Sometimes, your hands start to shake when you hold her close. They tremble when you give her a good morning kiss after wrapping your arms around her waist while she’s cooking breakfast. They quake when you see her leave and come back with a bruised eye or bloody knuckles, hidden away with not-quite-strong enough concealer or gloves even when it’s a bit too warm outside to wear them.
Maybe it’s because you’re worried about how she’s getting hurt so many times, protected by flimsy excuses that can be blown down with a whisper. Or that’s what you tell yourself. But deep down inside, you know it’s because of the fear that she’ll leave you once she finds out what you’ve done, and it eats you alive. And god, you don’t ever want her to find out.
Both of you have been hiding things from one another, but it wasn’t hard to figure out what she’s been doing on long nights when she smells of blood and shampoo in an attempt to get rid of the metallic stench seared deep into her skin. When she slips into bed and pulls you closer to her, squeezing a bit too hard not to notice, she believes you’re safe and sound and asleep. What she doesn’t know is that the terror that makes your hands shake is the same that keeps you up until she’s home. Because somehow, you have this amazing and wonderful human being as your girlfriend. Despite everything. And the greediness of times past comes back with a vengeance when you just want to make her stay here wrapped around you so you don’t have to hear her crying alone in the shower anymore.
But you let her go on. The idea of confronting her always is in the back of your mind, but you never let it see anything but the darkness that it resides in. She’ll tell you when she’s ready, you tell yourself. And you promise you’ll tell her about your past when she does.
One day, she doesn’t walk through the door at the usual time she comes home on a work day, yelling a cliche “Honey, I’m here!” that makes you laugh at yourself for how mushy you’ve gotten when your heart beats just a bit faster. So you wait. You put the lumpia you made for dinner on low and sit rigidly in one of the wooden chairs at the dining table and wait. And wait and wait and wait.
She doesn’t come home until mid-afternoon next day.
And god, you see red. You’re shouting at her when she trudges through the doorway, telling her about how worried you’ve been and not noticing the tears until it’s too late. They fall down her flushed and bruised cheeks and you shut your mouth.
It’s a tense silence, one where you stand still as she furiously wipes away at her face. Her eyes meet yours afterwards and a beat later, she crumples down to her knees and the dams break.
You rush forwards and gather her into your arms. She’s sputtering out apologizes about not telling you sooner, but you quiet her cries and kiss her on the forehead, rocking her back and forth in an effort to calm her down.
An hour passes before she tells you everything. It all spills out, about how she woke up one day and broke her apartment door handle before she moved into your place, not realizing that it was locked. About how she researched her powers and managed to find a secret training complex nearby. About how she almost failed her first mission because she reacted too late. You get a small burst of pride when she recalls the time she got her superhero name, Titanium Heart, and a superhero costume to match. You scoff at how little the others regard her when she recounts the jobs the major superheroes don’t want or the ones they can’t do because they’re too busy doing something “more important.” You listen to everything that’s happened from she first started three years ago to today and everything in between.
Your fingers stop running through her hair when she finishes with the latest mission. You try and make do on your promise, but the words can’t come out. She looks at you to gauge your reaction on the unsurprising news and you plaster a fake smile on your face.
You know her goodness was too good for her not to put into use. And deep down, you think it’s still not enough to love a messed up person like you.
So you reassure her that you won’t leave her, the irony almost catching your voice as you do. You will never leave her, but there’s no doubt that she will once she knows.
She tells you that she loves you no matter what and you choke out a reply that seems good enough. She doesn’t love you, she loves quant and normal Kali. A Kali that has a normal life, a normal job working as an architect (once again, the irony doesn’t pass by you when you’re now making beautiful things instead of destroying them), and a normal past. She doesn’t know the other Kali. Nor do you want her to.
You know it’s unfair to go back on a promise, for her to reveal her truths when you let her live with your lies. You know it’s unfair when you let her kiss a liar and a coward. You know it’s unfair when you let her believe something pretend. But you’re too selfish. And maybe that’s why you’ve done all those bad things.
The days where she goes in a mission are now easier to bear now that you know what she’s doing, what she’s capable of. You always knew she was strong, but of course, knowing she can handle the missions Headquarters hands her with ease makes your hands shake less. Just a bit though.
