"Rosie, I don't want to patronize you."
We are all sitting on the living room couch. Rosie has been staring at the floor, but she looks at Robin after he says that. "I'm nine. I don't know what that means," she says.
"It means," Robin explains, "that I don't want to talk to you like I think I'm better than you because I'm older. I don't. I want you to know I understand what you're going through."
She gives a small nod. "Okay."
"But, Rosie… Why didn't you say anything?" he asks. "If you knew something about Slade, or your brothers…"
"I didn't know!" she snaps.
"Rosie," Wally soothes. She is gripping his hand- she basically hasn't let go of him since yesterday. It's kind of cute and kind of sad.
She takes a deep breath. "I didn't know," she says again. "I mean, I knew he was my father but I didn't know what Grant was planning or that he was behind this or that… I didn't know."
"And we believe you, really," Robin says. "But…"
"Dick, maybe we should…" Donna begins. She jerks her head in Rosie's direction.
"Should what?" Rosie asks, defensively.
Oh, let's just give it to her straight. "Rosie, do you mind leaving the room so we can talk about you?"
She looks at me, her expression hard. "Okay," she says. "But only 'cause you asked so nicely." She stands up and storms out of the room in a huff.
Damn that kid is turning into me.
The door slams shut, and Robin sinks his head into his hands. "I'm sorry," he says. "I didn't handle this well, did I?"
Wally shakes his head. "No, Dick, don't, don't blame yourself."
"I should have known something was up. We should have had this conversation months ago. We shouldn't be in this situation." He looks up, tears in his eyes. "I should have told you."
Wally clasps onto my hand. "Dick, I get why you didn't," he says.
"I wouldn't have been able to tell you guys something like that," Donna adds softly.
Robin shuts his eyes. Glasses or no, I can never get used to seeing them. "But it's not an excuse."
Jericho signs something. "He says it's not your fault," Toni translates. "He says he should have said something too."
"We all should have," I add. "But we didn't."
The room falls silent. I lean my head on Wally's shoulder, and he rests his on top of mine.
Robin is the one to break the silence. "Wally, I'm sorry I snapped at you yesterday."
"Well, I guess you still be my friend," Wally jokes. His expression goes serious. "Really, I'm not mad. Not at all."
Robin sighs. "I guess I just have to tell Star, now, don't I?"
Wally shrugs. "Do you want help?"
Robin gives him a sad smile. "No, but thanks for offering." He clears his throat. "So, back to Rosie… What do we do with her now?"
"Nothing," I say. "We can't let this change things her. Otherwise she'll just think that…" I can't bring myself to finish, for some stupid reason.
Wally runs his fingers across the scars on my arm. I don't think he realizes he's doing it. "That we think she's a bad guy," he finishes.
"Yeah," I say. "That."
"Maybe we should have her go to public school," Donna suggests. "Instead of having her homeschooled. Maybe it would be good for her to be a normal kid."
"She'll never be a normal kid," I say, under my breath.
Jericho writes something down. You're right, she won't. Which makes it more important that we give her some semblance of a normal life.
It's probably nice to be able to see things that way. My brain is just churning up the worst-case scenario- she'll hate it, she'll be made fun of, it'll make it worse. God, I hope that's not what happens. "Do you want to tell her she has to go to school?"
He half-smiles and shakes his head. Wally should do it, he writes. I kind of figured he'd say that.
"Yeah, if you're sure," Wally says quickly. "I mean, I don't wanna, like, infringe on your…" His eyes widen- he seems to have suddenly realized what Jericho is thinking. Without missing a beat, he moves on to the next thought. "Hey, you're eighteen, right?" Jericho nods. "Have you thought about, like, establishing legal guardianship or something?"
Jericho starts to write something, then puts the pen down and instead turns to Toni and signs it. It is easier for him, I guess, to have it come from someone else.
She bites her lip. "I'm sure she'd…" she starts to respond to him, before turning to the rest of us. "He says he's not sure she'd want that."She looks back at him. "I'm sure she wouldn't mind. If nothing else, it would help keep her away from your father."
Jericho nods, then hands Wally a slip of paper. You should ask her that too. Wally folds the paper in half and doesn't say anything. He's still upset about his dad. I don't think this is helping.
Robin's communicator starts beeping. "It's Rae," he says, "I've got to go." He looks at Wally. "Do you mind?"
Wally shakes his head, shaking himself out of his thoughts. "No," he says, jumping off of the couch. "Just…" He's making his puppy dog face. "Dude, can I hug you?"
