Diving to the left, I just managed to avoid getting hit with a ball of vivid purple magic. It flew past my cheek, stinging my skin with its sparks before slamming into the wall behind me. The room shook as the ball detonated in a mini explosion of rock and dust.
“Hell yeah!” Jake shouted loudly.
Turning back to my unconventional pupil, I watched as he jumped to his feet. Tugging on the hem of his shirt, he pulled the material over his head and proceeded to run around the room in circles cheering. A smile twitching my lips, I watched the spectacle. The child disguised as a member of the Seraphim’s elite guard fell to his knees, raising his arms in triumph.
“If you’re done, it’s time to get back to work,” I called out dryly.
Freeing himself from his shirt, Jake looked at me in disbelief, “Oh, come on! You have to admit that was the best one yet.”
He wasn’t wrong. Due to a promise made in a moment of weakness involving puppy dog eyes and a weak heart, I'd been teaching Jake to control his magic for the past four months. For the majority of the first, I’d almost bitten off his head in impatience. I did not have the right attitude for teaching, every time he’d gotten it wrong I'd just about wrung his neck in frustration. The only thing that had stopped me was knowing how much more frustrated Jake was about his lack of progress. Finally – thank god – after that first hellish month he’d started to show progress. Incremental, but progress nonetheless. Today, for the first time, he’d managed to channel his magic into a sphere. The concentrated ball of magic took a lot of precision and control and given that a week ago he’d still been blasting out magic in sloppy waves it was a huge step up.
“I’ll admit it was very impressive.” I conceded, “But we still need to work on your control and aim.”
Glancing behind me at the crumbly wall, Jake winced, his joyful expression turning sheepish, “I don’t know what happened, I just got so excited about finally forming the sphere that I... lost track of it.”
Chuckling, I gestured for him to reclaim his seat on the ground in front of me, “Don’t worry about it, when I was first learning to make spheres, I nearly burnt the house down...twice.”
Plopping down, Jake’s eyes sparkled with interest, “Oh really, and here I thought you were just born a master of magic.”
“Hardly,” I snorted, “Mallory said she’d never had a more stubborn pupil, and she didn’t mean it in a good way.”
After moving in with Mallory and Hutch, - my adoptive parents - I had still been filled with a bitter anger at the world over the loss of my wings and my mother’s suicide. Most days I didn’t even leave my room but Mallory, being the no-nonsense woman she is, refused to let me wallow in pity. Instead, she demanded I learn how to use my magic in order to protect myself in the future. At first, I’d been like every teenager who was forced to do something they didn’t want to: petulant and full of complaints. Eventually, she'd won over my curiosity. From then on, I’d been a dedicated and eager student, wanting to learn everything I could about magic. Determined to never again let the world hurt me.
Shaking off the memories, I refocused on Jake. His hazel eyes were full of questions but he knew me well enough to keep his lips zipped.
“Right, now that we’ve made some progress on magic spheres, it’s time to move on to the second half of today’s lesson.”
Jake groaned loudly and I smirked at his pitiful expression. Plucking the everyday bike lock from my pocket, I held it out. Magic tickled at my fingertips as my skin came into contact with the simple ward I’d cast on it.
Taking the lock from my hands with a grimace of distaste, Jake pursed his lips, “Can’t we skip warding for today? You know I’m terrible at it.”
“And that’s exactly why we’re doing it. If you don’t practice, you’ll never improve.” My own words shocked me with their familiarity.
Holy crap, when did I become Mallory?
Putting aside the strange idea, I snapped back my shoulders, “Come on Jake, it’s a really simple ward. You know what to do.”
“Find the loose thread.” He replied dutifully.
“Exactly, now get to it.”
He heaved a sigh and I watched as his eyes glazed over before lighting up with magic. His forehead creasing as he focused intensely on the lock in his hand.
For the next hour, I watched patiently as he tried to break the ward on the lock. Sweat beaded on his face, his brow creased deeper as time passed and his frustration grew. Finally, he puffed out a large breath as the magic faded from his eyes. Running a hand over his face he dropped the lock.
“Well?” I asked.
He gnashed his teeth, “It took me a while but I finally found the loose thread but I couldn’t seem to grab it. It kept on slipping from my grip.”
Having expected this, I nodded, “Your control of magic is still growing and although it’s better than a few months ago, you still need to refine it further.”
Jake stared at me in dismay and I smiled ruefully, brushing back a strand of my hair, “Right now your control is the equivalent of using a crowbar to try and pry it apart when what you need to be using is a pair of tweezers.”