By the time she reaches the fourth year of her being a superhero, you and her have been dating for some time. It’s comfortable, the lives both of you live. You’ve been promoted to the head of the architecture division of the company you’re working for and you settle more into normal Kali’s life. Life is good.
Then after a mission, her first one working with a well-known superhero, she slams open the front door and asks you to marry her. You can tell that the mission left her excited and happy from head to toe, but all you can hear is muffled noises.
When she sees your face, she stops jumping around, smile melting off of her face. You wince at the sight and you prepare yourself for what you’re about to do. After a moment, you ask her if she’s sure she wants to marry you when she doesn’t know your past, when she doesn’t know what your wrath has caused, when she doesn’t know the amount of pain and agony you created. You tell her that you’ve amassed so much fortune from the life you’ve led, that the next time you and your enemy, a hero by the name of Phoen-x, fought, you almost got killed because of it. And as a result, you went off the grid and selfishly live a life that your victims never got to live.
She steps away from you, her face unreadable. A moment later, she turns around and walks away, leaving with your heart and the door wide open. Another passes before you sink to the floor and cry.
You’re roaming around the dimly lit streets, hopelessness and anger running through your veins, slowly choking the Kali that was doomed from the start. You’re wearing your old suit just in case a random guy tries to do something when her superhero costume catches the corner of your eye. She’s surrounded. Badly.
Before you know it, you’re storming down the road and darkness swirls around you like a long lost friend coming back home. You direct some of it towards one of the attackers before punching the face of another and kicking out the legs of a third. You take down each one with ease and by the time you’re done, the ones you haven’t hit ran away. You’re breathing hard and you refuse to look at her. Not when she’s seen you as your worst self.
She calls your name softly. Your resolve breaks and you turn around and stare at her, battered and bruised but alive. You study her, trying to capture how she looks before she tells you to run away and leave her.
It never comes.
You glance at her eyes and through them, you can tell that she hasn’t breathed a word about you to Headquarters. She’s giving you a second chance, but it doesn’t feel right. You don’t deserve a second chance. And it tastes bad in your mouth that a superhero is willing to give the most notorious villain one.
Your voice almost gets stuck in your throat, but you tell her to tell them. You’re done hiding, trying to live an undeserved fairytale.
She looks away when she dials.
Superheroes in the compound whisper about you and your evilness and your villanary. You can hear the disgust in their voices as they talk about The Void. You almost get hit by one of them, but the others pull him away.
You’re lead into a room, an interrogation room from the looks of it, and they attach the chains they’ve cuffed you with onto the table. The guard that moved you to here sneers at you before she leaves. You understand their reactions. You’ve done horrible things after all.
A series of people come into the room, questioning you as a lie detector ticks away the beats of your heart. They ask about what you’ve done and what you’re doing now and all kinds of stuff. You just want them to get on with it already.
But then she comes in. Lela. And your heart just stops and you can’t stop staring and oh god, what is she thinking right now? She sits down, not looking into your searching eyes that examine if the doctors patched her up correctly. She asks you, “Why?” and you let the long overdue truth spill out of you. You tell her that you were angry at everything, that life was unfair when the universe took away your parents, that you had to live in terrible foster homes, that you couldn’t take how everything and everyone in those homes looked broken while people who didn’t deserve a good life got one. You know that these excuses don’t justify your past actions. Your horrendous and atrocious actions.
She leans back, and her eyes bore into yours. You have to force yourself not to look away. Slowly, her face softens.
“I told you she’s changed,” she says quietly to one of the walls, shocking you when it clears up to show a woman in black. Lela takes your hands, her thumb rubbing familiar circles. “You aren’t the past anymore,” she says directly to you. “Yes, you’ve done numerous crimes and it’s going to take a while to learn how to love you again, but I’m not going to leave you.”
You look down at the metal table, shutting your eyes to block the tears that threaten to come out. “You should.”
“It’s going to take some work on your part, but I trust you, Kali.” You look back up to see her gentle smile, the one that makes you soft and happy. “And after a while, we can go back to where we were before I left?”
Maybe you finally deserve a second chance after all. “Okay,” you say, and relief floods your body. “Okay,” you say, and she brings you closer to kiss you.
You thank the day when a hero like her saved a villain like you.