A rather short chapter.
They were watching TV--cartoons, in fact, to Wally's profound delight--when his communicator buzzed in alarm. He sighed.
"I'm sorry. I have to go."
Jinx cocked her head to the side. "Couldn't you potentially ignore it? It's not anything dangerous."
"How do you know that?"
"I don't know any criminals that would bother doing something on a Wednesday night. Wednesdays tend to be doomed. It's probably just a normal thug gig, and that's hardly worth your powers."
He frowned at her. "I have a responsibility to the people of this city."
"Well, people need to learn how to take care of themselves for once," Jaya replied lightly. "Sit down. The commercial break is almost over."
"I'll be back in just a few minutes. I'm sorry, okay?"
"Don't apologize to me. Apologize to yourself for wasting your time on something that probably isn't even that big of a deal."
He could have been there and back by then, but he didn't care. "Are you saying this because you don't want me to leave, or because you really believe that helping people is a waste of time?"
She thought about it for a second, and Wally tried to be grateful that she even thought about it. "The way I see it, there are lots of things the police don't catch. So your little alarm clock is only tipping you off to maybe forty percent of the real crime out there. Which means you're making less than half the difference. So, yes. Helping people is a waste of time, because you're not getting to the majority."
There were people waiting, and he couldn't deal with this right now. "At least people are being helped," He snapped, and sped off.
Jinx sat on her annoying benefactor's couch and pretended their argument had been very stupid.
"Less than forty percent of crimes are actually dealt with by authority," was a HIVE Truth, and she had never had to defend it before. That was one of the first statistics they learned at HIVE, for the love. That was what they had consoled themselves with on plains-clothes, small-time stuff they had done just to get by. Ripping off chains and mega-stores back in the day when any of them had eaten, breaking into warehouses to hide out when they were ditching school. No worries; sixty percent of illegal activity is ignored anyway, we can relax.
Jinx tried not to think about what would happen if tonight was one of those nights when Johnny and Billy went out to Crash Alley to "earn" easy money, or Seymour decided that Walmart deserved a little divine retribution, as he lovingly put it. Wouldn't that be awkward? "Hey, Seymour, sorry, but what the landlord says goes, and Wal--Kid Flash felt the urge to address that gosh-darn forty-percent of crime!"
And now he was going to come back, sulking and defending his honor, trying to make her see his side of things. And because she had signed that stupid contract, she was going to have to listen.
Jinx briefly considered breaking her written word, and immediately rejected the idea when Seymour's voice floated through her head saying, "Spoken word is whatever, but written word is so, totally different. People don't forget that; the proof is always there. It's scary."
She pouted as "Dexter's Laboratory" continued, and Dee Dee pranced about as Dexter fumed. Technically, the contract was sitting on the table just ten feet away from her, and she could tear it up and be out of there before the speeding wonder got back. But she knew by now that he'd follow her, spouting his usual about health and sleeping and things.
And the unusual feeling of fullness from the angel hair pasta was making her sleepy.
It was so frustrating, leaving an argument hanging. In the HIVE, you pounded something out until it was done and settled and the loser and winner could clearly be discerned.
She awoke to Wally pounding away at something in the kitchen, and the shock of the feeling of well-rest. She looked at the clock and realized she had slept for over eight hours, something simply not done in her world. She kicked herself off the couch and ran into the bathroom.
Sure enough, two seconds later came the knocking and the concerned, "Jaya?"
Jinx groaned. No one called her by name like that. Not even her closest friends, not unless they were deliberately trying to bother her, which meant Seymour had always called her Jaya. Even Billy only dared when they were truly, seriously mad at each other, which didn't even happen half as often as people thought. She grunted quickly to assure him that all was fine and dandy, and began washing her face.
He began knocking again. "Breakfast is waiting."
"I'm coming!" Jinx snapped, rubbing her face raw.
When she got out to the kitchen, Wally was messing with the plates and things in a way that screamed guilty. Before she could even ask, he said, "I'm really sorry I keep cutting off our conversations."
Jaya shrugged carelessly. "Not at all; it's easier. Saves me having to prove you wrong. What are you putting on my plate?"
"Fruit," He said. "Cut into little bits that are not big enough to hide razor blades."
"Thank you," She said, stabbing her fork into a wedge of strawberry. "I'm still right, however."
"About forty percent of crime and things."
"Well, I'm still right that people are getting helped, whether or not I'm getting the other sixty percent. If I don't help, then one hundred percent of people aren't getting helped, and that would suck," He took the seat across from her. His plate was piled twice as high, but he was consuming at a rate that made up the difference in their meal sizes. "Do you really know the crime patterns of the locals here?"
"Yes, and I'm not giving you information, so you can drop it now, buster."
"That's not what I meant," He said, sounding wounded. "I'm just taking an interest in your life. You are planning to leave behind your illegal history, aren't you?"
"I hadn't thought about it."
"You made it sound like you were."
"That was not my intention."
"So what is your intention?"
"To finish out my contractual obligations and continue life without your harassment, thank you very much," She said.
Wally polished off his plate and got up to get seconds. "What are your interests? Maybe you could study art."
Jinx snorted as she struggled with another forkful of fruit. "Oh, god, I haven't drawn in ages."
There was a strange silence, and she turned and saw that he was staring at her with something akin to horror. "Why?" He asked. "Your drawings are so awesome."
"I have nothing to draw."
"They had horns."
"I'm such a bad artist, those could have been anything. Misplaced scribbles."
"They were very well place misplaced scribbles, and you are a wonderful artist."
"I have no interest in it as a career."
"What is your interest, then?"
"I have no interests. I am a completely uninteresting person."
"That is not true," Wally set down his newly-loaded plate and dug in.
