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super powers & chicken salad

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i

The worst part of day saving wasn't listening to hour long villain monologues. It's wasn't fighting the bad guys, or saving the civilians, or having to wear tights on the daily.

No, in Pyrrha’s opinion, the worst part of the whole superhero thing would have to be the journalism involved.

She led a mostly normal (read: boring) life during her off hours, so it wasn't as though her personal business was being broadcast to the world.

It was just, when she was done defeating evil she wanted to go home and soak in her pomegranate scented bubble bath and not have to deal with being filmed or answering dozens of questions.

However, her mothers had taught her better--and she knew it improved public opinion, which was important with super powered politics--than to just abandon someone when they were trying to talk to you. And so she stayed, and she smiled, and she let journalists wring her out like a wet towel in the locker room.

Pyrrha’s favorite reporter was a woman named Weiss Schnee, who was just out of college and brandished her shiny new degree and pen like they were weapons. Just not against Pyrrha, who she wrote countless of glowing articles about.

For that reason, Pyrrha always let Weiss have the inside scoop, and went to talk to her first after another day saving mission.

So when the Grimm was dead and smoking behind her, Pyrrha headed in Weiss’ direction when she started calling, “Pyrrha! Over here!”

“Hello, Weiss.”

“Hello, Pyrrha. Wonderful work, as always,” Weiss said, and then she was off and running. She had apparently seen the entire battle, and was very impressed with Pyrrha’s battle strategy and skill. The list went on and on, and Pyrrha had heard it all before. Not that she didn’t appreciate it, but still.

She had definitely heard it all before.

The one thing that was new in this scenario was a guy that Pyrrha had never seen before, hanging behind Weiss. He was cute, tall and lanky, with messy blond hair that was just a little too long.

And he wasn't even looking at her. That was the most striking about him.

Weiss’s phone rang sharply, interrupting her tirade about Pyrrha’s virtues. She frowned and fished it out of her handbag, scowling when she saw who was calling.

“Damn. I'm sorry, Pyrrha. I have to take this. I'll be right back.” Before she walked away she hissed to the guy, “Don't embarrass me, Farm Boy, I swear to God.”

Weiss always walked with purpose, which was something that Pyrrha could always admire about her. From the way the guy was watching her go with a dopey look on his face, he agreed.

“She sure is something, isn't she?” he asked, throwing the words out to no one in particular.

Oh, Pyrrha thought.

“Yes,” Pyrrha answers politely, not knowing what else to say to that.

“Anyway, sorry for not introducing myself earlier. I'm Jaune Arc, brand spanking new intern at the Nevermore Daily. And you’re, Pyrrha, right?”

No one had ever asked for confirmation of who she was before. Usually they just, knew. That was a first.

Jaune noticed her surprise. “Sorry, I’m new here. And I don't really keep up with the whole superhero thing much. But Weiss knows you, and makes sure everyone else does too.”

He held out his hand, and even though Pyrrha was wearing her gloves, she could feel how rough his hand was, and how warm. He was taller than she was too, which was hard to find when Pyrrha had grown to be six feet tall. She had never worn heels on a date before, but with him she could, maybe. Short heels, but still. Heels.

She cleared her throat before she could get any deeper into her thoughts. “Well, in that case, yes. I'm Pyrrha. Nice to meet you.”

He smiled at her tone, and it was deep, and transformed his face from something leaning more towards the plain side to almost devastatingly handsome.

Oh, Pyrrha thought.

“Likewise,” he said, and smiled again.

 

ii
It turned out that Jaune was Weiss’ shadow intern--a fact that she seemed to be only mildly annoyed about, and only became severely annoyed if Jaune made a mistake--and so for the next few months, wherever Weiss went, Jaune also went.

Pyrrha didn’t find this annoying in the least.

Jaune was fun to talk to. He tried to help Weiss as best she could, but Weiss was someone that was self sufficient and didn’t seem to trust anyone, not even the intern assigned to help her. And so Jaune and Pyrrha talked whenever they had the chance, in between Weiss doing whatever she needed to do, and ignoring Jaune’s existence.

Jaune was funny, and he was kind, and he really didn’t seem to care who Pyrrha was or what she did in her free time, dressed up in a costume. He just seemed to genuinely like Pyrrha for Pyrrha, and it was so nice that Pyrrha didn’t even mind that he didn’t seem to like her the way she was slowly, but surely, starting to like him.

