“Rose. Rose. Rosie!” He took a deep breath. “Lilliana Rosenthal!”
A loud bump sounded from inside the office and he chuckled. He waited a few moments as the angry brunette peeked her head out of her office.
“Baron Regan, work doesn’t start for another two hours and I’d like to get at least half of a regular night’s sleep. If you don’t have one hell of an excuse or a lot of coffee I’m going to turn your desk into mulch.”
Barry just smiled. “Come on Rosie, you think I would enter the lair of the forest queen without tribute?” He held up a large cup of coffee. “Especially when you won’t have time to run out and get it before work like you did yesterday.”
Rose quickly grabbed the cup from his hand and turned back into the office, leaving the door open behind her. Barry took that as an invitation and cheerily walked into the room.
The woman looked back. “You know, if I knew you were a morning person I would never have talked to you right?”
“Yes, yes, I love you too, but I really think we should keep this platonic. Inter-office romances with your underlings should wait until you actually have enough power to make it worth their while. Plus it’s kind of weird that you sleep in the office more often than at home.”
Rose casually tossed a paperweight in his direction, he caught it easily. “An unexpected meeting came up yesterday, I had to stay late to make up the lost time.”
“Rosie, you’re in charge of a few sales reps, all of whom actually manage to make quota more often than not. As long as you get the reports in by the end of the week the guys upstairs don’t care how much time you put in.”
Rose shook her head at her old friend. “That’s the reason I was promoted before you.”
“Yep. Now, are you gonna tell me what the big bad wolf said?”
“Are you really gonna keep insisting he’s a werewolf? I told you, if he was an alter we would have noticed something by now.”
“Maybe, maybe not. If he was born with it then he might have better control than Tigroar.”
“No one has better control than Tigroar. Plus, I don’t think you’re even supposed to know the group exists. I doubt I should tell you about the meetings.”
Barry shrugged. “I’ve kept your secret since college, I think I can manage to keep this one for a few more weeks, or however long this thing’s gonna last. You might as well tell me, it’s not like this has anything to do with the others.”
Rose sighed, “All right. He said that I was fine.”
The two stared at each other for a moment.
“Nope. Never has a therapist called anyone fine. He said more than that. What did he really say?”
“He’s not a therapist,-”
“he’s just retired. But, if you insist…he said that I should stop worrying so much. He asked me about my reasons for being a hero, and my reasons for quitting. I don’t get the impression he was asking for himself though.”
“Think he was trying to get you to think about it? Told ya he’s a shrink.”
Rose ignored him. “Then he started talking about slowing down, going to emergencies instead of waiting around for them to happen. He said that a lot of speedwalkers keep a low profile when their starting out, and that most of them have to figure out how to keep up with their job at the same time.”
“Well yeah, heroes gotta eat too. Did he give you any advice?”
She shook her head. “Not really. It’s not like I can tell him where I work or anything. He did mention that it gets easier if you stick with it, but…”
“But you need sleep now, right? Maybe you should join a team or something, take some of the pressure off of you.”
“Sure, let me just look in the classifieds. ‘Hero team being formed, manip or alter preferred, but all welcome. Please contact 555-5555.’ That should work out nicely. Or maybe you could be my sidekick. ‘Hawthorne and the Red Baron’ has a nice ring to it.”
“True, but I think I’d just get in your way. You see, the non-walkers like me tend to stay away from fights like that. Natural selection and all that shit. But I guess you’re right about the team thing, they never exactly go through how they met on the news, do they?”
“Of course not, too much information. You have to know people before that would happen, you have to get your name out there to meet people, you have to work hard to get your name out there, and you can’t work hard and have a steady income at the same time. How the hell did those guys pull it off?”
Barry checked the office outside, people would start showing up soon to try and scrounge any of the donuts that popped up whenever someone had a late night meeting.
“Well, mechers get to sell their tech, so they don’t need a job. I guess a few people take shift work so they can switch off with someone else in a hurry if they need to or keep hours that they can work around. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a few were just rich already. So basically-”
“Nothing that helps me.”
“Yep. Maybe you just need to take a break until we get a few more people down here. I heard their expanding a lot of the sales departments for some new product.”
Rose shook her head. “Not that I’ve been told. And you know better than to place faith in the rumor mill around here. Are they still blaming you for the coffee maker?”
“Of course. And thank you for that, by the way. Nothing better than being public enemy number one for three weeks straight.”
“You shouldn’t have torched my book.”
“It was an accident. How was I supposed to know it would put me to sleep? You shouldn’t let people borrow such boring books.”
“I liked that book. You dropped it into a fire pit.”
They both heard a door shutting down the hall. Rose ushered Barry out the door. “Hurry, we don’t need a new rumor. Half the office already thinks we’re sleeping together.”
Barry rolled his eyes, but he turned to walk out the door. “I’ll leave, but you better think about that whole break thing. You’ve been sleeping here or at the hospital for months. I’m surprised you’ve bothered to pay rent.”
“I will, I will.”
“And comb your hair, you look like you’ve been skydiving.”
Rose grumbled a response and dug around her desk for a hair brush. It wouldn’t quite be tamed until she managed to shower, but it would be presentable for today.
Someone knocked on her door. She quickly organized the files on her desk into a more presentable stack.
Guile Richards walked in, apparently he had some issues with the customer warranty. Rose flipped her computer on and got to work.
It was going to be another long day.