Winner of Superhero's vs. Villains Oneshot Competition, run by Simone Marie and Mouse555.
Twitter Handle (if any): morefunthan
Title: Comic Book Hero
Word Count: 4617
Summary: Jasper makes a promise to someone special to create the perfect hero. What seems like an easy task takes him on a journey that he won't forget
Superhero submissions MUST use the following line in their story: "I Have Considered Radioactive Spiders, and Kryptonite."
I sat at my desk, sharpening my pencil once more. I had sharpened it so often that it was nearly ground into a stump. Piles of crumpled up paper filled my wastepaper basket. Those piles were the only evidence of my hours of toil. I had never missed a deadline. Working for an advertising agency meant that I was constantly trying to meet at least one. Not that it mattered now. So much for doing what I wanted to so desperately. I was trying my damndest to achieve an impossible goal, and it happened to be the most important one that I'd ever set out to achieve. I was running out of time, and the sands had all but run through the hourglass.
Of course, just because I was in advertising didn't mean I knew shit about creating a something that would go down in history. Or at least...impress a small boy and give him something to brighten up his day. I knew I'd bitten off more than I could chew, but I just couldn't disappoint him. Trying with all my might not to become maudlin, I smiled to myself as I recalled our most recent conversations, the memories of them still raw within my mind.
"Uncle Jasper, thank you for my present, but I'm bored with Spidey."
"Little Dude, I thought you liked Spiderman. Should I go get you something else?"
"Nah. I wanna read something new."
And with that statement, I promised myself that I'd create something special for him. It wasn't as if he'd asked me directly, but I was more than determined to make him happy after having gone through weeks of chemotherapy for leukaemia for the umpteenth time in his short life. He was becoming restless after being admitted into hospital when he contracted a dose of pneumonia. Fucking treatment just takes all the body's will to fight out of it...and those around him had not fared much better.
I smiled at the cute way my nephew Emmett Junior, or Little Dude as I affectionately called him, spoke. He was a curious boy, that one...and filled with such enthusiasm that there was not a chance in Hades that he was mixed up at the hospital when he was born. Physically, he was a goddamned clone of my brother Emmett. Ah yes, little EJ had his father's mischievous smile, his rugged good looks, his good-natured humour and his positive outlook on life. The only physical attributes that he possessed of his mother, Rose, was the blonde hair. He did, however, possess other attributes that were all Rose...namely his stubbornness and inner strength.
And it was just as well.
He had endured more than many other children had to at the tender age of eight should ever have to, and the worst was still to come.
"Yeah. I'm sick of those stupid outfits. I want a hero that doesn't wear tights. Tights are for girls."
I laughed as I remembered the way he joked around all the time, his voice still ringing in my ears. His sense of humour always cracked me up. And then, just like that, I was in that place. The place where I knew his life hung in the balance. Every time I visited him, he grew weaker, frailer, and his eyes and skin dulled...lost their life, their lustre. I wanted to shout to the heavens, cursing them for making my only nephew so ill, but at the same time would give anything to relieve him of his troubles and endure his suffering in his place. But...life was never that fair. That boy had an impact on everyone he met...and I had never seen my brother more proud than on the day he was born.
I sighed heavily as I recalled visiting him in hospital that fateful afternoon, taking in the latest Batman comic book for him to read.
"Uncle Jasper...you're here!" he rasped, his infectious enthusiasm tempered by his sudden coughing fit.
I watched and waited as his tiny frail body hacked and spluttered. It just wasn't right.
"Hey there, Little Dude. How are you doing today?" I leaned over his bed and rubbed what was left of his hair affectionately, and he laughed weakly and pushed my hand away, coughing once more. As much as it broke my heart to see him like this, I made a concerted effort to treat him as I always did.
"I'm okay," he whispered, shrugging his tiny shoulders. As much as he tried to remain positive, the poor kid was being worn down by it all, and it was literally killing me to see him this way.
