Wow, it has been a while. Sorry everyone, I had one hell of a semester. Very fun, but very, very busy. I also had to write several stories for class so a story like this that I do on my own time had to be pushed to the bottom of the priority list. It doesn't mean I don't love this story!
Honestly, I don't know if anyone still reads this. Or when the next time I'll get an update out. I have a ton of episodes planned, its just a matter of having the time to write the episodes. I promise I'm going to try. I still love this story and all of you readers.
"Mama!" The formerly twenty-year-old man, now an immortal, stumbled out of the bush, shouting incoherently. "Papa! Take me back! Don't leave me!"
He pushed through another overgrown bush; his movements sluggish and his emotions overcome with grief for the parents that were left behind at the Fountain of Youth.
"I don't want this!" Gabriel shouted. "I don't want this!"
He found a small clearing, falling to his knees. He dug his hands into the soil and began to dig, desperately searching for a water source. Since leaving the Fountain two days prior, Gabriel had had nothing to eat or drink.
He found nothing.
Giving up, Gabriel lied down on his back, staring up at the treetops. He wanted to die. But he knew he couldn't. Even now despite having gone without food or drink for two days, he barely felt the affects, almost as if it had only been a few hours. He could no longer die; he was immortal.
"Mama, papa, I can't do this on my own." Gabriel said, his voice barely above a whisper as he studied the leafy plants. If his parents were with him, his mother would have challenged him to see who could climb up the tree to collect a leaf the fastest to study. His father would shake his head and laugh at them.
The thing about being an explorer is that it is a lonely life. From the day he had been born, Gabriel had always been moving. They took a ship from a port to a new land for them to explore back to a new port. They never stayed anywhere longer than six weeks. While the few acquaintances he had managed to make were learning a trade or getting an education, Gabriel was climbing the riggings of a ship or collecting plants for his mother or father to study. When those weren't options, Gabriel was sitting with his parents, listening to them tell stories about the Fountain of Youth, the ultimate goal of their journeys.
Due to his different childhood, Gabriel's closest companions were his parents. They were more then just his parents. Now, alone in the jungle, the two of them with the Fountain of Youth until someone else is unlucky enough to find it, Gabriel wanted nothing else but to be with them. He never wanted immortality, it was his parents' dream, not his. Now he was stuck with the curse.
"Yes you can." Gabriel shot up, recognizing Itzel, the former guardian of the fountain, staring at him. "You can do this without your parents."
"I don't even know how to get out of this jungle." Gabriel said, frowning. "How am I supposed to navigate the world now that the rules don't apply to me?"
"You will learn."
"From who? You?" Itzel smiled.
"Come with me."
"To meet some other people who the rules do not apply to." Itzel smiled and turned, easily walking through the forest. Without any other options, Gabriel got up and followed her and that was how he met people with powers for the first time.
"Congratulations class of 2014, go forth into the world and do great things." With that, everyone pulled of their caps and threw them into the air, as well as Lexie and Justin. They turned to each other, hugging as everyone cheered and began to flip out. They were done, they were graduated.
"We did it!" Justin said excitedly. He felt Lexie nodded into his chest. He released her, studying her. While she had a smile on her face, it wasn't a real smile. Justin knew his sister well enough by this point to know when she was actually happy and when she was just faking it.
Before he had a chance to question her, the person besides Justin tapped him and began to walk out. Justin followed the procession like he was supposed to. Once they reached the parking lot though, Justin turned to Lexie but she was already heading over to some of her soccer teammates to get pictures with them.
"Justin!" Tim, one of his own teammates, came over, clapping him on the shoulder. "We did it man."
"Here you go." Ryan appeared, handing him a cigar. All three of them stuck them in their mouth, lightening them up along with plenty of their classmates.
"Smile!" Ryan's mom said, coming up to them and capturing the moment.
Justin smiled and then once the picture was done, he hugged both of his friends and then turned to find the team. He looked around at his classmates, waving to friends, taking pictures with them when they asked. In a few days, most of those pictures will probably be deleted or used in newscasts to paint a picture of who Justin is to the public.
In two days, Justin will be going public with his powers. He had been in meetings with the pro-power movement leaders and they had managed to set up a press conference for Monday at ten. They were keeping it a surprise from the public and pretty much everyone. No one knows that in two days a person with powers will finally speak out.
"Congrats!" Kenzi launched herself at Justin, pulling him out of his thoughts. He caught her in a hug. "You did it!"
Kenzi released him, smiling as the rest of the team joined. Everyone was there, even the Runaways, except for Arden and Gabriel.
"Well done." Lance said, patting him on the back.
"Thanks. Arden at home?" Justin asked. Lance nodded.
"Gabriel offered to stay with her. They're talking about his history."
"Always the history nerd." Justin said, shaking his head. Lance smiled and then moved out of the way for the rest of their teammates to congratulate him.
"Where's Lexie?" Kenzi said once they had all congratulated him. Wes looked around; noticing someone else was missing as well.
"Found them." Luke said, looking behind Justin. He spun around, spotting Lexie and Raven talking quietly about three hundred feet away. Where everyone else was excited and happy, Lexie had a blank expression on her face. Raven was speaking and Lexie nodded her head but it didn't look like she was saying anything. Raven sighed, surprising everyone watching by pulling Lexie into a hug. They all turned back around after that.
"She's had a tough month since the invasion." Justin said. "Hey, you guys want to go get a late lunch slash early dinner? I know a good restaurant around here that's within walking distance."
"As long as it's not my former place of employment." Kenzi said, aiding him in his quest to change the topic of conversation.
"Works for me." Wes said. "Come on."
They all began to walk towards the entrance to the private school. Vince lingered behind a moment, watching Raven and Lexie. Lance stopped besides his friend.
"Should we go get them?" Vince asked.
