Status: This is for NaNo. As such, it will be unedited for the time being.

The Power of Illusions

Chapter Four

The next morning, John’s gnawing hunger woke him from his deep sleep. He blinked slowly as his mind started waking up and catching up to his stomach. That being said, it took him a minute to realize he was trapped in his own bed, being held down by some sort of force. At first, he internally panicked. Was he being attacked? Had he been kidnapped in his sleep? Was it something else entirely? However, as his mind finally caught up to the situation, what was really going on was far from anything John would have ever expected.

Blond locks of hair draped over a pale, sleeping face as John tilted his head back to figure out why he couldn’t move well. His brow furrowed in confusion and surprise as it dawned on him that his best friend was in the bed with him, cuddling him. Dave was spooning John, acting as the big spoon. The air manipulator blinked a few more times as he contemplated what to do about the situation.

Sure, the two had bro-cuddles every now and again, but that was usually when John was depressed or really needed some sort of physical affection. Dave never did it willingly. At least, not that John had noticed. So this came as a shock to him. Why was Dave even in his room in the first place? For that matter, HOW did John even get to his OWN room? He didn’t remember anything past the end of the meeting with Sage after the mission the day before.

Regardless, John’s stomach made itself known again by growling particularly loudly. He quickly moved his hands over his midsection in hopes to tone down the volume so as to not wake Dave, but it was in vain. After all, hands don’t do a good job of stifling noise. However, Dave didn’t even budge. His breathing stayed even as his face remained peaceful in sleep. It was actually kind of cute…

Stop right there.

Do NOT think about your best friend like that. It’s wrong in all the worst ways. John lightly shook his head against the pillow and sighed. His stomach desperately needed nourishment, and his throat was so dry, it was like the Sahara Desert. But how would he get out without waking Dave? John laid in bed a little longer and contemplated what to do. Eventually, he came to the conclusion that he just needed to move Dave’s arm and get out of bed. Luckily for him, Dave chose to sleep on the inside, leaving John ample room to roll out with little trouble.

Slowly, ever so slowly, John carefully lifted his friend’s arm and tucked it against his body. Dave didn’t so much as snort in his sleep. If it weren’t for him breathing, John would honestly wonder if Dave were dead. Seeing the all-clear, however, the air manipulator quietly padded in yesterday’s clothes over to the door, checking behind him as he opened it to make sure Dave was still asleep. Satisfied in what he saw, John turned toward the hallway as he shut the door behind him and nearly shouted in surprise.

Right in front of him were two of the facility staff, one holding a pitcher of ice water and a glass, the other holding a pad of paper and a pencil.

“What the hell?” John couldn’t stop himself from saying. The one with the water poured it in the glass and handed it over to John.

“Sage instructed us all to take half hour rounds here, waiting for you to wake up so that we could feed and water you. You passed out in the meeting room before you could leave to go to dinner. Sage carried you to your room and tucked you in. We’ve only been out here for about ten minutes, don’t worry.” The glass was handed over to John, who gratefully took it and downed it in about 30 seconds flat, handing it back over for a refill. While that was being poured, John looked at the two staff again.

“So. I passed out? Does anyone know why I passed out? I honestly don’t remember anything,” he said. The staff looked at one another before the one with the paper spoke.

“We’re not really sure either, but Sage said it must have been something to do with your overexertion. You used a lot of energy in the mission yesterday. You kind of just dropped in the middle of the meeting room and they couldn’t wake you up. We heard that Dave apparently freaked out a little when you dropped. Anyway, I need to take your order for breakfast or honestly just food in general. You are being allowed to eat in your room today. Sage is making an exception since obviously you aren’t feeling so good.” Sage was allowing someone to eat in their room? That was nigh unheard of in the facility. John felt special. Maybe he should faint more often? He chuckled to himself a little before letting the guy know some foods he’d like to eat, making sure to order enough to feed Dave, too. He just had a feeling the other would wake up before the food came and would be hungry as well. Once the two had finished their jobs, the one leaving John with the water and glass, they walked off. John turned back to his room, noting the door semi-open due to him not fully shutting it. He walked in and placed the pitcher of water on his desk and finished the glass of water he currently had, setting it down afterward as well. He sighed and turned around to check on his friend only to find the other sitting up and staring at him.