"Where's your Mom and Dad?" I asked, usually seeing them there anytime I came to visit.
"Oh, they're with the Doctor I think."
Another Doctor. They'd seen them all, and no-one but no-one had given him a chance. It didn't matter that they had money. No amount of it buys your health, and though he'd survived longer than expected, we knew that this latest course of treatment would probably be his last.
"Right. So does this comic meet with your approval?" I asked as I placed the Batman comic on his bedside table.
He beckoned me closer with his finger. I sat on the bed and leant in towards his pallid face. "It does, but I have a few top secret ideas for my own comic," he whispered, placing his finger to his lips and zipping it shut.
"Oh, I see. Well does this comic book hero have a name or is that top secret information?" I whispered behind my hand.
"I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you," he said, smiling softly.
"You little smart-ass," I said sarcastically, playfully punching him in the arm.
"Ooo you're in trouble...you said a curse word!" he teased.
I let out a chuckle at his joke, and said, "It will have to be just between us then, unless you're gonna tell!"
"I can keep a secret," he answered with a smile and a nod.
"I can too, so tell me about your hero then. What powers and weaknesses does he have?"
He folded his arms and shook his head, not willing to reveal anything much.
"I'm still figuring stuff out, but I have considered radioactive spiders and Kryptonite."
"That's great Little Dude," I answered with a broad grin, kissing him on his clammy forehead.
"Uncle Jasper, if you wanna be the first to read my comic, stop it with the girly stuff okay?" he complained, pushing me away. We sat there, talking, laughing and joking around until his parents walked in the room, their expressions telling me all was not well...
The next few weeks passed without me getting a single idea for a comic book hero, and he just continued to wither away before my eyes...until the day he lost the fight, his eyes closing as he took his last breath while his mother held him in her arms.
I checked the clock that sat on my desk and I stood up and got dressed, donning a white shirt and my best black jacket and pants. A single tear fell from my eye as I wondered why I couldn't come up with anything worthy of that boy. I realised that no words could describe how I felt about him, so I decided to speak from the heart when delivering the most important speech I'd ever made in my life.
I picked up my phone and text my brother, letting him know I'd be picking him and Rose up in ten minutes. I let out a sigh and fixed my tie obsessively until it was just right, and headed out to the car.
"Hey Emmett," I said in a small voice, reaching for my brother and embracing him as he opened the door, his watery eyes red and puffy, his expression strained.
"Hey," he croaked out as he released me and headed for the living room where his wife sat, blotting her eyes with a handkerchief before tucking it in her sleeve, her eyes blinking rapidly as she tried to compose herself.
"Rose, darlin'." I nodded as she stood up then lurched forward, and I rushed towards her, embracing her tightly as she threw all her weight against my chest, nearly collapsing as I held her in my arms. "I know. I miss him too," I murmured in her ear before kissing her on her tear soaked cheek, slowly letting her go, her hands taking mine.
"Thank you, Jasper...for everything. For being there for him...for us," she whispered, her voice hoarse from her endless crying, her hands squeezing mine gently.
"Jasper, the nurses found this stuck behind the drawers in his room," Emmett said as he walked to the coffee table and picked up a sealed envelope, handing it to me. I tentatively took it in my hands, immediately recognising the handwriting, the envelope addressed to me.
It read: 'Top Secret for Uncle Jasper to read to Mom and Dad.'
"Jasper, we haven't opened it," Emmett assured me with concern in his eyes, touching my shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze.
"He's your son...maybe you should," I insisted, pushing the envelope back towards my brother.
"We...can't do it. Besides, he left it for you to read to us. Please, Jasper, won't you please just do it?" Rose begged in an anguished voice.
I knew I had to follow Emmett Junior's wishes, but at the same time I felt as though I was robbing his parents of something that they could never get back. I stared at them both, their expressions so pained that I felt myself beginning to waver.
"Jasper, please, for us?" Emmett insisted, tears brimming his eyes once more.
