Friday, July 28, 2017

Excerpt - Titans Together: "Retreat"


Marcus leaned back in his black leather seat. His palms rested gently but firmly on the steering wheel as he guided the beautiful silver Porsche Carrera around a curve. They were a few hundred feet above the ocean. One glance out the passenger window showcased a gorgeous view of the sunset and a sheer cliff that dropped right into the ocean waves. The pounding of the surf was just a little quieter than the revving engine as Marcus put on the gas as he exited the turn.

He let a sigh of pleasure escape. Inside this car, nothing else mattered but him and the road. The formidable Seris Foraza couldn’t faze him. It was just him and the Porshe, taming the road.

Marcus eased into another turn.

“You didn’t completely ruin that last mission,” Seris murmured as she gazed out her window.

Marcus sighed again, though this time in exasperation rather than delight. Maybe the formidable Seris Foraza could ruin the moment, after all. “I was wondering how long it was going to be until we started to talk business.”

Seris turned in her seat to look forward once more, and she lightly gestured to his left. There was a turnoff just ahead, angling back toward town. Marcus guided the Porsche that way.

“Was it really that obvious?”

“Please,” Marcus rolled his eyes, slowing down to match the speed the new outcropping of speed limit signs yelled at him to obey. “You don’t let me take a joyride for no reason.” He switched into the oncoming traffic lane to slide past a family in an Escalade. “Either I did something very right, or you wanted to get away.”

To his surprise, Seris was silent as he resumed his lane and slowed the car further. They were being funneled into a park of some sort, from the look of it. There was only one other car sitting in the gravel parking lot, inhabited by a pair of rabid teenagers. He parked the Porsche as far away from their clunker as possible.

The salt-laden sea breeze was threatening to take Marcus’s straw fedora off his head, so he popped it off and tossed it on the front seat of the Porsche. He turned to find his mother was already strolling away from the car.

Without a word, Marcus followed.


“…I suppose I did need a retreat, if only for a moment.”

Palm trees swayed in the breeze as the air turned a few degrees cooler. The sky was tinged with orange and purple and pinks, tinting further the Forazas’ tanned skin.

Marcus jammed his hands in his shorts pockets and leaned his back against a palm tree.

“This kind of job isn’t for everyone,” Seris began softly.

Marcus smirked as he squinted toward the sunset. “Real profound there, Mother.”

Seris glanced at him, but to his surprise, it wasn’t disapprovingly. She must not have been in one of her “moods” tonight. “You have to find the right ways to deal with the pressures. The stress.”

Marcus sighed and scratched the back of his neck. “So we drove out in the middle of nowhere for life lessons?” He stood up straight and turned to fully face her. “Look, I don’t really want to drag this out for another couple of hours, so can we just cut to the chase now? What did you really bring me out here to say?”

Her face was, as usual, unreadable. “For one, you’ve been doing much better since our prior talk about your behavior. And for that, I want to thank you.”

Marcus scoffed and shook his head, staring back out at the sunset. “Yeah, anything to make you look good, Mom…”

Seris cast him a look, but she continued, “And, contrary to what I said in the office, I am proud of you. You are becoming a powerful young man… and an intriguing tactician. Your more recent missions are evidence of that. You chose a well-rounded team of agents, you analyzed the situation before leaping into action, and although you weren’t physically present for much of the battle, had Bellifonte not arrived, I would have been eager to see how you performed in battle.”

“Right. Thanks.”

Seris pursed her lips. Apparently he’d cut her monologue short, and she didn’t look pleased about it. She rubbed her forehead, grimaced, and finally, then came the snap. “I’m not an idiot, Marcus. I know when you’re upset with me. So are you going to continue this immature tirade, or are you going to tell me what on Earth is going on?”

Marcus looked back up. His mother was glaring at him. He laughed and threw his arms open wide. “Am I going to tell you what’s going on?” He shot her a sarcastic smile in response. “Right. Cute.”

The smile disappeared as quickly as it had come. Marcus scowled right back at his mother. “When exactly were you planning on telling me about her?”

Seris’s voice softened, but her face was now a mixture of confusion and worry. “What are you talking about?”

“You know what I’m talking about! Don’t you dare make me spell it out for you!” Marcus shouted. He took a breath to calm his voice. “What, you thought I wouldn't find out? Oh, sure, I’ll overlook that Titan running around who happens to have the same powers as me. The same. Exact. Powers. She’s even got Uncle Ozida’s eyes—oh, yeah, trust me, I got plenty of those as a kid to recognize them when I see them. And, as if that weren’t enough, she looks just like you!”

