Especially since one of those things if now good to go. *winks at saavikam77* Speaking of which, have I told you how much I'm looking forward to that, lady? *smishes*
“Man, it sucks that Dustin and Kala broke up,” Ned sighed. He and Robb were on the couch with their feet up on the coffee table, polishing off the last few slices of pizza.
“Don’t say that,” Morgan snapped.
“Dude, he packed up everything and went home when his mom went in the hospital,” Robb said. “Complete with tearful goodbye at the airport.”
Morgan rolled his eyes and sat up a little straighter in his chair. Dustin’s mom was having fairly minor surgery to remove a cyst, but it was an overnight hospital stay and he wanted to be there. They could all understand that. But the packing, and the resignation letter at his job, and the fact that he’d been ready to give them his last paycheck to cover his portion of the rent, all pointed to a more permanent change. Morgan had sensed it coming for a few days, and knew that the hospital thing was just the catalyst.
Still, he needed to set these clueless boys straight. “Okay, one, it wasn’t ‘goodbye’, it was ‘see you later’. If she gets a chance to go to Smallville or if he can come out here, it’ll be back on.”
Ned scoffed. “Whatever. Nobody cries that much if they’re not breaking up. I think he even cried a little too.”
“I’d cry if I was breaking up with Kala,” Robb mused.
“Man, I’d cry if you were dating Kala,” Ned shot back. Robb scowled and punched his shoulder, while Ned just snickered.
“Guys.” Morgan sighed, wondering why he even bothered. “Yeah, they probably won’t get back together. That ship has sailed. But don’t tell Kala that, all right? She’s messed up enough as it is.”
“Messed up enough that Sebast cleaned out his bank account and took her to that fancy little mod hotel downtown,” Robb muttered. He stared at his pizza crust like it had offended him.
Ned sipped soda. “Yeah, what’s up with that, anyway? We’re supposed to get a signing bonus but that isn’t for sure, and he just blew all his money. I mean, if he wasn’t gay I’d think he was trying to score a rebound.”
Robb raised his hand as if he were still in school, asking permission to speak. “Okay, since it’s just us, how sure are we about that? I mean, Sebast doesn’t act gay.”
Almost choking on his drink, Ned groaned. “You’re from California! Don’t you have enough gay people around to know they’re not all the same?!”
“Yeah but most of them sound alike and act alike and I always thought a straight chick and her gay friend would be like, painting each other’s nails and stuff. The way Sebast is, he reminds me more of some Latino gangsters.” Robb glared defensively at Ned, who rolled his eyes. “Hell, Morgan, it’s not an insult, but you act more like the gay guys I know than he does.”
Morgan rubbed at his temples. “Robb. I’m metro. You have to have seen that before, right? It means I take better care of myself and my looks than the average straight schlub—which, please wash that shirt, seriously, you’re driving me crazy with that freaking ketchup stain from yesterday. I’m no less straight for knowing how to match clothes and having had a manicure.
“Meanwhile, Sebast is not femme at all. He’s very, very butch. He just happens to like guys, and trust me, I know. Good thing I’m secure in myself or I’d be weirded out by knowing he’d seriously hit on me if he didn’t have to work with me on a professional level.”
Both of the others stared at him at that admission. They’d overheard some of the joking around, but that wasn’t uncommon. Knowing that Sebast might’ve made a serious play for Morgan, someone they both knew was straight and whose attractiveness with female fans they highly envied—well, that boggled their minds.
Morgan continued, “As for Kala and Sebast, they’re best friends. And Sebast was the one who called Dustin in the first place, when he came out and met up with us on the Gothapalooza tour. He probably feels guilty. And Kala hasn’t been been talking, too weepy all week. Have you ever known Kala to go that long without a smile? Don’t know about you guys, but I miss it, too. I probably would have done the same thing in his position.”
This was it. The final decision. Stephanie Brown needed to clear her head for this one, and it sure wasn’t happening at home. So she put on her Spoiler uniform and headed for the heights of Gotham.
From way up here, the city looked like a model, all twinkling lights and tiny cars and people moving about down below. A fresh breeze lofted over the roofs, a relief from the more stagnant air down in the narrow streets below. Steph let it blow through her, thinking.
The plan was ingenious, perfect, the epitome of a mastermind move. She knew it wasn’t hubris to think so; it wasn’t her plan, after all. It was his, Batman’s, but he’d never had the guts to pull it off. Too ambitious. Or maybe, if it worked and he actually shut down all of Gotham’s gangs at once, he might be out of a job. Might find himself grabbing shoplifters and helping little old ladies cross the street.
Batman would never settle for that. Steph had already figured out that he was as bound to his calling as anyone could be. In a warped way, he needed the crooks and the crazies. Just like they needed him. They validated each other.
And it was sick. The Bat and his chosen ones battled the rogues across the rooftops, and the rest of Gotham was caught between them. Steph was average in a way the rest weren’t. No vast wealth and mysterious training, no unearthly acrobatic grace, no rage at injustice, no superior intellect, no childhood designed to shape her into a weapon. Just a girl, really, one who saw what her dad did as wrong and wanted to stop it. And then started seeing how much was wrong with the world, how bad it could get, and wanted to stop that, too.
