It had been a long walk.
They had walked back to the base. Maven hadn’t been willing to try the portal again so soon; using the magic of the cup of power and the sceptre of light always left him tired. Plus, Maven had some things to think about. He hadn’t liked the way that Gregory had been so angry at him, but he supposed it was understandable.
As if reading his thoughts (and knowing Carley, she probably was), Carley asked “What did happen between you two this time?”
“Get out of my head,” Maven said.
“Hey, if we have to walk home, you might as well tell us what happened.”
“I still don’t see why we’re not taking a cab.” Maven said. “People are going to stop us asking for an autograph.”
“No, they won’t.” Carley said. “I’ve turned on their blinders. They won’t see us unless we want to be seen.”
“Okay fine, but can’t we take a cab? Wait, I didn’t bring any money with me.” Maven said.
Tara let out a snort. “Do you think I’d remember to put my wallet in all of these pockets?” she said. Putting her hands in a few of them, she pulled out rocks, bits of string, pieces of pottery, what looked like coffee beans, fuses, a skipping rope, a belt, a small packet of seeds, a journal, a handful of pens, a small book of poems, a small jar of hair dye, bags of sweets, and, for some reason, a taser gun.
“Do I want to know why you have a taser?” Maven asked her.
“Probably not,” Carley said. “But see, no wallet or money.”
“Does any of that stuff come in handy?” Tara asked.
“You’d be surprised. Why don’t you have any money?”
Tara pointed at her spandex suit. “No pockets. What I wouldn’t give for your outfit. I would carry everything in there,” she said.
“Yeah, that’s kind of the problem I’m having.” Carley let out a laugh. “Since we have to walk, you can tell us what happened between you and Gregory.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Well honey, you haven’t talked about it for a few weeks now and you’ve been brooding something fierce. Won’t it help to talk?”
“It’s not good to keep emotions inside all trapped up,” Tara said. “They tend to come out in the worst kinds of ways. Look at what happened to Dez the last time him and Finley broke up. He kept saying that he was fine all the time and then he started crying. Filled up half the floors of our building with water before he finally admitted that he wasn’t fine.”
“I remember,” Maven said. “I had to swim through a few of the floors, and the electronics were almost totally fried.”
“Well, then let it out. Tell us what happened. If anyone can understand, it’s us, honey.” Carley said.
Maven thought about saying no, that he didn’t want to tell them anything about what had happened with Gregory, but Carley was right. If he didn’t tell someone, he would certainly burst wide open. Unlike every other time they had broken up, this time had been different. Instead of wailing in the arms of a friend, usually Carley, he had kept everything inside. It had been eating at him and he hadn’t known how to release some of the excess emotions he had been holding on to. He had to tell someone, and if he didn’t the feelings would fester. He let out a shuddering sigh. “Fine.” He tried to sound put out, but he was secretly pleased that they wanted to hear anything about what had happened.
“Well, it was just silly,” Maven said. “I don’t know why he made a big deal out of it, really. He was just overreacting, as per usual.”
“Typical,” Carley said. “What happened?”
“He got upset when I told him that I valued being a superhero over him and our relationship.” Maven said. “I mean, what’s so bad about that?” He was surprised by the shocked looks on their faces. Tara looked as if she’d been slapped. “What?”
“Honey…” Carley said. “That’s just wrong.”
“No, it’s not, we save people, that’s what we do. We help all kinds of people in Ottawa and the surrounding areas. Many people owe us their lives because of what we do.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we love what we do above the people who love us,” Carley said.
“Agreed, that’s cold,” Tara said, giving him a dark look. “I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I’m siding with Gregory on this one. Normally he’s a bit of a hypersensitive prima donna, but that was cold, Maven.” She let out a breath. “No wonder he was upset. You basically told him that he was worthless.”
They turned down Gloucester Street off of Laurier and kept walking. “I don’t understand why what I said was so bad,” Maven said. “I mean, what we do is a valid service to this city.”
“Your problem is that you’re a little bit too much into the job. I mean, what do you go home to, now? An empty loft.” Tara said. “Being with someone when you’re a superhero is not an easy thing to do. You have to open yourself up and let the other person into your life, knowing your deepest secret. It’s not easy for the other person either. Imagine what it’s like constantly worrying about whether the person you love will die today.”
Maven stopped and looked across the street. He didn’t want to look at Tara and have her see that her words hit home. He felt them both inside his head, so he recognized that they knew how he felt anyways, but it was the principle of the thing. “I’d never thought about it that way,” he said.
“We know you didn’t. Now you do.” Carley said. “You just have to decide how to move forward.”
“I don’t see how there’s any way I can move forward. You saw him. Gregory’s fucking pissed at me.”
“Nah, he loves you.” Tara said.
“You could read his thoughts, I assume.”
“No, honey, we could see it in the way he looked at you. He’s fucking hurting without you. I’m surprised you don’t see that.” Carley said.
“I was a little too busy trying to fry a shadow man if you didn’t notice.”
“Yes, but when you said that he was the man you loved, Gregory’s face softened,” Tara said. “He still loves you.”
They turned off of Gloucester Street and onto Nepean Street. They walked by an apartment building where most of the balconies were decorated with Christmas lights. They shone brightly in the fading daylight. Maven loved this time of year and loved that the light was a tonic against the darkness. His light shone brighter when Gregory was in his life. Maven felt lighter when Gregory’s love filled him, and he wondered how he could have fucked things up so severely.
“Honey, you have to talk to him,” Carley said.
“He doesn’t want to hear what I have to say. You saw what happened today. He no longer feels the same way as I do about him.”
“And yet you told him you love what you do more than you love him.” Tara said. They approached their building, and the security guard came to meet them. He ushered them into the building, locking the door behind them. “Maybe you could write to him, see if he’ll talk to you that way.”
“I guess…” Maven didn’t think that was the way to go about it. “We’ve got enough to worry about for now. We still don’t know where Tianado went, we’re no closer to finding Cracklepuss, and we don’t know how to find Max Shadow.”
“You know how to find Max Shadow,” Carley said. “Both times you’ve found him just by looking for him. It’s like the two of you are linked. You just have to look for him again.”
“I guess,” Maven said. They took the elevator up to the main floor and Tara and Carley got out. “I’m just going to go and relax for a moment. I need to recharge after using all that light earlier.”
Tara gave him a knowing look. “Sure, you go and take it easy. We’ll reconvene later. I’ll see if anyone has heard from Tianado.”
“You go and take a few minutes to regroup, and we’ll be waiting for you in on the tech floor in an hour or so. Okay?” Carley said.
“Okay,” Maven said, giving them both a grateful smile. “Thank you for today. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“We know,” Tara said. She touched his cheek softly. “Come on down when you’re ready.”
“Okay.” Maven said. He took the elevator up to his floor. He tapped his foot impatiently, then let out a breath of relief when the doors opened. He stepped out into the hallway, slid his key into the lock, and entered his apartment.
Except there was already someone inside.