Fire & Ice

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Chapter 23

Rowan and I never thought anything of kissing right outside of a crime scene. It just proves we’re a pair of total idiots. I mean, innocent people were being held hostage in a bank, for god’s sake. What made the two of us think that nobody would be watching? I heard the clicking of the cameras as we exited the bank.

The pictures are everywhere. It’s Arctic Hurricane, the youngest agent in the League, and Inferno, the newest agent on the Nebula team, kissing after a mission! You’d think that the world has stopped spinning by the way people are reacting.

It’s not atypical. If someone can catch League agents in any kind of candid moment, it’s considered gold. It’s hard for people without powers to not idolize people who have them like they’re some kind of gods. I get it. I looked up to League agents just like every other kid before I presented with my own powers and even after. It’s just human nature. Unlike celebrities, people don’t photograph League agents to mock them or start drama; they take pictures to capture a moment in the life of a superhuman. It’s ridiculous, but it’s how one of Atlas’s friends, Kasey, has explained it to me. She’s not actually one of the photographers who hunt for the moments (yet) but she works for an office centered around it.

Sure, heroic fights and action shots are super cool. Little slice-of-life moments, however, are heartwarming and realistic. Take Nick, for example. It’s hard for people to see someone who is the human embodiment of an angel, wings and all, as a normal person. If someone were to take a picture of her eating a sandwich, though, it would bring her back down to earth in everyone’s outside view.

I’m not mad about the whole privacy thing. Rowan and I didn’t think anyone was watching, but he wouldn’t have kissed me if we were afraid of getting caught. Being a League agent means being in the spotlight at some point in time, whether we like it or not. We both signed up for it.

I’m laying in bed after the whirlwind of excitement has hit and trying to figure out what happened in my life to drag me to this point. My phone rings and I nearly ignore it all together until I see Atlas’s name. I sigh heavily. I already know where this phone call is going to lead.


“You’re all over the news!” his familiar voice shouts down the line. “Mags literally called me from the library to tell me! The library! And she hates people who talk on the phone in the library!”

“I know, man,” I huff as I roll my eyes up towards the ceiling. “It was an accident.”

“An accident,” he says flatly, clearly unimpressed. “Right.”

“He’s the one,” I say quietly after a moment. Rowan makes a little noise at my right where he’s laying beside me. I look over and smile, poking him lightly on the nose. “We’re...Bonded and everything, now. Everything worked out, believe it or not.”

“Bonded?” Atlas exclaims. I hold the phone a small distance away from my ear to prevent hearing loss. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t know whether you’ve noticed or not, but I’ve had a busy last couple of weeks. Dead mom turned out to be not so dead. Nearly dead League director. Anti-League terrorism. The list goes on.”

“No excuse,” Atlas insists. “No excuse! You need to bring the mystery man over. Oh my god, Maggie is gonna scream when I tell her this.”

The bed sinks in a bit as Rowan rolls over onto his side to look at me. He smirks and I narrow my eyes at him with a stiff shake of my head. He leans forward before shoving his face into the crook of my neck despite the fact that I’m still on the phone.

“Alright, alright,” I say a bit breathlessly as Rowan’s fingers creep down to the waistband of my jeans. “Row!” I whisper-shout when he jumps straight to unbuttoning my jeans.

“Is he there right now?” Atlas is full on shouting at this point.

“Listen, Atlas, you and Mags should come by the tower next week some time,” I say in a sudden rush as Rowan, that absolute fucking tease, starts to undo the zipper. “I gotta go. Bye!” I hang up before he can say anything else and toss the phone onto a pile of clothes beside my bed.

“You’re a little sneak,” I mutter.

Rowan smirks and leans up to press his lips to mine. It’s game over, after that.

A team comes out from D.C. to pick up Christen a little later on in the day. She’s been kept safe and sound in a holding cell on one of the lower floors since the bank situation. I’ve considered going down to see her there, but I have no idea what I would even do or say. She’s been horrible to me for as long as I can remember, but there was obviously a period of time before then when I was just a baby. Did she love me then?

Derek once told me about the single good memory he has of her. He says it’s so grainy and vague that he isn’t even sure if it actually happened or if it was just a dream, but he likes to believe that it’s real. It was a few months after I was born. Derek was only two years old and I was barely one, but he says that our parents took us to see the fireworks on the fourth of July. Our parents sat on a picnic blanket behind us and when he looked back to her in awe at the explosions in the sky, she smiled at him. Dad pulled me up onto his lap and cupped his hands over my ears when I winced at the loud noises. Neither of cried, though, and our parents were happy. Derek says we even got ice cream afterwards.

