Word Count: 1864
Summary: A part of me still rebels against it, reels at the ludicrousness of putting on a domino mask and going out at night to fight crime. Most of me loves it, is addicted to it, which is why I'm out here night after night, acting like an idiot and a man half my age. I guess that's why they call it a midlife crisis.
Warnings: Violence and naughty language.
Author's Note: So this is me writing original fiction, holy crap. I had this idea months and months ago; I started writing it and immediately got walloped by not one but two huge Batfic ideas. You all know how that's going. I've been working on this occasionally in little tiny bits in between my other things.
This story resulted from one too many late-night drives into downtown Portland, looking at the buildings all lit up, tall and noble and imposing with their heads in the clouds... and thinking that it's just a tragedy that Portland has no superheroes. ...It doesn't, right? I've not heard of any in mainstream comics. ...Well, now Portland does.
~ ~ ~
It's funny how quickly this has come to seem normal. It shouldn't. A part of me still rebels against it, reels at the ludicrousness of putting on a domino mask and going out at night to fight crime.
Most of me loves it, is addicted to it, which is why I'm out here night after night, acting like an idiot and a man half my age.
I guess that's why they call it a midlife crisis.
It's July and the night air is hot, doing nothing to cool me as it moves past my face. I move casually, without haste. Long ago I perfected the gait, the attitude that makes one invisible in public. I find it useful now as I stride down the sidewalk in Skidmore. Downtown Portland is too open, too well-lit for Batman-style heroics; no skulking in dark alleyways or leaping from rooftop to rooftop for me. But few of the late-night club crowd– young ladies in short skirts and heels, gentlemen heavily favoring denim– look twice at my tailored suit and vest, or the myrtle-wood handle of my umbrella. Hardly anyone even sees the mask. Those that do merely laugh. This is Portland after all. Weird things happen.
I head for the parking garage on 3rd and Pine. Parking garages are good: easily accessible, full of hiding places, open to the night air and a view of the city or an easy escape. An ideal place to find a thief or a drug dealer, and a vantage point from which to spot trouble nearby.
Finding a shadowy nook with a view, I settle in to wait. I don't always find trouble right away, sometimes not at all. But the waiting is nice; I don't mind it. It's a kind of meditation. As cleansing as the fights are cathartic.
My thoughts slow and forty-five minutes pass in a blink.
Two young men, approximately late twenties, come down the sidewalk, giggling. One– Caucasian, light brown hair– is stumbling, clearly inebriated; the other– some derivation of Latino– is not. From their clothes and hair and the direction they're coming from, I guess that they've spent the evening at C. C. Slaughter's.
The drunk one stops abruptly, smacking his friend in the center of his chest with the back of his hand. “Chica, where is your jacket?”
Comical surprise on the young man's face. “Fuck me, I left it!” He spins immediately, but the other snags the back of his t-shirt and pulls.
“Waitwaitwait!! Gimme the keys! I'll wait in the car.”
Jacketless tosses his keys to Inebriated, who fumbles and drops them, giggling. The two friends part ways.
Inebriated continues down the sidewalk alone, presumably headed for my parking garage. I'm not watching him. I'm watching the three young black men sporting gang colors that just appeared at the corner of the block. They're watching him too, glancing significantly at each other and jerking their chins in his direction.
Inebriated is oblivious to the gangers, giggling to himself as he trips over his own toes. One steps out and past him, like he's going to cross the street. The other two step into Inebriated's path, and the first quickly circles around behind him. Inebriated is paying attention now.
“Hey, man, you got any spare change?” one of the gangers asks. Inebriated's eyes go wide. He glances behind him. He starts to panic.
I've seen enough.
I vault over the wall of the parking structure, falling one story to the ground; as I hit the concrete, things heat up. One of the gangers shoves Inebriated. “Let's see your wallet, faggot!” another one says. A switchblade snaps open in his hand.
I'm almost there, but not quite. I need to pull their attention away from Inebriated. “Hey!!” I shout. “Back off!”
...I'm still working on those comic book one-liners.
The gangers turn towards me, faces twisted. I hope none of them have guns, or they don't go for them, or I can take them down before they can. Knife-guy steps forward aggressively, bringing the blade to bear. “Hey, fucker–!”
I give my umbrella a little toss, shifting my grip lower. “Drop the knife!” I swing and the heavy hardwood handle thwacks into the base of his thumb. He does as he's told.
I don't waste time giving any more instructions. I already told them to back off; they haven't. Now I have to take them down before they can use their numbers and hypothetical weapons against me.
I'd swung my umbrella across my body to take out Ganger One's knife; now I turn my wrist over, swinging backhanded to connect solidly with his throat. He chokes and gags; he's not down yet, not permanently, but the others are stepping forward now, and I have to take care of them.
