Digging his heels into the pavement, Starboy's glow continued to flicker as Crow dragged him away. No, he knew this had to be done. His gut, his heart.. No. His powers were telling him it had to be done. A smile fell onto his face, twitching nervously as he beamed at Max one more time.
"Remember what I said, Crow. Five hundred and twenty eight feet. Dark alley between 1st and Norton.. right on Collins. Trust me, okay?" He nodded firmly and grasped her forearms, giving them a squeeze. "You've got this. It'll all work out." His glow finally stopped flickering, and his eyes remained a steady cerulean blue. "I'll be fine.. you'll be fine.. they'll be fine. Get em to a safehouse. Okay? Don't worry about me, Crow. Don't worry."
And with that, he broke off into a sprint in the other direction.
It was like being on autopilot. He wasn't conscious of where he was going but his feet never stayed on the ground for more than a moment. He was running, tirelessly, and never knowing when he planned to stop. But Mason knew he was going somewhere, somewhere with purpose.
When he could finally understand where he was, finally regain consciousness, he was in the very center of the supermarket, right in front of the two burly suited men. Suddenly he lost his confidence. Why had his powers brought him right back here? Stepping away in fear, Mason put his hands up. The two men looked between each other, and from their coat pocket one pulled out a device.
It was something Mason had seen many times before. It had the physique of a grenade, though perhaps more round. It wasn't meant to explode, but provide an electrical field to disarm and meta and shock them into unconsciousness.
The thing must have been a dud, because it whirred to life and then a strange rattling noise came. Mason breathed a sigh of relief, grinning at the two agents, thinking he'd been spared a great fate. That his powers had lead him here to get his revenge, to mock them as their plan failed.
And, of course, as all things did, it blew up in his face.
Five hundred seventeen. Five hundred eighteen. Five hundred nineteen. Five hundred twenty. Five hundred twenty two. Five hundred twenty three. Five hundred twenty four… Twenty five… Twenty six. Twenty seven… Five hundred and twenty eight!
Crow spun around on her heel, grabbing Marcy by both arms before looking directly into her eyes. “There’s a safehouse, three blocks away. I’m going to take you there, but you’re not going to like how I do it. I’m sorry, I really am, but I have to get back to Starboy… But I have to keep you guys safe too.”
She looked at Max and found innocent blue-grey eyes staring back at her. His little mouth hung agape, but his eyes, they were inquisitive, staring at her with knowledge beyond his youth. He’d smiled at Starboy, eyes bright and cheerful, but when he looked at her they were forlorn, hesitant. Almost afraid.
Forcing herself to smile, Crow closed her eyes and held out her hand. When Marcy placed hers on top of it, Crow’s ‘field extended to Marcy, widening itself so it could consume both mother and son behind it’s protective embrace.
“Wait!” Marcy cried out before Crow was finished wrapping a ‘field around them both. “Why? Why are you helping us? You’re willing to sacrifice your fiance so you can help us… But why are you willing to help us?”
Hesitating, unsure in herself for the first time in so many years… “I don’t know,” Crow whispered softly, shaking her head as tears welled up in her eyes. “But I wish someone had helped me when I was a kid, someone like me, you know?” Crow leaned over softly and laid a soft peck on Max’s forehead. “I think I’m--I think we’re doing this because we can… Because we’re able to… Because we know it’s the right thing to do.”
And blushing fully, “Starboy… Well he’s not exactly my fiance.”
Before either of them could continue, Crow finished wrapping her ‘field around the pair and took off running. Thankfully neither were too heavy and even more so, that Starboy had led them to a neighborhood connected entirely by back alleyways. Anyone they passed stepped back, more afraid or astounded to follow, question, or halt their procession.
Not that Crow would have allowed that.
She’d have run them down without sparing a second thought.
Marcy held a hand over her mouth, hovering a few feet above Crow’s head, trying not to faint. Clinging to her son as though her life depended upon it, which, in ways it seemed it did…
As she glanced down at the young woman below her, Marcy’s eyes welled up with tears. She couldn’t begin to fathom how torn Crow must be feeling. Marcy could still see the emotion in both of their eyes as they had separated. Shaking her head and nuzzling into her son’s curly dark brown hair, the woman cried softly, drawing strength from god knows where.
