Mighty Mike’s Mexican Metropolis.
After the exhausting Hell that was the last hour…two weeks…six months, we were all tired and hungry. Since we were the big hero of the moment, everyone said we should pick the place to eat. But because of what she’d gone through, I’d decided to let Shay pick the place.
Hence we ended up teleporting to possibly the most disgusting restaurant in the city. A place with food most people with taste buds wouldn’t dare eat, but Shay and Malcolm could down by the truckload.
I loved having to worry about eating crappy food.
Raina hadn’t been able to get us all the way there. She’d explained to me how my blood interacting with her soul increased her capabilities. Even so, she still had a limit and she’d already pushed it moving everyone around during the fight.
As such, we’d landed about two blocks away from the place. Sarah and I weren’t in any condition to walk though so Malcolm and Olivia were helping us along, one of our arms around each of their shoulders.
This is so degrading.
Not like we have any other options. I paused. You know you could talk outloud. No reason you shouldn’t get to know my friends.
Thanks to you, I already know everything I need to about them.
I rolled our eyes.
“So Carter,” Casey, who’d gotten dressed into clothes he’d brought with him to the fight, started. “You blew up with a mountain.”
“An entire damn mountain,” Sammy grunted.
“Not to mention he casually shot down the other angel,” Harrison said. “The one who could casually slice through those demons we couldn’t even touch.”
“You guys all sound so surprised!” Shay shouted. “You should know by now how awesome my little bro is!” she slapped my back.
“Ahh! Ahh! Oh god why!”
“Ooph, sorry,” Shay groaned, putting her hands up as a few of the others laughed.
“Why isn’t your healing factor doing it’s thing, kid?” Malcolm asked.
I panted a bit more before turning our head to him to answer.
“Like everything else about us now, it’s tied to the energy that comes from our soul and our demonic power. And we pretty much used up everything we had in the fight, so it’s gonna take us awhile to heal.”
“Okay, but can it not take you awhile to stop referring to yourself in the plural?” Raina asked. “It’s weird.”
“Weird as it may be, I’m not one person anymore.”
Raina shook her head before turning to Eve.
“Pull up the news on your phone. I wanna know what they’re saying about Carter.”
“And you can’t do this yourself, why?” Eve replied despite pulling out her phone.
“Duh. Texting Ally come to meet us here,” she answered, already texting away.
Sammy’s whole body drooped.
The two of us had never really gotten a chance to make up and become friends or anything, but I still felt for the guy. He lost the girl he loved for no other reason than he tried to be a good man in the face of great evil.
As we got closer and closer to the restaurant’s yellow banner, I noticed small changes in my weird little family since the last time we’d seen them.
Malcolm appeared more confident and relaxed, as if there was a large weight off his shoulders…despite my currently resting half my bodyweight on him. Shay…well, she was back to normal. Neither Sarah or I had any idea what kind of psychological repercussions her experience could have on her in the long run, but that was something we could talk about later. I’d already had the chance to see Olivia’s softer side, but the current situation was different, her casually smiling and laughing in front of everyone. Raina? Well I just really damn proud. Sure, we could blow up a mountain, but the way she’d lead everyone against Abraham twice, while still managing to stay true to herself? Shay was gonna hate to hear it, but she was the leader this team needed.
And Eve…all this time later and I still couldn’t get a clear vibe off her.
“So we’ve got good news and bad news as far as the reports go,” Eve said. “On the one hand, Carter’s reputation is probably better than it’s ever been before and videos of him finishing Abraham are already getting millions of views. Additionally, the Church of LIghtning Bee has been shut down.”
“And the bad news?” Malcolm asked.
“Adam’s the one who shut down the church and has spun the story to his advantage. Saying that Abraham is the one who corrupted the church and that he worked with Carter to take him down.”
“Damn,” more than a few of us uttered.
“Okay that’s enough!” Raina shouted, having a different response. “I’m sure we’re all still in the dark about certain things, but I wanna know why you all keep calling my dad ‘Adam’. His name is Andrew.”
“Did no one tell her?!” I asked.
“I thought Olivia or the Troupe would have,” Malcolm answered.
“I never got the chance to say anything,” Shay followed.
“Eve and I were under the assumption Adam would have told her himself.”
“What are you all talking about?”
Several of the others were scratching their heads, others fidgeting, all trying to figure out how to tell her this thing we’d all assumed she knew before any of us.
