I practiced. I practiced and practiced and practiced. It didn’t get to the point of perfection. This was me, after all. Nothing I do would ever be perfect. Still, I finally got to the point where I could actually shift before I hit the ground. It wasn’t much of an accomplishment, but shifting quickly was something, at least.
And I’d grown used to the ventilation shafts. I would never want to live in one—no one would—but I could handle being stuck in them for long periods of time.
That would prove useful.
I guess what really made me a superhero—well, as close to it as I’ll ever get, I should say—was the training that April guided me through, with Larabee’s help. He really had become my science and tech guy, just like he always wanted.
He was disappointed that I never took him up on any of his costumes, of course. And he had this notion in his head that a superhero couldn’t possibly marry his sidekick…
“I am not your sidekick,” April said, annoyed. “Since when did I get stuck with the role of sidekick? I’m not a sidekick.”
“I didn’t say you were,” Clayton protested. He looked over at Larabee. “He’s the one that says you’re the sidekick. I was going more with… motivation, my guide, my inspiration, my… significant other, my—”
“I didn’t say she was a sidekick. You can’t marry your sidekick. That’s just wrong.”
“Leaving out the sidekick part, because April is not my sidekick, why would it be wrong?” Clay demanded, shaking his head. “You have been telling us we belong together since she was my lab partner, and we almost failed our science class. Then, when I said no, you fixed me up with every girl you could find until April had to deal with Amy. And—I haven’t actually asked, and April hasn’t said yes, but it’s not wrong if we had decided to take that step. Unless you know something I don’t about my past or something? Did you find out something about my parents that I don’t know? Something that makes me—I don’t know, related to April or something?”
She grimaced. “Please, don’t even—”
“Leia kissed Luke, and he was her twin. She just didn’t know it at the time,” Clayton reminded her. April nodded. “I know that’s not much, but—”
“But they made it seem like Leia was never in love with Luke, just close to him. That was one kiss, and you and I have had several. And a bit more than kissing. And I am not—Larabee, we are not related, are we?”
Larabee shook his head. “I can get DNA to prove it conclusively, but I didn’t find anything like that. I was only saying you can’t marry a sidekick. It’s against the rules. I don’t know what rule, specifically, but I’m pretty sure it’s in there.”
“Mr. Fantastic married Sue Storm.”
“Member of his team, not a sidekick. You don’t see the Joker marrying Harley Quinn, do you?”
“Uh, that’s the Joker you’re talking about. He’s a sociopath. He’s incapable of love. Besides, Harley Quinn’s not a sidekick. She’s a henchman—henchwoman. That’s different. I know—Maxwell Smart and Ninety-Nine. They got married. They even had kids.”
“They were partners, and Ninety-Nine did all the actual thinking,” April pointed out. “There is no rule about sidekicks. The only reason you’re thinking there is—well, because if you look at the case of Batman and his sidekicks, they were young boys. If he—”
“Do not go ruining Batman for me right now. Just don’t.”
She shrugged. “It’s true. If you think about it, that’s probably why most superheros wouldn’t marry their sidekicks—because they were younger and the same sex. And while the world has changed its opinions on the one part, they had better never accept the other part as okay. You just don’t do that to kids, okay? And so now that this conversation has gone way too far, new subject. Now.”
“I have a question first,” Clay said, and she watched him suspiciously. He smiled. “Do you think April is the sidekick for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?”
“Oh, you bastard,” April said, hitting him. Clayton rubbed his sore shoulder, and Larabee laughed.
“Well,” Clayton said. “If you married me, he couldn’t say you were a sidekick.”
“I am not getting married just so no one calls me a sidekick,” she objected, shaking her head in annoyance. “And since when do you care so much about getting married, Clayton?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe because you don’t seem to want it, I want it too much.”
She sighed. “It’s not that I don’t—This is a very complicated situation, and marriage makes things even more complicated—”
“And you lost your parents,” Clayton interrupted, and she looked at him, stung. He sighed. He hadn’t meant to hurt her, but he had a feeling that the death of her parents was part of what held her back now. “You’re worried about me, but we don’t even know for sure that my boss had anything to do with what happened to me—or what I can do, I guess. I might have practiced, and we even did more eavesdropping, but you know we didn’t find anything. Larabee’s been looking into old experiments, and he found nothing. I made up excuses to get into the archives, and I didn’t find anything, either.”
“That’s a lot to go through, though.”
He nodded. “I know. And it’s just—We’ll find something, if it’s there to find. If not, there’s no point in worrying too much.”
“I still want to know if Brady was involved so that I can go kick his ass for it,” April said angrily. “If he used me like that—”
“He deserves it, and I want to watch,” Clayton told her, taking her hand before he leaned over and gave her a quick, gentle kiss on the cheek. “I do get to watch, right? I’ll even act as your sidekick and hold him for you if you want.”
“Why are we suddenly obsessed with sidekicks, anyway?”
“I like having you with me. Larabee seems to think that makes you a sidekick. I’d accept a partner. I like that. I’m kind of hopeless, more like Maxwell Smart, and, well… I could definitely use a Ninety-Nine. You want to be mine? Maybe a little?”