For anyone coming to this story late, this is the second part to A Hero Born From Fire. A basic summary of the other story is Warren met and helped save a young girl that went to his school and by the end, they were together. That's a bad summary but yeah, in a nutshell I guess. This takes place ten years later. Let me know what you think.
"You are cordially invited back to the halls of Sky High. It has been ten years since your last visit and we are anxious to hear about your life since you left our High School for Heroes. Please RSVP and save the date for a blast from the past! We can't wait to hear from you."
Those were the words looking back at her as she read the small piece of stock card paper that had been hidden deep within her mail. Tricky, tricky little thing, hiding away and forcing her to read it. She would have preferred not even touching it and throwing it away until the memories of every friend she had ever made came back to her.
There was Layla, or Mrs. Stronghold rather. That still made her smile. Will and Layla would be celebrating their fourth anniversary soon… or maybe their fifth. They had become the new super hero dream team, rivaling his own parents. That was another thing that made her laugh. Last year, the original Stronghold duo had retired, much to the Commander's defiance but age was age. You can't be sixty and still fighting super villains, even if you are indestructible. So, Will and Layla took over and worked better together than anyone had really assumed.
Then you have Zach, Magenta and Ethan. Ethan was working, last she heard, as a teacher at Sky High. He had taken over for the Hero Support curriculum and along with Mr. Boy, were showing people how sidekicks really could be the heroes too. It was a sweet thing given how many times, even since their freshman year of school, that sidekicks like them had actually come out the hero.
Zach and Magenta have still been off and on since high school. The only real reason being their schools were so far apart and long distance was never Zach's strong suit. The last she had heard, he was working in a comic book store. He didn't so it for the money, or really any reason other than he loved what he did. Kids, normal kids, would come in gushing about heroes and he would get to sit down and tell them about how he had saved the Commander and Jetstream's life, how he went to high school with the greatest heroes and villains of the last ten years. Magenta was writing a book about something.
To be honest, Aryana hadn't paid much attention to anyone in the past couple of years, unable to really do so. She talked to Layla on the phone often, even seeing her when they would cross paths, but not really anyone else. She was a hero now, a real one with respect and everything despite being her father's daughter, but she also had a real job. Her paying job, not even really a cover, was counseling children of super villains. It seemed fitting. After all, she was the daughter of the worst. So, it wasn't really a cover ID given her patient's knew who she was, but it was a paying job. So, between that, actual super hero-ing, and a couple other things, having coffee with your friends wasn't as possible as you'd like. That, and she had moved the hell out of Maxville about eight and a half years ago anyway.
As she flipped through her yearbook, reminiscing about everything, she came across a picture she had thought she had scratched up or blacked out. She was wrong. There, looking back at her through his long hair, was Warren.
Ah Warren Peace, someone she was interested to see. Part of her hoped he had turned into a villain and was sent to a super max prison to live out the rest of his days like his daddy even though she knew it wasn't true. If it was, it would have been all over the headlines. The media and public love to see people like her and Warren fall into their parent's footsteps. The media always seemed to refer to it as inescapable aftermath of horrible parenting, or something along those lines.
She hadn't spoken to, about, or even mentioned in passing, Warren for years. There weren't many good memories that came from the man anymore. The last time they had spoken to one another, they had actually burned the entire interior of the room they were in, scorch marks on the walls and every piece of furniture smoldering. They were too hot tempered and hot blooded to have lasted long anyway. Fire was unpredictable and with the right kind of fuel, burned hot and burned fast or just exploded when it reached its peek like it did with them.
Still, she thought about him more than she'd like to. He was, after all, the first guy she ever cared about and he helped her more than she could ever repay him for. His mother too. She still talked to Joyce often, more often than anyone else really. The woman was the closest thing to a mother Aryana had since her own died. But, like with her friends, she never brought up Warren unless Aryana asked about him. They did it out of respect and she was thankful for it.
"Baby, you home!"
The voice brought her from her thoughts when she realized that she was no longer alone.
"Yeah!" she called from the living room. "In here."
A moment later, he emerged, leaning over her on the couch and kissing her head before noticing the yearbook. A chuckle left his lips.
"Really? Reliving the good ol' days?" he teased, walking around the couch and sitting next to her.
Aryana curled to his side, bringing the yearbook to sit on his lap so they could both look at it.
"I got this in the mail today." she said simply, pulling the invitation out of the mail pile and showing it to him.
"Ah," he smiled, reading the cheesy writing. "So we going?"
She shrugged, flipping the page of her book.
"Haven't really decided yet."
"Oh come on. You have to go." he laughed. "You have to show off your beautiful home, your perfect career and your godly fiancé."
"Godly?" she asked with a blatant laugh, turning and eying the man beside her. "Really?"
"Hey, I've got fan girls calling my name all the time."
"That's because you pose for pictures!" she declared with a laugh. "I mean, come on."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." he chuckled, looping his arm over her shoulder, looking back to the book. "Be glad you're marrying the awesome Cyclone."
