A Change of Pace – Chapter 30

By the time the Columbus Day weekend rolled around everyone in Townhouse 117 was exhausted. The adjustment time the university’s professors gave them to acclimate to college life was over. Large portions of books needed to be read in a day or two, research needed to be done, papers needed to be written, group projects needed to be completed, and time needed to be set aside to sleep. Most college students could manage the stress and still enjoy the excitement of the weekend, but not the HCP students. On top of all the school work, they had their own Ethics assignments, and of course, the brutal physical training.

On the bright side, everyone’s bodies were getting used to the torment Coach Meyers and Coach McMillian put them through on a daily basis. To have three whole days where they wouldn’t be forced to endure torn muscles, broken bones, and being knocked unconscious was an alien feeling. It was also something they all planned to take copious advantage of.

“BEACH WEEKEND!” Becca screamed from the top of the stairs, causing Mason to jump in fright.

Anika sat on the quarter of the couch not occupied by the gigantic strongman, and laughed at his anxiety. “Don’t worry big guy, I’ll keep her in line.”

<I doubt that,> Mason kept the thought to himself.

Orlando was wonderfully located in the center of Florida, so it was only a short drive to either coast if you didn’t want to enjoy the amusement parks or lakes in the area. The entire HCP had three days of freedom on their hands, so they sure as hell weren’t going to stay anywhere close to campus. The possibility of getting called into training at a moment’s notice haunted everyone’s nightmares. Well, not everyone’s.

“I don’t see why we can’t just go to Lake Apopka?” Angela grumbled, not even bothering to look up from the textbook on her lap. “It would save us time and money.”

“Been there, done that, silly,” Becca skipped past the Supers sitting in the family room, “We need something new and exciting. Plus, everyone is going.”

Everyone was going. Apparently, Columbus Day weekend was the last big chance to get out of town before everyone had to settle in for the long haul. The university’s midterms were at the end of October, their HCP projects were due the first week in November, ranking matches were still ongoing, and Parents Weekend was coming up. Once that lineup of events was finished, they had to start preparing for whatever sadistic final the physical training coaches had planned. Everyone would be lucky to find a spare moment to breath over the second half of the semester. Even Angela was feeling the pressure; which was why everyone pooled their money, and rented a house in Cape Canaveral for the weekend.

Mason didn’t have a lot of money, even after getting comped an expensive dinner, and he almost passed on the whole weekend. Luckily, his girlfriend wouldn’t hear any of it.

“It’s two hundred bucks, Kyoshi,” Mason had argued with her when she’d put in his portion of the rent.

“Mason,” Despite being smaller than him, she could hold her ground when she wanted to. “This is a chance to experience college, not the HCP version of college, the real college. I will not have my boyfriend miss out on this because of something as stupid as two hundred dollars,” with her hands on her hips, and fire in her eyes. Mason lost his will to argue. “That’s better,” she smiled in victory. “Plus, you can find some other way to pay me back.”

“BEACH WEEKEND!” Becca’s scream brought him back to the present with a violent jolt.

“Jesus Christ, Becca,” Mason clutched the large cooler in his hands protectively. “We’re not even going to get there for another hour.”

The mention of the long car ride finally calmed the speedster down. “I could be there in a few minutes,” she sulked over to Anika and plopped down in her lap.

“Poor baby,” Anika was trying hard not to laugh.

Anika and Becca had only gotten closer since the attack at Sprout, and Mason couldn’t be happier. Despite his initial surprise, he was more upset about not seeing the signs than the two women being together. He was also glad that there was someone who could finally reign in the hyperactive speedster.

“Are we ready to go?” Mason’s head snapped around at the familiar voice.

Kyoshi descended the stairs ready to hit the beach; a large white beach shirt over a golden bikini that matched her eyes. Mason had to remember to close his mouth so he didn’t start drooling.

Kyoshi picked up on his thoughts and smiled. <You’re going to have to wait at least an hour.> Mason now knew how Becca felt.