Thank you, oh god thank you…
For a moment there was silence and from that silence, a familiar soft-spoken voice said, TAKE CARE OF THEM...
Marcy took comfort in the voice, keeping a wary eye on her surroundings, trying her best to shield both her and her sons faces from the few passersby. Crow was fast, though, and by the time they happened upon someone, Crow was already well past them. This repeated a few times, between a maze of lefts and rights, until Crow stopped and the dome lurched suddenly, nearly knocking Marcy's feet from underneath her.
She held her breath as Crow jumped--farther than anyone had any right to jump--caught hold of the second floor fire escape and pulled herself up. It seemed without any effort to keep them aloft, and though that may not have been the case, Marcy was grateful when three floors up, Crow moved them back to solid… metal grating, unlocked a window without even touching it!- and ushered them inside.
“There’s enough food in this place to last you a month. But that won’t be necessary.” Crow breathed out, winded slightly by the combined expendage of power.
Crossing the darkened room to flick on the breaker panels, Crow motioned Marcy forward so she could show her the layout of the small apartment. The building was old but kept clean and in good condition. The building was owned by an old man whose past was quite shady in these parts of Millennium and as long as you paid your rent on time, there’d be no questions and definitely no cops.
“One bathroom. One bedroom. The couch does pull out, however. The kitchen is small, but it’s stocked. Everything should work,” Twisting the hot water knob in the bathroom to make sure and then doing the same in the kitchen, Crow nodded satisfied. The front door had been kept locked with three bolts and an energy containment field. Anyone who tried getting in would have a helluva time breaking through that. “I have to go now, Marcy, but I’ll be back in three days. Don’t leave until then okay? You’ll be safe here.”
“Wait! Crow… Is-is it… Is it magic?” Glancing down at her son, whose wide, sleepy eyes surveyed the room, she smiled before continuing. “My husband, he had magic too, just like Max… Just like you and your Starboy.”
“No,” she said softly, walking over to the window, “It’s not magic. At least, I don’t think it is. But it’s something real and I hope you can take comfort in that. Remember: you’ll be safe here. I’ll be back in three days. Please, stay here.”
“I will… And Crow?”
Crow jumped from the fifth floor fire escape, softening her landing with a little extension of her power. She had used too much, carrying Marcy and Max like that, but she hadn’t seen another other choice at the time. She couldn’t have expected Marcy to keep up with her, and she knew… somewhere in her gut that Starboy needed her.
Before taking another step, Crow closed her eyes, rocking back and forth on her heels. Inhaling deeply, allowing the energy to swirl around her, through her, and grasping on to them, allowed her mind to reach out. Like before, it was like she stepped into another world. Every time she stepped through things became clearer and never had she been so proficient since her time protecting Starboy. And taking a single step forward, she willed her mind to stretch-- to find his cerulean glow.
Taking another step, and then another, she quickly found herself running, still searching for his glow in a world of brilliant translucence energy. A few auras were colored, all too far away for her to come into contact with, yet they were out there. But they weren’t the right color. None were the dazzling cerulean she’d come to know.
A stitch formed in her chest but Crow kept running, one foot after the other. When she caught sight of his glow however, she was nearly blinded by it’s brightness. Frowning, losing control of her energy reading, Crow blinked a few times and stood dumbfounded at the back door of the grocery warehouse. She had never seen someone’s glow that bright and she wasn’t sure what it could mean. Fishing out her phone, she dialed an old friend and cursed when he didn’t pick up on the first try.
“Doctor Payne. Is it an emergency? Call back. If not, leave me a message after the beep!”
Crow smashed the redial button on her phone and growled when Jake finally answered.
“Meet me at Horton’s. Don’t ask any questions. And dammit you better get here fast.”
Crow hung up, glanced around wildly, suspiciously, and wondered why Starboy would have come back here. Did he try and take the SPME on? Why would he do that without me, though?
