Song recommendation: Gary Clark, Jr. - Bright Lights

Author's note: I kinda had fun with this chapter. I could never walk up to a girl the way Stephen does, even though it really is that easy. I wish I did have that sort of confidence. Oh well. I'm also trying to include some more unorthodox powers lately. Next chapter, of course, will be the girls' night in. That one won't have any action. I've moved back to writing Final Justice. I kinda want to see if I can finish that. And, of course, a new chapter of Young Champions is up. All feedback is appreciated.

August 22, 2014

Eddie and Yan sat in the living room while Stephen stood in front of them with his hands behind his back. "Awright, men," he said. "You're probably wonderin' why I called you here."

"You have cancer from your cigarettes?" Eddie guessed. "And you want us to grant you an honorable death? Of course we'll help you die nobly."

"You realized you're gay," Yan guessed, "and want to explore your sexuality with us. I am flattered, but I'm afraid I'm not attracted to you."

"You," Stephen pointed to Eddie, "no. You," he pointed to Yan, "ew. The fuck is wrong with you? I didn't take you for a fruit."

Eddie sighed. "Why did you call us here?" he asked in an exasperated tone.

"Right. Boys, we've got a mission. We will go to the city. Once there, we will proceed to find a bar, where there shall be ladies. Our mission is to flirt with those ladies, and in so doing, get phone numbers, and hopefully even get laid. The perfect plan!"

Eddie and Yan looked at each other, then back at Stephen. "I suppose we may as well," Yan said. "It has been a while for me."

"Good man," Stephen said. "Good to see you're not a poofter after all. Eddie?"

Eddie shrugged. "Sure, I'll go."

"Great!" Stephen clapped his hands together. "All right then, go get ready. We'll leave in a couple hours. I actually rented three hotel rooms, just in case we get lucky."

"You prepare very thoroughly for missions, don't you?" Eddie asked.

"'Course I do. Surprises can be deadly in my line of work."

While Eddie and Yan got ready, Stephen let the others know where they'd be going. "Unless you've changed your mind about goin' out with me?" he said to Ruth.

"Are you ready to convert to Islam?" Ruth shot back.

"An' give up booze an' bacon? Not bloody likely. Actually, you're the one should be lookin' at converting. Don't you want to experience the joy that is bacon?"

"Not in the slightest," Ruth shook her head. "Even just the smell disgusts me."

"You Muslims are crazy. Well, I'll see you when I see you, then. Keep an eye on Katie for me."

"Like feed her and take her for walks?" Eddie asked. "Is that what you're saying?"

"Finished getting ready, then?" Stephen replied.

"Yeah. I was just on my way to get an early dinner before we head out. Either of you interested?"

"Nah, I'm good," Stephen said. "I'll eat when we get there."

"I'll go," Ruth said. "I need to return a book to Lydia anyway. She loaned me Little Women."

"I had to read that in high school," Eddie said.

"For school?" Stephen asked.

"Actually, my sister made me read it," Eddie laughed. "I didn't really like it."

"I did," Ruth said. "So you should expect to hear Lydia and me talking about it a lot at dinner."

"What did you loan her?" Eddie asked.

"The Doves' Necklace. If Lydia finished it, then we might talk about that, too."

"Well, I'll prepare myself for lots of book talk, then. Come on."

Stephen found Katie with Juliet, as they tried to learn how to juggle. They didn't seem to be having much luck yet. "Hey, Katie," he said. "I just wanted to let you know I'm going to be going into New York with Ed an' Yan. I'll probably spend the night there. I hope so, anyway."

"New York? Can I come?" Katie asked.

"No, you can't come. I'm goin' to pick up some birds, and you're not old enough to get into bars. You can stay here."

"Aw, that's no fair," Katie whined.

"Tough shite. It's a guys' night out." Stephen left.

"Hey!" Katie turned to Juliet. "If the guys are going out, then we girls can have a girls' night in! You, me, Janet and Ruth!"

Stephen sighed as he heard Katie almost shouting her plans.

. . .

The men arrived at the hotel at 7. They checked in, then ordered some room service and started doing some pre-drinking. At 10, they headed out and found a nearby nightclub. It was nice, the music wasn't too obnoxious, and while it wasn't busy yet, it was still early, and seemed like the kind of place that would get busy. They ordered some drinks and watched the people there to get a feel of the place.

By 11, it was starting to get a bit busier, though still not too busy. Stephen figured it would be another hour before it got really busy. But there were enough people showing up that Stephen figured it was time to start flirting. He saw a table with three women at it, and gestured for Eddie and Yan to follow him.

"Excuse us, ladies," Stephen said. "We were wonderin' if you were here with anyone else tonight?"

"Nope," one of the girls, with short brown hair, wearing a sexy black dress, replied. She eyed Stephen up and down. "We're just three single working gals having a night out."

"I'm not single," another one said. She had brown hair, too, but darker and longer, and wore a more conservative blue skirt and white blouse.

"Shut up, Rebekah," the first girl said. "Steve's in Texas. So for tonight, you're single."

"You're terrible," Rebekah replied, hiding a chuckle.

