Pastel watched the shadow figure take out Sera and Avsel like they were nothing. Stunned, she just stood there watching the sudden violence, not sure what to do. Her brain yelled at her to do something, to not just stand there like a shit-faced stoner who was so out of it they couldn't tell what was reality anymore. And she was frozen.
Then Tanya was there, trying to fight and a blade flashed through the air slicing across her PK field. Pastel tried to move. Her feet wanted to run from the fight, remembering the last time she'd been in a battle like this. Her mind screamed at her again, telling her to help.
And then Tanya was down and Vic stepped up. If he couldn't stop the person, it would be her next. Fear finally got her slowly moving to Avsel, placing her hands on the girl, she began to heal her.
It wasn't fast enough. The speedster was taken down again as soon as she was healed, and then it was Pastel's turn for all the good she did.
Then Pastel was kneeling beside the missing girl, Sterling, whose beautiful green skin was stained with blood, her throat slit. She yelled for Vic to help her, as she tried to heal the girl. She wasn't good enough. The girl's soul was slipping through her fingers. Screaming she grabbed the soul, trying to force it back into place as she healed the gaping wound.
The soul vanished, leaving a living, breathing corpse. Staring at the body, Pastel knew she hadn't been good enough. She'd failed at helping her friends, and she'd failed at saving Sterling. Healing people was the one thing she was supposed to be good at, and she'd fucked it up.
Waking up in her bed, Pastel found her pillow was soaked. Sitting up, she bit back the sobs, not wanting to wake up her roommate. “Why can't I do anything right?” she whispered to herself. “Why do I have to always fuck everything up?”
Monday November 28th, 2016
“Hey Rainbow Brite, pick up the pace,” Riley said, giving Pastel a light shove.
Pastel bit back a curse. The blue-haired, large chested girl was just being friendly in her own special way. Pastel could appreciate it, she acted the same way for a pretty similar reason. “Gotta keep it slow for weaklings like you Punky Boobster.”
“Still got your mind stuck in the 80's? Can you at least move onto the '90's.”
“Who called me Rainbow Brite the moment she saw me? I'm just keeping it to your decade.”
They ran side by side for the next few moment, keeping ahead of the students who were out of shape, or not an exemplar 2, and behind the jock and higher-level exemplars. Shisa dodged in and out of the different groups, tripping the teens she didn't like, and just goofing off while she was supposed to be doing warm up laps.
“Can you tell me what happened on Friday? I've heard a few things but it's all junk and shit, except that you were there,” Riley said.
Stumbling, it took Pastel a second to catch her balance and regain her stride. Her mind flashed back to that evening, blood covering her hands as she felt a dying girl just give up and fade away. Her mouth spoke before her brain could snap back to reality. “Fuck off,” she said.
Going all out she left Riley in the dust.
After class, Pastel didn't bother showering. She'd smelled worse, and maybe biological warfare would make people leave her alone. Emiko called after her as she headed for the door, but the nun was naked and just stepping into the shower, she wasn't about to come running after her.
“Pissed off. Talk?” Shisa asked as she hit the hallway.
Looking down at her best friend who never showered after class, thanks to not sweating except from her paws, Pastel bit her tongue before answering. “Don't want to talk about it.”
The cat girl nodded and stopped talking. Instead she walked close enough that her body kept brushing against Pastel's leg. That was the good thing about Shisa, she didn't dig. She would stick around to make sure everything was OK, but she wouldn't insist on talking. If Pastel wanted to talk however, she was a great listener.
She'd already unloaded all of her shit on her friend the night before, almost the moment Shisa had gotten back from Boston. Pastel couldn't help but imagine what would have happened if the cat had been there helping Tanya and Sterling instead of her. Shisa wouldn't have held back; she wouldn't have been afraid. She'd have acted without even thinking, cutting the shit-stained, knock-off Jack the Ripper wannabe in two. Sterling would be alive and not a fucking vegetable in a bed.
Instead Tanya had to have a filthy whore who pretended to be a healer, when she couldn't even heal properly. And an innocent girl had paid the price.
Her next class was waiting for her and all she could think about was how useless she'd been. Running to the nearest bathroom she found an empty stall and vomited. When she felt empty inside, she spit and wiped her mouth, then started washing up in the sink. The bell rang for the next class. Shisa was sitting on the counter, seemingly unconcerned about being late.
“You should go to class,” she said.
“You shouldn't be alone,” Shisa replied.
Pastel saw that her friend had the clip on, which let her speak normally. Since Shisa hated wearing it, she really was taking things seriously. “What about your parole officer?”
“I haven't missed any classes yet. He'll forgive me.”
