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Like what she sees

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It's not that Traci regrets being Girl Thirteen, even if she goes through her closet now and winces at what she'd been wearing. (Sometimes she still misses Lana. She misses Leroy a lot, even if now she wouldn't let him have people for lunch. Probably. She'd think about it a lot harder this time, at least.) She really doesn't think it's fair that she's met Natasha Irons, and Superman, and Supergirl (she wonders what had happened to the pretty black-haired girl who'd called Superman her dad that now she's blonde and he's her cousin, but Traci knows better than most how family can be more of a mystery than anything else), but she still hasn't even seen Batman.

She doesn't regret the people she'd met, and helped, or the grief for the ones she couldn't save. She doesn't regret the sharp-edged street kid she'd lived as. (She'd been so arrogant, going to Hell's Heart for something real, as though she had the right to pretend to a life she didn't have to live, and she does regret that.) She doesn't regret the lessons she'd learned -- no one can save everyone. Even Traci at the heart of a city, all its power open to her, can't save everyone. But she'd learned that when her mother had died. -- and she doesn't regret the choices she made.

Girl Thirteen had been a rebellion, Traci knows. Finally old enough that her father had decided she could travel with him instead of living with the Dibneys, and something had happened to Sue that made them think Traci was better off with her father. Traci hadn't agreed. Not being able to use her magic? Having the only mysteries she could chase be the ones her father could prove wrong? That wasn't what mystery was for.

She'd found mysteries, all right. The Heartbreakers, and that ghost-woman assassin, and it had been kind of fun to know she was the only one looking after herself. Girl Thirteen had been a sorceress, dangerous and smart and razored, and Traci had liked being her. And at least Girl Thirteen hadn't had giant Nazi apes trying to kidnap her so that Traci would marry them, even if Julius hadn't been so bad by the time the whole thing was done.

But she doesn't need to rebel any more. Against Girl Thirteen, or against her father. She just has to be her, magic and expensive, sleek clothes and British accent and Chinese eyes -- if she never hears the word 'chink' again, it'll be too damn soon, dog, Girl Thirteen snarls somewhere underneath her breastbone, and her voice is the least British Traci's ever heard in her life, and Traci doesn't disagree at all -- and Aqua Teen and libraries only other Homo Magi can find. (Uncle John had told her once that some people, if they were lucky, could ignore that they had the gift. Traci never could, and she'd told him so. He'd smiled a little bit around his cigarette, an old and tired smile, and said he knew.)

That she can, now, use her magic just as freely as she wants again doesn't mean she must. Traci can boil water with a word, but she isn't going to make her tea steep any faster than it wants to. Some things should go naturally; magic just ruins the flavor of oolong. One of the Si Da Ming Cong are hard to come by for anyone, and even Traci doesn't get her hands on real Da Hong Pao tea very often.

The Wuyi Mountains are beautiful with sunlight gleaming through the fog. Traci hides her smile in the steam rising from her cup and sits in Doomsbury Manor's main library, the windows open to the rain she is blocking with a personal shield, carefully extended so that air comes in and water does not. She would be barred from the Library forever if she let any book be damaged like that, and there are places you just don't want to be banned from. (Just because she can't get into L-space doesn't mean she can't get into the Library, and if she asks nicely enough she can get books that were never written, or books written after the author died, or books that would have been written if the author had lived a little differently. Once she saw a copy of Summa Magica, by Doctor Thirteen: she had not dared to read it, nor to look too long at the back cover, where her father had smiled next to a pretty Chinese woman Traci only knows from the mirror and old pictures.)

She is leaving as soon as she chooses to do so. She has not yet decided where she will live -- she likes America, but she likes France, too. And she likes China, even if it's complicated, sometimes, being British there. Maybe Botswana. She hadn't had a lot of time in Gaborone, her father's mystery had been too quick, but she'd like to go back. She wasn't raised to sit still, not by anyone. Traci likes to travel.

Fortunately, for her that isn't difficult. Her smile widens, sharpens, until it feels like one of Girl Thirteen's vicious, knowing looks. She likes knowing she can use her magic again, any time she wants to, even if her control is better now.

She likes being free. From everything, even herself.

The question is who she's going to be if she's not Ralph's pet pupil, or Sue's smart girl, or Girl Thirteen, or her father's now-precious only daughter. If she's just Traci, and she's the only one who has to decide what that means.

She supposes she'll find out on the road. Traci always did like adventures.

"I smell a mystery, Traci Thirteen," she says, and laughs into the wind, spreading her arms wide, her skirt flaring and fluttering soft-slick against her legs, before sparks pop purple from her fingertips and she disappears.

She'll find out where she went when she gets there.