August 1st, 4:53 PM
Amnesty Bay, Maine
Amnesty Bay, Maine
Girard hummed a tune to himself as he stood nearby the grill in his backyard. After the mess with the Federation he had been taking it a little easier since the beating he took from the ‘Magi something or other’ weapons. It took a bit of prying to get the name and now he had sort of forgotten it over time being back home, it was hard to keep stuff like that in mind around the family. His attention turned to flipping over a couple burgers and hotdogs in progress which he was eager to dig into once he got them back inside to Abby and the girls. Haylee and Leila were apparently took after him in that and they probably needed it to be as energetic as they were especially during the summer. It was a good day and evening so far all things considered, might even get sat down for a movie later which they had promised the kids soon.
The big man realized his glass of lemonade he had been sipping at in the meantime was empty so after checking the food one more time he went back in for a refill and to chat with Abigail about her day.
”Maybe I should’ve called ahead,” The smooth tones of a feminine voice filled the air as she mused to herself, walking down the street as she was. No limo, no motorcycle, nothing but another face passing in the crowd - after all, why would Zoey Kasimir be in Maine? … Well, except to check on the dog shelter she donated to out here. They dealt with dogs most would consider not capable of rehabilitation! She should check in on them before she left, having brought a dog to them just last week.
Zoey named him Reese Cup! Which, by the by, was leagues better than ‘Ripper’. Honestly.
Well, at least Zoey was polite enough to bring gifts for her sudden intrusion. Maybe too much. That’s what led her to standing on the doorstep of a little, familiar home in Amnesty Bay, knocking on the door with a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, and a giant multi-hundred dollar lego set each for the kids. Because lego was awesome, and Zoey loved them as a kid herself.
… Were those extra supports on the foundation?
Girard was rummaging around the fridge before he heard the knock on the door, it was pretty close to the kitchen anyways so easy on the ears. He was curious as to who it was since it could have been a neighbor or maybe one of Abby’s friends who lived further in the city. His wife called out from the living room asking if he could get the door, she had gotten the girls to settle down a bit with a puzzle set they were fond of, so he took out what he would need and made his way over. It occurred to him the living room might be a bit of a mess from earlier playing but it would have to do if they ended up having company.
The big guy unlocked the door after a moment and opened it on up to see Zoey right on his doorstep. He honestly was a bit surprised but also wasn’t at the same time since after the ride back to the States he had gotten the third degree about his activities. It was hard to believe his good friend was just going to let it go so easily but it had been a long time since they had all just relaxed too. Could go either way as he saw it or a bit of both but he was still happy to see her and he was sure his girls would be too.
“Well hello there! Got to say wasn’t sure when or if to expect you but it's a nice surprise. Come on in.” Girard said with a big smile noticing the gifts in hand opening the door on up for Zoey to enter. “I’ve got some burgers and hotdogs grilling up if you're hungry. Makes for a couple less leftovers huh?”
”Good evening, Girard. I’d love to join you guys for dinner,” Zoey replied politely when her friend opened the door, dipping her head in thanks at the invitation. The billionaire stepped inside, offering the bottle of wine to him. ”For you, unless you like flowers. I’d offer lego, since who doesn’t like lego, but those are for the kids. How are they?” Zoey glanced away for a moment, clearing her throat in embarrassment.
”Didn’t really get the chance to ask last time we met. What with everything… and then me yelling at you afterward… I’m probably still going to yell. Not gonna lie.” Well, at least Zoey was honest, right?
“Much appreciated, pretty sure Abby will know where to put those better then me any how.” He said knowing for a fact his wife was far better with decor than he was but quite happy to have a nice drink to go along with dinner, “Heh. Those two are going to get a kick out of those. They’re still sweet little balls of energy just getting bigger and smarter every day, been wanting to see you again too come to think of it.”