“Not quite yet,” Becca was already moving again in excitement, dancing between the beach bags, coolers, cases beer, bottles of hard liquor, six packs of beer, and more beer. “Do you think we have enough beer?”

Mason couldn’t help but chuckle. He might have not been able to afford the two hundred bucks for rent, but he was able to buy a quarter of that in beer. It was his modest contribution to the weekend.

“If we don’t, then I’ll pick up some more when we get to the house,” Seth descended the stairs with his girlfriend.

Everyone in the house reacted differently to Liz Aretino, even after her being around constantly for the last few weeks. Becca immediately began jumping up and down in excitement. Becca got along with everyone, and Liz was no different. Anika was the opposite. She was slightly standoffish towards the blond bombshell, and still didn’t fully trust her. Mason couldn’t blame the woman, after everything Anika had been through it was amazing she was as well-adjusted as she was. If Becca and Anika’s reactions were opposites, Kyoshi was right in the middle. Kyoshi accepted, and genuinely returned the hug Liz offered, but her head cocked questioningly to the side.

Mason’s girlfriend had confided in him that she’d tried to read Liz’s thoughts and come up with nothing. Apparently, Seth’s new girlfriend was as adept at mental shielding as some of the HCP instructors. That led to a minor confrontation on the second night Liz stayed over, and the other woman revealing that she was a Super. Not anywhere near HCP quality, but still a Super.

Mason followed Kyoshi’s lead and plopped himself in the middle of the spectrum. Liz was nice, super cool, and had apparently tamed the wild beast that was Seth. That was something Mason greatly appreciated, but if HCP training had taught him anything, it was to stay vigilant. The incident in the park wasn’t going to happen again on his watch.

Seth just stared at his girlfriend with a mixture of wonder and awe. Mason didn’t know how she did it, but Seth was a different man around her. It was doing wonders for his reputation in the HCP. He stopped making lewd, thinly veiled sexual comments. He worked harder in Ethics and in Physical Training, and he didn’t stray. The only ass Seth was currently checking out was Liz’s, and she didn’t seem to care. She actually seemed to like it.

<They still haven’t done it,> Kyoshi informed Mason while in mid-conversation with Liz.

When Liz first started spending the night, Mason was sure they were going to go at it like bunnies in heat. Surprisingly, he’d been wrong. As far as Kyoshi could tell, and she was a far lighter sleeper than him, Seth and Liz still hadn’t consummated their relationship. That fact alone demanded respect for the new woman.

“How…oh that’s right, you’ve got your fancy fake I.D.,” Angela looked up from her book long enough to shoot Seth a glare. Angela toned down the glare when she acknowledged Liz. Angela accepted Liz as an acquaintance, but she didn’t have the time, or the desire, to engage her in friendship. So far, Becca seemed the only one to really hold the title of friend to Angela.

Seth ignored Angela, pulling the keys from his pocket, and jangling them in the air in front of everyone. “Let’s load up.”

Seth’s Porsche convertible wasn’t nearly large enough to fit everything for the weekend. Mason doubted he’d be able to fit inside the minuscule car by himself. Instead, Seth had rented the biggest SUV available.

Mason did most of the loading up, grabbing three quarters of the bags and two coolers in his massive arms, and neatly arranging them in the trunk. Becca loaded the other quarter, running a little faster than humanly possible in her excitement. Mason did a quick scan of the area to make sure nobody was watching them. With his size, and Kyoshi and Becca’s hair, they were already pegged as possible Supers.

Once he was satisfied that no one was spying on them, he gently closed the trunk, turned, and almost ran over his girlfriend. Embarrassment, and being pushed up right against her, made him blush. Kyoshi ignored his reaction and pulled him into a hug.

“I know I upset you when I paid for your rent,” she started her apology. “But I want us to have this weekend together, and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that.” Mason learned long ago that Kyoshi would get what she wanted, whether he liked it or not.

