This short story is set well after A Date Gone Awry, and follows the lives of Chris and Janice further down the line. I did this story a bit spontaneously since it was near Christmas. I hope you enjoy it, and that most of you have happy holidays!
A Christmas Date
“This is a terrible idea.” Chris said in resignation, pulling on a glove. Despite knowing that the material was durable for its thickness and would protect him pretty well, Chris felt quite vulnerable as he put it on.
“Don’t be a baby. If you’re planning to reenter polite society, or at least not be a villain, you need to be ready to meet people more.” Janice replied, raising an eyebrow at him as she barely suppressed a grin.
The heroine had changed up her outfit as Nightsinger slightly, as she’d altered her catsuit to have elaborate v-shaped designs in dark purple instead of being pure black, she’d added a skirt to it, and her domino mask didn’t cover her eyes. It was a striking outfit, and under normal circumstances Chris would’ve appreciated seeing her in it, especially since he knew she’d made the suit from materials he’d provided.
Chris’s own outfit was what he was unhappy with. It was a reasonable facsimile of his suit as Whispering Darkness, except that instead of power armor, shield generators, and armor plating, it was almost purely cloth. Bulletproof cloth that hardened to block attacks, but still cloth, and that made him nervous considering the event he was about to attend.
“I still think you should let me attend in my usual armor. I’d go without weapons.” Chris said, taking a deep breath. “Getting within arm’s reach of Sierra Titan makes me nervous.”
“Stop being a baby. He promised not to hurt you as long as you don’t show up in power armor.” Janice scolded, her smile widening. “Besides, this is a social gathering, not a combat zone or high stakes negotiation.”
“I think something like that would be easier to deal with.” Chris said, sighing with resignation. He pulled up the hood and looked into the mirror. At least the device to keep the hood shrouded in darkness and make it look like the interior was a void was working. “I’m not looking forward to this. I wish you’d at least let me use my voice modulator”
“I’m not listening to that all night.” Janice said firmly. “Now come on, let’s go.”
Chris sighed and nodded, turning to follow Janice out of the room as he braced himself.
As much as he liked Janice, the idea of attending her team’s Christmas party wasn’t his idea of a good time. He’d put up with it, but he was expecting things to go poorly. Hopefully the night didn’t end with him in the hospital.
“Well, if it isn’t the Ghost of Christmas Future! Does that make her Scrooge?” Eureka Falcon asked, a grin on his face. The hero quickly took a couple of steps back when Janice shook a fist at him.
“Call me that again and I’ll hurt you.” Janice threatened, though Chris could see the smile on her face.
Chris sighed and spoke wryly. “I never expected to be called that, but in retrospect I suppose it fits, doesn’t it. It’s been a couple of decades since I watched anything with the ghosts in it.”
Falcon laughed, and as he did, Chris looked over the room. They were in a building attached to the Eureka Defenders headquarters, and the modest sized ballroom had been decorated for the holiday, complete with a Christmas tree, garlands, and lights. Food was on a table in the corner, and there were several tables, but Chris was almost surprised at how few people were present, though he shouldn’t be, considering how few members the team had.
The Eureka Defenders had five members in total, though they had some support staff and other allied heroes in the area. Eureka Falcon was the leader and tech specialist of the group. The hero’s outfit was navy blue and gold with a hawk motif, and he usually had a flight pack on, though today he didn’t. Nightsinger was also a member, of course, though Chris wasn’t entirely sure what Janice’s position was in the group, and he hadn’t asked. She was strong and fast enough to take several roles, but he didn’t want her to think he was gathering information on the team.
In the corner, Chris could see Sierra Titan chatting with Siren of Silence. Sierra Titan was a big man, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knew his name, and the man wore a brown suit that had a distinct rock motif to it. Chris wasn’t thrilled to see him, since the man’s strength and toughness were incredible, and he could control his size to grow much larger.
Siren was quite different, especially when compared to Janice. Where Janice was a tall, athletic brunette, Siren was small and almost delicate looking with blonde hair and an enchanting smile as she wore a flowing sea-green dress. Her seeming delicacy hid a frightening amount of power, though, because Chris knew she could control air quite easily, eliminating sound in an area at the same time that she crushed foes with blasts of wind.
The last core member of the team was Eldritch Madness, a handsome dark-haired man with a thin mustache and who was wearing a robe that sparkled with all sorts of colors. The sight made Chris cringe, considering how often the mage decided to use a kaleidoscope of colorful illusions to ruin the day of villains. The man was near the punch bowl, chatting animatedly with a man and woman. There were about eight more people in the room than there were on the team, and it looked like a couple were minor heroes, while the others were treating this like a masquerade ball.
“So, how’s everything going with trying to turn over a new leaf?” Falcon asked, dragging Chris’s attention away from the room. “You surprised everyone when you decided that you’d had enough of villainy.”
“Heh. Eventually something had to give, and most of the thrill of being a villain vanished years ago.” Chris replied, his eyes flitting over to look at Janice, who was watching him with interest. It was fortunate that they shouldn’t be able to see where he was looking, but he continued. “I was just going with the flow and keeping my name out there as a form of publicity. As for how things are going… it’s been a bit rocky. A fair number of people are pissed that I’d dare try to keep out of prison, and even if I’d contributed a huge amount to the various Villain Reparation Funds, that doesn’t make a real difference. Between that and the costs of getting all the licenses for my factories, things have been getting interesting.”
“I believe it. As much as we do to try to avoid collateral damage, we get people who blame us for their injuries from time to time.” Falcon said, sighing and shaking his head. “Anyway, I don’t want to talk about business, not tonight. I do want to sit down and talk to you about some of your gear in the next few weeks, but that can wait.”