"Sure, okay...if you're sure that's what you want," I warned with uncertainty in a cracked voice. They nodded their heads in unison, giving me no choice but to go along with their wishes. I headed for the couch and sat down, while Rose and Emmett sat down either side of me.
My fingers fumbled as I took in a heavy breath and opened the envelope, pulling out a stack of stapled papers, the front page a handwritten note from my Little Dude.
My hands trembled. Tears rushed to my eyes and prickled them. My heart clenched. My body shook. Whatever remained of my shattered heart broke as I opened my mouth and read the note...
"Hey Uncle Jasper,
I finished the Top Secret Project. I'm not a very good drawer but you can fix that.
Don't be sad I left.
The angels won't be as pretty as my Mom but I'm gonna ask them to make me pancakes every Sunday anyway.
Look after Mom and Dad and please tell them I love them and please show them the comic book too.
I love you Unca Jasper.
Even when you get all mushy.
Love from your Little Dude."
I took in a deep breath and sighed, blinking back the tears that I knew were about to flood my eyes. He hadn't called me Unca Jasper in years. Willing myself to keep it together, I read the story to them while they looked over my shoulder and marvelled at his work, and my heart burst with a mixture of pride and grief at what he'd achieved.
As I read the last line, and for the first time since we had lost him, I couldn't hold my grief in any longer. I clenched my eyes shut and began to sob openly, my mind wracked with pain and grief and my body on the verge of collapse. The two of them wrapped their arms around me in comfort, and we embraced each other in a group hug as our tears flowed freely.
"Oh God, I miss him," Rose cried, her tears wet against my cheeks.
"My son...my boy," Emmett sobbed in desperation on my shoulder, his body limp on mine as he leaned into me.
We sat there, absorbed in our own tiny bubble of hurt for several moments before old enemy time ran out.
"Oh Jasper...you just have to read this when you do your eulogy," Rose near begged as she reached out as she pulled out her handkerchief once more and dabbed her eyes.
"Yeh, bro. I know you wanted to do something for him, but considering the effort EJ's put into this, I think it's only fitting," Emmett agreed, wiping his tears away with the palm of his hand.
And I knew it was. "Okay. Sure, I'll read it out," I answered as I wiped my tears away with the back of my hand...the hand that clutched the one remaining piece that I had left of him. As terrified as I was about losing it in front of family and friends, I knew my Little Dude wouldn't have wanted things any other way.
We arrived at the small church which was brimming with mourners. Doctors and nurses from the hospital, our parents Carlisle and Esme as well as our cousin Edward with his wife Bella were all there. As I silently shook hands, gave and received hugs, acknowledged their whispers with a silent nod, we headed down the aisle and finally took our seats in the front row of the church. As everyone took their seats and settled, a curtain rolled back, revealing a white coffin topped with white roses. I closed my eyes and swallowed thickly, trying to hold myself together. Rose took my hand and squeezed, memories flooding back of my last ever vision of my nephew as his frail form lay still and unbreathing at the funeral home when I helped Rose and Emmett arrange the funeral and choose his casket. My body shook as Rose squeezed my hand harder. She was so much stronger than either Emmett or me, and for that I was nothing but grateful.
The minister began the ceremony, his voice not reaching my ears as my own thoughts and feelings overwhelmed me. I felt Rose shudder as she sat next to me, and Emmett's hand wrapped around her shoulder in support as he sobbed. I breathed deeply as the words came and left, fluttered in and out of my mind, only to disappear into the background as my heart pounded out of my chest.
Finally, Rose let go of my hand, snapping me back to reality and Emmett whispered, "Jasper, it's time."
I glanced toward him and he gave me a pleading look, and no matter afraid I was of losing it, I knew I had no choice but to do as he wanted. I took in a deep breath and stood up, slowly heading towards the pulpit, my eyes quickly glancing towards the casket and snapping back before I reached my destination.
