Whoo! About time I updated this! Sorry for the length between updates, but I'm hoping I can get better about that with it being summer & all! Disclaimer – I am not a mouse, or a ghost, or a man…so, I'm in no way related to Disney…if it is from the film, it is not mine!
Later that afternoon, the seven teens lounged in the Stronghold living room. Will's parents had to rush off and deal with some kind of overgrown Venus flytrap while Warren's mother had returned to her negotiations. Before leaving, Josie had issued a blanket invitation for them to stay the weekend, so everyone had split up, grabbed some stuff and then returned for an extended slumber party. As was to be expected, the first topic of discussion was the meeting earlier that day.
"I don't believe we actually had to stage an attack to get their attention! Two ruined dances weren't enough?" questioned Maj as she perched on the arm of the sofa.
"People see what they want to see," Melinda answered. She was sitting cross-legged on the single stuffed chair across from the fireplace, across from Ethan and Zach as they sat on the floor and leaned on the coffee table.
"If it doesn't fit into their narrow little view, they write it off or explain it away. They come up with any excuse not to see what's right in front of them," Warren stated as he came out of the kitchen with a couple of sodas. Handing one to Will, he stepped back to lean on the arm of Melinda's chair. "Snowflake?"
She stuck her tongue out at him, but frosted the root beer he held out. He smirked, but nodded in thanks.
Will snorted softly and leaned back against the sofa cushions. He took a swig of his soda and nodded at Warren.
"They really, really did not want to acknowledge that they had a problem. Sky High has always been safe. Royal Pain shook them up, but she was a student…and student council president – they expected her to be a fluke. This new attack did more than shake them up; it scared them. All of the sudden, those hallways are not so safe any longer – and they're responsible for a bunch of kids' lives."
Melinda's eyes narrowed in consideration as she looked at Will in the silence that followed his comments. Despite his young age, Will had done a lot of growing up in the past few weeks. He'd been able to take charge of this motley little crew despite the mix of personalities, and two of them being older. The lessons in "heroism" that his parents had been feeding him seemed to have really begun to take root in him.
Even Warren's a bit impressed. He may throw sarcasm around like confetti, but he took Will's orders last night without argument. He's a heavy hitter, and can lead when necessary, but he knows he's not a team leader. Will is – he's got that charisma built in. He'll be the one talking to the masses while Warren's in the shadow guarding his back. Thank all that's holy – they're the good guys!
Her lips quirked slightly as she imagined what type of damage the two could do if they decided to walk on the other side of that line. A nudge on her shoulder interrupted her thoughts. Casting a look up at the pyro, she could see a half-hidden concern in the dark eyes. Once he had her attention, he cast a look at the girl sitting quietly next to Will.
Layla's eyes were downcast, focusing on a small patch of carpet. She'd been fairly quiet since they had gathered back together. Her silent demeanor and red-rimmed eyes had everyone concerned, but they had been trying to act normal, waiting for her to speak up about whatever was bothering her. It didn't look like that was going to happen anytime soon unfortunately. Melinda gave Warren a tiny nod before standing.
"Will, can I shift you for a moment, please?" Melinda asked as she moved over to the sofa.
An expression of relief came over the young man's face. No matter how much he had grown, he was still a male…a teenage male…and teary-eyed girls were still a form of kryptonite. As she sat down next to the tiny red-head, she could feel the tiny tremors that shook her frame. Melinda frowned in concern and glanced up at Maj, who gave the tiniest of head shakes.
Great…neither her boyfriend or her best friend know what is going on.
After another couple of moments of silence, when Layla did not even seem to register the seating change, Melinda put a comforting arm around her. The girl stiffened but did not move away.
"Layla?" asked Melinda in her softest voice. "What's wrong, sugar?"
Layla's lower lip began to tremble, and Melinda tightened her arm. She still remained silent, but now Melinda could see the glaze of tears in the green eyes and knew the girl was holding onto her control by the thinnest of margins. She lifted one white-blond eyebrow and gave Maj a direct look. The dark-haired girl leaned over and put a hand on her friend's arm.
"Layla?" Maj asked.
At that, the storm finally broke and the red-head buried her face in Melinda's shoulder. Lifting her other arm, Melinda enfolded the girl into a tight hug while Maj ran a comforting hand down her hair. The boys shifted uncomfortably, but they stayed put in a silent show of support. As the silent tears soaked into Melinda's shirt, she sent a frown of confusion towards Will. He shrugged, eyes focusing back on his weeping girlfriend.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the storm abated. Layla began to get herself under control. Maj stepped into the kitchen for a wet cloth while Warren handed Melinda a box of tissues from the mantel. The two females made quick work of cleaning up their friend. When she had finally gotten composed, Layla bit her lower lip and gazed towards Will. Melinda smiled, patted her arm and switched seats again. As she settled back into the chair, she felt Warren shift next to her and take a more stable perch on the arm of her chair. Glancing up at him, she gave a tiny nod as he flicked a look down at her.
Well, I guess we'll both watch their backs – him physically and me emotionally. Now, what the hell happened between the school and here?
