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Friday, June 28, 2013
The Hero's Son - Chapter IX
Since it's been several months after I posted the last chapter to this story, here's a link to the last Chapter if you want to reread it and remember what's going on :-).
“I don't want to move,” R.J. blurted out after they had gotten plenty of sleep, and then woke up with about a half an hour until dinner time.
Rip frowned in confusion, wondering how their kissing and fooling around had made him think about moving. “What?”
R.J. sat up abruptly. “Let me finish. I never had a real family or stability of any kind when I was a child. I remember moving a lot until my dad finally bought a house here in Marion City. I think we probably would have moved on eventually if he hadn't been arrested and thrown in Hero Prison. This place has been my only real home, and you all have been my only real family...”
Rip could tell that he wasn't finished talked despite the long pause and waited patiently for R.J. to continue.
“I don't want to move and feel like I'm all on my own again, but...” R.J. looked into Rips eyes and smiled. “But I don't want to be without you. If you want to move, I'll go wherever you want.”
Rip felt a heavy weight press down on him. Basically, R.J. was making this his choice, and if he chose to move them, R.J. might get angry and resentful BUT if he decided to stay here... Rip looked away so that he could think with a modicum of privacy.
When Henry Plantagenet first founded the Marion City Heroes, he'd been granted the funding – from a couple of wealthy citizens – to build a large complex. It was the prison and their Headquarters all in one. As for housing, it had rooms set aside for only their family. That meant that the rest of the Heroes lived in their own houses. If Rip simply accepted that his life was here and always would be, he would in essence still be living with his parents for the rest of his life.
Even though he had only been 18 for about a month, and R.J. wouldn't technically be 18 for two more days, Rip was getting antsy to prove to the world that he was an adult now. A young adult, maybe. A college aged kid might be a better description, but still old enough to be out on his own, away from the safety of his parents.
Even as he thought this, Rip was afraid. Doubts started eating away at him. What if I end up pushing R.J. away with my eagerness to be on our own? What if I find out that I just don't have what it takes to make a relationship work when I don't have my mom there to mediate our fights and help me solve any problems that come up? What if we grow apart?
R.J. chuckled when Rip took too long to reply. “How about this: how about we think this through thoroughly? Do some research and figure out where we might consider going. Would we want a small town? A big city? Once we have found a good fit, then we can talk about whether or not it's the right thing to do.”
Rip threw his arms around R.J. because this was exactly what they needed to do! Think it over and decide carefully, not impulsively like Rip tended to do. He kissed R.J. and then laughed.
“Have I ever told you that I love you?”
R.J. squeezed him tight. “Yes, but you could stand to say it a bit more often.”
Rip looked at R.J. expectantly and waited as patiently as he could. R.J. laughed at the way Rip fidgeted. Patience was not his strong suit!
“I love you too,” R.J. admitted. In general, he found it a bit hard to say that phrase. The time had to be right and he had to be in a mushy mood. More importantly than his pride and embarrassment was reassuring Rip before the two of them started fighting again. “You should know that by now, even if I don't say it.”
“Maybe, but it's always nice to hear,” Rip stated, kissing R.J. again. They may well have messed around some more, but there was a loud banging knock on the door just then. They were both still wearing their concert shirts, but had to rearrange the blanket to cover up their lower halves.
“Come in,” R.J. called out when it was safe.
Renee poked her head in the room. “Just wanted to let you know that dinner is almost ready and remind you both that you've been scheduled for patrol from midnight to 8AM.”
“Thanks mom,” Rip replied.
She then chuckled in a way that let them know she found this funny but that they probably wouldn't. “And then you need to get your butt's right back to bed for your shift at 4PM.”
“Oh come on! Is there no one else available?” Rip demanded, seriously wondering why he had ever pushed to be treated like an adult so quickly. Sometimes it would be nice to go back to when his only responsibilities were phone duty for a couple hours each day, and mail duty once or twice a week.
Renee gave him a significant look, which reminded him that he had asked her to arrange things so that they both had the entire day off for R.J.'s birthday. He blushed and then nodded.