I unfurled the rolled up comic that I had clutched in my hand since Emmett had given it to me and opened the first page. I closed my eyes and breathed once more before I began...
"Good afternoon, folks. Thank you for coming today." I cleared my throat, averting my eyes from the huge sea of mourners as I tried to compose myself.
"As ya'll probably know, our EJ had a love of comic books. In the last days of his life, he invented his own comic book hero, and so the family thought it fitting that I share the story with you as a tribute to him."
My bottom lip began to quiver as I heard whimpers and sobs fill the church, but instead of allowing myself to be overwhelmed, I inhaled heavily as I tried my hardest to focus and press on. I had to get through this for my Little Dude.
"The title of the comic is Cowboy Jazz and Little Dude Go to the Big Game."
I put my clenched fist to my mouth and coughed before I began, trying to get rid of the ache in my throat, at the same time blinking back tears.
"Cowboy Jazz lived on a ranch once. His brother had a son, and when he was born, Cowboy Jazz moved to the big city to be with his family."
I held up the comic and briefly pointed towards the drawings and said, "Sorry, he's done some illustrations as well, but you probably can't see them so I'll just read the story." His stick figure drawings of us all choked me up. My drawing was of a stick figure with a cowboy hat on, and Emmett's was taller with his hands and feet larger than the rest. Rose's was with big lips and a huge mop of hair, and his was smaller, but still had hair. Just like he did before he got sick. Like me and Emmett, EJ didn't have much of an ability to draw, but his writing skills for a boy of his age was pretty impressive. I continued...
"The baby's name was EJ, but Cowboy Jazz called him Little Dude. Cowboy Jazz loved Little Dude very much and they spent a lot of time together just playing and hanging out. When Little Dude turned seven, Cowboy Jazz took him and his Dad to his first ever baseball game. His Mom stayed home so that all the boys could hang out together."
The sobs in the tiny church became louder, and caused tears to prickle my eyes for the hundredth time in these last days. The ache in my throat that I was trying my best to swallow spread down my chest and right through my heart as I recalled one of the last times that Emmett Junior ever looked healthy. It seemed like only yesterday that we sat in the bleachers watching the Texas Rangers play the Yankees. We made ourselves sick as we gorged on hotdogs, peanuts and gallons of soda while watching the game and joking around. It was one of the happiest days of my life, watching as my nephew, so full of life, enjoyed himself.
The week after that, he collapsed at school and was taken to hospital.
I closed my eyes briefly, willing myself to hang tough. I needed to get through this any way I could.
"At the bottom of the ninth, Cruz hit a home run and the ball flew way back to where Little Dude and Cowboy Jazz were sitting. Cowboy Jazz and Little Dude reached up to catch the ball. Little Dude smiled as it landed in his hand, but then it slipped through his fingers and fell onto the ground. A man who was watching them picked the ball up and smiled at them evilly.
'Give the boy his ball,' said Cowboy Jazz.
'Make me, Rangers loser,' said the horrible man as he pushed Cowboy Jazz in the shoulder. Little Dude noticed who he was...a Yankees supporter...mortal enemy to the Texas Rangers.
'Happy to oblige, sir,' Cowboy Jazz said as he took off his ten gallon hat and handed it to Little Dude's Dad.
Little Dude's Dad was very angry at the man, so he smiled and nodded at Cowboy Jazz and said, 'Go for it, Jazz.'
The man pushed Cowboy Jazz again and said, 'Go ahead.'
'You asked for it,' he answered before he swung his tight fist at the man and hit him in the nose.
The ball fell to the ground and Cowboy Jazz picked it up and gave it back to a very happy Little Dude. The man stood up and ran away, knowing that he had been outwitted by his enemy.
'Now, who wants another hotdog?' Cowboy Jazz asked as he took back his hat and put it on his head.
'Me!' shouted Little Dude.
The crowd cheered as the Rangers won the game six-two."