"Wes texted Raven. They'll come when they are ready." Lance said quietly, placing a hand on Vince's shoulder.
"I just wish she would talk to me. She's barely said two words to me since that day. I think we're broken up but I don't even know because she won't say anything." Vince sighed in frustration. Lance didn't know what to say so he just led his friend away from the school.
The Thirteen Colonies
New York City
Gabriel kept his head down as he walked swiftly through the desolate streets. He kept looking over his shoulder before turning down the side street and coming upon the doorway. He knocked on the door three times and then waited for it to be opened. A panel of the door was slid away, a set of eyes looking out. They spotted Gabriel, a surprised look in the eyes.
"Let me in Henry. I bring a letter from Alexander Hamilton." Gabriel whispered. The panel was slid shut and the door was opened. Gabriel slipped in. Together, Henry and him walked down the steps to the basement of the tavern where they were meeting. All in all there were twenty of them, men loyal to the continental army and the dream of freedom from England.
The army had recently been driven out of New York City. The twenty of them were people who decided to stay in New York City. Many of them were important businessmen who couldn't afford to leave or join the army. Gabriel was currently the apprentice of a silversmith, Jonathan Frederick, a man neutral to the proceedings of the war.
In this life, he is Joshua Garcia, a seventeen-year-old boy who came to New York City from Virginia. His parents were Spanish immigrants, but they had died, leaving Joshua on his own. He had gotten involved with the revolution shortly after he arrived. Now he worked as a messenger and a spy, sneaking out of the city to deliver messages to the army about the movements of the British within the city.
"From Alexander Hamilton himself." Gabriel said, walking up to Owen, the leader of their small group of insurgents.
"Thank you Joshua." Owen said, nodding at him. Gabriel moved to his seat in the back.
Since becoming an immortal, Gabriel had done a lot. He spent thirty years with Itzel and the remaining people who have received the gifts from the Fountain. He had been enthralled with their powers; spending hours watching them use them. It had been peaceful, being surrounded by people who had been touched by the fountain like him. Maybe not to the same extent as him, but they had an aura around them that pulled him towards them.
After they committed mass suicide to avoid being used by the Spanish conquistadors, Itzel and him had parted ways. Itzel had been the Guardian of the Fountain since the 900s, there was a huge world out there for her to explore and Gabriel just wanted a quiet life. He began slowly making his way up the continent. He would find a settlement, live in it for a few years and then move on when people began to become suspicious to the fact he wasn't aging.
He picked up many skills as he made his way up the continent. He had learned to work with silver from a man in St. Augustine in the 1630s, so his apprenticeship was really like a refresher and an opportunity to learn about some new advancements. Mr. Frederick has been incredibly impressed with him, saying he was one of the best apprentices he had ever seen.
When the meeting was done, Gabriel left the room, sticking to the shadows, hiding whenever a group of British soldiers passed by. The state of the European continent continued to intrigue him, watching as the power changed and shifted from his country of origin to the island nation to the north. At the time, Spain had seemed unstoppable. Now they were quickly becoming a minor player on the world stage.
Gabriel slipped back into the shop and up into his loft. He quickly stripped off his heavy outer garments. He felt under his pillow, reassured to see his sack was still there, containing all of his important items.
That night, he went to sleep, staring up through the hole in the ceiling at the single star. They were the same stars, a constant reassurance as time changed and passed that some things didn't.
Green Acre Apartments
Sam looked up from his book when he heard the sound of a lock being placed into the front door of the apartment. He had gotten back from the graduation about fifteen minutes earlier along with the rest of the Runaways. They had all dispersed after that, moving to their own spaces to relax for a little while. They had planned an attack on the DEATH headquarters in this city for that night.
"Hey." Sam said when Gabriel appeared, carrying an old fashioned backpack of sorts off of his shoulder.
"Hi." Gabriel said with a shy smile.
"What's that?" Sam asked, pointing at the weird backpack.
"Oh…it's…things I've collected over my travels." Gabriel said. Sam closed his book, putting it on the table in front of him. He patted the couch next to him, scooting over to make room for Gabriel. The other man came over, taking a seat.
Sam opened the backpack, pulling out an old map. It was definitely old, but it was in pretty good condition. It had definitely been handled with great care for many years.
"This the map your parents used to find the fountain?" Sam asked. Gabriel nodded. "Fascinating."
Sam reached in and pulled out a stack of letters, pressed together in a folder. Sam didn't touch the letters, but his eyes rose when he saw a familiar name on the first letter.
"Alexander Hamilton? As in the first secretary of the treasury?" Gabriel nodded again.
"I was a spy for the colonies during the war in New York. I went back and forth between the city and the army when it was just outside of the city. Hamilton worked for Washington and dealt with many of his correspondents. We became…friends of sorts. I think we identified with each other." Gabriel said. "The quill in there was his. He gave it to me when the army was forced to retreat. I tried to follow them but he convinced me to stay in New York, finish my apprenticeship. I never saw him again after that."
"I don't age. It was time for me to leave New York City so I faked my death and I left."
"Did you have to do that a lot?" Sam asked.
"Are you nervous?" Gabriel turned to his right, spotting Enjolras, the leader of this particular barricade.
"The people will rise." Gabriel said. He had seen it, during the American Revolution, during the French Revolution, the people got involved and they were a success (well, the French Revolution is a bit questionable).
"This is why we keep you around Gideon." Enjolras climbed down the barricade to go check in the other men, leaving Gabriel alone on his watch.
In this life, he is Gideon Rivera, a twenty-two year old student in Paris. He came to Paris from the countryside in south France. He is the first of his family to get a real education and due to the fact they don't have a lot of money, he does not have the opportunity to visit them a lot. But its okay, because a new family at the university took him in, a family of other young men who believed in freedom, just like him.