She only laughed at the man beside her. She still had no idea how the two of them even got along as well as they did, a water storm producing hero and a fire manipulating demon woman. It was too ridiculous to her, but a hero was really her only option for a spouse. They were the only ones that understood everything she did and didn't seem to mind her… traits. So, she just shoved him gently in the gut with her elbow as he reached for the book and turned the page again, looking for a picture of her.
"Oh come on," he grumbled, not finding any. "There's got to be something here for me to laugh at."
"Hey!" she snapped playfully, shoving him again. "Just because you looked like a nerd in high school, doesn't mean everyone else did."
"I wasn't a nerd." he defended. "I was just…"
"Exactly." he smiled, turning the page and finding one. "Hey!" his expression soon dropped. "Oh… yeah, not this one."
Aryana glanced down and realized it was one of her and her friends, all of them, at prom. They had been told to pose together, future heroes under the picture. It wasn't that it was a good picture of her, it was who's arm she was under. Aryana scowled lightly at the picture of her and Warren before grabbing a chunk of the book and flipping it.
Jason leaned back and let her do what she wanted to. A moment later, she produced her senior picture.
"That's about the best you'll get." she smiled, heaving herself off the couch when her cell phone began ringing.
Jason looked at the picture of her with her hair back and one of those wraps they made the girls wear so their shoulders were bare. She had a light smile and makeup. He scowled.
"This so doesn't count!" he called back.
Aryana just smiled to herself as she answered her phone.
"Hello?" she laughed.
"Layla? Hey!" she chimed with a wide smile. "I was just thinking about you and Will."
"So you got one too huh?" she laughed.
Aryana rolled her eyes.
"I don't know yet. Don't try to force me."
"Me?" she mocked insult. "I'd never."
Aryana smiled and shook her head, leaning onto the island in her kitchen.
"So I guess that means the Stronghold family's going?"
"Well, I did technically graduate with you guys."
It was true. Despite being a year younger, Layla had wanted to take summer classes, gaining credits as she went which put her square in Aryana's class at graduation time. She, until Tony went to Sky High, was the youngest graduate at sixteen. Tony beat her by four years.
"So yup, I'm dragging Will." she laughed.
"How's he feel about that?" she laughed.
"Probably the same as you. He's curious but it's the whole, going back thing, that he's not to sure about. He's kind of worried people are going to start asking him a bunch of questions."
"It's a reunion. That's all they do. Everyone wants to try and make their life look better than everyone else's. Only difference is, most of us have it documented in the papers." she mused. "How's the town acting about it?"
"Excited. I mean, they obviously don't know exactly what's going on, but they all know a bunch of heroes are coming back."
"Do they expect us to walk around in our costumes or something?"
"They're throwing a parade." she laughed.
Aryana sighed, shaking her head.
"So that's a yes." Aryana smiled weakly. "Maybe I will show up. I've got some unfinished business there anyway."
"So you're going to talk to…"
"Eh!" Aryana said abruptly, putting an end to the question Layla was about to ask. "What's our rule?"
"That we don't mention his name."
Aryana smiled to herself.
"Yup. But no, it's got nothing to do with that. I've just got to deal with some other ghosts, that's all."
"So does that mean you're coming home?" Layla swooned, most likely making a face Aryana would laugh at. She laughed anyway, picturing it in her head.
"Yeah, I'll be there. When is this thing again?"
"Next Saturday so, week and a half."
"Cutting it kind of close aren't they?"
"It's not like half of us can really take time off work."
"Point taken. All right, well tell Will I said hi and I guess I'll see you later."
"Uh… I don't really know. Friday before the reunion?" she asked, feeling already that was the wrong answer.
"Nope, that's not going to work for me." Layla teased. "Why not just come a week ahead? At least that way we can hang out at least a little bit, catch up."
Aryana thought about it for a moment. She should really go to see Tony and it would be nice to take some time off work for a while to go back to Maxville. A smile touched her lips.
"All right. You're on. I'll see if I can get there some time this weekend."
"Great." she laughed. "Jason coming too?"
"Hey sweetie, you want to go to the reunion?"
He kept reading her yearbook but held up a 'thumbs up' to show his compliance. She shook her head.
"That'd be a yes." she laughed. "I'll call you soon?"
"Can't wait to hear from you. Bye Aryana."
"See you later Hippie." she smiled, hanging up before walking back to the couch and sitting. "So, you want to fly up there with me?"
"When you plan on leaving?" he asked absently.
"Well, it's Wednesday so… I'm booked through Friday… Saturday?"
"Gonna stay all week?"
"Yeah. I'll fly home Sunday morning after the reunion."
"Well, I'll have to meet you up there then." he sighed, closing the book to look at her. "I have to work until Thursday. I mean, I'm off this weekend but I've got appointments all next week."
"Can't cancel them?" she asked, slightly hopeful.
He smiled, laughing under his breath as he pulled her onto his lap. She obliged, hugging his side.
"Not really. I mean, probably some earlier in the week but what's the point when I have to be there Thursday?" he asked rhetorically.
She stuck out her tongue and made the childish noise. He chuckled and grabbed her, playfully pulling her down onto her back in the couch and kissing her neck making her giggle. This was her life now and up until a few moments ago, it had been perfect. Memories were the destroyer of happiness.