Where had Shisa been when Pastel had tried to save a girl's life? Why did she have to be so fucking perfect and help everyone? Then when she was really needed, she was off in Boston. Why did Sterling have to have the whore, instead of the hero?
“GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!” she screamed. “Don't screw yourself over for me! Get to class now! I'm not worth you going to jail!”
“No. Being alone is bad.”
“How would-” Pastel cut the sentence off. If anyone knew, it was Shisa. Instead of arguing, she ran out of the bathroom and the building. She didn't head off campus, even as angry as she was, she had enough control to not just run away. There was somewhere on campus where she could hide from the world and herself. She headed for the little shed at the edge of the woods where the stoners hung out. Shisa had shown it to her on her second day at Whateley.
It was deserted, even Spaz and Skitz had to go to class.
Pulling a baggy out of her backpack, she managed to roll a joint. It hadn't been hard finding a dealer on campus, willing to give her a great deal. Everyone could use a healer once in a while, even if it all she was good for was fixing a hangover.
Lighting it up, the smoke helped push away the contempt she felt for herself. Dr. Markham, her counsellor, would be upset with her. She wouldn't say it off course, but she'd look disappointed if she found out. Taking another puff, Pastel put it out of her mind. Fuck Dr. Markham, fuck the school, fuck everyone, and fuck herself most of all.
Shisa sat with her, half lying on her lap. Pastel offered her the joint, only to have it refused.
Fine, it meant more for her.
She drifted away, forgetting herself for a little while.
Dr. Markham sat in the comfortable armchair a small tablet on her lap, her dark brown hair that was turning grey at the roots, professionally done up. She had the usual smile, not too big or too small, just enough to be encouraging without making Pastel feel awkward.
“You skipped class today. Can you tell me why?” the therapist asked.
The tone wasn't accusing or angry, there was just a hint of disappointment. It reminded Pastel of her grandmother before she got really sick. A lot of things about the doctor seemed similar, usually it made things easier.
“Didn't want to go,” she said, hugging her old leather jacket. It wasn't suitable for the cold weather, New Hampshire wasn't as warm as Seattle, that didn't matter to her, it was her armour against the world.
“I know having to go to class isn't something you're used to anymore, but I thought you were enjoying them. So I'd like to know what you're feeling now.”
Her stomach roiled as her mouth refused to work, making her a liar. On her second visit, she'd promised to do her best to go to class. If she really couldn't do it for some reason, then she'd talk to the doctor about it as soon as possible. Pastel was a lot of things, dirty, a coward, a slut, but she tried to keep her word. She couldn't even do that. Curling up on the couch, trying to shrink down into nothing, Pastel stared at the soda she'd been given when she arrived for her appointment.
“Pastel, it isn't the end of the world, and you haven't done anything wrong. You started over halfway through the term, we're mostly focusing on getting you used to following a routine and relearning how to interact with adults and classmates in a healthy way. You spent almost an entire year living on the street with other teens, there are going to be setbacks. And if this is the biggest one you have, we can consider your achievements a huge success. Still, I need you to talk to me.”
What was she supposed to say? She was a failure. Healing was the one thing she was supposed to be good at. It was the only thing that made her worth anything, and she'd failed. Why was anyone worried about her? She was useless. She might a well be back on the street.
Dr. Markham waited a while for her to speak. When nothing came, she said, “I know you didn't want to talk about Sterling when we met on Saturday. Can we talk about her now?”
Lifeless eyes stared at her, accusing her of being a useless gash. She remembered feeling Sterling's soul slipping away from her, refusing to fight. And there'd been nothing she could do. If only she'd been better. But she wasn't good enough. She never would be.
Pastel got up, shoved her feet into her shoes, and left the office, ignoring the doctor. She almost jogged to the stairs to the tunnels. She had to get out of there. She didn't know where she was going, or what she was doing, she just needed to leave, to be alone. It was what she deserved.
Reaching the tunnels she started walking, ignoring the other students who didn't want to brave the cold. Her feet took her towards the more deserted areas, where Helsing, Emiko, and Shisa spent so much of their time playing Ghostbusters.
Why the hell they spent any time with her, she didn't know.
The tunnel emptied of people. She wandered alone, hoping to get lost. People said the tunnels were weird, and she'd seen some of that herself. Maybe if she wandered far enough she'd come to a world where she could actually do something right. Or better yet, where she never existed.
Footsteps snapped her out of her thoughts. An Asian boy who looked to be about her age, stepped around a corner. He was handsome and muscular. Not the overly muscled types who made up a lot of the exemplar, but nice and lean. His dark eyes looked like chocolate and went really well with his black hair. He could have stepped out of a Chinese martial arts movie.