“Jesus, Dave! You scared the crap out of me. Say something once in awhile when you wake up, why don’t you?” John said, having nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw those reddish-brown eyes watching him moving. Dave’s eyebrow raised just a hair at the statement.

“Nah, man. This was much more fun. It’s refreshing to see you jump every now and again,” was all he said, stretching a little. John couldn’t turn away as his friend did so, eyes scanning the lithe, muscular body. No! You told yourself earlier you wouldn’t think of your friend like that! Not to mention, you weren’t a homosexual. John lightly shook his head again, getting sick and tired of his thoughts invading everything and not letting him really think about the important things.

“Whatever, dude. What time even is it?” John asked, not having checked his clock before getting up, mind too distracted by hunger. Keeping eye contact with him, Dave answered.

“6 AM. I usually get up about the time anyway. That or, occasionally, I’ll force myself back to sleep for 2 hours and get up at the scheduled time.” That reminded John.

“By the way, what the hell even are you doing in my room? Yours is just up the hall,” John asked, taking a seat on his bed next to his friend who shrugged.

“I was exhausted after dinner. Couldn’t really make it to my own room after I stopped in here to check on you. You fucking dropped like a sack of potatoes yesterday, man. Right in the middle of the meeting room. How much did you even use your powers? Like, I used quite a bit of mine yesterday in tandem with Dirk’s, but even I wasn’t that tired. Are you ok?” John couldn’t help but smile at the slight ramble Dave gave him. It was the other’s way of showing John actually meant something to him.

“I used a lot of them yesterday. I suffocated two of those users and kept summoning and having to disperse the wind when helping you two out. Not to mention, carrying all three back was a lot after the stress of all the fighting. I didn’t realize I hadn’t moderated as well as I normally did, though. Otherwise, I’m sure I wouldn’t have passed out like that.” The air manipulator scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. Normally, he was a lot better about his control. The fight yesterday had taken a lot out of him. Those opponents were the toughest he’d had to face. The fight took a long time, and he never was one for endurance. Looks like that was something he’d really need to work on.

“Well, I guess your endurance always did suck something hard, so I shouldn’t really have been surprised.” Dave let out a yawn he’d been desperately trying to hold back.

“Come on, dude. Just admit that you were worried about me,” John teased, play punching Dave’s arm, making sure he pulled his strength so he didn’t actually hurt the other. Dave just looked right at him with a completely serious face.

“Alright. I was worried, John. I’ve never seen you pass out like that after a mission. After training, sure. But never like that. You were completely fine until you stood up and then… you dropped. If I hadn’t moved fast enough, you would have hit the floor or the table or something and potentially been hurt. Honestly, it kinda freaked me out,” he said, looking away half-way through. Admitting his feelings like that wasn’t usually something he did. “It freaked out the others, too. Everyone called your name, dude. You gave everyone a scare.” John’s smile fell as Dave talked, not realizing that things were that bad. He hadn’t meant to worry people… especially not that much.

“I’m sorry, Dave… I wasn’t expecting you to admit all that, but I’m glad you said it. I’m fine, really I am. All I remember from yesterday after we got back was that it was hard to keep my eyes open. Everything kind of felt rubbery and stiff. I saw a little black tinging my vision, but I pushed it back. I know I talked some during the debriefing, but I can’t remember what I said. When I stood up, all of a sudden it felt like I was floating. All I could think was ‘this is so relaxing.’ Then, I woke up here with you.” He considered adding ‘spooning me’ but decided against it. Dave was already showing vulnerability he normally didn’t. There was no need to call him on it even more.

“It’s fine, John. Just don’t fucking do it again, ok?” Dave gave his friend a light noogie and moved around him to stand up. “I’m going to take a piss, ok? I’ll be right back. No peeking, John,” Dave teased, face completely stoic. John stuck his tongue out at the blond.