Not for justice or vengeance or anything similar. Just … to help people more like her than the rest of them. People who would never dream of donning a suit and mask and running to a parapet to leap ten feet across a deadly chasm. People who’d maybe never been good enough all their lives.
Well, today she was good enough. Everything was ready, every chess piece in place, and Steph only had to make the first move to touch it all off. But did she dare?
Implement one of Batman’s contingency plans without his knowledge or help. Yeah, it was heavy. But she’d read the file over and over again. It couldn’t fail.
Fine. It was time they all learned that dedication and heart really did count for something. Time to prove that you didn’t have to wear a Bat-symbol to win one for the good guys. Steph took a deep breath, knowing that this would likely change everything in her world, maybe even lose her Tim, and made her choice, setting the plan in motion with a single untraceable text message.
It was necessary.
Come what may.
When the AP ticker reel crossed her desk, Lois at first dismissed it as uninteresting after a brief glance—and then thought, museum break-in. That phrase had especial significance for her. She read the bare-bones article quickly, and got on the phone to the source. “Lois Lane, Daily Planet,” she said in her smoothest, most professional voice, trying to quiet the hammering in her heart.
The curator on the other hand spoke with an accent, but his surprise was clear. “Lois Lane? The one who writes the Superman stories?”
“The very same,” she replied, grinning. Some days it was an annoyance that people immediately thought of her in the context of her most iconic story. Most of the time, though, it was a source of pride. Kal-El was, after all, the most sought-after superhero, and he was hers. Her source, her story, her husband, father of her kids.
Still, she said, “I don’t just cover superhero stories, though. Crime is my original beat, and I was looking for more information on your break-in.” The curator sounded like an older man, flattered by the attention from a big-name newspaper from across the country, and Lois finessed the call to get every last detail.
Her usual interview style was more confrontational, but contrary to popular belief, Mad Dog Lane did have more gears than ‘full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes’. What she finally came away with was extremely disturbing, and she considering getting in touch with the League for follow-up.
But then, this particular matter was very personal to the Super-family. Lois gnawed at her lip, wondering whether to just chase it down herself. Surely a little legwork would get her access to the police investigation of the break-in and robbery. While the cops out in Portland were very good, they weren’t aware of the true motive for the crime, and knowing it focused the list of suspects. Given the situation, her instinct to protect her family was at its strongest, and Lois tended to get just as personal when the people she loved were in danger.
The last time she’d tried to wing it alone, however, people had gotten hurt. Lois herself had come close enough to dying to have felt her mother’s arms around her. That experience—which she had talked about only a handful of times—had gone a long way to assuaging her grief over Ella’s death. And it had given her a new appreciation for life. Every day was more precious, even the days where the most exciting thing she did was arrange the front page of the paper for maximum impact, when Lois knew how close she’d come to missing all of it.
She shivered despite the warmth of her office with its tall windows letting in the sun. So close to not seeing her children grow up, continually surprised by them in all their quirks and glories. So close to not making good on her reconciliation with Kal-El. A matter of moments, really. Lois had seen the medical records from Las Vegas Medical Center and knew her heart had been in v-fib for almost four minutes, during which time her blood hadn’t been circulating. She remembered a choice, to go with her mother or to return to her body, which had been a cradle of pain for too long after that fateful day. Hell, she still didn’t have all of her strength back in her right arm, and couldn’t reach as high with that hand. The upside was that she’d trained herself to use her left arm more, and being almost ambidextrous had its uses.
There’s a little boy who needs you, Lois. Those words, spoken in Ella’s voice, still echoed in Lois’ mind. She was beginning to think Momma had meant Jason, with the way things had gone with him. If his powers really didn’t come back—though Kal-El said he and Zatanna were working on a top-secret plan to restore them—he would need Lois more than ever.
After all, who else knew more about being a squishy human among superheroes than Lois Lane?
For his sake, she couldn’t go haring off into something this potentially dangerous. With a sigh, Lois took out her cell phone and sent a text to a number very few people had. Need to meet. May have found a rock collector for you.
The League’s codes were sometimes obtuse, but Lois would never forget that one. A rock collector meant someone buying, trading, or stealing kryptonite.
At least by insisting on a face-to-face meeting, she’d keep her hand in the investigation. And Oracle knew better than to pick a fight with someone she’d once described—and Lois had heard about later with some pride—as ‘the scariest woman in Metropolis’.
Sebast did feel guilty, which is why he’d broken off weekend plans with a beautiful
boy to spend time with Kala. And spoil her rotten, which was what she needed most. It was breaking his bank, but so what? Kala was more important than money. Besides, with a little luck he would soon have enough money to quit worrying about things like rent and groceries.
