The following is a complete work of fiction.
This is my first City of Heroes Fan Fiction. If you are not a person who knows the City of Heroes MMPRPG, some of this story may not make sense. However, like my X-Universe Fan Fictions, I have written enough background into the story that I believe it is accessible to anyone who likes science fiction and comic book worlds.
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City of Heroes - Book 1
Awakenings - Chapter 7
I couldn't believe it was over. I stood in the living room, my stuff crammed into bags and boxes, as Urioch glared at me. The hate, the pure hate and disgust radiating from him had me crying. All I wanted was to have things they way they'd been before.
I reached out, trying to grip his arm. "Urioch, please!" I couldn't believe I was begging.
Thrusting me away, he snarled, "You are nothing but a burden. You are never satisfied. Life gives you every opportunity and you consume it all and demand more!"
"I don't need more," I mumbled, getting up off the floor. I knew what I needed. "Please..."
Lifting me by my shirt, he brought our faces close. The tone in his voice wasn't the joyful music I'd listened to so many times. It was the dark tone he reserved for criminals and villains. "Leave, Jason. You are nothing but a hole to me... a ravenous, gaping hole that can never be filled."
"No!" I sat up, shaking, and looked around my bedroom. I'd been out of the hospital for over two weeks, but I didn't feel well at all. Climbing out of bed, I wandered into the kitchen and started a pot of coffee. I hadn't had a good night's sleep since I ran out of pain pills. I wasn't in pain, physically at least, so there wasn't any excuse for more. I wished Amanda was available, but she was taking care of Patrick, the kids, and helping to put that family back together. Standing by the balcony doors, I looked out at the city lights.
"You're up late."
I didn't look back as Demonicalle came into the room. I could feel she was both annoyed and concerned. "Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."
"Being a living Geiger Counter, I sense people around me by their emissions." She smirked as I looked back at her. "Being a paranoid bitch, I wake up the moment someone moves nearby." She turned and wandered into the kitchen. "I'm also not deaf."
"I just had another bad dream about Urioch."
"You'd better get used to bad dreams, kiddo; being an empath and all." She put the tea kettle on the stove. "If not, you're going to be in a rubber room before the year's out."
I squeezed my eyes sut. "In my dreams, he hates me. I'm a disappointment and a burden." I choked on the last words. They hurt the most. "I'm just a hole that can't be filled."
"Blah, blah, blah," she grumbled at me, waving dismissively. "Doesn't sound like Urioch. If your subconscious is going to use him to torment you, the least it could do is get his speech patterns right."
"Oh, fuck you," I snapped, turning to look outside again.
"You should be so lucky," she retorted. I heard her drop a spoon into a mug as the tea pot began to whistle. After a couple minutes of clinking I tried to ignore, she came over and held a mug of hot cocoa to me while looking out at the night. "You aren't a disappointment, Jason. Not to Urioch, or any of your friends."
Yes I am. I took the mug, but didn't look at her any more than she looked at me.
"Oh, don't get me wrong... you're a pain in the ass, and not in the good way." She snorted at my sideways glance. "Not that you'd know anything about that."
I held the mug and looked back out at the night; I didn't see it. My mind returned to hospital. I was tired of waking up to the sounds of medical devices and urgent calls over a speaker system. It felt like my life kept being reset. This time I hadn't been greeted by the calm, patient presence of an alien I'd mistaken for an angel. I'd been greeted by a man who was finally coming to the end of his patience.
Urioch looked at me from where he stood at the far window. "You got yourself killed."
"I'm not dead." They had me on enough drugs that I really wasn't feeling any pain, either empathically or otherwise.
"Only because Magdalene's magic was able to save you."
I grumbled, just wanting to have the IVs taken out. "Sorry to be such a bother."
Urioch growled at me. He never growled. He never flew off the handle. Even the first night we flew together, he hadn't been like this. "The only bother is your lack of consideration for the rest of us, Jason. I have ignored your nightly excursions. I have overlooked your 'borrowing' of my call box and have confirmed every incarceration you have made in my name. Your reckless, self absorption will stop; I will not tolerate it any further. If you refuse to act in your own best interest, I will do it for you." Our eyes met, but this time instead of drawing me in, those alien eyes pushed at me, keeping me out. "I will have you put behind bars if necessary to keep you safe."
