Well, I finally did it. Tried the best I could to flesh out their dynamics more than in the past, hopefully it'll carry over to if/when I go back and revise this whole thing. I'm working on the "epilogue" of sorts but don't expect it anytime soon. Hopefully I've gotten some folks interested enough to read this whole mess, probably gibberish to anyone but me really.
The interdimensional portal had most of us recall the ordeal we dealt with when Antithesis threatened the city, especially Metal Queen, who removed her artificial arm and slowly rubbed the stub that was underneath it.
"Has it really been three years?" She said to herself and scoffed. "It's felt more like an eternity."
It was June 2011. The 18-year-old Queen used her arms as support to save civilians from a crumbling building, but just as she got the last one out, her left arm gave way as it was crushed beyond all repair. Despite her stoic nature, she screamed and wept in pain, pleading for my boyfriend to amputate her arm. It took only a few seconds for him to comply, seeing the trust that Queen had in her eyes. She just went into shock when he had the idea to use his own life energy to save hers, managing to perform a makeshift cauterization via Xi.
Rio soaked up the pool of blood around Claire with a cloth one of the liberated citizens lent us and used as much of his energy as possible to keep her alive, while she would murmur feverishly for the boy she'd later begin dating. I found it endearing that her thoughts were of a guy she had taken a liking to at school, but also hoped it wasn't her about to die with regrets.
Many of us risked a lot that day, but I think she risked far more than anyone. It would take months for her to create the prosthetic she would also use to channel her mana into, not aided by the fact she was naturally a southpaw.
Terrastone, having shed her gem armor, squeezed her roommate and closest friend, learning some time ago about how said friend lost her arm. "It's okay, mi amiga. I'll help you guys in any way possible. It's my fault Void even got her Alpha ability, so I'm just as responsible for this happening."
"None of this is your fault, Essie, but we appreciate the aid. I know what I said before about not taking on new members, but as of today, consider yourself one of us." She was deeply touched, both in the prospects of finding a group of friends who would accept her weird quirks and of me making good on my promise to allow her to join our team.
"Gracias, Star Lass." The young heroine took notice of the civilians. "I'm gonna get everyone to safety, if that's ok with you, boss!"
"Yeah, you and Queen do crowd control and find anyone trapped. Willpower, head over back to the wedding hall and keep anyone still there safe. Black Moon, I need you to launch me up there as fast as possible."
Moon did a double take. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Did I stutter? I need to use your new powers to lunge me to my sister." Looking above, Empress Void's Omega energy was causing the portal to expand in size. It was about 3 miles in diameter and growing by the minute. "I think if I can get her down without her noticing, this thing could go away. It's a long shot, but we're running out of options."
She gave me a heavy sigh. "Don't die, Rox. I won't forgive you if you break this idiot's heart." Astra bobbed her head to my groom.
"I'm gonna head back, hon. See you there?"
"Yes. I won't ever leave you, sweetheart." We put our lips together, I couldn't help but push out an anxious moan into his mouth, which made him pull me closer. "Even if I get caught in that thing, I will make it my mission to return to you!"
Black Moon and I got up on the collapsed remains of the lab, then I climbed up Moon's hands while she took aim. "Ready?" She asked, which I replied with a nod. "Here goes!"
She used her Omega ability to compress my gravitational field just enough and then reverse it to burst wide open, propelling me at tremendous speed, even faster than my flight. My body felt a rush from being thrown so quickly, it must have been 40 mph as I reached her in a matter of seconds.
"Sable!" My entranced sister heard as I grabbed onto her and turned her to face me. "Snap out of it! You're doing exactly what he did! It's not worth it. Please…"
Void was crestfallen, shaking her head in denial. "No. No! No, Roxy, I must get him back! You don't understand what it's like to lose everything you have! What if it was Macario trapped in there, huh!?"
A terrifying revelation came to me. I long suspected it, but – like when I discovered her identity – my brain did everything it could to deny it and now I had to face the reality.
"You loved him. Didn't you?"