Groaning, he flopped on his back, arms stretching wide. I wisely chose not to mention that when we started doing charm work, his control would need to be needle-like.
“I’m never going to get this.” He replied woefully, but I knew he wouldn’t quit. Nothing kept the kid down for long.
“Don’t be so glum duckling, two months ago you had the precision of a bulldozer.”
He groaned even louder. Laughing, I stood, stretching the stiffness from my muscles. Since the incident four months ago, where Jake and I had been kidnapped by Rodrigo, a purist psychopath who used me as his personal pincushion, I’d managed to get back into full fighting shape. All of my injuries had healed perfectly, leaving only faint scars thanks to the help of the city’s best healers. Sometimes my thigh throbbed after a long shift but the dull pain was fleeting at best, a persistent annoyance at worst. Otherwise, there was no remainder of the incident besides my memories. Unlike the scars, those were not so easily ignored.
“I think we’ll call it a day for now,” I told Jake, who scrambled to his feet, suddenly a picture of excitement.
“The same time next week?”
Grabbing my phone, I checked it quickly.
1 Missed Call. 2 Text Messages.
All from Emory. I shoved it back into my pocket without checking the texts.
How long could you ignore someone before they kicked down your door?
I didn’t know but I was going to find out.
Together, Jake and I walked to the elevator. I winced at the dent in the wall, knowing it was going to come out of my paycheck. Hutch had made it very clear that if I was going to be using the station’s work out space to train Jake, any of the damages incurred would be my responsibility. Sighing at the thought of all the pillows I could’ve bought with that money, I pushed the call button.
“So, are you working tonight?” Jake asked, always eager to hear about my job. If the guy wasn’t so dedicated to the Seraphim, I think he would’ve jumped at the chance to become a PeaceKeeper.
“Yeah, my shift starts in about an hour. I’m hoping it’ll be a quiet one.”
Yeah, like that’ll happen.
“Why? Don’t want to be out on the streets, catching bad guys?” Jake replied as we stepped into the elevator.
“Last night I didn’t get in till three because I was trying to track down some Hydro idiot who was flashing people on the subway. By the time I found him, he’d ditched the trench coat and decided that wrestling a PeaceKeeper while naked was a good idea.”
Jake snickered and I shot him my shark grin, “Guess which appendage I decided to stick the tranq in?”
It was my turn to laugh as his smirk fell. Skin paling, his hands folded over himself protectively.
“Agent Hunter you are a cruel, cruel woman.” He replied, throat bobbing.
“Just remember that and you’ll be fine.”
Stepping out of the elevator, I waved at Linda the station’s daytime receptionist. She smiled, returning the gesture as we walked past. Not too long ago, I’d come stumbling out of that elevator, half dead after Rodrigo delivered a bomb to my apartment. Since then, the woman had been overly nice to me, constantly asking how I was feeling. While I could do without the questions, I wasn’t about to turn down the delicious chocolate chip cookies she dropped on my desk each week.
Exiting the brownstone building, I walked with Jake to his car, wincing at the thought of him on the road. He drove like he was in a car chase, only with none of the skill of a professional stunt car driver.
Opening the door, he paused for a moment hands tightening around the door frame. I waited for him to speak up. He'd been cagey ever since he'd first arrived for his training; something clearly bothering him.
Raising his head, he met my gaze, his face somber.
“Lia, do you-” he paused, mouth tightening, “do you ever dream about what happened?”
For the first time, I noticed the dark circles underneath his eyes, the fatigue in his frame.
Looks like I’m not the only one losing sleep over memories.
I shuffled my feet, searching for an answer. I could tell him it would get better, that over time the dreams wouldn’t happen so often. That one day they might even stop completely. But he wasn’t looking for solutions or advice.
“Yes,” I replied simply because sometimes the greatest support was knowing you weren’t alone.
His shoulders lifted and the lines bracketing his face lightened. He huffed out a breath, a hopeful smile creasing his lips.
I shrugged, “Why do you think I’m up till three in the morning chasing perverts?”
He laughed and the tension between us dissipated, “Is it too much to hope it’s because you’re a closet perv yourself?”
Raising an eyebrow, I reached back and plucked a syringe containing enough tranquilizer to take down a full-blooded Jaxai. The sharp silver needle glinted in the sunlight as I pointed it at Jake threateningly.
“You do realize I have an infinite supply of these, right?”
Gulping, he raised his hands in surrender before jumping back into his car, slamming the door closed between us. Frowning at me he, cracked the window an inch.
“I hope you have to wade through multiple dumpsters full of smelly trash tonight.”
With a mad cackle, he pulled away from the curb, speeding away as if the dogs of hell were chasing him.