It seemed that Grace regretted her earlier show of temerity, because she had remained in the shop and out of sight after he returned to his workshop.
Which was fine by him, he was more than happy to sit back, relax and get down to some serious-
“Well, it’s good to see you didn’t the opportunity to run off after walking out on Sarah and I.” Gravity’s voice called out.
Erich sighed, and placed down the omni-pad he’d been looking over.
How did they even get back? He wondered, because I’ve got the van.
A mystery for another time he supposed.
“Why would I run?” he said, keeping his eyes firmly ahead. “My reasoning is as valid now as it was then.”
He thought he might have felt some nervousness at admitting that, now that Sarah was assumedly up and moving around.
He didn’t though.
No shame either.
Just a vague sense of irritation at the whole situation.
“I helped to get her healing, didn’t I?” He snorted, “lugged her across the border. Built the suits we traded to get her back on her feet.”
He finally turned to look at them.
Gravity was standing there, arms folded and looking entirely unimpressed. He barely gave her a glance.
His focus was entirely on Sarah.
Who was wearing Gravity’s helmet for some reason.
That was the only thing of Olivia’s she was wearing though. Gravity had taken Sarah’s old costume with them when they went to the healer’s, and the woman was wearing it now. To his surprise, it wasn’t hanging off her frame like he might have expected. Instead, it seemed that Cleric’s power had restored her to fitness, leaving her just as fit and healthy as she had been a few months back.
No… not entirely, he noted, as he finally realized the reason for the helmet.
Scars. A patchwork of them.
Thick and jagged, they ran up her neck before disappearing under the seam of her helmet.
It seems that the good Cleric’s healing is not ‘perfect’.
Still it changed little about his immediate situation, save for the fact that he couldn’t see his former lover’s face to gauge her mood.
“Hello Sarah,” he said finally, “it’s good to see you up and about again.”
He meant it too. Despite whatever wariness he might have felt for the woman that was in many ways a wildcard.
What were her objectives now that Hard-Light was gone? After everything that had happened?
He had no clue, and that made him want to be cautious.
The silence stretched on for a few more moments, before Sarah turned on her heel and strode out.
Not a good sign, he sighed as he heard the woman clambering up the stairs to the shop’s small apartment.
“That went well,” Gravity groaned as she slumped against a work-desk.
“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit,” he groused back, carless of the fact that he used it himself often enough.
“I wasn’t being sarcastic,” she sighed. “I genuinely think that went well.”
“You mean she didn’t attack me?”
The woman shook her head. “No, I mean she actually stopped down here to see you. I half expected her to just head straight upstairs and lock herself in the apartment.”
“I take she’s not happy then?” He guessed.
Gravity gave him a tired grin. “No. She’s not ‘happy’. Given that her dad’s dead, her organization and home is gone, her plans ruined, and she now sounds like she’s gargling marbles, I would be worried if she was.”
“Yes,” Erich nodded as he tightened up a bolt. “I notice that a good deal of those descriptors could apply to you as well, but you never seemed particularly torn up.”
That was apparently the wrong thing to say, because Gravity’s voice was positively frost when she spoke again.
“What do you want me to say Jason? That I hated my ‘dad’. That I hated his crew. That I hated that city. That I’m glad it all went up in flames. That a lot of the people I grew up around and worked with are now dead. That I’m freer now than I’ve ever been in my life, even after being exiled to this crap-sack city? That I’m finally free to be a ‘good’ person, but I’m too chickenshit to make the first step?”
Erich shrugged, utterly unbothered by her words, even if her use of his given name twigged a bit.
“Well, not in as many words, no.” He grunted, “but now that Sarah’s back on her feet, I need to have some idea of what you want.”
After all, with Sarah cured, their common cause was at an end.
He frowned as he noticed some torn strands of synth-muscle, “so yes, a little confirmation about your future plans wouldn’t have gone amiss.”
That took the wind out of the woman’s sails.
“I don’t know Erich,” she muttered finally. “For the first time in my life I’m more or less free. Just like I’ve always wanted. And I’ve got no goddamn idea of what I’m supposed to do.”
Erich hummed in vague agreement.
“Come help me get this gauntlet off the suit,” he instructed. “I think something’s jammed in the servos.”
Silence fell between the two for a moment, and Erich was just about to ask again when he heard Gravity stand up.
“You’re one in a million, Erich.” She chuckled as she wandered over, “I can’t decide whether it’s cute, infuriating or- is that a clump of hair?”
Silence fell between them.
“I’ll go get some tweezers.” He muttered, hurriedly walking away.
Gravity called after him, “Why is there brain matter on your suit’s gauntlets, Erich!?”
“Yep, just got to find them gloves.”
“Yo Erich!” An unnaturally cheery voice shouted through his phone, causing Erich to wince as the quiet of the early morning was shattered. “I heard you iced a few of those King pukes. Tell your newest minion to let me up so we can-”
Flicking the phone off, he glared tiredly down at his bowl of off-brand cereal. Next to him, the phone began to ring again.