A few hours later, Gabriel was relieved from his watch by Feuilly. Gabriel climbed down, accepting the glass of alcohol handed to him by Grantaire. He sat down next to the drunkard, looking around at the sleeping men.
"It won't work." Grantaire said, sounding surprisingly sober for a man who had been drinking the whole night. "When the sun rises, we will be destroyed by the French army."
Grantaire holds his cup up in a toast with a bitter laugh. A moment later he downs it, unable to hide the sad, lost expression on his face.
"Why are you here then?" Gabriel asked, though he already knew the answer.
"I believe in Enjolras and maybe deep down, I believe in this stupid cause. It's not like I have much else going for me." Grantaire ditches the cup and drinks straight from the bottle. "I'm going to die someday, might as well go down in an exciting way."
"I believe it will work." Gabriel said, hopeful.
"Believe enough for me too then." Grantaire said.
Ten hours later, the revolution was over. The French army had temporarily retreated. He knew they would be back soon to collect the bodies but Gabriel couldn't stand to leave them all yet.
It had pained him so much when he had to play dead but the bullet had pierced his gut, a shot that could kill a man. It should have killed him but once again his…gift, curse, he didn't know what to call it anymore saved him and he lived, but now he was left staring at the dead faces of his friends, his family.
For two years, he had lived besides these men. He had spent so many hours, minutes, and seconds with them. While it was barely anything in comparison to all the time he had lived and all the time that stretched ahead of him, it had been the first time in a while he had really felt home.
"No." Gabriel said, cradling Grantaire's head in his lap, his blood staining his clothes. "This was supposed to work. The people, they were supposed to rise. This should have worked."
When he heard the marching beginning to return, Gabriel reluctantly released his friend. He looked around at his bloody, dead friends, tears beginning to flow freely. He didn't want to leave them, but he had to, the army needed to collect their bodies.
"I'll make sure you are all remembered." Gabriel swore to them. "I'll never forget any of you."
With that, Gabriel forced himself to look away and leave, disappearing down the twisted alleys of Paris.
Green Acre Apartments
"Too many times." Gabriel confessed, picturing the 1832 Uprising. His mind often traveled to that time these days. Joining the Runaways, it was the first time he had gotten involved since then. After watching his friends all die, after the people failed them, Gabriel wanted very little to do with other people so he stayed around the fringe.
He travelled around France for many years, and eventually found a man he deemed worthy of telling the story of his friends. Gabriel heard him speaking of a novel he was writing and Gabriel told him about the brave men of the 1832 Uprising, convincing him to tell their story. The novel was a success, even to this day.
Feeling that his job was done, Gabriel travelled east until he hit Japan in the early twentieth century. He kept to himself, observing and learning, but never really interacting until now, until the Runaways.
"What is it like?" Sam asked. "You've been alive for over 500 years, I can't even begin to imagine."
Gabriel thought about lying. Everyone assumed being an immortal is great because you never die. But he had found that is much more of a curse then a blessing. Achieve immortality, live forever, but you will be alone for the rest of your life. A woman in Russia once told him over two bottles of vodka, that there is always a positive and a negative side to every thing in our lives. The words repeated in his head at least a few times a week.
He had lost so many people over the years, some of their faces even began to blur together. He remembered his friends from the Mayans, the powered individuals who sacrificed themselves to not be turned into weapons, only in glimpses these days. Even his memories of the barricade boys were beginning to fade around the edges.
"Lonely." Gabriel answered truthfully, looking at Sam as he spoke. "When I first became an immortal, I wanted to play a part in history. I had this great gift, or so I thought. I got to watch the world change and grow and I didn't want to stand on the sidelines and just watch it pass by."
"For a while, it was nice. I was a spy in the Revolutionary war. I was apart of the French Revolution for a little while before it turned into a complete shit show. I was apart of the battle of Waterloo and helped defeat Napoleon. I helped Mexico become a republic. I felt like I was important like I was utilizing this…thing that I had that my parents didn't. They wanted to see and watch history change. They wanted this. I just went along with it, yet I was the one who had the ability to watch history unfold in front of my very eyes."
"And then things took a turn for the worse. I was involved in the 1832 Uprisings in Paris. I had friends, a family, and I led them all to their death. I thought the people would rise up, they always had, but they didn't then. History failed to repeat itself and I lost...good people who had their whole lives ahead of them died that day and I had to leave."
"After that, things were just awful. I witnessed atrocities on both sides in the Crimean War. I witnessed brother fighting brother in the American civil war. I witnessed and fought in both World Wars. The world…it just became deadlier and deadlier. I thought things were bad in the 1500s but it just got worst."
"I didn't want to be apart of this world because around the early 1900s, I began to realize that humanity never stops fighting. It's awful how much we just love to hurt each other and I didn't want apart of it anymore. I pulled away and lived a life of isolation, wanting to just end it but knowing I couldn't because my parents would be devastated. And then a man in a wheelchair approached me in a bar in Titan City and well, here we are."
"Why? You have no reason to be here right now. Like you said, people are awful." Sam questioned.
"Because despite everything, I still want to see the good in humanity." Gabriel said.
Back in the late 1800s, when he was beginning to turn bitter, Gabriel met an old blind man in South America. Gabriel took care of the man since his children and grandchildren were either dead or moved away. One day Gabriel came clean to him, desperate to tell someone about what he had seen. The man had turned towards Gabriel and in that moment, he was sure the man could actually see him. He called him one of the rare truly hopeful ones. It had stuck with him ever since.
"That's admirable." Sam said, moving slightly closer to Gabriel. "I'm bitter after nearly twenty-one years of living, I couldn't imagine 500."
"It's survival. I would have lost my mind after the first hundred if I didn't believe in something." Gabriel said. "Religion has always left a bad taste in my mouth so humanity was really my only option."