“Hey,” he said, a little too loud for the tunnel, “I'm lost, do you know the way to the workshop? Or even just out of here?”
Giving him her best smile, she nodded. “Yeah. Follow me, I can show you. But it'll be a bit of a walk, you are really lost.”
Blushing, he rubbed his short hair. “Yeah, I came down here from around range 6, which I'd never done before, and I must have taken a left instead of a right somewhere. I'm Tie Fu Tu Jia, you can call me Tie.”
Putting her hand on his arm, she got him pointed in the right direction. She kept it there as they started to walk side by side. “I'm Pastel. Is your name your codename or...?
He blushed again. “My codename. It means heavy armour in Chinese, and it sounds cooler than my real name, Ezra. I'm guessing your parents didn't name you Pastel.”
“I wish they had. They decided I should be Luna when I was born. I think they believe that being bullied in grade school builds character. I haven't seen you in any classes, so I'm thinking you're not a freshman.” She was shocked at how easy it was to fall back into her old role. Just more proof that it was all she was good for.
“Sophomore in Emerson. I have seen you, you're kind of hard to miss.”
Leaning into him, Tie didn't pull away. His eyes widened and he stumbled for a moment, but he seemed happy to go along with it. Pastel grabbed his hand in hers.
“I do stick out a little,” she said.
They talked some more, getting to know each other as they walked, until they came to a janitors closet. Pastel knew that it had a broken lock, courtesy of Helsing breaking it a week ago chasing after a Whateley pokemon. Gripping his arm, she opened the door and dragged him inside.
“Uh, what are we doing?” Tie asked.
Pastel didn't answer in words. Standing on her toes, she kissed him hard, forcing her tongue past his lips, while her hands explored his body. He didn't resist for a moment, letting her press her breasts into his chest. Then he came to his senses, grabbing her by the shoulders and pushing her back a little.
“What are you doing?” he asked again.
“I'm about to ride you like I'm a cowboy at a rodeo. Do you want me to stop?” she asked. Her hands were busy undoing his belt.
Tie looked around, unsure what he should do. When she unzipped his pant, he made up his mind. “Fuck it. Giddy up, little lady.”
Getting to her knees, Pastel did the only thing she was good for.
The rest of the Goobers had left earlier, so Pastel found herself eating supper at their table with Helsing, Shisa and Emiko. She and Shisa weren't official members of the group, although the cat might as well be, and a few of the members complained when they made themselves comfortable at the table or the clubhouse. Only Emiko seemed to care about the bitching, and she just tried to keep the peace.
Eating the leftovers from supper rush, Pastel was glad the other Goobers were gone. If she had to listen to Crucifix and Tawiz going on about the how society had fallen to the devil, or worse debating if Catholicism or Islam was the answer to all of life's problems, she would probably murder them with her fork. And the less she had to deal with Huntsman and his obsessions the better.
And it was still better hanging out near the the Goobers than sitting with the Whitman girls. The girls may not say anything, but she could see the questions behind their eyes whenever she was around them. Why couldn't you save Sterling? Why didn't you act faster? Why didn't you do more? Why did you fail?
“Where'd you go this afternoon, Pastel?” Helsing asked. “Mrs. Savage was asking everyone if we knew.”
“Needed to go for a walk,” she said. What she had actually done burned in her mind, making her want to vomit.
Emiko watched her with the same damn calmness that rarely seemed to disappear. “Pastel, we know you're upset about what happened. You can talk to us, we're your friends.”
“There's nothing to talk about. I did my best, it wasn't good enough.” She started eating her large ham and cheese sandwich, hoping they'd just leave her alone.
Shisa finished the last of her hamburger, wiped her hands and leaned against Pastel. Her cat-like nose sniffed the air, and her big green eyes saw right through her. “Liar.”
“You've barely insulted anyone, and you haven't made any dirty jokes all day,” Helsing said. “Either you're really unhappy or you're a skinwalker who replaced the real Pastel.”
God, she wished that was true.
“Jesus titty-fucking Christ! Can I just have a few days without having to deal with shit and cum guzzling fuck monkeys!” she shouted.
The nun blushed as expected. Helsing and fur butt looked at each other and nodded.
“Well at least you're getting your creativity back,” Helsing said. For a rich bitch, she was hard to phase.
Shisa put her clip back on, hissing as it pinched her neck. “Still not right. You're being a bitch, not bitching.”