Seris was silent and deathly still. Her face had even grown a little pale.

“Oh, don’t sit there pulling the innocent act. Did you get lost in all your scheming? Just so happened to forget that I’m half Orodenian too? You know, just because you hate where you came from doesn’t erase the fact that I feel your emotions just as strongly as you feel mine. You can’t just ignore me. You can’t just pretend I’m not your son!”

She still had nothing to say. Seris glanced away.

“No, look at me when I’m talking to you! The least you can do is acknowledge me when no one else is around!” Marcus yelled. “I could hear you! I could feel you were thinking about her, for weeks now! How did you find out that I knew? It was your pet snake, wasn’t it? You’ve been sending her to spy on me twenty-four seven. ‘Been doing much better’? You still don’t trust me! We’re part of a villain organization. Parricide comes with the territory; I can’t fault you for that. But not telling me that I have a sister?

“Stop.”

Marcus was panting. Seris was pale as a sheet. She clenched her fists at her side.

“Just stop.”

Marcus shook his head and glanced away. “...Why?”

“Because I thought your sister was dead.”

He turned back to her. Seris was staring at him, tears filling her eyes. He had never, ever heard her voice crack like it had just now, with that admission.

“You were twins. She was born sixty-two minutes before you.”

Marcus closed his eyes and leaned back against the palm tree. He rubbed his temple and sighed heavily.

“You were both beautiful. Perfect. Your father and I were so happy…” She was whispering now, covering her mouth with one hand so he could barely hear her. The tears started to trickle down her face. “Thalia. Thalia Rose and Marcus Damon.”

“We’re twins?”

Seris looked up at Marcus and shook her head. “You were. I… I don’t know now.”

“How did she end up here, before we even came back?”

Seris shook her head again. “I don’t know.” She gazed back out across the ocean. He could see her chin trembling. “You were only seven months old. It was August fourteenth. We’d put you both down for bed for the night. We were living in the Brotherhood tower. I still don’t know how they…” Her voice faltered for a moment, but she closed her eyes, took a deep breath to stay in control. “We heard you fussing. It was my turn to check on you. But I walked into the room, and…” Seris swallowed, as she barely managed to whisper, “She was gone.

“We used every resource we could to find her, to locate the man who had taken her. But he left no trace. He had just… vanished.

“We waited in agony. I kept waiting for the blackmail, the ransom notes, the announcement she was dead. But we didn’t hear anything. There was nothing, nothing. And… and you were growing up. Years were going by. And I thought… we would have found something. Would have heard something. I couldn’t live with the hope any more. It was too painful. So I stopped hoping. We held a ceremony for her, and we tried not to talk about it. It would have… upset you as a child.”

Marcus just stared at her. “Because it’s not upsetting now.”

“I just wanted you to live a normal childhood. Not wandering the halls haunted by your sister.”

He shook his head, incredulous. “There was nothing normal about my childhood…”

Seris turned and looked up at Marcus, her brow furrowed. “What do you mean?”

Marcus rolled his eyes. “Mom, I was a Brotherhood brat who was groomed to be an international superspy and human weapon to be used in taking down meta-human organizations. You can’t get much less ‘normal’ than that.”

Shaking her head, she chuckled grimly. “If you’re going to complain about that, you’re not going to gain much sympathy. That was the best of any agents’ childhood.”

Marcus shook his head and shrugged. “Yeah, of course you’re going there.” He spat and shook his head, standing up straight and marching back toward the car. “I don’t need to listen to this…”

“Marcus.”

He paused mid-stride. He glanced up at the sky, sighing. “What?”

He could hear her approaching from behind. One step. Then another, crunching the grass and gravel underfoot. “If you have more to say to me, you need to say it now.” Her voice was soft, low and even.

Marcus shrugged in exasperation. “What could I possibly say to you?” He spun around, his arms open wide. “What? Every word I say gets thrown back in my face anyway.” Marcus strolled back toward his mother, his tone thick with more sarcasm than even he usually used. “Why should I bother any more? Hm? What could I possibly have to contribute that would be worthy of the great Seris Foraza’s approval?”

Seris watched as he approached her, her arms passively at her sides, even as he could see her eyes burning, feel her emotions raging like the waves smashing against the cliff below them.