"Still." Sam said, a mere inches away from him now, a grin on his face. "I'm glad you decided to give us mere mortals another chance. We probably don't deserve it but it brought you here. I'm happy you're on this team."
Gabriel was certain they were about to kiss. His eyes fluttered shut, his head moving forward.
"We need to review the plans again." Gabriel's eyes shot open, his body flinging itself to the other end of the couch as Duncan entered the room. He looked at them for a moment before turning to the table where their plans were laid out. Hannah was right at his heel, shooting them conspiring looks. "Darby!"
As the two of them got up to walk towards the table, Darby appeared out of her room, headphones hanging around her neck. She looked at the four of them gathered around the table and sighed.
"Yes. We need to be ready." Duncan looked down at the plans and began to talk. Sam stood across the table from him, making eye contact. Sam winked at him, smiling.
They had almost kissed. The thought created a warm feeling in his gut that Gabriel hadn't experienced in a long time.
He liked it.
"Arden? You home?" Lance questioned as he stepped through the front door. Arden listened to the sound of it closing, closing the magazine she had been reading.
"Yeah, in the living room." Arden listened to Lance's steps as they made their way down the hallway. Instinctively, she began to smile when she spotted her boyfriend.
"Hi." Arden said, a grin appearing on her face. Lance walked over, bending down to kiss her.
"Hi." He said, pulling away. "Whatcha reading?"
"Just something Lexie left here a few weeks ago." Arden closed it, throwing it on the coffee table. "I was bored after Gabriel left."
Lance kicked off his shoes, walking around to take a spot on the couch. He settled against the armrest and Arden moved to be sitting in between his legs, resting her head on his chest.
"How was the graduation?" Arden asked, managing to ask the question that had been haunting her for the past few days.
"It was good, very nice. They had a dedication for you in the pamphlets they handed out." Lance told her, kissing the top of her head in hopes to distract her. The sad sigh that escaped her lips alerted him to his failure.
"I wish…" Arden trailed off, unable to finish the thought. Joel had told them in group a few weeks ago that focusing on how things should be can be detrimental to their recovery. They need to accept things as they are in order to come to terms with everything.
Yet, Arden couldn't help but wish she were graduating. With some help from Tech, she was able to fake a transcript to get into college with a fake identity, but that didn't make up for the fact that she would never have a high school graduation. All the things she had been looking forward to in the last few months of high school, gone. She knew she couldn't change that but she was unable to stop thinking about it.
"I know." Lance said, resting his chin atop her head. "I know."
"How's Lexie?" Arden said. Like everyone else, she was concerned for her best friend. She had tried talking to her but Lexie completely shut her down, unusual for her since they typically told each other everything, especially things like this.
"Not great. She barely talked to anyone, just Raven."
"They have some sort of weird understanding." Arden said.
"I know." Lance said. "But if it helps her…"
"I know." Arden sighed. "I just wish she would talk to me."
"She'll come around. Vince and her…they make each other happy. They always smile brightest when they are around the other person. This fight, insecurity, whatever it is, it's something they can hopefully move past soon."
"Hopefully." They both lapse into silence for a moment. Lance reaches out, running his hand through Arden's hair.
"Hey Arden?" Lance questions softly.
"How would you feel if I went to school?"
"Yeah. I think…I think I want to be a publisher. I like books." Lance said.
"I think it's a perfect idea." Arden said, spinning around to face him. She wrapped her legs around his back. "I love it. You deserve to do something for yourself Lance. You're always looking out for everyone, especially me. It's time for you to look out for yourself."
"I just…I still feel it, guilty, for…I sided with Dean. What was I thinking?" Lance said. It had been a long time since he thought about that time. Even longer since he had talked about it.
"Lance, we all hit rough spots. We all make bad decisions. The important thing is that you realized where you really belong and you made the change, that's what mattered."
"But what if me being where I belonged, me being on our side, what if it could have prevented you from going over that cliff, from falling into Dean's hands?" Arden frowned.
"Lance Peterson, don't you ever think that again. One way or another, me, or someone else on this team would have ended up in his clutches. He wanted information; he wanted to torture Dr. John and this team. What happened, happened. We can't linger on the what ifs." Arden said. "I'm working on doing that, you should too."
"I love you." Lance said softly, pulling Arden into his chest. Her arms snaked around him as well.
"I love you too." Arden said. "I love every part of you, the good DNA and the bad DNA, the past, the present, and the future. Don't forget that."
Lance smiled, resting his chin atop her head. They stayed wrapped around each other on Arden's couch for a long time that night.
Green Acre Apartments
"I'm telling you, this is the best show ever." Hannah insisted.
"No, no, no." Duncan said, shaking his head.
"You're wrong." Hannah said, laughing, kissing his cheek. The rest of the runaways were out, leaving them alone for a semi-date day.
"I'm wrong? You're wrong." Duncan responded. Before Hannah could say anything else, there was a knock on the door.
Exchanging confused looks, they entangled themselves from each other and walked to the door. Hannah opened it, revealing Lexie standing in the doorway, looking exhausted, like she hadn't slept in days.
"Lexie?" Hannah questioned. "What are you doing here?"
"I need something to do." Lexie said, walking right into the apartment. Duncan and Hannah exchange looks as she closes the door. "It's been too quiet, I need…I need a distraction."
"And you came here?"
"Your sister, I want to help find her." Lexie said.
"Yes right now! I said I would help, show me your research. I'm ready to help." Lexie said.
"Okay, while Hannah collects her things, how about I make you some coffee." Duncan suggested gently. Lexie nods, following him into the kitchen. He turns on the pot and begins to brew.
"So…How are you?" Duncan asked.
"I've…I've been better. A lot better."
"You graduated from high school yesterday…You should be celebrating."
"Why? It doesn't actually mean much of anything."