Girard relieved her of the wine and flowers but figured she’d like to hand over the legos herself. He knew Zoey was better with kids than she thought simply because in a way she was just a bigger kid, they all were really in the end he figured when it came down to it. Noticing her embarrassment over the whole of everything that had happened he couldn’t help but feel a bit bad. Probably brought a whole level of stress on her when he showed up like an angry comet so far from home with powers to boot. It brought up bad memories for the both of them after the earlier Gotham years so he couldn’t fault her for acting how she did.
“Can’t say I blame you for how it went down, I’d have been pretty upset myself in your shoes. Better to let it out than have it stew to a boil and drive ya nuts so don’t feel too bad about it.” The big man stated with some understanding of it. “Would’ve just been a very stern talking to from me I think though since I try to keep the old temper down since the new developments. Speaking of kids how is David doing? I recall him liking night time walks rather than homework last time we talked or something to that effect.”
“Lego is great for developing minds, of course they’ll love it! They’re smart!” Despite her words Zoey nodded along as Girard talked, following him inside. The boxes of lego were in giant bags that did nothing to hide their contents, so she had no doubt she’d be relieved of those the instant Girard’s two little comets came at her. Heh, they were a bit like him in that regard. Just not so literally.
At least he was understanding.
”To be honest, I’m surprised I didn’t get a talking to about the whole… you know… Bark-bark.” … That was kind of a lame way to talk about her other persona. Oh well, considering what she was like Zoey had no doubt she’s embarassed herself other ways around Girard. ”David’s doing… good. Good. Yes. Still more focused on other things than school, I really wish he’d focus on it more. Such a smart boy, even before I adopted him. So driven. I was thinking of getting him a dog. Might keep him at home more.”
Zoey was at least self-aware enough to know she’d ramble on about her son for ages until stopped, carefully making sure to keep it to a minimum. Well, that and now that her old friend knew who she was, it wouldn’t be a big leap to figure out what David’s ‘night time walks’ really were. Then she’d have absolutely no ground to stand on about keeping Girard away from the work, if he knew she let Blackstar run around like that. To be fair, it’s not like she wanted him to, either.
”Kids!” Zoey brightened as soon as they stepped into the doorway of the living room, unable to help from getting giddy. She loved kids, and had doted over Girard’s sproutlings as soon as they popped up.
And spoiled the fuck out of them whenever she came by. Being the billionaire aunt had benefits!
In the living room it ended up being a precious scene with both Haylee and Leila chasing Toast around the coffee table, the little Frenchie had gotten his paws on a few puzzle pieces and had interrupted them so they played with him instead. Abigail was laughing a bit from her seat on the couch at the hijinks of their goofy dog making a fool out of her daughters who were always just a little out of reach. Her eyes were the first to lock onto Zoey and Girard giving a wave and beaming smile to mirror her husband’s getting herself up to properly greet them. However, not before the girls and Toast had noticed too zipping over, the sisters both with a simultaneous “Auntie!” attempting to hug the life out of Zoey while asking about where she had been or what she did while the bulldog wedged himself between all of it.
The big man was ecstatic over all the excitement and keen to let his friend sort the kids out for the moment while he got the wine put down for later and the flowers were already in a quick transit to a nice vase. They were both back in time to see how the girls reacted to the presents and it was gonna be good.
”You guys have grown!” It was no surprise that Zoey bit off more than she could chew, trying to pick up two excitable little girls and a dog all in one. It proved to be a bit too much as she fell on her ass, not minding one bit and just grinning widely as she hugged the kids more on their own level. She didn’t even mind being low enough that Toast could start licking her face. ”I missed you both too - yes, you too Toast.” Hugs all around before finally the billionaire managed to extract herself enough to retrieve the large bags she had dropped as soon as the little missiles locked onto her, casually offering them to the two little girls.
”In fact, I missed you two so much I picked up something for the each of you. And for Toast,” Okay, Toast’s present was treats. Zoey may or may not have just carried them in her back pocket due to an unhealthy obsession with dogs, but that’s neither here nor there.