“I get it,” Mason shrugged, the motion effortlessly lifting her a few inches off the ground. “Thanks for putting up with my stubbornness.”

“Your good qualities greatly outweigh your bad ones, Mason Jackson” she smiled, kissing him passionately. “You’ll make a great Hero,” she whispered nuzzling her head into his shoulder.

“Come on, let’s go,” Becca was beating the side of the SUV like a drum. “We’re going to miss all the sun,” gesturing at the cloudless, sunny day didn’t help her point.

“We have to survive this weekend first,” Mason gave her one last squeeze.

<An hour in the car with Becca. What could be worse,> Mason thought as he climbed into the very back seat.

<An hour in the car with Coach Meyers,> Kyoshi replied, taking the seat beside him. The three person backseat was barely enough to contain the two large Supers.

<Touché,> Mason didn’t even want to think about what that ride would be like as he settled in for the drive.

 

***

 

<Mendelevium, Nobelium, Lawrencium,> Angela struggled to remember the final three elements of the actinide series on the periodic table of elements.

“If you like it then you should have put a ring on it….If you like it then you should have put a ring on it!” Becca belted from the seat next to her, waving her hand in the face of a grinning Anika.

<Ugh,> Angela mentally groaned, not even trying to recite the lanthanide series. <At this rate I’m going to fail chemistry.> It was an exaggeration, but it captured her mood pretty well.

Angela didn’t want to spend an hour driving out to Cape Canaveral, two and a half days watching future Heroes get wasted, and then an hour drive back when everyone was hungover. There were much more important things to be doing. She stuck her bookmark in the middle of the thick textbook, closed it, and massaged her temples.

The music in the car was two octaves too high, and wasn’t being helped by Becca’s rendition of the popular song. Despite being her friend, Angela found it annoying. She knew Becca was just trying to set the mood for the fantastic weekend getaway, but it was only giving her a headache. Angela scanned the car to see if it anyone else was suffering the same effects.

Seth was driving with Liz in the front seat. If they were talking, Angela couldn’t hear it over Becca and the music, but she did notice Liz’s hand on Seth’s leg. It wasn’t doing anything more than resting on it, so they were in no danger of crashing because Seth was thinking of things other than driving.

Angela ignored Seth, and focused on Liz. The first thing that hit her was jealousy. Liz was perfect; hair, face, body, attitude, Angela had trouble finding a flaw in her. Angela’s body image issues had come a long way as she finally began to shed the rest of her lingering baby fat, but she doubted she’d ever have the sculpted muscles that Liz sported. The fact that her shifted form could wipe the floor with little miss perfect kept Angela from scowling every time she saw Seth’s girlfriend; which led to reaction number two. Why the hell would someone like Liz be with someone like Seth?

<Rebound guy…gold digger…Hero groupie?> Whatever the real reason, Angela didn’t trust her.

Angela would be civil to maintain order in the house, but she wasn’t going to divulge anything to the other woman. The fact that Liz already knew Seth was a Super, and likely in the HCP, was already more than Angela was comfortable with.

“Can we go dancing tonight?” Becca was vibrating in her seat, her big brown eyes pleading with the rest of the car.

                “Absolutely,” Liz turned around grinning. “I’m convinced this lunk can’t dance,” Liz gave Seth’s knee a pat.

“I know this one can’t,” Kyoshi chimed in, nodding towards Mason. All the girls had a good laugh.

<I guess that’s a yes,> Angela smiled appropriately, but was dreading the evening.

“Let’s just make sure we get through the day first,” Anika took Becca’s flailing hand, and patted it gently. “From what I’ve been told, some people have trouble making it through these crucial twenty four hours.”

“I think we can handle it,” Mason stated bluntly, the veiled reference to their HCP training wasn’t missed by the other Supers, accept possibly Liz.

