It started with the towels. Well, it didn’t start with the towels, but that was definitely a turning point.
I carefully turned the shower knob off and squeezed the excess water out of my hair, then I nudged the shower door open with my elbow and stepped out onto the bath mat. I stared out from underneath my dripping locks and half-blindly reached over to the fresh towels to grab the black towels, stacked neatly next to the white ones. One for my body, and one for my …
My hand came up empty.
“Huh,” I said. That’s queer. I could have sworn I just put two fresh sets in here a few days ago. I delicately slipped into my silk bathrobe, and walked out into the cold hall, leaving wet prints on the way to the linen closet.
The white side was full, as it had been since we’d done the last load of laundry after my sister left. Off to attempt to establish herself as a villain. I wasn’t optimistic about her chances of success. The black side was conspicuously empty of towels, hand towels, and washcloths. The sheets were there, the pillowcases, the duvet cover, but no towels.
“I could have sworn …” I scrunched up my nose. What happened to all my towels?
I heard a grunt from down the hall. In between exertion and pain, I couldn’t be sure. Was Victoria having another nightmare? It seemed late for her to be sleeping, considering the appointment we had today, but one never knew. I walked down the hall, my feet beginning to get cold. That was a serious problem in this apartment that we needed to get addressed. The curse of pre-fabricated quickly built construction - it leaked everywhere. I heard another grunt as I reached the door, so instead of knocking, I opened it.
“Uh!” a surprised Victoria lost her grip on her bedframe and had to use her flight to prevent herself from falling and smacking her head on the wooden side of the bed.
“You’re using the black towels,” I stated. “Why? That makes no sense.”
She stood up, holding the length of terrycloth in front of her in some sort of attempt at modest. As if I hadn’t been given a full view of her sports bra and pyjama pants, both of which nicely framed her defined abs.
“What?” She said, taking off her headphones. I could hear some sort of rock music coming out of the small speakers. How pedestrian.
“What about the towels?”
As if she didn’t know. This was absurd. “Are you using the black towels?”
“Yes, your sister had the black and you had the white. So,” she held up the one in front of her, “I switched over to the black ones.”
“It fundamentally stands to reason that I would switch to the black.” I gestured to my robe, which matched the shade.
“Fundamentally, huh?” she sighed.”Well, I’ll use the white ones moving forward.”
“Thank you,” I would put ‘reasonable’ into the list of ‘Reasons why Victoria was a better roommate than my sister had been.’ While I’d been thinking, I’d been staring at her body a little longer than was polite. Get a grip, you have other things to do today . I pulled my bathrobe closer together and changed the subject.
“We have an hour before we have to go,” I said. “Would you like tea?”
“Showering after this,” she gestured to the workout mat, “then tea would be great. I’ll make breakfast.”
“If you’ll eat bacon, egg and scones, I’m already working on it,” If, by working on it, I meant thinking about it. I still needed to dry my hair and put real clothes on.
“Thank you,” She said, “that would be excellent.” Of course, she’ll like the bacon at least. Why did I even offer eggs? She hated eggs.
I walked over and snathed the proffered towel, “Make sure to use the white ones,” I said, shaking the towel in my hand as I left the room and closed the door. I walked back in the bathroom and closed the door, slumping back against it. I looked down at the towel in my hands. Even in the bathroom, fresh with the scent of my shampoo and soap, I could still smell her sweat on it.
“Ugh!” I forcefully threw the towel into the laundry basket. “Don’t be so fucking pathetic! It looks awful on you!” with my frustration I could feel my power crackling in my fingers, wanting to be used. I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself down, then, grumbling, reached over to the pile of white towels to dry my hair.
We wandered slowly back into the apartment, having just sentenced four people to the empty world. Tomorrow, we were going to be meeting with the Wardens to talk to Colt, Love Lost, and others who were currently in the new Wardens HQ bunker on whatever alternate world Kenzie had linked up.
I was never going to have children, I’d decided that even before the Boston Games, but Kenzie? That girl pulled at whatever maternal instinct I had left after my own childhood alone. I didn’t consider motherliness a weakness, but my experiences with my own mother had been … complicated.
Victoria flopped on the couch and stared off into the swirls of the popcorn plaster ceiling. I started the kettle and readied two cups of lemon ginger tea. The kettle, adapted from tinker tech, was fast to boil, and I filled the two vessels to just below the brim and put them on a tray to take out. I didn’t trust my hands at this time of night, not after a heavy day like this.
“Do you think we did the right thing?” Victoria asked from the living room.
“There will always be people who question your decisions,” I said, bringing the tray in and laying it on the coffee table. “You need to be confident in the choices you make, and live with their consequences.” Victoria had put her hair up in a messy bun, and taken her arms out of her coat. The fitted white long sleeve top she wore underneath it followed her body like it was tailored to fit.
“In person?” Victoria took her cup and blew on it, “Sure. And I did. When the time came, I didn’t flinch.”
“Except for Drillbit.” I took my own cup and sat on the couch next to her.
“He was always a bit complicated, but I had to make the call anyway.”
“You did,” I took a sip, then put the cup back on the tray. Best not to take any chances with my hands.
“But it’s still eating at me.”
“It’s done now,” I said. “You can’t change it. You made the most reasonable choice with the information you had. I would have destroyed Copse myself, frankly.”
“I think that would have been wrong.”
“Mmm, which is why you let her live,” I took up my cup again. “Very merciful. Maybe a little weak, but there are worse decisions.”
Thanks?” she said. “I think?”
“You’re welcome,” I nodded. We both sipped at our beverages in silence.
“So,” I started, “You got to see Anelace?”
“Hm?” she questioned.” Oh, yeah.”
“You like him, right?”
“I’m not sure if ‘like’ is even the right word?” Victoria said. “And like, there’s just a ton of baggage over Dean, and … I don’t know, it’s too complicated to deal with.”
“He seems … not entirely without merit.” I did my best to be diplomatic.
“High praise, coming from you.”
“I have discerning tastes.”
“Speaking of people who need to get back on the horse,” She turned the subject around, “There hasn’t been anyone in your life for a while.”
“It’s hard when one lives with their sister, who is also a clone, but not quite.”
“Well now you’ve lost that excuse, what say we try to find you a nice … boy? Girl?” She looked at me, appraisingly.
“Either, really,” I replied, trying not to let the warmth in my chest show through, “though I prefer a more feminine touch for the most part.” I looked at her, “I thought you knew that.”
“Why would you think I knew?" Victoria looked confused. "Did we talk about it, and I've forgotten?”
“No, but just this morning you used a towel to protect your modesty as you stood up,” I said. “That's kind of the behaviour of someone who thinks the person looking would be interested in what they saw.”
“Oh,” Victoria blushed. “No, it’s not … Sorry, that’s not about you, that’s just me and body stuff. I’m not always comfortable with the body I’m wearing, you know?”
I flexed my wrists, a twinge of pain coming from the left one. “I do.”
“Did Rain look at those? You said they were hurting earlier.”
“No time,” I said. “We set up a time before we go to the new Warden HQ tomorrow.”
“Here,” Victoria gestured. I offered my arms, and she took them in her own hands and started massaging near the joint. It felt soothing for more than one reason.
“Careful,” I said, “I wouldn’t want to blast you.”
“I trust you,” she said softly.
“I literally punch superpowered people for a living,” She continued to massage my arms.
“I included that in my judgement,” I continued to enjoy it.