“Look,” Pastel said, not quite shouting. “I had to watch someone get murdered in front of me, I had her blood on my hands. I'm not some obsessed, trained from birth monster hunter, or a religious fruitcake that thinks everything is going to turn out all right, and I'm not someone who got so comfortable at killing she needed to get a Jiminy Cricket conscience! How the goddamn hell am I supposed to act.”
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she knew she'd gone too far. She didn't give a shit about the nun, and she could take or leave Helsing, but Shisa was important. The girl didn't show much reaction, but the widening of the eyes, and her fur rising slightly around her neck was as good as a shout.
A glowing white ball appeared above the table. The nun was still trying to keep everything calm, using same hocus pocus that she used on her rager boyfriend, to calm everyone down. Just looking at the ball took the edge off of Pastel's anger.
“Pastel, just breathe. We'll shut up,” Emiko gave a warning look at the two other girls who didn't look happy, “and you can finish your supper.”
“Eat shit and die.” With that wonderfully uncreative rejoinder, Pastel got to her feet and stormed off.
Slamming open the doors to the cold winter night, she realized that Shisa wasn't following her this time. Shoving her hands into her coat pockets, she hunched her shoulders, ducked her head and let the tears fall.
Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
Pastel stalked through the tunnels, thinking about how the day had sucked. Almost no one was talking to her, not that she could blame them. She didn't want to talk to herself.
She'd gone to class just to avoid having to talk to anyone about why she hadn't. It wasn't like there were many places she could go anyways. Whateley wasn't a city or even a town, where there was at least something to do outside of school. So now she was walking the tunnels, hoping that something would happen or she could meet someone that would make her forget herself for a few minutes.
Maybe she should give Tie a call for round two.
“Pastel, can we talk?”
Groaning, she turned to look at the one person who had actually wanted to talk to her. Her most favourite person in the world, the fucking nun. And she'd brought her goblin boyfriend this time.
“Emiko, what does it take for you to pull your pointy little head out of your goddamn ass and actually get a fucking hint. I don't want to talk to you! GO AWAY!” she shouted.
Red, who looked like a fantasy elf crossed with a goblin, and wore a prominent UV band on his arm, growled as she insulted his girlfriend. Pastel didn't give a flying fuck what he thought, the nun should learn to mind her own business.
“I know you don't like me much, that's fine. But you pushed away Shisa. I've seen how close the two of you are, do you really want to throw that away?” the nun asked.
“I want to be left alone. Is that so hard to understand!” Why was she still at this fucking school? She should have been at the main gate catching the bus to Dunwich, then she could hitchhike or something to Boston or somewhere else far away.
“You've been alone since Saturday. You only talked to Shisa for a little bit and then you even shut her out. Where has it gotten you? It just seems like you're getting angrier. At least talk to Shisa and actually let her know what's going on.”
“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW YOU LITTLE BITCH?!” she shrieked. “All you do is deal with the dead and act like nothing phases you! You don't know anything about real life!”
It seemed like she'd finally really gotten through Emiko's armour. The girl leaned away from her, looking hurt. It took a few moments for her to come back with a reply. “Then please teach me.”
Pastel saw red. “Go to hell!” she shouted, raising her arms to shove the girl as hard as she could.
Red moved with stunning speed, grabbing her wrists with his clawed, inhuman hands. Seeing his scowl, Pastel thought he was about to rage and kill her. A part of her welcomed it. Instead he squeezed hard enough to make her wince, then stopped just holding her in place.
Even though he was shorter than she was, Red seemed to loom over her. In a raspy growl, he said, “You can shout at Emiko, but don't you dare hit her.”
An urge to kick the nun as hard as she could filled Pastel. She pushed it down, she wasn't suicidal. “Let me go. I need to get supper and go to Doyle for my job,” she said practically hissing the words.
“Red,” Emiko said, very carefully and slowly putting her hand on his shoulder. “I'm OK, you can let her go.”
The ultraviolent let out a deep breath, then let go of Pastel's wrists. His lips twisted in a silent snarl, but he didn't do anything else. His sharp, short fangs, and the tensed muscles that were ready to spring if she did anything stupid were more than enough to keep her from doing anything stupid.
Rubbing her wrists, Pastel turned and walked away. Alone she headed deeper into the tunnels.
Doyle, Surgical Area
Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
“Here put this on, then wash up,” Dr. Guitterez said, passing an expensive looking necklace to Pastel.
“OK,” Pastel said, knowing better than to make a smart-ass comment around the doctor. And if she was being honest with herself she didn't have the energy. She didn't feel real anymore, and everything was pushing her further into non-existence. Still she managed to work up a little curiousity. “What's going on?”