I sat there, stunned. "If I hadn't gone in, Patrick would be dead."
"No, Jason. All you did was put your own life in peril. If Magdalene had not come, you both would be dead." Even through the drugs, I could feel his emotions. They were too complex, and filled with too many conflicts to sort out. One thing was certain: I'd caused them.
I looked away. "I'm sorry."
Urioch's temper flared. "Until you intend to do something to amend your behavior, do not waste my time with 'I'm sorry'."
My attention snapped back to the present as Demoncalle nudged me. "You spill that mug, I'm not cleaning it up."
I watched the tear running down my cheek in my reflection. "Yeah... I suppose I need to start cleaning up my own messes."
I swallowed down my anxiety and, with a deep breath, pushed open the door. Several familiar faces looked at me from the circle of PYRCOP participants. I faked the most sincere smile I could, and moved to the moderator's chair. "As I'm sure you've heard, Patrick won't be joining us for a while." I squared my shoulders and sat down. "I've agreed to run our weekly sessions until he returns."
There were a few murmurs and a couple nods, but no one objected.
I smiled at the few new people. "My name's Jason, I was a member of the Skulls for a couple years after the invasion. Welcome."
The new girl with purple and black hair spoke up first. "I'm Alice."
"Hi, Alice," everyone greeted, almost in unison.
"I don't want to end up like my brothers."
"What happened to them," Brody, one of the group's long time and most outspoken participant asked.
This was going to be an interesting session.
"Jason..." Demonicalle sounded as tired as I felt. I turned, looking at her as she walked wearily out of Urioch's room. He was always on a mission, so Demoncalle spent more nights at the apartment than not. "... I'm going to kick your subconsious's ass."
I shrugged. "Nightmares." There was no point in denying them; Demonicalle wasn't a telepath or empathy, but she could read bio-signs in her sleep.
"Get a grip, Jason. It's been weeks," she grumbled, settling down on the arm of the couch. "We all have nightmares."
"There's coffee in the kitchen," I deflected, and looked back into the darkness. "What are yours about?"
Demonicalle shifted off the couch and wandered into the kitchen. "Childhood, mostly... I had a gem of a father."
I sipped my coffee, following her gaze. "Mine don't even make sense."
"Of course they do," she countered, coming back in with her coffee. "They just don't make sense rationally; emotionally, well..."
Why did even thinking about them take the strength out of me?
"Nightmares are like cancer," Demonicalle said between sips of coffee, "if they stay hidden, they eat away at you until you die."
"Joy," I mumbled.
Demonicalle snorted. "But catch them early, work on them, and you can get rid of them."
"I wish I was as strong as you," I mumbled. "How can you stand it?"
"Stand what?" She looked at me, her eyes and emotions revealing nothing.
"How can you stand..." I choked. I just couldn't say it.
"Different? An outcast? A freak?"
I nodded, not willing to look at her.
She snorted again. "Everyone's a freak, Jason" Standing up, she strode over to the window. "The freaks who pretend they're 'normal' are pathetic. You either are who you are, or you deny who you are."
I growled at her. "Easy for you! It isn't like you have any choice!"
"Whine, whine, whine," she laughed flatly, "yeah, so easy to be me." She turned and put her fist on her hip. "Look at me, Jason."
"You think 'this' is who I am? You think I'm just a frog skinned, rams horned demonic bitch gone straight?"
"That's not what I meant..."
"No?" She rolled her eyes. "Somehow my life is easier because what makes me different is on the outside? That's such bullshit. Strength doesn't come from what you can hide and deny, Jason. You're eating yourself up because you're a fucking coward"
Fucking tears. I hated crying.
"I've found that real people, honest people, don't turn you away because you're different. They turn away when you try to live a lie."
