"I'm not going to need any masks, will I?" Oreo Avenger asked.
"I doubt you'll do any crime fighting at home." Rosma shoved another pair of socks into Oreo's suitcase. "Besides, I don't think you have any more room."
Oreo Avenger threw a backpack over her shoulder and grabbed a suitcase. "I stuffed all my dirty clothes in there." They went into Rosma's room. "It's not every day I can get someone else to do my laundry."
"How are we getting there?" She picked up a pair of her own suitcases, already neatly packed.
"Dad sent Geoffrey with the car. It's going to be great to see my family again." They walked down the stairs to the Portal of Justice.
Rosma shrugged. "I don't know. Last time I visited, they just sat around the living room and tried not to stare at me. I finally went invisible whenever someone entered a room."
"If you need to get away, you can always come over and crash at my house. We've got a guest room or five."
"Goodbye everyone!" Rosma yelled.
"Goodbye!" Oreo echoed. The two left before anyone actually ran to say goodbye, each having someone they'd rather not see at the moment.
In the driveway sat a long dark car, in front of which stood a short pale man. It was Geoffrey, Oreo Avenger's family butler. He'd been with the family for years, ever since her mom died. He looked neither young nor old, instead was at a carefully preserved middle age that implied he'd been that way since he was a child. His black suit and straight posture made him look taller than he was.
"Ladies, if I may have your bags?" Without waiting for an answer, Geoffrey respectfully took the bags and loaded them into the trunk.
A few minutes later they were off, Oreo Avenger in the backmost seat, Rosma facing her. The partition clicked shut, separating Geoffrey from the girls. Now they could talk about important things.
"So I hear you and Midnight Chatter are a couple."
"What?! Who told you that?"
Rosma giggled. "I have my ways. Listen to Midnight long enough and you learn all sorts of things. So how did it happen? Is it loooove?"
"No it's not love!"
Oreo Avenger sighed. She'd managed to avoid Midnight Chatter all morning, although that took some running and in one case, the liberation of a tank of lab rats. Midnight Chatter's nose seemed to be okay. From what she could hear, he was talking normally.
"It…well…there was this cage we were in." She ran a hand through her hair. "Didn't he tell you everything?"
"I want your side."
"Um, like I said, we were trapped in a cage. For a long time, too. And I was afraid no one would find us and all I had was a jelly sandwich in my satchel and then we were laughing and normally I wouldn't allow this sort of thing, you know? He would've gotten smacked if we were at the Hall. But it was…nice." Oreo forced out a laugh. "Then Scarlett showed up and that was the end of that. He ran to her like a puppy to his master. And that's about it. Oh, and I bit him on the nose later."
"Yes, I heard about that." Rosma leaned forward, elbows on her knees and chin in her hand. "He took Scarlett's death harder than anyone."
"I know, I know. That just makes me feel even more stupid. I should've realized I was playing rebound girl." Oreo irritably shook her head. "I don't want to talk about this anymore. What about you? Is there a special someone?"
"Oooh, there is someone! What's his name? Do I know him? Where's he from? Is he in the League? Are you in loooooove?"
"Do you remember that Christmas when the turkey blew up and we had to eat at Denny's?"
"You mean last Christmas? You're not going to distract me that easily." Seeing the expression on Rosma's face, Oreo Avenger said, "Oh fine. But I'm going to find out sooner or later!"
Rosma stuck out her tongue. "Not if I don't tell you."
Silence entered the car. It gave Oreo Avenger a chance to look at the scenery. They'd left the city and were now firmly in the rich part of town. Large stone houses stared down at the street from behind large lawns and black iron fences. They were almost home.
The car slowed, then stopped in front of an imposing gate. A few moments passed before they were allowed through. Geoffrey stopped before the entrance of the house.
"Looks like I've got to go now," Rosma said, getting out of the car.
"Remember to call me if they start driving you crazy."
Geoffrey carried Rosma's bags inside.
"Goodbye!" Oreo Avenger yelled out the window as the pulled away.
