~*~

By the time the webbing dissolves off of Daniel's hands and mouth, the pizza has gone cold and Peter and Kitty have shuffled off to sleep, despite the fact that it's early in the morning and the sky has already started growing light. Though their discussions and antics kept them up all night, Harry seems unaffected and watches Daniel with undisguised malice while working his way through a six pack of Miller.

"Aren't you a little young to be drinking?" Daniel asks between chews.

"Aren't you a little not-my-father to give a shit?" Harry props his feet up on the table and keeps drinking. "Since you're going to stay here, you're shaving that porno-stache. You look like a hoser. And as soon as that stupid blond color grows out you're losing that too."

"I'll be recognized," he weakly protests.

"Inside the house? Not hardly. Nobody here to recognize you." Harry finishes off the beer. "You want to hide? Put your mask back on."

Daniel sighs; it is too early and, after everything that's happened, he's too tired to argue with the boy. He drops the remaining crust into the trash and looks wearily at Harry. "Look, I'm tired and could use a little sleep. Can I have my own bed back at least?"

"Kitty's sleeping in it. You get the couch." Harry cracks open the last beer. "And if you try to escape while we're sleeping, I will hunt you down and break every limb you've got, no matter what Kitty and Pete say."

His posturing is almost laughable, the testosterone fueled, hollow claims of a boy. But his eyes dance with orange sparks and Dan remembers the massive, terrifying creature his flesh can twist him into, the beast that had no hesitance in breaking the heads of thugs with knives. Dan sits docilely and washes the leftovers down with a glass of water, until Harry's head pokes back into the room.

"And don't think of looking for the diary either."

He leaves again, this time for good, and Daniel's exhaustion makes him nearly collapse onto the table. There's too much happening, all at once, and he can process it all, one revelation after another punching him in the gut harder than any criminal ever did. He curls up on the couch and tries to ignore any sounds from upstairs that sound like nightmare cries or sobs.

~*~

"Ms. Jupiter?" The nurse, a clean cut brunette with perfectly in place makeup knocks at the door and addresses Sally the way she's asked to be addressed. "There's a couple saying they want to visit you."

"A couple?" She sits up and adjusts her robe.

"Yes. Two blond people." She looks nervous. "Should I show them in?"

"Yes!" She grins. She knew that Laurie would find Daniel – or that Sandra would find Sam, she needs to remember that – and they would come back and the rest of their visit would be just lovely before they went off to find new lives.

But when the girl returns a few moments later, the couple she brings with her is not Sam and Sandra Hollis. Sally has never seen these two before in her life, and her mouth hangs open, unsure why they are there or what they want. The blond girl stands back, aloof, but the man pushes forwards and grasps her hand, falling to one knee so that he's level with her and smiling like he's in a toothpaste commercial.

"Miss Jupiter," he breathes. "You don't know what an honor this is." He fans himself a little with one hand. "I'm sorry, you're just so… I have admired you forever!" He sounds like he's about to squeal or cry or both. Over in the corner, a smile flickers across the face of the blond girl at his overenthusiastic greeting.

"Who are you?" Sally asks blankly.

He stands up proudly. "Blaire Allison was my birth name. But when I'm in the city, I'm Allison Blaire." He closes his eyes and begins to glow, airy strobes flashing over ever surface of the room. "And when I'm doing my job, they call me Dazzler."

Sally's mouth hangs open for just a second before she rises ably to the occasion. "I'm flattered! You clean up so well, I didn't even suspect! And who's your friend? Oh, and would you like something to eat? I don't know where my manners are, here, I'll ring the girl and have her bring us some coffee and cakes."

They pull up chairs and seat themselves around Sally to discuss anything and everything, telling her about their trips to the city and how they got where they were, the feeling of finally having power and using it, and the cosmetic products that they like and how they keep their hair in order while on patrol. Sally beams with pleasure to find herself once again a center of admiration and attention.

~*~

Victor mingles with the crowd, some of their mutations obvious and others less so. The man at the head of the crowd is, by now, in high dudgeon, throwing his arms about and shouting to the throng gathered before him. Victor can already tell that he is preaching to the choir; nearly every statement he makes is met with cheers and, when they're not bellowing assent, the crowd sits rapt to listen.

"We are not a disease to be cured! We are not a disability, we are not something to be ashamed of!" The crowds assent echoes in the square. "Would you be taken away? Dragged off and drugged? Wouldn't you rather fight?"

Looking at his face, Victor can tell that this man is rapidly getting used to having his way, leading the crowd where he wants to take them with words alone. But he needs to know if words are all he has, dramatic statements and assurances that could easily be offered by others, or whether there's something more.

"My friends, we have been given an opportunity. The world is in shambles – but we are the ones with the ability to rebuild it, to make it new and whole again without the weakness of humanity that threatened to tear it apart! We have become the next step and we have a chance to start over. We do not need them!"

Conveniently overlooking that it was the world's formerly sole superhuman who threw them all into this mess, Victor notices. He lets his voice rise with the rest to blend in, still watching to see what would happen.