"You know, none of us are going to graduate. I've talked to Darby about going to school now that we've settled down here, at least for the foreseeable future, but she has no interest." Duncan said. "High school graduation it really is an achievement even if it doesn't feel like it in the moment."
"I don't know. I guess I can't appreciate when I still fall asleep every night and dream about plotting to kill my brother." Lexie said. Duncan stared at her, taking in the dark bags under her eyes he hadn't noticed before.
"Alternate reality?" Lexie nodded. "That sucks."
"Tell me about it." Lexie said. "How are all of you guys dealing with it?"
"We're getting by fine for the most part. Hannah and I, well, the reality didn't show us anything we didn't know. It was a little rough for Sam and Darby for a while but they're better now. Gabriel…well...no one but Sam ever seems to get any sort of answers from him."
"Yeah, even more so when you live with him." The coffee finished. Duncan got a mug, pouring some for Lexie. "But, it makes sense. The guy has 500 years of living. We're messed up and complicated with less then 20 years."
"Thank you." Lexie said, accepting the coffee. Hannah walks into the room, dropping various files and notes of paper onto the table. Lexie stared at it for a moment and then back up at Hannah.
"Do you think organizing all of this would be a good starting point?" Lexie said, grabbing a sticky note that simply had California written on it.
"Sorry, it's…This is how I think. I don't even know how to begin to organize it because this reflects my thoughts." Hannah said, spreading everything out. "Wherever Maria is, they're good at hiding her. There is very little information on her in DEATH's database."
"What do you search for her?" Lexie said, putting down her coffee, shifting through a few pages.
"What do you mean?" Hannah asked.
"Okay, well, I'm assuming that when you get onto DEATH's database, you search for Maria Rossi, right?"
"Yes. All I ever find is information about the fire and that she's alive."
"Have you ever thought to search something else? You changed your name; she very well could have changed hers. Or they could have given her a codename." Lexie pointed out.
"A codename…You think they're using her as a weapon?" Duncan asked.
"They used you as a weapon, why wouldn't they use her?" Lexie said. Hannah blinked, sitting down. "Come on, you haven't thought of that yet?"
"I just…I guess…I never wanted to think of them hurting her like they hurt me." Hannah said. "I guess…I fooled myself into thinking that they were just…That they were taking care of her like they fooled me into thinking they would do for me."
Duncan walked over, standing behind her chair and rubbing her shoulder. He leaned down, kissing the top of her head to provide comfort.
"Okay, so tonight, we break into DEATH's facilities, get on their network, and look up any active operatives that are…How old would Maria be?"
"Sixteen. Her birthday wasn't too long ago." Hannah said.
"Okay, so we shouldn't have a very long list of sixteen year old operatives. We get the names and boom, we find Maria." Lexie said, leaning back in her seat.
"Tonight?" Duncan said. "Maybe we should wait and plan a little bit more."
"Why would you do that? We can plan it now and be ready."
"The rest of our team is having the day off." Hannah said.
"Call them back. Why waste any more time? We could find your sister by the end of the week!" Lexie said. "Come on, I'll call Sam now!"
Duncan and Hannah exchange looks but don't protest.
"This place is amazing." Kenzi commented, dropping the box in her hand on a table and looking around the row house in amazement. Vince, Wes, and Justin followed her queue, dropping their boxes and walking around. "And they're paying for all of this?"
"Like I said, the pro-power movement has garnered quite the following." Justin told them.
"Do you think you're ready for tomorrow?" Wes asked tentatively. Raven and him were still the most skeptical about Justin's plans. Wes had talked to him about it, making sure he was fully aware of any possible risks. Ultimately though, Justin is an adult and makes his own decisions. Wes can't tell him what to do, or really tell any of them what to do outside of when they're in battle.
"Yeah. I have a meeting tonight to finish going over my speech." Justin said. "It'll be nice to meet all of these people in person."
"Are you sure this is what you want though? That you're ready for all of what this will bring?" Wes asked.
"Thanks for the concern Wes, but I am. I don't think I've ever been more passionate about anything in my life. The more I talk to these people, the more I hear about the picture they have for this country, the more excited I become." Justin said.
"I'm proud of ya buddy." Vince said, clapping him on the back. "Come on. Let's unpack your belongings."
"I like whoever they had do the interior design for this place. It's beautiful, very classy." Kenzi stated, with a smile on her face.
"Uh huh, and what do you know about interior design squirt?" Vince asked.
Green Acre Apartments
Duncan sat in his room, ready to go. He still had twenty minutes though before they were to leave for DEATH. He pulled out his new communicator with video function from Tech, calling Wes.
"Hey." Wes said, appearing on the screen. "What's up?"
"Do you know that Lexie's here?"
"In Stillhaven? Why?" Wes said, his brow furrowing together.
"That's what I thought." Duncan sighed. "She's not okay."
"One second." Duncan watched as Wes exited a building, walking outside.
"Where are you?"
"DC. I forgot to update you about Justin."
"What's up with Justin?"
"He's going public about having powers. He's working with a pro-powers, civil rights group. He's going to be the face of their movement in DC. They set him up with a sweet house and everything." Wes told the other leader.
"Is that a good idea? Can't he go to jail?" Duncan asked.
"Apparently the legal team found a loophole. The ban can only jail people who use their powers to perform hero work. As long as they don't figure out he's Hatter, he's allowed to have powers." Wes sighed.
"You don't think it's a good idea."
"No, but he's determined to do it so I'll stand by him until the bitter end." Wes said. "Kenzi, Vince, and I are all in DC to help move him in and be there for the announcement tomorrow. I had thought Lexie would be there but…I guess she's in Stillhaven."
"Yeah. She showed up at our door today insistent to help Hannah find Maria. We're breaking into DEATH tonight to look up information on their network." Duncan said.
"Oh wow…that was…quick."