“Yeah, alright, I understand,” Rip said before R.J. could wonder if something strange was going on. Luckily, R.J. simply shrugged it off as Renee's way of scolding Rip for begging for his own patrol for so long and then trying to get out of it now that he actually had one.
After Renee shut the door, they quickly got dressed and then – finding that Renee had underestimated how long it would take to finish making dinner – went to the main desk where Jack was on phone duty to waste some time researching the different wanted ads for Heroes online. Jenna wasn't trying to be sneaky, but ended up reading over their shoulders for a bit before startling them.
“So you are planning to move after all?” She asked, causing them both to jump a little.
“Jenna!” They both squeaked, then Rip chuckled and shrugged.
“Right now, we're just looking into it,” Rip stated.
“What'll I do if both my partners leave?” Jenna asked, putting an arm around each of them, resting her elbows on their shoulders.
“You could always come with us,” R.J. suggested absently, and then mentally kicked himself for doing so. What the hell did I say that for?!
Practically the only thing he liked about this idea was that Rip and Jenna would no longer be so cozy. Then he mentally beat himself up for being so jealous that he would be happy that Rip wouldn't get to hang out with his best friend any more. I'm a damn bastard...
“Hmm...” Jenna murmured. “That's not a bad idea...”
Rip shrugged again. “Technically, it's a really practical idea. I'm pretty sure that we aren't going to be provided with housing unless we opt for a small town that has no Heroes yet. Then we could live in their HQ. However, if we choose a bigger city, we'll more than likely have to share an apartment. I know that we've all probably got quite a bit saved up from our helpers' salary, but eventually we'll have to support ourselves on whatever we earn. Splitting the rent between three of us – even considering we'd need a 2 bedroom apartment – would still be much cheaper than splitting it just in half.”
R.J. looked at Rip in astonishment, impressed that Rip had such a well thought out reply ready to go. Usually it was Rip charging off without thinking and R.J. who took the time to think things through. Then he tilted his head to the side as he realized that Rip actually did have a cautious side to him that seemed hard to express when his dominant personality demanded so much attention.
Jenna made a soft sound of thoughtful agreement. “You're right. Until recently, we've only gotten paid minimum wage for the hours we've worked on phone duty or riding along with an adult Hero on patrol. Now that we have our own patrol and are getting paid almost twice what we were, we'll have enough to move with, but I highly doubt that any other squad can pay what our squad does. We'll need to find a cheap place to live and share expenses as much as possible.”
R.J. wondered if he should mention that he had an inheritance from his father that could pay for everything. He didn't like to think about it, but in addition to actual money, he also had a house he could sell. His dad had set it all up in his name so that no one could ever take it away from him if the worst should happen. Considering that the money was all stolen – from banks and from actual people – R.J. didn't like to think about it beyond the occasional guilt driven sentiment that he should somehow try to give it back.
Thankfully, ever since he came to live with Henry and Renee, he hadn't needed to touch the money, and had in fact earned a helper's wage. This was enough to feed his manga addiction so he never felt like he needed more money. Even now, the thought of using his inheritance to support them felt... dirty...
Dinner interrupted his brooding, and they said goodbye to Jenna as they headed toward the kitchen. Jenna blew a kiss at them as she headed toward the sparring room to make up for missing out on morning practice.
Rip halted them just outside the kitchen. “I'm surprised you suggested that Jenna come with us. After the last couple of days, I assumed that you'd be chomping at the bit to get away from her.”
R.J. sighed with something akin to defeat. “Yes, but... This might be somewhat ironic, but Jenna is the closest thing I have to a best friend too. Sure I'm friends with a couple other Heroes, but I hang out with Jenna the most because you hang out with Jenna a lot. If we moved away from her, I think I'd actually miss her. A little. A tiny little bit. Like a microscopic spec of dust – you know what? I've changed my mind! I don't think I would miss her... much...”
Rip laughed richly. “I'll try to remember not to tell her that you love her so much that you just can't stand to be without her!”