"Layla, what happened?" Will asked, taking hold of his girlfriend's hand and frowning in concern.
They all watched as the girl in question took a deep breath and looked around the room. Her lips twitched in sorrow.
"My mom; she gave me a lot of grief about how I used my powers in a violent way this morning."
Everyone exchanged glances at that. Melinda frowned in confusion.
"Nobody got hurt," Warren stated, unknowingly echoing her thoughts. "You used your powers to contain, not to harm."
She shrugged her shoulders.
"I wasn't under attack, and neither was anybody else. In her mind, we were the aggressors and misused out powers."
Of all the stupid…
Melinda cut her thoughts off before she could get really angry.
"Does your mother not believe in proactively containing a situation?" Ethan asked. "Even the Mediator thought we handled the situation in a proper manner, and negotiations are her specialty."
A quiet look of proud satisfaction crossed Warren's face, giving it a calmer and more peaceful appearance for just a moment. Melinda bit the inside of her cheek.
Everyone always remembers he is Baron Battle's son first. How many people actually stop to think of his mom?
Layla was shaking her head.
"She thinks Ms. Peace was being subjective about the whole thing. My mom flat out refuses to use her powers in an aggressive way unless there is a clear and immediate threat. She believes in talking until there is no other choice."
"Dude," Zach spoke up finally. "No offense or anything, but that's a little messed up. How many people get hurt because somebody won't do something and try to talk it to death? Not that I'm saying you should go all medieval on people, but some people just ain't going to listen."
"Mom doesn't believe that. She never has. I think people are too quick to attack others too, but sometimes…I mean, what do you do if everyone is shouting and nobody's listening?"
Maj nodded, her violet streaks catching the light.
"Talking is good, but it only works if the other party is willing to listen."
Layla lifted her right arm in a half-shrug.
"Any way, when we got home and I got my stuff together, Mom sat me down for an 'I'm disappointed in you' talk. She almost didn't let me come over."
Warren leaned forward, leaning his arm on the leg resting on the chair. As he pinned a dark gaze on the girl, red and black strands of hair slid forward to hang loosely around his face. Melinda could feel a slight twitch in her hands that she ruthlessly suppressed.
Now is not the time.
"All right then, nature girl, you want me to see if my mom will have a talk with yours? Maybe work some of this out?"
A sweet, but surprised smile crossed Layla's face.
He gave a shrug and leaned back.
"That's how a team works."
Will and Melinda exchanged looks as the others blinked. Will rolled his eyes as she smirked in amusement. The other four still seemed surprised when Warren included himself in their number. Plus, he was the first one to actually call them a team…not just a group of friends, or outcasts, but a team. That was a hero term.
Funny how Will is the only one of them that gets it. His parents are such independent workers, though they've learned to rely on each other. It's funny that they managed to raise such a team-oriented son. Will knows he can't do everything, and he's not arrogant enough to try.
She looked around the room. Now that Layla's problem had been handled, everyone seemed much more relaxed and ready for a break. She relaxed into the cushions and considered her new teammates. Each brought something to the mix that made them stronger.
Ethan gave the group a wealth of trivia on past heroes and villains. He had a deep love of history and the way it flowed and wandered to become today's world. His enthusiasm for research certainly helped motivate the group, if only to keep him happy.
Zach's eternal optimism kept them all motivated. His powers were among the most limited, and he didn't have Ethan's intellectual ability to increase his potential. However, his energetic and positive outlook on his future kept their spirits up.
Maj had a sharp view of the world, slightly cynical and less than enthused. However, she hid a compassionate heart and remained absolutely committed to her friends. She would do anything and go anywhere to keep them safe – grumbling the entire way.
Layla, for all her mother's efforts, would grow into quite the mama bear. She remained fiercely protective of the ones she cared about. She had already proven willing to draw attention away from someone, even when scared out of her own wits. She was resourceful, and gave the group a boost in its determination to do the right thing.
Will and Warren – light and dark sides of the same coin; they both had a lot to overcome, not the least of which was their respective fathers' reputations. They both had a desire to do well, to be independent, and a healthy distrust of society's expectations. Will had the potential to grow into a greater leader than the Commander had any dream of being. He accepted help and respected the input of others without lording his own strengths over them. Warren had a desire to protect that even his brooding had not hidden; even Boomer had seen it, turning the safety of the others over to him at Homecoming. His attitude of complete, sometimes tactless honesty gave the others a baseline they could trust and a foundation from which they could make decisions. The two made an interesting pair – the noble leader and his trustworthy lieutenant.
And Melinda herself?
I give them a boost in science and technology, but more than that, I give them a shoulder. I get to be the big sister, the willing ear, for them to share their troubles with. I'm not a leader, and I know that, but I get to share in the effort. If we're a pack of outsiders, I guess that makes me Layla's trusted lieutenant. I can be the bad guy and tell her the truth when Maj might not feel inclined to upset her.
Watching the group sit and simply enjoy being together, Melinda could acknowledge a sense of unhappiness about the topic she was going to have to broach.
"Guys, I hate to say this, but we are going to have to talk about the meeting, and what's going to happen on Monday."