Issue #53 – The House on Dawson Bay

This entry is part 5 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

Part 5

Tink looked down at the table. After the fact, the story was a lot more traumatic than it felt in the moment. She could joke about it now, but seriously thinking about it was something she tried to avoid.

“You lucky out for your initiation into the secret, that’s all I can say.” She forced a smile. “The day I found out, I almost died. A couple of times, but the first one was because this maniac, Metal X knocked us off a building. Warrick basically had to choose between letting me fall and outing himself.”

JC was listening intently, almost reverently. “So what did you do?”

She was forced to smile at the insanity of that moment. “I… kissed him. Hard.”

He snorted.

“Hey, remember, I had just fell five stories. My life was flashing before my eyes, I was probably on the adrenaline high of the century and all of a sudden I find that out. Not to mention for the longest time I’d thought Alloy was trying to hit on me after the electromagnet thing, so I was also relieved that I didn’t have a super-powered stalker.”

“I wonder if Lisa was hoping for that reaction.” JC said, a film of self loathing filling his voice.

“She probably had no idea what to expect.” Tink tried to assure him. “This isn’t the kind of thing you’ve seen a million times on TV.”

“Actually, you do see it a million times in comics and movies.”

“Oh.” She wasn’t expecting that. Her breadth of comic knowledge came from a handful of movies and thumbing through Warrick’s collection from time to time. “Well how does it usually happen there?”

“Depends. Usually not good. The Diego Forsa incarnation of Trumpeter Herald had his girlfriend feel so betrayed by his double life that she went insane and became Down Note, arguably one of the best villains in his rogue’s gallery.”

Tink stared at him for a silent handful of seconds.

“I’m, you know, not. Going insane or becoming a bad guy, I mean.” He said once he noticed.

“The thing I was more worried about s about you feeling betrayed.”

He shook his head. “Not by Lisa. You should probably tell her that. I’m really, really not mad at her. Maybe a little hurt, but I understand why she wouldn’t tell me. I mean she cares a lot about me, probably doesn’t want me to worry.” He paused, considering something. “Do you?”

“Hmm?”

“Worry, I mean.”

“God, all the time.” She shook her head at the thought. “Remember how I said I almost died twice the day I found out? So did he. More than twice, if Metal X ever thought of just squeezing his armor, or if he connected in that first couple of minutes… and god, the Whitecoat got skewered by him.” She unconsciously touched the scar she got when the nanite harpoon when through the older hero’s body and hit her.

She looked past JC at the passing people on the pier beyond. “Warrick’s only rule when we talk about what he and the others do is that we never talk about how close they come to dying so often. He says that it’s like reminding a tightrope walker how high up they are. Which is weird, considering the kind of trophies he keeps. Right now, back at the beach house? He’s got a flechette that a guy named Samael shot through his armor.”

“That’s kind of morbid.”

“Probably. But I think he keeps it around to help him remember that if he can survive that, he can survive anything.”

JC frowned at that. “That was pretty deep, not something I’d expect him to say. You think you know a guy…”

Tink caught his tone and moved quickly to preempt it. “I said I think that’s the reason. He’s never said as much. JC, he’s still your best friend, I swear. Everything you know about him, it’s not an act. Every time he geeks out over Whitecoat or Majestrix and Zero Point? That’s for real. As in he does that when he actually has to talk to them.”

“He’s met them?”

“Oh yeah. The Whitecoat was his mentor back in New York.”

JC’s eyes flicked over her shoulder and he started to get up. “Wow… listen, Tink, thanks for this. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Thanks.”

Before she could reply, he’d ducked into the crowd.

Scant seconds later, Warrick managed to finish picking his way through the crowd. One arm supported a cut down box, upon which was heaped what he believed to be an appropriate cross section of carnival food for the neophyte fair-goer. His other hand clutched two snow-cones, one pinkish red, the other yellow.

“They have everything here.” he announced proudly, siting the box down on the table. “Fifty-eight flavors of snow-cone included. I got you your favorite, pineapple, though I still have no idea how anyone can like that taste.”

She took the offered snow-cone with a sly smile. “I bet I can make you like it.” Before he could protest, she took a bit of it into her mouth, then leaned up and kissed him.

It just flashed into her mind and then she did it without thinking. Halfway into the kiss though, she replayed the scene in her mind and saw herself trying to be sultry. Sultry was not one of the top one hundred words she would use to describe herself and in retrospect, all she could think was that she probably came off as awkward or trying too hard.

