you... Wh- what--no, who are you?”
The man before me blinked, then his eyes widened for a moment and he nodded. “Esper, it’s... Uh, its me. Vapor.”
I stared at him. He looked to be my age, maybe 26 at the oldest, and was admittedly attractive. So, I laughed. Vapor was harsh, so surely his features would be too…
Then he waved his hand and the familiar shadow mask settled over his face, with the cruel, angled eye slits and the smoky wisps that drifted from and around it. No sound escaped me when I opened my mouth in pure alarm, throwing myself backwards.
With lightning fast reflexes, Vapor grabbed both of my arms before I could fall off of the bed. Desperate to get away from the man who was responsible for beating me to a pulp yesterday, and threatening my family, I leaned back and kicked out, catching his chest with quite a bit of force. It was just enough to stun him, allowing me to first create an illusion of myself in place while the real me teleported away. Or, rather, tried to. I was exhausted, and teleportation was the most difficult of my powers, meaning that my attempt resulted in half of my leg stuck inside the bedframe for a fraction of a second as I flickered before collapsing back in solid reality, gasping and clutching my calf muscle. There was a huge gash, blood seeping out everywhere, and my vision was fading in and out.
“You stupid girl!” Vapor leapt off the bed, and I didn’t have the energy or physical capability to move. His mask was gone again, and in an attempt to keep myself conscious, I focused intensely on what he was doing. He waved his hands, conjuring the same black vapors that were usually used to attack me - except, instead, they wound around my leg and became tight like a bandage, forcing the wound shut. Sighing, he muttered, “That’ll do for now, I’ll have to sew you up. Lord above, Esper, I get sick of watching you do that. One day you’re gonna split your torso in half, and there’s no fixing that…” his words trailed off as he actually looked at my face. I found myself staring at him in perplexment. What was going on? Wasn’t he going to kill me? Torture me? That was what villains did. That was what Vapor did. He wanted control of the city, he wanted to bring everyone to their knees before him… So, why?
I didn’t fight this time as he picked me up, allowing him to place me back on the bed. I was silent, partly out of pure exhaustion, as I watched him cross the room and open a drawer. As he walked back towards me, I noticed it was a first aid kit in his hands. “Why?” I croaked.
“What?” Vapor didn’t even look at me as he sat on the bed and opened the kit, pulling out medical grade surgical thread, a brand new packeted needle, and disinfectant.
“Why help me? You want me dead...what better time? You could choke me, pull me apart, stab me, crush my hea-”
“Stop, stop it!” he snapped, waving his hand sharply. I flinched. He sighed and slumped, and we both locked eyes for a moment. I could see it was him, now. It was those same coal black eyes. It was strange seeing the rest of his face, however. Blonde eyelashes and fair skin, free of blemishes, completely contradicted the image of him I had built up in my head. I was sure he was taking my appearance in, too. I wasn’t sure what scared me more. Being in the lair of my worst enemy, or the fact that he knew my true face, now. “I don’t want to do any of that to you, Esper. I hated doing any of this,” he gestured wildly to me, and I could only presume I looked as bruised and beaten as I felt. “to you. But I had to.”
“What do you mean, you had to?” I asked carefully as he looked away and threaded a needle.
“This will hurt a lot, just so you know. I don’t have any numbing agents, unfortunately-”
“Answer the question, Vapor.”
“So you’re going to have to deal with it. Luckily the gash isn’t too deep or large-”
“Vapor, answer me!” I screamed at him, attempting to push myself into a sitting position but only managing to prop myself up on my elbows. My chest was heaving, my long black hair draped over my shoulders and in front of my face.
“I will explain in time, Esper.” he said softly, “It is a long, long story and right now you’ve-you’ve, I don’t know...splinched yourself, I suppose.”
The reference completely threw me off guard and for a moment, I forgot I was bleeding out of a gaping wound and that the man about to sew me up had been responsible for similar gashes in the past. “D-...did you just reference Harry Potter?”
“Yep,” he said, popping the p, then poured some disinfectant onto the wound. I let out a high pitched, gasping scream as the whole thing burned, and nearly saw white.
“Just fucking pour bloody salt in the motherfucking wound then, you cunt!” I gasped out, tears streaming down my face.
“Sorry, Esper, but it had to be cleaned and I’m working with what I’ve got.” Not given a moment of respite, he soon carefully stabbed the needle into me, and I flinched, causing him to jerk his hand and soon more pain ensued. “For the love of-” he waved his hand, and familiar black wisps wrapped around me. Two held my whole leg down, while more strapped the rest of my body to the bed. “Just-just stay still.”
The next few minutes felt like they dragged on forever, but in reality, it was barely ten minutes of sharp pain until the wound was sewn shut. He bandaged my leg, and the constraints.“If you don’t give me a painkiller, Vapor, I will kill you.” I seethed, still upset and angry but mostly overwhelmed. The blonde simply walked away, leaving me to lie in agony on the now bloodstained sheets. What was going on? Why keep me alive? Oh god, what if he planned to sell me off or something-
“Here, two paracetamol.” Vapor returned with a glass of water, and I eagerly downed the drugs.A few minutes passed in silence afterwards, as I lay there trying to recover, and he went about cleaning up. I idly watched him, noting how he used his powers to lift objects that were further away or move things around when his hands were full. The smoky black wisps which earned him his nickname looked normal, but were very solid - that is, unless he chose that they wouldn’t be. I had always seen them used in battle, to choke or surround, to smoke out an area, even to hit and attack. So seeing them used in such a domestic way was jarring. It felt wrong.
“Why, Vapor?” I eventually croaked out again, my throat sore from screaming. I watched him flinch, then deflate as his shoulders sagged.
“Please, call me Aspen.”
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