"Every once in a while a story comes along that defines a writer. A story so powerful that he doesn't want to tell it, he has to tell it."
–Brain Michael Bendis

Strongest One There Is

by Nate Z

"Poor guy goes down in the line of fire and nobody even gets his name right."

"Eddie,"the snow-haired boy whispered as he walked down one of the busy streets of Time's Square. "His name was Eddie."

They'd been on the phone when it happened. There was a commotion on Eddie's side of the line. The next thing he knew Eddie was shouting something about Wolverine. Something about how he'd rebuilt his gauntlet and how he had to do something. He tried to talk Eddie out of it, but it was no use, and Johnny Gallo did what he'd never thought he'd do again. He dug out his costume and rushed to save his friend.

But he was too late.

By the time he got there, the massacre was over. He watched from the shadows as Nick Fury kneeled next to Eddie's armored corpse and said the closest thing he knew he'd get as a proper eulogy.

"Poor guy goes down in the line of fire and nobody even gets his name right."

"Eddie," Johnny repeated as he turned and walked down an alleyway. "Eddie McDonough. The Hornet."

He paused a moment, waiting to make sure the coast was clear. Then, with agility that would shame the most talented of gymnasts, he soon landed on the roof of one of the buildings.

They used to meet here, the four of them. Eddie, Cassie, Ritchie and himself. They'd meet on this roof, at the Billboard, and play super-hero. Pretend they were a team. It was Eddie that usually called the meetings. It was him that picked the Billboard of the other super-heroes, hoping it was serve as an inspiration.

"The Billboard's gone now," Johnny whispered, looking at the new ad for sports deodorant. "Just like Eddie."

There was a silence as Johnny tried to figure out what he intended to do now that he had arrived at his destination. Not even a gust of wind disturbed his thoughts.

"Why'd you do it Eddie?" he finally asked. "It was freakin' Wolverine! The best he is at what he does! You never even finished Super-Hero 101!"

Another silence, as if he were expecting the answer.

"I know," he sighed. "You had to do something, didn't you? You had to at least try. I want to say I'd do the same thing, but...I just don't know.

"You always thought of yourself as weak didn't you Eddie?" Johnny continued. "Because of your arm. You were always trying to rise above it too. I saw the ice in your gaze when I tried to help you pick up your books. Even when you got the suit, you still had something to prove. You were always modifying it. Like if you made the suit better, you could make you better. You were so determined to overcome that weakness...that you missed you were the strongest one out of all of us."

He stopped and covered his face with his hand.

" 'Before I became Hornet,' " he quoted, holding back tears, " 'I felt so weak–from when I got up in the morning until I went to bed and all the time in-between. And then I got the power...and I felt strong.' "

He uncovered his face and raised his head to the sky.

" 'But I never, ever felt stronger than I do right now.' "

A small, smile came over Johnny's face.

"Those were your words," he whispered, "as you threw the armor right in that demonic son of bitch's face. I'll never forget them. Because...

"Because I wish I could be as strong as you Eddie."

With that, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a can of black spray paint. He shook the can, and set to work, spraying the roof before the billboard. A few minutes passed, and Johnny stood, tossing the can aside as he looked over his masterpiece.

"You like?" he asked, another sad smile forming on his face.

"Yeah...yeah Johnny. I do."

Johnny gave one last nod before turning to go, leaving behind his final farewell.