“I’m not a homosexual, Dave! I don’t need or want to know what your dick looks like. I’m content out here.”

“Whatever, man. That sounded like too much of a denial to me, but hey. It’s your life.” With that, the fire manipulator walked into the bathroom conjoined with the bedroom and shut the door behind him. When he had the solitude, he ran a hand over his face and walked over to the toilet, doing his business. Why had he told John how he honestly felt about the situation? What the hell was wrong with him? His friend had always iterated how much of a heterosexual he was, never even giving Dave a sidelong glance of interest. Damn heart! Washing his hands, Dave chanced a look in the mirror. Sleep tousled hair and light bags under his eyes. Nice thing for him to wake up with. His body was still stiff from yesterday’s mission, but overall, he could be worse. After all, he wasn’t injured. He was just tired. Ah well. Such was life. Without so much as a second glance in the mirror, Dave walked out of the bathroom.

While he was in there, John was having his own internal struggle. The things he felt for his best friend weren’t natural. Dave always teased him about being gay, and he always denied it, but he couldn’t deny that there was something there that wasn’t always exactly platonic. And it weirded him out. Surely, he couldn’t like-like his best friend. That was just asking for something bad to happen, wasn’t it? John bit his lip as he contemplated all his thoughts. Sure, he’d admired Dave’s lithe body before, but that was because John was broad. Not as broad as Sage, but his super strength made him bigger than most of the other men in the facility. He admired Dave’s smaller shoulder span and his narrower hips. He liked that his best friend didn’t have too many showy muscles and could hold his own in a fight against John. That wasn’t that weird, right? He wasn’t given too much more time to think about that as there was a knock at his door. He stood and walked over to it, opening it to find the cook with a cart full of food. It was definitely more than he’d ordered.

“Hey there, John. I heard you passed out yesterday, so I made you more food than you requested so you can really get your strength back. I hope you don’t mind,” he said, gesturing to all the items. John gave him a reassuring smile.

“It all looks great, Joe. I’m actually really glad you made extra food.” John looked around out of the door before lowering his voice. “Between you and me, Dave spent the night in my room, too tired to get to his own, so he’s here. This will be plenty for the both of us. Thank you!” Joe offered him a smile of his own and a small chuckle.

“Alright, well, have fun eating! I hope you feel better, kid.” John waved to him as he retreated before pulling the cart into his room right as Dave exited the bathroom.

“Right on time! Food just arrived. Feel free to dig in. My turn to take a leak,” John said, walking past Dave to do his business. Dave took one look at the cart and wondered, at first, how the hell any one person would ever be able to eat all that food. Then, he remembered it was John. The guy was like a bottomless pit. It never ceased to amaze him that his best friend ate like he’d never eat again. Where the hell did it all go? All Dave could ever see on John was a flat stomach and muscle. It’s like, there wasn’t an ounce of fat on his body aside from slightly soft cheeks, but even then. He had a pretty sharp jawline and cheekbones. Dave, on the other hand, had squishy cheeks, not something he was really proud of. Not to mention, he didn’t have like, a six pack like John did. His stomach was still somewhat squishy looking. It wasn’t fair. John was the hot friend.

While he was lost in his thoughts, John exited the bathroom and pulled the cart over to the bed and sat down, grabbing a plate and fork and digging in.

“Oh my god, Dave! You HAVE to eat some of this! Joe really outdid himself today, holy fuck. It’s like, the food of the gods or some shit like that,” John rambled after chewing that first bite. Dave couldn’t help but shake his head and finally make his way over to the bed, sitting down next to the other and opening his mouth for a forkful. John delivered and scooped up some of the food with his fork, placing it in Dave’s mouth. The blond chewed and hummed his approval.

“Damn, man. That IS really good. Shit, did Joe put crack in it or something. Shit’s got me fuckin trippin.” John laughed at his choice of words and returned to eating while Dave grabbed a different plate to consume.

“I don’t know, but it is soooo good. I knew I was hungry, but I didn’t realize HOW hungry I was until I started eating. Dave, I’m not sure how much of this food you’re getting,” John said, polishing off his plate in just a few more bites and reaching for the burger in front of him. Dave actually snorted into his food and had to cover his mouth with a hand.