Robin laughs. "Just this once."
They hug- Robin's a bit awkward about it, but Wally is decidedly not. Donna stands up and puts a hand on Robin's shoulder, and Wally pulls her into the embrace.
"Dick, if you ever need to talk…" she begins.
"I know," Robin says, before she can finish. "Thank you."
Robin breaks the hug and looks at me. "Oh, before I go… Remember that background check you asked me to run on Mercury Lace?"
"Yeah," I reply. "What about it?"
"Her files seemed kind of odd to me, so I was keeping tabs on her and…" He takes a folded newspaper clipping out of his pocket. "Well, you'll never guess who I found."
The newspaper clipping is a photograph headlined "WHO IS JABBERWOCK?". It is taken from very far away- a reporter's lucky shot- but there is no mistaking who it is, if only because of the bright copper color of his hair.
"He's calling himself Jabberwock?" I exclaim. "He does know that's a parody of bad poetry, right?"
"Apparently not," Robin replies, dryly. "According to the press, he's also stealing and seems to have been involved in a train robbery. The case just blew up in Santa Fe practically overnight. He got sloppy and someone caught him on film. He's working with a group of girl, but Mercury Lace is the only other one who's been identified."
Fuck. I mean, it was one thing when he left months ago but… Well, I never thought he'd turn into a villain. I wonder if he even found Cheshire. She's the reason he left, after all.
"What are you gonna do about it?" Wally asks. Robin shrugs.
"I think I'm going to let Bee decide," he says. "But after what he did to you, you guys deserve a say, if you want one."
Well, he did blackmail me. Still, I don't really care what happens to him. "Whatever," I say.
"Yeah, whatever you and Bee want's cool," Wally adds. Robin just nods.
Wally speeds off, Robin in tow, leaving the rest of sitting in a broken circle around a very quiet room.
"So who wants to run damage control?" I ask, because somebody has to ask it.
"You should do it," Toni tells me.
I wince and pick at the bandages around my wrist. I usually fidget with my jewelry, but the bandages are preventing me from wearing any. "Me?"
Toni shrugs. "She likes you."
"She's mad at me."
"But you get her." Toni sighs. "I just mean… I think it would mean something to her, coming from you."
It's a good point, as much as I hate to admit it. "Alright, fine." I stand up and head for the door. Something tells me Rosie didn't actually go far- she's probably listening on the other side of the wall.
The door slides open and there she is. Well, no surprise. She's slumped on the floor, her knees to her chest.
I sit down next to her. "Hey, Rosie." She glances at me, then looks back at her feet.
"I swear I wasn't listening," she says.
"Didn't say you were," I reply.
She's silent for a moment, and then, "I thought Wally was 'sposed to talk to me."
"I thought you weren't listening."
She raises her eyebrows. Cover blown. "Maybe just a little," she admits.
"He will," I say. "I'm not here to do the serious talking. I just want to make sure you're okay."
"I'm fine," she says, shrugging. Her shoulders seem to go up to her ears. "I'm not still mad at you."
"God, you really were listening…" I shift my legs, trying to get her more at eye level. Compared to her I'm practically tall. It's not something I'm used to.
"Going with Grant was stupid," I tell her.
She nods solemnly. "I know."
"But," I say, "You were right about something."
She looks up at me, her single eye wide. "I was?"
I nod. "You and me are a lot alike, Rosie. I've done a lot of stupid shit too."
"Yeah, you have."
She presses her lips together. "I'm glad you two aren't fighting anymore."
"Yeah," I say. "Me too."
"'Cause if you can turn out okay…" she continues. She rubs her eye with the back of her hand. "Well maybe that means I can too."
It's quite the sentiment, and I don't know how to respond to it. What would I have wanted, when I was nine? Just for someone to give me a hug, probably.
So that's what I do. I'm not going to let her have to wait four more years for someone to care.
It is Rosie, I guess, who inspires me to do it.
Hannah and I meet outside of Audrey's goddamn hospital room, because she refused to do it anywhere else. She looks at me with the same fury in her eyes as the last time I saw her.
"What do you want?" she snaps.
God, I don't know how to do this. "Hannah, I'm sorry," I say. I don't mean it. "I swear I was just trying to help."
"To help Audrey, or to help yourself feel better?"
I raise my eyebrows. "A little of both."
Hannah scoffs. A doctor whizzes by with a patient passed out on a hospital bed. She doesn't even glance at them.