Jinx studied her plate and sighed. "Wallace, I have had a very unfortunate education that has completely and totally burned me out of every possible subject. I hate everything. I have no tolerance for anything."
"I find that very hard to believe."
"And besides, I have pink hair, gray skin, and a rather unfortunate tendency to blow things up to worry about."
"I haven't noticed you blowing things up."
"You haven't been paying attention. I may be boring, but I am entirely subtle."
He laughed. "You just need a break, and fresh perspective. That's what this week is about, isn't it, Jaya?"
She winced around a slice of pineapple. "Hey, could you not call me that?"
His eyes widened in surprise. "Sorry. I mean, I thought we were--"
"We're totally on first-name basis, and it's nothing personal at all. But even my best friends don't call me Jaya, unless they are Seymour and they are trying to pick a fight. Just Jinx is fine."
He nodded slowly. "Okay. Sorry. Last night you said it was fine."
"It's not like I'm trying to blow you off, okay? I'm just not very comfortable with my name. Secret identities and all. I don't like it. Look, you can, like, call me Jaya in your head or something, it's all the same to me."
He laughed. "Jinx, it's okay. That's totally fine by me. But I'd still like it if you called me Wally. It's, uh, what I'm comfortable with."
They ate in relative silence for another minute.
And then his communicator began to buzz in alarm.
He sighed. "Well, at least we weren't in the middle of you proving me wrong. I'll see you later--"
"No you won't. You'll see me now," Jinx scrubbed her fruit-stained mouth with the back of her hand. "I'm coming with you."
"What?" Wally squawked.
"I'm bored, and boring. I'm interested in seeing what you do."
"No. I'm sorry, but no. It's unprofessional, and you'd slow me down--"
"So carry me. I'm barely a feather's weight; unless you're a total wuss, I won't slow you down at all." She glared up at him challengingly. "Or are you a total wuss?"
"You might get hurt--"
"Who do you think you're talking to?"
He sighed. "How about next time?"
"How about this time?"
The glared at each other for another ten seconds before Jinx found herself tossed rather unceremoniously over his shoulder and speeding away.
One might have thought that she was interested in Wally's work, in the hero's side of the action. One would be wrong. The truth was, Jinx had a hankering for action, and without her costume she wasn't going to be getting any anytime soon. She had always been such a big fan of open warfare and the nitty-gritty street was the only place to get it and get it good. She had no intention, however, of actually contributing to the fight…
…until she noticed, from her comfy position on the sidelines, thug number three pulling a gun. And instinct kicked in, and she found herself hexing the bejeezes out of the unfortunate thug.
The disturbance of pink hexes flying through the air brought the conflict to a screeching halt, and the police were able to step in and disarm the other guys while Wally carefully and discreetly carried Jinx away before anyone could start asking questions.
Two streets away he slowed down and set her down. "That was exciting," He said brightly. "Thanks for your help."
"Sorry," She said stiffly. "It was just instinct."
"I know! That's why I said thanks, Jinx. I didn't even notice that guy."
"You would have. I don't mean to undermine your authority or something. That's not why I wanted to come along."
"It's totally cool, though! I appreciate you watching my back like that," He said, smiling. Jinx scowled hard to remind herself not to return the expression. "So, what do you want to do now?"
The after party. Things like this were supposed to be followed with an after party, with Billy offering to get her alcohol despite the HIVE's agreed drinking age, and Xilo speculating that she wouldn't be much of a drinker anyway. Seymour waving tickets to something or other in her face and asking if she wanted to go to the something or other. Montego grudgingly allowing them to enjoy it. Vito berating himself for tech that hadn't functioned as it was supposed to. Elliot wrapping his arms around her and kissing her on the cheek in a way that wasn't romantic in the slightest because Elliot was just physical like that.
She shook her head. "Let's go back to your place."
He scooped her up in his arms in a fashion far more dignified then earlier, and they sped back to his place.
He offered to let her use the shower first, but she shook her head. "You were doing all the physical stuff. You stink more than I do."
He laughed and went into the bathroom. "Be out in a flash!"
"Take your time!" She called after him. "You don't have to speed everywhere."
He turned the water on, and the rush of hot liquid drowned out anything else he might have said. She shrugged halfheartedly at nothing and wandered into the kitchen. She found, to her surprise, that she was vaguely hungry.
Beating up that thug had felt good.
She opened the fridge and began exploring its depths of sustenance.
Beating up that thug had felt really good.
She hadn't truly beat anyone up in almost week, and suddenly she was painfully aware of it.
She had always loved physical activity. Dancing was fun, but fighting was fulfilling. Making other people hurt made her feel good in indescribable ways. That was something that had always set her apart from the others at HIVE, believe it or not. They fought because they had to.
She fought because she loved it passionately.
And guiltily. But no more guiltily than Billy smoked or Seymour picked pockets. Those were just things they did, bad or no, because it brought them true pleasure. It was like an obsessive hobby.
An unhealthy one.
In the shower, Wally was practically glowing. His endorphins were going crazy. His libido wasn't far behind it.
He hadn't had much of a chance to watch Jinx fight before. He hadn't wanted to see that because if Jinx was fighting, it usually meant that she wasn't paying attention to him. But he realized now that all that energy he had had such a horrible, frustrating time unearthing these past few days had just come forth in the form of a very violent action.
The point being that Jinx in butt-kicking mode was a serious turn-on.
He was a little surprised at himself. It was weird to think of her like this, but he couldn't deny what was true. Jinx had never been more beautiful and…and…herself then when she had sent that guy flying across the street.
It was so good to know that energy he had seen in her hadn't been imaginary, as he had been beginning to suspect.
It was frankly a little disturbing to know that it had this kind of effect on him.
Kind of cool, though.