“Dude, you’re always hungry. How is this any different? And technically, I’m pretty sure none of this food was even supposed to be for me,” he stated, still working on his first plate while John devoured at least half his burger in the short time span of Dave talking.

“It’s not really any different. Except the fact that I feel like I could literally eat an entire fucking cow. My stomach is rumbling even as I’m eating this.” Dave could only watch in mild amazement as John ate the last of the burger and moved onto another plate.

“Seriously, dude. Where does it all go? How are you not, like, 800 pounds?” he questioned, just finishing his first plate. John shrugged and swallowed his mouthful of food.

“I honestly have no idea. Rolanda told me the last physical I had that I have the metabolism of a hummingbird because of my super strength, so that might have something to do with it. I guess in order to keep myself healthy, I have to consume at least twice the average daily calories since my system breaks them down so fast.” Dave shook his head.

“Damn, man. That’s intense.”

“Yeah. It’s another reason Dad was more than ok with these guys taking me. I was starting to cost him too much with my eating habits. He couldn’t keep up with my nutritional needs. In fact, it worried him that I was eating that much and gaining NO weight whatsoever. Had it not been for Sage sending guys for me when he did, Dad would have taken me to a shrink to have me evaluated for an eating disorder and then take me to a nutrition specialist and figure out why I wasn’t gaining any weight. He was worried my body was screwed up. And then I caused a mini tornado in town and that was that,” John explained as he worked on his third plate.

“So, you could accidentally cause a mini tornado when you were six, but you can’t intentionally create one without exhausting yourself when you’re 20. Nice,” Dave teased. He received a small shove.

“Oh screw you, asshole!” John laughed, nearly spilling his food. Dave even let himself chuckle as he continued eating. The two finished the rest of the food on the cart and made idle talk as they did so. No surprise, John did eat most of the food. When they cleaned off the cart, John laid back on his bed with a hand on his stomach and gave a happy, content sigh.

“Now that is what I’m talking about. That was amazing. I actually feel full right now,” he said. Dave pushed the cart back a little and stretched out next to the other.

“You actually feel full? Call the fire department. We have an emergency. The world is ending. I repeat, the world is ending, copy? John Egbert feels full. Never before has such a phenomena occurred in the history of the world. Alert the president. Alert the queen. Shit’s about to get real.” John nearly shoved Dave off the bed as he laughed.

“Stop it! It’s not like it’s never happened before. You know I usually eat my fill at dinner, so I get full then. I mean, not that it really matters. I’ll be hungry again in about an hour, but still!” Dave rolled onto his side and laid his head on his arm.

“I’m messing with you, man. Your stomach is seriously a bottomless pit. Anyway, how are you doing?” he asked, changing the subject briefly to see if John felt any better than when he woke up. John rolled onto his side, too.

“Yeah. I’m feeling loads better. I’m fed and watered. I’m still sore and kind of tired, but overall, I feel fine.” He offered a reassuring smile to the other. That was when the first knock came at the door. Both the men glanced over as John rose to answer it. On the other side, he was met with Rose.

“Oh! Hi, Rose. What brings you-” The blonde grabbed him into a hug. John was stunned for a moment before relaxing and hugging her back.

“Thank the powers that be you are alright. You gave everyone quite the fright yesterday, John. I- oh? Is that Dave I spy in there?” she asked, a smirk coming to her face as she spotted her cousin over John’s shoulder. The two pulled away, John turning to the side to invite her in, shutting the door behind her.

“Sup.” Dave gave Rose a small upward nod of acknowledgement to which she shook her head.

“Well, well, well. And here I thought I’d be the first up to check on John. It appears that I was mistaken in believing so.” John spoke up before Dave could warn him not to say anything.

“Well, he wasn’t exactly necessarily up first. He kind of spent the night in here, apparently.” If Dave wasn’t cool enough not to facepalm, he would have facepalmed. As it stood, his cheeks became lightly dusted in a soft blush as Rose gave him a look that said ‘Oh really?’ She verbally echoed the look.