“Good, because otherwise I’d have to hurt you for real.” Janice said, grinning. “This is a celebration, not a chance for you to talk shop.”
Chris chuckled at that and smiled, adding. “That said, I do have a gift for your team, as a bit of a goodwill present. I’m not saying what it is, but it’ll be delivered tomorrow.”
“Really?” Falcon’s eyes lit up, and he looked curiously at Janice. “Do you know what it is, Nightsinger?”
“I do, and while I’m not going to spoil it, I’m sure that most of us will be happy with it.” Janice replied, grinning at him. “Now, I’m going to go get the problematic introduction out of the way, if you don’t mind.”
“Great. Well, here’s to hoping Titan doesn’t put me in the hospital.” Chris muttered, prompting a chuckle from Falcon.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Falcon said. “He doesn’t hit that hard.”
“Well, some of us don’t have enhanced durability.” Chris retorted, following Janice across the room as the soft Christmas music played.
“Calm down, Whisper, he made a promise.” Janice told him, glancing back in amusement. Chris’s stomach tightened as both Siren and Titan looked at him, and he felt almost naked.
“Be that as it may, I think the last time we were in the same area, he threw a dumpster at me and broke my arm.” Chris said, and his comment prompted a chuckle from Titan, whose voice was rather deep.
“Really? You laughed it off like it was nothing at the time.” Titan said, smiling slowly. “I thought we were going to have a few war games or the like in the future.”
“I had a reputation to maintain. You didn’t hear the swearing I was doing when I had my microphone turned off.” Chris replied, offering a hand with some trepidation. “I was mostly afraid I was going to die any second if I didn’t get the heck out of there. And considering that, the only war games I’m willing to go through with you on the other side are electronic ones. Commanding digital tanks against you sounds like a lot more fun.”
Both Siren and Titan laughed, the woman’s voice musical as she teased. “Oh, you mean you find him intimidating?”
“Of course I do. Pretty much every member of your team is more powerful than me on an individual level when I have all my gear.” Chris said, and nodded at the big man as they shook hands, feeling the heavy pressure even through the protection of the glove. “There’s a reason I named an armor series after Titan.”
“Wait, really?” Titan asked, blinking as he let go. “I didn’t know that.”
“You probably haven’t run into it, most likely. It’s my most expensive suit, and not many people have bought it, but it’s got decent defenses. Why, it might even be able to take one or two of your punches.” Chris explained with a grin.
“Hm, at least it sounds decent.” Titan admitted.
“So why did you decide to use a dating site?” Siren asked, looking up at Chris curiously, a slight smile tugging at the edges of her lips. “I know why Night did, but not you.”
“Well… lack of options, mostly.” Chris said, then hesitated and chuckled before adding. “I realized I was in a bad way when I noticed that I’d been plotting a bank heist in an area you and Nightsinger both patrolled often, so I thought it might be time to do something about it.”
For just a moment the others stared at Chris, then Titan laughed loudly and slapped Chris on the shoulder. Chris yelped as he was nearly knocked over, his clothing barely reducing the impact to something he could handle.
“Titan!” Janice protested.
“Sorry, sorry… I’m just amused,” the hero said, grinning broadly. “I didn’t think I’d be able to understand you, Whispering Darkness, but maybe we could get along. Were you serious about the games idea? I do dabble in strategy games from time to time.”
Chris blinked, then smiled in return. He hadn’t expected Titan to play strategy games, but he supposed it wasn’t that unusual. After a moment he replied. “Of course I was. I don’t play often myself, I’m usually too busy, but I enjoy them.”
“Right, then…” Titan began, and Chris glanced over and blinked at the smile on Janice’s face.
She looked unusually happy.
The night had gone reasonably well, and things had gotten more exciting when Eldritch Madness had gotten a little tipsy and tried to put on a light show for everyone. The resulting blasts of color and light had been psychedelic, and they’d also drawn the police over in the worry that the team was under attack. Titan had helped escort the mage back home to sleep things off, and little by little the night had calmed down again.
Siren had braved Janice’s wrath by flirting with Chris a little, and he’d never been more thankful for how his face was cloaked in shadows. Chris had been a little surprised by how easy it was to get along with most of the team in the end, and he’d slowly relaxed, then taken the time to dance with Janice when someone had put on dance music.
“Has it really been that bad?” Janice asked softly at last as they slowly danced in the hall, ignoring the others in the room. Chris did his best to ignore them as well, which was easier with Janice right there in front of him.
“No, not really. I expected Titan to be a lot more… unfriendly. He’s smarter than I thought he was, too.” Chris admitted, completely willing to admit how wrong he’d been. “The rest of the team has also been nicer than I expected.”
“He doesn’t really show it much since his powers are more appropriate to brute-forcing problems, but he is. Not amazing, but well above average.” Janice agreed with a smile, guiding Chris around the floor carefully. “As for the others… if you’d been someone we had to fight a lot, I suspect there’d be a lot more bad blood, but you never popped up that often, and you tried not to hurt people. That helps a lot.”
“Fair, fair. It’s a little relieving and gives me more hope for what I’m doing.” Chris replied, smiling in return.
“I’m glad to hear it.” Janice said, slowing a little more, then she nodded upward and said. “Merry Christmas.”
Chris blinked, glancing up and barely catching a glimpse of a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the ceiling above them, and then Janice pulled him into a kiss. It was something of a shock, but Chris relaxed into the kiss, returning it as he enjoyed himself.
Even if he did blush at the laughter of the others in the room. He’d wondered why everyone had been avoiding the northeast corner.