Haylee and Leila were about as impatient as could be expected from four and five year olds with a big gift looking them in the face all but tearing into the bags to get them open just a bit quicker. They were very happy with what they found cheering between them and showing the boxes off to their parents who gave them permission to play with them a bit before dinnertime. The tiny rockets were off at the word chattering back and forth on what to build and where to start eager to begin. Toast was contently munching on his treats as Girard reached down to give Zoey a hand up from off the floor.
“They really did change everything for the better those girls. Never figured just how fun being a dad could be.” The big man said half looking over to his daughters before turning back with full attention talking a bit quieter as well. “They’ll probably conk out early with all the excitement and since you’re staying for dinner we could probably get down to business not long after.”
“Way he mentions it we have plenty to talk about it but there ain’t no rush.” Abigail said giving a quick but friendly hug of her own. “Plus the wine will make it that much easier to get us all talking in the first place once we get a quiet moment.”
”Great, because I’m already buzzed.”
The night was still young, darkness just beginning to streak the sky. The smell of cooked meat still lingered on the air, a hint of laughter in the wind. A siren in the distance.
Zoey’s head tilted as the last sound registered, not taking her eyes from the sky. The sirens in this city were different, she couldn’t pick them apart from each vehicle like in Gotham City. The lack of multiple emergency vehicles overlapping each other, however, was a silent signal that it wasn’t anything more serious. She’d keep her ear to the wind.
It was nice to have a night off, honestly. Visiting a friend, eating his food, fussing over her ‘nieces’ and getting to play with their dog. Almost normal. Domestic. Everything Zoey wasn’t.
Still, it was nice to pretend for awhile.
Yet now, with the kids being settled into bed and the familiar cloak of night settling around her, Zoey knew it was time to move on from the veil of a life she’d never have. To discuss more important matters. Like the fact that both her friends were fucking crazy to want to disturb this.
The billionaire already knew it was going to be like yelling at a brick wall. Even more so with Girard almost being a literal tank now. Jeez. At least they gave her alcohol while she waited for them to put the kids down.
It wasn’t budweiser, either. Fuck that beer.
Girard ended up having to carry both of his daughters to bed since they were so pooped from the day. It had been a good dinner and his cooking hadn’t turned out too bad either, his wife probably could have done something nicer but it was his turn and summertime so grilling it was. Him and Abby helped to settle Haylee and Leila down into sleep with covers and some gentle humming from their mom speeding it along. Once they were sure they both left coming back out to meet with Zoey in the yard. Seemed a decent place as any since it was furthest from the bedrooms while being a nice night for a few drinks.
“Looks like we’re good to go for this. They are out like lights so we should have all the time we need.” The big guy said settling into a nearby chair with Abigail right behind him. “You don’t have to worry about the scolding for the outfit, pretty sure I’ve taken the brunt of it already from the both of you.”
He chuckled a bit out of reflex to the dumb situation.
”The outfit is the least of my problems,” Zoey responded immediately in a dry tone. She tilted her head back, taking another deep swig of her drink. The stars were beautiful too, not drowned out by smog and pollution that ran for miles in any direction, strangling the life out of the sky. ”... Even if it was funny, looking back on it. Didn’t need to see that much of you, Girard.”
The billionaire sighed, her slender fingers brushing aside some of her bangs. There was no easy way to broach this subject, not with two of the most stubborn people she’s ever known.
”So how long have you been doing this, anyway? Had to have been awhile to be confident jumping continents.”
“Some months, about a bit after this sort of stuff just started making news. Didn’t know what to do with it at first honestly.” He said hand to his chin. “Heard about crime ramping up a bit in the city after figuring out what I could and couldn’t do, small stuff mostly but it wasn’t good so I helped out a little here and there. ”
“He tried to make them think twice about it more than anything. Didn’t want to leave me out of the loop either though neither of us really had a chance to try even if we wanted to. Yes it is we but no I don’t go out with him since I can’t do what he does.” Abby said with a bit of a sigh mixed with exasperation and a hint of disappointment. “We’ve kept it hidden from everyone else and the girls so far. Not as easy as it sounds.”