“Oh really, Dave? You spent the night in here? When you know you aren’t supposed to sleep anywhere besides your own room? How scandalous. Let us hope that you have not overly tainted our precious, naive John,” she teased, Dave frowning as John laughed.

“Him? Taint me? In what way, Rose?” he chuckled, Dave remaining silent. Rose raised a knowing eyebrow at John.

“In what way, you ask? Why, in a sexual way, John. Don’t you know that Dave is so into you?” Dave actually found himself groaning at Rose’s words. John blinked in confusion and surprise.

“Wait, what? You’re pulling my leg! Dave and I are just best bros. That’s all. Why would he taint me sexually? He’s not into me that way. I know that for a fact,” John rushed to get out. It hurt him a little to say it all, and he wasn’t entirely sure why, but it did. Dave also felt a pang of hurt in his heart, but he ignored it in favor of speaking up.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I spent the night here. Whoop-dee-fucking-doo. I came to check on him before heading to bed and was too tired to get to my room. So, I crashed here. End of story. And no, I don’t like him like that, Rose. If I did, I’d be a lot more obvious about it.” Rose looked between the two and then rolled her eyes as she shook her head once more.

“Of course. My mistake. Anyway, John. How are you feeling? That was my intention when I came here, after all.” She directed her attention solely to John at that point. The other just smiled at her and Dave, entertained by their antics.

“I’m doing a lot better now, Rose. I’m sore and still a little tired, but overall, I’m doing better. I don’t really feel drained anymore nor do I feel lightheaded. So, don’t worry about me!” he laughed, showing off that he was back to his usual self, if a bit run down from normal due to the leftover tiredness. Rose smiled a him and walked back over, hugging him once again.

“I’m glad, John. I’ve been worried about you. The only reason I slept last night was due to my own exhaustion. Do you think you’ll join us for dinner?” John looked at Dave then back to Rose and shrugged.

“Honestly, I have no idea at this point. I need to make it through today and see where that gets me. I should be able to, but just in case, don’t get your hopes up, ok?” He offered them both a comforting look and a one shoulder shrug. Rose nodded and moved toward the door.

“Then, I shall leave you two be for now. I just wanted to come see how John was doing. Oh! Did Dave tell you that we have the next couple days off to recover?” She gave them a coy smile and walked (glided) out the door, closing it behind her. John and Dave shared a look as Dave shrugged his shoulders minutely and laid back on John’s bed.

“I’ll never understand her. She’s a trip and a half, especially when she feels like she knows something either no one knows or haven’t really drawn attention to.”

“She’s not that bad, Dave. She’s pretty cool, actually. Strange, but cool.” John sat on the bed next to his best friend.

“Whatever you say, man. Being related to her is something else entirely, though. Just saying.” John raised an eyebrow.

“Really, Dave? You know what? I’m not going to argue with you about anything. There’s no point.” He heaved a sigh and stretched. “So we have tomorrow and the next day off to recoup?” he asked, looking at his shadeless best friend.

“Yeah, man. It’s totally gunna be the shit. I’ll get so much of my comic done. This will be amazing. You might have to just pass out after every so often so we can all get a break.” John lightly punched Dave in the arm.

“Dude! I don’t want to pass out all that often. It kinda sucked,” he commented on it with a serious expression.

“Yeah, I know. I was making a joke, dude. Anyway, so what do you want to do? It’s your day, today. I’ll probably be here all day if you don’t mind having company,” said Dave, stretching out on the bed and knocking a couple of small blankets off of it. Before the two could delve deeper than that, another knock sounded at the door. This time, when John opened it, it was Jade standing there, bright smile in place.

“Hi, John! I brought you some chocolates. I know you aren’t keen on sweets, but I heard they help!” she said, inviting herself in and setting the chocolates on the desk. She then turned to John and promptly gave him a very large, very hard hug. John actually almost stumbled back from the force of it before wrapping his arms around her and hugging back.

“John, I was so damn worried! Don’t you ever pull that kind of shit again. Don’t use your powers if you feel you’ll use them too long. It was scary seeing you just drop like that, mister!” John smiled sheepishly.

