Chapter 94

Vince stepped out of the men’s locker room to find that he was surrounded. Stella stood directly before him, a vantage point which he would later reflect had to offer some views of what transpired inside, Violet to his right and a somewhat uncomfortable looking Thomas was at his left. The girls had very serious looks of sternness on their faces, while Thomas more looked like he might have had a disagreeable meal that was only now making its presence known.

“Um, hey, guys. What’s up?”

“Not much,” Stella said in a tone that made it quite clear that much was indeed up. “How about you? Having a nice day? Any big plans for the weekend?”

“It was good so far,” Vince replied hesitantly. “I’ll probably just do the usual this weekend. Train and study and maybe catch a movie.”

“Mmmmmhmmmmm.” Violet made the sound somewhere in the middle of her throat, allowing it to sound both casual and disapproving. “I told you so, Stella.”

“Now, Violet, we agreed to give him a chance,” Stella said, moving only her eyes. Those glaring orbs soon turned back to Vince, unfortunately. “So that’s all? Training, studying, and maybe a movie? You’re sure there’s not anything else on your schedule for this weekend? Nothing of significant importance that may have slipped your mind just now?”

“Pretty sure.” Vince found his body sliding itself into a defensive stance, even though he wasn’t certain why.

“Typical,” Violet sighed. “Even the nice ones are as considerate as rocks.”

“I’m really confused,” Vince admitted.

“One of your teammates has a birthday this weekend,” Stella explained. “We were hoping you’d taken the time to at least put something together.”

“I don’t think so,” Vince disagreed. “Hershel and Nick both have theirs in summer, Mary’s is over Christmas break, and Alice’s isn’t for another few months.”

“Typical,” Violet repeated.

Stella jabbed a surprisingly bony finger into Vince’s sternum. “Camille. You know, the small one who could have been on a top tier team but instead decided to help you guys out? The sweet one who goes to every practice, ignoring the fact that she has her skills down pat, because she wants to show team spirit? The girl who encouraged all of us to support you people after your little revelation, and who evidently you don’t think of as a teammate just because she isn’t in the guinea pig club?”


“‘Oh’ is fucking right,” Stella agreed.

“But she never told any of us when her birthday was,” Vince defended lamely.

“She never tells anyone,” Violet countered. “She doesn’t do anything to draw attention to herself. You’ve worked with her for a half a year and you didn’t notice that? We found out by invading her privacy and prying into her life, just like good friends should.”

Vince glanced at Thomas, hoping for support. Thomas squirmed in place as a response. Had it been a villain or a monster of any caliber, Thomas would happily have stood at his friend’s side and faced the impossible odds in battle. Against these two... even bravery has its limits.

Stella, meanwhile, was rearing for another assault. “And another thing-”

“You’re right,” Vince interrupted, his eyes falling from Thomas to the floor.

The proverbial wind seemed to slip a bit from Stella’s sails. “What was that?”

“I said you’re right. Camille is always so supportive of everyone, and we just took her for granted. It didn’t even occur to me to figure out when her birthday was, but I should have. Just because she didn’t used to be Powered doesn’t mean she isn’t one of us. It was inconsiderate and selfish.”

“Well, at least this one can admit when it’s wrong,” Violet said.

Stella’s glare was still quite imposing, but she lowered her finger and Vince’s chest relaxed accordingly. “Make sure you don’t let it happen again. We love that girl, and we hate to see her go unappreciated.”

“I won’t,” Vince promised. Stella saw something in his eyes at that moment, a piece of the greater whole that was Vince Reynolds. She was not one to take people at their word, but in that instant, she had a feeling that when Vince made a promise even the gods counted it as done.

“Good,” Stella said. “Now, since this isn’t about shaming you as much as it is about making Camille feel good, we went ahead and put something together. You’re going to invite her to a birthday dinner at the Karaoke Barn on Saturday night. We’ll spread the word around to other students after you’ve told her.”

“I don’t know if it is right for me to take credit for the plans you organized.”

“What do you think would mean more to Camille, finding out we threw her another party or finding out the team she’s been working with thought so much of her that they beat us to it?” Violet asked. She couldn’t say the other part, the piece about how it really mattered that Vince was the one who invited her. Last year the small girl had tried every trick in the book to weasel out of her own event. If it was something put together for her especially by Vince, on the other hand, Violet had a feeling not even the apocalypse wouldn’t keep her away.

“Then shouldn’t the captain be the one to invite her?” Vince asked.

Stella and Violet glanced at each other. That was a good point, and one they hadn’t thought of. It was Thomas who came to their aid, accidently justifying their decision to drag him along.

“The captain isn’t the one who organizes the fun; the captain is the one who leads the team. Goof-off events should really come from someone else, if only for the sake of appearances.”

“I guess that makes sense; usually Nick is the one who recommends all the things we do to waste time,” Vince agreed.

“Glad you’re on board,” Stella said, retaking control of the conversation. “Karaoke Barn, Saturday night at seven. I expect to get a panicked call from her by tonight or so help me our next visit won’t be so pleasant.” Stella turned on her heel and began walking away, Violet only a few steps behind.

Thomas paused a moment before following. “They really do mean well.”

“I’m sure they do. Still not positive why my heart is beating so fast,” Vince noted.

“Just be glad they like you enough to take it easy. I’ve seen them come down hard on people and it’s not a pretty sight.” Thomas jogged off to catch up with the girls, leaving a stunned Vince by himself to recover.