“Your dad is actually Adam from the Bible and he’s doing all of this so he can get back to the Garden of Eden,” Hope said plainly. “No need to dance around the point.”
I looked at Raina and based off her expression, she looked to be taking this information…shockingly well.
“Well, that’s something.”
“That’s it?” I asked. “Kinda thought you’d be a bit more shocked or upset.”
She glared at me.
“Is it surprising? Yes. But compared to everything else? Not that big a deal.”
I really do like her.
Bet you’re glad you didn’t get to kill her then.
You’re never gonna stop bringing that up, are you?
“Ugh,” Olivia grimaced, staring up at the yellow banner as we arrived at our unfortunate destination, everyone filing in. “Mom would be so disappointed.”
The interior of the building was small, there maybe being 20 feet from the front door to the soda filled fridge in the back, only three tables being present. Since there were ten of us, it was a good thing the place was empty as we filled up the entire space.
A single woman stood behind the counter, giving us some weird looks.
Hopefully the staring was directed at us and our new demonic features and not Raina’s face, or else this place would be even worse than I thought.
She must not have seen the video.
What do you mean?
Carter, you revealed your identity to the world. You’re not just an icon or a hero now; you’re a celebrity.
How I had not thought of that?! I had no idea how to act like a celebrity and I was fairly positive Sarah had even less of a clue.
“Oye,” I grunted, Malcolm and Olivia sitting me down in a chair.
The Troupe sat in the chairs closest to the black, Raina, Malcolm, Shay and I sat in the middle and Eve and Olivia sat closest to the door.
“Hey!” Shay called over to the woman at the counter. “We haven’t met, but I’m a regular here. Could you please just tell whoever’s working in the kitchen to make Shay’s special? Oh, and ten ice waters.” Shay paused. “You guys can grab sodas for yourselves if you want.”
“Uh, and our own food?” Sammy asked, confused.
Shay shook her head.
“My special is made to feed eight people. We’ll be fine.”
“Oh, I’ve been wanting to try this for awhile!” Malcolm cheered, his arm wrapped around her.
Exactly what are we in for here?
That depends. Does going to the bathroom work the same as usual?
“So,” Raina started. “Before we really get into the celebrating and trying whatever disgusting excuse for food Shay likes…” Shay flipped off Raina, but with something of a lighthearted spirit to it. “….there’s something we need to talk about. Secrets.” No one said anything, everyone just waiting for her to continue. “Together, we all helped beat Abraham and that’s awesome. But think about how much easier and quicker this could have gotten done if we hadn’t kept secrets from each other. Not one of us is an exception here; we all dropped the ball. Some more than others. If we’d just communicated better, so many of our problems could have been avoided. So, from now on, no more secrets. If someone finds something out that the rest of the group would want to know about, they share it as soon as they can. Got it?”
Huh. Looks like no one even needs to tell her she’s in charge now.
Of course not. She’s a natural.
“Understood,” Olivia said, the first to respond.
From there, every nodded in agreement as the woman who worked here starting brining us our water.
“Excellent,” Raina said. “So, before we party, anyone got a secret they wanna tell?”
That got different reactions out of everyone. Hope said, “Nope” while her teammates shook their heads. Olivia said, “I’m all out of secrets”, while right next to her, Eve held her chin in her hand, apparently having to think about this.
“Yeah, there’s something I need to tell a few of you,” Malcolm said, the rest of our waters being brought over.
“Carter, Shay, you’re probably not going to believe me,” he continued as I started sipping my water. “But…”
“But he’s the OG Panda!” Shay shouted at the top of her lungs, practically leaping out of her seat as I spat out my water. P…Panda?! “My man is one of the Guardianship!”
“WHAT?!” I screamed, the Troupe members the only other ones who looked surprised.
“Wait, how did you already know?” Malcolm asked Shay.
“Ha!” Eve laughed. “She must have found out when Raina went inside her soul.”
Malcolm…was Panda. But…how?! And they all knew already? Blarg!
“You good Carter?” Casey asked in response to what were probably weird, confused faces I was making.
“Yeah,” I said, trying to breathe. “I think I’m good. Just want to know more.”
“Long story short, Adam scrambled my brains and made me a different guy. The Donald guy I used to be may be somewhere deep in my brain, but I barely remember any of his life.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Raina asked.
Was I still making faces?