Only a few houses down the street and she was home. The familiar red brick dwarfed the car. It was the Evans family estate, a huge old house full of secret passages and hidden rooms. It was the house where she and her sister grew up. It was also the house where their mom met her death.
She was a superhero known as the Crimson Avenger. Together with Doctor Evans, Oreo Avenger's dad and a genius, they were soldiers of justice, righting wrongs and triumphing over evil! Such a thing was bound to catch up with them someday.
It happened one sunny October afternoon. The children were away at school and the parents were enjoying a stress free day. Someone attacked them, brutally destroying anything to get to the Crimson Avenger. Doctor Evans, for protecting his wife, lost his right arm and the use of his right leg. Mrs. Evans lost her life.
Oreo Avenger followed Geoffrey into the house. A potted plant by the door hissed at her.
"Hello Hellbeast," she said.
"I'll bring your bags up to your room, miss."
The old place looked exactly as it always had. The foyer led to a parlor on the left, a dining room on the right, and right in the middle, a large wooden staircase. Paintings of Evans past decorated every corridor. Oreo Avenger stuck her tongue out at Grandmother Agatha.
The stairs were much longer than she remembered. Of course, she was used to flying up. She went into the first door at the top.
"Hey Claire," she said.
The girl on the bed looked up from writing. She was a few years younger than her sister, blue-eyed instead of brown, blond hair instead of red. Her hair was pulled back in a neat ponytail.
"Anne!" She threw her notebook aside. "Does dad know you're here?"
"I just got in." A shelf on the wall caught her eye. "I can't believe you have an Oreo Avenger action figure," she said, walking over to it. "That does not even look like me."
"I know. For one thing, her boobs are way bigger than yours."
"Exactly! And my hair was never that shade of red." Oreo Avenger plopped on her sister's bed. "So why do you have my action figure?"
Claire pushed up her glasses. "I have the entire Justice League. One day I'm going to storm into the Hall of Justice and make everyone sign them. And you'll have to help me."
"What's the real reason?"
"It helps me focus on you." Claire grinned. "And I see you're having boy trouble!"
Oreo Avenger sighed. "You've been looking into my future?"
"I don't look into the future," Claire said, annoyed. "You make me sound like some petty fortune teller. I look at the world and pick out the patterns, and then accurately predict what will happen."
"So you've been looking into my future."
Claire stuck out her tongue. "It's more complicated than that. There's circles. Circles!! Circles of life. Circles of death. Circles of Hell. Circles of pain. Circles of responsibility. Circles of the stock market, which I happen to be doing well at."
"You're using your powers to invest in the stock market," Oreo Avenger asked, appalled, "and you haven't let me in on it?"
"You have more important concerns. Don't unpack; your Justice League will need you shortly."
When Xiao came to, she was laying in the hallway, with Typho kneeling over her, looking at her face.
"Gaaah! Don't do that!" She said, scrambling into a sitting position, after making sure she still had four limbs and all those other body parts.
"You're okay!" Typho said, pleased with himself. Be smooth, he thought. Smooth as ice! Ice on glass!
"Yeah, yeah, sure," she muttered to herself. "What's all this then?"
"You passed out! I think that demon guy like, totally took over your body for a minute or two when you were unconscious because your eyes were closed and you were talking in this really deep voice and it was really weird and all, and THEN he tried to--"
"Soooo nothing out of the ordinary then, eh?" She stood up and looked at Typho. "I, erm, hope he didn't disturb you too much. Because one time he took over my body and he convinced this guy at a club that I really liked him and man, I almost had to s-"
At this moment, Typho kissed her. Xiao, who had been in the middle of a word, froze. Her eyes opened wide. She'd always been kind of a dork, and having a shadow with its own mind hadn't improved matters much. Typho was not exactly her first choice for a first kiss, but still. Beggars can't be choosers, and all those proverbial sayings and such.
"Wow." Xiao blinked, when he pulled away. "Ummmmm. Woah. That was sudden."