She started to weep, finally letting all the stress in the past 24 hours get to her. "Ever since he saved me from that accident when I was 15, the one where I was trapped in my friend's car. I know it's wrong, I know he's like 10 years older, but I don't care. All I wanted was for him to notice and be proud of me. Even if he probably didn't even know I existed, I just thought if I saved him and created a new wave of heroes, he would be grateful!" I embraced her and let her feel safe.
"But this isn't the way. You've put hundreds, if not thousands, of lives at stake all for one man. All for your Alpha and Omega capabilities. All for your deluded attempt at a perfect world." She felt me grip her tightly, not wanting to let her go as the portal began to shrink. Maybe I could save her from herself after all. "I can help you. We can help you! It's not too late to do right by him by turning yourself in."
"You're… you're…" She began forming a ball of negative energy into her hand and coldly gazed into my eyes. "You're wrong. It is too late for me."
Just as I tried to slow down time, she blasted me away from her. She was raising herself closer to the shrinking portal.
"Sable! No! What are you doing!?"
"This is the only way I can truly atone, Roxy. I understand now why Captain Vortex- no, Antithesis allowed himself to remain trapped. It's penance."
"No! You can't!" I begged her. "What about mom and dad? What about your company?"
"Tell our parents the truth, about all the awful things I did. They deserve to know. And tell Dhvani she's in charge now, she's more than ready."
I was afraid it would end this way. I just didn't think she would willingly imprison herself. I wanted to stop her but knew it would be pointless. All I could do was sadly wave farewell to her.
My eyes watched intently as she let herself be consumed by the abyss. Once she was gone, it went with her.
I slowly descended back down; Black Moon had been waiting for me.
"What happened, Star?"
Nothing but my footsteps were my response.
"Where is your sister?"
Tears started welling up in my eyes while I stood a few scant feet in front of her, my lips quivered, hands shook uncontrollably. She was deeply concerned for me at this point.
"The hell happened, Roxy?!"
My voice was emitting a hoarse whisper, I had to raise it in order to be heard but nothing could stop it from breaking.
"I couldn't save her, Astra...!"
The only thing I could do after that was get on my knees and wail in sorrow. She calmly sat down with me and put her arms around my back. The dark irony being this is how I comforted her ten years ago.
"Just let it all out, Rox." She soothed me with a very sisterly tone of voice. "I'm here for you, alright? Take your time."
I had months of stress and anxiety to sob out, her years of consoling families of homicide victims with her job as a detective really came through for me.
Several minutes passed before a voice called out to us.
"Is Ms. Sable truly gone...?"
Astra took a moment to turn to Decibel, whom had recovered from her fight and was seeking closure. If looks could kill, the high school student would have been dead on the spot.
My eyes and cheeks had been red from weeping, but I managed to let out a few words. "Sh-she told me to t-tell you... that you're in ch-charge of everything from now on."
"Is that right?"
"Congratulations on the promotion, Fortunate Daughter." Astra said in a calmingly furious tone, then held me even closer to her. She was willing to fight to the death if it meant no more harm - physical or emotional - would come to me on this day. "Now round up your stooges. Take what's left of your shit. And get. The hell. Out of our sight."
Decibel, feeling grief for the first time in years, inhaled but stayed strong. "For now, as acting leader, my first order will be to declare an armistice between our forces. At least until I sort all this out. I'll allow you to grieve and return to your wedding. My condolences for your misfortune, Roxanne."
It wasn't much to make up for all they've done, I thought to myself, but it was better than nothing. "Thanks, Div. Come on, Moon, let's go get the others."
A bittersweet weight hung over me as we got up and returned to the chapel. We reunited with our friends, then I told my parents in private about Sable's actions as Empress Void and her self-imposed exile. My mom took it particularly hard as I played the role of Astra and let her cry on my shoulder, with me hugging her and quietly staring remorsefully to my dad.
Despite what went on these past couple hours and us willing to delay the wedding by a week or two, everyone present waited for us. It was on that day I learned how much faith the city had in our ragtag team, they knew whatever was going on, we had it handled.
It took a lot in my power to put aside what had happened and instead focus on letting everybody share my husband and I's special day together. But I knew I had to, despite all she did to me, I refused to let my sister scare me into not having it.
After Rio and I took a quick shower, hoping the other heroes did as well, we decided to have the wedding pick up where it left off, me having walked down the aisle.