I'm grateful, at least, that their attention's on me. They're acting out of surprise; it hasn't occurred to them yet that they can use Inebriated as a hostage, that I might care about what happens to him.
Ganger Two and Ganger Three come at me, and I go to meet them, flipping my grip on the umbrella. Holding it like a sword I lunge, driving the point into Ganger Two's solar plexus; he folds in half, wheezing. Ganger Three's almost on me; I put my weight behind a left jab to his temple, and he goes down.
That's one of them taken care of, anyway. Ganger One will have recovered enough to think about attacking me again. I flip my grip on the umbrella again and swing it two-handed, like a baseball bat, at his skull. And that's another down.
But now I have a problem. Ganger Two is behind me, and unless he's taken time out to have a tea party I'm going to get hurt. I'm turning my head and I'm turning my body and I'm not going to be fast enough and out of the corner of my eye I can see that he has a knife. But the next thing I see is his eyes going wide as he falls backwards. He clocks his head on the concrete, and that's him out of the fight too.
Inebriated (maybe I should start calling him Quite Sober Now, Actually) is crouched on the pavement, eyes wide and breathing fast. I pick up the knives. The gangers are groaning and swearing and thinking about getting up. I hold out my hand, help Inebriated to his feet. “Nice leg sweep,” I tell him. “Let's go.”
I don't wait for him to think about complying, just grab his arm and drag him across the street. He stumbles a little, but follows without resistance or complaint.
We don't go into the parking garage, not yet. I drag him down the sidewalk past the front of it. He balks suddenly, tugging against my grip. “Wait–”
“Shhh. Let's get out of sight first.” I glance back to where the gangers are trying to get their feet under them. I haul Inebriated around the corner of the parking structure and pick up the pace. “Run,” I tell him. He shakes me off, and I let him. He's running now, running with me, following my lead. When we get to the next corner and duck around it, he follows me.
We're approaching the entrance of the parking garage, having gone the long way around the building. “You parked here?” I ask, jerking my thumb. He looks for a second like he doesn't want to tell me, but then he nods. I take a quick look, up and down the block; no sign of the hoods. “All right, let's go.” I jerk my head, and we go in and up. “Shhh!” I say, and, “Hurry!”
He's leading now, and at the second level he exits the stairwell, stumbling to a stop to catch his breath with his hands on his knees. “Can you make it okay from here?” I ask him and he nods, gasping. I'm a bit breathless myself. “I suggest you call the cops,” I tell him. “They might be on their way already. I'd better get out of sight before they arrive... are you going to be okay?”
He pushes himself up to look at me then collapses a little, barking a breathy laugh. ...Did he just now notice the mask? I guess he's had a few other things on his mind. He straightens again, gives me another look. “...Has anyone ever told you you look like the Umbrella Man?” he asks, sounding slightly hysterical.
I smirk. “...You know that's not actually what it's called.”
“Shut up, everyone calls it that!” He's grinning at me now, like I'm the best thing that's ever happened to him. “...Are you a superhero?”
“Well, I don't have superpowers,” I tell him.
“But...” The look in his eyes is changing , becoming hazy and serious. He steps closer to me. “You fought off those guys. You saved me.” He reaches out, fingers clutching at my jacket lapels.
The moment is starting to become too intense. I smile nervously. “Don't mention it,” I tell him. “I'm here to help.” ...Could I sound any more ridiculous?
I don't have much time to think about it. He smiles, then, shy and slow and amused. “My hero~,” he says, and leans in, pressing his lips against mine.
I'm frozen for a few moments, too surprised to know how to react. When my paralysis passes I put my hands on his shoulders, gently push him back. My mind races; I try to think of what to do, what to say. ...Just what is the appropriate response when a strange man you've just rescued from some thugs kisses you in a parking structure?
“Um,” I say. Well, that's a poor start. “Err,” I say, and that's not any better. I clear my throat. “I'm, uh... I'm, you know, flattered, but I'm not... um, I'm not....”
“I know,” he says, his wide grin unapologetic and a bit goofy. “I know, but how was I supposed to pass up a chance like that?” He gives me a frankly admiring once-over, then straightens my collar with a regretful sigh. I try not to say or do anything that will make me out to be a... what are the kids saying these days?... a douchebag. He must see how I'm trying not to panic, because he gives me a wry smile and steps back.
I hear police sirens. I swallow. “I should go,” I tell him. “I'll hang around, make sure you and your friend get out of here okay, but... cops. I should go.”
“Okay.” He's still smiling that wry half smile at me. “Thank you,” he says softly. “Really, really thank you.”
I can't quite help myself. I tip my hat jauntily, throwing him a rakish grin. “Sir~,” I say, backing up a few steps and turning to make a quick exit. His laughter follows me down the stairs.