“I tried Joy! I tried but they wouldn't listen to me!” I sob. “They don’t understand!”
“Her body went in shock and created this reflexively!”
“All of this must be melted immediately. We can't continue if she has that barrier around her, now can we?”
The voices sound far-away, as if a great crevice separated me from them. Unable to get a proper grasp on reality, I feel myself fading away to unconsciousness once more.
I'm jolted awake by searing pain running through every single one of my cells. My vision is hazy and my lips are trembling. I feel as if someone is pulling my soul out of my body with their bare hands. The pain is so acute I can't even bring myself to scream, let alone open my eyes.
“How are her vitals?” I recognize Strife's voice.
“And has she regained consciousness?”
“It appears so.”
“Good. Let's move her to her room and let her body do the rest,” Samson decides, sighing. “This little mishap has us running really late on schedule. It’s been nearly five hours.”
I'm powerless to move as hands lift me off the bed. My arms are placed around shoulders, held in place by warm hands. My head lolls sideways, my feet dragging on the floor as I'm hauled back to my room semi-consciously.
Pain licks my insides every single time I inhale, tiny pinpricks of ice slicing through my throat mercilessly.
I groan feebly as I'm carefully placed on my bed. I open my eyes momentarily, shutting them just as quickly, the whiteness of my surroundings blinding me.
A violent shudder racks my body, freezing my insides. I begin shivering, my teeth chattering as I wrap my aching arms around myself and wish for a spark of warmth. Anything to make this cold go away. I can't help tearing up, the salty droplets pooling into my eyes before I blink them away.
Thinking hurts. Everything hurts. I can’t do anything but lay there and let the pain crash on me like the torrid waves of a relentless tsunami. My ears are buzzing, my skin is frozen.
“I’ll make this all better Meri.”
I manage to open my eyes for mere seconds, getting a glimpse at Liam’s blurry figure.
“No,” I protest weakly but speaking is insufferable. “Samson will see—”
“Harry is taking care of it. I’ve had this planned since my own Discipline is over,” he denies, cutting me off.
“We have to try,” he persists, his warm hands encasing my own. The heat is so welcoming I find myself wanting it everywhere on me. He doesn’t even wait for me to beg him; his hands aim for the source of all this cold: my heart. The second his fingers come into contact with the top of my chest, warmth spreads through me like a wild fire and makes my insides melt. The pain is subsided with something very similar to pleasure and suddenly, it’s like I can breathe again. Like warm honey is running through my veins, soothing them.
Liam breaks the contact, eyes wide in awe.
The feeling of warmth accentuates hastily through my limbs. I suddenly feel so hyper I jump to my feet. My skin is tingling, buzzing alive.
“So it is a two way thing,” he realizes. “I can regenerate--”
“Shh!” I hastily put my hand over his mouth. “There are unwanted ears in here,” I snap. “If you want to keep a secret, this is certainly not the way to do it,” I continue quietly, motioning the speaker on my rooms ceiling.
“How do you feel?” he questions, looking me up and down.
“Restless. Seriously, I feel as if I could run a whole marathon right now,” I admit, breathless with fresh adrenalin. I brusquely punch his shoulder. “You shouldn’t have done it though! It could have been dangerous!” I continue.
“I knew what I was doing.”
“Your heart rate has spiked drastically. Is Liam Payne giving you drugs?” Conscience enquires out of the blue.
Liam frowns, looking down at me.
“She's making assumptions―”
“Last time your heart rate was nearly this high, you blamed Liam Payne,” she defends.
I grit my teeth and clench my fists, blushing furiously.
“You blamed me for you high heart rate?” Liam chuckles.
“Samson should be informed if Liam Payne is giving drugs,” Conscience persists.
“You can't tell Strife anything Conscience. And he is not giving me drugs,” I retort, annoyed.
“Why wouldn't I tell Samson?” Conscience replies. “Give me one good reason, and I might keep this to myself,” the robot voice negotiates.
“You are programmed to take care of my needs, aren't you?” I say. “It's your main function?”
“As well as informing Samson of any anomalies.”
“Well it's not an anomaly. I'm doing exactly what Samson wants: mingling with the others. I'm not used to talking to others and because it makes me nervous, my heart beats faster. That's all,” I state firmly. “There is nothing to report, I've never been better.”
“Alright then. I'm watching you though,” she warns.
Once I'm sure she's on snooze, I punch Liam's shoulder.
“What is wrong with you?! And why weren't you in pain! I saw you get Disciplined!” I whisper-shout in annoyance.
“Two things: a, the first Disciplines are always the longest because Strife takes advantage of the situation to go through useless tests and b, you somehow created a sphere of ice and snow when Strife began the tests, slowing the whole process down drastically. They were still trying to find a way to make the whole thing melt when I got carried out. How did you do that by the way?” he enquires.
“I don't know! It just happened!” I defend myself. “I have absolutely no control over my powers,” I grumble. “I need to punch a wall,” I realise a second later. “I really need to hit something.”
“I know the feeling. You need to blow off some steam,” Liam agrees. “We could go to the gym,” he suggests.
Liam moves to the end of my room, pulling the door handle. The door doesn't budge.
“I'll tell you why not: it's past curfew,” Conscience intervenes. “I couldn't let you open the door even if I wanted to. My program lines are very strict on this matter.”
“Dumbass!” I turn to Liam. “You should've checked the time when you decided to pay me a visit!” I exclaim, rolling my eyes while rubbing my temples in disbelief.
“You should thank me Meri. You would be in pain for another 5 hours if it wasn’t for me,” he states. “I can tell you from experience that it is impossible to sleep when your supernatural cells are lacking.”