"Steve? What a coincidence, my name's Steve, too. Or Stephen. These are Eddie and Yan."

"I'm Nora," the sexy brunette shook his hand. "This is Rebekah, and Kennedy." Kennedy was a blonde, in a red dress as sexy as Nora's. She was admiring Yan.

"Mind if we pull up some seats?" Stephen asked.

"Go right ahead," Nora told him. They grabbed some seats. Stephen sat next to Nora, Yan next to Kennedy, and Eddie next to Rebekah.

"So what do you do?" Stephen asked Nora.

"I'm a painter, actually. I work as an administrative assistant to pay the bills, but I spend most of my free time painting."

"Oh, cool. I'd love to see your work sometime."

"How about you?"

"I'm a superhero. We all are. We're with the Champions."

"Superheroes? That's so cool! What are your powers?"

"I heal. Yan's got strength, Eddie's a teleporter."

"You heal, huh?" Nora asked.

"Yep. Gives me a lotta stamina," Stephen said with a wink.

"Where are you from?" Kennedy asked Yan.

"China," he replied. "Shanxi province."

"What brings you to America?"


"Nice. I met Guardian Angel once. He saved my life."

"I haven't had the chance to meet him yet," Yan said.

"You know what I like about superheroes?" Kennedy asked. "You're all so damned sexy."

"I have similar sentiments about blondes. Blonde hair isn't very common in China. Some women dye it, but few pull it off."

"Mine is entirely natural."

"Are you trying to make sure I'm interested? Because I assure you, I am."

"Heh. You sweet-talker."

"Yes, now that my English is good enough."

"Sorry that you got paired with me," Rebekah told Eddie bashfully. "I'm engaged, and happy with my fiance, so I don't plan on cheating."

"It's no big deal," Eddie shrugged. "I won't ask you to. I'm fine with just talking. I've never really been the fling type, anyway."

"Yeah? So what type are you?"

"Uh, usually the type to pine over someone hopelessly," Eddie chuckled self-consciously. "I've always fallen hard and fast, but a couple really bad experiences when I was younger have made me pretty cautious about romance. So I tend to hold back a lot, hide it away."

"Aw, that's a shame," Rebekah said. "I think you should be more open. If you're attracted to a girl, you should tell her."

"It's not a big deal," Eddie said. "Anyway, how about you? When did you get engaged?"

"He proposed a couple months ago. We've known each other for just under a year. All our friends say we're rushing it, but we love each other, so that's what matters, right?"

"Works for me," Eddie smiled. "A couple friends of mine got engaged after, like, six months or something. Of course, it's been over two years and they still haven't set a wedding date. So I'm not sure they understand what an engagement is."

"Hey, who wants to dance?" Stephen suggested.

"Sound good to me!" Nora agreed.

"Come on, big man," Kennedy told Yan.

"I warn you, I dance like a white man," Eddie told Rebekah.

The six of them went out onto the dance floor. Stephen danced close to Nora, and Kennedy danced close to Yan. Eddie and Rebekah maintained a respectful distance. Kennedy started grinding against Yan, and he looked to Eddie, who gave him a grin and a thumbs-up. Yan smirked and put his hands on Kennedy's hips.

"Ha!" Stephen laughed. "I didn't think he had it in him!"

"I guess Kenn's bringing it out!" Nora replied. "Of course, the dance floor might not be the best place to bring it out!"

"You got a naughty mind, luv! I like that!"

"Do you, now?"

"'Course! There's nothin' hotter than a sexy bird with a dirty mind!"

"I don't know, I think accents are pretty sexy!"

"Good, because the accent's my main strategy! I figured I'd just say sexy things and let my voice do its work!"

"Why don't we skip that and just head into the bathroom?" Nora suggested.

"Fuck, works for me!" The two left the dance floor and slipped into the women's bathroom.

"Your friend works fast!" Yan said to Kennedy.

"That she does!" Kennedy replied. "Fast and often! I prefer to draw things out, nice and slow!"

"I can see some benefits to that!"

"I don't actually like this music!" Rebekah told Eddie.

"Neither do I! I prefer blues!"

"Oh my God, me too! I love the blues! Have you heard of Gary Clark, Jr?"

"I don't think so! What's he- Hold on!" Eddie stopped as he saw someone enter the club. There was something off about the guy. He looked like a hipster, with a stupid moustache and stylishly shaggy hair, dressed in black dress pants and a blue blazer. Then Eddie noticed the big sack the man was carrying. That was definitely suspicious. "Hey, would you excuse me for a minute? I need to go check on something."

The man was moving to the DJ booth, and Eddie followed him. He didn't know the full situation, so he approached cautiously. The DJ was on the floor with a bloody nose, and the stranger turned on the microphone. "All right now, ladies and gents," he said. "We're gonna keep this party going, but with one little difference. I'm going to make my way around the room, and you're all going to give me your money and valuables. And just so you don't get any bright ideas." He gestured, and a shockwave shot out from his hand to smash a table. Eddie thought he might have heard the wave make a sound, but it was tough to tell. "And just so you know, I've got the door blocked off, so you can't get out until I'm ready to let you out. But hey! No reason to stop having a good time! OK, DJ, you can come on back up."