Just being friends was nice. Pyrrha didn’t have many friends, even though people were always wanting to be her friend. Jaune didn’t actively want to be her friend, he had just become one.

It was nice. Jaune was nice. Friends were nice.

Pyrrha was fine with this, really.

 

iii

“Bombshell’s engaged to be married? What? What?”

Pyrrha patted Neon’s back. “I know,” Pyrrha said soothingly. She tried not to raise her voice any higher than a low murmurer, because Neon tended to get excitable. And since they were sitting on the edge of a rooftop, legs dangling over the edge, getting excitable might end badly for everyone involved. “But to be fair, you weren’t together, and Bombshell has loved the Black Cat for a long time. And also, you hadn’t spoken to her for a month and then you were carted to jail. Which I’m going to have to make sure you get back to, by the way.”

Neon sighed, and then lept up. Pyrrha tensed for a second, trying to be ready for anything, but nothing drastic happened even though Neon was still wearing her rollerblades. “You’re right. Of course you’re right. I just wanted to see if I still had a chance. Oh well. There’s always the next girl.”

“Exactly,” Pyrrha said. “But you still have to get back to jail. Since you broke out of there to have this conversation with me.”

“I just needed someone who would tell it to me straight, but who would be nice about it. You’re the best, Pyrrha.”

“No problem, I’m always happy to help. Now let’s get you into police custody, shall we?”

Pyrrha got Neon to the police with very little fanfare, and Neon waved from the window as she was driven away in the back of the cop car. Pyrrha took a deep breath, and was ready to go back home, when she heard her name.

Her polite, fan smile melted into something real when she saw that it was Jaune.

She had never seen him outside of the formal clothes that he wore for work. Today he was wearing jeans with a rip that Pyrrha suspected wasn’t mass produced, and a plaid shirt that was rolled up to his elbows and showed off the muscles in his very nice arms. He looked good and ruffled and organic, shopping bags in his hands.

“Hey, Jaune. I didn’t think I’d see you here.”

“Did you really just having a conversation with Neon Katt, and convinced her to go back to jail? And you got her to convince the stuff that she stole to get the cop’s attention?”

Pyrrha shrugged. “Yeah, after I gave her some advice about her love life. It happens a lot. Apparently I have a really soothing voice, and sometimes my rogue gallery just wants me to help them sort out their lives. Neon’s sweet, mostly. Kind of.”

“Wow,” Jaune said. “I’m impressed, honestly. Not surprised though. I’d want you to give me advice on my love life.”

“Do you need some?” Pyrrha asked, feeling her heart starting to thump like she was in high school all over again. Honestly, this boy sometimes. She wasn’t seventeen anymore, but sometimes he took her all the way back.

“No, I think I’ve got that under control, thanks. Arcs always know their way to a girls’ heart.”

If only he knew.

“Alright then. What about a ride, could you use one of those?”

“Sure,” he said, and Pyrrha grinned.

 

iv
“You know, when you offered to give me a ride, I figured you meant, I don’t know, in a car?” Pyrrha took another running leap, and Jaune squeaked and his grip around her neck grew tighter.

“I don’t own a car,” Pyrrha said. “I take care of the environment.”

“Touche,” Jaune said. “Though, I imagine it’s a little easier with super powers.”

“I guess you’re right,” Pyrrha said, thoughtfully. “But even if I didn’t I still think I’d do my best not to have to drive.”

“Environmentally conscious, another reason why you’re amazing, I guess.”

Pyrrha laughed. “I suppose so.”

The sun was setting, and since Jaune was so close to her now, Pyrrha was able to notice that his eyelashes became blond at the very tips. She tried not to let that tiny bit of information hurt her too much.

“Wait, so does this mean that you don’t fly?” Jaune asked, whimpering a little as she landed onto the next rooftop. “Or are you just going easy on me?”

“I have never been able to fly. People made it up, and I’ve just never corrected them. Please keep that off the record.”

“Of course,” Jaune said. “I’d agree to anything you said right now since you’re the only thing keeping me from plummeting to my death.”

“Probably a wise choice,” Pyrrha said. “Is this your stop?”