The fluorescent hospital light buzzes. I need to say something. "Look, Hannah, I don't know you or Audrey that well…"
"No you don't."
"And I'm not a part of your family."
She crosses her arms but doesn't respond to that.
"But you have to see that there's a problem," I say. It feels like a plea and that makes me feel pathetic. "They abandoned two children. And, you know, I'm sure they had their justifications for that, but…" I throw my hands up. Does that mean that I surrender?
"It's not fair to expect her to keep living with them," I say. "It's not fair to her."
Hannah's face softens. "Jinx…" Well at least she called me by my name.
"Look, I'm not asking you to like me," I interrupt. "Fuck, I don't even like me half the time. And I'll stay out of your way, I promise. Just… Just consider being her legal guardian, will you?"
"Okay," she whispers, nodding. "Okay." She doesn't say anything else as she turns and disappears into Audrey's hospital room, her brown braid swinging behind her.
I have the vaguest memory, in the back of my mind, of a little girl, maybe five, doe eyes and a teddy bear and brown braids.
I wonder if it's her.
"You're Jinx, right?"
I am waiting on a bench in the hallway, and have been spotted there by Audrey's doctor. Dr. Harrison is a short woman with black hair and freckles. We've been in the same room once or twice but never had a conversation.
"Yeah, that's me," I say.
"Are you here to visit Audrey?" she asks.
I shake my head. "Just waiting for my ride." I can't really bring myself to explain what I was actually here for.
She nods, then notices my wrists. "What happened?"
"Superhero stuff, no big" I say, shrugging. Come to think of it I still need to see a doctor about it. "Actually, if you have a minute, do you think you could take a look at them? I haven't had a chance to see a doctor about it yet."
"Sure," she says. She sits down next to me and unwraps the bandages. The skin is still red and blistered and hurts a bit when she touches it. "That's a pretty bad burn."
"Made a rope catch fire while it was tied around my wrists," I explain. "Made sense at the time." She smiles. There is a flash of color, as Wally rushes into the building.
"Hey, sorry, I'm late," he says, "how'd it…" He sees Dr. Harrison and changes his train of thought. "Getting your wrists checked out?"
He flops onto the bench next to me and swings an arm around my shoulders. "That's a good idea." He kisses my check. "So how'd it go?"
"I think it'll work out for her," I say. "I don't know. I'm not sure there's much else I can do. You talk to Rosie yet?"
He nods. "I think we're good. She likes the idea of going to school. Less good with Jericho being her guardian but I think it's okay."
Dr. Harrison wraps a new bandage around my wrist. "These look like they're starting to heal," she tells me. "I'll prescribe you a topical medicine- just be sure to change the bandages a couple times a day. And an anti-biotic too, just in case of infection."
"She's allergic to penicillin," Wally says quickly. "And this one time she has a really weird reaction to…"
I smile. He's always looking out for me. "Wally, it's fine," I say. "Just not penicillin," I tell Dr. Harrison.
She nods and stands up. "Wait here," she says, before walking into an office nearby.
I turn towards Wally. "So how are you?"
He smiles, a little. "I'm okay," he says.
"'Cause we could always crash it."
He laughs. "Nah," he decides. "It's probably better I don't go and have to see my dad."
"You mad at him?" I ask.
He considers this, for a fraction of a second. "No," he realizes. "Disappointed. But I'm too used to it to be mad."
"But you thought maybe this time it'd be different?"
He exhales heavily. "Yeah."
I rest my hand on his. "You sure you're okay?"
He grins. "Got you, don't I?"
I roll my eyes. "God, you're so cheesy."
The door to Audrey's room opens, and Hannah steps out. "Oh, you're still here?" To my surprise, she doesn't sound angry. I mean, it's not like she's happy about it, but it's not an accusation. It's a statement of fact.
I hold my hand up. "Getting my latest spoils of war appraised." Wally chuckles at that.
And that's when it hits me, like lightning.
Audrey has cancer.
I have a lot of fucking allergies.
"Hannah, can I ask you something totally weird?" I say. She raises an eyebrow at me.
"Your..." Our? It doesn't matter. "Your mother. When she was pregnant with me, was she… Did she get any injuries or sicknesses or something?"
Hannah scrunches her face up as she thinks. "Um… Come to think of it, yeah, she burnt herself on the stove. I remember we had to go the emergency room in the middle of the night because Dad was freaking out and thought it looked infected…" She smiles distantly. "Why?"
Well, that's what I thought.
"No reason," I say. "Just… Curious about my medical history."