"Tell me about it. I'm worried that she's going to get Hannah excited and it's going to be another dead end. So soon after the whole alternate reality thing…I don't know if people could take another thing going wrong again. We're in a good place right now and I hate risking that."
"Being a leader is really hard sometimes." Wes sighed.
"Tell me about it. I'm not even the sole leader like you." Duncan said. "How have you managed to do it for so long now?"
"Well I had Dr. John for a long time. He…he made me the man I am today for better or worse." Wes sighed again. "God, its times like these that I miss the old man. Justin's got his heads in the clouds, Lexie is spiraling out of control and its affecting the team, Raven's head isn't in the right place either, and I'm just trying to keep my head above the water."
"At least Arden's getting better."
"Small victories my friend, small victories." Wes said. He looked off screen, back towards the door. "I'm going to head back inside. It sounds like Justin just got back from his meeting and I want to check in with him one more time before tomorrow morning."
"Good luck my friend. I'll keep an eye on Lexie for you."
"Thank you. She's in a rough place right now. Call me tonight if things go south. I'll send someone out there to help." With that, Wes ended the call.
Gabriel, Darby, and Sam were on watch. Hannah, Duncan, and Lexie were in the main control room, hacking into the database as they waited, watching for any guards who stray away from their scheduled routes.
It had been surprisingly easy to get into the building, loop the cameras, and take out the two guards in the control room. Gabriel barely had to lift a finger as Lexie took down both the guards on her own.
"I wish our date hadn't gotten interrupted." Sam said suddenly. Gabriel started, looking over at the guy. "I mean, today was a date…right?"
"Yeah…it was." Gabriel said, uncertain about himself for the first time in a long, long time. "It definitely was."
They had gone to the Stillhaven museum that morning. Sam had been fascinated to look at the various historical objects and listen to what Gabriel had to say on the topic or event. Sam could listen to Gabriel speak for hours and be perfectly content.
Afterwards they had gotten lunch at a small nearby café. They were halfway through their sandwiches when Duncan called them home for a job.
"That was oddly sweet." Both men turned, forgetting that Darby was there. She had a knowing smile on her face. "I think I'm going to walk down the hall and check around the corner."
She skipped off before they could say anything else. When they two men were alone, they looked back at each other.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that this will go well." Sam said.
"I'm just waiting for the shoe to drop. This has been too easy, it's the way of the world for things to go wrong." Gabriel said.
"Come on, stop being so negative. A smile won't kill you." Sam teased. Gabriel rolled his eyes.
"You'd be surprised." Gabriel said. Sam smiled, his whole face lighting up. It had been a while since he had seen that smile.
"When was the last time you went to the movies?" Sam asked suddenly.
"Um…1980s… Grim City…I saw…I saw the Breakfast Club." Gabriel mumbled.
"The Breakfast Club?" Gabriel nodded.
"I'm a John Hughes fan." Sam laughed.
"Oh my gosh, that is so adorable. I bet you have every word to "Don't you" memorized."
"So what if I do? It's a great song." Gabriel said.
"Don't you forget about me, don't, don't, don't, don't." Sam said, poking Gabriel every time he said don't.
"Stop. You realize we're on a mission?"
"Yeah and nothing's happening. Hannah's going to be reunited with her sister and all will be right with the world."
"Yeah." Sam said, continuing to grin from ear to ear. "Come on, see a movie with me. There may be no John Hughes, but I promise there are some good movies out there."
"So you're asking me on a second date?"
"Of course I am."
"You know, its very old school to go on dates without so much of a kiss." Sam began to blush, looking away.
"Just keeping it your speed immortal." Sam retorted. "Come on, didn't you guys call dating like courting or something back then?"
"Correct." Gabriel said, smiling. "And just for the record, I would love to see a movie with you."
Their faces were inches apart by this point and Gabriel was certain that they were about to kiss. It had been so long since he had felt like this about anyone, years since he had been remotely intimate with anyone. Gabriel hadn't realized how much he craved it until they were so close together.
They would have kissed if Darby hadn't suddenly appeared in front of them, breathless. Sam and Gabriel pulled apart and were instantly on their feet, battle ready.
"What happened?" Sam asked, his tone losing the light, and playful tone from when they had been talking and flirting.
"Guards. They spotted me. I took them out but not before they called for backup. We're about to have the whole building come down on us." Sure enough, a moment later an alarm began to blare.
"Damn it." Gabriel said, pulling out his batons.
"What happened?" Duncan asked, appearing out in the hallway.
"We're about to have guests. How much longer?" Sam asked.
"We need a few more minutes." Duncan said. "Can you hold them off?"
"I think we can do it." Sam reported confidently. "Stay with them."
Duncan nodded, disappearing back into the room. Gabriel looked towards Darby. She smiled, a thin green light illuminating around her body. With his help, she had really begun to master her powers. No longer was she purely a green, glowing, spectral rage monster. The necklace provided a green outline to her skin, a protective coating that she could then manipulate to shoot beams out of.
They all prepared themselves as the first wave arrived. Gabriel darted into the crowd first, keeping his arms extended, knocking down guards before any of them could even think about touching him. A green blast appeared to his right, knocking out several guards in its path.
More guards arrived by the moment. As quickly as Gabriel knocked them down, more appeared to replace them. He kicked one down, ducking under the extended arm of a second. He leaped out of the way of a bullet from a third man. A moment later a bubble was wrapped around the man, throwing him at a wall.
Gabriel snuck a peek over his shoulder, finding Sam nearby, pulling up force fields and pushing them back, mowing people down. If it weren't for the sheer number of guards and agents that were streaming at them, the three of them would have easily took out the group.
As it was, they were still fighting when Duncan, Hannah, and Lexie emerged. They instantly went into attack mode. Hannah froze a section of agents, and Duncan quickly went to work, knocking them all out. Lexie's hands glowed purple and soon purple energy was being shot at the enemy along with Darby's green ones.