"If you are not afraid, then stand with me! Stand with your brethren and we shall inherit the earth! Already weaklings like Veidt, men of the old order who fear us, are beginning to clamor for our lives, positing It as a cure. But I know my friends!" Here he sticks out his hand, making faint blue numbers clear to those closest. "I know what comes of solutions like that. Camps! Experimentation! Horrors beyond your reckoning! But what more would you expect from a man with a past like his?" He shakes his head. "I shall not permit it!"

His arms stretch out and all around the crowd, gates and signs groan. The metal posts tear out of the ground and hover high above the heads of the crowd gathered below. Then they speed back to the earth like so many javelins, falling behind him and framing him with a wall of metal. Victor feigns amazement with the others around him, but frowns inwardly. The man barely has to concentrate to move such massive amounts of metal. He doesn't even seem to be fatigued. He is strong, then, Victor realizes, as well as charismatic.

Not a good combination to be a right-hand man to. Literature is distributed by the man's son and the man – Magneto, he calls himself – flies off at the end, giving directions to an old camp where he was setting up base. It had a morbid kind of symbolism, Victor supposes. But though he accepts the pamphlets, he already knows he will not go there until later.

No, he decides, it would not do hoping to gain power from the inside. Better to meet him as an equal and learn how to deal with their relationship

"We will not be joining him, will we?" Susan reads his face the moment he walks into the room.

"No, darling, we will not. Come, we've been here to long already."

"Where will we go to next?" She goes to the tiny hotel bathroom to gather her toiletries.

"To Latvaria, to claim my birthright." She comes out to find him studying himself in a mirror, making metal slide across and retreat from his features. He turns to her with a cold smile. "It seems that many of the country's leaders were in London for an economic summit at the time of the blast. It works out rather fortuitously, wouldn't you agree?"

Susan nods and suddenly feels more aware than ever of the power that Victor aspires to – the power she will share in, so long as she remains his own.

~*~

Todd Tolensky sits very, very, very still on the bus. He tries to keep his legs together, facing forward and locked in a rigid position, tries to sit up straight so that nobody will have any reason to suspect anything from his posture. His legs still have a few bruises and cuts from the last day before he left. And when he looks out the window, he wonders where exactly he's going and why. It sounds stupid to say that a voice in his head told him to, but there's no better explanation for why he hocked his deadbeat dad's watch, slipped off his wrist while he was passed out on the couch, and bought a ticket for the first bus heading to Connecticut.

Now he's headed towards he doesn't know what. But whatever it is, it has to be better than life in rotten old Jersey, hanging around kids who beat him up even before his muscles went all screwy and he got a tongue like Gene Simmons'.

Across the aisle sitting next to the opposite window is another boy about his age. He has dark hair that reaches almost to his shoulders and sits next to an overstuffed backpack with his foot propped up against the seat, glaring at the conductor each time he passes like he's daring him to say something. Todd sneaks looks at him every now and again and eventually the boy catches him looking.

"Uh, hi." Todd manages a little wave and tries to think of something to say. "You, uh, headin' to Connecticut too?"

"Yeah." The boy crosses his arms. "No business of yours."

"Oh, uh, me too." He fidgets. "Where you getting off?"

"Dunno." He closes his eyes and shrugs. "Wherever I feel like."

"Okay." He looks back out of the window when, to his surprise, the boy talks again.

"Name's Lance. You?"

"What?" He looks back around.

"A name. You got one?"

"Oh! Yeah, I mean, sure I do." He gulps. "I'm Todd."

"Todd. Right. So tell me Todd," he says, setting his backpack on the floor and sliding over a seat, "what is it that you can do?"

"What?" His heart starts ramming the inside of the ribcage.

"Chill, dude. I'm assumin' your like me – stuff happens, you got nowhere to go, then suddenly a trip to Connecticut starts sounding like a real good idea, right?"

"Something like that," he says faintly, trying not to freak out.

"So alright, I'mma level with you. I can cause vibrations. You know? Like earthquakes. Cracks in the ground and everything. What about you?"

"Nothing as cool as that," he mutters. "I can jump. And I, uh, have a tongue." He lets it roll out just a little to make his point. Lance whistles.

"Damn. How long?"

"Coupla feet."

Lance nods his approval and grins at him. "Tell you what, you look like you're buggin' a little right now, so I'll leave ya be. But no worries once we get there, okay? Just chill. We stick together and we'll get where were going."

"Thanks!" Todd brightens a little at having finally found someone whose idea of a fun afternoon isn't making his chin meet the pavement.

"Eh, don't mention it."

Lance goes back to lounging and snoozing and Todd doesn't say anything else, but feels quite a bit better about the trip he's making.

~*~

"Isn't California beautiful, Bob?" Wade puts his hands on his hips and looks at the sun-drenched foliage.

"I guess." He worries his lip with his teeth. "But what are we doing at a retirement village?"

"Havoc, that's what we're doing." He grins. "Gotta keep this exciting for the readers, you know? I mean, nobody's gotten killed in at least a chapter and it's time to pick up the pace a bit."

"Sir? What are you talking about?"

"Never mind, Bob," he sighs. "Just make sure you bring the extra katanas and guns."

~*~