"Oh, okay then," Hannah says. She starts to walk away, then turns back to look at me. "Do you… Want to meet them?"
Meet them. The parents. My parents. Do I want to meet them?
I guess part of me is curious. I don't know anything about them, not even their names. I mean, they are the people who gave me their genetics. Part of me wants to meet them just to prove to myself that I'm nothing like them.
But I can't do it. I just can't. The fact is, I don't want anything to with them.
They're not my parents.
"No, thanks." I say.
"Oh, okay, then" Hannah says again, like a nervous habit. "I'll see you around, then?"
"Yeah," I say. And then she leaves.
Wally's looking at me funny. "Jinx, you don't think…"
"You got struck by lightning," I remind him. I find myself staring straight ahead at the plain white hospital walls. They are the color of chalk. Of my skin. Of Audrey's. "Audrey got sick. There's always a trigger."
He interlaces his fingers with mine. "Are you going to call her?" he asks.
He is talking about Katie, the nurse who raised me at the mental hospital. The one who gave me my name.
The woman who is, essentially, my mother.
He's had her number forever, since he found my birth certificate months ago. I just haven't been brave- or stupid, one of the two- enough to call it.
"Yeah," I say. "I am." I don't know what makes this time different, but I'm ready to call her.
Dr. Harrison comes back, a slip of paper in her hands. She takes one look at me and asks "Is something wrong?" I thought I was doing a better job of hiding it, but apparently not.
I sit up and fold my arms over my chest. "No, just… Just thinking about Audrey, I guess."
Dr. Harrison nods. "She's doing all right," she tells me. "Her body is fighting back pretty hard- I've never seen anything like it, actually. It's almost like something supernatural is…" She smiles, shaking her head as she hands me the prescription. "Well, I guess that's possible, huh? She is your sister."
I slump back down as soon as she leaves. "Audrey thinks her powers made her sick," I say. "She must have been sick the whole time. Even before they…"
I lean my head on my hands. Wally pulls me close and gently strokes my hair. "Jinx, you know what this means, don't you?"
I guess I don't. "What?"
"Her powers are fighting the disease," he says. "Jinx, if your mother was taking a medicine you were allergic to when she was pregnant… You probably went into anaphylactic shock or someyjing. You powers must've kicked in to keep you from…" He actually starts to cry.
"Jinx, your powers saved your life."
He's right, isn't he?
I lean my head on his chest. I feel like I could start crying too.
At least I have him.
I wouldn't, if I didn't have my powers.
All this time I thought they'd ruined my life.
I call the number, alone in my room at nearly midnight. My room seems uncomfortable still, quiet. The ringing on the other line reminds me of a siren. Danger warning, turn back now. I should just hang up.
"St. Claire's Home for Troubled Girls." The receptionist is a perky sounding young woman. Not troubled at all.
"I, um…" My throat feels full of sand. I swallow. "Is Katie Parkington there?"
"She is, may I ask who's calling?"
"It's… It's Jinx."
I can literally hear her phone drop onto the floor.
There's are shuffling noises, footsteps, and then, "Yeah?"
I haven't heard her voice in over ten years. She sounds the same.
There's another noise- Katie, I'm assuming, has clambered for the phone.
"Jinx?" she says. I think she's crying.
I bite my lip. What do I say to her? It'll be the first thing she'll hear from me in all these years. Where do I even start?
"Hi," I say, finally. Pathetic, really, but it's a start.
Katie invites Wally and me over to her house for dinner the next day. She lives in a suburb of San Diego, in a little beach-y looking house. My stomach is in knots.
Wally squeezes my hand. "You'll be fine."
"I sure fucking hope so," I say, under my breath.
He smiles and kisses me.
And then I ring the doorbell.
I hear someone running down the hall and the door flies open.
She's about thirty-six now, I think. Her hair used to be blonde but she's dyed it a chestnut brown. She's wearing a wedding ring that wasn't there before and she looks about five months pregnant.
But it's her.
"Hi," I say. I hope my nerves aren't showing.
She doesn't say anything, just flings her arms around me and sobs and I can't tell if she's crying out of happiness or sadness.
"I'm sorry," I say.
She shakes her head. "No, I'm so happy to see you. I'm so…"
She breaks the hug and holds me at arm's length, so she can look at me.
"God, you've gotten so beautiful," she says. She turns to Wally. "And you must be the boyfriend."
He grins and sticks his hand out. "Wally."
