Taiga circles the room slowly, lighting candles with a single touch. “I told you your friends wouldn’t come back for you.”
“They will.” A fire blazes behind the hero’s eyes.
Taiga chuckles, “It’s been four days.”
He smiles, “Then we'd better quit wasting time.” He reaches for her hand and pulls her down on top of him.
“Fintan,” she giggles, landing against his bare chest. “Let me go. Fin!”
Her protests are silenced by his lips on hers. He cups her face, rubbing a thumb across her cheek. A shiver runs through her as the heat of her body meets the ice in his veins. She slides to the side and settles next to him on the couch.
She snatches the remote from his hand. “I won this time. My pick.”
He groans, dropping his head back, “You’ve picked every night.”
“It’s not my fault you pulled your punches.” She winks at him and turns on a hospital drama. “When you win, you pick.”
“When I win, you go to jail.” Fin wraps his arm around Taiga and pulls her against his chest.
“I get out,” she smirks. “With some help from a mysterious partner.”
He snorts. “Yeah. Mysterious.”
“The public would lose it if anyone ever found out about this.” She motions between the two of them.
“You’re not as bad as everyone thinks.” He rolls his eyes.
She narrows her eyes. “I kidnapped a senator's daughter.”
He shrugs and takes a drink of beer. “That guy was an abusive scumbag.”
“Still, there are systems in place for those kinds of things.” Taiga leans forward to pick her glass of wine up from the coffee table.
“The system isn’t always effective.” He grins.
She moves to the other end of the couch, crossing her arms. “I am not a hero. Just drop it.”
“No, you’re definitely not,” he scoffs. “But you could be."
"You could be a villain."
"Nah, I don't have the traumatic childhood."
He slides across the couch and snakes an arm around her shoulder. She immediately relaxes into him.
“I’ve killed people.”
“I wouldn’t call them good people," He chuckles. "And don't think I can't tell it bothers you."
"It doesn't." Her voice is cold, but just an octave too high.
"You've always gotten the job done." He brushes his thumb over her knuckles. "You may fool the rest of the world, but I can tell it gets to you."
“What do I have to do to be a villain to you?” she cries.
“Listen, Ty, you’re just not a bad guy.” He kisses the top of her head.
Her hand trails down his chest. “But I can be a bad girl.”
“You are so gorgeous,” he pants, pressing his lips against hers. His breath blows frost across her skin, though it melts instantly. He combs his fingers through her hair leaving small crystals of ice in their wake.
Fin wakes to a muffled beeping. He rubs a hand down his face and trudges down the hall. He opens a door, and the beeping cuts through the house. He scans the monitors and shakes his head. He rubs his eyes and takes a step closer to the monitors. Making his way back down the hallway, he leans over the bed and kisses Taiga's cheek.
“Hey, baby.” Fin brushes the hair from Taiga’s face. “I think your security system’s broken.”
“What?” She squints her eyes open. “What do you mean?”
“The motion sensor was triggered, but there’s nothing on the cameras.”
“It was probably just a rabbit or something. Lay back down.” She tugs at his wrist.
He takes a deep breath, chewing on his bottom lip. “I’m going to go check.”
“No,” she whines, tightening her grip, “my bed is too warm.”
He laughs and climbs into the bed, wrapping his arms around her. Leaning over, he kisses behind her ear and down her neck.
The light in the hall turns off, leaving them in pitch darkness. Fin springs to his feet. “Believe me now?”
Taiga sits up carefully, and a faint glow radiates from the flame in her hand. Concern covers her face as she steps out of bed, lighting a fire in her other palm. She moves down the hall slowly, Fin on her heels. Every footfall is calculated and sure. She will not be caught off guard in her own home.
She silences him with a glare over her shoulder. When they make it to the living room, she begins lighting candles around the room while Fin flips every light switch he can find. The sparse light from the handful of candles is hardly enough to fill the room. Fin and Taiga stand back to back in the center of the rug, scanning the edges of the room for movement.
The furniture is the only thing visible in the amber light. Taiga lets flames flick up her forearms, scrutinizing every inch of the walls in front of her. Fin wiggles his fingers, letting flurries of snow weave between them. The shadows dancing around the room only add to the tension in their muscles.
“What happened?” Fin glances over his shoulder.
“I don’t know,” Taiga bites.
Lights flash and alarms blare in the hall. Talk stalks quietly toward the sound, ignoring Fin's protest. When she enters the doorway, the alarms go silent, but the monitors continue to illuminate the room. Taiga studies each monitor and sees nothing out of the ordinary.
She turns to leave and stops in her tracks. “Fin!”
