Chapter 29

Vince arrived at Sasha’s dorm and paused before knocking. He checked his breath, made sure his clothes were fitting well, and ran his fingers through his silver hair. Vince was nervous, almost pathetically so. It wasn’t that he had never had any romantic interaction with a lady; but a real date, possibly the beginning of a real relationship? That was something he’d always considered impossible until the procedure. Vince took a deep breath to steady himself. Sasha liked him, obviously, and they’d been getting to know each other for weeks since the semester began. It was never going to be any easier than this.

Vince finally pulled back his hand and knocked on Sasha’s door.

“Took you long enough,” Sasha said as she pulled the door open. “Come on in, I’ve popcorn in the microwave.”

“You look nice,” Vince said sheepishly and he stepped into her room.

“You, too,” Sasha said with a smile. “So who helped dress you?”

*          *          *

“Yeah, baby, I’ll meet you by the Science building and then we can head on back to your place,” Roy said into his phone as he stepped in the Melbrook common room. He snapped his cell shut and surveyed the area. No one was around; it seemed even the losers he was bunking with had things to do on a Friday night. Roy had half expected to run into Nick when he left his room, but the sunglass-wearing fashion boy had left the area while Roy was busy changing. Alice was a pretty little dish; not surprising she would have places to be. As for Mary... well, who knew what telepaths did for fun? The only other member of Melbrook missing was Vince, and Roy knew very well where that dick was.

Roy Daniels was many things: lover, fighter, drinker, warrior. One of the many things Roy didn’t consider himself, though, was the type of man who let someone else interfere in his business. Vince had spearheaded that little campaign to follow him around the club and try to cockblock, and now that he had a date, Roy was finally going to be able to return the favor. The key difference was, of course, that Roy wasn’t going to try anything. Roy was going to do, and succeed, because Roy was a winner. And that’s how the world worked for winners.

Adjusting his hat, Roy strode though the common room, down the hall, and stepped out into the brisk night air. He paused to admire the stars in the sky, thinking he might try fucking a broad outside tonight to savor nature’s beauty. About that time was he felt a tremendous force smash across the back of his head and hoist him into the air.

*          *          *

“Is ninja a type of power?” Vince asked as the black-clad warrior on the screen leapt into the air, hovered, and dropped down, depositing his fist in some unwitting minion’s fragile skull. “I mean, sticking someone with the title of ninja seems to convey all kinds of ridiculous abilities. I almost wonder if there’s a real world variation of this somewhere.”

“Plenty of people have enhanced physical abilities,” Sasha pointed out. “So I suppose doing a couple of these moves would be possible for a chunk of the Super population. I don’t think that’s so much the point of these films, though. It’s about learning a martial art and training yourself into being above normal.”

“I guess you’re right,” Vince agreed.

“Personally, I think it’s almost sad. All those normal people out there, desperate for any avenue to make themselves extraordinary. I see why so many people follow that path,” Sasha commented as she munched on popcorn.

“What about people who learn martial arts for exercise, or self-defense, or to gain a better control over their bodies and their minds? I don’t think everyone who learns a martial art is trying to somehow become one of us,” Vince countered.

Sasha shrugged. “People can say whatever they want about their reasons, it doesn’t make it the truth. I developed at an early age, so I have almost no memories of not being a Super, and let me tell you something. No matter how nice someone is, no matter how respectful they are, no matter they say, every powerless human you meet is thinking the same thing when they meet you.”

“And what’s that?” Vince asked.

“They’re thinking: ‘Why not me?’ They think they should have been born special, been made powerful, been gifted,” Sasha said. “I might just be a cynic, but it’s what I believe. And I’d bet dollars to donuts that any telepath would back me up.”

“I could always ask Mary,” Vince said.

“You should, I bet she’d have some interesting input on it,” Sasha said.

“Maybe,” Vince said. “I doubt I will though. She’s sort of quiet and doesn’t hang around us too much. I think she might just like keeping to herself, and I don’t want to interfere with that too much.”

*          *          *

Roy began kicking and punching as soon he felt himself hoisted. He wasn’t sure who the dumbass with the big balls and the death wish was, but he was going to pound into their head what a stupid fucking idea jumping Roy Daniels had been.