It kind of hurts that I don’t even have a memory like the one he has, real or not. I have the story, but he can see the happiness on their faces in his head. I don’t even have that. I never thought my insides would get all screwed up when she’s marched past me to the elevator by a group of six armed League agents, but the sight of it makes my stomach turn. How could things go so horribly wrong? What has to happen to make two people to go from loving parents to cold abusers? The fact of the matter is that I’ll never have an answer and the finality stings.

A tiny hand tugs at mine long after the elevator doors have already slid shut with my mother inside. I look down and meet Bella’s innocent brown eyes. She’s holding a bear in her hands that’s dressed in clothes very similar to my uniform. Cecelia thought the idea of League bears was the best thing since sliced bread and Bella couldn’t agree more, so we have an entire set of Nebula team bears that float about the tower.

“Come play bears with me?” she says sweetly.

My eyes well up. I don’t even know why. I agree, though, and take the offered bear with a watery smile. The certainty that I’d fight anything and anyone that ever threatened this little girl hits me as I follow her to her bedroom with the bear in tow. She deserves the world.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but news travels fast through the League. Any new about a Blackwell would, really. The news that she was apprehended by her own son seeps through the cracks quickly and mercilessly. If anyone didn’t know that the baby agent Lake Ford is actually secretly a Blackwell descendant, they definitely do now. I don’t really like it, but that’s just how it is.

Max raised hell with any official who would listen about not changing my file. Apparently that asshole Lee Redwood has been petitioning to change my title to Agent Blackwell within the League since he got back to D.C after his visit here. Like I said before: he’s a fucking weasel. He’s technically only following protocol, but it’s also blatantly obvious that he isn’t doing it with good, pure intentions. Max came to me early this morning during a team breakfast and told me that he “took care of it.” I just agreed and thanked him without question because I can’t testify against him for making threats that I didn’t know about if there were to be an issue.

Dennis, the tower AI, summons me to conference room two for a conference call with Director Scofield a little later into the day. I sit alone in the seat opposite the wall his face will be projected and wait with simmering dread. Has he decided to revoke my agent status? Is being a living, free Blackwell too much of a risk for the League to take all over again? I wouldn’t be happy being pinned to the other maniacs in my bloodline, but I also would see where they’re coming from. Learning from the past is important. It has set the League apart from other organization. The League uses the past to guide us forward while others stare blindly into the future.

The man’s face appears on the wall with a smile. Okay. A smile isn’t exactly what I was expecting.

“Agent Ford,” he greets. “Long time, no speak. I’d like to start by congratulating you on your Bond with Agent Rivera.”

“You know about that?” I say, mouth dropping open against my will.

He chuckles a bit.

“Agent Armstrong may have mentioned it,” he replies. Of course it was Max.

Max’s injuries have been fully healed since yesterday. He’s on mandatory bed rest in his suite until the end of the week, but he has full use of all of his limbs and organs. He admitted, though a bit sheepishly, that his healing factor is absolutely off the charts.

“Oh. Well, thank you, sir.”

“More importantly, thank you for your work on Monday at the bank. Christen Blackwell has been off our radar for many years and no one really knew to how to handle her.”

“I didn’t know, either,” I reply with a knowing smile. “I went to see her brother.”


“No, Coma,” I reply, referring to Joseph. “He knew her. He told me about when they were training.” I ignore the mention of Ashton. He died before he did anything too crazy or horrible in the League’s view. I know that his name is on one of the memorial plaques as an unfortunate loss and it makes me sick thinking about it, but it’s not the League’s fault. Maybe one day I’ll say something and that fact will change, but I’m nowhere near ready for anything like that.

“Ah. He’s a well missed agent around the Mayday team. Shame he retired so young.”

“He’s happy, though, and not crazy.”

The director nods thoughtfully.

“Yes, well. It is a high stress profession,” he agrees. “I’d like to have you in D.C. for a debrief and some lunch tomorrow, Agent Ford. Would you like me to send transportation for you?”

I consider it for a long second, looking away from the projected screen to think.

“Actually, Director, I’m going to have politely decline for the time being if that’s okay. I need some time to be just...I don’t know, be a normal person for a bit. Does that make sense?”

He looks a little surprise that I didn’t just immediately say yes, but then some kind of secondhand pride takes over. It’s similar to when Max smiles at me after I do or say something great. I never thought that joining the League would also give me multiple different “father figures,” but here we are. I can’t say I’m unhappy about it.

“That’s fine,” he says simply. “Another time within the month, perhaps. I was also calling to tell you about a small chamber we’re forming. Contrary to civilian belief, the capture of Christen Blackwell is most certainly not the end of anti-League activity. I’ve appointed you as one of the members.”