“Yes, thank God.” Pyrrha made sure to land as gracefully as she could in front of Jaune’s apartment building. It was on the edge of town, downhill from downtown and the Daily Nevermore’s office, she noticed. He literally had to walk uphill in the snow to get to work. Which would be a good story for his kids, probably.

Time to stop that line of thought, immediately.

“Thanks, Pyrrha. You’re the best.”

Pyrrha had heard that phrase a thousand, million times, but hearing it from Jaune really seemed to make the words sound sincere and real. Like he wasn’t just saying it, common phrase though it was.

“Any time,” Pyrrha said, and meant it.

 

v
Pyrrha liked fighting monsters the best, out of every villain that she had to vanquish. They were easy, and weren’t human so that never complicated anything. She could just slay them and they would dissipate, and that would be that. Things tended to get a little messier, physically, when there were monsters, but that was what bathtubs were for.

Pyrrha couldn’t wait to get back to hers, watching as Weiss made notes on her smartphone for Pyrrha’s latest soundbite article. “Thanks so much again, Pyrrha,” Weiss said. “I’m always so glad to be able to get exclusive quotes from you personally.”

“Don’t even mention it,” Pyrrha said, ready to go, but Weiss still seemed to be lingering.

“So...I heard that the Nikos Children’s Foundation is opening up a new wing...” Weiss began, and suddenly Pyrrha knew exactly where this was heading. “Do you happen to know anything about this?”

Pyrrha felt her smile grow a little tighter. She hated this part of the game, of people in this town pretending not to know who she was even though literally everyone knew. The price Pyrrha had to pay for not really trying to have a secret identity, or even trying to become a superhero in the first place. It had just...happened...and now here she was. Covered in monster guts and answering this question.

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, the paper is planning on covering it, and if you would happen to know if Ms. Nikos would like to have anyone in particular writing this piece...”

“What about Jaune?” Pyrrha asked. Jaune, who had been looking at his phone on the sly, probably playing that one Pokemon app that he had insisted Pyrrha try and now she was obsessed with it too--sharply looked up at the sound of his name.

“Uh...me?”

“Yes, you,” Pyrrha said to him. She turned back to Weiss. “The Nikos Foundation adding onto their office space is hardly anything interesting or newsworthy. The article will be maybe an inch or two on the page, if that much? A intern should be able to handle it.”

Weiss frowned, but she quickly covered it up. “Hmmm, I suppose that’s a good idea. He could use some time for his name to be in print, I guess. I’ll bring it up to the editor tomorrow. Thanks, Pyrrha. You’d better be grateful for this,” Weiss said to Jaune. You’re lucky for any shot at all.”

“Yeah,” Jaune said, looking at Pyrrha and not at Weiss at all. “I am. Thanks for the recommendation.”

“Not a problem. I’m sure you’ll be able to handle it,” Pyrrha said. “Now if you excuse me, I am going to go clean up now.” She left before either reporter would be able to ask her another question.

 

vi

“That’s him?” Nora asked, craning her neck as she watched Jaune walk into the office. “That’s the guy that you’ve had a-”

“Yes,” Pyrrha interrupted her. Jaune was still too far away to hear anything, but Nora was loud, and she couldn’t trust anything.

“Well...I don’t get it.”

“Nora,” Ren said warningly from behind them, clutching his binder to his chest.

“I don’t mean that in a bad way!” Nora protested. She turned to Pyrrha. “You know I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I just expected a little more...umph...you know? Considering how much you like him and everything.”

“He has a certain boy next door charm,” Ren said. “And Pyrrha likes him. That’s good enough for me.”

“Guys,” Pyrrha hissed. “Please stop. You don’t need to rate him, it’s not like he’s going to be my boyfriend. He-”

“Has a crush on Weiss Schnee, world class reporter. We know,” Nora said. She looked at Pyrrha’s face one more time, before scurrying off, taking Ren with her. “He’s coming. Let’s go, Ren, time to leave before we’re fired.”

“You mean before you get fired...” Pyrrha heard Ren say before the two of them trailed away.

“Welcome, Mr. Arc. Nice to see you.”

“Wow,” Jaune said, blinking. “Glasses. Really? Do they actually help hide your identity, because, I don’t want to be the one to say it but...”

“No,” Pyrrha laughed. “They don’t. It’s just a formality, really. Want to go to one of the conference rooms for this interview?”

