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Here’s today’s bonding-filled update! I’m exhausted, which is probably fitting with the theme of Sloth, but editing this section made me so happy. Lots of nice, uplifting (pardon the pun) things happen. Enjoy the read!

– Wysteria ❤

— Hana

She’s… laughing?

There’s so much happening. Valkyrie is actually talking to me, saying stuff’s not my fault, and instead of shattering like she always does when I say something stupid, she laughs at my awful humor. Really laughs. Her face gets all scrunched up and she snorts like I’m the best stand-up comedian to grace the Earth. I try for a laugh of my own, which ends up as more of a shocked cough.

Hey, I’m not complaining. If we can get through a conversation without someone crying, that’s a record. If we can exorcise Sloth by doing it, even better. I’m still trying to process it all as Valkyrie sits down and starts talking for real.

She likes cats and poetry and classical music. I can’t help but return her smile – wide and a little ridiculous. I give a small laugh (a real one!) as she fades into silence. “Yeah, talking’s kind of rough. I guess I’ll go.

“Alright, so uh… You already know my name, so there’s that. My middle name’s Anjali. That’s from the Indian side, if you couldn’t guess.” Another giggle slides out. “I like Phoenix’s hugs too. And Latin. I don’t know much, but I took a class on it in high school.”

The room is growing cooler and lighter by the second. I’m not sure what to say, but something in me wants to keep pouring out facts like there’s no tomorrow. I drum my fingers against my leg, give my brain a second to replenish its ideas.

“I like classical music, same as you. I think Brahms is my favorite. There’s some of him on that MP3 player I had. I like video games too, but Nick always beats me at them. And I work out a lot, but that’s obvious.” I grin, shrug. “I don’t know what else…

“Oh! Did I ever tell you about my powers?” I lean forward so fast it’s more like a snap. My cheeks are starting to hurt from smiling so much, but fuck it. I’m having fun in this broken death lift. “I don’t feel pain right away. So your, uh, kick from before didn’t hurt.”

As much as I’d like to keep going, the well is running dry in terms of stuff to say. I prop my chin in my hand and watch Valkyrie while I dig for something to keep us going. She looks so happy. This is the kind of kitten I can handle.

“What are your powers like? You said you could find people’s auras or something, right? That’s cool.” I shift a little so we’re properly facing each other. It feels like… a conversation. A real one. Not the “I talk and she cries” fiasco we had going before.

It’s nice, I have to admit.

 + Phoenix

I stand back and hold Elias’s blazer, as instructed. From here, there’s a clear view of his powers: a neon green blaze that slices through the metal like a knife through butter. It looks so effortless, as if the doors wouldn’t normally take an axe and crowbar to get past. I don’t know how he pulls it off, but it’s hard not to watch. I rearrange my awestruck expression into a proper smile just as he turns to grin at me.

I have to admit, it’s hard piecing together this image and what I saw before. He looked so different in that apartment. It’s a little uncomfortable to think about – I feel like an intruder – but I can’t help but wonder.

My wondering stops, though, when he shoots away from the elevator doors like a bullet out of a pistol.

He slams against the wall beside me with a hollow thud. All the color has drained from his face, his eyes are squeezed shut, and he looks way too much like… he did before. In the apartment.

I shove his blazer under my arm and rush over, catching his shoulder before he can fall. His eyes are clouded, body shaking so badly I’m afraid he might faint. My heart leaps into my throat as I position myself to support him as best I can.

He raises one shaking hand and presses it to his face. “You cannot tell the others.”

“I won’t, don’t worry.” My voice trembles; I swallow it and spare a glance to where he’d run from. The doors are open. I can’t see much from this angle except a yawning black space where the elevator should be. And, probably, a huge drop.

Heights? Is that what this is? No matter. I have bigger issues now. I lean down and put my free hand on his arm in what I hope is a comforting gesture. “It’s okay. Take deep breaths.”

This is exactly what I saw in that apartment – a version of Elias cut down to something raw, something I shouldn’t be seeing. But I can’t backpedal now. That would be abandonment, not courtesy.

I’m not sure what else to do, so I stand there and try to act as some sort of comforting presence. It meant a lot when he said he’d look out for me, and I’d like to return the favor, if I can.

“If you’re alright, I can handle the elevator,” I murmur when I think he can stand, hesitantly lifting my hand from his shoulder. With what I hope is a comforting smile, I add, “Just call if you need me.”

Once I’m sure he can support himself, I hurry over to the shaft he ran from, and immediately I understand why he panicked.

That drop is steep. The top of the car glints dully in the light from above, but everything else is pitch-black. I bite down a burst of nervousness and slide over the edge, lowering myself into the shaft. I inch down as far as possible, clinging to the bars on the wall, and lang with a clang on top of the car.

It feels like standing on nothing at all, between the darkness and the less-than-stable surface. Still, the thought of Elias panicking a few feet above keeps me right where I am. Better me than him. I push the nerves away again, drop to my knees, and start hunting for an escape hatch. Through the shadows, I manage to grab a handle.

…It should be locked. Then again, not much of this building is up to protocol.

The cover pops off, sending me stumbling back with a curse. The sound of footsteps against the top of an elevator is far from comforting, and for a second I think I’m slipping off the edge, but the shaft wall stops both my panic and my fall.

“I hope that’s you, Nick,” Hana’s voice calls from below. Her words shake a little, but when I lean in through the new opening, relief washes everything else off her face. She slumps against the wall. “Thank God. I wouldn’t have gone with Elias.”

“Yeah, yeah. Hi, Valk.” I toss her a smile before glancing back to Hana. “Can you get up here somehow? I could find a ladder or something if we need it.”

“Nah, we’re okay.” Hana looks surprisingly lucid as she gets to her feet; the fact that she can stand at all is a relief. “I’ll boost Valk.”

——————

By some stroke of luck, everything works out. Hana is strong enough to help Valk up. She then does some off-the-wall jump that gets her a grip on the opening, which is a miracle in and of itself. I pull her up the rest of the way, and with that, all three of us are on top of the car.

“Are you okay?” I give them both a quick once-over despite Hana’s weak assurance that they’re fine. She then proceeds to shake herself out like a dog, look towards the light as if she’s been in a cave for years, and declare that we’re never going in an elevator again. I agree.

The climb up the shaft is easier. It only takes a little arm strength, and with Hana pushing the rest of us over, we’re back in the light again.

Even I’m grateful for it, and I was only down there for a few minutes. The darkness had a way of blurring time. That, and I might have been about to topple off an elevator. My hands are still shaking.

But that… felt like a heroic thing to do, like the visions I had as a kid when I learned what having powers meant. Terrifying, yes, but gratifying. I can’t imagine what Reiner would think. Or my mother, for that matter. At least now I can say I elevator surfed and lived to tell the story.

Needless to say, I’m feeling great as I pull myself onto level ground. That is, until the first thing I see is Valk bursting into tears on the floor.

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