“Oh, wow, um,” I stammer in surprise, tangling my fingers in my lap below the table. “That would...that would be great, sir.”

The older man smiles warmly.

“We’re meeting a month from now. I’ll send you more details when needed.”

“That sounds good,” I say before cracking a smile. So the League hasn’t given up on me. The agents within the League tend to follow the director’s lead. Hopefully the fact that I’ve fallen into the man’s favor will keep everyone from shunning me as they have with all of the Blackwells before me.

We hang up. The HoloTech projector shuts off and then it’s just me sitting there in an empty conference room.

Many teams in the states far away from New York have the belief that since Christen Blackwell is over, the anti-League crusade has died with her. We know better. I don’t want to say a war is on the horizon, but that may be the reality.

Complete uncertainty is the life of a League agent.

Rowan is sitting on my bed when I finally leave the conference room and make my way back to my suite. He looks innocently nervous which is an expression I haven’t seen on him since he first asked me out on a real date. Oh, boy.

“So, I uh, did something,” he says quietly.

“Oh, yeah?” I reply before sitting down beside him and resting my head on his shoulder. “Are you gonna spoil me?”

He looks at me as though I’ve somehow read his mind.

“How did you know? Who told you?”

“Row, baby, I can read you like a book,” I reply. “I can also see the nerves on your face. And feel them itching through the Bond. You’ve only acted like this a few times before.”

He looks a little disappointed, but I run a hand down the side of his face to distract him.

“Don’t be sad,” I say with a slight pout. “I still have no idea what’s going on.”

Rowan jumps up from the bed, taking both of my hands in his with a renewed glimmer of excitement in his gold eyes.

“I’m taking you on a date,” he says.

“Oh yeah?”


“You know, it’s always you asking me out on date,” I huff.

He smiles warmly. The Bond hums happily.

“Relax. You’ll have the rest of our lives to ask me,” he replies. My heart skips a beat at his words and a blush spread down my neck. Sometimes I forget that we’re each other’s forever.

“Come on,” he says before dragging me to my feet. I follow him out of my room, through my suite, and into the elevator. Instead of going down to lobby like I expected we would, he presses the button for the roof. I look at him sideways as we start to rise, but he just squeezes my hand and smiles crookedly.

The elevator doors open onto the roof. The sun has already set so it’s dark outside. The light pollution of New York City makes it pretty difficult to see the stars, but little spots glimmer dimly in the black expanse.

There’s a blanket I recognize from Rowan’s room draped on the ground. I look over at this man, my man, and he’s grinning like mad.

“You…” I trail off. “I literally love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” he says. I kiss him hard before we actually make a move to the blanket he laid out.

He tugs over a couple paper bags and starts taking things out of them. Chicken quesadillas from our favorite Mexican place a block away. I pull one out and then hold it out for him to bite. He raises an eyebrow but bites and chew before starting a playlist he made on his phone. He pulls out cinnamon buns from seemingly thin air after we’ve fully devoured the quesadillas.

“I just threw some songs together,” he says nonchalantly, but the vulnerability in the Bond says something else entirely. He probably worried over picking the right music for hours knowing him.

“It’s great,” I reassure him, and I don’t even have to lie. We have a similar pop-alternative taste in music and he picked accordingly.

We lay back to simply gaze at the sky after we’ve finished eating. Stargazing. That’s what they call it. There may not be many stars to see, but that’s New York for you. I lay my head on his chest and focus on the sky and the rhythm of his breathing. We have our entire lives to go to a place where the stars jump out from the night sky.

It’s easy to float away and forget about reality. Bella is asleep and neither of us have anywhere to be for a good week or so. There aren’t any responsibilities pressing down on our chests for the first time since we met. It’s incredibly freeing.

That’s not to say that we’ve lost touch. When he kisses me, he doesn’t pull away to whisper about a happily ever after against my lips. That’s a typical counterpart thing, but the pair of us are certainly not typical.

This night has a serious possibility of being the only completely peaceful night we ever have together. Director Scofield wouldn’t be assembling a chamber if he isn’t expecting a drastic turn of events. There very well may be hundreds of other Christen Blackwells; it’s actually quite likely. There aren’t much moments of true peace during wars, so Rowan and I are going to enjoy the ones we can get while we still can. There’s no use in living behind a rose-colored lens, but taking advantage of the time we have is still important. If that means laying on the roof of or team’s tower and alternating between staring at nearly invisible stars and kissing, then so be it.

Sometimes the act of simply existing is the best thing to do.

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