“That’ll be ten-eighteen.” The cashier drawled in a thick, backwoods, southern accent that made Lilly want to punch her in the twat.
Not all of that was the cashier’s fault. The supervillain known as Wraith, one of the most wanted people in the country, doesn’t like to sit still, and she’s been sitting with her thumb up her ass for over a week. If it wasn’t for the man she loved, she would have skipped town already, but because it was Seth Abney lying unconscious on the table she stayed put and waited.
“Wanna leave a tip?” The cashier took the ten and five Lilly handed her and waited for an answer before opening the cash register.
Lilly had been looking for a beauty store, but the town closest to the healer’s place didn’t have one. What it did have was a minimart attached to the local gas station that also included a Subway. The cashier worked the small sandwich shop along with operating the rest of the minimart. She was young, had probably just finished high school and wasn’t going to college. She was pretty, Lilly guessed cheerleader, but seemed dumb as rocks. Exhibit A was asking for a tip for just working the cash register. Maybe it would be more appropriate to do it if she made Lilly a sandwich, but even then, you didn’t tip at fast food places.
“No.” Lilly’s agitation leaked out in her answer.
“Fine. Whatever.” The girl rolled her eyes and went to get change.
Lilly bit the inside of her cheek enough that she tasted blood. She imagined herself reaching over the counter, grabbing the blonde-headed bimbo by the back of her stupid head, and repeatedly bashing it into the register. Over and over and over, until her pretty face was a pulped-up mess of skin, bone, and blood. That’s what she wanted to do, but she couldn’t. She was lying low, which was the reason she was at the “beauty store” in the first place.
It had been over a week, and Seth was still unconscious. The healer said that he’d fixed Seth up, but the energy expended staying alive had put Seth into a coma. The healer didn’t seem worried. He still worked on Seth a few times a day to fix up anything that was going wrong, but the man seemed confident Seth would wake up soon.
<He better, or I’ll put him down for good.> Lilly made the silent promise.
The prolonged coma left her with a problem. She and Morina took up a lot of space at the healer’s home, and it was clear he was unhappy with them being there. Lilly couldn’t give a flying fuck how the guy felt, but he was working on Seth, so she needed to stay in his good graces. To remedy the issue, she found a cheap-ass motel ten miles away, and had moved into the place with Morina.
The dude at the front desk was a creeper of the highest order. He asked if they wanted to rent the room by the hour, and even offered to advertise discretely for them. Lilly told him to fist himself, before plopping down two weeks of payment and walking off.
The guy ended up dying in a car accident two days later. The paper said he was drunk when he ran his shitty car into a telephone pole. The only other comment the paper made was the amount of blood. Apparently, the impact had burst the man open and spilled his essence all over the place. The cops at the scene didn’t qualify it as out of the ordinary, but it was a gruesome sight. Lilly asked Morina about it when the girl looked particularly satisfied, and the other woman just shrugged. Lilly left it at that.
Lilly left the minimart with the cashier still breathing and hopped in her car. She’d bought the rusted, beat up piece of crap out of some guy’s backyard off Craigslist. It was in good enough shape to make the trips back and forth to the healers. Aside from that, she didn’t care how it ran, and it blended in.
She drove back to the motel. The new front desk attendant was a lady, who didn’t even look up from the paperback she was reading when Lilly walked past her. Lilly opened the door to the smell of pizza and Morina watching something on the Discovery Chanel. Some guy was showing how to chop up a fish in the wild, and she was glued to it.
“I’ll be in the bathroom.” Lilly didn’t wait for a response. She walked into the room, locked the door, and dumped her supplies in the tub. Hair dye dropped into the onto the stained-white anti-slip pad with a dull thud.
Lilly sat on the edge and took a few deep breaths. Her hands were shaking from the sheer frustration. She knew she couldn’t do anything to speed the process along. She couldn’t do anything to help, and it was driving her crazy. All that she could think to do was fall back on her training.
No one had come through the rift she left in space when teleporting to Alabama, but she wasn’t going to get complacent. Just because there wasn’t any news of anyone coming through and looking around didn’t mean someone didn’t pop over get a location, and planned to come back later. She found it was always better to be hyper vigilant when dealing with Heroes like Hunter. That’s why she had the hair dye.
She read the instructions to make sure this brand wasn’t too different than others. You could never be too careful when the store you bought it from doubled as the town’s fine dining establishment. She mixed the solution into her natural brown hair and mumbled a slew or curses as it stung like a bitch. Her scalp was probably dry and that was turning this into hell, but she was no stranger to pain. She sucked it up, waited the allotted time, and the continued. Putting the actual dye in went better.
“Hey…whoa…” Morina poked her head in.
Lilly had her head under the tub’s facet and was rinsing. Streams of black flowed from her head and down the drain. “What?” she asked.
“Uh…healer man called. He’s seeing some activity.” Morina relayed the message as Lilly started to towel off.
Her relationship with Seth had started as blonde, he’d seen her natural brown hair, and now he was going to wake up to a dark-haired beauty.
“What the hell are we waiting for?” Lilly quickly grabbed the blow dryer, ducked her head, threw her hair up and over, and ran the blast of warm air through it.
“Waiting for you to finished blow drying your hair.” Morina answered the rhetorical question, but Lilly was too busy trying to get ready that she didn’t care.
With her small amount of tradecraft completed she hoped no one would recognize her if they did show up looking for newcomers to the town, and even if they did track her down, she hoped they hesitated for one crucial moment so she could escape. Fifteen minutes of protesting scalp was worth getting out of Alabama alive with a healthy Seth.
A warm tropical breeze blew through the cabana and brought the salty smell of the sea with it. The sun was shining perfectly above them, but they had the top covered to avoid getting burned.