She hugs him instead of shaking his hand. "Thank you," she says.
Wally runs a hand through his hair, his cheeks red. "I didn't do anything."
"Please, I read newspapers," she says, just a bit sarcastically. "I know what you did for her. I don't know how to thank you enough."
She looks back at me, tearing up again. "And you…" She doesn't finish.
"I'm sorry," I say again. "I'm so, so sorry. I should have… I should have said something, or called you after I ran away or…"
Now I'm starting to cry. "I was just so scared you'd hate me."
Katie wraps me in her arms again. "I could never hate you," she whispers.
And then I really do start to cry.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…" I can't seem to come up with anything else to says. It's just years of guilt pouring out like a flood.
She hugs me tighter. "Before you ran away…" she says, her voice choppy with tears. "I… I never got the chance to tell you, but… I was going to adopt you."
"You were?" I ask. She nods. My throat feels all choked up and I can't manage a response.
"I love you," she says. "You know that, right?"
Well, I guess I do now.
Wally and I both end up falling asleep on her couch after dinner. He nudges me awake at the crack of dawn.
I rub my eyes. "What time is it?" I ask, groggily.
"Like seven Chicago time. We should probably get home," he says, grinning.
I raise an eyebrow. "What are you smiling at?"
"Nothin'," he says, in a sing-song tone. "You're just really cute when you're waking up."
"Yeah, well you're awful perky for seven in the fucking morning," I groan.
He laughs. The dawns streaming through the windows streaks light across his face. "Maybe I'm just happy to see you."
I can't help but smile at that. "You're sweet," I say.
"Yeah, together we must make sweet and sour sauce," he quips. I shake my head.
"Not your best line," I say. He laughs again.
I leave Katie a note- I don't want her to think I'm running away again. He stands in the doorway of her kitchen, sun streaming through the windows as he stares at me.
"What?" I ask.
"I didn't say anything."
He blushes. "I'm just… I'm really glad I met you."
Oh. I get it. My life could have turned out a lot of ways, after all.
I think it worked out for the best.
I walk over to him and wrap my arms around his neck. "I love you, Wally."
He smiles. "I love you too, Jinx."
We kiss, in that sun-soaked kitchen, and he makes me feel warmer than the sun does. He always makes me feel that way. I hope I make him feel that way too.
And I am flawed
But I am cleaning up so well
I am seeing in me now the things you swore you saw yourself
It dangles on a string
Like slow spinning redemption...
Well this story is done. It's really sort of a half-assed ending but I just don't think this story is any good and I wanted to finish it and move on. I thought about making this two chapters but then I didn't want to think up two titles. XD And that ending is cheesy and awful but I couldn't think of anything that didn't suck. I'm sorry.
One thing in particular that I was really lazy about: I introduced the character of Katie in the prequel, but I forgot to re-introduce her earlier in this story. And while I'm guessing most of you have read the prequel and knew what I was talking about, it still doesn't carry as much emotional weight as it should. My bad. XD For that matter, I'm not sure I ever mentioned Speedy's not being there either- he left in the prequel, for those who haven't read it, to find Cheshire. XD That was intended as more of an in-joke (well, not a joke. An in-plot point), really. It's sort of bonus material for Trainspotting, because the decision being discussed here is going to come back to haunt Roy and the Siren girls.
Oh and I said last time I'd talk about Dick and Wally so here it is: In a lot of ways, I see these two as foils. Dick is logical, introverted and stoic to Wally's emotionally driven, extroverted and passionate. And because of this, in their worst moments- when Dick is being, well, a dick and Wally's temper is flaring, they tend to butt heads, but at the end of the day, they really do care about each other. I think their friendship is rather sweet.
Oh, really, I'm just glad this thing is done. Now I never ever have to look at it again. XD
So there will be a sequel to this, but I'm not sure when I'll be able to start it, nor am I sure of the title yet. (Just keep an eye on my profile or author alert me or something, I guess?) I promise the sequel won't suck quite so much. XD In the meantime, it would really mean a lot to me if you guys would consider checking out my other ongoing story, Trainspotting, which follows Speedy after he left the Titans in the Breaking Free. I really think it's some of my best work but hardly anyone seems to be reading it and I'd love to get more feedback on it.
Lastly, I want to thank all of the readers of this story! Thank you all for all the support and kind words! And for taking the time out of your day to read this and sticking through it when there weren't updates for a while! You guys rock! I hope you like this story more than I do. XD
Title and lyrics from "Vindicated" by Dashboard Confessional.