“I hope there’s beer pong,” Liz settled back into her co-pilot’s chair, as the white dotted line of the forest lined highway flashed by. “Not gonna lie, but I’m pretty awesome at it.”

“You’re on,” Becca accepted the challenge, so the two women spent the next ten minutes engaged in good-natured trash talk.

Angela turned her attention to the seat behind her, where Kyoshi and Mason were having one of their silent conversations. Angela might still be the number one ranked freshman, but Kyoshi and Mason were the heart and soul of the class. Even though Angela had beaten Mason one on one, his stand against Coach Meyers at the beginning of school, and then again in the drill, had made him legendary.

<People are weird?>

Angela felt the familiar sensation in her mind that Kyoshi relayed whenever she wanted to communicate telepathically. It felt like someone was knocking on the door to her brain. Despite the eerie sensation, Angela appreciated Kyoshi’s respect for her privacy.

<Yes,> Angela imagined herself opening up the door to her house with a pleasant, but fake expression.

<You ok?> the always concerned Kyoshi asked.

<Of course, why wouldn’t I be?>

<Because you’ve been trying very hard not to shoot glares at everyone.> Now that Kyoshi was already in her head there was no reason to deny it.

<This whole thing is an unproductive waste of time,> Angela sighed, letting the frustration show through their mental link. <We’ve got so much to do, so much is coming up, that I feel like we’re setting ourselves up for failure if we take this time off.>

Kyoshi patiently listened to Angela rant before replying. <Maybe.> The simple answer startled Angela. <But we’re kids, Angela. No matter the training we’ve been through, the drill we endured, or the pressures our future places on our shoulders. We’re still kids, and for one weekend we want to relax and be normal.>

Hannah’s words from the night of their first study group meeting echoed in Angela’s mind. <… if you don’t ease up you’re going to burn out before senior year and never be a HeroHero life is stressful enough. Take time to enjoy college, study, train, but allow yourself to get close to people…> If it hadn’t come from someone far more experienced than Angela, she probably wouldn’t have listened.

<I see your point,> Angela politely, but forcefully, booted Kyoshi from her mind.

She turned to face the still bickering Becca and Liz. “Sign me up.”

There was a full ten seconds of silence before trash talk got thrown Angela’s way.

 

***

 

<I’m in heaven,> Seth didn’t need to daydream. His wildest fantasies were coming true.

The car ride out to Cape Canaveral had started out tense, but once Angela loosened up, the party really got started. An hour later the six of them were lounging on the picturesque beach, taking in the sun, and imbibing their first alcoholic beverage of the vacation. They weren’t the only ones.

The house had been expensive to rent, even for just one weekend, so nearly a dozen other members of the freshmen class were present. Of the HCP classes attending the party, the freshmen were grossly underrepresented. All the seniors were there, all the juniors, and three quarters of the sophomores. They’d rented out the other houses on this stretch of the beach, giving everyone a little bit of privacy. Apparently, a large chunk of the freshmen were breaking school tradition by not attending.

Seth scrunched the sand between his toes, reveling in in the sensation, as he drank the last of his beer. “Beer me,” Seth winced as Mason lobbed the glass bottle over to him. A lob for Mason, from only a few feet away, was like catching an MLB fastball.

Mason popped the top on one of the cans from his cooler. The strongman had respectfully declined the Mexican imports Seth had purchased, and was sticking to his cheap domestic stash. Seth knew he’d come around eventually. There wasn’t nearly enough booze in that cooler to get a strongman drunk.

Seth took a deep breath and let himself unwind. The weather was perfect; eighty-eight degrees with the salt infused wind blowing off the Atlantic, a sky with only a few clouds, and a beach that wasn’t too packed. <Perfection.> and he wasn’t talking about just the weather. <This is why I came to West.>

                Instead of facing the ocean, Mason and Seth were facing the opposite direction. Multiple tables were set up in front of the dunes that separated the beach from the rented houses. Around these tables stood the women of the HCP; the fit, attractive, bikini wearing women of the HCP. A small crowd of people had wandered over wondering if they were shooting the Sport’s Illustrated swimsuit edition.

