I fought not to find them, but the similarities between Marya and Erika were hard to miss. I tried to calm my rapid heartbeat, focusing on answering the woman’s question and diving off as fast as I could, but Erika interrupted my thought with a question of her own.
“Do you know what happened?” She asked, her eyes darting to the, still smoking, building, before flicking back to me.
Reluctantly, I opened my mouth to answer, but my voice caught in my throat. Her eyes narrowed as she looked at me, confusion in her face. I wasn’t about to let this get to me. I couldn’t let her get to me. Taking a breath, I gathered as much professional distance as I could in my tone and forced the words out:
“Not currently, no. The investigation will have to be carried out before we can determine the cause.”
I went to turn away but she spoke up again.
“How bad is the damage inside?”
“First and second floors took the biggest hit, but I’m afraid I wasn’t charged with tackling the flames personally. You’re better off speaking with one of my colleagues.”
She gasped at the news that those floors were badly hit, and mumbled something under her breath, clearly distressed by the revelation.
“If that’s all, I need to be off.” I said simply, about ready to turn away.
“Is it possible to ju-” She began, before getting cut off by Sam’s yell from the other side of the street.
Her eyes sprung to mine, widening as she tilted her head to the side. I could practically hear the wheels turning in her head whilst she attempted to catch up to the realisation of who I was. Her expression changed from curiosity, to confusion to sadness and then guilt all within seconds. But I refused to react, keeping a blank mask the entire time, not allowing myself to give away any of the emotions I was feeling.
“Ladies.” I nodded, turning on my heel and beginning to walk towards the appliance, eager to put as much distance between us as physically possible.
Sadly, I’d barely made it more than a couple of steps when I heard footsteps rushing behind me, and a strangled voice called out my name.
I told myself to ignore it, to keep walking, but I found myself stopping in my tracks and moving to face her once more, mere steps away from the trucks. There were tears in her brown eyes, and she was wringing her hands together.
“Is that you?” She asked timidly.
I didn’t answer, I wasn’t even sure what to say. The silence seemed to unsettle her though as she proceeded to look nervous.
“Do you… Do you know who I am?”
A part of me wanted to say no. To hurt her like she’d hurt all of us those years ago, how she continued to hurt Marya as she grew up thinking that she was so easy to leave behind. I wanted to see her feel for one second, how we’d felt for years. The anger felt bitter in my mouth. But I just couldn’t do it.
“I know who you are.” I said coldly, dimly aware of the others now grouping together by the appliances, watching the exchange with curiosity. “You’re Erika Harper. The woman who walked out on my dad, and abandoned two young kids without any thought.”
I could hear whispers in the direction of the Watch, and knew that they were just as shocked by this as I was to see her name in that building. But I couldn’t help the venom that spilled out with those words. I didn’t care who was watching.
“Bane, please.” She whispered, sounding close to tears.
“No.” I snapped, stepping forward, “You don’t get to say my name. You don’t get to ask for anything, and you definitely don’t get to be fucking upset.”
My temper was rising and so was my voice. Every bit of anger that I had felt throughout my life since that day, was all bubbling up to the surface and threatening to spill out, all aimed at her. She winced as though my words were whips lashing at her skin. But I was nowhere near done with things that I had to say to her. Thankfully, before I could unleash upon her, I felt two hands on my shoulders, and Lacey and Dodger’s voices saying my name calmly. My chest was heaving as my heart thundered in my chest, but their touch was calming. They were my family, and they were at my side, they had my back, and they weren’t about to let me lose it.
“Rebel, we have a job to do.” Dodger said calmly.
The affectionate use of my nickname soothed me, and I pulled myself back into control. I was a firefighter, I needed to keep up a standard of professionalism.
“C’mon.” Lacey whispered softly, pulling me back slightly, steering me to follow them, whilst Alex stepped forward.
“Ma’am, if there’s anything else that you need?” He asked with an icy, yet official tone.
She shook her head, sniffling and blinking back tears.
That was the last sight of her, before I looked away and began walking with the others.
“No. Thank you.” I heard her mutter.
I was about to climb on the truck, when I heard her interject one last thing:
“Keep him safe, please.”
There was a pause, and I wasn’t sure if her words angered me, or moved me.
“Good day Ma’am.” Alex finished coldly.
I got in the back, swinging the door closed, and shutting her out of my life once again.
Back at the station, I hit the gym, channelling all of my anger and frustration into a workout, counting down the hours until the end of shift, and debating on whether to tell Marya about what happened today, and what to tell her if I did.
By the time our shift was over, I was ready to do anything to get my mind off of that woman, and it just so happened that I had an idea of the perfect thing to do. Showering and changing, I went downstairs, finding Lacey just as she was leaving with the others.
“Lace!” I called out, running to catch up with her.
“Hey.” She smiled softly.
I could see a hint of awkwardness in the look she was giving me, and I knew that there wasn’t going to be any way of skirting around the subject. But for now, it could wait.
“Do you fancy doing something with me tonight?”
There was no hesitation as she nodded and shuffled her bag higher up her shoulder.
“Sure. Let me head home and change first?”
I shook my head, lifting the bag that was in my arms.
“No, just go grab your spare gym kit, that’s all you’ll need.”
Her brows scrunched in confusion and she took a couple of tentative steps back towards the building.
“Where are we going?” She asked.
“You’ll find out soon enough. I hope you’re not too tired.”