That night, Scarlett laid on the soft ground in her garden, looking up at the night sky. She’d spent weeks in that dungeon. Weeks cut off from everything and everyone.
And while she’d known they’d move on, the shock…the actual sight of it… The image of Oreo and Midnight lip-locked wouldn’t go away.
Eli is dead, she reminded herself. Eli is dead because of you, Scarlett. He loved you, and he died. Scarlett looked up at the sky. Large grey clouds were starting to form.
It wasn’t just Eli, a voice nagged. You killed the Hot Scottish Guy, too. You let him and Ewan get close enough to betray you.
“I didn’t know!”
And don’t forget Rhett.
A tear streaked down Scarlett’s face, glistening in the faint moonlight. Above, the clouds hung ominously. It would rain soon.
“I didn’t know then!”
You killed them. All of them, Scarlett.
“It’s not going to happen again. I won’t let it. I won’t let myself.”
That's what you always say. Even killing yourself didn't do any good. You are who you are...
Scarlett stood up from her spot in the garden and went into her spacious cottage. Placed everything of Hamlet’s into the fireproof security box. Packed a suitcase with a couple of red dresses and three pairs of sexy red heels, and place it and the few mementos that weren’t already in the fireproof box into the fireproof box. Then she stepped back from the box and took a deep breath.
Scarlett started singing, not even flinching as things burst into flames around her. When the smoke started making it difficult for her to take a breath, she went outside, but she continued singing. She stood out there, singing, until dawn. Until it started storming, and the raindrops fell onto the charred ruins of the cottage, sizzling as they made contact.
Until nothing was left but memories (and the fireproof security box, of course).
A voice in the back of Scarlett's mind continued to nag her, though.
You can’t kill memories.
Oreo Avenger hid in an alcove, waiting for the right moment to pounce. The footsteps came closer…closer…NOW!
"EEEEK!" The maid dropped the load of laundry she was carrying and ran screaming down the hall.
"Sorry!" Oreo Avenger yelled after her. "I thought you were Claire!"
The maid increased her speed and ran around a corner, still screaming.
"I knew you were going to do that," a voice behind her said. Claire stood there, hands on her hips and an annoying smirk on her face. "Face it, you just can't get me."
"You must be right." Oreo Avenger walked to her sister. "To think I, a mere mortal, could ever hope to outwit you, oh brilliant prescient one," she said, theatrically placing a hand on the shorter girl's head. "Next time I grow so arrogant, please be sure to wield your fearsome talents and put me in my place."
"You've made your point."
"I don't think so." She moved her hand around rapidly, ruffling Claire's hair.
"Ack! My hair!" Furiously finger-combing it back into place, she asked, "When are you going back to the Hall of Justice?"
"Anxious to get rid of me?"
"You need to get back," Claire insisted. "Today, if possible."
"I can't go back without Rosma. I'm her ride, you know."
The hall phone jangled, demanding to be answered. "Evans' residence," Oreo Avenger said in a pleasant voice.
"Get me out of here," Rosma said. "They're driving me crazy."
"I'll call you later." Oreo Avenger hung up the phone. "Stop looking at me. If you keep grinning like that your face will freeze that way."
Claire continued her superior smile. "The fates want you back in the city."
"I'm not going back powerless."
"Dad'll fix you up. You saw him last night, right? Gave him a blood sample?" At Oreo Avenger's nod, she continued. "So you know he's been working on it all night. In fact, he should be done right-"
"ANNE!! COME INTO THE PARLOR!"
Oreo Avenger stepped around the overturned laundry basket. With dismay she noted the clothes were hers.
"I'll pick those up and pack them," Claire offered. "You need to hear what Dad's going to tell you."
"ANNE!" The voice boomed through the house again. "WHERE ARE YOU?"
"I'm not leaving!" Oreo Avenger called out over her shoulder. She ran past the maid huddled in the corner. She slid into the parlor. "I'm here!"