My wedding gown was a plus size yellow dress adorned with cute star decorations, long but not too long since I'd trip over it otherwise. Rio's tuxedo was adorned with a crimson vest, black bowtie, and standard white undershirt. Astra's was similar but with a navy-blue accent, looked more like she was off to an office job. Claire's dress was very plain but was a lovely forest green and with butterfly patterns, courtesy of her fashionista sister. Essie's was an earthly brown puffy dress which she had worn on her quinceañera and still fit after some 4-5 years.
We apologized to the priest for the long wait. Fortunately, Astra had the foresight to order for one who primarily weds Alphas – especially those who took up being superheroes - so all this was nothing new for him.
"Now, as I was saying before being so rudely interrupted, if there's anyone who objects to this union, let them speak now or forever hold their-"
"Wait!" I spoke up. "I am so sorry to have you hold off again, but I just wanted to say a new set of vows. One from the heart and not just a minute of stammering. If that's okay, sweetie."
Taking in a surplus of oxygen, I gave my speech. "The last few hours have been very hectic for me," I quickly turned to the crowd "and I'm sure the rest of y'all as well," then back to the groom, "but that time made me realize how much I cherish you. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't be the woman I was today. The future used to be scary for me, I wouldn't know if I could deal with so much uncertainty, but with you," I turn to the maid of honor beside me, "Astra," then to the bridesmaid/musician, "Claire," and then to my new friend, who was quietly weeping with joy, "Essie," my gaze returned to him, "and so many others... I think I can get through whatever the future holds for us."
"I don't know if I can top that, but I feel the same way. I know you and I will overcome anything that gets in our way. Whether as a couple or a duo. I know I'm not good with words but hopefully that's enough."
"Even a simple 'I love you' would be enough for me, ya dope." I turn back to the minister. "Please continue."
"Well, I assume everyone still here doesn't object otherwise they'd have spoken up by now." That got a few laughs, including from myself. "So then, I assume since you both decided to continue the wedding, you both 'do'. But for formality's sake, I'll ask anyway. Do you, sir, take Roxanne Mitsuko Kaizen as your lawfully wedded wife?"
"I do!" Rio cried out in a childlike voice, which made me smile and blush and had some audience members give a small laugh.
"And do you, madam, take Macario Espiridion Rodriguez as your lawfully wedded husband?"
"I do!" My voice was almost as carefree and energetic, which made our friends and family giggle again.
Astra opened the box containing my ring, which Rio grabbed and muttered to himself.
"Crap, which one was it? Uh, I don't wanna screw this up. Hey As, which hand is-?"
"The left." The Arab-American woman replied in a deadpan manner, then gave me the box with Rio's ring.
"Left it is." We counted to three as we put the wedding rings on our fingers at the same time.
"By the power invested in me by the state of Texas, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss the bride."
The millisecond after that sentence was finished, Rio took me in his arms and gave me a long, tender kiss. It was one I was more than happy to reciprocate, playfully wrapping my arms across his neck and back. For a minute, I thought about clutching that handsome butt of his in public to be spontaneous but reconsidered. After all, we still had our newlywed suite all to ourselves this weekend…
The reception was a nice relaxer after all the trouble my new husband and I went through; both planning the wedding and Damage Incorporated's shenanigans. We had the first go at dancing but stopped after 30 seconds when I embarrassed myself with awkward movements. Astra referred to my attempt at dancing as "a chicken with three left feet". Not even slowing down time made it easier for me.
Rio's dancing, on the other hand, was significantly better. He managed to get in some good rhythms from Astra, Essie, and even Claire - who would have sooner lost her other arm before trying to dance in front of people if her BFF didn't sweet talk her into trying it just this once. I even saw Alfred, whom I let attend late as my way of saying thanks for his assistance, share a friendly dance with his ex.
Was I jealous and bummed out? Absolutely. But I was also content with enjoying my friends, old and new, having fun with each other.
"Okay, enough!" The contralto-voiced Claire stepped beyond her perpetually monotone voice, which threw a lot of us off guard. After realizing she drew even more attention to herself and overreacted to a benign activity, she went back to her normal tone. "My apologies, Macario. I... I just need some air."