She takes a step back when she hears Fin approaching.
“What’s wr-" He slides through the doorway and his eyes go wide.
The word “TRAITOR" stands two feet tall, carved into the wall.
“Taiga,” Fin whispers, breathless, “who…”
“I have more than a few enemies.” She shakes her head. “Why do you think I live alone in the woods?”
The monitors go black, throwing them back into darkness. Taiga grabs Fin’s hand and ignites a small flame in her other palm. She leads him back to the living room by the glow from her skin. She stops at the end of the hall, pressing her back to the wall. The candles have been extinguished.
Fin pulls on her arm, tucking her behind him, before taking another step forward.
She grabs his elbow, whispering, “Fin, you can’t see.”
“Let’s hope they can’t either.” He kisses her hand and dashes into the living room. After a long, silent minute, he calls back, “Baby, I think it’s safe.”
Taiga steps out of the hallway and lets a faint glow spread over her body. She begins relighting the candles with a sigh of relief.
“Whoever it was, they must be gone now.” Fin tries lamp again, huffing when it doesn’t work.
She turns around the room, inspecting every corner. “I don’t know.”
“Come on, it was just some prank.” He pats the cushion next to him. “Now, turn that off so I can cuddle with you.”
She lets the embers on her skin fizzle out and drops on the couch next to him. “I don’t like it.”
“It’s fine.” He chuckles wrapping an arm around her.
She shakes her head, her hair brushing against his shoulder. “That’s easy for you to say. Hero.”
He gives her shoulder a light squeeze. “It’s fine.”
The TV in Taiga’s bedroom flashes to life, sending light and sound streaming out the door. Taiga sits up and swats Fin’s chest, as if to say, ‘I told you so.’ He eases to his feet and stalks to the bedroom.
As he makes his way to the TV, it flashes off. He hears skittering behind him and turns to see the light from Taiga’s body drifting through the doorway. He could swear he saw a shadow run through. He feels his way back across the room.
“Fin?” Taiga gasps from the living room.
Her light blacks out.
Fin sprints through the door, stumbling over shoes on the floor. “Taiga!”
He breaks into the living room and drops to the ground. The light in the kitchen flickers and the microwave turns on. He gropes along the floor, whispering for Taiga. His fingertips skim across her hot skin, and the kitchen goes dark.
“Ty?” He wraps his hand around her ankle. “Get up. We have to go.”
Fin crouches on his toes, and a hand on his shoulder drags him back. He lashes out at the attacker and finds no one. A foot in his chest knocks him into the wall. He unleashes a hailstorm from his fist, blasting back anything in its path. He crawls back to Taiga, barely touching her toes before he hears rustling on the rug in front of him. A heavy object crashes against his skull, toppling him to the side.
He reaches a shaky hand out, resting it on her thigh, and sends a frost up her leg. “Baby, please wake up.”
“Don’t. Touch. Her.” A hand crushes Fin’s wrist, pinning his hand to the carpet.
He recognizes the woman’s voice, but his head is spinning too fast to place it. A knee smashes into his nose before small hands drag him to his feet. He stumbles back, cradling his nose. The blood warms his chilled skin at falls down his face.
“Who are you?” he asks, scanning for movement. He backs himself against the wall and mumbles, “Where are you?”
A cackle comes from the corner as the lights in the hall flash. “You should know, Fin.”
“I-” He rubs the back of his head, still pinching his nose. “I don’t.”
A faint glow emanates from Taiga’s hands.
“Why are you here?” The mystery voice nags at the back of Fin’s mind.
He shakes his head. “What? Why do you care?”
“Her?” The hall goes dark, and the TV in the bedroom comes to life. “I mean, real-”
Taiga rolls onto her side and her hand toward the voice. A wall of flames erupts in front of her. “Get out of my house.” She wipes blood from her brow.
She staggers to Fin’s side. Holding a flame up in one hand, she examines Fin’s face. “Oh, babe.” She runs her fingers along his jaw.
A knife thuds into the wall by Fin’s head. Taiga throws her arm out behind her and the fire disappears. The room falls back into shadow. The glow slowly spreads up Taiga’s arm, spreading light out from the couple.
“Let’s see who you are.” Taiga turns toward the intruder.
Every light in the room flashes on, lamps included. The sudden change blinds Taiga and Fin, forcing them to snap their eyes shut. Glass sprays around the room as light bulbs shatter. Fin pulls Taiga against his chest and buries her face in his shoulder. The room falls back into pitch black.
Fin’s hand remains tangled in Taiga’s hair while they catch their breath. She loosens her arms around Fin’s waist and slowly opens her eyes. The alarms in the control room blare, and Taiga breaks away.
