Author's Note: This is a short little interlude from Monica's point of view, with a bit of a songfic from Nickelback's "Savin' Me," whom I don't own.
Interlude: Saving Me
Prison gates won't open up for me
On these hands and knees I'm crawlin'
It wasn’t love at first sight. My first sight of him was behind a wall of fire after battling through a jungle of possessed vines. He was protecting our prey, and was more than angry enough to burn us all to death. He attacked us without mercy, once Cutter and I provoked him. And he had no hesitation about sending Speed out to nearly suffocate me.
No, it wasn’t love at all. At that point, I was afraid of him. Not of the pain, of the damage. Pain ceased to have meaning for me shortly after my grandmother died. But having to deal with injury, that was something entirely different. It took Cutter months to get her mobility back, and she was far tougher than me.
Maybe the academy knew that; they loved to test students beyond their comfort levels. That was probably one of the reasons they sent me to spy in Maxville. It wasn’t just because I was the sanest; it was because the mission would make me more able to cope with fear.
I thank them for that now.
Well I'm terrified of these four walls
The same message for week after week, “Observe these heroes, and report their timing and response.” Again and again. I should have been angry. Instead all I could muster up was a vague irritation. Feeling anything too much gave me a feeling of panic, as if someone was watching and would punish me for it. It got better as time went on, but with each message from the academy, it reminded me of whom I belonged to.
My powers only worked right if I kept using them. That was how I kept them under control. I had powers no hero would use, and they would surely jail me for being what I was. I had no reason to doubt the academy. Everything they had told me came true, in one way or another. Why should I doubt them?
But nearly nine months out of contact will dull even the sharpest edge of fear. The academy is a pressure cooker, the better to focus the energy of its students, but you can’t deny they get results. Even away from the constant fear of the academy, I found a lot of use in what they taught me. And it was easier to do without the fear.
I thank them for that too.
These iron bars can't hold my soul in
He still frightened me when we met again. There had been no warning that he was going to join the real world, and certainly none that he would end up at my job. He was so angry… I expected him to take me in immediately. I honestly expected to be in jail that very night. All I knew about the Bureau was what the academy had told me, and none of that was good. I expected horrors from them, above and beyond anything I had endured before. So I used the last weapon I had left; words.
Subtle threats were second nature, but fear of exposure wouldn’t keep him at bay. And I honestly didn’t want to spend so much time with someone who would hate me. When I had tortured students for the academy, I never had to spend time with them except when I was in control. Being at someone else’s mercy was new and unsettling. I only had one thing to offer him to keep him from rethinking his decision. I couldn’t tell him about the academy, and I had no elaborate lies planned. So I set out to distract him with truth.
It was only my intention to have him not hate me. I didn’t intend to turn away from everything I had become. I never intended to like him. I never intended to fall in love.
Heaven's gates won't open up for me
I started to help him be a hero purely out of a desire to keep him from picking at me further. It was better for me to give him answers before there were questions, or to only give him answers to make him think and not tear at me deeper. The only answers I had were those of my own family, and so that’s what I had to give him.
He unsettled me. I had expected him to be more arrogant, more cruel. But he treated me more fairly as his enemy than I had been treated in four years at the academy as a student and teacher. And that baffled me. Everything I had learned told me one thing, but how he acted was another thing entirely.
He actually trusted me. He answered his emergency phone in front of me. No one had given me trust in a very long time, and I found I liked it. So I helped. I covered for him when he was off saving people, I drove him to his rescues, I even pinpointed villains for him. We actually worked together as normal people, something I hadn’t done in a very long time.
I would have liked him for that alone.
With these broken wings I'm fallin'
He made me use my powers for something I hadn’t done for years, to use them to help and not to harm. I helped him use his abilities more wisely, for both of our sakes. And that was the turning point. I had been using my powers on occasional unsuspecting and unconscious patients, but I hadn’t since Warren had been partnered with me.
He called me on it, hammered me with impassioned logic, and everything I thought I knew suddenly fell out from under me. Backlash set in, he brought me out of it, and nearly devastated me with what he had figured out.
Hurry I'm fallin', I'm fallin'
I could thank Joy instead for putting my mind back together. But Warren was the one that woke me up to what had happened to me in the first place. He had ripped me open with knives, and could have left me bleeding, knowing he had removed an agent from the ranks of the enemy. Instead he brought everything to bear to help me, even at the cost of humiliation and pain.
Show me what it's like
To be the last one standing
I learned more about superheroes from him in one month than I had in four years at the academy. I learned their philosophies, their reasons, their methods and plans, all focused through his eyes. He looked at a lot of angles, checking things from all sides. He was no idealist, which made things easier to accept than from one of his innocent, wide-eyed friends.