Warrick didn’t seem to mind and when they finally broke the kiss, the look of surprise on his face was well worth her own embarrassment. Confidence bolstered, her lips turned up. “Well?”

“I… um… I think I could learn to deal with the pineapple.” With that, he sat down heavily in the chair to her left. “Man, after that, I guess funnel cake’s just not gonna cut it.”

Tink laughed and went back to her snow-cone It wasn’t the best time, but she had to let him know what just happened. “JC was just here.” She said, trying to sound offhanded.

He looked around, trying to spot his friend. “Really? Where? Is he out of his funk?”

“Not entirely.” She replied. “He asked some questions like how I found out, and how I reacted… seemed to make him feel better. He did say he’s not mad at Lisa.”

“That’s good. It’ll take a load off her mind.” He upended his own snow-cone, sucking the syrup out instead of eating the ice. “What else did he say?”

She shrugged, not knowing how much she should convey. “He was mostly interested in how I deal with things, I think comics have taught him that things go way differently. He said something about a guy named… Trumpet?”

“Trumpeter Herald, probably.” Warrick said, a tiny encyclopedia on all things geeky opening in his head. “Diego Forsa, Trumpeter Herald III, told Millie Whitman, his fiance and—“

“She went insane from the ‘betrayal’–” Tink used air quotes, “and turned into Down Note. You didn’t… please say you didn’t think that would happen with me.”

A shrug and a Cheshire smile was her immediate answer. “Down Note was a special case, but there is a common theme—and I have put some stock into it—that the whole secret ID thing is seen as one big lie. I was pretty much expecting you to slap me, maybe say ‘how could you?’. And… I was scared that we were going to break up, considering everything that happened after.”

“You mean me saving your life?”

“If you put it like that, It sounds dumb.” He chuckled.

“It’s going to take a lot more than a nanite wielding psychopath to get you rid of me, Mr. Kaine.” She teased. Now seemed like a good time for a question that had been on her mind for some time. “Hey; how would you react if it turned out that I… you know, do what you do?”

“Now that would be a dream come true. To tell the truth, I’m kind of jealous of Mr. Smythe and Ms. Keyes; how they can go on patrol and stuff together…” He chuckled a little, “But really, who’s left for you to turn out to be? Sister Sacred?”

She had to laugh at that too. “It would be the perfect cover, you have to admit.”

Suddenly, Warrick stopped laughing, eyes widening.

Tink’s smile disintegrated. “What? Warrick, it was just a question I asked for fun. I’m…”

He shook his head. “No, not that. Seriously, it would be really cool. Something just clicked though: I just thought about how Millie Whitman learned Forsa’s secret… I know why JC’s so mad… and it’s not at Lisa, it’s at me.”

***

There was still a good hour of daylight left when they got back to the beach house. JC wasn’t making any secret of where he was; they could see him on the second floor deck when they pulled in.

Having had the situation as Warrick pieced it together explained to them, the others, including Lisa agreed that he should be the first to talk to him. JC expected that, so he didn’t even have to turn around to know who it was when the sliding glass door opened onto the deck.

Champions of the Forever-world #143.” Warrick said as he slowly stepped outside. “Millie comes over to Diego’s place and overhears him and Tim Molnar arguing over Diego needing him to cover for him at work again; the Champions needed him in Salt Creek to investigate the Talon Insurrection meeting there.

“Tim knew Diego was the third Trumpeter form all the way back in #98; he’d been helping run interference with Millie so she didn’t think Diego was blowing her off, just like every good secret keeper in comics.” He stopped walking a few feet behind JC. “Tyson Napoli told John Castle, The Red Oblivion told Christi Peterson, King Blade told Omar Saif. Hell, Lisa told Kay. That’s how it works; if you tell anyone you tell your best friend. And… and I didn’t.”

JC didn’t reply.

“That’s why I think you’re pissed at me… or feel bad, I don’t know, I can’t be sure.” Warrick continued. “All of a sudden, you’re wondering just how much of your best friend is what you thought. I mean, if I didn’t tell you about this before I told Tink, then you think, maybe I didn’t think of you as my best friend.”

“It was something like that.” JC admitted, his back still to Warrick. “But I talked to Tink and I know it wasn’t on purpose. And even if it was, life isn’t a comic book, right?”

“You’d be surprised how often it is for me.” Warrick laughed. “But that’s true enough. Things are a lot different from how they turn out in real life. Lisa’s my friend too, you know? And I couldn’t just out her… or any of the others like that, no matter how much I wanted to have someone… I hate saying normal, but someone on the outside to talk about this stuff with.

