After everything we’ve been through the past couple of days, we needed a place to relax. What better place to do that than Big Belly Burger.
I savor the tenderness of the beef patty covered in melted cheese and topped with two strips of crisp bacon. Joining me at my favorite lunch establishment are my sister Cissie and three people who newscasters play up as part of my team. To be honest, it didn’t seem that way at first. But after everything that happened in dealing with an alien threat, and working together to overcome that, perhaps we have formed something special.
Carl sits to my left at the circular table, digging his fork into a salad. Lucky for him that Big Belly Burger sells more than just burgers. Though he couldn’t help but get an order of fries – it’s like he said, potatoes are vegetables, too. He’s taking his time eating, though, because his ribs still bother him.
When I first met Carl, I wondered if he took being a hero seriously or if he thought it was only an excuse to go after who he called the bad guys. But after what happened last night, how he risked his life to stop Brainiac, and how he leapt into the air to break Supergirl’s fall despite his injury, I know better.
To Carl’s left is Doug Grant, his partner, who has no problem enjoying a burger, even if he opted for the junior version. Doug was gracious enough to use his expertise as an emergency room doctor to examine everyone and tend to wounds. Not only were we fortunate to have someone with that expertise, but Doug was grateful we were all there for his partner. He’s not only agreed to be there when any of us need his help, but he feels better about Carl’s work, knowing he has backup he can call upon.
Next to Doug is Destiny. The woman with the superspeed and super-high metabolism ordered a triple decker. After Doug got Destiny’s knee set, it didn’t take long for that dislocation to heal and for her to be moving around on her feet.
But as amazing as her rapid healing powers are, what impresses me the most is what Destiny is doing right now – she’s smiling. I’m so happy she’s warmed up to everyone and considers us friends. Though I’d like to take the credit for getting her to break the ice, I can tell from how openly she talks to everybody that I know I’m not the only one who made her realize she doesn’t have to be alone.
Besides Destiny is Tara, who was curious enough about the foods we humans eat that she had to try the chicken club sandwich. Tara has her hair pulled into a ponytail and seems more comfortable wearing her glasses. Those debates I had with her about protecting her identity are a thing of the past, I suspect. She seems to understand that she can be the symbol of hope she aspires to, yet find a way to adapt and fit in with humanity.
And I know she trusts my sister Cissie, given how much they exchange quips and banter. Many of the jokes are about how they both needed to look out for me. I don’t mind, though. Seeing my new friends make conversation and enjoying each other’s company makes me realize that we are a team, after all.
Cissie puts down her burger long enough to grab the tablet she placed nearby. “I wouldn’t mind watching that clip of your presser again.” She runs her fingers along the screen.
I finish a bite of my bacon cheeseburger and lean closer. Cissie has shown this to us about a dozen times, but I know that’s because she’s proud. Every time I went out and did my duty to help my city, she’d replay the clips of me talking to reporters, over and over. The way she’s beaming now, it’s not hard to figure how excited she is for all of us.
There we are, gathered in front of Hub City’s government building, the mayor talking for a few minutes about the noble sacrifices we made to save so many people from a threat to the world. Though we grieve for the lost of a distinguished member of Congress, the mayor says, these heroes have stepped forward to protect everyone.
Carl, dressed in his yellow jacket and pants that make up his Canary outfit, is the first one to step forward. The first question addressed to him is how we all came together for the first time.
“You know, this is the part where I would like to say that we planned it out that way,” he said. “But I can’t. It happened by chance. I’m glad it did, though. Because this was a bad guy that was gonna take more than just one of us to beat.”
Everyone at the table motions to Carl, who has a sheepish grin. Sunglasses cover his eyes. Yes, he’s wearing them inside. Before, he tended to keep a low profile, his identity limited to security camera footage in dimly-lit warehouses. Now that people are more aware of him, he believed it was important to conceal his identity in public.
The clip continues, when somebody asks a question about Warren Hosills and Frontier Labs. Destiny, in her Flash outfit, has the response.
“We tried to save him but he had other ideas.” She bows her head for a moment. “I thought he was only looking out for himself, but in his last words to me, I think he realized this was bigger than himself.” She glances back at the rest of us. “Then again, it was bigger than any of us.”
We glance toward Destiny, who takes a deep breath but doesn’t say anything. Her facial features are calm. The more I study her, the more she appears to be at peace.
Back to the presser footage, and it’s Tara’s turn to address a question. Somebody asked her why it took so long for her to reveal herself to the world.
“I guess I wondered how I would fit in, how people might accept me,” she says. “I can only hope that they realize that I’m here to give them hope.” She glances back at the rest of us. “But I can’t do that on my own. I’m glad I have these three by my side to bring hope, too.”
I notice how the reporters keep addressing her as Supergirl. My glance shifts to Tara, who doesn’t seem to mind that at all. In fact, Cissie gives her a wink and says, “You know who to thank for that, right?” Tara giggles and pats Cissie on the shoulder.
