Hawthorne paced as Will laid back on the couch. Stalker had gone to check on a disturbance and left them to watch the cameras.
Hawthorne looked over to Will. “I don’t trust him. I don’t trust him with my face, and I can’t believe you trust him with your name.”
“You worry too much,” Will said. “Stalker may be insane, but he’s one of the good guys, and I trust him. He wouldn’t tell anyone if his life depended on it.”
“I don’t know how you can trust someone like that. The way he smiled…it actually looked like he could kill me.”
“You have good instincts then. A lot of heroes and villains fake that, you picked out one of the few who would go through with it.”
She stopped pacing.
Will raised an eyebrow. “Stop worrying. He doesn’t kill just anyone, and as far as I know he’s never killed a hero. But I know he’s a killer. More importantly, I know that he would kill me, or you, or anyone else who he thought needed to be killed.”
“And you’re okay with that? You’re okay with him knowing your name and your face? You said he’s insane.”
“He is. Stalker has absolutely no regard for his own life, and he is capable of killing somebody without any remorse. But his lack of self-worth makes him one of the most objective people I’ve ever met. I know that if Stalker ever runs his blade through my heart it’s because he realized that I’ve done something that I need to be killed for. Stalker, for all the good he does, is not a hero. Stalker is a true vigilante, and he doesn’t consider any law more important than his own.”
“And what is his law?” Hawthorne growled out. “How does he decide who deserves to live? Does he only kill killers? Because the courts could handle that. Does he only kill people who can’t be redeemed? Because that’s bullshit. You’re sitting here justifying a murderer when you told all of us exactly why a hero is never allowed to kill. What gives you the right to say this guy is any different?”
Will sat up so he could meet her eyes. “If you knew, for a fact, that a man was going to kill hundreds of people if you didn’t kill him, could you do it?”
Hawthorne didn’t say anything, but the look in her eyes could kill dragons.
“You wouldn’t. You would try to find another option, because you’re a hero, because you can do things that give you the luxury of having hundreds if not thousands of other options. I would do the same, as would anyone on the council. But Stalker isn’t like us, he can’t wrap someone in a tree so tightly and quickly that they’d never get the chance to set off a bomb. He can’t run fast enough to take the bomb out of the city, or defuse it, or chuck it into orbit. But he could slit that man’s throat and never look back. For anyone without powers, that is the only real option they’d have. Stalker doesn’t live in a world where there’s always another choice, he has to accept the choices he’s given. If he kills someone it’s because there was never another option. That’s why I can trust him, because he can and has made a decision I could never make without hesitation. I trust him with my face because the day he kills me is the day that I become the man with the detonator, and there’s no one I think is better suited to the task. And I’m asking you to let this go before he gets back, not because I want you to trust him, but because I need you to trust me. Because there are people in this city who would gladly kill all three of us if something goes wrong. And the chances of us making it through that with him are much better than the other option.”
Will could hear her grinding her teeth. She still looked angry, but it had toned down a bit during his speech.
“You wouldn’t have even told me about Allspades going missing if I hadn’t tracked you down. Burnout, Mach, and the kid probably still don’t know. You’re asking me to trust you when you won’t even tell us one of our members has gone to the gray side. You’re not our guardian, and you’re not actually a therapist, so stop acting like you know what’s best for us, and start helping us understand why you think the way you do. Promise me that much, and then I’ll trust you.”
Will stood up. He walked over to her and held out his hand. Hawthorne looked him in the eyes and shook it.
A snort came over from the exit. Stalker held a hand over his mouth, but his shoulders were shaking visibly.
“She actually said gray side,” he managed to force out between giggles. “That is the nerdiest thing I’ve heard in weeks.”
Will sighed and looked back at Hawthorne. “We really can trust him, I swear.”
Hawthorne nodded slowly, but she had trouble taking her eyes off the giggling madman.
Stalker managed to get himself under control, and his hand disappeared into his hood like he was wiping off tears from his hidden eyes.
Stalker nodded, his smile as wide as ever. “Plask is going to be in his club tonight. Even after the last time, it’s still the time he’s most vulnerable. Your boy will be there tonight, or he’ll have to wait who knows how long until he’s got another shot.”
Will looked at his feet and sighed. “If Plask finds Allspades at the club before we can get to him, this whole night’s gonna go straight to hell.”
“And that makes your feet extremely interesting,” Stalker said matter of factly, as if he believed it completely. He too looked at Will’s feet.
“No,” Will shook his head. “But these are nice shoes. I really hate ruining nice shoes.”