FullSizeRender (11)It’s that time of week again! This update was a wonderful distraction from the weather – a really cool thunderstorm followed by ungodly humidity. No one can step outside for fear of melting.

On a more pleasant note, enjoy more sins, broken elevators, and awkward team bonding!

– Wysteria ❤

— Hana

I’m going to explode. No, I’m going to implode with a badly-edited explosion effect. I have to move so badly, have to get out. My legs are jerking around and my whole body has started to spasm, because I need to run but I can’t and I’m too shaky to even stand anymore.

My nails dig into my arms. It doesn’t hurt yet, but it will later. God, I hate this, it’s so hard to see and I’m gonna burst or pass out if I have to spend another second being crushed.

My phone buzzes in my free hand, slick with sweat. Nick sent me a message. He’s telling me to take deep breaths. There’s also a cat video.

In the manner of a subservient robot, I suck in a breath that sounds like a tornado. It stirs up another wave of shudders, but I need the distraction so badly that I do it again. It at least reduces the spasms to shivers, and finally my hands respond enough to open the video.

It takes a minute to load. My heart squeezes, but then the video pops up and it goes back to pounding again.

A kitten is batting a ball around. Good start. It runs past a cardboard box – the box falls and he’s trapped, and I look up and remember I’m trapped, and I lurch forward into yet another spasm, dropping my phone into my lap.

I can’t do anything about it. That’s the worst part.

But, in the midst of it all, I feel something warm.

Panic makes stuff hazy, but the light touch on my arm is pretty damn clear. For a second, I stop shaking, manage to glance over and see Valkyrie with her hand on my shoulder.

She was very obviously crying, which doesn’t do great things for my stomach, and she’s got her head turned away the way you do when you want to shield your eyes from a trainwreck. I stare, as I am prone to doing.

“I-it helps if… if you b-breathe. D-deep breaths. T-think of… think of kittens. Petting a kitten. M-maybe… talk t-to me? F-focus on how the carpet looks? Hug? Um…”

I blink.

I’m not sure if it’s the touch or the shock, but I’ve stopped vibrating for a second. Her hand draws back from my arm and goes to her face instead, and just as I think I might be able to talk again, she goes off.

“I’m s-sorry I k-kicked you… I-it probably hurts and I’m s-sorry. A-and I’m sorry I ran away and I’m s-sorry I p-pressed a bunch of buttons a-and got you stuck and I’m s-sorry I f-freak out at e-everything and I’m sorry I never c-calm down around you and y-you’re strong and I n-need to take deep breaths and I’m probably really a-annoying please don’t h-hurt me– oh fuck–“

She lunges away, very obviously tries not to hurl, and goes back to her turtle state.

And my mouth does its own thing.

“You’re not annoying.” It pops out before I can stop it. I cringe, curl into myself; then I catch a glimpse of her huddled there, all fluffy and turtle-y, and I get that Valkyrie-exclusive feeling again. Two parts dread, one part guilt, mixed together to feel like I’m handling china all the time.

I feel bad. I’ve felt bad since day one, and everything I do makes it worse. Even when I tried to talk to her in the cave, I managed to fuck it up five minutes later.

But that was because I yelled. Maybe if I didn’t yell this time…

I sigh, press a (gross, damp) hand to my eye. “I said this before, but you… you don’t have to be afraid of me. I know I kinda fucked things up for us, but still.” Another sigh. “I’m sorry. Alright? I’m not gonna hurt you or anything. Even if I am kickass.” I grin and almost wink before I realize this is probably not an appropriate addition. Why I’m like this, I wish I knew.

My face deflates as I cringe for the second time, internally yell at myself, and go back to staring at the ground. “Anyway. Sorry.”

I feel the change as soon as the words come out.

+ Phoenix

The worst thing about alcohol is that its effects reach beyond whoever had the bright idea to abuse it. Take this, for example. Whatever poor schmuck lives here probably didn’t anticipate any passersby nearly fainting from the smell of the room. Thus, the rest of us have to suffer. I blink away tears from the sting of alcohol and, after I’ve finished calling out to Elias, focus on breathing hallway air rather than tainted air.