“God bless America.”

“Amen, brother,” Mason and Seth toasted each other’s good fortune with a soft clink of their beers.

“I know, right,” Anika sauntered toward them, wearing the same skimpy swimwear, grabbed a beer, and plopping down to watch the show. “I’m so getting’ me some tonight,” her eyes hungrily watched a thinly clothed Becca. Mason and Seth couldn’t help but laugh.

<You two better behave over there,> Kyoshi’s admonishing voice entered both the boy’s heads.

In her golden bikini, with her hair billowing lightly in the breeze, Kyoshi looked like some Amazonian princess brought to Florida to slay the hearts of men.

<Only Mason can stare at my ass, Seth,> Kyoshi scolded him.

<Yes, ma’am,> Seth had another fabulous backside to admire.

Every one of the women present was wearing a bikini in some form, even Angela; who’d been forced to go shopping with Becca when the trip was first planned. However, in Seth’s experience, bikini was a general term that encompassed a whole lot of suites, and how much fabric they actually possessed.

Kyoshi was wearing something along the lines of a more traditional bikini. It still showed everything off, but a lot less was exposed than some of the other women on the beach. Liz was one of those other women. <I am the luckiest man alive,> Seth missed his mouth when he tried to take a sip as he watched Liz play beer pong.

If Kyoshi was an Amazonia princess, then Liz was Aphrodite herself come down from Mt. Olympus, and only dressed enough to cover the good bits. Seth couldn’t tear his eye away from every throw, every jump for joy, and every high five.

<I can believe we haven’t slept together yet,> the truth only made her more desirable.

“I need to take a walk,” Seth got halfway out of his seat before sitting back down. “Maybe in a minute,” he must have been blushing because Liz saw it, pulled down her sunglasses, winked, and blew him a kiss.

<Sweet baby Jesus,> Seth felt like his balls were going to explode.

She’d been coming over for several weeks, sleeping in his bed, cuddling, kissing, but nothing more than that. <God, I know we don’t talk much. But I will do anything to get with Liz tonight. Satan, if you’re listening in, you can get in on this deal too. My soul for one night with her, straight up.> He hoped someone would answer his prayer.

 

***

 

Lilly watched Seth out of the corner of her eye as she sunk ball after ball into the foamy alcoholic goodness. She’d run the table, with Angela as her partner, for the last half hour. It was too easy. She’d been training to be a supervillain since she could walk. She’d been drilled in combat, drilled in survival, drilled in manipulation, drilled in subtlety, and even drilled by bullets. Her father had strapped her into a bulletproof vest when she was eight, walked twenty-five feet, turned, and shot her with a Glock 40.

“You need to know what it feels like to get shot, so when you take a bullet, you don’t panic,” he’d explained, as she lay wheezing on the ground.

<Then we got ice cream,> she remembered the vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles like it was yesterday. <That was a good day.> Compared to her training, not missing a shot in beer pong was literally child’s play.

“Don’t get cocky, new girl,” the two guys facing off against them were buzzed, and their gazes alternated between boobs and booze-filled cups.

“What?” she leaned over provocatively, so her chest hovered just above the cups. “You can’t handle this little man.”

He couldn’t handle it. The guy audibly gulped, tried to hide his erection, and tossed the little white ball. The ping pong ball bounced off Lilly’s right boob, and onto the sand.

“Yes!” Lilly fist pumped, and bent down to grab the ball while her opponent’s face turned scarlet. “Let’s finish them.”

Angela and Lilly both tossed the balls into the remaining two red solo cups. “Nothin’ but net,” Lilly gloated as the guys finished the beer, and walked away in defeat.