“How could you pick her, Fin?” the voice teases from across the room.
Her body glows red, as runs across the living room and turns toward the hall. A clatter in the kitchen draws her attention, and she turns on her heel, lunging into the kitchen. Fin picks his way through the living room to the rhythm of their punches. Taiga’s fireballs light up the room as she launches them erratically, unable to locate the attacker.
“I said,” she stalks past the sink, “get out.”
She emerges on the other side of the island and screams. She drops to the ground and her light flickers out.
“Taiga!” Fin races into the kitchen, building a hailstorm in front of him.
He sneaks through the kitchen on hands and knees until he finds Taiga’s trembling form. He runs his hand up her hip and across her stomach, following the damp trail of what must be blood. When he finds the source, he presses both hands against her torso. “Do not leave me again.”
She whimpers an agreement and nods, knowing he can’t see her. She eases herself into a seated position next to Fin and leans into his shoulder.
The house breaks into chaos. Every working light flashes like a nightclub. The kitchen appliances buzz to life. The radio on the mantle blasts music through the house. The ceiling fan turns on full speed.
“Fin, I don’t want to burn you.” She pushes away gently and stands on shaky legs.
Her flames only add to the pandemonium. The heat sears Fin’s skin and scorches the ceiling. The strobing lights make it impossible to focus on anything. With every slip into darkness, the intruder’s silhouette seems to teleport across the living room. Taiga throws balls of fire at each appearance, missing by seconds.
Fin pulls her back to the floor, his skin sizzling when he makes contact with her. “Ty, shut it down. It’s not doing any good,” he has to roar over the madness.
As the flame fades, Taiga’s skin cools dramatically. Fin wraps an arm around her and raises the other arm chest level. A blizzard explodes around them. He presses a kiss to her temple and returns pressure to her abdomen. Her breath steams over his neck, short and ragged.
“Fin,” she coughs.
“Hush, baby.” He combs through her hair. “I can hold her off.”
Her body heat fades too quickly. She shivers and coughs again. Her breathing slows and goes cool. Her hand falls limp onto Fin’s lap, and she lets out a quiet whine.
“Taiga?” he whispers into her ear.
“Hm?” Her head rolls to the side.
“I’ll fix you up, baby.”
She smiles up at him. “I love you.”
“I love you,” he chuckles. “Give me just a minute.”
He clenches his fists and sets his jaw. The storm intensifies until it’s impossible to see to the other side. Fin stands, glancing down at Taiga. The storm doesn’t touch her. Her hair doesn’t even flip from the wind. He takes a deep breath and throws his hands up.
Icicles shoot up from the ground in every direction. The storm falls still, leaving puddles on the floor. The TV cuts off. The radio goes silent. The hum of appliances dies out, and the lights slowly flicker back to normal.
Fin turns around slowly, surveying the house. When he sees the assailant impaled by ice, he nearly collapses under the realization.
“Tora,” he gasps, swaying as he makes his way to her.
Without Fin’s control, the ice melts away, and Tora drops to her knees. She clutches her stomach where the blood warms her frozen wound.
“Tora,” he crouches beside her, gently lifting her chin to look in her eyes, “I don’t understand.”
“I came back.” Her voice is fragile. “I saw everything, Fin. Why her?”
“You don’t-” He squeezes his eyes shut, still reeling. “You don’t know her.”
"She does whatever she wants, no matter who it hurts," she pleads.
"She does whatever it takes, no matter what it costs her." Fin corrects, voice hinting at envy.
“She’s our enemy.” Tora coughs. “A villain.”
He shakes his head. “She’s not, though.”
“But Fin,” her cough spatters blood across the tile, “the hero always falls for the sidekick.”
The muted sound of conversation slowly morphs into a hospital drama, Taiga’s favorite. She reaches slowly to her side, scratching at the bandage wrapped around her stomach. Her face twitches as she tries to make her eyes open.
“Fin?” Her throat is raw, and her voice comes out rough and scratchy.
She feels weight on the bed and pressure on her thigh in seconds. “Hey, baby.”
Finally, her eyes flutter open. Her bedroom comes into view, the lamp on her nightstand the only source of light. She raises a hand slowly and rubs her head.
“Fin,” she repeats, “what happened?”
He studies her face with eyes full of concern. “You’ve been out for a few days.”
She nods, as if that explains everything. Truthfully, it’s not entirely uncommon for one of them to wake up bruised and bandaged in the other’s bed. It’s less common to wake up with amnesia in their own room.
He strokes her gently and brushes the back of his hand down her face. “I think we’re on the same team now.”