“I do not!” R.J. protested hotly.
“Sure sure,” Rip teased him, walking fully in the kitchen to take a seat. Renee was chuckling and pretending not to have heard any of that and Henry was laughing outright.
“So... moving with Jenna, huh?” Henry asked. He wasn't entirely surprised because the three of them did almost everything together. Sort of. They had always shared their Hero duties as they got older and had more of them. It was why they had been put on a rotating team for patrol.
If Marion City's squad wasn't overflowing with so many excellent Heroes, the loss of all three of them would be a devastating hit. As it was, there were 6 more Hero kids about to turn 18 over the next year that would naturally want a patrol of their own, which would somewhat force the current Heroes to take reduced shifts – and pay since they only got paid for what they worked – or more of the veteran Heroes would have to think about retiring or moving on. Such as Jack was doing...
Henry sighed morosely as he realized that there was quite a few big changes headed their way.
“Maybe,” Rip answered with a shrug. “She seemed to like the idea, but she's had even less time to think about it than we have.”
It seemed like maybe 15 minutes passed as the family ate dinner and chatted about this and that, but then Renee pointed to the clock. Rip and R.J. both looked up to find that they had about a half an hour until their shift started and they definitely needed to shower and get ready. They nodded and took turns kissing Renee's cheek before heading to the men's locker room.
“Hey,” Josh greeted them a bit gruffly. He was still something akin to a frienemy to Rip, though he had no problem with R.J.
“Hey,” Rip returned the greeting mildly, and then basically ignored Josh as he and R.J. stripped so they could take a shower. Josh had ended his shift early because there were more Heroes on Patrol than necessary and he had agreed to take on phone duty for someone else. He was more than happy to ignore them as he changed out of his uniform.
“I think Jenna will come with us,” R.J. remarked rather suddenly. “I don't think that she would be happy without her best friend by her side.”
Rip laughed. “I don't know about that! Jenna is very close to her family. I don't think she could just up and move so far away from them.”
R.J shrugged. “We haven't picked a city yet, so maybe we'll find one close by.”
Josh cleared his throat. “So wait... Does this mean that you plan to leave Marion City after all?”
“We're thinking about it,” Rip admitted with a strange smile, as if he couldn't figure out whether to be happy or afraid of the prospect, especially now that it was starting to feel more real to him. “My dad gave us his blessings.”
“Seriously?! I would have thought for sure that you'd have to run away when he wasn't looking...” Josh opined.
“I thought so too!” Rip exclaimed with a laugh.
“And you're bringing Jenna with you? That'll leave us three Heroes down...” Josh murmured, his tone indicated that he was thinking over the logistics of this. He tended to work as many hours as he could, and so they were sure he was hoping that there'd be more work after they were gone.
He shut his locker just as they were ready to turn on the showers. Rip waved goodbye to him just before tilting his head under the water to get it wet. Josh bit his lip as he stared at the necklace Rip wore. He waited a moment for R.J. to turn around and then took a close look at his necklace. Considering that the two boys had been sharing a room for years, and hadn't made a fuss over their relationship, Josh had never been sure what was going on between them. He – like most people – rather assumed that Rip was in a relationship with Jenna.
Waving goodbye, Josh ran out the door while he still had a few minutes before the time he'd agreed to take over phone duty. He ran all the way to the sparring room and – just as he hoped – found Jenna working out by herself.
“Don't move!” He blurted out. He took advantage of her momentary surprise to throw his arms around her and kiss her. She stood completely still as if literally unable to so much as wiggle a finger.
“Away, I mean,” Josh said a moment later. “Don't move away with Rip and R.J.” He kissed her again.
It was a full minute before Jenna's brain started functioning again. She suddenly pushed him away and took a step back. Her breathing was a bit hard, but she assumed that it was because she wasn't used to guys just shoving their tongues in her mouth without warning.
“What are you doing?!” She demanded. “I have a boyfriend!”
“Are you referring to Rip, because I think that's a lie,” Josh accused.