A minute ago Pastel had been staring blankly at her homework in the break room, waiting for something to go wrong in Doyle. As part of her scholarship work, she had to spend a few hours a week in the place ready to heal patients, tidy things up, file paperwork, and studying. The evenings were usually pretty easy, all the work from the day was done, and it was mostly dealing with upset stomachs and bruises. Then a nurse came in and dragged her to the Number 6 Operating Room. That always meant something bad had happened.
The doctor was scrubbing her hands as she answered. “A car crash ten miles from here, family of four. They're in critical condition and won't make it to Berlin. We're on the books as a local trauma center, so we're getting them.”
“I thought we were supposed to be super secret?” Pastel said. With the necklace on and inside her shirt, she began thoroughly scrubbing her hands like she'd been taught.
“Not as much as people claim. For two years back around 2006, we were the regional trauma centre, while Berlin had their hospital renovated and rebuilt. Keeping things secret was almost impossible, that's why we had charms like the one you're wearing made. It makes people ignore anything that doesn't look baseline.”
“I'm still allowed to use my powers, right?”
“Yes, we'll deal with everything after they're healed and wake up. It won't be the first time we've had to make up a few stories for the tourists.” Dr. Guitterez finished washing up and was having a nurse help put on the surgical gear.
Pastel joined her, with a bit more difficulty. She'd been trained on how to prepare for surgery. As a powerful healer she'd been given the option of training in a surgery or keeping strictly to minor stuff. The surgery offered more money, so she'd taken it. And at the time she'd thought it would be a good place for her, a place she could do some good.
Now it was too late to back out.
She saw some people rushing past the door, other healers like herself, some doctors who had been off work, and more nurses. It looked like everyone was being called in.
Stepping into the operating room, she walked through a machine that gave off a bright purple light. It felt warm, and tingled against the tiny bit of exposed skin. It was supposed to be a high end gadget that used a special UV light and sonic stuff to sterilize their skin and clothes. Usually, she hoped it was only skin deep and she wasn't getting her insides fried. Now, she wanted it to turn her into ash just like the rest of the bacteria. Nurses were prepping the equipment, all Pastel had to do was wait.
Dr. Guitterez went to her side. “We're getting the worst patient, a twelve-year-old boy. He was a piece of wood is impaled in his stomach, after he was thrown from the car. I'm going to remove the wood, clean the wound, and you'll heal him. This is time critical, when I tell you to heal him you need to do it immediately.”
“Why don't I just heal him right away?” she asked.
“Do you know what will happen if you heal him with a tree branch sticking out of his stomach?”
She was about to say she did. Then she realized she'd only really healed bruises, infections, and mostly clean cuts. “I- I don't know.”
“Good answer, you're thinking,” the doctor said. “You should always remove as much of the debris from the wound as possible. Your healing power may remove some of the smaller things, and even sterilize larger objects, but the cleaner it is, the better. Cleaning out the wound reduces the chances of infection and chronic pain. If it's a large item, healing can cause the patient to start bleeding internally as whatever it is cuts into their blood vessels, organs or muscle, and will definitely lead to future problems.”
The next few minutes had Pastel nervously waiting as everyone else prepped for the surgery. While she stood out of the way, she tried to get her racing heart out of control. She couldn't screw this up, not this time. She had to do something right.
A siren blared outside, less than a minute later nurses ran into the room pushing a stretcher with a boy on it. His face was deathly pale where it wasn't covered in blood and swollen bruises. A tree branch as thick as Pastel's wrist stuck out from a mound of bandages. Dr. Guitterez started giving orders, and the nurses rushed to do their job.
Pastel didn't understand most of what was being said. She was taking a biology class and a first aid course, she was supposed to take Emergency Healing 101, and Powered Healing after Christmas. None of it had prepared her for actually watching emergency happen right in front of her.
She was going to fuck up.
She was going to do something wrong and someone else was going to die.
What was she doing pretending to be a healer? She didn't belong here. She should just leave, get on a bus to the nearest city and get back on the street corner.
He was going to die.
“Pastel! Come here!” Dr. Guitterez snapped.
She realized the doctor had already called her a few times. Somehow Pastel found her feet moving, taking her to the operating table. Her legs shook with every step, and her mind was screaming at her, but she made it.
“Can you heal him slowly, just a trickle to keep him alive?” the doctor asked, not taking her eyes off the large, bleeding wound that seemed to cover the boy's stomach.
“I- Yes,” she said. “I n-need to take off my glove.”
