He had never hated himself more than he did at this moment. He had accepted his fall, but he never expected to resort to such petty thievery. But if he was to recover, he had no choice.
He opened another can of ravioli and downed the contents. It was cold and sloppy and it tasted disgusting, but he forced himself to swallow it nonetheless. Just like the cans before it, the food seemed to vanish almost the instant it hit his stomach, absorbed by his body almost faster than he could eat. He could feel his muscles growing strong again, his skin stretch to accommodate his former girth.
He devoured can after can or food, growing stronger with each bite. His hair grew out and fell away, only for new, fuller hair to take its place. His heart sped up until it felt like it was going to rip itself free. And then it froze. Despite that, he kept eating, until it started again. He died over and over again, each life lasting just a few minutes longer.
Finally, his heart steadied out. He tossed the last can over his shoulder and ripped open a pack of towels to wipe his mouth. He made a fist and all the cans surrounding him lifted into the air before slamming down. Many of them were instantly crushed, but most remained at least mostly whole.
“Still weak.” Even his voice hadn’t fully returned. It had lost its presence and it rubbed his throat raw. He was going to need all three days after all.
A siren sounded outside the door and he scoffed. He didn’t need to run. He could destroy every man this backwater town threw at him without opening his eyes. But he still needed time to recover before the heroes found him. He could let the fools live.
The cops ran into the store, but all they saw were empty shelves and a piles of discarded scraps.
Three days after the attack, Rose went back to work.
When she’d shown up in crutches, no one had looked twice, except for Barry. He’d been calling her constantly since the attack but she’d left her phone in the office and hadn’t been able to retrieve it. The entire first day, she saw him glancing at her through the office window, and as the day dragged on, he kept shifting around in his seat.
She’d made him drive her home before she told him the story.
As always, he was the best audience she could hope for. He knew when to gasp and when to stay quiet. She never had to repeat herself.
And then the story was over, and she collapsed back into her chair. It was as if she had had to relive the entire fight.
Barry had helped her to her bed, and she got the best rest that she’d had in days.
A week later, and she was finally free of the crutches. Will had been missing for two days. Today, they were supposed to meet up and decide what to do about it.
But first, she had to go to the hospital. Tina had called her there two days ago, and introduced her to Red Racer…Mitch’s sister.
Rachel looked up from her makeshift cot on the chair next to the hospital bed. It was obvious that she hadn’t left since Rose had seen her there two days ago. Her hair was frizzed and clumped in strange places from the awkward bed and there were dark circles under her eyes.
“Are you sure this is okay?” Rachel asked. “I don’t want you to get in trouble at work.”
“Half the city’s in the hospital. Most of my office can only work half the week because of it. Now go home before I call Tina.”
She nodded and shut the door behind her when she left.
Mitch lay on the bed in the same position he always seemed to be in. He stomach twisted a little when she saw him.
There was a spare chair near the door that she dragged over. Rachel had had the TV on the news. It was another report of the damage, and Rose quickly changed the channel.
She thought she saw movement from the corner of her eye, but when she turned to look, Mitch was as still as ever.
She waited for a commercial and muted the TV.
For a short time, she let the silence fill the room. But she couldn’t look at him.
“I’m sorry.” He didn’t react to her voice, but she kept going. “We never should have left you in that store. One of us should have stayed with you.”
Tears rolled down her face, leaving wet trails that felt frozen in the cold room.
“We never should have made you fight with us. You’re not supposed to be worrying about villains and heroes. You’re not supposed to have to see the kinds of things that happened. We should have sent you home during Asclepios’ attack. We shouldn’t have taken you to the cave to find Burnout. We should have sent you home.”
Finally, she looked at him. He was as still as ever, eyes glued to the TV.
“Please. I know it’s a lot to ask, but please get better. This isn’t how it’s supposed to end.”
There was a restroom connected to his room. She ducked in to clean her face off, but it took her a few minutes to stop crying.
Voices filtered through the door and she froze. She opened the door a crack, but didn’t see anyone.
The TV was unmuted. She had left the remote sitting on Mitch’s bed.
He looked the same as ever.
She sat back in the chair, keeping one eye on Mitchell, but he didn’t move again.
She watched Allspades leap over from the next roof. He was the last one to arrive. His arm was still in a sling, but he’d managed to get his costume on despite it.
She looked around, Red Racer and Mach were still missing, but despite that, this was the first time their group had met since the attack.
Everyone moved a little slower than they had beforehand, and a twitch in her leg reminded her why.
Allspades joined them, and one by one she watched them turn towards her.
“I went to see Red today,” she said. She felt test building behind her eyes again, but this time she held them back. “He’s still not responding. I don’t know how to help him, and I don’t know if he’ll ever get better. What I do know, is that we lost one member of the group already, and I don’t want to lose another. I don’t want to lost Red, and I don’t want to lose Will.
“There are others looking for him. They have more experience than us, and they’ve known Will longer. But I don’t want to sit around and do nothing, and I know none of you do either. So we’re going to look to, we’re not going to lose anyone else.”