“Sure,” Jaune said. “Lead the way.”

 

Jaune started the interview with the usual questions. The logistics of the new addition of the office, what it would mean for the building and the company, etc. It was all very basic and simple, and Pyrrha, who had been through this process hundreds of times in the past year alone, knew what to do.

And then he asked a question that Pyrrha had never been asked. “So...why? Why the addition? Especially since it’s going to be opened on your birthday. Why that date in particular? Why make such a big deal out of it.”

Pyrrha set down her pen, and thought about what exactly she could say. It was rare for a question to actually stump her like this before. Automatic answers were easy, and so were things that were expected from her. This wasn’t.

“I don’t actually...know my real date of birth. You see, I was found in a dumpster. Thrown away like I was trash. No one knew where I had even come from. So the date that’s on my birth certificate, that’s just the day that the garbage men found me. And I went around the foster care system for a long time before my mothers decided to adopt me. I just want to make sure that it doesn’t happen to any other child. And I want it to happen on a day that has significance to me, and my company, and perhaps even some of the children that I’m trying to help. So yes, I think that answers all your questions.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Jaune said, scribbling something down on his notepad. “Thanks for the interview, Ms. Nikos. I really appreciate it.”

Pyrrha smiled. “No, thank you Mr. Arc. Would you like to get lunch after this?”

 

They got sandwiches from the little cafe on the ground floor of Pyrrha’s office building, and then went up to the roof to eat them. The day was lovely, a light breeze and only a few clouds in the sky. Perfect for the rooftop.

“So why did you decide to become a journalist?” Pyrrha asked, biting into her sandwich. She figured if Jaune could ask questions, she could ask a few of her own.

Jaune stared thoughtfully out over the city as he chewed. “There’s a lot that’s messed up about the world, you know? And I wanted to fight for justice,” he said finally. “At first I wanted to be the tight wearing kind of guy, but that lasted about as long as it took for one of my sisters to convince me to let her push me off the roof. We both got grounded for that. So it was the end of my superheroing.” He shrugged. “Being a journalist seemed like the next best thing.”

“I see.”

“I want to be able to report real stories not just fluffy human interest stuff,” he said, waving his sandwich. When he realized that he was sitting next to a fluffy human interest story, he laughed awkwardly. “Sorry, I don’t mean you. I just mean, when I stop being just an intern, you know? I want to take down corrupt corporations and expose criminals and all that.”

“There are a lot of ways to be a hero,” Pyrrha said finally. “You can be a hero, Jaune.”

Jaune’s smile melted into something less awkward, something more real. “Thanks, Pyrrha. That means a lot from you, best superhero in the whole world.”

“I think I was voted best superhero in the universe in that poll, actually,” Pyrrha said airly, making Jaune laugh.

“Yeah. Best superhero in the universe,” he said, and smiled in a way that made his eyes crinkle in the corners, and Pyrrha’s heart went ba-thump and she knew she was done completely done for.

 

“You know,” Jaune said, once they had thrown away all the trash from their impromptu picnic. “There’s a pretty nice park that I noticed in between the Nevermore’s office and yours. We should, you know, uh...meet up there for lunch sometimes, maybe. I can’t afford an eight dollar sandwich every day, but I make a mean chicken salad. My mom’s recipe. I could make one for you too, if you’d want?”

A chicken salad sandwich. For the first time in their entire friendship, Pyrrha began to feel something like hope form. In the shape of a chicken salad sandwich.

Maybe it was the tentative way that Jaune was asking her, or maybe it was just the hope in his eyes when he did. Pyrrha didn’t know, and she didn’t care. “Yes,” she said finally. “I would love to.”

 

vii

Most of Pyrrha’s rogue gallery were relatively easy to defeat, in the grand scheme of things. Most of them, Pyrrha was able to talk to, or take down with very few problems with limited casualties and little property damage.

But as with any hero, there was one villain that they can't just keep down. Like weeds in a garden, they just keep popping up again and again, trying to choke everything around them.

For Pyrrha, that was Cinder.

Pyrrha should have known that she had too much peace. If she had time to think about a boy, to make a new friend, she should have known that there was a reason for that.