Taking the glove off, she put her hand on the only part of the boy she could touch his foot. He was icy cold. She opened herself to her power, she felt echoes of the injuries in her own body. The concussion was easy to figure out, she'd healed a lot of those, the feeling of numbness in her head was practically an old friend. The snapped bone just under her eye felt bad, it actually stung a little. Her entire right arm seemed to go to sleep with the painful pins and needles sensation, it was shattered. Tingling covered most of her skin, those were bruises, if the boy was conscious he would barely be able to move.
Then she gasped as fire filled her stomach. Torn intestines writhed within her. Bile, blood and shit burned her. Veins were torn and shredded. Splinters from the tree branch filled her, piercing her organs and flesh. Beneath it all she felt his life slipping away.
The need to heal him, to end the painful and ugly sensations filled her. She absorbed the filth, feeling the veins knit themselves together. Organs filled in the tears and holes. Bone went from being little more than powder to larger chunks that twisted and moved, forming a properly shaped forearm and bicep
“Too fast. Slow down, Pastel”
Stupid cunt! Pastel swore at herself. Biting her lip hard enough to draw blood she forced herself to control the healing. Too much blood was still coming from veins in his stomach. She focused on those, letting the smaller ones bleed, ignoring the half healed arm, the bruises and the concussion.
The wounds felt filthy as they filled her. Usually it was so fast, she didn't notice it once it started. But this slow method, she'd only done it a few times while getting tested, it was like trying to pee with a full bladder, while making it come out a drop at a time. The muck and death dragged itself over her skin, leaving her feeling dirty and coated in slime. It made itself at home inside of her, finding her a perfect host. She was already soiled, what was a little more shit.
Dr. Guitterez leaned back from the table. “Pastel you can heal him.”
She opened the gates once again. Her greenish-black hand sucked in the injuries, healing the boy completely in less than a minute. If she concentrated she could feel the filth coating her arm and most of her torso. She'd need to get rid of it before it released it's poison inside of her.
“Pastel, you did great for your first time,” Dr. Guitterez said. With her mask still on, it was impossible to see the smile, but Pastel heard it. She continued, “He might have died without you, and he would certainly be looking at months of recovery and more surgery to fix the organ damage. Go get washed up, there's a cage full of rats for you to release all of that stuff, then go home and relax, you earned it. But come by tomorrow after class, we'll have a little party for everyone, you'll be the guest of honour.”
“Yeah, sure,” Pastel said.
Leaving the operating room, she stripped out of her outfit. The doctor was lying about how well she'd done. She hadn't been able to pay attention and hadn't heard Dr. Guitterez tell her to come over. Then she'd been healing him too fast. It was a miracle the boy had survived. Why couldn't she do anything right?
Once she finished washing up, she practically dragged her feet going down the hall to where they kept the animals. They'd never kept animals there before, they were a new addition all for her. Just something else she could kill.
So she really was good for two things, fucking and killing.
Sitting down next to the cage where a dozen lab rats waited to die, she broke down in tears.
“Hey, you OK?” a woman asked.
“Go away,” Pastel said, not looking up.
“I saw you in the hallway, it looked like you need someone to talk to.”
“Don't you understand English, fuck off!”
She heard something tapping against the floor, then a chair was dragged over to her. Looking up, she saw a short woman with brown hair and pink glasses, she was holding a white cane. The cane and glasses let her know who it was, Shisa sometimes talked about the blind psychic teacher, Dr. Chance.
Despite being blind, the woman reached straight for her hand.
“DON'T TOUCH ME!” she shouted, jerking her hand away.
Dr. Chance pulled her hand back. “All right. I'm guessing you're Pastel. I can only see your aura and we haven't been properly introduced.”
“The darkness in your aura, you need to let it out, right?”
She'd never heard it described like that before. “Yeah. If you touch me, it might go out into you. It really hurts.”
The woman nodded. “And you don't want to hurt anything right now. It must be hard having a power like that.”
“How do you know that?”
“I can see your emotions. Right now they're pretty dark. And you were sitting in here crying for over five minutes, without even noticing me.”
Wiping her eyes, Pastel glared at the woman, for all the good it did. “Why are you even here?”
“I'm a healer, I'm also a medical doctor who can perform psychic surgery. When they got the call, they asked me to come in and help out. It was more interesting than grading papers in my office.”
“No, why are you in here with me?”
“I saw you in the hallway. When I saw your aura I thought I should make sure you weren't about to do anything drastic.”
“Isn't that against your psychic code of honour or something?”
She shrugged. “Not really. As long as I don't tell anyone else you're on the edge of being suicidal, I can talk with you if I want.”
“I'm not suicidal.” Even as Pastel said it, she wondered if that was really true.