“Yeah, you know, just trying to accept that I’ve been friends with or fighting alongside one of my heroes for months.” I paused. “Oh god, I am so sorry for all of the times I hit you. And for all the times I…”
“Kid, calm down,” he cut me off. “I really don’t want this to make things weird. Like I said, I’m Malcolm, not Donald. I’m not your hero.”
I’m still gonna think about him that way.
I’d say don’t make a fool of us, but I know that’s a hopeless request.
While I continued to process the news, and the others laughed at us, outside, I could see through the front door’s window a pink beetle rushing toward the restaurant and stopping in front of it.
Out of the car, Ally came running out and through the door.
“Ally?” Raina asked, face shimmering. “How did you…”
Raina was cut off by Ally pouncing onto her lap, placing her hands on her face and making out with her.
That went on for a few moments, as Sammy looked like he was about to cry, until Raina broke it off.
“How did you get here so quickly?” she finished asking.
“After I saw the news feed of Carter blowing up Mt. Bluejay, I was already driving toward there!” Following her giving the answer to Raina’s question she returned to making out with her, mumbling, “You are so amazing.”
Every member of the Troupe stood up, Harrison slapping Sammy’s back.
“And I think that’s our cue to leave,” Hope said, Raina and Ally re-pausing their kiss.
“Oh god, I’m sorry, I didn’t think…” Hope put up a hand to cut Ally off.
“It’s cool,” Sammy said, stepping forward. “Look, we’re happy we got the chance to get some last licks in on Abraham and we definitely want in on killing Adam.” He paused to shake his head. “But this is your celebration. Enjoy it.”
The four started walking out, Casey waving.
I understood why they wouldn’t want to stay, but that understanding on made me realize how much I wanted us to become their friend. Sammy was probably a lost cause at this point but I could still be there for him though. And the other three had no problem with me and, like Sammy, they’d been there to help me when they were needed most; Hope even saved our life. And I had a feeling Casey and I especially could get along.
“Wait,” Shay said as they appraoched the exit. “If you don’t want to stick around for the food, that’s fine, it just means more for Malcolm and I, but before you go, I think you guys should be part of the toast.”
“A toast?” Harrison asked.
Shay nodded, raising her glass of water.
“To the man who gave his life in the battle we just won.”
Immediately, Raina lifted her glass.
“To the best of us.”
The Troupe wore small smiles, walking back over to their drinks as Ally put her hand over Raina’s.
“To Captain K.O.” Malcolm said, lifting his glass.
“To someone who could have been far more than a sidekick,” Eve joined in next, appearing just for a moment like the relatively kind and innocent woman I met at Panda Corp all those months ago.
“To the good man it would have been nice to know,” Casey said, all four of the Troupe having grabbed their glasses and raised them.
“To the man who is the reason we’re all still alive,” Olivia said.
Shall we say it together?
I was surprised she’d ask that.
What? Even I liked him.
“To Joey,” we both said.
“To Joey!!!” everyone else cheered.
We all drank, but there was something I was unsure about.
“Olivia, what did you mean he’s the reason we’re all still alive? I know he saved Malcolm but…”
“But he also saved me,” Raina said. “From Gordon. And without me, we wouldn’t have been able to save Shay and by extension, you.”
“Technically you didn’t save us,” I joked. “We did die after all.”
Shay and Raina each lightly punched one of our shoulders.
“Right well, now that that’s done, we really better go,” Sammy said, the group once again making their way toward the exit. The other three left, but Sammy stuck around by the door. “You know if you break her heart I’ll kill you, right?”
“Don’t have anything to worry about.”
Sammy nodded, holding his hand up at Raina before exiting.
Raina then nodded to herself.
Looking at everyone else left all coupled, I realized we were the only ones who were still single.
Don’t worry Carter, you’ll always have me, she mocked. Literally.
Yeah, yeah. Hey, if we ended up meeting a girl and having a kid, would it be part demon?
Truthfully, I didn’t care that we were single or what kind of kid we could have. My friends had all found people that made them happy, and that me me more than content.
“Most of you weren’t at Joey’s funeral. It’s not your faults, but…I heard his parents speak about him. Some, uh, some childhood friend of his too. As soon as we can, we need to tell them the truth about what happened. About who he was.”
“Agreed,” Eve said. “And I don’t think you’ll be finding any objections to that idea.”
“Definitely,” I said as she drank from her glass.
