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Pyrrhic Gain

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It was a double-edged sword, Jinx liked to think; her marks. 

Sure, the other Hive girls gaggled and gossiped and *cooed* over their given emblems and nuanced initials, and whenever they got too boisterous over how their "true loves” would make monsters and millionaires out of them all, Jinx couldn’t help herself but to but in and let them see the marks on her arm. 

Ancient and wicked they carved under her skin in a burnt bloody red, scratchy and angular and not altogether quite still. They shifted as they were glanced at, more often than not. 

Jinx relished the looks and gasps of horror they garnered. 

Sure, Angel and Kyd Wykkd had already found each other by the love songs tapped against their knees, Kitten’s soulmates were a spider-faced boy and a flock of iridescent moths, and Billy had his DNA’s sequential code littering his legs, but not a soul at the HIVE could compete with the marks on Jinx’s arm. 

Not every soulmate, Jinx would warn, was a romantic one; she’d say before grinning.

And with the students silenced, Jinx’s place as the “most boss ass bitch” was quietly established. 

No one dared to mess with her. No one bugged her room or trapped her locker; there were rumors a-plenty, sure; but none was so bold as to whisper them where she could hear. 

Of course, it was only in the Hive that her prophesied soulmate was a blessing. 

To everyone else in any other place, it was just another facet of her curse and testimate to her incarnation of bad luck. Why else would she have a demon of all things for a soul mate? Surely, the rabble reasoned, she’d have to have been a horrible, evil, despicable person for such a thing to even have a chance of occurring. 

Even the world’s worst villains, they said, had normal soulmates or family members and friends and pets. Normal, happy, safe soulmates. 

Not demonical or satanic in the least. 

Perhaps it was in spite of them, or perhaps it was to prove them right, but Jinx couldn’t find it within herself to disagree.  

She wanted the world in the palm of her hands after all, and what better way to obtain it then by a demon tethered to her very soul? 

If demons were capable of understanding human emotions like love, Jinx would fancy the notion romantic.  

Still, she resolved herself to be as understanding of her future partner as best as she was able. Studying their provocations, their inclinations, their greeds. Summonings and enchantments, spells and traditions. 

Anything she could lay her hands on, really. 

She wasn’t so foolish as to attempt to summon such a creature however; much to her teammates’ collective relief, Jinx was still unable to decipher most of the script allotting her arm, though not from lack of trying. She’d often run her hands down the pages of scrawled, barely legible demonic grimoires, hoping for some spark of recognition for what word or name might spring forth. 

She was willing to wait though; for that tingling feeling or rush of nerves.  

Perhaps she’d see the world in a new colour or gain a new ability; she’d seen such things often enough in her classmates. 

Part of her wondered if her soul was too clean, or too dirty, or perhaps if she was to wait until the point of her death, before she’d meet her destined cohort. 

How often had she lain in bed, tracing the runes on her arm, nearly dissociated from herself and the world around her, silently begging for the universe to toss her a sign. 

A feeling.

Anything.

There was no time limit, for when a person would meet their matches; some grew old and some met young; some had many and some had none. 

Jinx tried to be patient; but as the months went by, it got harder and harder. 

The Hive was not a merciful place; and even she, was not immuned against it for long. 

Stakes grew higher, days dragged on. 

Mammoth, one night, quietly urged her to hurry it along. 

She made the first cut with a shard of fractured glass blown out from a window pane she had tumbled through, after the adrenaline junkie high had worn off from her flight from the city’s pet task force. Tired, prizeless, wet from the pavement and alone, Jinx had traced along the marks one by one until the tingle seared into hiss pressed against her teeth as tears dampened her cheeks. 

She wanted her soul to be worth something dammit, when the demon came to call. 

If she couldn’t have true love, she wanted to have *that*, at least. 

And while she felt *something*, her demon still refused to surface, and Jinx was forced to leave the alley empty handed and blood coated.

She got angry; she’d admit that. 

Resentful, even, that her demon didn’t even think she worth anything.  

She wondered if the rabble had been right; that a demon’s cruelty was so thick, that one would cast its mark upon her just to watch her raise her hopes and laugh as they melted into oblivion after years of neglect. 

Or worse, that the demon considered her a mistake. 

Was she not strong enough? Smart enough?

Had she not mastered every tactical course and plotted every Hive operation to the best of her team’s advantage? 

Her thoughts drove her relentlessly towards self-improvement and ruin. 

She was the top student at the Academy; second only to whichever headmaster was leading the day. 

And every night when she was alone, she’d digs her nails deep into her knee, and dig into her soulmates runes, over and over until she broke skin; how sweet, was her sacrimonial blade, she’d think, how tender, their sickening embrace.  

Even still, it was not enough to outrun her luck forever. 

The night came where Jinx was at the end of her rope. 