"On me!" Duncan shouted, drawing them all together. "We need to make a path to the door!"
Gabriel nodded, jutting out in front to lead the charge like usual. He punched, kicked, hit, and ducked his way through, leading the charge. He lost a baton, leaving him with just one. It wasn't a situation he would choose to be in, but he was easily able to work with it.
He was just about to knock out a DEATH agent when he heard a shout. He spun around just in time to see a man sneak up behind a distracted Sam who had taken the rear of the group. Lexie had spotted the attacker coming but she was too late as well. They both watched in horror as a knife was stuck into Sam's back.
"NO!" Lexie and Gabriel shouted. Gabriel ran back towards Sam, running faster then he had ever run before. Lexie shot the man with a purple energy beam as Gabriel dropped to his knees, cradling Sam's head in his lap.
"Sam? Sam? Come on. Wake up." Gabriel begged. Sam blinked, grumbling incoherently. "That's okay. I got you."
Gabriel picked him up. Duncan and Lexie were gathered around the two of them while Darby and Hannah held of the attackers.
"We need to get out of here now." Gabriel said. "We need a hospital."
"I can arrange that." Lexie said, a scary glint appearing in her eyes. Duncan noticed it as well.
"Get down!" Gabriel, Duncan, Hannah, and Darby reacted on instinct. They watched as energy beams shot out from her hands, her eyes, and her hair. They were larger; out of control then her usual beams. Some of the guards had dropped when they heard Lexie's warning but others were too slow and were hit by the energy beams.
Instead of just being pushed backwards or knocked out though, they began to burn. Gabriel recognized the smell of burning flesh instantly. It didn't take long for the others to catch on.
"Lexie, what did you do?" Darby asked, tentatively getting to her feet.
"Sam needs the hospital. Let's go." Lexie said, her voice cold and no nonsense.
Gabriel rushed forward, carefully carrying Sam, ignoring the sounds of the dying screams. Unlike the others who were turning pale and shocked at the sound, Gabriel had heard it all before. He had seen it all before. This had all happened before.
"No, no, no. Please, don't die."
"Your death…I will avenge you."
"The people, they were supposed to rise. They were supposed to rise!"
"No, not again."
"Not again please."
"Don't die, don't leave me."
"I don't want this!"
The voices…his voice…bombarded him as he ran out of the building and down the street. He didn't wear a mask, making it easy for him to just leave the building and run. He ran, and ran, running faster then he had ever run before.
He didn't care that the rest of the team was no longer behind him. He didn't care that people were dying behind him. All he did was stare in front of him, focusing on the mantra in his head, adding it to the chorus of other lines.
"Don't die, please. Not Sam, don't take him."
It was a fitting location. Justin looked out at the National Mall. It truly felt extraordinary to be there, in a place where so many other historical events had occurred.
Justin was off to the side, drawing very little attention as he talked to one of the assistants of the campaign, Belinda. She smiled at him as she helped straighten his tie. He took a nervous breath as he heard Jonathan, one of the leaders of the movement, finish with his speech.
"You're going to be great." Belinda reassured him. "Is your family still here?"
"No, they had to leave late last night. There was an emergency." Justin said, checking his phone. There was no text; meaning Sam was still in surgery. Justin sighed. If this was anything else, Justin would be out there but…he needed to do this. He would join them later.
"And now, I would like to welcome Justin Henley, our surprise guest to the stage." Jonathan said. Belinda patted him on the shoulder, gently pushing him to the stage. Taking a deep breath, Justin put on his performance smile, stepping out onto the stage.
There were hundreds of people in the outdoor space. Several people with press badges snapped photos of him as he walked to the podium, shaking Jonathan's hand. There were whispers of confusion as no one had been expecting this. They had simply been expecting another speech from Jonathan, denouncing the ban and its civil rights violations.
"Hello everyone." Justin said as the clapping began to halt. "I'm here today to talk about powers. It's a controversial, emotional topic. It's a topic that for the past six years since the ban was placed, most people have stuck their head in the sand and ignored."
"Today, I am here to give my voice to the topic. I am here to inform and I am here to hopefully convince you all why this needs to become more of a national conversation instead of the rare television personnel broaching the subject after another event like the one we recently experienced."
"My name is Justin Henley. I have powers and today I am here to return the voice to a group that has lost it with the ban on heroes."
As one would expect, the crowd went crazy after that.
Wes stared at the television screen, his focus entirely on Justin as he waited for the crowd to quiet down. Inside the ER waiting room, all people had stopped, staring at the screen. Unlike Wes and the rest of the team, they had not been anticipating Justin's announcement.
"I know its unprecedented for a person to expose their powers in this day and age but the silence most end. While the ban had good intentions, it has had terrible, far-reaching consequences."
"I have had powers for several years now. It is a part of me that I cannot change. It was not a decision I made to have them. It is simply something that is, just like the color of my eyes, my height, or my hair color."
"The passing of the ban has made it taboo to have powers in general. I have lived in fear for many years that someone will find out about my abilities and hate me for them. I feared ridicule and hatred for something that I could not control. I eventually grew to hate and resent my powers, which once again, were out of my control."
"The ban tried to keep people safe but all it really did was drive them apart. It created fear and paranoia surrounding something that people couldn't help, that the vast majority of people didn't abuse. The ban was supposed to just be on using powers to perform the work of a hero, but it quickly turned into a ban of people having powers all together. It turned powers into a taboo and silenced a whole group of people who were too afraid to voice what they had, or to be who they are for fear of what others would think, do, or say."
"The conversation needs to begin now. Do we want to be a nation that promotes fear? Do we want to be a nation that cowers in the face of challenge? Do we want to be a nation that encourages silencing a group just because they are abnormal?"