And teach me wrong from right
I had never spent so much time thinking and analyzing every part of myself, putting myself in a thousand scenarios, trying to figure out the best “right” way to help. And I found myself enjoying it, even if it made me want to scream with frustration sometimes. I even surprised him once or twice with my answers, in a good way. I had the advantage of distance from actual hero work, a luxury he didn’t have.
And I'll show you what I can be
I admired him for what he was doing, and was grateful to him for helping me. He was fair, even-handed, patient, intelligent, passionate, and kind. And also gorgeous. I may have been in supervillain rehabilitation, but I wasn’t dead.
There were also times when I wanted to kill him, or at least hear him scream. Sometimes it was just from sheer frustration, but other times it was when he kept trying to keep me on the straight and narrow. What if your “straight and narrow” is too small? What happens when you fall? I wanted to ask him. But I didn’t. If the good path was so easy to tread, more people would do it.
I had had a life. I had had a philosophy. I hadn’t been good, but I had been skilled, respected by way of fear, if not love. But now everything I was had to change. Nothing I had been was good enough anymore. Why do I have to change everything? Shouldn’t there be a compromise? What is he risking? What is he changing? I had asked myself. It hurt, knowing there was only so much respect I could gain in his eyes by being what I was. It was what I was becoming that he was beginning to respect.
And I wasn’t sure if I even liked that person yet.
All I need is you
But when he faced Hammerfist, all frustrations were cast aside. Yes, he was on a high horse, but he could have been dragged off by anyone that knew what he was doing. And regardless, he still let me help him.
I wanted his respect. He could have quit on me at any time, danger be damned, if he said the right things to the right people. I may not have known if I liked who I was becoming yet, but I didn’t think I’d ever learn if I stopped in the middle. And if Warren died, I wasn’t sure what the hell I would do.
I didn’t even think when I saw the bullets fly. Part of me wanted revenge if he was truly dead. And the rest of me was crying when I saw him go down.
Maybe I had fallen in love with my rescuer a little bit. But I would be no princess in an ivory tower, to need saving at every opportunity. If he had died, I would have gone down in an act of heroism. If he hadn’t… I would have dealt with it then.
Then I broke down in front of him, again. Hammerfist had been captured, and I realized I would never be able to openly help him. I hadn’t realized how much it meant to me, how much he had rubbed off on me. Then he kissed me.
His kiss was like fire; I hadn’t expected it to be any other way. But it wasn’t just physical heat, it had been the tenderness, the genuine care, the lack of fear, and the sheer trust that made me want to burst into tears again. I don’t know if he’d thought less of me if I’d been weepier, but some academy training still held. You don’t go around crying at everything, not if you want to live, even if it’s enough to break you.
And oh I scream for you
I had never had a partner before, someone that would watch my back while I was fighting, who needed my help occasionally, who wasn’t too proud to ask, even if he was strong enough to take on most things on his own. Cutter had been no partner; she had been the team leader and I had been her shadow, nothing more.
Even when we had to separate so I wouldn’t be caught, I was a hundred times more comfortable with him than I had been at the academy. That pained me sometimes; that I had wasted so much of my life on them. I found myself trying to justify things I had done, facts I had learned, just so it wouldn’t seem so much like I had made such a huge mistake for so long.
That was something I kept to myself though.
Say it for me
Say it to me
And I'll leave this life behind me
Say it if it's worth saving me
That night in the sanctum, I hadn’t intended to say I loved him. I hadn’t quite intended to ambush him that way. I had wanted to let him know how much I cared; even if everything was driving me crazy, he still meant more to me than anyone ever had. If his friend hadn’t interrupted, maybe things would have gone better. But I wasn’t totally disappointed in the outcome. Even if I wasn’t sure exactly how I thought or felt about everything, just knowing he cared about me as much as I did gave me more strength than I thought possible.
It turned out I needed it.
The academy had faded to a ghostly specter in my mind, but once they ramped up their threats, I quickly found that even love couldn’t grant me the peace I wanted. The academy had to go. And now I actually had the motivation to want to do it. This was a task for a host of heroes, but I only had him and me.
It would have to be enough.
He doesn’t know my plan, but he said he trusts me. He might not like it. And he might not like how it turns out either. The academy was my home, my life, and my driving principle for four very intense years. They gave me knowledge and gifts that he isn’t even aware of, things that make me what I am. And I would not be a betrayer.
Warren finished what they started, but I would only be complete when we could get through this together. I know it wouldn’t be what he expected.
I only hope he won’t hate me when he wakes up.Help me, I’m fallin’