Seth sat looking out at the beautiful, blue ocean and sighed contently. “This is a dream.” He knew the truth, but it didn’t make him sad.
He remembered he’d been shot. Some crazy bitch who used people’s blood as a weapon had sprung him from the Protectorate HQ. The same psycho may or may not blackmail him with the deal he may or may not have cut with the ADA for Lilly’s capture. All of those were distant hypotheticals in this paradise, and the paradise was made perfect by the fine, tan ass he had a great view of when he turned his head.
“Eyes up here, big boy.” Liz laughed.
She was still Liz in this place, not Lilly, or Wraith. Her hair was still golden and her eyes mischievous with whatever she had planned for tonight. This dream was drawing from their previous winter break to the Caribbean. It had been absolute heaven: sunny beaches, perfect weather, fine dining, even better sex, and a careless abandon where they could put all their worries behind them. He wished it could last forever.
“I’m going to wake up soon, aren’t I?” Seth knew enough about dreams that you only tended to remember the ends of them.
“Probably.” Liz rolled over and traded a view of her great ass for a bikini that barely contained her. She smiled when she saw him looking, but didn’t call him on it like last time. She was wearing fashionable aviators that she tilted up on the top of her head. “Got anything to say before you rejoin the land of the living?” Her lips quirked in the adorable smile he loved.
“Does it matter even if I do? You aren’t real.” Seth sighed and laid back down to look up at the sun. The canopy had mysteriously folded back and bathed them in war rays.
“Sure. I’m a figment of your subconscious. Sometimes admitting something to yourself is the first step to something bigger.” She shrugged in that way that meant she didn’t give a shit, but she usually did.
“I love you.” Seth admitted. “I tried not to. I tried to compartmentalizing all of this,” he waved a paradise, “and put it in the back of my mind to forget about it.” He sighed heavily and the sun vanished behind some clouds. “I know I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t be attracted to a murderer, terrorist, and general law breaker, but I can’t stop myself, and I don’t think you can either.”
He looked back over to her and she was smiling. She pulled the aviators back down over her eyes. “So, what are you going to do about it? You going to fight for her, fight her, or fight for something better?”
“Those are three very broad paths.” He shot back.
“Sure they are. You haven’t figured out your plan yet, so everything is broad, but the possibilities are also endless.” Her smile didn’t falter. “You’re a great man, Seth, and I know that sounds egotistical as fuck coming from yourself, but you are great. You’ve got power, wealth, rugged good looks, and a woman, who despite what she is, what you are, and both your circumstances, is still fighting for you. Do you think it would have been easier to just use you like a sex toy and dump your ass after she got the info she needed? It sure as hell would have.” She nodded her head aggressively. “But in the end she came for you, or sent someone in her place to come for you. She’s going to be there when you wake up, and we’re going to have to figure some shit out.”
“Any advice?” Seth rolled over and draped his arm over her body. It felt so right.
“Nothing that you haven’t already thought of,” she chuckled.
It was getting darker and darker all around them. The sun was gone, the sound of the sea had vanished, and all that was left was them in the cabana. Voices were starting to drift around him in the dark. Familiar and unfamiliar voices.
“Well it’s been fun talking with you…or me…whatever this is.” Seth ran his hand over her hip one last time.
“We can do some hand stuff before you wake up if you want?” Her eyes twinkled mischievously.
“What the hell, why not.”
He’d only worked his shorts down to his knees before something yanked him upward. It wasn’t the good type of yanking. The pleasantness of the sun’s warmth was gone from his body. Now, everything ached a little. When he cracked open his eyes, something violently assaulted his vision, and he had to snap them back closed with a moan.
“Seth,” a voice called softly. “Can you hear me?”
Seth would know that voice anywhere. It had just asked if he wanted a handy.
“Lilly?” He used her real name, because despite how pleasant the dream was, this was reality. The dull ache throughout his body proved that, and Lilly was her real name, and he needed to separate the two.
“I’m here, babe. I’m right here.” Something gripped his right hand and shocked him. He knew better than to think the shock meant something more than a simple buildup of static electricity, but damn if it didn’t hit him at his core.
“Turn the lights down.” She commanded, and he felt the violent assault of his eyelids lessen.
With the pressure gone, he was able to open them partially. He stared up at a familiar face, but one that had changed recently. It wasn’t filled with boundless confidence. It showed worry, mixed with a speck of agitation, and despite their fucked-up circumstances, a whole lot of love.
“Hey you.” Seth’s free hand went to cup the side of her face.
She was smiling so hard there were tears gathering in the corners of her eyes. “You scared the shit out of me.” She laughed and wiped one of her eyes before grapping his other hand too. “If you’d died, I’d have to bring you back the life so I could kill you myself.”
It was a joke, but the mention of killing made Seth frown.
“I’m sorry,” she saw the change in emotions. “Just rest. In a couple of days we’ll get out of here.”
“Where are we going, what are we going to do?” Seth voiced the questions and they sounded a lot like what dream Liz had been asking him.
“I don’t know, but we’re in it together.” Her grip tightened on his and made him feel safe.
“We need rules,” he felt like he ruined the moment, but it needed to be said.
The corner of Lilly’s mouth dropped into a frown, but she quickly shook it away. “Yes, we do. We need to figure all this shit out.”
“One thing I don’t need to figure out.” Seth pulled her close and tenderly kissed her lips.
“Yeah,” she breathed out and rested her forehead against his. “We’re on the same page there.”
“Ugh…you’re going to make me sick. Get a room you two.” Morina stood at the door with her arms crossed.
“We’re going to need another room at the motel.” Lilly nodded, ignoring the rest of Morina’s statement.
Seth had an idea what she had in mind, and was willing to take the pain. They had a lot of talking and making up to do.