I looked away. It was my fault. I'd pushed and pushed and been angry because they couldn't protect me from myself. In the dark glass, I could see them, worried and lost as I yelled at them that morning. I'd yelled at them, jealous that they gave more love to strangers than they did to me. Why the fuck had I yelled? Why didn't I tell them I loved them, or that I needed them too? Why did the last things we said have to be angry and resentful? "I just want them back, and that isn't going to happen."
"My parents," I choked. "They didn't know the truth." No walls. I just couldn't lift the bricks any more.
"Know what?" She was like a dog with a bone; once she sank her teeth into something, she never let go.
"You already know," I mumbled.
"Maybe, but this isn't about me."
"I never told them I was gay," I whispered, pushing the words past my lips. I waited, for anything. There wasn't any light from the sky. No great weight was released from my soul. No miraculous transformation. Nothing had changed, but saying it didn't bring the roof caving in either.
"What do you mean, SO!?!" I glared at her. "I'm a fucking faggot!"
"So?" She sipped her coffee in the face of my anger. "They wouldn't have had grandkids; big deal."
"Yeah, well I'll never know what they would have thought or said," I snarled, "they're dead. Urioch isn't!"
"You thought Urioch was a guardian angel the first time you saw him. What makes you think he'd give a damn?"
I looked away. "I don't believe in angels," I countered, skirting her question. The city looked so dark. The little dots of light did nothing to remove the weight of it all.
Demonicalle looked at me in the glass. "You should. You've had a few watching over you for a while now."
I snorted. "That's rich; a demon trying to convince someone to believe in angels."
She shrugged, and sipped her coffee. "Who better to know, huh?"
We stood there, staring out at the city, until the sun pushed away the darkness. I'd lied about the angels too. I was tired of lying. As the morning light spilled into the apartment, I sent out a selfish little prayer. I prayed one angel would come home. I really needed to know he was okay.
The gold and red autumn leaves rustled in the wind as I looked at the headstones. The headstones were simple, plain, and solid. I supposed that was best. My parents had never liked fuss and flourish. I'd been to more graves in the past half year than I had my entire life. I hated graveyards. Graveyards had always been about loss, misery and grief. As I stood there, looking at the graves I'd never visited, I realized that wasn't what the place was about. Graves gave the living something to hold onto after the ones we loved were gone. There was a small, neglected vase between the headstones. It probably hadn't ever had flowers in it. I promised myself to bring flowers the next time I came.
"I know I say it too much, but I never said it to you. I'm sorry." I brushed a tear away. I was so tired of them at that point. "I'm sorry I didn't give you a chance to love me. I'm sorry I pushed you away. I'm sorry I never told you what was wrong. I'm sorry I didn't tell you I loved you." I grinned, trying to figure out what my count was up to. It made me laugh. "I'm pretty sorry aren't I?"
The graves didn't answer, but the breeze swirled a bit. Demonicalle might have said it felt like the flutter of angel's wings. In a way, it did. It was odd to think that an ex-hellion with green skin and demonic features would want me to believe in angels. I hoped I hadn't made too much work for the ones looking after me.
"I'm going to be okay. I wasn't sure about it for a while, but I am. I promise, I'm not going to hide any more. I don't have the excuse of being seventeen and in angst over who I was. I'm not even a teen anymore. It took a few trips to the emergency room and the help of some really incredible people, but I hope you'll be proud of me some day." I smiled, wiping away another tear. "I've finally learned how to cry. That's a start, right?"
I hoped they heard me. I wanted to believe that something in my life was going right. I wanted to think I could give them a break and start taking care of myself for a change. I looked back through the trees. Mrs. Patterson sat on the bench, looking in my general direction but giving me some sense of privacy. Urioch was with Magdalene visiting SM's grave.
"I love you guys, but I've got some people to get back to. I'll visit more often. I promise." Taking a deep breath, I turned from the graves and wound my way back to where Mrs. Patterson was sitting. She regarded me thoughtfully as I shoved my hands in my coat pockets and stopped by the bench. "Thanks for finding them for me."
"It was no trouble, Jason. We all need closure." She looked back out toward the graves. "I've been here a few times myself."
I blinked. "What do you mean?"
