Roy was surprised to open his eyes. He’d thought Hershel would have taken over by now. He was still in the resting room where the healers worked. He slowly pulled himself to a sitting position and looked around.
“Careful,” Mary cautioned. “You’re all patched up but you might be woozy for a while.”
She was sitting in a chair a few feet away. There were several books with her, one cracked open in her lap.
“What are you doing here?” Roy asked, a twinge of harshness in his voice.
“I was keeping watch. I wanted to make sure you were okay,” Mary said.
“So kind of you,” Roy snapped. “I’ll tell Hershel you cared. You can run along now.”
“I don’t think you understand. I was here checking on you, on Roy. I heard what happened,” Mary explained.
“That I got my ass kicked? Come on, I’m not really a delicate flower and we have healers on call at all times. There was literally nothing to worry about,” Roy scoffed, swinging his feet over the edge of the bed and standing up.
Mary shook her head. “Not the fight. I heard what happened after.”
“What do you mean?”
Roy felt himself become very still. “You listened to those?”
“Not intentionally, no. They were the psychic equivalent of throat-tearing screams, though. They overwhelmed everything around me. They seemed... intense,” Mary said.
Roy tried to calm himself, a task made more difficult by the same memory dreams they were discussing.
“Shit happens,” Roy said. “No sense dwelling on it. I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not,” Mary disagreed. “You’re harboring a lot of anger inside. I think that’s why you lashed out at so much of the world and distanced yourself. It’s all anger you feel toward your fath-”
She was cut off by the crashing sound of Roy’s bed being slammed to the ground courtesy of Roy’s fist.
“You and I are not friends,” Roy said coldly. “You won a bet against me and I’m honoring the deal. That’s it. I do not need, or want, or care about your advice. And if you ever mention my father again, then all bets are off between us. Understood?”
Mary nodded slowly. “That’s fair, I suppose. To me, and maybe to you, but certainly not to Hershel. I guess that’s between brothers, though.” She reached down and began scooping up her books. “One thing I should point out: I don’t know what you went through.”
“No argument here,” Roy said.
“But that doesn’t mean nobody here does. If you were to talk to people a little more you might find others you could share the burden with.”
“Please, I talk to more people than any of you social rejects.”
“No, you don’t. You slap hands, you exchange drinks, you have a few laughs. You don’t talk to anyone, you don’t bond with anyone, you don’t connect with anyone,” Mary told him.
“I’m connecting all over the place,” Roy shot back.
Mary finished gathering her books and stood up from the chair.
“Of course you are. That’s why this room is so stuffed with people who wanted to make sure you were okay,” Mary said, turning on her heel and heading out the door.
Roy looked around at the empty room and the broken bed. He tried to think of a joke he could make about breaking the bed, preferably one that implied he had tremendous genitalia. Nothing really came to mind. Instead he found his shoes and walked out a different door.
* * *
Roy was only a few feet down the hallway, headed back to the lifts, when a familiar voice called to him. He looked over his shoulder to see none other than the man who had just beaten him senseless jogging up to him.
“Hello, Chad,” Roy greeted hesitantly.
“Hello,” Chad replied. “I see you’re moving around again.”
“I’m a quick heal,” Roy replied.
“I’m sure,” Chad said. “I wanted to talk to you about today.”
“Was there something left unsaid by our fists?”
“Actually, yes, at least on my end,” Chad said. “I was thinking about our fight while you were getting healed. Specifically about how hopelessly out of your league you are when you fight me, yet how you continued to try.”
“Gee, thanks, but I kind of already got the memo that I suck compared to you,” Roy said.
“You do; but that isn’t the point. The point is that you kept coming at me; you kept trying no matter how hard I put you down. I realized that the kind of man who can withstand the punishment I’m capable of dishing out and then ask for more is a man with a lot of determination.”
“Well... yeah, actually,” Roy agreed.
“I can relate with that sort of mindset,” Chad said. “So I came to a conclusion. I won’t improve at all by fighting you. You, on the other hand, will improve tremendously if you can continue to fight like you did today. And in the grand scheme of things, one hour per day helping a similar individual reach their goal is something I can tolerate.”
“I guess you’re saying you want to stay sparring partners,” Roy surmised.
“Yes. I’ll keep entering the ring with you for as long as Coach George deems necessary. That is, of course, on the condition that your dedication and intensity do not drop,” Chad explained.
“That part you don’t need to worry about,” Roy said. “And... um... thanks, I guess.”
“Glad to help,” Chad replied. He turned and began to walk away.
“Hey, Chad,” Roy called out.
“You said you got the same power as your dad. Is he a Hero?”
Chad nodded without looking back. “He was one of the greatest Heroes ever to live. Why?”
“Just curious, I guess,” Roy lied. “You’re a strong guy. I thought someone else with your power would have been a pretty famous Hero if he was in the business.”
“He is still very famous. Just not for the reasons he deserves,” Chad said. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Roy.”
“See you then,” Roy told Chad’s exiting form. See, he could connect with people. What the hell did Mary know, anyway?