Now it’s my turn to speak to reporters. One of them asks if I ever faced a threat like this before.
“Not since I started looking out for the little guy,” I reply. “But I know one thing – I wouldn’t be looking out for the little guy if I didn’t confront threats like that.”
Somebody else asks what we were calling ourselves – what’s our team name is the exact question. My response is quick. “We haven’t thought about that. All we know is that it was our job to save the world – together.”
The others glance from the tablet. Cissie nudges me with her elbow. “I’ll come up with a name for your team soon enough.” Her response generates laughter.
We continue to enjoy food, drinks and company. After we have finished our meals, I lean back in my chair and glance at my sister. “So I gave you that flash drive Destiny got from Warren. You think you can come up with a cure?”
“For everyone Brainiac infected?” My sister smiles. “I think we can get that done. Though I have to thank Tara for her advice – the information she uncovered about Brainiac should help with that.”
“And I’ll be working with her to make sure that everyone gets that cure,” Doug says. “In the meantime, I’ve sent emails to every doctor I know to monitor their patients – and to spread the word.”
“But what about that backup Brainiac made of himself?” Carl asks.
Tara tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Cissie turned that over to me. I took it back to my fortress and sealed it away. It should be secure there.”
Destiny cocks her head. “You sure it won’t evolve like the original did?”
Tara wipes her mouth with a napkin. “I have my scanners monitoring it round the clock. If anything should happen, the scanners will alert me. But I’m hoping that maybe there’s a chance it can be put to good use.”
I smile. “In other words, never lose hope – even when it comes to technology.”
She smiles back. My thoughts go back to the kiss she gave me the other night. And that I keep seeing my late wife when I look into her eyes. In some ways, she’s like my wife, that beacon of light that kept me going. But I wonder if it’s meant to be like that on a personal level.
My thoughts are interrupted when Carl finishes his salad and gestures to Destiny. “So let me get this straight – Warren Hosills is responsible for your powers. Is that why you’re no longer holding a grudge against him?”
Destiny shakes her head. “No. I’ve learned from each of you that I can’t go around holding a grudge against anyone.”
“How so?” Carl asks.
Destiny finishes off a French fry. “Something inspired me to be better. I mean…” She appears to be in deep thought. “I can’t explain what happened the other night, but I wonder if I was in the Speed Force. That it was somehow telling me what needed to be done.” A tear forms under her cheek and she wipes it away. “I’ll never forget what happened to my parents, but I know I can’t let my anger control me. So I have to forgive Hosills.”
Then she touches Tara’s shoulder. “Besides, somebody reminded me about what it means to have hope.”
Tara pulls her into a half hug. “You’re not so bad yourself.”
“What about the dark matter that got unleashed?” Cissie asks.
Destiny shrugs. “No idea. Though if anybody else got infected by it, we should keep our eyes open. Make sure they get the help they’ll need.” She gestures at Carl. “Nice shades, by the way.”
Carl cracks a grin. “Well, I couldn’t find any eyeglasses that looked as good as Tara’s. But I’m sure I’ll find a pair.” He hooks a thumb toward Doug. “And I’ve got the right man to help me with that.”
Doug chuckles. “We’ll talk more about that after your ribs heal, all right?”
Carl’s laughter is cut off when he clutches his ribs. “Oh, you had to remind me.”
I lean forward and glance about the table. “I hope you all remember to keep those communicators. Knowing what’s out there, it would be for the best for us to stay in touch.”
Destiny pushes her chair back. “Believe me, I will. But I do need to get back. I’ve got a city of my own to protect.”
I get up from my seat. “Before you go, I have something else for you.”
Her head perks up. “What is it?”
I reach into my coat pocket and pull out an envelope. “In this is an acceptance letter for a full-ride scholarship from Mortensen Industries. It will allow you to pursue your dreams of becoming a CSI.”
Destiny’s mouth hangs open. She takes the envelope, rips it open and examines the letter inside. Her right hand goes over her lips and her eyes widen. “I… I don’t know what to say.”
Carl grins. “I believe the words are thank and you.”
Destiny stares at the letter for several minutes. That smile on her face grows bigger and she heads around the table toward me. “Thank you, George.” She puts her arms around me for a hug.
I return the embrace. “It’s my pleasure.”
Carl gets up from his chair. “So, do we all get a hug?”
Destiny pulls away and glances at him. “Don’t push your luck.” But I notice a twinkle in her eye. Then she reaches a hand toward him. He grasps it and gives a slight laugh.
Doug, Cissie and Tara each get up and give Destiny a quick handshake. “You know where to find us, right?” Tara asks.
“I believe I do.” She gives everyone a wave. “If you ever need me, I’ll be there in a Flash.” Then she walks off and out the door.