“Jesus, man, I said all this better to your empty room earlier today than I am now.”

“Mad I stole your moped?”

“I actually told you that you could borrow it just before I figured out you were already gone.” JC snorted at this. Warrick had to laugh too. “Alright man, so how do we make this right?”

“We’re already right.” JC sighed. “I’ve already ruined enough of our beach house time with The Drama. Time to grow up.”

Warrick grimaced. “Come on, no we’re not right, because I still feel like an ass for all this, justified or not. You know if this was a movie, you’d punch me and everything would be copacetic—“

JC turned on his heel and flung out his fist. He wasn’t the most fit person, or skilled at the art of fisticuffs, but Warrick, despite his nom de guerre, was not made of iron and was taken by surprise. He went down instantly.

“Gah!” He said from the floor, looking dazed. “Dude!”

“What? You told me to do it! I thought you were a superhero, I thought it would bounce off; how can you not take a punch?”

Warrick scrambled into a sitting position. “Alloy, the armored defender of Mayfield. Without the armor, I’m just a guy.”

“Kind of a wimpy guy.” JC’s shoulders shook with suppressed laughter.

“Hey, I know I’m not strong.” Warrick admitted. “But luckily, I can do this.” At the speed of thought, Isp and Osp were summoned and slithered out of his sleeves. Isp looped out and tripped JC at the knees.

JC caught himself with his hands and stared at the tentacles in awe as they helped Warrick to his feet.

Once back on his feet, Warrick crossed his arms and let the twins slither about in the air around him. They stayed close in, still wary for his sake after the punch. “JC, meet Isp and Osp.”

Osp was the first of the two to work up its nerve to extend closer and get a closer look. JC shied back, eyes wide, mouth speechless.

“Yeah, that’s the usual reaction.” Warrick laughed. “To answer your question, yes, the crazy internet rumors I make fun of are true; they’re… well that take offense to being called ‘alive’, so let’s just say they’ve got minds of their own, though for the most part, they do what I ask. What else? Oh, and I can summon them through any metal and that more or less becomes their body. Right now they’re this funky super-metal I picked up off of a bag guy.”

JC slowly got to his feet, brushing himself off dramatically. “Kind of freaky… Very cool. I’m in for a lot of little surprises like this now aren’t I?”

“Half of them are going to be from Cyn. She’s not a shapeshifter like Heather Manson in Taskforce: Earth. She’s five or six dozen steps beyond and she’s not shy about trying to squick people with it.”

“As in…”

“I’ve known her to store spare change in her arm.”

“Wow.” JC sat down on the bench running along the deck railing. “So tell me; what happens now? I mean, now I know; I’m in the club. What do I do with this?”

Warrick walked over the ocean. The twins stretched to explore the new pool without touching the water. Being on the east coast, there wasn’t a sunset there, but the expanding black, slowly revealing the stars. It was far more fitting for the situation, now that he thought of it. “Short term? I leave, Lisa comes out and you two make up. Before you had your ‘startling revelation’, you did say that finding out that she was Occult was the best day of your life, right?”

“I think I said most amazing. I wasn’t lying either.”

“And nothing’s changed. The problem was you and me, not you and her. She needs to hear that from you. I kind of hope she doesn’t feel the need to hit me though, when she cast ‘Twenty Ton’ on her staff, I’ve seen that thing drive a robot into the ground like a stake—serious cartoon character stuff.”

They both laughed. Warrick turned and leaned back against the rail. “That’s short term. Long term? It’s exactly like you said; you’ve got a lot to learn, but luckily, you’re in the right summer house for it. We’ll all answer what questions you have; the others… we’ve talked about this and they’ve given their blessing to let you in on their secrets too. Even Jun and believe me, that girl has a lot of secrets.”

JC raised an eyebrow. “Jun as in Juniper? Cute, ditzy Juniper?”

“Be thankful you’re not a bad guy, man.” Warrick shook his head with a laugh. “The first rule of not being on the receiving end of a surprisingly thorough ass-whupping is ‘do not underestimate Juniper’. One minute, it’s ‘oh, I don’t know…’” He mimicked Juniper’s voice unsettlingly well. “And the next minute there’s an ice knife through something important and the air is freezing solid.”

“You can’t be serious.” JC said. “I mean Juniper?”

Warrick held up a hand to stop him, looking beyond JC to the sliding door. “Long term, man. Right now, its’ short term.”

