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And me, my hand still locked in Adam’s viselike grip, his touch so quickly and easily reducing me back to who I was when we first met.

I’m completely powerless.

But then, in one movement, everything changes:

Adam grabs Kenji’s bare hand and presses it into my empty one.

For just long enough.


It takes a couple of seconds for the two of us to register what’s just happened before Kenji rips his hand away, and in a moment of perfect spontaneity, uses it to punch Adam in the face.

Everyone else in the room is now up and alert. Castle runs forward immediately, and Ian and Winston—who were already standing close by—hurry to join him. Brendan rushes out of the locker room in a towel, eyes searching for the source of the commotion; Lily and Alia jump off the bikes and crowd around us.

We’re lucky it’s so late; James is already sleeping quietly in the corner.

Adam was thrown back by Kenji’s punch, but he quickly regained his footing. He’s breathing hard, dragging the back of his hand across his now-bloody lip. He does not apologize.

No sound escapes my open, horrified mouth.

“What in God’s name is wrong with you?” Kenji’s voice is soft but deathly sharp, his right fist still clenched. “Were you trying to get me killed?”

Adam rolls his eyes. “I knew it wouldn’t kill you. Not that quickly. I’ve felt it before,” he says. “It just burns a little.”

“Pull yourself together, dickhead,” Kenji snaps. “You’re acting insane.”

Adam says nothing. He actually laughs, flips Kenji off, and heads in the direction of the locker room.

“Hey—are you okay?” I ask Kenji, trying to catch a glimpse of his hand.

“I’m fine,” he sighs, glancing at Adam’s retreating figure before looking back at me. “But his jaw is hard as hell.” He flexes his fist a little.

“But my touch—it didn’t hurt you?”

Kenji shakes his head. “Nah, I didn’t feel anything,” he says. “And I’d know if I did.” He almost laughs, and frowns instead. I cringe at the memory of the last time this happened. “I think Kent was deflecting your power somehow,” Kenji says.

“No he wasn’t,” I whisper. “He let go of my other hand. I felt the energy come back into me.”

We both look at Adam’s retreating figure.

Kenji shrugs.

“But then how—”

“I don’t know,” Kenji says again. He sighs. “I guess I just got lucky. Listen”—he looks around at everyone—“I don’t want to talk right now, okay? I’m going to go sit down. I need to cool off.”

The group breaks up slowly, everyone going back to their corners.

But I can’t walk away. I’m rooted in place.

I felt my skin touch Kenji’s, and that’s not something I can ignore. Those kinds of moments are so rare for me that I can’t just shake them off; I never get to be that close to people without serious consequences. And I felt the power inside my body. Kenji should’ve felt something.

My mind is working fast, trying to solve an impossible equation, and a crazy theory takes root inside of me, crystallizing in a way I’d never thought it could.

This whole time I’ve been training to control my power, to contain it, to focus it—but I never thought I’d be able to turn it off. And I don’t know why.

Adam had a similar problem: he’d been running on electricum his whole life. But now he’s learned how to control it. To power it down when he needs to.

Shouldn’t I be able to do the same?

Kenji can go visible and invisible whenever he likes—it was something he had to teach himself after training for a long time, after understanding how to shift from one state of being to another. I remember the story he told me from when he was little: he turned invisible for a couple of days without knowing how to change back. But eventually he did.

Castle, Brendan, Winston, Lily—they can all turn their abilities on and off. Castle doesn’t move things with his mind by accident. Brendan doesn’t electrocute everything he touches. Winston can tighten and loosen his limbs at will, and Lily can look around normally, without taking snapshots of everything with her eyes.

Why am I the only one without an off switch?

My mind is overwhelmed as I process the possibilities. I begin to realize that I never even tried to turn my power off, because I always thought it would be impossible. I assumed I was fated to this life, to an existence in which my hands—my skin—would always, always keep me away from others.

But now?

“Kenji!” I cry out as I run toward him.

Kenji glances over his shoulder at me, but doesn’t have the chance to turn all the way around before I crash into him, grabbing his hands and squeezing them in my own. “Don’t let go,” I tell him, eyes filling fast with tears. “Don’t let go. You don’t have to let go.”

Kenji is frozen, shock and amazement all over his face. He looks at our hands. Looks back up at me.

“You learned how to control it?” he asks.

I can hardly speak. I manage to nod, tears spilling down my cheeks. “I think I’ve had it contained, all this time, and just didn’t know it. I never would’ve risked practicing it on anyone.”

“Damn, princess,” he says softly, his own eyes shining. “I’m so proud of you.”

Everyone is crowding around us now.

Castle pulls me into a fierce hug, and Brendan and Winston and Lily and Ian and Alia jump on top of him, crushing me all at once. They’re cheering and clapping and shaking my hand and I’ve never felt so much support or so much strength in our group before. No moment in my life has ever been more extraordinary than this.

But when the congratulations ebb and the good-nights begin, I pull Kenji aside for one last hug.

“So,” I say to him, rocking on my heels. “I can touch anyone I want now.”

“Yeah, I know.” He laughs, cocking an eyebrow.

“Do you know what that means?”

“Are you asking me out?”

“You know what this means, right?”

“Because I’m flattered, really, but I still think we’re much better off as friends—”


He grins. Musses my hair. “No,” he says. “I don’t know. What does it mean?”