Doctor Evans closed his mouth, cutting off another shout. He was a tall middle-aged man, blond hair steadily loosing ground to the gray. From the left he was normal looking, the kind of person children and puppies frolic around. He clutched a cane in his left hand. On the right side, his face was a mess of scars, narrowly missing his eye. His sleeve was thoughtfully pinned back, hiding his missing arm. He thumped towards his oldest daughter.
"Here," he said, fishing a jar out of his pocket. "You need to take this once a day until it's all gone. You should be back to normal tomorrow, but you might not be." Doctor Evans shrugged. "You'll be back to normal before next week, that's for sure. So how did this happen? I was so busy last night I didn't ask."
Oreo Avenger pulled a chair up behind her father and took a seat herself. "Do you remember Charles Hunter?"
"Alice and Carl's boy? Nice kid."
"He and his evil crew did it."
"I never liked that boy."
"He and Jonathan Teatime have something going on. They can't be working alone; they don't have the initiative," she said. "Something's going on. I can feel it!"
"It sounds like you need to get back to your Justice League."
"What? But don't you need me here?"
"Claire's a big help. Why, just the other day she found my favorite test tube for me." He patted Oreo Avenger's hand. "Don't worry about us. We've got a whole house of servants to see to our needs! You need to look after yourself. How are they treating you there? Do you have enough to eat?"
She stood up. "It's okay, aside from the occasional supervillain attack."
"You look so much like your mother." He shook his head and stood up. "Now make sure you take your medicine. It won't do any good sitting in the bottle!"
"And call me if any of your friends get that stuff in them. It's some nasty stuff. The sooner it's taken care of, the better off they'll be."
Doctor Evans leaned over and hugged his daughter. "Take care of yourself."
"You too, old man."
Oreo Avenger left the room before things got even more mushy. She ran up the stairs into her room.
Claire was sitting on the bed waiting. "Took you long enough."
"The old man and I had to decide what to do about you." She looked around. "Where's my bags?"
"I packed them up and had Geoffrey take them to the car. You're all ready to leave again."
"You can come with, you know. Join the Justice League."
Claire laughed. "Yeah right. What would I be, the Futurama Mama? There's too much running and fighting at that place for me. I'm going to be a stockbroker. Someone has to maintain the family fortune. Besides, dad would freak if both his daughters were there."
"Yeah, I guess."
Claire stood and hugged Oreo Avenger. "Watch out for Chuckles," she said. "He doesn't like you."
"I will. Bye!" She watched Claire leave the room, then picked up the phone and dialed.
"Hello?" a harassed voice said.
"Ready to go, Rosma? It's time to ride!"
"Are you leaving already?" Rosma's mother asked as she threw things angrily into her suitcase.
"But, Margaret, you've only been here for a day and a half. Is there some emergency? Something with those...roommates of yours?"
"The emergency is that I can't live with you people." Rosma muttered, ducking under her bed to find her shoes.
"Nothing, Mother," she stood up to see that her father had joined her mother in staring.
"Margaret, what's really wrong?" he asked. "Why did you come home?"
Rosma paused, trying to decide what her response should be. She wasted a few minutes trying to close her suitcase, and then turned to answer. "I guess you could say I was looking for something. And I found it."
"Oh. Well, that's good, isn't it?"
"Sure, Mother, whatever." Rosma picked up her suitcases and headed for the stairs. "Oreo will be here in a minute."
"Don't you mean Anne?"
Rosma actually threw her suitcases down the stairs. "No, I don't mean Anne! I mean Oreo! And my name is not Margaret anymore! It's Rosma! I'm tired of coming here and pretending to be what I was! I don't remember you, I don't remember this house, and I don't remember my life! I'm not living with just "roommates" either. Didn't you see the news? We're saving the world when we're not busy dying!"
"DON'T CALL ME THAT!"
"Okay, okay, Rosma. But maybe if you talk to some of your old friends, moved back into the neighborhood, then you'd remember things. What about Robert? He could help you."