Cinder didn’t stay in captivity for long--she seemed to view them more as vacation homes if anything, and got out when she pleased. Sometimes she did it the legal way, and sometimes...sometimes not so much.

This time, it was legal, which was why Pyrrha didn’t even see it coming.

But when the Nikos foundation got the phone call from an unknown number, asking for Pyrrha, her heart immediately turned to ice and sunk all the way down to the bottom of her stomach.

“Pyrrha Nikos?” the voice said, low and silky and attractive. Pyrrha knew who this was immediately. “We have someone here you might...want. A boy. You like him, I think? He wanted me to let you know that he wouldn’t be meeting you for lunch today.”

“Cinder, I swear to-” But before Pyrrha could say anything else, Cinder chuckled and hung up.

Ren and Nora were right behind her when she finally placed the phone back into its charger. Normally Pyrrha had an easy time not using her super strength to break everything that she touched. But it took everything she had to place the phone back onto its cradle gently enough that she didn’t punch a hole through the desk.

“We already traced the call with GPS,” Ren said. “She’s downtown.”

“Thank you,” Pyrrha said, getting out her cell phone to input the code for the safe that she kept her costume in at work to be unlocked when she got there.

“Do you need us to suit up too?” Nora asked, eyes worried. Pyrrha just shook her head.

“No...this is personal. This is for me. I won’t need back up. Thank you, though,” she said.

“Just say the word and we’ll help,” Nora insisted.

“I know, it’s fine. I need to go now, though. I need...I need to save Jaune.”

 

The building that Cinder was keeping Jaune in was tiny and dingy and dirty, which fit her perfectly. Pyrrha walked in without even checking for traps--Mercury and Emerald were out of jail now too, Ren had informed her--because she wanted this to happen as quickly as possible.

Pyrrha had been expecting the worst--Cinder was very good with bows and arrows and knives--but Jaune was just tied up, with duct tape around his mouth.

“Oh thank God,” Pyrrha said, and moved to him to free him.

He almost fell out of his chair when she walked in and the door shut behind her, but when Pyrrha whirled around she managed to fend of Cinder’s attacks with her shield.

“I was wondering what I was going to have to do to get your attention,” Cinder said, lowering her weapons to her sides. Pyrrha did the same thing, slowly, as a sign of good faith, but every line of her body was tight. She wasn’t going to relax. She didn’t trust Cinder at all. “And then I found out that you had this boy and then...well...” she trailed off.

“Just let it go, Pyrrha. You’re not from Earth. You’re the same as I am. We’re are a part of the same race, from the same planet. Stop trying to be something you’re not, and stop trying to protect these people. Plain and ordinary people, like this boy here? They don’t deserve your gifts, they don’t deserve your love, they don’t deserve you. Join me, join the rest of us.”

“You’d have to kill me first,” Pyrrha swore. “I’ve already told you that.”

“Consider this a reminder, then,” Cinder said. “Of what we are. Of what you will be, one day.”

“Never.”

Cinder smiled, cryptic and mysterious and beautiful, and Pyrrha hated her. Pyrrha, who tried her best to never hate anyone, hated this woman so much. They were not the same.

“I don’t want to go back to jail yet, so I am just going to slip out of here,” Cinder said. “But first, a parting gift.”

She threw out a piece of glowing, molten glass and then turned to run. Pyrrha had seen that glass before. They were some of Cinder’s favorite weapons of destruction, ones that she made herself. It would explode, and covering at least five city blocks.

And so Pyrrha did the only thing she could. She ran, and she covered it with her entire body. When it exploded, it hurt--because Cinder was the same as she was, she could hurt Pyrrha the way human weapons never could--but she was the only one that it hurt, other than the burning on the floor.

There was a hole in her costume, but Pyrrha did her best to stand up straight, so that Jaune wouldn’t have to worry.

When she turned to him, his eyes were wide, but he seemed more concerned than scared. When she moved to untie him she was afraid that he would flinch away from her, and that her heart would shatter, but he didn’t.

When the tape was off his mouth the first thing he asked her was, “Pyrrha, are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” Pyrrha told him, ignoring the fact that she could feel her muscles bleeding and stretching as they attempted to rearrange themselves back to their original shape. She was going to have a hideous bruise tomorrow. “Don’t worry about me. Did she hurt you at all?”

“No,” Jaune said. “I don’t think this was about me. I think this was more about you. A power play.”