I closed the pages of the comic book and put it in my inside breast pocket, finally looking at the congregation of sobbing mourners before me, relieved that I'd managed to read the story out without collapsing. Rose and Emmett smiled through their tears, silently thanking me. I nodded back and smiled, thanking them for giving me such a wonderful nephew.
"Thank you for listening. I know EJ's watching out over these proceedings, and I couldn't be a prouder Uncle."
I stepped away from the pulpit and hesitated at the closed casket, placing a kiss on my lips and touching the lid, and muttered, "Sorry about all the mushy stuff, Little Dude. I love you."
Two weeks later, I was sitting at my desk at work, trying to focus on a deodorant campaign. It was no use. As much as I loved my job, I missed him so much that everything else in my life seemed pointless. I had a meeting scheduled with a new mystery client. I had no details of who they were, where they were from or what they wanted. My boss had arranged the meeting, and insisted I take it even though I would be going in there ill-prepared, citing that if I knew what was good for me, I wouldn't cancel.
I checked my watch and put on my jacket, patting the pocket to check that the comic was still there. I never went anywhere without it. I closed the door to my office and headed for the conference room, nodding as I passed the receptionist and opened the door and stood there, unable to move.
In that moment, my heart began to beat once more as I laid eyes on the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen, her black as coal hair in disarray, her eyes hazel and warm as she sat at the end of the large mahogany conference table. I knew her. From somewhere in the back of my mind, she seemed familiar.
"Hello, I'm Alice Brandon," she said, introducing herself, eagerly rising to her feet. I blinked my eyes rapidly, trying to bring myself out of my trance as I snapped shut my suddenly gaping mouth.
"Jasper Cullen, ma'am," I replied as I strode over and reached out to shake her hand.
"I know," she said with a smile as our hands met. Her touch was soft and warm, and oh and what a smile she had!
I stared at her with confusion and stated, "So we have met, then."
"Kind of," she answered. And as those worse left her rosebud lips, I realised where I'd seen her.
"EJ's funeral," I whispered, my heart lurching as I slipped my body into one of the chairs. I remembered seeing that black shock of hair in amongst the sea of people at the funeral, but was so out of it that day that it was only now that I remembered her.
She sat down next to me and merely nodded. "Yes. I'm so sorry for your loss. Rose tells me he was a wonderful boy.
"He sure was," I said wistfully, his face suddenly appearing in my mind's eye. "So you're a friend of Rose?"
"Uh-ha. Rose and I were high school friends, but when she got married and moved away, we kind of lost touch until I moved here a few months ago."
"Well, thanks so much for offering your condolences, but why did you want to meet with me here?" I asked, feeling confused as to why she would want a formal client meeting.
"I've recently landed a job as an illustrator for Penguin, and I think that EJ's comic would make the basis for a great children's book. Kind of a cross between a comic and a children's book, you know, to maybe draw in a new kind of reader."
"Oh," I said as I touched my heart, right over where the book lay.
"I've been talking to my boss about it for the last few weeks, and I really think it would be a great idea, but thought I'd give you some time before meeting with you, you know after..."
"And you'd like to publish it?" I interrupted with a raised brow, trying to stay away from the subject of my nephew, saving me breaking down yet again.
"Sure, if you think it's something you'd like to do. I'd be happy to illustrate it for you, and of course I'd love to use you both as the basis for the heroes, if that's okay." As she spoke, she bounced in her seat, and the positive energy of this woman did nothing but draw me in.
I swallowed thickly, unable to work out what to do, and as I did, my phone buzzed in my pocket.
It was a text from Rose, which read: Please say yes. You have our blessing.
"Well, Little Lady, how about we discuss this over lunch?" I asked as I reached over and took her warm, comforting hand in mine and stood up, my smile returning at my newfound nickname for her, my heart though hollow, somehow a little fuller as I led her outside...
A/N: thank you so much for reading. I would appreciate your comments...