She smiled, patting the bench. "Sit down Jason." I did, and she looked out at the endless expanse of lawn and headstones. "I have an apology to give you. It's something I don't do very often."
I looked at her, wondering what the hell she had to apologize for. Sure, I could think of a dozen things I would have wanted apologies for, but I knew they weren't what she was talking about.
"I've been harder on you than most of my other cases, Jason. When your file showed up on my desk, it felt like the past had come back to haunt me." Taking a breath, she sighed. "Your mother was one of my best employees for years. She was a good woman. When she died," she stopped, taking a moment to collect her thoughts, "when so many good people died, there weren't enough of us left to handle everything. We tried to find the family members, but it was impossible to coordinate after the Rikti invasion. I didn't discover you had survived until after you vanished from the shelters. There were so many orphans; so many who slipped through the cracks."
"I didn't know anyone was looking for me."
She frowned. "I didn't look, Jason. I glanced, briefly, in hopes that you wouldn't become one of the statistics. I didn't see you, so a statistic was what you became."
I flinched. She didn't mean it in a cruel way. I could feel what she meant. A person couldn't keep functioning in her position if she couldn't separate herself from the losses. "Thanks for taking care of them," I mumbled, nodding out at the graves.
She nodded, and then picked up her purse. "I assume that you never recovered anything after the invasion."
I shook my head. "The apartment building was crushed."
"Here." She pulled out a manila envelope and handed it to me. "The archives are kept for seven years after the death of an employee in hopes that belongings can be returned to family members. It took me a while to get your parents' things out of storage. I have a box of miscellaneous items from their desks, but I thought you might want these."
Opening the envelope, I pulled out a handful of pictures. They were of me, shots of my parents and family photos; the stuff people would put on their desk or in their office. I looked at my mother's photo. With white hair, I looked a lot like her. She'd had pale blond hair. My father had been dark haired. I had his build, and his jaw, but the rest of my face was Mom's. I'd forgotten how beautiful she'd been. I had to blink away the tears as I shuffled through the little miracle in my lap. I didn't want to get the photos wet. "Thanks."
"This doesn't preclude our meeting next week, Jason. This was an unofficial visit."
I grinned. The old bitch was still there, but I kind of liked her that way. "I know. Ten on Thursday."
Rising, Mrs. Patterson closed her purse. "I'm not going to cut you any breaks, Jason."
Tucking the treasures back in the envelope, I stood up. "I don't want them."
"Good." She left me at the bench as she wandered into the graveyard. I supposed she had a lot of graves to visit. It was something better done alone.
Magdalene smiled at me as she and Urioch returned from SM's grave. "It looks like you have settled some differences."
I shot an evil look at Patterson's distant back. "She's still a cast iron bitch, but at least she's on my side."
"Hello Jason," Mr. Lowenski called as I came into the store. Lowenski's Used Books was Urioch's favorite book store. Mr. Lowenski usually had a paper grocery bag full of books for Urioch whenever I came in. I walked over to the counter as he hefted the bag up. "After two years, it is a challenge to find books he hasn't read."
I laughed. "You're hitting the bottom of the barrel here, Pops." Pulling out a romance novel with more Fabio flesh on the cover than plot in the pages, I smirked. "This guy is so last century."
"Urioch doesn't care about the covers," Mr. Lowenski shot back, frowning at me. "If you can do so much better, go find a few yourself."
"I had to look for some research material anyway," I replied, heading for the shelves. Lowenski's was a hole in the wall, but once you got into the shelves it became a maze that seemed to go on forever. I knew the space was smaller than the Cauldron, but I swore Pop's had ten times as many books. Not to mention, Lowenski had a little of everything from classics to smut. Jonathan's books were of a far more limited scope. I was sweating a little as I brought my 'research' back up and dropped the books on the counter.
Pop's eyed me for a moment. "Well, I would never have picked any of that stuff for him, that's for sure."
"I'm doing a research for a sociology report on subcultures." It wasn't a lie. I was, and the books were legitimate research materials, sort of.
Pop's laughed as he picked up one of the books, looking at the cover. "And you were commenting on my covers?"