”It’s hard,” Zoey offered in reply, her steel-blue eyes trailing down to her beer. She had absolutely no doubt that Girard shared who she was with his wife, he was as closer to Abigail as Zoey was to her dog. That wasn’t an insult, either. Zoey exhaled heavily.
That also, once again, added a pair of people to those who knew Grim’s civilian identity. Seriously, fuck this magic bullshit.
”I just don’t understand why you’d want to do it, though,” The billionaire lamented, only to quickly shake her head. ”No, scratch that, I know exactly why you do. Justice, making the streets safer for your family, it being the right thing - yes, all that. With you being as tough as you are - you should let me take readings someday by the way - it’s not like you even have to worry about being harmed but... “ She rubbed her pale fingers along the bottom of her face, perfectly sculpted eyebrows furrowing.
”It’s still dangerous. I should know. You shouldn’t … risk everything like this, Girard, Abigail.”
“I wish I could just sit down like that, let everything pass by me and just worry about my own life. I did for awhile after Gotham and even after Jason trying to not let emotions get the best of me.” Girard said a visible note of stress on his face. “That was before this though, before I could take on an army group without caring. I was just a big guy then who couldn’t keep my nose out of it all the time.”
Abigail put a hand on his arm as he rested his face in his palm for a moment. It appeared that this line of thinking hadn’t weighed lightly on the man through the years.
“It's been eating at him for a longer than I thought...but when I realized what he was out doing at first it just seemed like he was focusing on the present and on us. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him no when it made him happier, more relaxed without the constant worry he tried to mask around others.” Abby said grip tightening a little. “Don’t think I’ve ever seen someone try so hard to define a power by themselves and not allow it to be them. Hell, I can only control my power by staying away from my singing or any vocal thing with a tune. He can jump continents and shrug off most anything while managing to keep his power level so low that he could fight street crime without causing a mess.”
“I love everything about my life right now but there just a nagging feeling I could do more, should do more. This is not a pressure someone should have to go through I suppose but I don’t need to tell you that do I?” The big guy laughed almost sadly. “You know it better than I do and you have a way to keep tabs on it all, only reason I suspect that other vigilante in Gotham Blackstar is doing so well. We’re all smart enough to know this isn’t normal but why else do we keep doing or allowing it? We all want the same thing, keep the people we do have safe and comfortable but other people want the same and can’t do nearly the same as we could.”
The big man held a gaze with Zoey and his wife for a moment figuring there was only on last thing to say about the matter at least from him. “Not sure how well I could live with myself letting everyone else deal with the world today anymore. They need people like us to step up more than ever with all crime, weird weapons and other crap I don’t have the proper words for, we never were normal from the start I think otherwise we wouldn’t be having this talk eh?”
Zoey’s jaw clenched as soon as Blackstar’s name left Girard’s mouth, but otherwise she just kept her gaze on her drink, listening to her two friends tag team her. Slowly her pale fingers rose up, needling against her temple as she felt a headache coming on. Just as she thought, Girard was too stubborn to listen. Too set in his ways. Too…
… Too right, really.
Had it just been him running around like a normal human - like her - she would’ve protested until her tongue fell out. Yet he was Tank! He jumped bloody continents, fought an army in the buff! Hell, if he could get his hands on the Grim Jet he could probably tear it apart if he wanted.
Definitely not salty about not having powers, by the way, no matter how much her eyebrow was twitching. Finally the Gotham hero lifted her head, meeting Girard’s gaze with a frown tugging the corners of her lips down.
”I don’t like it,” Zoey finally commented, exhaling heavily. ”But I doubt that’ll stop you, even if I tried. So…” She couldn’t believe she was about to say this.
”I suppose what I’m saying is that if you need help, I’ll provide it. Anything you need. I know I never really presented Zoey Kasimir this way, but I’m very good with my hands.” Her mouth tilted to a slight smirk, proud and confident. ”I mean, I did build that jet from scratch. But let’s start you off with something smaller - how do you feel about a hands-off communicator to keep your cellphone clear from anything to do with the ‘business’?”
After all, what sort of Aunt would she be if she let those two girls’ father get hurt?