“I am sorry that you had to get in the middle of this then,” Pyrrha said.

“Don’t be. I’m not sorry.”

“You should be. You know, maybe it would be better if-”

Jaune shook his head. “Don’t. Don’t say that Pyrrha, you don’t mean it.”

“But I do, Jaune. I do. You saw Cinder, you saw how she just wants to hurt me. How I’m not even human. Maybe it is better if we are no longer friends.”

Before Jaune could say anything else, before she could soften, Pyrrha left him behind, and she didn’t look back.

 

viii

Pyrrha stopped taking Jaune’s calls. She stopped eating lunch outside of her office. She stopped talking to Weiss at the scenes of crimes. She just stopped.

Pyrrha worked, and she saved people, but that was all. She had been happy, before, with just that, but now that Jaune wasn’t around it felt like the world had dulled a little. Like he had taken some of the color from the world with him, and now Pyrrha couldn’t see it anymore.

She would be fine again, she knew she would. She just had to forget about him, even though that was hard. He had been so refreshing, had been a true friend. She didn’t have enough of those to take this kind of parting easily.

But still, that was the end of it. Or so Pyrrha had thought.

She had just come back from a meeting with the CFO of the Xiao Long-Rose corporation, when Nora sat at her desk smiling. “There’s someone waiting for you in your office,” she said, a lilt in her voice that Pyrrha knew meant trouble.

“Did I have anything scheduled for today?” Pyrrha asked, walking to her office slowly. She did not trust this for a second.

“No,” Nora said. “But I think it’s important that you go anyway.”

“I...sure. I’m going.” Pyrrha shook her head, and walked in to find Jaune there, and mountain of sandwiches sitting in front of him on her desk.

“Wait,” he said, when he saw that she was about to walk out again. “You said that if I ever needed advice with my love life that you would help me, right? Well I need help.”

“Okay...” Pyrrha said, not sure where he was going with this. If he really was here to talk about Weiss, she wasn’t sure what she would do. Listen to him, probably, and then have to excuse herself so that she could take som

“So there’s this girl that I really like, but she stopped taking my calls, because for some reason she felt like she had to do it. For me. To protect me. And I think this is stupid because I like her, really like her, and don’t think any of this other stuff matters.”

Pyrrha swallowed. “I think you should let her protect you,” Pyrrha said, “if it’s what she really wants, it’s probably for the best.”

“But it’s not though. Because I know that she loves me. Her supervillainess arch nemesis said so. And I love her too. I can protect myself.”

“No, you can’t. Jaune, please, just leave.”

He stood up out of his seat slowly, and then walked over to her. Without hesitating, he put his hands on her shoulders and looked at her straight in the eyes. His gaze didn’t waver at all. “I’ll take self defense classes. I’ll do whatever you need me to do to be assured that I’m safe. But listen to me. I want to be with you, no matter what.”

“You shouldn’t,” she whispered, doing her best not to crumble. “You know what I am, now. You know where I came from. You even know who’s after me.”

“And I don’t care. I’ve never cared about any of that stuff. I just care about you. Let me, Pyrrha. Please.”

“Okay,” Pyrrha said, finally. She couldn’t say no to him, not when he was looking at her like she was everything that mattered. Not when she looked at him and saw the shape of her forever. She loved him so much, more than she thought that she could love anyone.

So when he leaned in and kissed her, she kissed him back.

 

epilogue

“I still don’t get it,” Nora said, stuffing her face with another sandwich. “But this chicken salad might be the best thing that I’ve ever tasted in my life.”

“I know,” Pyrrha said, reaching for another one.

When she had asked Jaune why he had an entire mountain of them on her desk, he had blushed and told her that he had stayed up late last night making them, because he’d wanted to make her one for every one of their lunch dates that she had met. Because that’s what they were now--official dates. With hand holding and everything.

He’d had to kiss her quickly because as an intern, he didn’t actually have that much time for lunch, but he’d left the sandwiches and with promises of them meeting up later tonight. To have a real kind of date.

Pyrrha couldn’t wait.

“So you’re going to keep this one, right?” Nora said. “Because I like him. Please keep him. He’s sweet, and that’s what you need.”

“Yeah,” Pyrrha said, and smiled. “I’m going to keep him.”