Having felt even more embarrassed than the first night she ever got drunk, Claire swiftly retreated to where I was at the other side of the room, stopping to grab a cup of punch, and sat down in a huff. Her misfortune was more trivial than her usual bouts of sulking, so I just smiled, watching her melodrama at work.
"You mad, C?" I can't remember the last time I called her that.
"How could you stand there and subject me to that torture? You had better hope my sister didn't get that on video!"
"Are you kidding? That was amazing! Heck of a lot better than my clumsy ass." As fun as it was to see her all worked up over menial things, I didn't want her to have a meltdown, so I shifted the topic. "Now on a completely different subject, you sure you didn't cast some type of dancing spell?"
A smile crossed her face as she was happy to talk about something else.
"I'm afraid I only have a limited knowledge of magic so far. I know a few of the basics, but not much else."
"You mentioned the Witch having an aunt who wanted to teach you in England, right?"
"Yes. I've thought about considering it, but I still want to pursue my doctorate. There's also Paragon Projects, but I can still have some people run it for me while I'm away."
"Can't you do both? Get your degree and hone your witchcraft?"
"Perhaps," She was torn up about this decision, "but I don't desire to leave you all behind again."
"Can't you just teleport between here and the UK?"
"It's too far away, plus I'm thinking it's starting to become unstable from overuse. Besides, Essie's recently talked to me about wanting to move to an apartment here, commuting to College Station to finish her degree." She later mentioned Troy was moving back as well, which made me happy that they're still seeing each other.
"For real? Man, I really hoped you two would be roommates forever."
"Considering she's planning to live with her girlfriend, I believe I would be little more than a third wheel. That and..." she shuddered "...the thought of walking in on them during sexual relations would be beyond awkward."
That just now hit me. "Wait. She and Astra are moving in together?" She never moved in with anyone before, not even with Alfred. "Oh my gosh, you're kidding me! And As agreed to it?"
"It's more than that. She was the one who propositioned that she and Essie move in together."
"Son of a bitch." My grin was as wide as can be. "I knew something was special about that girl. You know what, Claire? Go for it! Take that limey's offer."
"Hell yeah! You've finally accepted something you spent most of your life not believing in and you're just going to ignore the gift you got? We'll be fine without you, silly!" I motioned to give her a great big hug, which she allowed. "Just don't forget to come visit us every now and then, okay?"
"Of course. Someone needs to babysit you children." Until Essie joined, Claire was the youngest of the Lone Stars.
Just then, Rio came up to me, whispering into my ear. "Oh yeah! I forgot. Sorry, C, I gotta jet. Looks like Astra's coming over, talk with her some, k?"
I left the bench and walked into the back where everything was kept. I saw the box on the counter and opened it up. It was a bouquet of cherry blossoms, "sakura" they're called in my father's native country. They were beautiful and plentiful; I took care not to spill them as I stepped out into the main room.
"Alright ladies, gather up!" I cheerfully called out, taking the flowers and getting ready to take aim. "Let's see who's the next lucky bride-to-be!"
"Ugh, the damned bouquet." Astra rolled her eyes, seeing many women, including Essie, try and fight for it as I readied to throw it. "Why does every wedding have to have some sappy cliché like that?" She poked Claire on her shoulder, letting her other hand out in the air as she vented her annoyance. "You mark my words, Morgan, I am never buying into that sentimental garbage ever in my-"
"¡Aviso!" Essie cried out as she crashed into her girlfriend as she went long. The two of them both caught it, one intentionally and the other unintentionally.
"Oops, maybe threw it too far." That was a lie, I meant to throw it that far.
"Yes! Omigosh, I did it! I knew my time would come!" The romantic bridesmaid squealed in delight, fulfilling a childhood dream. Her extended family was large, she had been to many weddings, but she had yet to catch a bouquet. "¡Cada perro tiene su día!" She happily declared, raising the sakura up high.
Astra looked to the blossoms that were also in her hand. "You gotta be shitting me... Rox! You did that on purpose, didn't you?!"
