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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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Ain't Got Nothin' But Time

More people came to visit while they were sitting shiva than to the graveside service, which was just fine as far as Ira was concerned. Not many of his old friends were willing (or able) to brave the sleet and snow and freezing temperatures, though he had appreciated those that had. The tables in the kitchen and living room were piled high with food people had brought, and the wine rack on top of the refrigerator was restocked. Suzanne moved around the room when people were there, the gracious hostess, somehow buoyed up when things should have been beating her down. He watched her with vague admiration through the slowness of his brain.

Andrea chatted amiably with people from her enthronement in the corner that day. Her husband David was whisking away abandoned glasses and plates and dealing with other logistical matters in a low-key way that made Ira think uncharitably of a butler.

People talked to Ira. Sometimes he recognized them. Nox the Night-Stalker still had those amazing eyes that reached into you and grabbed you by your figurative lapels so you couldn't help but pay attention to him. Madame Destiny was another person you couldn't ignore, and that strange apprentice of hers... The Equestrian showed up the second or third day, all apologies for not meeting him to give him warning. She finally realized he wasn't really responding to her, or anyone, and had just hugged him hard. Her horse patted him on the shoulder and given him a sad look.

Ah, how the great -- or at least mediocre -- have fallen. Pity from a horse.

Ira didn't recognize her until she had stood in front of him for a long moment, young and nervous in her black dress and battered brown winter coat. She smiled tremulously when he focused on her and put out her hand. "Mr. Metropolitan, I'm... I'm very sorry."

He saw the details of her: brown hair, pale skin, hazel eyes, and freckles. Very, very young. He stood abruptly and took her hand. "I... I'm glad you came. Ruth... the Ultimate, you know... explained what happened. I'm afraid I don't understand all of it..."

"Neither do I," she said with a twitch of a smile. Her hand was hot and a little damp and after shaking Ira's hand, she shoved it into the pocket of her coat and stood awkwardly.

"Why don't you sit down?" Ira said, gesturing to the chair next to his. "Do you want a drink or a plate of something? So many people have brought food, I don't think Suzanne and I will be hungry for months. Ruth brought a big pot of red rice, and the Silver Guardian brought over her potstickers, and Carolus brought these little... cheese things that I'm a little afraid of..." He was vaguely aware that he hadn't spoken so much since it all happened.

She started to sit, then rose, alarmed. "Oh, no! That's fine, I'm not really hungry right now."

Ira made pat-patting motions and seated himself. She sat down too. They looked over the living room together: it was crowded with people who were para or friends of paras. Several of the Guardians were there, along with some of the ex-Junior Guardians who were active when Josh was active. A few of the Gold Stars had drifted in and out, but there was, understandably, no big organizational attendance. Ira spotted a couple of the Young Cosmics, High Speed's youngest boy Mercury and that android the Cosmics had rescued some time back -- Citizen Kane or something.

Suzanne, sleek and handsome in a grey pantsuit, swept up, smiling at the girl. "Thought you might like something warm," she said. "It's pretty bitter out there." She slid a cup of hot mulled cider into the guest's hand, winked at Ira, and made her way back into the crowd.

Ira and the girl watched her go.

"She... doesn't seem like a widow," the girl ventured, sipping her cider.

"It's been hard on her, all these years," Ira said. He sighed. "I expect she's been ready to get on with her life for a long time now."

The girl looked at him. "What's going to happen now? I mean, will you live alone?"

Ira shrugged. "I don't know. This is her house, you know. I earned my keep, as much as I could, by helping take care of Josh. And now..." He shrugged again. "We haven't talked about it."

"She wouldn't throw you out?" the girl said, sounding a little outraged.

Ira smiled. "She'd be well within her rights to do it. I'll just... I'll find some place. It'll be fine. But what about you?"

The girl's gaze dropped to the carpet. "I... well, I'm where I wanted to be."

"You are?"

She nodded, looking into her cup of cider, then taking a swig. "I made a deal with her... it... whatever it was. It would get me out of my parents' nightmare of a house, out of that crappy little town, and to Wonder City, and I wouldn't have to deal with any of it but the aftermath. And she... it... got the use of my body until its mission was over."

Ira stared at her, struggling with disbelief. Then he thought about the second Bombshell, who had told him late one night after the gang's Christmas party about how she'd gotten her para powers: she'd been terrified to leave her father's house on her own, afraid of the streets and afraid of her father, so had preferred to be taken aboard an alien spacecraft, bombarded with unknown rays, and taken off to a distant planet to fight in someone else's war to staying even one more day there.

Really, it wasn't that odd.

"I understand," he said, patting her hand. "Sometimes you have that one opportunity, and you have to take it."

"Yeah," she said. "I still have my room at the Y, and she... it... we got a job at this coffee house. So it's not like I'm living on the streets or anything."

"You're doing all right, then?" he said.

She nodded. "It'll be fine."

They smiled at each other for a long moment. Then she stood up. "I should go. I'll... see you around the Y, right?"

"Sure thing," he said, rising to take her hand again. "I'll be back there next week. Thank you for coming."

"No problem," she said, clasping his hand firmly.

She took a step away, then turned back. "I forgot to tell you," she said, "my name isn't actually Lizzie."

Ira smiled sadly. "I'd wondered."

"My name is Robyn," she said in a low voice. "But... would you mind if I kept using Lizzie? I... kind of like it. And I don't really like who I'm named for."

Ira's smile threatened to crack his face. "No, darlin'. I don't mind. And I think you would've liked my Lizzie, if you could ever have met her."

"Thank you." She hesitated, then kissed him on the cheek. "See you around."

He was still smiling as he settled back into his chair.

The Outsider came over to give him a cup of tea. "That the girl?" she asked.

He nodded. "Sweet kid," he said. "Nothing like her, of course. I wonder why I thought so?"

---

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Date: 2012-01-27 11:19 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
Poor Ira!

Ah, I think I get it

Date: 2013-01-10 04:05 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
So the other person that the alien in Josh's body was in contact with was inside of Robyn? Does that mean Josh was actually right when he screamed that she wasn't his mother?

Re: Ah, I think I get it

Date: 2013-01-10 02:22 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
Probably not. The entity in Robyn was pretty well separate from the alien using Josh's body, and Ira, at least, I think, suspects somewhere in the back of his head that the entity may have actually been Lizzie, somehow transformed by the Great Gulf. No proof, of course.

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