By the time he stopped, he was a foot away from his mother. He towered over her, seven inches taller and with a good thirty pounds’ worth more muscle. She just stared up at him, frowning.

No fear. She would never fear him.

“You know what my real problem with you is, mother dear?” He finally found the words to growl. He clenched his fist to contain its trembling in anger. “You married him.

It broke the dam of emotions, and the whole mixture spilled. Elation. Infatuation. Hope. And pain. Lots of pain.

Marcus turned away, disgusted.

To his surprise, Seris actually took her time in phrasing her response. She was silent for a long stretch of time, before replying in a softer voice than he’d heard in the past ten years. “He did love you, Marcus.”

“Don’t talk to me about love. That worthless drunk didn’t know the meaning of the word.”

“But he did. You just choose not to remember.”

No, that was too much. “Remember?” he hissed. He shook his head, but wasn’t sure where to turn. He just had to look somewhere else, or he was going to hit her. Marcus shoved his hands into his pockets. “No, I suppose I don’t remember…” It was like arsenic laced his voice.

With a roar, he flung out one hand. Shadows erupted from his fist, slashing through the palm trees at Seris’s side and tearing through a good mile of forest behind them.

“I don’t remember how he spent every other night in someone else’s bed because you told him not to come home inebriated. I don’t remember how the other nights he was out late riding that big black Harley, picking fights. I don’t remember the smell on his breath, or his bloodshot eyes, or the way his voice distorted every time he got angry and was about to start beating on me again to take out his anger.”

He paused, taking a shaky breath. Shadows were warping and wrapping around his body, crackling from the ground and distorting the air like the haze of a fire. He flicked his wrist, and the shadows snapped back into the ground.

“No, I don’t remember the day he finally snapped and let the demon consume him…”

“Don’t,” Seris said again, but this time, her voice quavered. “Don’t… That wasn’t him. That was not him...”

“Enough of him left to tear apart his own son.” The fist-clenching hadn’t helped. He was now shaking from head to foot. “Do you remember what my broken body looked like when they brought me back? All the burn marks from his powers. Broken nose. Broken arm. Broken ribs from when he kicked me while I was lying on the ground, bleeding. And the scars.” He rolled up his left sleeve and right pant leg. A large scar bubbled across his leg, and two thick white scars crossed his arm. “I don’t remember those, either.”

Somewhere in the back of his consciousness, it registered that his mother was now crying. But what did he care? She was the one who married the monster. She was the one who refused to leave him, even after everything he’d done to them…

“He—” Marcus swallowed, grinding his teeth as tears sprang into his eyes. “He said he wanted to drink my blood. His own son.”

He looked up to Seris. Tears had smeared her makeup down her cheeks. Marcus was shaking. Why couldn’t he stop the shaking?! “You knew who he was! And you still married him! You had kids! Why did you have to have me? Us? Why didn’t you get rid of him? Why did I have to be born?!”

She shook her head, biting her bottom lip. “Marcus—”

And that’s when he realized it. He was breaking her heart.

But he couldn’t stop. Hot tears were pouring down his face, too, now. “You have no idea what it was like being me growing up, Mom! I… Every time he got angry, for anything, Uncle Panic took over him. And he—” His voice cracked. “He was even worse than Dad!

She was sobbing. “Marcus, baby…”

“He… do you know how many nights I spent strapped to a gurney with beaming lights pouring down on me, getting my insides cut open and needles stabbed into my eyes and Dad and Uncle Panic laughing? Laughing at me! Those… I still get those nightmares sometimes. Trapped in your own fears! That’s… that is not a normal kid’s life!

His vision blurred from the tears then, so he didn’t see when his mother rushed over to him to wrap her arms around him. He was barely conscious of the fact that he then collapsed to his knees, and she crushed his face against her shoulder as she cradled his head. All he knew was that they were both sobbing.

“Marcus, my baby, my baby…” Seris whispered as she pressed a kiss into his hair. “I’m so sorry, baby. I’m so, so sorry…” She ran her fingers through his hair and rocked back and forth. “I’m so sorry.”

He hated it. He hated this. He hated her, hated his father, hated everything in this world. But all he could do was sit there and cry like that frightened little child he’d been, when there was nothing he could do to fight back.

---
Originally posted on Titans Together, founded by Hufflepuff Moonshoes.

Teen Titans and all related terms are the property of DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Photo: Fort Lauderdale, United States by Karina Carvalho; originally posted on Unsplash.com.


From Him, To Him

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