“For what it’s worth, I didn’t really enjoy it. I woke up sore and disoriented. And not to mention, super fucking hungry. I could have eaten a gazelle or something, I was THAT hungry. I drained like, 5 cups of water right off the bat and ate most of the food on that cart,” he said, gesturing to the cart that had previously been full to the brim with food.

“Dude ate like a fucking hog. Shit was majorly disgusting. It was like-”

“Dave, you’re here! I didn’t realize you were there when I walked in,” she said, interrupting what was probably going to be a long and convoluted metaphor of some sort. Jade went over to the blond and pulled him into a hug as well, lifting him even from the lying position he’d been in. He gave her a couple pats on the back before she let go of him.

“How are both of you doing? Well, I hope?” Her hands were on her hips as she looked between the boys. John held out his arms, allowing Jade to approach him and give him a pat down to check for any injuries. When she was satisfied he was perfectly fine, just sore from overexerting himself, she pulled him in another hug.

“We’re both fine, Jade,” John tried to explain during her examination. “I’m just tired and sore. Dave I think is completely fine, right?” Dave gave a curt nod, holding up his arms to dissuade Jade from giving him the same treatment as John. The blond wasn’t much one for physical affection anyway. Jade simply huffed and put her hands on her hips again.

“Well, I’m still worried about you two. You said you ate, right? Did you eat, Dave? Or was all that food consumed by John?” she asked, gesturing back to the cart.

“I ate some of that. Rather, I ate my fill. The rest actually was John’s fill. Buddy’s actually full for once, right, John?” Dave desperately wanted the attention off of him for a little while courtesy of Rose’s accusations.

“Yeah. It’s weird to really be full, but the chef made so much extra food, it really did the trick,” John smiled at Jade. “Seriously, Jade. Don’t worry about us. We’re fine if a bit tired still,” he explained, watching Jade’s face. At first, she pouted, but then she sighed and smiled a little.

“Well, as long as you’re ok. Just be careful next time, ok, John? Don’t exhaust your powers like that again. I mean it!” She pointed her finger at him menacingly. John held up his hands in surrender.

“I won’t ever do it again. I promise, Jade.” Jade nodded and took him into a hug again. She hugged him tight for a moment and then let go, bounding over to Dave to give him a hug as well. He almost pushed her away, but decided to give her a half-assed return hug. When she pulled away, Jade looked at both men.

“I’m going to go back to my room and work on some robotics, alright? If you two need anything, let me know! Behave, you two!” she said with a snicker and darted out of the room. John couldn’t help but laugh at her antics with Dave shaking his head slightly. Jade definitely was starting to feel back up to snuff after the incident involving the loss of her brother. However, thinking like that made John pause.

“Hey, before we continue with the day, I need to call my dad. I need to talk to him about what happened yesterday. I’d rather he hear it from me than from someone from here blabbing it to him because they are legally obligated or some shit like that. So, I’m going to go give him a quick call, alright?” Dave just shrugged.

“Dude, do whatever you need to do. I’ll head to my room for a bit to shower and get started on the next upload of Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff. When you’re done, come find me and we can chill together today. Maybe order another insane amount of food so I can watch you devour it all like a champion.” John rolled his eyes before smiling at his best friend.

“Alright, Dave. I’ll come get you in like, half an hour or so? I’m not really sure how long it’ll be with my dad.” Dave put up a hand to wave John off.

“Go, dude. Your father awaits.” Dave moved past John through the door and headed up the hall to his own bedroom. John left not too far behind the swordsman, heading to Sage’s office to talk to him about calling his dad.

The walk was a short one, he mused while knocking on a large door. A moment later, it was opened to reveal Sage.

“John! You’re awake. How do you feel?” He embraced John lightly and gently, guiding him over to a chair to sit on. The younger sat on the proffered chair before answering.

“I’m fine, Sage. Tired and sore, as I’ve told everyone else, but I’m alive and well. I was actually wondering if I could call my dad and explain to him what happened before you guys make your courtesy call.” Sage sat back in his own chair.