"Guilty~!" She heard me yell back, having used my new time powers to get my aiming just right. "And hey, your future bride caught 'em too!" I teased, with the realization hitting them both as they blushed.
Astra loosened her grip and turned away, acting the badass she wanted to look like. "Take it. They're just some dumb Japanese weeds anyway!"
Essie shoved them back into her face. "I was gonna give them to you, silly."
They saw the other attendants expecting them to share a kiss. Astra, of all people, began to blush.
"Honey, not in front of strangers." She groaned but couldn't resist Essie's "puppy-dog" routine. "You promised not to do that again! Ugh, fine! One kiss."
Astra grabbed onto Essie's dress, the other woman grabbing onto her girlfriend's tuxedo, as they shared their first public kiss.
"Works every time, querida!" The Latin minx coyly chuckled. Now it was clear to me why Astra had fallen for this demure young lady: beneath her outwardly friendliness lied a charm that made even a mistress of lust subservient to her whims. Years of courting macho meatheads and pompous queen bees couldn't get my BFF so willing to let another person - for lack of a better term – dominate her the way this Esmeralda had.
Feeling particularly social, I walked up to them as the other ladies moved on and mingled with the others. "Whatcha think? Good way to get your romantic evening started, huh?"
"Aw, man! You told her?" Essie pouted, then smiled. "Heh, yep! I finally asked her to pop my cherry! I've been so nervous, and I didn't want to be intimidated by Astra's skills I've witnessed so far. But then it got me realizing her best friend would be starting a new life as a married woman, which had to have her feeling pretty nervous as well." She turned again to Astra, embracing her lovingly. "It got me thinking maybe she'd be happy knowing I was her silver medal."
Now it was my turn to blush. "She told you about her crush on me too, huh?"
"It's no worries, I told her she can date anyone she wants to as long as she promises to get my permission first." Essie giggled, kissing Astra on the cheek. "I'm gonna scope out the buffet, see if we can score some good eats." With that, she hugged me, said "Thanks so much again for inviting me, Roxy. You're awesome!", and then skipped to the food.
My attention turned to Astra. "Claire told me about you two moving in with each other. Ya sure about this, dude? I'm worried Essie might end up going all psycho stalker on you if you guys break up."
"Not gonna happen. She's the one, Rox." My eyes widened as I glance to her watching Essie talk it up with the wedding guests. "Something in my gut's tellin' me that, after all these years of searching."
"Yeah, well you said the same thing about Al in freshman year; look how that turned out right before graduation."
"Don't jinx this for me, damn it." She playfully socked me in the arm. Which I returned with us laughing together. "But I also said that back when I was a hormonally unstable tramp. I like to think I've gotten my shit together since then."
"You really have and I'm proud of you."
"I'm proud of you too. You've been through a lot these last few months, putting on a strong face even though I know you're still hurting."
"I am." My facade cracked just a bit. "I'm so conflicted on how to feel about my sister, her decisions, and this wedding. Almost wish I went and postponed it after all."
"Well, I think you made the right call. Even in the darkest of times, we need something to give us light." My tux-wearing maid of honor chuckled and sipped some wine she grabbed near us. "Look at me, making sappy metaphors. Spending too much time with you idiots lately."
"I hope you spend more of that time with us. You were just the person I needed back there, maybe even more than Rio."
"Is that so? Maybe I should have been the one to marry you." By this point, she accepted I was unable to fully reciprocate her romantic and/or sexual feelings for me and was ready to move on, but she just couldn't help herself to keep teasing me regardless.
"Don't push it, Badr!" We shared another laugh. "For real though, despite my reservations, I think Essie's the one for you too. You two are so freakin' adorable together." My new husband looked over to me as I waved for him to come see us. "Is it like that with me and him?"
"That's why I'm so sure. I never felt that way with anyone before like the way you do with him. Not even you or old Bombshell over there before he drove me crazy." She looked over to her ex, managing to make small talk with a group of guests.
"Hey, Roxy!" Rio walked up to me, grabbing my hand. "Come on, we're gonna cut the cake."
My eyes lit up with glee. "About damn time!"
We gathered around the cake as Rio cut the first slice, his skills with the Xi Saber making him a pro at it. He took the slice and, before putting it on a plate, I stopped him and guided the piece to my mouth.