“No!” Jenna blurted out before realizing that she hadn't meant to tell him anything so honestly. She sighed because now it was too late to unsay the word. “His name is James, and don't you dare say it because I've heard all the crude jokes before!”
Josh was confused by everything, but started with the first thing he could blurt out. “Jokes?”
“Jenna James – oh nevermind!” Jenna muttered.
“Are you serious? Because everyone says you're with Rip and you never deny it,” Josh stated.
“That's because it's nobody's business who we're going out with,” Jenna stated vehemently.
“O...kay...” Josh said, unable to disagree with her. “So who's this James guy then?”
Jenna shrugged. “Just some guy that makes me laugh. We met while I was out jogging one day and he was skateboarding.”
“So wait, you're just going to leave him?” Josh wondered, feeling inexplicably upset on the guy's behalf.
“It's not really love for either of us. We hang out when I'm not on duty or hanging out with Rip, and that's usually only once or twice a week. I'm supposed to meet up with him in a half an hour.” Jenna looked at the clock to make sure she was right, and then nodded.
Josh sighed, wishing for the first time ever that he hadn't volunteered for more phone duty. He fumbled for something nonchalant to say but felt tongue-tied. Renee interrupted them a second later.
“Oh good!” She said as if cheering. “I know you just got off of patrol, Josh, but we're short tonight because of the flu that's going around. Do you think you and Jenna could go out on patrol? I have a couple of Hero kids who can cover phone duty for you.”
Josh nodded automatically, and then mentally groaned for basically agreeing to work 16 hours straight. I'm so gonna need gallon of coffee tonight!
Jenna sighed in frustration and then nodded. “Yeah, I just need to make a few calls first.”
“Do it while you gear up,” Renee ordered with a nod towards the women's locker room. Then she softened. “Thanks, both of you. I really appreciate this.”
“No problem,” both muttered rather less than honestly.
In the men's locker room, Rip and R.J. had already left for their midnight patrol. In the women's locker room, Jenna took a moment to call her boyfriend.
“Hey James, I can't make it tonight.” They had planned to hang out at midnight since James was a night owl.
“Why not?!” He demanded, obviously upset.
“I have to work,” Jenna stated.
“You always work!” He growled in frustration. “I'm beginning to think that you just use that as an excuse to avoid spending time with me!”
“Why? Just because you don't have a job –” Jenna gasped as she realized that she was being a bitch. “I'm sorry!”
“I don't think you do either! You refuse to tell me what it is! Not even a gas station makes their employees work this damn much!” James shouted.
During their argument, Jenna pulled on her uniform, letting her phone sort of fall to the side for a moment as she buttoned her shirt. She grabbed firmly again and brought it back to her ear.
“I do too, I just don't want to tell you what it is!”
“Why not?” James roared in frustration.
“Because you're like the only person on the planet who doesn't already know, and I like that! I like having one person who doesn't assume –”
“Assume what?” James cut her off. “That you're a hooker or something? Working nights like tonight!”
Jenna's mouth hung open in shock! She ground out: “I can't believe you said that!” She was so upset that she hung up her phone and immediately called her mom so that if he called back, she could ignore him.
“Hey mom, I'm taking on the night shift tonight, so I won't be home at all.”
“Okay sweetie. Be careful,” her mom bade her.
“I always am,” Jenna assured her. Then she turned off her ringer, finished gearing up, and left the locker room.
“What took you so long?” Josh asked and then shook his head. “Never mind. We have to stop at a gas station or somewhere to grab some coffee. I'm gonna need it.”
Jenna nodded, knowing that she'd probably need some too at some point.
A half an hour later, they were silently roaming the city when a call came in from HQ. “There's a report of a disturbance.”
Immediately, Rip came on the line. “R.J. and I are following some suspicious men following a woman who just came out of a bar.”
Josh clicked his talk button. “We can be there in less than 5 minutes.”
“Understood,” said the boy that had agreed to phone duty for at least part of the night.