“That won’t do any good,” said a small voice from behind him.

Roy kicked a few more times, but the voice was right. He wasn’t hitting anyone or anything, just flailing about in air. Slowly he let his limbs relax and felt his body rotate around until he was looking at the source of the small voice.

“You know, if you wanted me that bad you should have just bought me a bottle of whiskey,” Roy spat out.

“It’s almost cute how you default to your enormous ego when you don’t know what to do,” said Mary, leaning relaxed against the outer wall of the dorm, effortlessly holding Roy ten feet above the ground.

“So if you didn’t want to flirt, why’d you sucker punch me?” Roy asked.

“The blast was to distract you while I put you in the air,” Mary explained. “You’ve a very strong person, but this situation renders you essentially powerless.”

“Oh yeah?” Roy let a wild grin slide across his face, then began flexing and kicking with all his might. He twisted his hips, slammed his fists together, and jerked his body in every conceivable direction to rip himself free of her grip.

“Yes, actually,” Mary said with a smile of her own. Roy’s wild tantrum had moved him not one iota closer to the ground or away from his starting position. “I’m holding you by the torso in midair. You have no ground to push off against, so no way to generate significant force. Hercules himself wouldn’t be able to break free of me once he was suspended.”

Roy’s motions slowly subsided. “I totally thought that would work.”

“You watch too many movies,” Mary chided him. “Do yourself a favor, pick up a physics book. Even you’ll find a little use in it.”

“Noted,” Roy said. “So why are you hanging me up here like laundry anyway?”

“We need to talk,” Mary replied.

“We can’t talk on the ground?” Roy asked.

“We could, but both of us know that would be me talking and you not listening. I like this situation better,” Mary said.

Roy automatically started to lie and tell her of course he would be listening when she talked to him, but then his brain kicked in and he remembered what type of Super he was talking to. “Okay, fine,” Roy said instead. “I would have ignored you. Now, what’s so damn important you needed to shanghai me?”

“A couple of things,” Mary said, walking slowly around Roy. He noticed that he was being turned as she moved, so that they were always face to face. “First off, I’m not letting you ruin Vince’s date tonight.”

“Oh, it wouldn’t have been ruined,” Roy tried to explain.

“You planned on barging in with Julia and having loud, raucous sex in her and Sasha’s room to ruin any romance their date might have held,” Mary said.

“Right... but that doesn’t mean it would have worked,” Roy said.

“What it would have done is piss Vince off, especially when he realized that you knew about the date because he told Hershel. That would cause him to pull back from dealing with your other persona, robbing Hershel of one of the very few friends he has here,” Mary elaborated.

“Yeah, well, Fatty can always stick to his usual friends, pie and fried chicken,” Roy snapped.

He might have said more, but he was too busy suddenly being violently shaken like a soda in a paint mixer. “That,” Mary said in a much more strained voice, “is the other thing you and I are going to talk about.”

*          *          *

“Do you ever shut up?” Sasha asked.

“Huh?” Vince squawked, caught unaware.

“Seriously, the movie has gone to the end credits, we’re sitting here in a barely lit room with only a few inches between us, and you are still trying to talk about plot validity,” Sasha said.

“I’m... sorry,” Vince said. “I haven’t really been on a lot of dates.”

“Surely you jest,” Sasha said. “It’s okay, I knew you were a noob when I met you. Might even be why I kind of like you.”

“Kind of like me, eh?” Vince said with a slowly-spreading smile, barely visible in the television’s fading glow.

“A little, but it’s diminishing the more you talk,” Sasha replied.

“Gotcha,” Vince said. He leaned forward and wrapped his arms around Sasha, pulling her close to him. His lips quickly sought hers and found them with only minimal searching. The kiss was awkward at first, but as the intensity grew both lost their sense of self consciousness and became immersed in the task at hand. When they finally parted to take a breath, it was Sasha whose words filled the electrified silence.

“Not bad for a virgin,” she mused.

“Stop talking so much,” Vince shot back. She did, and they sank down onto the couch, movie, popcorn, and the rest of the world soon utterly forgotten.

*          *          *

“You’re going to stop talking badly about Hershel, you’re going to stop making it a point of being a raging dick to his friends, and most importantly of all, you’re going to start going to every one of your classes and actually try to get stronger,” Mary said as she slowly twirled Roy around.

