Chapter 133: Grief

“MITCH!”

Rachel Chase flew for the pillar of light. She didn’t slow down for the shouts ringing from behind her. She didn’t stop for the hands that tried to grab for her. She didn’t stop for the walls of fire and rock and wind that sprung up in front of her.

She didn’t stop because 13 years ago she had complained that her parents brought home the little brother she had never even considered wanting.

She didn’t stop because 9 year ago, she had spent four hours scouring the park for the action figure her brother had dropped, and because the smile on his face when she brought it home had been worth every second her parents had grounded her.

She didn’t stop because 7 years ago, she had had to tell her little brother that their parents were never coming home again, and she had promised him that things would be okay, that she would never leave him.

She didn’t stop because 3 years ago, she had spent two months convincing her grandparents that she needed to move out of their house and take her little brother with her. Because he needed to be closer to school and she needed to be in the city.

She didn’t stop because 3 months ago, she had seen her brother do the impossible. Because after watching him lay in a hospital bed nearly catatonic for countless hours, he had broken free and faced down a villain on his own that had taken out half a dozen more experienced heroes in a few short days.

She didn’t stop because she couldn’t believe that anything could happen to him, because she had promised that she would never leave him, because she always believed that nothing would ever take him away from her.

She stopped after light had faded. When she reached the center of the pillar, where the ground had been scoured clean, she fell to her knees.

There wasn’t a mark on him, but he didn’t look like he was sleeping. She grabbed him and hugged him to her chest and prayed for him to fight her off like he’d done hundreds for times before. His arms hung limply behind him. She pulled the helmet from his head and begged him to breathe, to wake up.

His skin had already grown stiff and clammy. His eyes had already grown glassy. He looked like he’d been dead for hours.

She didn’t scream. She hadn’t taken a breath since the pillar appeared. Her sobs were quiet, but there wasn’t any sound to drown them out. Her tears dripped onto his face and she wiped them away.

She didn’t realize she had turned her power off completely until she felt the hands grabbing her shoulders. She gripped onto Mitch more tightly but they slowly pried her away. They were saying something, but she couldn’t understand them.

She let herself get pulled away, but her eyes never left her brother’s body. He had crumpled onto his side when she let go and she wanted to rush forward and put him back onto his back. She stared at him until the crowd of heroes closed up behind her.

They stared at her as she was pulled through the lines. She could see them turning to watch her, and she wanted to shout at them. She wanted to yell at them because her brother was dead and they were staring at her instead of going after the monster that killed him.

A figure retreated into a dark alley, and she knew who he was, but he couldn’t be here.

They finally pulled her back to the edges of the battle, where the injured heroes were laid out. They found her a spot on the curb and sat her down.

Someone was on one knee in front of her, and trying to talk to her. She let her eyes wander to the face and managed to recognize Hawthorne’s helmet.

“-be okay?”

She hadn’t heard most of the question, but Rachel knew what she was asking.

“Go.”  She put all the venom she had left in her into that word.

Hawthorne jerked back.

“Go get that monster. I’ll be fine.”

Hawthorne’s face was hidden, but Rachel knew she was hesitating.

“GO!”

She had started crying again. When she shouted, her tears were flicked off of her faces and landed on Hawthorne’s suit, which drank the liquid thirstily.

Hawthorne still moved slowly but she got up and walked back to the battle, watching Rachel over her shoulder.

Rachel didn’t watch her walk away. Her mind was drawn to the last image of her brother, lying on his side and slowly growing smaller as she was dragged away.

And then there was the man in the alley. He couldn’t be here, but she knew she saw him. Her mind’s eye lingered on the shadowy image and her face grew hot. The tears running down her face started to sting in her eyes before they were finally squeezed out. Her hands clenched into fists, and she slowly rose into the air.

She stormed through the sky. He wouldn’t be in the alley anymore, but she knew where he’d be running.

Away.

He could move fast, but not quietly. He wouldn’t have gone far.

Miss Mirror slammed into the ground in front of Will Writer.

Her fist slammed into his face. She didn’t put her power into it, but he wasn’t expecting the blow. Will went sprawling back onto the ground.

“Hello, Rachel.”

Even now, he sounded calm.

“You bastard. What the hell are you doing here?”

“I came-” Will got to his feet as he was talking. “when I saw your brother running to the fight. I’m sorry.”

Her tears had been blown dry during her flight, but she felt them melting her eyeballs from the inside, waiting to burst free.

“Sorry?” Her breath hissed through her teeth. “You’re sorry? You were supposed to protect him.”

Her fist slammed into his chest. There was no force behind it.

“You were supposed to watch him.”

Her fist slammed into him again.

“To make sure he was ready.”

Again.

“And you abandoned him. You abandoned all of them.”

Her fist slammed into him again and her tears finally burst free.

He stood there, still as a statue, taking it all.

“You ran away.”

Her fist dropped to her side and Will stepped back.

“I did.”

She looked up. There were circles under his eyes, and wrinkles on his face that she had never seen before.  He wasn’t crying. He didn’t even look sad. He looked up at the black figure hanging against the black sky.

“That man, comes back no matter how many times he’s beaten. No matter how many times he’s killed. He exists somewhere outside of this world that we can’t reach. There isn’t a hero on any world that can touch him.”

“I don’t care.” Miss Mirror was surprised to hear herself speaking.

Will turned back to face her.

“I don’t care where he his or when he is or if he is literally everywhere. That thing killed my brother.”

She looked at Will, and he was staring back at her, but his mind was somewhere completely different. She was going to punch him again, she could feel her skin starting to boil.

He turned and walked towards the battle.

“Where are you going?!” She shouted after him.

“To end it.”

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