He’d found the room on a website offering really good deals, and had lucked out. It was well-appointed and had a gorgeous view of the city lights, and they were snuggled down on the couch watching his Collector’s Edition DVD set of the Chupacabra trilogy. The coffee table held a room service tray with the remains of their dinner: balsamic-glazed salmon for her, steak for him. Sebast had even sprung for dessert, though that they’d brought with them. Few hotels carried his favorite ice cream, but he knew which stores did. And bad horror movies plus ice cream plus some sort of personal change equaled breakup therapy, for Kala at least.
On the big television screen, five determined-looking men filed into a cave entrance, all of them carrying weapons. For some reason only two of them had flashlights, and one was carrying a makeshift torch. “Guess we’re just gonna see by the muzzle flash,” Kala snorted, bringing a spoonful of Ben & Jerry’s Late Night Snack to her mouth. The idea of fudge-covered potato chips was weird to Sebast, but then, Kala wrinkled her nose at his mango-coconut ice cream.
“Of course. Because you know, they fully expect the goddamn chupacabra to have his lair fully wired and lighted. Maybe they think it’s dark because he just forgot to pay the electric bill.” Sebast rolled his eyes, coaxing a smile from Kala. She was sitting with her feet curled under her and her hip pressed against his, while he leaned into the corner of the couch. If not for the plastic wrap around her hair, she would’ve been lying with her head on his shoulder.
“Really, Mexican horror films need a better class of monster hunter,” Kala opined. She and Sebast had been watching the Chupacabra series since the first one, Chupacabra: Night of the Goatsucker, opened in theaters when they were both in high school. The movies ranged from mediocre to horrible, but somehow watching them had become their thing.
“What? You want to send them Buffy? Please. The goatsucker likes blondes.” Sebast chuckled. “Oh, wait, the Winchester brothers. Send them in. I bet he likes his meat salted, too.”
Kala elbowed him. On screen, the guy with the torch was the first one grabbed, dropping the torch to the ground. Of course the two guys with flashlights turned and shone them at the spot where he’d been, revealing a moment’s flash of the unfortunate victim gripping the cave wall, his mouth opened in a scream. Of the monster itself, they got only a glimpse of eyes and fangs before it dragged the man away. There was a gruesome crunching noise, and his screams died away in a gurgle.
The four survivors freaked out, predictably. Two ran toward the monster, shouting and brandishing weapons, but it dodged them. One ran blindly further into the cave, quickly getting lost in the dark, winding passages. And one ran toward the cave mouth, but since he didn’t have a flashlight that was a guaranteed death—and a moment later he impaled himself on spiky stalagmites, making Kala and Sebast both wince despite having seen this particular scene many times.
“Urgh, I hate that one. Why they gotta show the one spike get him right in the crotch?” Sebast winced.
“Hey, skip past that part and then pause it,” Kala said, looking carefully at his hair. “Yours looks pretty light. What about mine?”
He looked over at her, checking the plastic wrap that held the bleach solution on her hair. “Still yellowish. If mine’s ready, let’s rinse it out. I wanna get started on this.” The plan that weekend was to do something, change something, so Kala could stop feeling like she’d just fallen off a truck and done a face-plant into the asphalt. Sebast hated that look in her eyes.
In the spacious bathroom, he took his shirt off—an old one, in case of dripping bleach solution—and sat on the edge of the tub with his head tipped back. Kala pulled on a pair of gloves, adjusted the water, and started rinsing the bleach out of his hair. It had grown out since the last, drastic cut, which Sebast referred to as The Nevada Shearing, and was now back to shoulder-length.
Despite both of them having black hair, they didn’t quite match. Under strong sunlight it was possible to see that Sebast’s hair was a warm black, while Kala’s was true blue-black. And a bitch to bleach, too, he thought. He had only ever done streaks or tips before, and was honestly nervous about bleaching the whole thing, but Kala wanted to do ombre and he wanted to match her. Solidarity against the cruelties of love, or something.
“You heard they’re doing another Chupacabra movie this year?” he asked, as she finished rinsing and squeezed the excess water out.
“Oh God. Didn’t they learn from the last one?” Kala chuckled a little again, and Sebast felt like he was winning the battle. Maybe, just maybe, if this little project was successful, he’d have his best friend back in peak ass-kicking condition instead of moping around.
Sebast stood up and grabbed the stylist’s drape, slinging it around his shoulders to protect his back from the dye. He and Kala had done enough home hair coloring to have bought all the supplies. As he sat down on the closed commode with his back to her, he answered, “Of course not. Everyone hated it. So now they’re gonna make another. This one has got that up-and-coming starlet in it, and it’s supposed to be a story about finding yourself.”
Kala was pouring measured graduations of dye into three plastic bowls, and stopped to look at him in horror. “Why am I thinking Goatsucker’s Baby?”
He laughed, eyes bright. “Because you’re a twisted soul, mamita. Get with the dye already. I need you to tell me how to do it so I don’t screw it up.”
“Hush,” Kala said. “You watched the video more than I did. It’ll be fine.”
I hope so, Sebast thought, as she separated out a length of his hair and began painting it from the ends up with three shades of blue dye.