This was possibly the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. I was terrified out of my mind…but I couldn't let it show.
Someone else's life was at stake. Mine wasn't.
Of course, he was a villain, so I could've just let him go. I could've let him jump (he couldn't fly) or blow his fool self up, but something just wouldn't let me walk away. Maybe it was the look in his eyes; the fear beyond the anger, that made me stay. Maybe it was something else.
"Listen to me, ok? Don't do this."
He was frozen in place, hands wrapped tightly around a time bomb that hadn't even been set yet. His body was shuddering violently, but not because he was cold. He was scared too. Sweat was beading on his forehead, and running down the edges of his mask.
"Just…hand me the bomb, and we…we can both go home. Ok?" I began to reach towards him, shuffling closer.
"No! I don't want to go home! I've had enough!" he screamed, clutching the device even tighter. I jerked back reflexively, "I never do anything right! Nothing I do is ever good enough!" his eyes were brimming with tears that fell to the pavement.
"What? What are you talking about?" relaxing slightly, I put my hands down at my sides. Contrary to what he just said, he was the only bad guy that ever got away from me. Granted it was right after I'd discovered my powers, but that didn't matter.
"All the other villains…they laugh at me! They say I've never done anything evil like them. They call me names…" his sobbing choked off his voice temporarily, "They say I'm weak. I'm a failure."
"No you aren't."
He glanced up at me through his hair that had fallen over his eyes, "Yes I am." He whimpered.
I shook my head, only barely noticing the raindrops that began to seep from the clouds overhead as I inched forward once more, "No you're not. You are not a failure. You are not weak. You actually defeated me; you got away. None of the others can say that." I was close enough to touch him now.
His eyes locked with mine briefly before he looked away, "I guess you're right." He sighed dejectedly, sniffling. His grip loosened on the bomb, and I saw my opportunity. I slowly reached for it, so as not to spook him, and it passed from his shivering hands to mine.
I laid it down on a crate behind me, "There. That's much better." Taking his hands in mine, I smiled victoriously, "You'll be alright. It'll be ok."
He smiled back, just barely, before pulling me into an almost suffocating embrace, "Thank you…so much…" he whispered, hardly audible over the rain that was pouring down, "Thank you."
Well this was new. I'd never been hugged by a villain.
But I liked it.
I slipped my arms around him to return the hug, and I could feel his heartbeat against my chest. He had stopped shaking once we were touching, but now I could tell he was starting to get cold from the rain. So was I, "C'mon, we need to get out of this weather. Where do you live?" to save time, I knew I'd have to fly him there, so it seemed logical to ask before I whisked him off the rooftop and took off.
His smile fell, "Oh, well…y'see…another villain came and ran me out of my lair. That's how I ended up here. I don't have anywhere to go." His hands slid down my arms and into mine again. He blinked away the last of his tears.
"Oh…well we can't have you out in this weather all night. I guess you can stay with me for now." I offered before I could think. What was I doing?!
"At your house? Or…?" his eyebrow rose beneath his mask.
"Yeah." I nodded.
"Alright…if that's what you wanna do." He paused for a moment, searching my face for any doubt, "Are…you gonna take your mask off with me there?"
I hadn't even considered that, "If you promise not to reveal me, I will. You can take yours off too, if you want. I won't say anything."
He nodded back. He was holding my hands tighter now.
Scarcely hiding a smile, I swept him up into my arms, taking flight in the cold stormy night.
By the time we got to my apartment, the rain had stopped and the stars had come out. I set him on the ground and dug around in my pockets for my keys, which I promptly dropped on the steps in the process. He picked them up and unlocked the door for me, "Wow, nice place…nicer than mine anyhow." He stared in awe at what I considered my humble abode.
I closed the door behind me, "So where do you live?"
"The other side of town. An old warehouse." He sighed, wrapping his arms around himself. He was dripping wet.
"Here," I took him by the shoulders and showed him where the bathroom was, "wait in here, I'm going to find some old clothes so you don't get hypothermia or something. You can take a shower if you want. I'm going to change too, but I won't be long."
"Ok." He pulled the door open and stepped inside while I dashed to my room. I found my warm pjs and replaced my drenched costume with nice, soft flannel. I laid my mask on my nightstand in its usual spot, and fluffed my hair before trying to find some non-girly clothes for him. The best I could do was a pair of grey sweatpants and an old Christmas sweater that used to belong to my dad. They smelled like pine and mothballs, with the faintest hint of cologne on the shirt.
I padded back down the hall and knocked on the door, "You alright in there? I got you some clothes."
"Yeah I'm okay; the shower helped a lot. Thanks, I'll be out in a sec." he replied, his voice muffled by the wall between us.
"Alright, I'll just lay them out here and get some blankets for later; I'll be in the living room, so just call me if you need me." I turned to walk away, but the door cracked open and he stuck his head out.
"What's your name? S-so I know what to call you if I need to…"
"Oh," I hadn't even bothered to tell him on the way here, "my name is Celia, but you can call me 'Lia."
He smiled shyly, "That's a pretty name…"
"Erik, with a 'k' not a 'c'."
"Like the Phantom of the Opera?!"
He nodded, picking up the sweater and pants.
"That's awesome! I love that movie!" I usually have a strict 'no fangirling' rule when I have company, but it was hard not to in this case.
"I do too." He smiled again, broader this time. It was an uphill battle not to squeal like a little girl in front of him, so I left him to clothe himself and went to fix the pullout bed in the sofa.
By the time I'd unfolded the last blanket, he'd walked in behind me. The sweater was way too big on him; it dangled off his arms almost like the "wings" on a flying squirrel, but the pants were about two inches above his ankles. I was trying not to laugh, but his laughing broke my resolve.
"As ridiculous as I look, this stuff is really warm. Thanks for uh…for everything 'Lia." Even in the dimness of the lamplight, I could tell he was blushing.
I knew I was too, "It's no problem. I'm glad to help Erik." We stood there in silence for a few minutes, just looking at each other. His eyes were bright, his tousled hair still wet in some places. He had freckles. He was slightly taller than me.
He was coming closer.
We were only inches apart, his hands rested on my shoulders, "I don't know how to thank you properly but…" his voice was shaky as his hand slipped behind my head, his thumb brushed my hair away from my face, "I suppose this'll have to do." And before I could figure out what was going on, he leaned in and kissed me.
It took a second for me to catch on, but when I did I returned the kiss wholeheartedly; it was my first. We pulled our bodies closer together, but broke our lips apart for air. I leaned my head against his chest to listen to his rapid heartbeat, and wrapped my arms around him. He stroked my hair softly, his other arm held my waist.
"That was more than enough…" I sighed.
I felt him laugh quietly, but he said nothing. Neither of us spoke for awhile, we just held onto each other. However, our drowsiness soon took hold and pulled us away. The high of the kiss was diminishing.
"You ready for bed 'Lia?" he whispered. I could barely nod in response.
"Alright." He planted a kiss on top of my head, and then picked me up bridal styale and carried me to my room. He gently laid me on the mattress, pulling back the covers for me to crawl beneath them.
As I sunk my head into the pillow, he gave me a third and final kiss goodnight, tucked me in, and slowly closed the door behind him, "Goodnight Erik…"
I knew there was no way I was going to sleep any time soon, so I figured I'd watch a movie to help close my eyelids. Searching the cabinets under her TV, I found one that seemed fitting.
Phantom of the Opera.
When I did fall asleep, I dreamed of angels in masks…of Celia.