She walked with the patience of a wise man even though she could feel fatigue creeping into her bones. The person in her arms deserved a better fate than being merely discovered on the street.
The sun peeked over the horizon, but Gracia was still bathed in darkness. She counted on the darkness to shade her identity, at least somewhat. She knew too many people, and word might get around that she was doing this. To a certain person. A certain person who was heading to bed without her knowledge after nearly killing herself. A certain person with a bad temper and the power of Sunfire. She pushed the person out of her thoughts and strode down Gracia Avenue, trying to keep her gait steady. She was so close. If only she could get there… It was only a few steps away…
Frowning, she called upon her power. If anyone had been watching, they would have seen the tall, raven-haired young woman become a young man of the same height. It weakened her, but she kept on walking. It was too late for her to collapse.
The automatic doors to the Gracia Memorial Hospital Emergency Room slid open seamlessly. The nurse at the desk glanced up. She saw an anxious young man with sweat lining his brow with a dark-haired woman in his arms.
“Help! She needs help. She’s badly hurt.”
The nurse stood as a wandering doctor came down the hall. On alert, the doctor called out for a stretcher. Medical jargon flowed from his lips as the unconscious woman was taken from the arms and put on the stretcher. The blood flow from wound on her shoulder was stopped with gauze while someone checked her pulse.
“What’s her name?” the nurse asked.
She thought for a moment. She could give her whole name, and then the media would find out by the following afternoon—and the certain person who needed to be on a need-to-know basis (who really didn’t need to know). No, she couldn’t do that.
On impulse, she replied, “Amanda. That’s all I know. I found her like this, and I didn’t see anything happen.”
The nurse nodded and gathered up paperwork, prepared to call the police. She looked down, the phone cradled between shoulder and cheek with pen in hand, and dialed the number to the police station. When the nurse got someone on the line, she looked up to ask the helpful, anxious young man a question, but he had vanished. The mysterious Amanda was now in an exam room, alive but not quite aware she was among the living.
Outside, Gretchen Thomas sighed and allowed the disguise to fall away. In the east, the indigo of twilight was being quickly replaced with streaks of sky blue. She wiped the sweat from her brow—for that had been real—and headed home. When she got there, the house was settled, and she guessed that everyone was in bed. Following a whim, she walked up the stairs to one of the guest bedrooms. She opened the door a crack, and light fell upon a prone figure in a deep sleep. His brown hair lay rakishly on the pillow, and his handsome face was still. But she saw the tiniest bit of distress flicker across his face. Feeling intrusive, she closed the door.
Gretchen was too tired to be startled. She turned slowly and was faced with her older sister. So much for everyone being sleep.
“Can we talk later, Moira?” Gretchen moaned, shuffling toward her room. She peeled off her leather jacket and threw it over the banister. “I’m really tired. Whatever it is can wait for at least four hours.”
Backlit by the rising sun, Moira-Selene Eleanor Thomas looked like an irritated angel. She placed a hand on her little sister’s shoulder and stopped her easily. “Don’t be so flippant. I know what you did.”
Gretchen exhaled slowly. She had been expecting this. “I had to do something.”
“Do you know what will happen—?”
Fire burned away the fatigue in Gretchen’s emerald green eyes for a moment. “Don’t you dare stand here at five thirty in the fucking morning and lecture me about something you don’t understand. I did what I did because it was the humane thing to do. I have faith that things will turn out okay—for all of us, including her.”
Torn between understanding and apprehension, Moira-Selene twined her fingers together in a nervous habit. “What if she comes back? What if she is still evil?”
“And what if she doesn’t? What if she isn’t?” Gretchen countered. “Amanda was cleansed, and you have Usagi-chan to thank for that. I don’t think we’re going to be getting any visits from her like you’re expecting.”
“And if we do? What are we going to tell Danie after Danie kills us all?”
Tired again and not willing to argue, Gretchen shook her head and slipped past Moira-Selene. “Then we’ll take it as it comes. Good night, Moira-Selene.”
Watching her sister walk away, Moira-Selene chose to be resigned instead of being exasperated. There was nothing she could do about the situation now. Gretchen had done something that couldn’t be undone. And, as she drifted back to her own room, Moira-Selene realized…that she didn’t want to undo it. Didn’t being a superhero have more to it than just mercilessly crushing the enemy? Wasn’t it about being good in the face of all adversity? About doing the right thing?
Not wanting to analyze it any longer, Moira-Selene trudged to her room and climbed into her boyfriend’s arms. She felt warm and safe but unresolved. She’d think about it more later. It was time for rest now. With that, she fell into a dreamless sleep.
And somewhere, a new light was borne out of forgiveness and hope.