“So Carter,” Ally started a new topic. “I know you’re probably exhausted, but when are you planning on shooting one of those mountain destroying blasts at Adam’s face?”
Are people gonna pay more attention to our blowing up the mountain than any messages we try to get across?
Your former species IS rather shallow.
“I am definitely looking forward to that,” Shay added.
They were grinning, but all I could do was clench our fists.
“Not any time soon,” I had no choice but to say. “Even at full strength, we’re no match for him.” Ally and Shay’s faces fell. “Abraham said he wouldn’t stand a chance against him alone. And we could just barely beat him, with you guys.”
“What are you saying, kid?”
“Either we need to find a way to increase our power even further or we need a really clever strategy.” Seeing their disparaged faces, I decided to re-lighten the mood. “Or you know, you guys could get on our level.”
“Excuse me?” Raina reacted.
“I’m just saying, we have all this crazy power and the next strongest out of you guys is Olivia.”
“Don’t think I couldn’t still kill you,” she threatened, playing along.
“Hey, from what I hear, Sarah wanted to fuse with me,” Shay said. “Then I’d be the big hero.”
“I don’t need any powers,” Malcolm said. “I may not be Donald, but if I’m as good as him, I was more than able to hold my own alongside King Power.”
We turned to Raina.
“Bitches I just rule.”
While we laughed, the employee brought over a tray which horrified me almost as much as Abraham had. On it were ten fajitas, 12 tacos and five quesadillas, all no doubt of different varieties and all slathered in sour cream, hot sauce and guacamole.
“I helped the chefs design it,” Shay said, voice softening. “It’s so beautiful.”
“Anyone wanna take a taste before Shay and I start gobbling all this down?” Malcolm asked.
Raina, Eve and Olivia all turned their noses up at it, but Ally actually went in for a shrimp taco.
“What? Not all rich people hate things that are cheap.”
“Very true, Ally.”
It was the last voice I wanted to here, a chill going down our spine. “Hello everyone.”
Adam was standing at the door. He was standing at the door and we still couldn’t stand.
But Raina could.
“What are you doing here?” she asked, meeting him eye to eye, Ally right at her side.
“Don’t sound so afraid,” he said, walking closer to us, hands in his pockets. “You know I’d never hurt you and, in fact, I’m not here to hurt anyone. Quite the opposite in fact; I’m here to congratulate you all.”
Everyone else stood, gathering around Raina as Adam got even closer.
Sarah, you’ve been around a long time. Any idea what to do about him?
Yeah. Try not to piss him off again.
“Congratulate us?” Shay asked rhetorically. “We just screwed over your plans.”
“Yes, that is true, you all definitely did set me back quite a bit. However, while I’m not clear on the detailed sequence of events leading up to it, including when and why my queen decided to throw back in with you lot, but the fact of the matter is, you beat an archangel.” He stared down directly at us. “You two personally beat down an archangel; one of God’s seven strongest warriors. That’s something to be proud of.”
Now it was clear why he was here. Just from the way he was talking…it was plain as day that he was mocking us. Trying to diminish our accomplishment. As if it didn’t mean anything in the face of him.
“Hope you’re not expecting a thank you,” Malcolm sneered.
Adam smiled, his mouth closed.
“I’m not. Donald.” Malcolm’s eyes popped at him. “Yes, I’m aware that you’ve been learning more about yourself. And what I did to you. But, strange as this must sound, there was a time when you and I were incredibly close friends.”
“Well then I’m really glad you replaced that asshole with me.”
Adam turned his back to us, flexing his hands inside his pockets.
“You’ve started to remember. It won’t be long until my friend his back and who knows, he may decide it’s not worth fighting me this time.” Spinning back around on his heel, he continued to say, “Speaking of which, have any of you come to that logical conclusion yet?”
Olivia leaped at him, roundhouse kicking him in the side of the head. Adam simply titled his head to the side.
“I know that didn’t hurt you, but I hope it gave you your answer.”
Adam sighting, waving his hand and shooting Olivia back into her seat. “Hm.” With another wave, everyone but Raina was seated.
“Don’t you touch her!” Ally and I shouted as got far closer to her than he should be.
He smiled. He smiled in a way that, knowing the kind of man he was, made us want to rip him limb from limb.
“Whatever you’re about to say to me, don’t,” Raina said confidently. “You said you didn’t know why I betrayed you? Well it’s because you’re a fucking monster!”
