"We're almost out of milk," Yuri said and poured another bowl of Froot Loops.
"Can't you text me that before I leave work?" JJ hung up his jacket. "Did I tell you I'm employee of the month again?"
JJ loved his job at Canadian Tire. He got to help so many folks find just the right household item or automotive part each day. And his co-workers were always talking about him! Last year he'd won Best Team Member for the province; this year he was definitely going to win for all of Canada.
Yuri shrugged and tossed the Froot Loops box into the trash. He took another out of the cupboard. There was still half a pallet of cereal down in their storage room so at least that wouldn't run out soon. "I was busy."
"Hey, we recycle those!" JJ rescued the box and carefully broke down the cardboard. Yuri was a good guy but he could be a bit frustrating!
They had been room mates for about six months now, ever since Yuri answered JJ's Craigslist ad. They'd met in Café Oui Mais Non where Yuri had downed three hot shots in the forty-five minutes it took them to hash out their room mate agreement.
Well, it was mostly JJ talking and Yuri saying "whatever" but JJ could tell Yuri was probably just shy and getting used to life in Montreal. He couldn't speak much French either, so they mostly used English with each other. Yuri was a Russian - English translator, he said (when JJ asked) so he usually worked from home. He'd turned out to be kind of a messy room mate but he always paid his rent on time.
Yuri poured out the last of the milk over his cereal and started slurping it down. JJ hoped Yuri got some other more nutritious food during the day because all he'd ever seen Yuri eat at home was sugary breakfast cereal.
"So," JJ said, not quite looking at Yuri for this part of the conversation. "Do you maybe want to watch Netflix tonight?"
Yuri crunched his Froot Loops between his teeth. "I'm kind of busy."
"Yeah," JJ said. "I'm probably going out anyhow." JJ wasn't quite sure how to feel. Things were a little complicated between them. When Yuri had first moved in, JJ tried to make him feel welcome by including him in all his activities. But Yuri didn't really want to go out with JJ's friends or Tuesday night karaoke or even the Canadian Tire Team Picnic. So they watched Netflix a lot, even though Yuri liked some pretty violent shows that made JJ a little uncomfortable.
Then one night, JJ suggested that maybe they could watch something a bit more cheerful. "You frigging wimp," Yuri said and then, to JJ's amazement, threw himself on JJ so that they ended up making out for nearly a third of an episode of Sons of Anarchy as well as spilling Yuri's bowl of gummy bears all over the floor. (JJ kept finding them stuck to his socks later.)
So for the next couple of months, they made out a few times a week. Yuri would never talk about it and the one time JJ tried to call Yuri "sweetie", Yuri shot him a death glare, surprisingly chilling even though only one of his eyes was visible from under his hair, and crushed a mostly full box of Froot Loops in one hand.
JJ had sadly vacuumed up the bits of Froot Loops and realised that while making out with your cranky but attractive room mate was enjoyable, it didn't necessarily count as dating. So he never stopped Yuri from climbing into his lap during TV time but he steeled his heart, first, to keep from getting emotionally involved, and, second, because Yuri made them re-watch all the episodes of Sons of Anarchy they interrupted with kissing and those were pretty disturbing.
Things had changed recently, though. Yuri wasn't as interested in Netflix and Candy Couch Time and that made JJ a bit sad. But JJ also had some new developments in his life that were making him happy, so that partly made up for it.
Yuri tipped up his bowl and drank the rest of the milk. "Got work to do." He headed down the hall to his bedroom. "When you go out, remember the milk!" And the door slammed behind him.
JJ made himself a sandwich, ham and tomato on rye. Just as he was finishing, his mobile buzzed, that special di-dah-dah-dah pattern. He ran to the window and looked up into the sky: there it was, a huge crown made of light, projected onto the side of the 1000 de la Gauchetière. He put his dishes (and Yuri's cereal bowl) into the sink and ran out the door.
When he was a few blocks away, he ducked into an alley and stashed his Canadian Tire uniform in a box he kept there for times such as this. He already had his costume on underneath so he just had to pull his hood up over his face and adjust the mask over his eyes. He checked his phone for the address. Then he skated up, up, and over the city.
The truth was that JJ, in addition to being the best employee Canadian Tire had ever seen, was a super hero. He'd developed his powers quite recently, at the work Christmas Party and Ice Crystal Skating Ball. He'd been pretty drunk, like everyone else, and tried to do a fancy spin in the centre of the ice.
While he was spinning around and around, an icicle dropped down from the rink ceiling and pierced him right in the chest. Instead of making him bleed and whatnot, though, the icicle had slid right inside him, freezing him all over for a few seconds.
He couldn't remember the rest of that night, even when he looked at the photos on Facebook the next day. But ever since, he'd had these special powers. So, of course, he wanted to use them to help people. And now he was the Ice King.
He could skate on the air on a ribbon of ice that appeared beneath his feet. He could punch people really hard, but in a definitely non-lethal way. And he was way faster at stacking bottles of antifreeze at work.
