Climbing up the fire escape on Crystal’s building, I rehearsed my apology in my head. Having sisters means knowing when to argue a point and when to just apologize and figure it out later. This was definitely the latter case.
Or so I’d thought. My mind changed the instant I got to the roof and caught sight of Crystal. She was sitting on the AC unit with her face in her hands. The constant spasms told me she was crying even if I couldn’t hear it.
My gut instinct was to get angry – how the heck was this my fault? But I’d no sooner thought it than I realized it wasn’t her fault, either and I had no idea what ‘being commanded’ felt like. I doubted it hurt but it was probably scary as heck. It would certainly freak me out if someone could merely tell me what to do and I’d do it with little or no ability to stop.
I had myself under control by the time I reached her. I knelt beside her and put a hand on her arm, “Crystal?”
She didn’t look up. “What did you do to me?” she asked quietly.
I stifled the urge to sigh, “Wolff says it was a command. I swear I had no idea I was doing it – I didn’t even know I could or that anyone could. I am so sorry…”
“Command?” She looked up finally. The puffy, bloodshot eyes were pained.
I nodded, “Yeah, he said he felt it. He was in my apartment when I got down – that was what took me so long to get here. Anyway, he says it’s possible but he’d never heard of a slayer being able to do it. I didn’t mean to, I swear.”
“Like a creature?” she sounded even more incredulous.
“That’s what he said. You know more about this stuff than I do and he knows more than both of us but it was evidently a new one on him.”
“You can command other slayers?”
I bit my tongue. Now was not the time to become impatient and it was definitely not the time to tell her she was asking silly questions. “I guess – or maybe it was a fluke of some kind. I will call Ethan tomorrow and ask him about it.”
“What kind of slayer can do that?”
I couldn’t decide if that was directed at me or if she was wondering aloud. I shrugged. I honestly didn’t know the answer anyway.
Crystal sighed deeply, “Don’t ever do that to me again.”
I took a long deep breath. I probably should have just lied to her but my parents didn’t raise me that way. “I can’t make that promise.”
It got the reaction I expected. She glared at me, “Why not?”
“Because it might be necessary.” I realized instantly that hadn’t come out right. “I don’t mean for me. Look, we do dangerous stuff, right?”
She gave a curt nod.
I groaned silently, She was mad, all right. “If it came down to doing that or letting someone die, I’m doing it. I’m not gonna watch you or anyone else die if I can help it. That’s just how I am. What I can promise is that I’ll never do it unless I have a danged good reason to…” I couldn’t read her face but I finished anyway, “at least, once I get where I have control over it.”
Time goes so much more slowly when a girl is mad at you. It seemed a couple lifetimes passed in the fifteen seconds or so before she spoke, “I guess… I know you’re right, in my head, but…” She shook her head emphatically, “No, it’s okay. That makes sense, I guess. As long as you don’t do it on purpose without .. a good reason…”
I didn’t like how her voice trailed off, “What?”
She bit her lip. I’d been with her enough to know she was uncertain. “We… you and I… whatever we are… or are gonna be… maybe…”
I nodded. We were in an awkward phase but I knew what she meant, “Got it.”
“This… changes things.”
I blinked, “How?”
“How can… you can’t be partners with a subordinate.”
I had to think for a minute. First because it wasn’t a connection I’d normally have made and then because she had a point. It took me a moment to sort it out, “No, you can’t but that doesn’t change anything. It’s like you talking to swords – something you do sometimes that affects your job; you don’t talk to your sword like a boyfriend, right?”
She chuckled despite herself, “Gwen would pitch a fit. I guess I see where you’re going. But…”
I shook my head, “No buts. You aren’t my subordinate and I’m not stupid enough to mistake my girlfriend for my employee. Er, that is, if we were ever to…”
I could feel my face turn red. Crystal looked at me blankly for a moment then burst out laughing.