Almost exactly 5 minutes later, Josh parked his Hero car in front of an alleyway that someone had reported a disturbance in. This alleyway was close to a large, makeshift ramp that local teens used to practice their skateboarding. The alley itself was often used by vagrants to keep warm by standing out of the wind around a barrel full of burning trash.
Both Josh and Jenna assumed that some vagrants had probably gotten into a fight, and responded by taking out their guns and pointing them in the direction they were headed. In their other hands, they held flashlights, sort of stacking the two together so that they could see where their guns were pointing.
“Come on man! It's a couple of Heroes!” A vagrant called out in warning. Several other vagrants scattered like roaches when a light is turned on.
“I'm not going anywhere because I'm not doing anything wrong!” A drunk-sounding voice roared right before its owner threw a glass bottle at the wall of the alley.
“Suit yourself!” His friend called out before running away.
“Looks like the disturbance is caused by a drunk vagrant,” Josh informed everyone over their communication device.
“We'll take him into custody and drop him off at detox,” Jenna added. They both turned their communicators off again as they received an affirmative response.
“I ain't drunk!” The man shouted as he threw another bottle. Then he sort of stood up straighter, as if hit by a wave of enlightenment. “Jenna?”
“James???” Jenna asked incredulously as her boyfriend turned to face her. “What are you doing here?”
“I was pissed because you blew me off again and I – ” he abruptly stopped talking before he confessed to crying his eyes out. “I uh, I was pissed, so I decided to take my anger out on some glass bottles and a wall.”
Jenna sighed in frustration and relief that this wasn't a drunk and disorderly person after all. She holstered her gun and looked to Josh.
“I say we let him off with a warning.”
Josh shook his head. “No! We cannot play favorites just because he's your boyfriend. He's causing a disturbance and we have to determine if he's drunk and where to bring him.” Josh kept his gun at the ready just in case James decided to fight his way free.
“I'm not playing favorites! He's just burning off some steam, he's not a danger to anyone!” Jenna argued.
Josh snorted. “Fine, if he passes the sobriety test, we'll let him go.”
Rip's voice came over the communication network. “The woman made it home safe after the men noticed us following them. Do you need any help with your vagrant?”
Jenna clicked the button to respond: khhhk. “No, we have the situation in hand.”
Josh was always doing things that made people mad at him, and he wanted to make Jenna mad right now as a sort of retaliation for rejecting him. Khhhk.
“I don't know Rip, your girl Jenna here is trying to let her boyfriend off without doing her job.”
“I am not!” Jenna exclaimed, having been successfully angered.
“James is the cause of the disturbance?” Rip asked.
“Are you two fighting again?” R.J. wondered, joining the conversation.
“Can we please not discuss this?!” Jenna demanded in embarrassment. “If this was a real criminal, he'd have gotten away by now!”
“Or blown your brains out,” a new voice stated coolly, cocking a gun and pointing it directly at the back of Jenna's head. “What's a pair of Heroes doing harassing folk in squatterville?”
“Keeping the peace!” Jenna scoffed, completely unconcerned by the gun to her head.
“Oh man!” Josh muttered. “I feel sorry for you!” He still had his gun aimed in James' general direction, but also at a safe spot in case it went off without warning.
“What's going on?” Rip demanded.
“Nothing to worry about,” Josh assured him. “Jenna's just going to lay some hurt on a guy.”
“You bet your ass I am!” She stated emphatically as she subtly activated her personal shield and then performed a maneuver that disarmed the guy and tossed his gun in Josh's direction. She then threw two punches that he blocked before kicking his feet out from under him. She finished by grinding her heavy boot into his back. “What makes you think you can take on a Hero?!”
Josh chuckled as Jenna handcuffed and rendered the guy unconscious, automatically checking the gun he'd caught for ammo. “It's over already, and if you were placing bets, Jenna won.”
“Who'd bet against her?” R.J. wondered sarcastically.