JC turned to see Lisa in the doorway, a nervous, timid demeanor about her that he only saw when they fought and it turned out she was wrong. This time she wasn’t wrong though and that look tore him up inside.

“Yeah. Good i—” He glanced back just in time to see Warrick lowered over the railing tot he driveway by Isp. “…dea.”

“Hey.” Lisa didn’t move from the door. She stood framed there, one arm crossing her body to grip her shoulder. Her hair was hanging loose and wild around her face, like she hadn’t bothered doing anything with it. JC loved it when she did that, but now he barely noticed. The only thing going through his mind was how much he wanted to remove that pensive look from her eyes.

He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a cleansing breath. The ocean air seemed to make it more effective. “I’ve been a complete jackass.”

“No, I…” She started to walk toward him.

“Really, I have. You don’t have to try and make me feel better about it. What I did wasn’t… it wasn’t fair to you, because none of my problems with this were with you. I should have dealt with my issues like an adult and I didn’t. Hell, if I were thinking like an adult, I wouldn’t have gotten upset over something I only know about from comics and TV in the first place.”

Lisa reached him and caught him about the shoulders, urging him to straighten up from his perpetual slouch. The results surprised her. While she never exactly towered over him like Tink did with Warrick, she was used to having to look down an inch or two because of his usual posture. Now she was looking up, not by much, but she did wonder if he’d always been taller than her.

The moment of awkwardness passed quickly and she started to speak. “Do you think adults would do better with this? Honestly? To find out that someone they… care about is different than what they thought? They their closest friends have been hiding a live altering reality from you? I can’t blame you at all for falling back on comics and TV for a little bit of understanding. Sometimes I wish I paid more attention to this stuff so I’d have even a little bit of an idea how this is all supposed to go.”

In an instant, his arms were around her and she was pulled close, his mouth right next to her ear. “I’m still sorry. I hurt you, I know I did. And it was stupid.”

She hugged him back, kissing his earlobe.

After a long minute, they separated. JC blushed red from embarrassment. Now was as good a time to ask questions as any. Maybe doing so would assure her that he wasn’t angry with her. “So… every time you had to leave early, or Kay and Cyn called you for… issues?”

“Yeah.” Lisa nodded, not needing him to finish the question. “Evil, wild magic and rampaging fey tend to be inconvenient. That’s something the comics get right by the way.” She smiled warmly. “You were great about that, by the way. I was worried it would be a strain.”

He shrugged, returning her smile in kind. “You had good reasons. Not as good as the real reason, but…”

They both laughed at that and somehow ended up sitting on the bench by the railing together.

“You know, it kind of sucks though…” He patted her arm reassuringly when she gave him a concerned look. “No, I mean, how thing have gone great for almost two years and now we’ve had fights—really dumb fights—twice in a month.”

Lisa made an off noise n her throat. “Yeah… the last fight doesn’t count.”

“Why would you say that?”

“It was neither of out faults. There are pretty complicated, superhero reasons, you don’t want to hear it.”

A chuckle escaped him and he slipped an arm around her. “You’re talking to a guy that knows the Springhill family tree from memory, including all eight kids from the future and their families. Complicated is my hobby, babe.”

Lisa shook her head and put her own arm around him, scooting closer. “Alright, but I warned you.” She took a deep breath and told the tale, the whole tale, from Morganna’s possession (which he knew), to her defeat and return, to her new Knights Amore Deststabilis and their effect of emotions across the greater Mayfield Metropolitan area.

By the time she was done, JC was struck nearly speechless. Smiling, she laid a gentle kiss on those silent lips. “Complicated enough for you?”

“I’m just trying t process all this going on in real life.” He murmured.

“You seemed alright with the genetic powers and the magic.”

“Yeah, but then we moved on to talking apes and ancient reincarnating superheroes who are now villains.”

Lisa took his free hand in her own. “Still want to be part of this world?”

“Hell yes.”

She grinned. “Good, because there’s one more thing I’ve never told you that you have to hear. It’s more important than any of our bad guys, or powers, or anything like that. It’s a secret that you absolutely need to hear and I really wish I told you this before.”

“Yeah?” He said, apprehensive.

“I love you.”

A contented smile slowly came over his face and he leaned in to kiss her, but stopped an inch away from her lips. “That wasn’t a secret, Lis. And I love you too.

End Issue #53

Series Navigation<< Issue #52 – Scenes From a Changing WorldIssue #54 – Shadow of the Kurounagi >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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