I realize, though, that I don’t see him.

I didn’t really think before I started talking. Getting words out was the priority, and I expected Elias to at least be in the vicinity, but he’s nowhere in sight. I gulp in all the fresh air I can, brace myself, and lean into the doorway with one hand on the frame and one foot behind the threshold. Then I see him.

Or, at least, half of him. He rounded a corner in a way that only reveals his hands and part of his face. He’s slouched against a bookshelf, deflated, with a handkerchief over his mouth and powers alight. There’s something in him that looks very… raw. Something that I instantly feel I shouldn’t have seen. I catch my breath and duck out of the room.

It’s a close call; his reply comes mere seconds later. “Phoenix? That is you, yes?” he calls, voice sounding much like he looked, and before I can respond he’s gliding back into view. The rawness is nothing but a ghost clinging to his edges. I swallow the questions bubbling up and try to ignore the bottles strewn around him, like cobblestones in some sick road. It takes everything in me not to run again.

But I can’t run. Hana is worse off than I am. She doesn’t do well with confinement.

“Have faith, Phoenix Thourne.” The sound of Elias’s voice and a hand on my arm brings me back to Earth. I glance down to meet his eyes; soft enough that, for a second, the room and all its memories seem far behind.

“Thank you.” My smile is half gratitude, half relief. He looks so concerned that I almost apologize again; “thank you” feels too light a response for all the reassurance his words bring, but I can’t come up with anything else to say. I hope he understands nonetheless.

Besides, we’re on a time limit. I step further into the hall and toss a glance over my shoulder. “I think the elevator is that way.” Quickly, I add, “We should hurry. Hana… doesn’t like small spaces.”

I send her a few texts on the way over, but she doesn’t respond.

— Hana

Something… lifts. That’s what it is.

As soon as I get out the word “sorry,” it happens – the air gets lighter. It’s a violent sort of change, less like the heat drifting off and more like someone whacked it away.

I whirl around to face Valkyrie. “Did you feel that?”

+ Phoenix

The heat has been awful since we got here, although it was slightly more tolerable with the distraction from searching the apartments. But as we’re rushing through the hall, the pressure that had become an afterthought is ripped away.

It’s so sudden that for a second, I think I’m getting chills. It can’t be, though; the air itself lightens, cools. Like leaving a room with a bad smell. After a while, you get used to it, but the minute you step out, the fresh air feels purer than ever. I straighten up.

“Did you just feel something?” I glance over to Elias. “With the heat?”

I couldn’t have imagined it, but I don’t stop walking to think. There are more important things right now.

We hurry on.

———————–

The elevator is indeed in the direction I thought. It’s in no better shape than the rest of the building. Dirt cakes the white floors, and the two potted plants have gone yellow. I’d hate to see what this place’s energy would look like.

I hurry over to the elevator and, in a fit of optimism, push the up button. No response. My hope fizzles.

The backup plan is to lean against the doors and do whatever it takes to get our trapped team members’ attention. I start off with a simple attempt. “Hana?” I call, careful to keep my voice low, and add a knock or two against the metal for good measure.

Silence. My phone buzzes in my pocket; I whip it out in a flash, and sure enough, there’s Hana.

I HEAR YOU
Can’t yell bc Valkyrie but I heard you!!!! I think you’re above us

Relief washes through me. “They can hear us,” I sigh to Elias, casting a glance and a smile his way. “Hana says it sounds like we’re above them.”

I take a step back so as to better inspect the doors. I’ve never been in a broken elevator before. In any other situation, I’d leave it to firefighters and their axes to handle it, but there’s no way anyone here would wake up long enough to listen to, let alone help, us. Which means we’ll have to bust in.

I suddenly feel less relieved.

“So, these doors.” My hand flies to my collar and starts fidgeting. “How are we going to get through?”

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