“Are you sure that’s a smart idea, John? Won’t he worry unnecessarily? We weren’t even planning on calling him over this, to be completely honest with you. You succeeded in your mission, were uninjured, and only passed out from exhaustion. There was no need to give an alert call,” Sage explained as John’s face morphed into one of confusion.

“But I thought you had to call him after anything that happened… So you really weren’t going to call him over this?” asked John, wondering if he’d told his dad too much about his life there without needing too now that Sage said that. Meanwhile, Sage shook his head.

“No. Only if something really serious happens, like that time you broke your leg during training. We called him about that because your leg was broken. However, when you got sick several months ago, that was no reason to call him. You had pneumonia. It was treatable and not that serious,” explained the director of the agency. John huffed at that. “Why? Have you told him every little thing that’s happened and worried him more than necessary?” he asked, a bit of a smile on his face. John really was innocent and honest.

“...Maybe… Oh well, can I still call him? It’s been awhile since we’ve talked and I’d like to speak with him again. I miss him.” Sage nodded and stood.

“Very well. Follow me then,” he said, leading the other out of the office and into the call room. In that room were several small, soundproof booths. They were private for conversations of utmost importance as well as for the sake of privacy when some of the kids called their guardians or siblings. “Just let me know when you’re done so that I can lock up the room again.” The room was normally locked to prevent impermissible calls. Sage needed to verify that everyone was calling who they said they would. It was for their protection.

“Will do. Thank you, Sage! And thanks for bringing me to my room last night. I’m sorry I was a burden on you,” John apologized sheepishly, heading over to one of the booths.

“You weren’t a burden, John. We were all just worried about you. Please be more careful next time. Understand?” John nodded and entered one of the booths, picking up the phone and dialing his dad’s number.

“Hello. This is Jaye Egbert speaking.”

“Hi, Dad.” Just hearing his dad’s voice was already making John feel loads better. He smiled through the phone.

“John! What a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t expecting a call for a while longer. Are you alright? Did something happen?” Concern laced the older man’s voice as he spoke with his son. He sounded close to fretting.

“I’m fine, Dad. Relax. We just had a mission yesterday, and I overused my powers some. I passed out right after the debriefing when we got back. But don’t worry! I’m perfectly fine! I’m just a little tired and sore from overexertion. I’ll be back to normal by tomorrow at the latest.” John knew he needed to tell his dad what had happened, but at the same time, he didn’t want to worry the other too much.

“You passed out? John! Why would you overuse your powers to that extent?” There was a hint of fatherly disapproval lacing the other voice. John sighed.

“We were against a couple really tough opponents. I needed to use everything I had to help take them down. I didn’t realize how much I’d used until I did get back to the office. That’s when it hit me. My vision tinted black, and that’s really all I remember. I woke up in my bed. Apparently, Sage carried me there to make sure I was ok.”

“...Well as long as you’re ok. Did you eat anything?” Jaye conceded to his son as he explained everything. John let out the small breath he’d been holding in anticipation for his father’s reaction, smiling through the phone.

“Of course! You know me and my bottomless pit for a stomach. I packed away almost an entire cart of food when I woke up. I’m still full from it. But I’ll definitely be ready for dinner. You don’t have to worry about that,” he laughed, hearing his dad chuckle on the other line.

“As long as you are happy, healthy, and well fed, I am ok as well. The bakery is doing well…” With that, the two moved on to a normal route of conversation, talking about their daily lives and just catching up with one another. It was so nice to be able to speak with his dad again. John couldn’t wait until Christmas when he’d get to see him again, too. That one time a year was always a happy one for him.

After about an hour of talking, John finally hung up the phone, standing and stretching as he made his way out of the room and to Sage’s office.

“Hey, Sage. I’m done. You can lock up the room again. Thank you for letting me talk to him. I think it really helped.” Sage looked up from his paperwork and nodded.

“Of course, John. If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to let me know. Now, go on and enjoy the rest of the day. You deserve it. You made me so proud yesterday.” That made John pause for a moment.