“But I didn't ask for your help! Stop trying to help me Liam! ” I demand angrily. I'm suddenly on the verge of breaking down, trembling on my feet as I'm suffocated by the excess of adrenalin and Liam's presence.
Out of the blue, the brunette's arms wrap themselves around my shoulders, pulling me in a tight hug. I shut my eyes tightly.
“Calm down,” he murmurs quietly, rubbing my back. “Just take ten tiny breaths and clear your head,” he continues.
And then brusquely, I'm crying about absolutely everything. I weep for my sister's death, for my parent's abandon, for my grand-father's hate, for everyone's incomprehension, for killing my grand-mother, for getting locked in the R.I.S.G. My brain keeps adding things to cry about and I'm unable to stop the wrecked sobs from coming out of my mouth. Liam doesn't say anything. He just holds me in his arms and lets me cry until there's no more water in my body for me to keep crying.
It feels good to let it out. To be consoled.
“I'm sorry for ruining your uniform,” I sniffle in his chest, looking at the stain of my body fluids.
“Don’t like the damn thing anyway,” he shrugs. There’s a pause. “I was wondering when you were finally going to let yourself cry for your losses,” he states quietly, looking down at me. “We’ve all done it. And I think I speak for Louis and Harry too when I say we’re all here for you if you need someone to talk to.”
I shake my head.
“Liam I can’t possibly list you all the things that went wrong with my life,” I state brokenly. “There are too many.”
“Maybe not...but your gift can apparently,” he mumbles in surprise.
“Look,” he murmurs in awe, pulling away from me as he gazes over my head. I wipe my tears with the back of my hand, looking behind me. My heart skips a beat.
The walls of my room are completely covered with frost. But the frost, varying in thickness and shades of white, has recreated multiple images of my life.
My mouth is open in shock as I gaze at the illustrations. There's the clear outline of me at my sister's funeral, followed by me moving out of my parent's house and heading to my grandparents. Right beside is a picture of me sleeping on my homework as well as one where I'm eating my lunch in the school's bathroom. The last one illustrates me and Liam hugging just now.
“Beginning immediate melting of the room,” Conscience warns.
“No!” Liam demands. “Wait. I wanna see.”
“There's nothing to see Liam. It's just my wretched life,” I protest.
“Well it intrigues me,” he responds softly, approaching the walls. The thought of being completely exposed to Liam frightens me terribly.
I rapidly place myself in front of him, stopping him.
“No. I don’t want it to intrigue you Liam, and I certainly don’t want you to start pitying me. Heat up the room Conscience,” I say.
As soon as my words are pronounced, there’s the clear noise of the heater starting. The frost melts in a matter of seconds.
“Why?” Liam asks, looking at me. “Why don't you want to let me in?”
“I'm not ready yet Liam,” I shake my head. “If you don't pressure me into talking to you, I mind end up sharing a couple of things but there's no way I can possibly let you in on everything. It's been barely two weeks,” I reply.
“I know you mean well. I do. But I'm not ready to share this stuff with you,” I persist. “Now please drop it.”
“Fine,” he huffs after staring at me for a couple seconds. “I won't bring it up ever again until you do.”
“Now for sleeping arrangements―”
“I'm not tired,” I state. “I'm far from being tired.”
“I don't doubt it, but if you start being rowdy and drawing attention to yourself, Samson is more likely to find out your essence regenerated way too quickly and he will either remove more essence next time you get Disciplined or figure I had something to do with it.”
“I don't want to get Disciplined ever again,” I admit. “It hurts like hell. Felt as if everything was frozen inside of me and I couldn't breathe.” I shudder, recalling the pain I'd felt a moment ago.
“I know. Everybody experiences it differently, but it makes everyone’s gift turn against them. My theory is that since our supernatural essence is removed, our body suddenly loses all sense of it and tries to compensate by overdoing the whole thing. So my body heats up drastically because it's only reference for heat is my usual temperature, which I believe is controlled by my gift,” he pauses. “That may explain why we can regenerate each other’s essences: for some reason, our bodies notice the excessive difference in temperature and exchange the difference, therefore easing the regeneration process for our cells.”
“Wow,” I blink, only understanding half of what he just said.
“And all of this proves one thing: the mutation is a part of us. Which ultimately means that Samson will never be able to remove our supernatural essence completely because our body functions according to it. We would die painstakingly slowly if all of it would be removed.”
“So he lied to me earlier,” I realise. “He said he was doing those tests to try and make us normal again.”
“There's no 'again' Meri. We've always been this way.”
“But I've only been able to use it for less than a month...”
“I think it needs to be triggered. By what, I'm uncertain,” he frowns, thoughtful. “But on thing I know: never ever trust Strife. He wants you to feel safe and tries to give reasons for what he does but he's a sick man. He enjoys seeing us suffer and exerting control over us.”
I rub my temples, trying to process the new information. So I'd be stuck with ice powers forever? This is so not great.
“Well I'm really tired...I had to suffer the whole five hours on my own,” he stretches his arms and yawns again before heading to the door once more. “Conscience...Can you please let me return to my room?” he asks the robot, hand pulling on the doorknob.
“I told you Payne. My system forbids me to do so, unless there's an emergency,” the computerized voice responds.
“Anything life threatening for Meridelle.”
“Would a fire do?”
“No. No you are not starting a fire in my room,” I protest, a shudder racking my body.
“Meridelle I need to head back to my room and a tiny one right beside the vents would do the trick―”
“Sleep here. I'm not tired, use the bed, I really don't care. But I don't want you starting a fire,” I persist.