Unsure of what she’d find on the other side of the door, Crow opened the emergency exit and made her way into the large supermarket. At first, all she could hear was noise, an uproar of commotion. She couldn’t explain what had caused the panic, but she’d take a bet that it had something to do with her boy and the SPME.
Rather than expend energy, Crow ran up and down the aisles, searching the store quickly-- and find him she did, right in the center of the store. Starboy and two rather burly SPME agents laid flat on their backs, pieces of cardboard, food, and detritus scattered about. Between them laid the the remnants of what caused the mayhem.
She recognized it, even as mangled and deteriorated as it was.
Nearly growling in anger, Crow forced the SPME agents away, pushing them out of sight with her powers. Hopefully they’d stay unconscious long enough for her to get Starboy out of the building and over to Hortons.
As Crow knelt by Starboy’s head, she found herself trembling. She couldn’t tell if it was from rage or fear…
He was bloodied. Tears streamed down her face as she cradled his head in her lap, unsure whether it was even safe enough to move him. She couldn’t begin to differentiate the different injuries he had endured, but by the wreckage of the aisle she couldn’t only begin to imagine.
Guilt lapped its way up her spine. She had caused this.
“Starboy… C-Can you hear me? Starboy wake up, come back to me.”
I'm sorry... I should have never let you leave my side.
There was a steady ringing in his ear that blocked everything else out. He had felt it coming before it even happened, but now as he lay on the floor, he could hardly process what had just occurred. Everything was blurry, blurry enough that he felt it might be better to just close his eyes and sleep. But he knew, despite everything else spinning incomprehensibly, that if he closed his eyes, it would be hard to open them again.
There was pain but it wasn’t at the center of his mind. It rested between his eyes like a headache he couldn’t reach, an itch he couldn’t scratch. Something ached, some part of his body whined, but he couldn’t give it the attention it craved. He could hardly feel his fingers.
There were footsteps coming from a place he couldn’t see and as he strained his neck the pain finally blossomed, cut off his breathing so fast that he felt like a fish out of water. There was a voice, gentle and guilt-laced, calming his throbbing heart. Crow.
She pulled his head into her lap and he could taste blood as it filled his mouth. There had been many times where he’d been beaten to a bloody pulp, all the years alone. He’d have to pull himself up off the floor, limping and crawling back to whatever form of safety he could find. Now, he couldn’t feel his toes. No chance he could limp away from this one. But Crow was cradling him, and she was going to keep him safe. She was going to keep him safe like she always did, even when he ran away, straight into bombs.
“I hear you.” He whispered. “I’m here. I’m sorry.”
Should’ve never run, should’ve never left you, look what I’ve done. Look what I’ve gone and done to myself, look what you’re going to have to deal with. God, I don’t pay you enough. I don’t pay you enough at all for this and you care too much about someone like me. I’m a porcelain doll. You can’t keep putting me back together, Crow, you can’t keep trying to put me back together. You can’t teach a porcelain doll to put on steel, I can’t do it for you Crow. I want too and I can’t.
“No, no… Don’t be sorry. What you did was brave.” She breathed out a shaky, anxiety ridden laugh. “Stupid as hell, but brave.”
As tears fell from Crow’s eyes she glanced around the aisle, only to find herself seeing nothing, hearing nothing, feeling nothing but the manic rise and fall of her chest. How could she have let this happen? She’d been so careful for so long… And now, now Starboy was on Death’s door and she could do nothing about it.
But that wasn’t entirely true. And the moment she realized it, Crow inhaled sharply, held her breath for a moment, and then exhaled. It took a minute, but she managed to calm herself down and figure out what to do. Horton’s was only a street and an alleyway away, but they’d be open to attacks from all sides.
I’m just gunna have to carry him… the closer my ‘shield… the stronger it is… Oh Starboy, why the hell did you go and get yourself hurt like this?
Crow breathed out one last wretched sob before shifting Starboy’s head slightly to regain her footing. After a quick glance behind her to ensure the SPME agents were still knocked out, she inhaled deeply and crouched down, searching Starboy’s face for any telltale signs.
“Hey,” Crow said softly, cupping his neck as gently as she could. “I’m gunna have to pick you up now, okay? Stay with me.”