She stole a glance at Seth and noticed the observable bulge in his suit. <Good.>

                Lilly had spent the last few weeks tempting the hunky man. She’d slept in his bed, but had done nothing but cuddle and make out with him. She’d flirted, dressed to the nines, and enticed him at every turn, only to shut him down at the last moment. Lilly was making it clear that she held the cards in this relationship, and if Seth ever wanted some of her world class ass he’d have to worship her to get it.

<Step two; fuck his brains out,> she couldn’t wait for step two, and this weekend was the perfect opportunity.

“I’m tired of whoopin’ all your asses,” Lilly surrendered the table dramatically. “Nice working with you hot stuff,” she smacked Angela’s bikini clad butt as she walked away; partially because she wanted the girl to unwind, and mostly because she wanted to see how’d she react.

Male jaws dropped as she strutted back over to Seth and plopped down on his lap. Angela was still frozen in place, embarrassed, and not sure what to do.

“The champion returns,” Lilly could feel the yearning in Seth’s voice.

“Please, that was simple. Do a power hour with margaritas and then talk to me,” Seth just grinned like an idiot.

<But he’s my idiot.>

                Lilly wasn’t sure what she was feeling for Seth Abney. He was dreamy, sexy, smoking hot, had a body that made her knees weak, and was probably great in the sack; but there was something else there. Seth had put himself in front of a shotgun wielding mercenary for her. He’d taken the hit, gotten back up, and kicked some ass. Just think about that made her grip his muscular shoulders tighter.

<He’s good to me,> she summed it up as she smiled up at him.

He’d passed all her tests, gone above and beyond the call of duty, and he’d get his reward. She just needed to be ready to use him when the time was right. A pain in her chest formed when she thought about what would eventually need to be done. That, more than anything else, was what frightened her the most.

“Let’s take a walk,” Lilly grabbed Seth’s hand and pulled him to his feet.

“Um…wait,” Seth blushed, crossing his legs and awkwardly turning away.

“Don’t worry about that,” she made sure to position her body to hide the bulge. “I’ll take care of that later.”

Lilly made sure to stay close to Seth as they strolled down the beach. Seth’s issue might get taken care of later, but her whispering what she was going to do to him wasn’t helping his situation now.

Lilly couldn’t get rid of the impish grin. <Men are just too easy.>

 

***

 

The flames of the once roaring bonfire were now nothing more than ankle high flickers of light. Most of the people from the day’s marathon of activities were already inside, or heading there now. They’d started to pair off around midnight, and those that weren’t lucky enough to end up with a bunkmate ended up passing out and getting carried home.

Kyoshi sat basking in the warm glow of the fire, and the warmer glow of Mason’s love. She didn’t want this night to end, but if they didn’t head inside soon, they’d be out for the sunrise.

“Mmmmm,” Mason had dozed off a little about fifteen minutes ago. Kyoshi just rested her head on his massive chest and took everything in.

Everything had changed when she’d entered the HCP. She was able to escape the ridiculing whispers of her old high school; she made friends with people like her, who had the same drive in life. She literally met the man of her dreams, and had fallen so hard she didn’t know if she’d ever be able to get up again. She let herself feel this way because she knew the feeling was mutual. But beneath that love was a thin layer of fear.

Kyoshi knew what would happened if she didn’t succeed in the HCP. The thought of her having her mind wiped; leaving Mason with nothing but the memory of her was the most terrifying thing she could think of. Just thinking about it made her shudder.

“You ok?” Mason mumbled in his sleepy baritone.

“Yeah,” Kyoshi pushed her head further into his chest, and wrapped her arms around him. “Just thinking.”

“About what?” Kyoshi smiled because she knew Mason was really interested in what she had to say.

“The HCP, school, life, my goal of being a Hero, us; just take your pick,” she sighed, just wanting to disappear in this moment.

Kyoshi felt his concern just before his powerful arms wrapped around her. “We’ll figure it all out.” Those five words put her at ease.