“I said you were on the edge. I've seen you with Shisa sometimes. You're usually pretty down, but nothing like this.” Dr. Chance tilted her head, looking at Pastel with her white eyes. “You were the healer who tried to help that girl on Friday.”
Anger at being reminded of Sterling flared up, only to die back down. She just felt tired, and useless, and all alone. Everyone had left her alone all day, except the fucking nun who kept getting in her face. And even though she wanted everyone to just forget she existed, it had hurt.
She found herself crying again, and talking, which she hadn't planned. “I felt her slip away. She didn't try to fight, she just let herself die! And I wasn't good enough to save her!”
The next thing she knew, she was being hugged. She was about to push the woman away, but the hug felt good. There was none of the baggage that she had with her parents. It wasn't the friendly hugs she sometimes got from other girls. It definitely wasn't the lust filled hug of the boy she'd fucked the other day. It was someone who could be her aunt just holding her, not judging her, not caring that she was filthy, a failure, or a killer.
Hesitantly, afraid that she'd do something wrong, she hugged the woman back. Then she began to cry even harder.
When she finally stopped crying, she let go of Dr. Chance. “How come I didn't hurt you?” she asked.
The doctor took a tissue from her pocket and handed it over. “Here, try to dry your face. You must look like a mess.”
Wiping her eyes, Pastel asked again. “You should have been screaming on the floor? What did you do?”
“I can control auras a little. I just made sure the part of yours which is holding whatever it is you take from injured people, didn't touch mine. It was... odd, but easier than psychic healing.”
Looking at her hand which still looked like rotten meat, Pastel sighed and reached for the rat cage. “I should get rid of this.”
The doctor stopped her. “I don't think you're up for that. Can I try something?”
“Maybe I can heal it. It seems to be in your aura, it can't hurt to try and it will only take a few minutes.”
Pastel looked at the rats, who were sleeping in their cage, then at the doctor. It probably wouldn't work, but it was worth a shot. “OK, what do I do?”
Standing up, Doctor Chance said, “Just stay still and try to relax.”
Pastel clasped her hands together, still afraid of touching the woman by accident. She got confused as Doctor Chance began stroking the air around her, not quite touching her skin or clothes. It tickled, Pastel wasn't sure if that was from her aura being messed with, or just the weirdness of it all. It reminded her of a friend her parents had, who claimed he could cure people with his mind. He hadn't been able to get rid of her cold when he'd tried to heal her.
And then the greenish-black began to fade from her hand. She felt the filth slowly lift away from her body, leaving her feeling clean again. It took all her willpower to stay still. And then it was done.
Doctor Chance stumbled and reached in the general direction of her chair. Pastel took her hand and placed it on the arm rest for her. “Are you OK?”
“Whoo, that was harder than I thought it would be,” the doctor said, dropping into the seat with sweat beading up on her forehead. “If you really need it, I'll do it again, but it's not going to be an everyday thing.”
“Thanks. I didn't know anyone could do that?” She felt better than she had in days. Actually she was feeling better than she had in over a year. It was quickly fading, but she felt almost like her old self.
“You deserve it, you've helped a lot of people since you got here. It was time you got some in return. Now, about Sterling, have you gotten any help?”
Her eyes went to her lap. “People keep trying to get me talking about her, but none of them know what it's like. I'm supposed to be a healer. That's the only good thing I can do. And I couldn't save her.”
“Damn. You got thrown into the deep end.”
“What do you mean?” Pastel asked.
“Doctors and nurses get training to help people, and usually time to learn coping strategies when we lose patients. It's never easy, but we're adults and at least have a clue. You're still a kid-”
Pastel snorted. “I'm not a kid.”
Doctor Chance put a hand on her shoulder, and somehow looked her right in the eye. “I know you haven't had it easy. Shisa has talked to my uncle, and they've compared some of their stories from the streets, so I can guess what it was like for you. But despite everything, you're still young, and you haven't learned good coping strategies. Have you seen a therapist?”
She nodded, then realized that was probably useless. “Yeah.”
“Has she worked with you on dealing with things like patients dying or not healing properly?”
“She's been more concerned with making sure I settle into a routine and relearn how to...” she waved her hand around not sure what to say. “Just how do everything like I'm supposed to.”
“All right.” Dr. Chance tapped her free hand on her knee. “Are you free on Wednesday nights, just for an hour or two?”
“Yeah, usually. Why?”
“You and I are going to meet up in my office and talk. I'm going to teach you how to handle being a healer, and we can share war stories, or talk about anything you want. Sound good?”
She wanted to say no. This was just going to be like talking to Dr. Markham. But something seemed different, she found herself nodding. And then she blushed, at screwing up again. “OK.”
