Three superheroes in love! Or one superhero, one former sidekick, and one redeemed supervillain, at least.
Ryan, John, and Holiday have been partners -- in every sense of the word -- for two years. They’ve saved the world, fallen in love, and remodeled the secret base to include bookshelves and a bigger bed.
But Ryan and John have always been the public face of the team. The world still believes Holiday’s a villain. And he’s been using that reputation to stay undercover and share information. Tonight, though, Holiday comes home injured, and his partners aren’t sure the mission’s worth his life.
Caution: this story also contains lasagna, superhero theatrics, home renovation, a thunderstorm, and very enjoyable use of superpowers in bed.
Out of the shower, more or less dressed, Ryan followed the sound of voices down the base’s hallway. Those particular voices made him smile. They always did. Every time.
John had wandered back to the kitchen, and was sitting on a bar stool in deference to weak lungs, and saying, "-- no, look, the point of a garden is to grow our own bell peppers, if you like them --"
"Yes," Holly said from the Mysterium, "but why wouldn't I just buy them? Or sort of ... pay someone else to grow them? Isn't that how money works?"
"You don't know how money works," Ryan put in, opening the fridge, getting out a beer. Two. "I handle our finances. Because you're both hopeless." This was an exaggeration, but not by much. Only one of the three of them possessed an actual business degree, and that one was neither of his partners. Holiday, the product of depressingly blue-blooded supervillain aristocracy, generally regarded money as something that existed when or if needed, simply lying around. John had the opposite problem. Ryan had never figured out how anyone could lose track of an entire savings account, nor why, having done so, John had simply shrugged and given up and economized.
To be fair, that situation had involved a tangle of government funds and military benefits and Robbie's will and a messy rat's nest of economic red tape. Hadn't been insurmountable, though, and Ryan had been determined by the time he'd gotten his hands on it. John had quite a lot of money, these days. Not as much as Holly, but then that was an astronomical amount; in any case it didn't matter. The three of them were a team.
Ryan had ended up taking over the finances for a few other superheroes, once word got out. He'd started charging for those services, because why the hell not. Might as well have an income.
"We're not hopeless," John said. "We know when to listen to someone else's expertise. We're good at that." His inhaler lay on the countertop, a sleek futuristic coil of healing technology. Repairing those lungs.
"But you want to grow vegetables," Holly said. "Doesn't that require ... I don't know, dirt? Seeds? Someone to sort of watch over them and feed them?"
"They're tomatoes, not babies! What do you think vegetables actually do?"
"I take it back, you are hopeless --" John smothered a cough in the last sip of his tea. "Ryan, help. He doesn't know what gardens are."
"Don't look at me." Ryan plopped onto the bar stool next to his. "I have, like, the opposite of a green thumb. Black. Black and poisonous. I electrocute things."
"I know what gardens are," Holly protested. "The grounds around the Lyndsay estate have roses, I think, and footpaths, and one or two lily-ponds, and you can go and walk in them, I mean the footpaths not the ponds. At least I think you can, although I've not been there in ages and I said yes to opening up the house to tourists so who knows what's going on --"
"That's not a garden! That's historical trivia!"
"Are you charging an entrance fee for the tourists?" Ryan said. "Because if you are I need to know. Income. Records. Are you?"
"Ah ... I can find out? The property manager must know. I'll ask."
Ryan pressed the beer bottle against the bridge of his nose for a second. Nice and cool. "Do that, please, and let me know. Consider it an order."
John patted his shoulder.
"I will," Holly said. "Sorry, Ryan. I'm trying to get used to this, I really am. I don't mind us having a garden. I could try to help with, er, feeding it."
"I don't think I trust you near my vegetables," John said. "I mean that in a nice way."
"But what if I used magic to --"
"You don't get to use magic on my zucchini!"
"One of you wants to do magic things to a zucchini," Ryan said, leaning elbows on the counter, "and one of you somehow doesn't want to. Why does everyone think I'm the dick on this team?" This came out more plaintive than he'd meant it to; he didn't exactly mind the public perception. He knew his own reputation, and the people who mattered knew it wasn't justified.
"Perhaps because you've got a chip on your shoulder the exact size and shape of Captain Justice?" Holly observed, over the communications link.
"Holiday," John said, not quite a scolding.
"Ah, Tim's not a problem." Ryan popped the cap off his beer, then reached over and opened John's too. "I mean, we're better off on opposite sides of the country and separate teams, and he forgets I'm not thirteen anymore, but he was a good teacher, and he's a decent guy. It's mostly the media. The whole narrative. Once a kid sidekick --"
"Always a kid sidekick," his partners finished in unison. They'd heard that one before. Not just from Ryan, either. From other former kid partners. And the aforementioned media.
John added, "And everyone thinks you're a dick because of days like today," and clinked his beer against Ryan's, amused. "You save people, yeah, but you just zip away. No stopping to say hi to kids, take photos, shake hands. Friendly local hero. All that."
"I have you for that," Ryan grumbled. "When you're not half-dead. Holly, you're lucky. No one expects a supervillain to kiss babies."
"I don't mind babies," Holly said, amid sounds that suggested he'd begun conjuring a portal. "Not that I'd know what to do with one, but in theory. They're rather cute. I'm off to the Terrible Tower, since I can't put it off much longer. They'll be wondering why I've not shown up to sulk at my defeat and have witnesses for a temper-tantrum. Don't wait for me as far as the lasagna, I've no idea how late I'll be, and you know I'll have to pop back to the Mysterium first in case anyone's feeling paranoid and tries to follow me home. Take care of John and feed each other."
"Wait --" Ryan said, right as John started, "Holly --"
"You first --"
"No, go ahead --"
Magical sizzling quivered in the distance; Holiday waited patiently for his partners to sort themselves out.
"Before you go all radio silent," Ryan said, "you are okay, right? I didn't hurt you with that last lightning bolt or anything? I tried not to."
The Terrible Tower had every kind of anti-interference protection -- technological, mystical, lethal -- that the world's most powerful supervillains could devise. Even Holiday had never been able to transmit anything from inside.
This meant that Holly, being Holly, worried about not being useful enough. Ryan and John worried more about him getting caught or being injured or overexerting his powers, alone among enemies and in pain. They wouldn't know. They wouldn't know until too late.