The silence that followed was pleasant. Kyoshi and Mason didn’t need words to convey how perfect the moment was. But everything perfect must eventually come to an end, and a nagging question broke the tranquil bubble surrounding Kyoshi.

“So my parents are flying in for Parents Weekend,” Mason tensed at the mention of them. “They want to meet you.”

“You’ve told them about me?” she could see the mental smile behind Mason’s words.

“Well, not really,” Kyoshi admitted. “But my mom saw the way we were looking at each other when they dropped me off, so she saw this coming a mile away.”

“Smart woman,” Mason nodded.

“But I’m sure my Dad doesn’t know,” Kyoshi saw the memory of her giant father pass through his mind.

“He’s big,” Mason reverted to caveman speak out of masculine necessity.

“He’s not that big,” Kyoshi slapped his arm playfully.

“Maybe not to his daughter, but he is to her boyfriends,” the tension remained in the strongman’s shoulders.

“I won’t let him hurt you,” Kyoshi promised, and miraculously, that relieved the pressure. “So you’ll meet them?”

“Of course,” Mason looked into her eyes with complete adoration. “I’ve got to show them I’m good enough for you.”

Kyoshi didn’t know what to say, so she kissed him. It was a deep, passionate kiss, one that seemed to last for days despite only being a minute. Both Supers were out of breath when their lips parted.

“I love you, Mason.”

“I love you too, Kyoshi.”

Kyoshi didn’t know how this day could get any better.

They didn’t head back inside, instead choosing to doze on the beach for a little longer until the sun started to peak over the horizon. People would start hitting the beach again soon; getting an early start to the festivities, so they could go multiple rounds before the day was done. Kyoshi and Mason lay in each other’s arms until the first HCP students returned to the now smoldering fire.

“I’m not going to get pregnant if I sit near you two,” a junior girl they didn’t know misjudged their tender embrace.

“No,” Mason looked embarrassed, but Kyoshi pushed him back down before he could get up.

“Something even better happened here,” Kyoshi stared down the older Super, until she realized what she’d walked in to. The other woman gave them a smile, before giving them their space.

<It’s simple girl code,> Kyoshi informed the still bristling Mason.

<Ok, we should probably go get some sleep though,> Mason’s thought was punctuated by a mighty yawn.

<Just make sure we pick the room that Seth and Liz didn’t fornicate in all night long. Accidentally getting a little Seth in me would ruin my whole life plan.> Kyoshi warned, getting a laugh out of Mason.

To save her from possible contamination, Mason effortlessly scooped her up and carried her to a room that hadn’t been soiled with bodily fluid. He gently laid her down, got into bed beside her, and cuddled up close.

Before Kyoshi slipped into sleep she made sure to make note of this point in her life. The only thing she still wanted was to be a Hero, she had everything else she’d ever wanted or needed.

A renewed energy filled her as she lay in Mason’s arms. She would need to be a Hero to keep what she had, because Mason Jackson would be a Hero one day. The memory of Coach Meyers’ talk with her during her performance evaluation rose to the forefront of her mind. Kyoshi needed to understand what she was truly capable of, she needed to control it, and she needed to use it to help people.

<And stay with Mason,> her last thought was the strongest reason of them all; which might not be a good thing.

 

***

 

Becca heard Kyoshi and Mason finally enter the house to get some sleep. She didn’t actually see them, but the wooden stairs’ protests could only be from Mason’s size. She smiled when she thought of them. They really were a super cute couple.

Becca hadn’t slept well despite abundant amounts of alcohol and the evening’s more adult activities. Anika had been insatiable when she finally got Becca alone. Apparently Becca’s little blue bikini worked better than she’d anticipated. Still, sleep eluded her.

“Ani,” Becca whispered to see if Anika was awake.

“Ani,” she repeated when she got no response.

“Wha…?” Anika’s response was muffled by a mouthful of pillow.

“Can we talk for a minute?” Anika shot up like Anna Fletcher had shot her with a bolt of electricity.