Carl puts his hands on his hips. “There in a Flash. I need a phrase like that.”
Doug gives his partner a peck on the cheek. “There will be time to discuss that later. In the meantime, we need to head back to Hub City.” He extends a hand toward me. “Thank you for everything, George.”
I grasp his hand. “It’s a pleasure to know you, Doug.” I take my other hand and pat Carl on the shoulder. “Same with you, Carl.”
He nods at me. “Before we leave, I will let you know that I’ve been gathering a lot of intel about Intergang. Figure I could expand that to compile other threats in our cities and through the world. I’ll be sure to share it with everyone.” Carl gestures toward Cissie. “I’ll send you an email tonight, all right?”
Cissie walks toward him and pats him on the shoulder, too. “So you think we’re gonna be working together on this, huh?”
He chuckles. “Well, I figured you ought to know the details, at least.” They share a quick hug.
Carl and Doug walk toward Tara and exchange hugs with her. When Tara embraces Carl, she says, “I know, not too hard.”
“For you, I will always make an exception.” Carl smiles when they pull apart. He and Doug leave the restaurant together.
Cissie picks up her tablet and slides it into her purse. “I’ll be heading to the car, George. I believe the two of you should have a moment together.”
I don’t have a response for that. Thoughts still swirl through my mind on that subject.
She nods toward Tara. “Don’t forget you can always talk to me whenever you need advice, though.”
Tara reaches over to hug my sister. “You’ll have to tell me more about movies, you know.”
“I’m sure I can think a lot of titles to bring for a movie night.” Cissie giggles. “I’ll even bring the popcorn.” She glances at me. “But it will be a girls night out, though.”
I gently nudge her arm. “I understand.”
Cissie walks out of the door. Tara and I stare at each other for a moment. It’s like she’s as unsure about what to say as I am. No idea if she’s thinking our relationship is more than being fellow heroes. But maybe that’s where I should start the conversation.
“I owe you an apology,” I say.
She cocks her head. “For what?”
“For not letting you come to Frontier Labs in the first place.” I sigh. “If we had stuck together, we might have been able to take down Brainiac sooner.”
She touches my arm. “It’s not your fault, George. None of us could have known what Brainiac had planned. We all thought it was Warren we were investigating.” She pulls her arm away and leans against a chair. “Besides, I thought we could just go in and fix everything. You were right about taking things slowly.”
I fold my arms and gaze into her eyes again. It’s amazing how my wife kept telling me not to be hard on myself. And here’s this woman, sounding just like her. “Perhaps we all need to take things slowly,” I say. “It wasn’t until we worked together that we got the job done.”
She nods. “Right. But you reminded me that it was important to take time to learn things first. And that’s why I’m taking your advice.”
“Really? What did you have in mind?”
“I’m going to National City.”
This I didn’t expect to hear. “What prompted you to do that?”
“A woman I met offered me a job at an independent publication that does something called investigative journalism.” Tara adjusts her glasses. “It sounds like a good way to meet people and learn more about Earth. Besides, maybe going to another city will give me a chance to learn to integrate with humanity, and figure out my place – well, as more than just Supergirl.”
I give her a quick nod. “Well, I understand. You take care of yourself and, remember, you know you can call me – or any of us – for help whenever you need it.”
She nods back. “Always.” She holds out her arms and I step forward. We share a quick hug.
“So, when are you leaving?” I ask.
“In a couple of days. I already told Cissie,” Tara says. “She made arrangements for a place for me to stay. I’ll take it from there.”
A part of me wishes she’d stay in Star City. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I should give her space. Besides, my mother once told me how important it was to take my time with a relationship. Though it’s possible I may have found the right person after losing my significant other, it may not be the case for Tara.
“Best of luck to you,” I say. “I know you’ll do great things.”
She nods again. “Just like you’re doing.”
Before I can respond, I hear Cissie’s voice through the communicator. “Hey, George, pardon the interruption, but there’s a breaking news development that might interest you.”
I touch my ear and lower my voice. “What is it?”
“A fire broke out at a low-income housing development. It’s spreading quickly and there’s a lot of people to evacuate.”
“You are using the open channel, not the private one, right?”
That’s when I notice Tara, who has her hand up to her ear as well. “Cissie, don’t worry. We’ll be on our way.” She makes her way toward the door.
I follow her outside, hurrying to catch up. “Good thing I asked Cissie to park behind the restaurant. Makes it easier for us to stay out of sight.”
“For you, sure.” Tara glances back at me and smiles. “But you better move fast, or I’ll be up, up and away before you know it.”
I can’t help but chuckle.
Tara takes off running down the alley. She rounds a corner and vanishes from sight. Meanwhile, I arrive at the car, where I find Cissie is already waiting for me, my hooded jacket and black pants already on top of the trunk.
My hand goes up to my ear again. “Flash, Canary, if you’re still in town, we could use the whole team on this one.”