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Oct 18, 2019 2:46 AM
magical girl drug addict cato and jean
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He has an army of ghosts, says the first hero Valentine sends, they flicker between this world and the next and whisper terrible secrets in your ears.

She's beautiful and terrible and lightning runs in her veins, says the second, she speaks your name and you're chilled to the bone and your heart forgets how to beat.

There's two of them, says the third, a boy and a girl, twins, and whatever they have it's nothing we've ever seen before, there's cyborgs and monstrosities and endless burrowing worms.

None of the reports can even agree on what Dulac's power is. Invisibility. Teleportation. Paralytic venom. Telepathy. Pyrokinesis. Shapeshifting.

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They're all wrong, of course.

What precisely they're wrong about is a matter that's going to require some investigation.

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Elsewhere, Cato Armand teleports again.

He was, until moments ago, handcuffed to the toilet – now his wrist is rubbed so raw it's bleeding, and he's shaking violently on the dingy living room floor, drenched in sweat.

He's halfway transformed, dirty blonde hair streaked with silver.

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"Merde. Encore?"

Dulac puts down the dry ice machine, hauls Cato upright in a fireman's carry.

"Someone fetch the first aid kit. He's bleeding again."

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If Cato is aware of this fact, it's not immediately clear. He has other things on his mind.

He's putting all of the energy he has into trying to stay still, but he's still trembling so much it's hard to keep hold of him.

"Fuck. Some, body, givemea – Some. body. get, meanother – God. Fuck—."

The timing is all wrong, words spaced out too wide and strung together too close, and he trips over them as he speeds up like he can't keep up with his own tongue.

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"I don't have any and I wouldn't give it to you if I did."

Dulac hauls him slowly towards the bathroom. A sunburned woman comes over and tries to help, but while she's taller than Dulac and broader across the shoulders, she can hold onto Cato even less; her hands are twisted unnaturally, cramped into impossibly talon-like shapes.

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He twitches away where her hands jab at him, frantic little movements that send shocks all down his body.

"Not that, a – notherpiece, of – more – fuck –"

He's nearly crying with frustration.

"Tape," he manages, after a minute. "Arms."

(It took quite a bit of skin off, last time they tried, but apparently he's determined.)

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"If you get an infection on top of everything else we'll have to try to get you antibiotics so you don't die. And then he'll find us. He's got eyes on every doctor in the tri-state area."

The bathroom at last.

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"Justneed – to stay, still –"

(He's just asking to end up too locked up to move again, but that already feels like it would be a mercy.)

 

"Bathtub," he says, desperately, not expecting to get what he wants.

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"Damn right you need to stay still. If you teleport one more time I'm giving the plastic wrap another go."

Dulac rips open a packet for an alcohol wipe, uses it briskly on Cato's bleeding wrist.

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Everything hurts so much more like this.

He's hurt in ways people wouldn't believe, hurt over and over again, and yet –

He takes rapid, shallow, shuddering breaths and tries to keep the noise to himself.

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"You have got to try to stay put," Dulac says, smearing antibiotic ointment on a bandage and applying it. "He's going to have more people here tomorrow if not sooner, and I am running out of tricks up my sleeve, and if I can't put on a good show he'll figure it out."

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There's a shuddering twitch through his whole body.

"I'm trying–"

The aftershocks cramp his hands and feet, and he chokes off a pathetic sob.

“Do you think I don’t, fucking. Want to get on a plane—”

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Dulac shoves him to the floor, clicks the cuff shut around his wrist.

"Well, try harder."

 

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He takes a deep breath, curses roundly and stuttering and shaky at him just under it, takes another.

“...I need — to eat.”

He wants nothing less. Just thinking about food makes his stomach turn.

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"Yeah. I'll try to have someone get you something."

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Breathing, face tucked into his shoulder.

“...’w long’s the flight. Again.”

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"I have a goddamn shadow theater to set up, Cato."

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He curses again into his shoulder and shudders in place.

“How long is the — fucking — flight.”

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"I'm leaving now, Cato."

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He covers his face and spits some more invective into his hand and lets him go. It’s not like he can stop him.

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And so Dulac returns to the preparations.

(A little while later, a muscular young man in a tank top shows up and makes a moderately clumsy attempt at feeding Cato some gatorade.)

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He spills it all over himself and struggles to keep it down and thanks him, twice.

(Just a little longer. He can do it for five more minutes. If he only ever has to do it for five more minutes, he can be okay.)

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Spotlights and projectors and smoke machines and fans and mirrors all go up, frantically jury-rigged.

People check on Cato, occasionally. Sometimes Dulac sits on the edge of the tub and stares into space and recites poetry and beams happiness at him. The rest of them don't tend to talk to him.

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He'd told him to stop fucking with his head, at first.

Now he's grateful for the peace, when it comes, when he can sit shaking and sweating and dirty and ruined and listen to poetry and feel some kind of contentment despite the pain.

(He'll hate himself for it, when it's done. But it's better than going back. He just has to go a little longer, just has to get far enough that the shaking stops and the depression sets in, and then he can get on another flight and he can be gone and anything that happens after that is future Cato's problem.)

 

The poetry is the kind of thing he would have had before, too, once upon a time. It's a bittersweet kind of pleasure.

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A pair of SWAT vans pull up in front of the building.

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