“Yeah!” Ally pumped her arm.
“You think of me as a monster?” Adam had the audacity to look hurt. Shocked and hurt.
“Of course! Now that…now that I can see clearly, it’s obvious. You’ve never done anything but use, hurt and manipulate me. Mentally, emotionally…physically. Breaking me and suppressing who I really am.”
“Raina, I apologise for anything you think I may have done, but these people are poisoning your mind. I’m your father. I know who you are.” On the last word, he put his hand on Raina’s shoulder.
“BASTARD!” we screamed, fists lighting up as we punched him across the restaurant, Adam stopping himself in mid-air before he went crashing through the wall.
Huh. Guess fear still works as a trigger.
“Feeling better are we?” Adam taunted, the employee running into the kitchen.
We were feeling better. Good enough that we could definitely throw a few more attacks out.
But that wasn’t necessary, us and Raina exchanging nods. I’d gotten him off her, but she could handle this.
“Tell me…how many other kids have you had?”
Adam grit his teeth, his face freezing in shock.
“I mean, you’ve been around for millenia, right? Mom couldn’t have been the first woman you ever got pregnant. How many other kids have you been a father to?”
Adam lowered himself back down to the floor.
“It is true that I have produced a great deal of offspring,” he started. “But I was not a father to any of them. A father is someone who loves and cares for their child. Who raises them to be the best they can be. Who is always there for them and is prepared to give everything they have to them. I have fathered many children, but you are my only true daughter.”
Raina lowered her head…and laughed.
“Guess we actually do agree on the definition. And if that’s the case?” She paused, raising her head. “Then you’re no father of mine!” Adam stumbled back, his face filled with heartbreak, a tear already running down his face. “And if you’re not my father, then you can’t say you know who I am. But I can! And I know the truth! I’m Raina; a hero!!!”
More tears fell down Adam’s face as everyone got back up and gathered around us and Raina.
Picking himself back up, all of Adam’s sadness was replaced by rage.
“Very well,” he growled. “If that’s how things are, then I suppose I have no choice but to let you live your own mistakes. Hopefully you will come to see them for what they are by the time you reach adulthood, but in the meantime, remember this: The only reason any of your friends continue to breathe is because I choose to let them. And if you all attempt to stand in my way as I put my next plan into place, that courtesy will end. Myers, Saxons, you especially will suffer.”
We were terrified. We had so much power building up inside us, the heat was crazy. But I still doubted even our fins could do anything.
Raina stepped forward.
“Is that all?”
Adam once again lowered his head, pressing his feet deep into the tiled floor.
“I suppose so,” he said, walking towards the door. “Enjoy this while you can.”
As he exited, everyone else breathed a sigh of relief.
“I really hate that guy,” Malcolm grunted.
“Ray!” Ally screamed, jumping into Raina’s arms. “That was so awesome!”
“Not something I’d normally admit, but while I was acting cool and meant every word…I was still terrified.”
“Being scared of him is nothing to be ashamed of,” Shay commented.
Olivia walked up to me.
“I hope you’ve already started giving thought to some potential strategies.”
“Yeah, in fact I think we’ve got a good one already.”
“Really now?” Eve asked.
“Yeah,” I launched one of our arms up. “We should eat some cheap Mexican food!” Everyone stared. “What? We still deserve our celebration. It’s not like Adam’s trying anything right now.” I picked up a taco. “So let’s just have some fun!”
“Hm,” Raina laughed, her cheek a little wet. “I like that idea.”
“Sounds good to me,” Malcolm said, him and Shay holding each other. “And after this I say we hit the bar!”
“Good call,” Eve said as everyone was about to sit down.
“Wait,” I said. “Before you sit…I know this is cheesy and kinda dumb…but that’s me. And…I kinda want a group hug.”
As the others exchanged looks, Shay walked up to me and thumped our forehead.
“Nothing dumb about it,” she said, wrapping her arms around us.
“How many times have we hugged already, Snipey?” Raina joked, joining in.
“Even we’ve hugged before, kid.”
“There’s nothing childish about affection,” Olivia said, her and Eve coming in next.
“I really need to hang out with you guys more,” Ally joined in last.
I wrapped our arms around as many of them as I could, being sure to get Raina, Shay and Malcolm in there.
And as I looked around at this weird little family of mine, all of us fully embracing each other, I took a moment to try and figure out just where I went right.