“That’s an awful lot of demands for a girl with no leverage,” Roy replied.

Mary snorted out a small laugh. “Sorry, it’s just funny because in this situation, you’re the one with no leverage. And I mean that in a literal sense, not the slang kind. Never mind; Hershel will get it tomorrow.”

“Nice to know Tubbo is good for something,” Roy said.

“You think I’m kidding, don’t you?” Mary asked. “Or that you can play along and once you’re on the ground never listen to me again. You don’t even perceive me as a threat, despite the fact that I’ve rendered you helpless.”

“Truth be told, I see this more as a Mexican standoff,” Roy said. “I can’t hurt you, but you can’t really hurt me, either. All you can do is inconvenience me. Thing is, me not being able to hurt you is only applicable right now. Once I’m set down, that limitation is no longer in place.”

“A Mexican standoff is when both parties are able to kill each other, not unable to hurt one another,” Mary pointed out.

“You know a lot of slang for a wilderness dweller,” Roy commented.

“I’m a telepath; we learn things quickly,” Mary said. She stopped turning Roy and began walking toward him. “In fact, I’ve learned so many things about my roommates they aren’t to be believed. Take you, for example; I learned something very interesting about you.” Mary stopped just short of Roy, only a few inches out of his reach. Then she took three steps forward. He began to coil and leap for her, but her next words froze him in his tracks.

“I know you have a weakness, invulnerable cowboy.”

Roy was very, very still. “Okay, so I’m only resistant to damage, not invulnerable to it. No one is truly invulnerable. Supers might be able to shrug off a lot but there are always limits. That doesn’t make it a weakness.”

Mary shook her head. “That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it. I’ve already gotten the phone number. I’ll use it.”

They stared at each other in silence for a few moments, thoughts racing through Roy’s head and Mary calmly observing them.

“What do you want?” Roy asked at last.

“I already told you,” Mary said. “Be nice to Hershel’s friends, don’t be mean to Hershel, and start showing up and working in class.”

“I can do the first two, but the last is out of my hands,” Roy explained. “I’m beyond human limits in physical power. What the fuck is running around a gym going to do for me?”

“You know, I think this might be my fault,” Mary said. “I’m trying to force you into something without giving you motivation. I apologize.”

Roy felt himself lowering and his feet hit the ground. He and Mary were now only inches apart. It was well within his ability to crush her like a grape. Yet staring into those amber eyes, Roy felt something he wasn’t accustomed to: a sense of hesitation. This girl had been ready for him entirely. He would be a damn fool to assume she didn’t have some sort of ace in the hole if he made a move. Aside from the one she had already alluded to.

“I’m going to offer you a deal,” Mary said.

“Listening,” Roy shot back, then thought back to their conversation. “I mean, really listening this time.”

“So you do learn,” Mary quipped. “Here is my proposition. Go challenge Chad tomorrow for his ranked spot. You’re in the top five as well, so it should be allowed. If you can take that spot, then you can forget all of my other demands and I promise to neither use nor divulge what I know about your weakness.”

“Pssh, is that it? Shit, I was planning on beating him up for that spot soon anyway. All that does is make my Saturday fun. So what’s the catch?” Roy asked.

“The catch is that if you lose, you have to do all the things I asked of you, without back talk or me constantly threatening you. Essentially, if you lose, I own your ass until the end of the year,” Mary explained.

“That’s it?” Roy tried to confirm.

“That’s it.” Mary nodded.

“Deal,” Roy said. “I’ll do it around one, so make sure you don’t miss the show tomorrow.” Roy began striding off toward the west of campus.

“Oh, Roy,” Mary called out.

“Yeah?” Roy asked without turning his head.

“You haven’t won your freedom yet, so if you ruin Vince’s date, you do know I’ll bring hell crashing down upon you, right?” Mary asked.

Roy nodded briskly, then, as casually as he could possibly manage, changed his direction toward the north of campus where his car was parked.

*          *          *

Julia stood outside the Science building, pink heels and low-cut shirt giving away that her plans for the night involved the attentions of a male. She checked her watch for the tenth time that minute and muttered under her breath.

“Where the fuck is Roy?”