She had too much to live for and so much to lose; she had to gamble it all, overclock her luck, flush out her soulmate from hiding. 

Or die trying. 

She smiled; she wasn’t sure which outcome she’d prefer, were she to be honest about it. 

When the knife kissed her neck, her grin slashed widely across her face. 

Am I too cowardly now? she thought.

There was a sudden flash of pain then, one that punched through her gut like fear and tasted like overripe oranges that startled Jinx, jarring the knife from her hand.

She watched as something dark and formless rose from her floor at the foot of her bed.

She grinned through the blood loss.

A figure congealed out of the pool of spacelessness; Jinx donned on a welcoming glance. 

The figure slid interdimensionaly into a being, and Jinx was giddy with delight at her soulmates ability to melt into human form. 

That human form, however, quickly turned out to be a complete and utter surprise. 

Jinx felt bile rise in her throat. 

Her archnemesis, Raven, was the one rushing to her from across the bed. 

When Raven’s hands came to her neck, lit with blue tinted semi-solid light, Jinx batted at them and fought back tears.

Raven ignored her protests, and the second the blue light touched her throat, warmth was pushed and spread throughout Jinx’s entire body, making her feel light and bright and relaxed and utterly miserable.       

Jinx’s face made a turn for the worse as she stared into her enemies eyes.   

“I was trying to summon my soulmate you bitch,” Jinx murmured, half in desperation, half in irate glee. 

Raven had the decency to look abashed, but there was a softness in her face that made Jinx want to cry. 

“I know,” that Titan whispered back.

Raven bowed her head and Jinx sucked in a breath. 

“Show me.”

Jinx watched in idle horror and quiet, bone-wrenching relief, as the Titan adjusted her posture. Slowly, she took the hems in her hands and lifted her layers over her head; shirtless, and without hoodie or cowl, Raven’s skin was laid bare save for the well worn sports bra she had likely been wearing for most of her crime-fighting day. 

Her skin was littered with scars. 

It took a moment, for Jinx’s emotion flooded brain to make sense of them all. 

It was hard to make out at first, but after a moment Jinx realized that Raven had her scar, from when she had been struck by lightning as a child, and over it, scars of her battles and injuries since.   

Further still, it was hard to tell where her scars ended and where Raven simply had scars of her own, if any.

It was the runes along Raven’s arm, Jinx felt, that sealed the deal.

Every cut that Jinx had made along and against her marks, were etched into Raven’s very same limb. 

Bile shifted slightly in her throat as Jinx remembered the phantom pain the Titan would’ve been in.

“You… were supposed to be evil,” Jinx murmured, perhaps in protest, perhaps in lament. 

“I defied my fate,” Raven whispered, her undertone dull and pitchless; “I wanted you to be… whoever you wanted to be. The world would have ended, had I done was expected.” 

Jinx bit her lip and thought back along the years of fighting against the girl; the banter, the barbs, the fists, the alley kisses and near murder misses. 

“You knew.”

Raven visibly swallowed a breath. 

“You knew and you didn’t tell me,” Jinx pushed, fire filling her veins as her eyes lost the battle to contain their fluids. 

“You knew all this time, and you let me think?” she stuttered through her empty heaves, “That we, that we were just workmates? Nemeses for every spark between us that wasn’t right? You- You knew I was alone? That I missed you?”  

Raven’s face twisted in a mix of what Jinx guessed to be guilt and regret. 

“I didn’t think you want anything to do with me, if you knew,” she replied quietly; "I... tried to leave you alone. I couldn't quit you, not entierly." 

Jinx was about to call her out for a liar, until she noticed the way the girl gripped her arm instinctually, as if she were battered child used to shouting and pain.

Instantly, Jinx felt her entire sense of self light up with self-slighting fury. 

How else was Raven to have taken the mutilation? she silently wailed.   

No wonder it took us so long. 

Wordlessly, Jinx flung her forward and tackled the Titan to the bed in a vice gripping embrace. 

She buried her face into the Titan’s chest and waited breathlessly for the feeling of Raven’s arms slowly coming to encircle her back.   

She smiled, for the first time in years, in what felt like a quiet peace. 

“You’re still a criminal,” Raven whispered.

“I know,” Jinx murmured, nestling closer; “and I still love you. In all the wrong ways,” she hastily added. 

“I know,” Raven hummed.

“Stay with me tonight?” Jinx pleaded, dignity and reputation ignored.  

“Don’t hold it against me in the morning,” Raven agreed.

“We’ll hash it out, one way or another,” Jinx babbled, the sense of relief increasingly deadening her body and ability to remain awake. 

“No more knives,” Raven whispered, as Jinx reached the edge of sleep. 

“No promises,” Jinx playfully chided, arrogant to the end. 

Raven pulled her closer, sliding her up so their faces could meet once again.

“No more suicide threats,” she warned. 

“Kiss me,” Jinx agreed.