“She’s not going to give up you know?” Gravity intoned from her position on the couch, not even deigning to take her eyes off whatever inanity passed for television at this time of day.
“Where’s Sarah?” He asked, ignoring the muffled sound of shouting coming from downstairs as he rejected the call once more.
“Her room.” Gravity frowned. “She doesn’t seem… comfortable eating out here.”
Of course not, Erich thought. That would require she took off her mask.
“Also, you should stick with Bronte.” Gravity continued.
Erich lifted an eyebrow, “she spoke to you?”
As far as he was aware, Bronte had clammed right up after getting back from the doctors - to both him and her half-sister.
Gravity shook her head, “messaged me.”
Erich sighed, “of course she did.”
Well, at least it’s progress, he thought as he reached over to the nearby intercom, just as the shouting from below reached a fever pitch.
“It’s ok Grace,” he said. “You can let her up. She’s a friend.”
He ignored the muttered ‘funny way of showing it’ that echoed just behind the sound of Grace’s relieved confirmation.
It was a matter of moments before Myra appeared in their upstairs flat, wide grin on the purple woman’s face, and a six pack of beers in her massive hand.
No gun, he noted with some relief.
“So cold, Erich.” The mercenary laughed, “some might think you weren’t happy to see me.”
“I am happy to see you.” He said, surprising himself with the fact that he meant it. “I’m less happy that you chose to show up in uniform.”
The brute continued smiling as she dumped the drinks on the worksurface, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes.
“You don’t think I look good in white and yellow?”
Erich shook his head, “I think you look great in white and yellow. Really brings out the pallor of your skin.” He ignored the way the woman’s smile turned a tad more genuine at that.
Everyone loves compliments, he mused. Even statuesque purple women who can bounce bullets off their bare skin. Then he reconsidered that statement. Perhaps, because she’s a statuesque purple woman who could bounce bullets off her bare skin?
He imagined it took a certain sort of bravery to flirt with the intimidating mercenary. Which he wasn’t doing. His mouth just had a tendency toward running away from him.
For better or for worse.
“What I think would look a little less impressive, was if my store were decked out in white and yellow.”
Myra laughed as she slumped into a nearby chair, “I came round to celebrate, not redecorate the place.”
“No, you just want everyone else to think that you are.” Gravity chipped in with a hint of mirth from her seated position. “Because after Erich’s little stunt the other day, our store’s suddenly on all the local gang’s radar.”
Erich cringed inwardly at that, but he stood by his reasoning.
He hadn’t been looking for a fight, but he wasn’t about to roll over for a local band of nobodies either.
He’d done enough of that to last a dozen lifetimes, and he was slowly realizing that he didn’t have to anymore.
Which was why he continued Gravity’s line of thought.
“And all those gangs watching our little store to try and puzzle out our allegiences, have just walked you walk upstairs decked out in full Saint’s regalia.”
“Well, looks like you caught me.” Myra grinned without a hint of shame as she popped the cap on her drink. “Looks like you’ve got no recourse but to sign up with me and my crew.”
Erich pressed his head against the cool surface of the worktop as the woman continued on. “Think of it as a way of wiping the board clean. You and whatever the fuck was up with that ‘hospital’ got me kicked out of my hometown by the Squares, and I ‘unintentionally’ got you associated with my new crew.”
“Yes, unintentionally,” Erich muttered into the table. “Just as it would be a total ‘coincidence’ that it would be a massive reputation boost for you if you brought three other metas into the Saints.”
Not that he was a meta, but he figured it made little enough difference to anyone he might say it to.
No matter how much that pisses me off.
“Yep total coincidence,” Myra smiled, as she took a swig of her drink. “I might even get my own crew out of it. Forgot how much it sucks being treated as dumb muscle.”
“Give me one of those.” He grunted, waving an empty hand vaguely in the woman’s direction. “And I would like to note that I offered for you to work with us when we came out here.”
At Gravity’s insistence, he didn’t mention. The gravity manipulator seemed to think it was somehow their fault that Myra got exiled along with the rest of her gang.
Which it was, for getting them involved.
The key difference between him and her was that he didn’t care.
He looked up when he realized that no contained of sweet alcohol would be forthcoming, and slumped even further when he saw a glowing green bottle floating in the air.
“Really Grav?” He most certainly did not whine.
Really Erich,” The woman in question responded. “It’s the first thing in the goddamn morning.”
“Myra’s drinking,” he pointed out.
Gravity’s voice was dryer than the Sahara, “Myra is a metahuman brute. You are a bog-standard human who’s a few bottles away from developing a gut.”
He shrugged, so what? It was his gut.
Myra looked surprised, before nodding sagely, “Ah, I get ya. That would be a waste.”
Erich had some vague idea of what they were talking about, but for the sake of his sanity chose not to think too hard on it.
“I’m… I’m just going to go downstairs.”
The ‘don’t follow me went’ unsaid.