"That is not the nation that I want but who knows, maybe it is what you all want. In that case, I applaud you, you have what you want. But for those of you who want the world to be equal, that all people are treated with fairness and kindness, I suggest you take another look at the ban. Banning people with powers from performing heroic acts is inherently discriminatory and unconstitutional. We are given the freedoms to be who we are. The ban hinders that. The ban discourages people from being who they are, from using their gifts, for powers are a gift, for good. The ban discourages them from being human for it is the very essence of humanity to reach out and help one another. Why discourage that?"
"The conversation starts now. My name is Justin Henley. I'm a recent high school graduate, a pianist, a soccer player, a friend, and a brother. I also have powers. It isn't something I chose to have, but is apart of who I am. I am also a human and seek to help people. Why should I be prevented from doing so just because I have powers? Thank you."
Wes watched proudly as Justin stepped away from the podium. Loud clapping was heard on screen from the audience. Wes watched until Justin was off stage and then stood up, walking out of the waiting room.
Lexie was sitting in the alleyway, her head in her hands, staring at the brick wall. Wes approached with a coffee in his hand.
"Hey." Wes said, placing the coffee in front of her and taking a seat on the ground. She said nothing. "Justin just finished his speech. It…it was really good. He spoke incredibly."
"Justin always had it in him." Lexie said, hollowly.
"I'm sure you'll be able to find it on YouTube soon." Wes said. Lexie nodded, screwing her eyes shut. "Lex…"
"Stop it, Wes, just stop it." Lexie said angrily. "Stop pretending that everything is okay. It's not. It's the farthest thing from okay. I burned forty people alive mere hours ago. I murdered people."
"That's why I'm here. Talk to me. What happened?"
"I just…my mind went blank…and…instincts just took over I guess." Lexie shook her head. "I'm a monster, what else would you expect? I saw Sam and he looked so dead and I just…I attacked."
"You're not a monster."
"Stop denying it okay? Stop pretending." Lexie stood up. "I'm going for a walk."
"I need to think Wes."
With that, she walked away from the hospital, her hands in her pocket. She had no idea where she was going, just that she needed to be moving, needed to have something to distract her.
Sam's eyelids felt as if they each had ten-pound weights on them. He groaned as he forced them open. He blinked at the harsh light above him, moving his arm to cover his eyes.
"What the…" He trailed off, taking in the various chords and lines running into his arm. He looked around the room, spotting the familiar interior of a hospital room. It didn't take long before memories of what happened flooded back to him.
"Hey sleeping beauty." Sam craned his neck, watching as Vince walked in. "Doc said you were starting to wake up. How you feeling?"
"Like I got stabbed."
"Smart ass." Vince said with a grin, taking a seat next to his bedside. "You got lucky you bastard."
"I always do." Sam muttered.
"It's a good thing. I only recently got you back. You're not allowed to leave me for a long, long time. Let's say, sixty years, then you can start thinking about dying." Vince told him. Sam laughed. It slowly faded away as he spotted Gabriel lingering in the doorway. "Gabriel."
"Hey Gabe." Vince said, spinning around in his seat. "Gabriel here ran you all the way to the hospital."
"I…I vaguely remember that." Sam said.
"Can we have a moment alone?" Gabriel asked, looking at Vince. Vince nodded, smiling at the two of them. He reached over, patting Sam's hand and then stood up, walking out of the room.
"I'm sorry." Sam said.
"Why are you apologizing?"
"I should be more careful."
"Idiot." Gabriel shook his head. "You have nothing to apologize for. I'm just glad you're okay."
"I'm glad I'm okay too. Now we can still have our date."
"I think I'm going to take a rain check on that." Sam's heart dropped.
"I…I need to leave for a while." Gabriel said, walking around the room nervously. He stared out the small window and then walked back to the other side.
"Why? Did we do something wrong?" Sam asked in confusion.
"No, no, no. It's not you guys…It's…It's me…It's who I am." Gabriel sighed. "I know that sounds incredibly cheesy, buts it's the truth. You are all mortal and I'm not. You can die and I can't, and…I hate it."
"I hate being immortal. I hate being alive and constantly watching people die. It's awful…it's truly utterly awful. I wouldn't wish this fate upon my worst enemies. I've seen so many friends die, seen so many good people with their lives ahead of them, gone in an instant." Gabriel began to explain.
"My mom, she used to say there are always two sides to every coin, two tales to every story, and it's the same with immortality. It's both a gift and a curse, an extraordinary thing to see the world change, grow, and advance, but it's for a terrible cost as you have no one to share these things with."
"Last night, it reminded me of why I stayed away from humans for so long, it hurts. You almost died and I don't know what I would have done if you had. I need some space, at least for a little while."
"Then go." Sam said, surprising Gabriel. He didn't sound angry…he sounded sad, like he understood. "If you need this, go, take all the time you need to figure this all out and sort through your emotions."
"I know it hurts but you don't need to be alone Gabriel. We're all here for you whenever you're ready to come back." Sam smiled, reaching out for his hand. Gabriel accepted it. They were silent, simply holding each other's hand.
"I'll…I'll be back."
"Good. You're a part of this team Gabriel. Sort through all of that stuff in your head and then come back to us…Come back to me." Sam let go, his eyes beginning to drop, as he grew tired.
"Sleep well and get better soon." Gabriel turned and began to walk towards the door. He stopped though when he heard Sam's quiet voice behind him.
"Don't forget…you now owe me both a movie and a kiss." Sam whispered as his eyes closed shut.
Despite everything, Gabriel smiled. He turned back around, leaning over to kiss Sam's forehead.
"I always keep my promises."
He turned and walked away.
Next on The Team
Cade finds the answers he's been looking for but it isn't what he expected. Layla has a break through. Wes has a decision to make.
Find out what happens on THE TEAM