“That reminds me. How are the three we captured yesterday doing?” Sage’s face fell slightly.

“Unfortunately, I don’t know. And you also know that even if I did, I’m not at liberty to tell you right now.” John shrugged.

“I know, but it was worth a try, wasn’t it? I’m just a little worried is all. The only one who truly seemed gung-ho for that fight was the guy. So, I guess I’m just curious, too. Were they coerced into it? Were they manipulated? Did they actually really want to do it? There are a lot of questions.” Sage sighed and leaned back in his chair.

“Yes, John. There are a lot of questions. But you know that right now we can’t answer any of them. Not to mention, it’d be best if you didn’t get too attached to the idea of those three just in case we can’t reform them to be reintroduced to society. I wouldn’t want you to get crushed if that were to happen. Now, go on and have a nice day off. Go hang out with Dave or something. Whatever it is you young kids do now,” he added with a small laugh.

“You’re not that old, sir. Don’t try to make me sound that young either. I’m twenty after all!” John puffed out his chest and flexed a little, showing off his muscles gained from training his super strength. Sage laughed even more.

“You’re still significantly younger than me, John. I technically could be your father, even if I’d sired you at a young age. After all, I have Tavros, don’t I?” Sage pointed out.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, old man. I’ll see you later!” Before they could delve even further into a bit about ages and fathering, John headed out, making his way back to Dave’s room. Instead of knocking, he just walked in.

Inside was a mess. There were cables littering the floor. The bed was a complete war zone. And there was Dave, sitting at his computer, using the mouse to draw out a character and render it in MS Paint. John almost wanted to sneak up on his friend but decided against it, knowing he’d be seeing the business end of a sword if he did.

“Hey, Dave. How’s that shitty comic coming along?” he asked, moving over to the bed and sitting. However, he sat on something hard and shot up, looking under the covers to find one of the jarred fetuses Dave liked keeping in his room. “What the hell, dude?! Why is this on your bed?” Dave didn’t even turn around, focusing on coloring the very shitty picture.

“It’s coming along great, man. I’ve been able to get a hell of a lot accomplished in the hour you spent talking to your dad. A whole half a panel. It’s like motherfucking Christmas up in this bitch with how much I’ve gotten done. Also, don’t question an artist. Shit’s always where it needs to be for the right inspiration to hit.” He said that completely straight-faced as he continued drawing, adding what looked to be a Christmas tree on stairs to the panel. John just gaped at him.

“Really, dude? Fucking really? This is here for inspiration? Are you fucking shitting me? It’s- You know what? Nevermind. There’s no point in arguing with you on this. It’s stupid. So, are we going to do anything after you finish that panel? Or are you just going to work on that all day?” John chose another area of the bed to sit on after close examination.

“Yeah, we’ll do something else. Give me another five minutes to finish this up and then we can get to it. What do you want to do?” He polished off the tree and added another character into the mix.

“I don’t know. Maybe we could just watch some movies? I’d really like to watch ‘Ghost Busters’ again or even maybe-”

“Don’t you dare fucking say what I think you’re going to say.”

“What was I going to say then, hmm?”

“We are NOT watching ‘Con Air’, John. That movie completely sucks dick. You know it.” Dave, not so kindly, tore down John’s movie possibilities. ‘Ghost Busters’ he could deal with. ‘Con Air’ he could not. “Nic Cage is NOT as great an actor as you believe him to be, John. I’d rather watch ‘Little Monsters’ than ‘Con Air.’ And even then, that movie sucks, too.” John huffed.

“Nic Cage is SO the best actor. And I wasn’t going to say ‘Con Air’ OR ‘Little Monsters,’ I’ll have you know! I was going to say we could watch something you’d like to watch,” he hastily covered his own ass. Naturally, Dave had predicted exactly what he was going to say, so he had to prove he wasn’t that predictable. Dave just shook his head.

“Whatever, John. Keep telling yourself that. Anyway, we can watch ‘Ghost Busters.’ That one’s fine with me. Afterward, I’ll choose a movie. How does that sound?” With that, the two friends planned their day off together.