When I woke up, the first thing I noticed was that I was hungry enough to eat a horse.
Several, in fact. Had you lined them up and given me a butcher knife, a grill, and copious amounts of steak sauce, I'm fairly certain that instinct would have accomplished the rest.
The second thing I noticed was that I was in someone else's bed. Posters and newspaper clippings were posted to every inch of wall-space--all of it detailing the exploits of superheroes and villains, past and present. Along with this, there was a metal work-desk that looked like it had a soldering kit, and a few circuit boards set out in front of it. And the disassembled parts of several gutted computers sitting beside it.
And the top half of a skull hanging from one of the bed-posts.
It was then that everything hit me--everything at once. Everything that had happened last night. I groaned, clutching my head and falling back to the pillow.
"Crap," I said.
Someone had taken pains to bandage me, I noticed. Wrappings were around my chest, my ribs--the shoulder that I had dislocated was in a sling. Everything still hurt, but it was a dull, distant ache--a far cry from the penetrating pain I had felt last night. I groggily sat up, felt the dull ache start to sharpen, then laid back down.
The door to the room opened. Anna stepped in, holding a tray brimming with breakfast foods.
"Morning," she said, and I found myself simply staring at the bacon and pancakes. "Are you feeling--"
As soon as she had gotten in range, I reached out and snatched the tray, dragging it to my lap. Without another word, I started eating--my appetite was voracious. She watched me with what must have been something between amusement and surprise.
"--better. Well, I guess that answers that question," she said.
While I ate, I started thinking--about everything that had happened last night. All the screwups I had made--god, there were a lot. Too many to count.
Calling Anna, I realized, had been one of the bigger ones.
I was in pain, confused and desperate for a solution, but what I did had directly put her life in danger. If anyone had found her while she had been rescuing me--if anyone saw her driving off with me...
And on top of that, I had lied to her to convince her to help me.
"Anna," I said, swallowing as much of the mouthful of bacon as I could manage before speaking. "Listen. About last night--I'm sorry. I wasn't--look, this is a little confusing, I know. But I wasn't completely truthful with you."
"About being the Skull? Yeah, I figured," she said. "I mean, if you were actually the Skull, you wouldn't have had to ask me all those questions about the Skull's deal. I figure you probably found the Skull's stuff, though. Right?" She reached forward, tapping the helmet.
Well, that made one part easier.
I prodded at my chest, where I had felt something crack in my ribs during the fall. It hurt when I touched it, but not too much. "How did I recover so fast...? I feel like crap, but--"
"I reset your shoulder," she told me, "and put some bandages on the worst wounds, but you did everything else yourself. I was terrified--I thought I'd have to take you to a hospital, explain the injuries and everything--but you started healing right there in the car. When I saw the wounds closing, I realized that you just needed someplace to rest."
"I--um, thank you. For coming to rescue me," I said, and then added: "I guess I can put 'super-healing' on the list of powers, then."
She leaned forward, nearly hovering over me. Her eyes were on me, bright and vivid. "So--you have to tell me. How?"
"Your powers. How? How did you get them?" she said. "What are they? I have to know!"
Something about the way she was pouring her attention on top of me made me squirm; I blushed beneath the focus, and then--slowly, between bites--began to explain the whole story to her. Everything, from my discovery of the envelope, to the bunker, up to my aunt's hospitalization and what lead me up to the meth labs and Sharkface. To be honest, it was a relief to let it all out--the fact that I couldn't tell a soul about any of this had been eating me up. Actually having someone to talk about it to, someone interested--it felt good. Really good.
During my explanation, I wondered several times where Anna's parents were--or what they thought of a strange, bloody teenager in their daughter's bed.
"Have you tried contacting Sumerset?" she asked as I finished.
"Huh? What? No," I said. "Why--"
My mother had obviously trusted him to give me a very important letter on my 18th birthday--and judging by the content of the letter, they had a certain understanding. An understanding that, at the very least, included knowledge of the 'shrieker', judging by the implied threat she had used against him.
Which meant it was possible that he knew my mother was the Skull.
"I guess that's a good place to start," I said, feeling rather sheepish for not thinking of it first.
Anna grinned. "Good. I'll look him up online. We can give him a call."