I looked at the naked, entwined men caught in a moment of passion and tried not to blush. It was a hot photo. I had no idea if the story was worth the read, but the cover was worth the cost. "I thought you said Urioch doesn't care about covers."
He shrugged. "Eh, what do I know? The man's an alien. He might find the mating rituals of dolphins stimulating for all I know."
"No bestiality, Pops. That's just wrong." I shot him an icky face before hefting up the bag.
"On the tab?"
"Yeah," I grinned, "since he'll read all the stuff anyway, no reason for me to pay for it."
"You are an evil boy," Pops chuckled, but pulled out Urioch's ledger.
"See you next week."
I sorted through the photos again, spreading them out on the table where we usually played chess. I only wanted a few in frames; the others could go in the album I'd picked up on the way back from school. Urioch came out of his room, looking like a worn out rag doll, as I narrowed down my photo choices. "You look like shit," I commented as he rubbed his face.
"Does that description mean I look like I ache and am exhausted?"
"Yeah, that'd cover it."
"Then I look like shit."
I sniffed the air as he turned toward the bathroom. "You smell none too fresh either."
"Of that I am keenly aware," he agreed, "I shall take a shower." He disappeared into the bathroom as I settled on the four pictures I wanted to put in frames. He came back out smelling a bit better, but not looking all that much better. His color was off and he was dark around his eyes. He looked at the picture I'd made space for on one of the shelves as he came up behind me. "You have her eyes."
I grinned. "Desperate to live, huh?"
He looked at me for a moment, scrutinizing my eyes. "Only when there's some doubt. I would describe them as full of life."
I scrutinized back. "I wish yours were. You look tired."
He nodded, moving to sink onto the couch. "The Vahzalok plague is spreading. It isn't safe, especially at night."
"I haven't gone out," I mumbled.
"I know," he replied, looking back at me. "It is easier to work knowing you and Magdalene are safe."
I smiled. "You know, she's better at chess than you are." We'd been playing over at her place for the last week. She had a beautiful Celtic set of pewter and bronze.
Urioch smiled. "Who do you think taught me?"
"I wish you were staying longer." God. That sounded needy.
"We believe we have found Doctor Vahzalok himself. We need to act before he moves again."
"Fucking psycho. Wasn't he the guy who was driven to take medicine to a new level? Improve life for everyone?"
"Yes. Doctor Vahzalok is a genius. He revolutionized surgical techniques for organ and limb replacement, neurological regeneration and reconstruction of the immune system."
I sat down on the arm next to him. "He cured AIDs didn't he?"
Urioch closed his eyes, leaning back into the cushions. "Yes. His desire to conquer death and disease became an obsession that led to madness. Now he is like the character, Doctor Frankenstein. He believes he can recreate life itself."
My fingers stroked the back of his skull near his top-knot. I just wanted to touch him to confirm he was really there. It'd been weeks since we'd had any time to talk. "I know you don't want to hear, I'm sorry, but after the last visit in the hospital, I guess I want to make sure we're still friends."
His head pressed into my hand as he looked up at me. "Yes, Jason, we are still friends. I should not have taken my anger out on you."
"You had every right to." I shrugged, not pulling my hand away. I let my fingers slide down to the back of his neck and I pressed against the knots I felt there. He was so tense. I didn't need empathy to feel it. "I took advantage, and was selfish and inconsiderate."
He groaned as I pressed into a knot. It made me want to take both hands and work the knots out. I had no clue how to do massage, but I just couldn't stop myself. I slid off the couch, around behind it and dug my thumbs into his shoulders. He moaned, let his head drop forward, and just gave me access. I was breathing a little too shallow by the time my fingers gave out. I had to keep myself from bending down and letting my hands wander further. Pointy eared wet dream or not, he was my friend. I didn't know if I'd actually done any good, but he felt more relaxed. He sank back against the cushions again, and I wrapped my arms over his shoulders, resting the side of my head against his. I could have stayed like that forever. "I've missed you, you pointy-eared freak."
He chuckled and just let me stay like that. "I have missed you too."