James took advantage of the fact that no one was watching him at the moment to practically leap atop Jenna. “That was so awesome!” He cried out as he hugged her tight. “Why didn't you tell me that you're a Hero, Jenna? Wait... Hero Jenna? You're dating Richard Plantagenet! I can't believe that you'd cheat –”
“I'm not cheating!” Jenna shouted, completely forgetting that she was still connected to the network.
Rip laughed so loud that even James could hear it coming from her ear piece. His laughing infected Jenna, and soon she was snickering in an attempt to remain serious.
“You're not dating Rip?!?!” An incredulous voice asked, and Josh realized that this was the boy on phone duty. The new guy. What was his name? Oh yeah, Joe.
“Keep your nose out of it, twerp!” Josh warned.
“I'm not a twerp!” Joe insisted.
Jenna couldn't stop laughing, but it was a soft laugh now. “This is why I didn't want to tell you I'm a Hero! The minute I say that, everyone automatically assumes that I'm with Rip.”
Rip snorted in amusement. “We've been dating for what? 6 years now?”
Jenna giggled. “Yep, ever since my 13th birthday party when neither of us were even thinking about going out.”
“This isn't funny,” James protested indignantly.
“No, it really is!” Jenna insisted with a grin. “The entire thing has been made up by the media! Every time we go anywhere together, inevitably a camera crew shows up and plasters our faces all over TV! Now that we're 18, they want to know when we're going to get married and start working on some Hero babies!”
James couldn't actually hear Rip, but Rip started talking anyway. “I heard a rumor that since we're just now hitting the 'wild, partying age' we're going to let it tear us apart.”
“Should I be the partier or should you?” Jenna wondered. “I bet the public would love it more if I was the one caught partying behind your back. That way, they can quickly speculate on how long it will take you to find a new girlfriend, and bonus! You'll be single for all the girls in the city who'd just love to mob you on a dark night.”
“I'd hate to break up your little media scandal, but I just got a call. Sounds like a domestic dispute,” Joe informed them, relaying the address.
“We're on our way!” Rip informed him. “Later Jenna!”
“I'll call you the moment I get out of bed tomorrow to talk about that thing we discussed,” Jenna promised. She was referring to the other plans they had made for R.J.'s birthday, but Josh assumed that it was a reference to their plans to move. The moment everyone was switched off the network, Josh gestured for Jenna to administer the breathalyzer to her boyfriend, and then his brain returned to jerk mode.
“So how would that work? You two play out a little fake break up for the media, and then move away together?”
Jenna looked at her boyfriend guiltily as she held out the breathalyzer. He had just stopped glaring at her, and now he was doing it again. She sighed and then glared at Josh.
“Thanks,” she muttered angrily. “I haven't had anytime to think about that at all, and you make it sound like Rip, R.J., and I have been planning to move out together for months!” She watched carefully as the results of the breathalyzer came back negative for intoxication. She held it up for Josh to see.
Josh scoffed. “Come on Jenna; don't make it sound like you wouldn't drop everything and follow Rip to the other side of the planet if that's where he decided to go!”
“He's my best friend! Of course I'm going to consider it, but that doesn't mean that I have decided to go!” Jenna argued. She had stopped paying any attention at all to her boyfriend, and James could see something almost electric running between her and her partner.
“Whatever! Can I go?” James demanded.
Josh softened almost apologetically. “Yeah, we've got no reason to hold you. Go on.” He turned back to Jenna. “And we should get this guy and his gun to the jail and turn him over to the police.”
Jenna nodded and hauled the man up by the back of his jacket. She grunted from the effort. “He's heavy! You carry him!” She then belied her implication that she couldn't handle the man by tossing him at Josh. Josh caught the man and threw him over his shoulder.
Jenna turned to her boyfriend. “I'll call you as soon as I get off patrol. It'll be a little after 8AM, so be watching your phone.”
“Don't bother!” James stated. “I can't go out with Heroes.”
“What?” Jenna asked in disbelief. “Why not?”
“The other vagrants would probably murder me in my sleep!” James informed her seriously, and then stalked away.
Jenna watched him go with mixed emotions, and promised herself that she would call him anyway and have a proper discussion before letting him just end things like that.
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