“What?” her eyes were wide. Anika had assumed the worst.

“Oh, Ani,” Becca cried when she thought about what she’d said. Becca planted a long, loving kiss on her girlfriend’s perfect lips to alleviate her fear.

“I could wake up to that every morning,” Anika had a big grin on her face when Becca finally pulled away.

“Stop, seriously,” Becca swatted playfully as Anika, and ended up playing with a strand of her dark brown hair. “I do want to talk.”

“Ok,” Anika pulled the comforter up over her chest. Becca was glad she did, because it would have distracted her from what she needed to say.

“Ani,” Becca started again. “Parents Weekend is coming up and I’m pretty sure my parents will want to see me.”

“That’s fantastic,” the beaming smile melted Becca’s heart.

Becca hadn’t heard Anika’s whole life story, but she was prepared to when her girlfriend finally opened up. What Becca did know, was that her parents weren’t around anymore, and the topic was a sore one. That only made this conversation that much harder.

“Yeah,” Becca remained subdued as Anika bounced up and down on the bed.

“I can’t wait to meet them. You’re so awesome, so they must be so cool. They’d have to be to create someone like you,” the flattery made Becca blush.

“That’s the thing, Ani,” Becca took a deep breath and steeled herself. “I’m not sure if they’re going to be happy to meet you.”

The energy in the room deflated like a popped balloon, and the look on Anika’s face made Becca cry.

<This is so not how I wanted this weekend to go,> Becca fought back her tears to look into her girlfriend’s sad eyes.

“It’s not you, Ani,” Becca sniffled. “It’s us,” Becca moved her finger back and forth between the two of them.

Anika was silent for a minute, before responding. “They won’t like me because I’m gay, and they think I’ve made you gay too.”

“Yes…no….maybe…I don’t know,” the tears broke through Becca’s defense, and she balled as the emotions rushed through her.

For the past several weeks, Becca had been able to put off the thoughts of what her parents, and her town, would think if they saw her now. She’d been able to focus on building a relationship with Anika, but now Becca was going to have to face her parents. If her Hero training had taught her something beyond the physical, it was to stand up for what you believed in. That’s what Heroes did on a daily basis, but that didn’t mean it was easy.

“They’re really religious, and they take the Bible really literally. The whole town is like that, but it’s not their fault that they are small minded. Most of the people there haven’t gone more than fifty miles in their entire life; everyone is so afraid of change of any kind,” Becca stammered.

“Shhhhh,” strong arms embraced Becca, and pulled her close.

They stayed like that for several minutes until Becca’s eyes were dry, and the comforter covering Anika’s chest was damp.

“I’m sorry,” Becca sniffed. “I probably look hideous.” Hands grabbed Becca’s face and pulled her into another adoring kiss.

“You could never be hideous,” Anika pulled a loose strand of hair from Becca’s face, and tucked it behind her ear. “And if it will make you feel better, I don’t have to meet your parents. I mean, we’ve only been dating for a little bit, so it’s no big deal.”

“No!” the emotion in Becca’s voice surprised her. “I know how I feel about you, about women, and about men. I’m not going to hide from that anymore.”

Becca’s heart skipped a beat when she saw Anika beaming at her. “I’ll leave it up to you then,” Anika stated.

“Oh, you’re meeting them,” Becca blurred to her feet, and started pacing around the room. “My parents are going to meet you and they will love you!” Becca was talking more to herself than Anika now, and didn’t realize she was completely naked. “They will accept you, and they will invite you to Christmas at my house, and I will show you off to the whole town, and they will love you too or so help me God…”

Becca was caught off guard when Anika grabbed her and threw her back on the bed. “Yes to all of that,” Anika’s voice was husky with emotion as she pressed her body against Becca’s.

<Well good,> Becca thought before her own lust overwhelmed her. <I hope we don’t wake up Mason and Kyoshi, but they owe me one if we do.>

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