"Mother, I don't want to talk about him! Last time I saw him, he was in the Kastle with the enemy! Don't you get it?! I'm NOT Margaret, and I DON'T LOVE HIM!" She turned invisible and ran down the stairs, picked up her suitcases, and slammed the door behind her.
She kept running all the way down the driveway, opened the gate, and almost got hit by Oreo's limo. Luckily, the driver wasn't too shocked to see suitcases floating in mid-air and got out to take them from her. Rosma climbed into her seat across from Oreo and burst into tears.
Oreo climbed across the limo to give her friend a hug. "I'm sorry. What did they do this time?"
"Same old thing." Rosma found some Kleenex in her purse and brushed her tears away. "Trying to make me be someone that I just can't be anymore."
"Did you tell them that?"
"Yes, and I'm not coming back here, Oreo. I can't. There's nothing that ties me to this place, except you, and I see you every day anyway. Not even Robert anymore. I realized that I don't love him at all."
"Oh, so your guy issues are with someone new, huh?" Oreo teased. "Tell me?"
"Maybe one day." Rosma sat back and watched the scenery change into sidewalks and businesses. "Aren't you afraid to be going back?"
"What makes you say that?"
"Well...we're not the same League that we used to be. All these new people, the whole Scarlett Fyre suicide thing, Studmuffin still missing, and not to mention the whole...you know...Oscars thing. I mean...they died."
"Yeah," Oreo sighed sadly. "It's not exactly the life anyone expects it to be. Saving the world is no fun. But you can't tell me that you'd rather be back at home."
"No, I suppose not."
"In local news, the District Attorney's office has decided to suspend prosecution against supervillain Magic Finger, and entirely drop the possibility of a subpoena..."
"F*** YOU!" Raven screamed at the calm face of the anchor.
"Hey, what's going on?" asked Oreo, bounding down the stairs, having unpacked. There was a pause. "Are you all right?"
There was more silence. "I'm better than all right. I've had an epiphany, my friend." Raven said.
"An... epiphany. Yes, well... that'll happen."
"When that reporter let the District Attorney's indifference slip, I suddenly understood it all-everything. For the first time in all these months, I get it."
"Raven, are you sure you're all right? Your eyes-"
"My eyes are open! Our's is a life of servitude, compensating for the police's incompetence. But this city has a choice that we don't. They can choose to ignore us. We've kept this city safe and some of these people want to run us out! All this time since the Oscars, everyday I felt the absence of Violet, Superdude, DragonGirl and OMEGA. And it pained me... as I'm sure it must have pained you! But they don't care, because they aren't part of the Justice League, because they aren't risking their lives everyday, because they don't have powers! We've paid our debt and theirs. Don't you think it's time we went home? Don't you think it's time they're all laid to rest? And to do that, I think we need to teach the city how to take care of itself."
Oreo regarded Raven with a moment of genuine fear before speaking. "I've heard a rant like this before."
"What did you say?" asked Raven, though she already knew.
Oreo spoke louder. "I've heard a rant like this before."
"I have! You sound like Dark Shadow! You sound like the freaking betrayer!"
Raven slammed Oreo against the wall. Raven was smaller and younger than Oreo, but Oreo was powerless and Raven seemed to be on some unnerving high.
"Justice will be served, Oreo. And nobody-not even the Mayor himself-is going to stop me."
"Just what are you doing, letting Magic Finger off the hook?" Raven asked.
The District Attorney shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Well, I wouldn't call it letting him off the hook-we're just taking more time to decide what to do."
"Do you think you are fit to decide who is worthy of being judged? Haec credam a deo pio? A deo iusto, a deo scito? Cruciatus in crucem. Trus in terra servus, nuntuis fui. Officum perfeci. Cruciatus in crucem. Eas in crucem." Raven pulled out a cigarette, lit it, took a long drag, resisted the urge not to choke. She let it out (Whew) and threw it on the floor, putting it out with her foot as she stood.
"You get Berenson." she spat.