"Rox, come on." Astra put a hand to me. "Use a damn fork, there's people watching."
She heard the disappointed whine I made without opening my mouth. I grabbed a plate and let him put it on it, then took a fork and ate it. The frosting tasted like birthday cake, my favorite, with a mixture of chocolate and vanilla as the cake itself. I scooped up a piece on the fork to give to Rio, which made my maid of honor sigh with a "close enough" gesture as I fed it into his mouth. We both moaned in delight over the flavor, then I swiped some of the frosting off his beard and licked it with my finger, the wedding goers got a laugh at us acting like 10-year-olds.
After a few hours, the sun started going down and the festivities came to an end. I thanked everyone who stayed and wished them all well, it's customary but I did sincerely hope the best for them.
After we cleaned up, we had a small afterparty at mine and Rio's place. Aside from the two of us, the guests consisted of Astra, Claire, Essie, and Alfred. I offered my parents to come by to help cope with Sable's deception and disappearance, but they insisted on a quiet night to shake off the energy our wedding took out of them. I can see where I got my introversion from.
The six of us shared stories about what we planned to do for the summer, ate reception leftovers, and played board and video games. While the afternoon was rough for me, that evening may have been one of the best nights I ever had.
It was late when things wound down, we lost track of the time and it was nearly midnight.
"Oh geez! Guess all our nighttime plans got screwed over." I sheepishly apologize to the other two lovebirds in the group. "Sorry guys."
"Eh, no biggie! I just feel bad for Claire having wasted that money on a room y'all aren't gonna use."
"I ordered it for the weekend, Badr. However, I may retire to my parents' place in case our teleporter goofs up. Essie and I will catch a flight back north on Monday."
I began pondering some ideas. "Hey, C. You know you can crash here on the couch, promise not to make much noise." I gave her a wink.
She could taste the bile in her mouth thinking about hearing her newlywed friends screw like rabbits. "No offense, Roxanne, but I'd rather bunk with Gwen."
"Hmm, I could let Essie over, but I really don't want to ruin your guys' special night. Unless you want the hotel?"
"No, Roxy, we can't. This is your special night! You've been through so much today; we can't possibly take your newlywed room." Essie insisted. "Querida and I can wait just one day. I'll go with Claire Bear to her folks' house." She leaned toward Astra. "You still live here, right? We can wait until tomorrow."
I blushed. "Well, if you don't find it weird to have your first time here, that can be fine. Just be sure to clean the sheets!"
"Can I watch? I wanna see how much she's improved since we broke up." A sixth voice was heard, completely unaware of how rude that sounded. We'd forgotten Alfred hadn't gone home yet either.
"Dude, really? You're still here? Party's over, get out!" Astra pointed to the door.
"My Uber is late." He pouted.
Ultimately, after several more minutes of deliberation, we decided to allow Astra, Essie, and Claire to stay at our place while Rio and I enjoyed our first night alone together as a married couple. Sadly, nobody got laid that night. Most of us ended up passing out by 1am at the latest due to how taxing the day was. Just as well.
The five of us woke up early enough to get breakfast together, but just as we were wrapping up, there was a disturbance near the 610 loop. It was Skywood, having been affected by the Omega Wave and gained the secondary power of wind manipulation. Seemed convenient, considering her name.
We all changed and emerged as our superhero personas.
"Oh boy," I groaned, feeling a powerful wind across my face.
"What's that saying go?" My husband asked rhetorically, attempting to be witty. "The more things change...?"
"The more they stay the goddamn same!" Black Moon rolled her eyes, using her gravity powers to prevent debris from hurting civilians.
Terrastone giggled, creating wind-proof shields with her gem manipulation. "Y'know my family has a similar saying: 'el mismo de siempre'."
Metal Queen charged up her magitech spells, which she read up on until late last night. "Well then, what's the call, Star Lass? We await your orders!"
All they got in return was a beaming grin as I loudly proclaimed:
"Lone Stars, time to shine!"
And that was the first of many fights we had as the new Lone Stars. It would be far from the last, with many more unexpected events transpiring over the years to come...