"Sorry, buddy!" Eddie shouted over the music. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to put you away!"

"Uh-huh," the man said, clearly unimpressed. "Just put your wallet in the bag."

"No," Eddie refused flatly.

The man shrugged. "Your funeral." He raised his hand again, and fired another shockwave. Eddie jumped above it. He definitely heard music in the wave. He kicked at the stranger, but hit a solid wall that knocked him backwards several feet. Once again, he heard music when he hit the wall. In fact, he wondered if he was hitting solid sound. It didn't matter; he needed to put the guy away.

Eddie teleported out of the way of another shockwave. "By the way," he shouted. "I like to know the names of the guys I beat up!"

"It's Grant Speckman!" the man replied. "And I don't actually care what your name is!" He fired another blast. Eddie teleported behind him and attacked, but the soundwall surrounded him, and Eddie was instead knocked back out of the booth. Yan flew past him and slammed into Speckman, and was sent flying back again. He stopped himself. Speckman fired a soundwave at Yan, which knocked him out of the air. He got back up quickly, and threw a fireball, but it never reached Speckman.

Stephen came out of the bathroom, dishevelled and annoyed at being interrupted. His pistol was in his hand, and he fired a shot at Speckman, aiming for the shoulder. As with the fireball, it hit a wall before it got there. Speckman grabbed the mic again. "All right, you heroes are just starting to annoy me. I've been playing it easy so far. Now, I'm going to have some fun!"

Yan was battered by soundwaves coming out of the speakers. Eddie was launched into the air by the bass rumbling through the floor. Stephen was trapped in a box of sound. Yan dropped below the soundwaves and flew at Speckman, but was hit from above by a pillar of sound that drove him to the floor. It was a miracle he didn't hit anyone. Eddie landed on a table, then heard an attack from behind. He teleported away, and saw ripples in the air where sound was chasing him. He kept jumping and teleporting to stay ahead of them, and led them to a door marked for employees only. Eddie teleported away again at the last moment, as the sound shattered the door. Eddie followed it in.

Yan struggled to get out from under the pillar of sound. Stephen had been released from his cage, but now Speckman was shooting at him, firing soundwaves from his finger like a gun. Stephen ducked and rolled, firing back at him with own own gun, hoping to get lucky. Speckman arranged his hands like he was holding a rifle, then fired again. Stephen avoided the shot, but it exploded when it hit the wall, and he was knocked down. Then Speckman mimed pulling the pin out of a grenade and threw it. It exploded in a deep bass chord, with little drumbeat shrapnel cutting into his skin. "Fuck this guy," Stephen muttered. "Fuck him with the whole cock."

Suddenly, the power died. The music stopped, and the lights went out. In the basement, Eddie breathed a sigh of relief at the fuse box. He hoped he'd guessed correctly at how Speckman's powers worked, and that with the sound system off, he wouldn't have anything to manipulate any more. Back upstairs, Speckman had guessed what had happened, and he started making his way towards the door, hoping to slip out. With the lights out, he couldn't really see where he was going, but he figured no one else could see him, either. He didn't notice Stephen sneak up behind him. Stephen grabbed him. His left hand went around Speckman's mouth, and his right brought a knife to his back, at his heart. He stopped himself before driving it in. He was a little surprised at that particular muscle memory still being there. He moved the knife away, then stabbed Speckman somewhere less vital. Then, he broke Speckman's right arm. Speckman was screaming behind Stephen's hand.

The cops arrived soon to take Speckman into custody. Stephen, Yan and Eddie stood around outside while they took him. Nora, Kennedy and Rebekah joined them after some medics checked them out. "So," Nora said, "does this sort of thing happen to you often?"

"Kinda," Eddie said. "Being a superhero does sometimes make it tough to have a quiet night out."

"All the bloody time," Stephen grumbled.

"We apologize for ruining your evening," Yan said.

"Well, hey now," Kennedy said. "The night isn't over yet. I mean, what are the odds of you guys being attacked twice in one night?"

"Normally? Low," Eddie replied. "Now that you've asked? Almost definitely going to happen."

"Yeah? Oh well," Kennedy shrugged. "I'm willing to take that chance."

"Damn straight," Nora said. "We got interrupted earlier. I think we need to pick up where we left off."

"Guys, I don't want to sleep alone tonight," Rebekah told her friends.

"Then go home with Eddie," Nora replied. "We won't tell on you to Steve."

"I can't do that! Can't one of you come with me?"

"Aw, come on girl, you're killing us! You want to spoil our nights?"

"Hey, look," Eddie said. "I get why you don't want to be alone. I can stay with you, I'll just sleep on the couch. I promise you, I won't do anything inappropriate. I'm a strong believer in the sanctity of marriage."

"I don't know," Rebekah said, unsure.

"Becks!" Nora grabbed her shoulders. "Sexy superheroes! Sexy foreign superheroes! Don't ruin this for us!"

"All right," Rebekah conceded.

"Great!" Nora said. "Thank you! We owe you. All right, boys, where are we going?"

"Why don't we go back to our hotel?" Stephen suggested. "I'm sure we can figure out how to pass the time there."

Next: Girls' Night In.