“Great. Now, I'm exhausted, and I can see that you're tired too. So, let's both get back home and take it easy for the night. Do you have any money on you?” the doctor asked.
The doctor reached into her jacket and pulled out some money. She felt the corners of each one, which Pastel saw were bent, until she came to a five dollar bill. Putting the rest away, she held out the cash. “Here, stop at the store or a vending machine and get yourself something tasty. You earned it.”
“Thanks,” Pastel said taking it and shoving it into her pants pocket.
“Now get to your cottage and take it easy, doctors orders.”
“OK,” Pastel said. “Thanks. For everything.”
Leaving the room, Pastel felt better. The sadness and anger were slowly coming back, but it felt bearable. She didn't want to just have everything end anymore, and she should be able to at least act normally. There wasn't a spring in her step, but it didn't feel like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders anymore.
Heading for the tunnels, she wondered how she'd apologize to Shisa.
Dr. Chance stepped into Dr. Carmelita Guitterez's office, and let out a gasp of pain.
“What happened, Katherine?” Carmelita asked. “Did she hit you?”
“No,” Katherine said, fumbling for a chair that she knew should be close by. When she found it, she collapsed into the seat, gasping again as pain lanced through her. “I just took in whatever the hell she gets when she heals someone. And I have no idea how to get rid of it, other than absorbing it in a trickle. Dammit that hurts.”
“So will she be OK? Even after she saved the day, she was acting like the boy had died.”
“I'm glad you called me. Her aura was almost black. She was on the edge of a breakdown if she was lucky, worse if she wasn't.”
“I talked to her, managed to get her off the edge. Provided nothing bad happens, and she keeps talking to me, her therapist and her friends, she should get back to whatever counts as normal for her. From what I've seen, it's not exactly a happy place, but it's something she can handle.”
“You did that just by talking? I thought you'd have to use your powers.”
“Dr. Guitterez, altering someones emotions by use of my psychic powers would violate psychic ethics. Since I teach that class, it would set a very bad precedence if I didn't follow it.” Katherine said, very carefully not saying that she hadn't done just that. Sometimes rules needed to be broken, it was simply a matter of ensuring there was a very good reason and plausible deniability when those times came up.
She winced again as pain erupted once again. It felt like her nerves had been on fire for a second. “Carmelita, can you prescribe me some strong pain killers. The strongest you can safely give me, I think I'm going to be in for a very bad night.”
While her colleague wrote out the prescription, Katherine cursed again as her muscles spasmed. She vowed to never again do something like she'd just done, mixing mutant powers was not a wise move. She managed to grin, this was definitely karma for breaking several rules for psychics.
Almost Lights Out
Knocking on the door, Pastel hoped that Shisa was actually in her room and not hunting in the woods, or hanging out somewhere else. The fuzz butt seemed to consider her room a place to keep her stuff, not really for sleeping or hanging out in.
Nyx answered the door. “What's up?”
“Is Shisa here?” Pastel asked.
“Yeah, she hasn't left all evening, and she's... not happy. Maybe you can get her out of her snit, I'm getting sick of her playing her videos. Let me grab my toothbrush and you can talk to her for a few minutes.” The girl grabbed a bag of toiletries hanging beside the door and slipped past her.
Pastel stepped into the room, Shisa watched her from her seat on the desk. She'd paused what looked like a girl giving a speech about something. Judging by how her friend's tail was flipping back and forth, she was pissed.
There was no point in wasting time. Pastel started talking. “Shisa, I'm sorry. I was a bitch, more than usual. You saved my life, and you put up with me, I shouldn't have said what I did yesterday. If you hate me, I understand.”
Shisa watched her, like only a cat could, stretching out the awkward moment for all it was worth. Then she flicked a finger.
Pastel jumped as an invisible foot kicked her ass. Rubbing her butt, trying to make it stop hurting, she glared at the cat. “Damn! Did you have to do it so hard? I said I was sorry!”
“That was for being a dumb ass and not talking,” Shisa said. Then she slapped the air.
Something flicked her forehead, it barely stung.
“That is for the insult.”
Wincing in pain, still rubbing her backside, Pastel cursed, mostly to herself. “So, are we good?”
“Mostly. Tomorrow, you apologize to Helsing and Emiko.”
She groaned at the thought of that. The worst part was they'd probably accept the apology. “Fine.”
“Good.” Shisa jumped at Pastel, slowing down just before they collided and gave her a hug. “You made me worry. Don't do it again,” the cat said.
“I'll try,” Pastel said. Even though her ass hurt, and she knew her current good mood wouldn't last, at least she still had Shisa. Not everything sucked in the world.