When the Crown of Light appeared in the sky and the text message arrived, he headed out to save the city once again, in his white and silver Ice King figure skating costume. He'd gotten some flak from the press about his choice of outfit. Punching and skating was clearly hockey-themed, they said.
Well, JJ liked hockey as much as the next Canadian, but he also wanted to express his personal elegance and figure skating was clearly the best way to do that. And maybe the hood was more like a long-track speed skater but he had to preserve his secret identity somehow.
In the beginning, there wasn't too much hero-ing to do; he maybe got out a twice a month to fight a bit of crime or save people from perilous situations but now it was pretty much every night.
And it was always the Hummingbird. The Hummingbird was a super villain who had been terrorizing the city for the last few months. He wore this shiny gold bird costume, even though hummingbirds were not actually gold-coloured, and flew really fast and darted around while he stole stuff. He also had this sonic scream attack, even though hummingbirds didn't do that either. (The press complained about that a lot too, though not as much as they harped on JJ's non-hockey hero identity.)
The Hummingbird was JJ's arch nemesis and every night he was out there, robbing a candy store or pâtisserie. And every night, JJ headed out to fight him.
JJ stuck in his earplugs and skated to the crime scene, a speciality ice cream café. A police officer waved him in and held up the whiteboard they used to communicate, since everyone was wearing ear protection. He's inside.
JJ leaned over and wrote THANKS!!! on the whiteboard. And he headed into the building.
The Hummingbird was standing at the ice cream freezer, scooping huge spoonfuls of dulce de leche into his mouth. When JJ skated in, he zoomed up into the air, licking off the spoon, and darting back and forth.
"Stop this nefarious behaviour, Hummingbird!" JJ yelled. It was a little hard to tell just how loud with the earplugs in, though. "Pay for your ice cream like a good citizen!"
"Never, Ice King!" the Hummingbird screamed, or at least that's what JJ thought, based on context, since these were pretty good ear plugs he'd gotten from work (with his employee discount). The Hummingbird flapped in place for a few seconds, which JJ recognized as the preparation for the sonic scream.
JJ dodged just as the scream hit the wall behind him, exploding a box of sugar sprinkles. His ears were still ringing but he wasn't stunned. He ran at the Hummingbird and gave him JJ's best Sunday punch, slamming him into a case of waffle cones.
"Bastard!" The Hummingbird fluttered up from the floor and flew through the Employees Only door. JJ skated after him, turning sharply into the break room and falling onto his back as the Hummingbird tripped him.
JJ stared up, frozen (like the ice cream), as the Hummingbird straddled his prone body and pulled his earplugs out, first one, then the other.
"Fucking finally," the Hummingbird muttered. Then they started making out.
All the adrenaline from the fight got focused into the make-out so it was pretty hot and frantic. They rolled and scrambled around the small room, kissing and grabbing at each other.
They'd been doing this ever since the third time they'd fought, when the Hummingbird had slammed JJ up against the wall of a maple syrup refinery and gone to town on his mouth. Sometimes it caused more collateral damage than the actual robbery and JJ felt pretty badly about that. But he couldn't seem to stop either.
After about ten minutes, the police got on their bullhorn: "Is everything okay in there?"
The Hummingbird bit JJ's lip, then rose up into the air with a screech. He was out the back door before JJ could grab at him.
"Sorry," JJ said when he got back out front. "He got away again." He noticed the dépanneur on the corner. "Can I borrow ten dollars? I need to buy some milk."
"Do you maybe want to go to a movie tonight?" JJ said.
"I have work to do." Yuri splashed milk onto yet another bowl of Froot Loops. "Damn, we're out of milk again." He shovelled in a huge bite.
JJ sighed. As much as he enjoyed the hot times with the Hummingbird, he really missed those quiet nights at home on the couch with Yuri. But no use moping. "I guess I'll just go by myself, then."
As JJ pulled on his jacket, Yuri brushed past him, cereal bowl in hand. "Don't forget the milk." His door closed behind him.
What an admirable work ethic! JJ thought he maybe should have tried harder to get Yuri to relax a bit, though. He knocked on Yuri's door. "Come on, you should take some time off from work once in a a while." But there was no answer, not even a shoe thrown at the door.
JJ was halfway to the theatre when the Crown of Light went up. He made it to the dessert bar just as the Hummingbird was scarfing down a tray of mini-pavlovas.
They broke three tables and JJ got icing all over his costume when the Hummingbird shoved him back against the cake cart and stuck his tongue (normal length, one more way in which he wasn't all that hummingbird-like) into JJ's mouth.
After the Hummingbird escaped through the broken plate glass window, JJ borrowed another ten off a cop. He could tell they were getting sick of lending him milk money but JJ couldn't use his debit card at the dep when he was in costume without risking his secret identity.
The next day, JJ had to work all night at Canadian Tire doing inventory. When he got back to his locker and checked his phone, there were a ton of texts from the police. The Hummingbird had crashed two smoothie stands and also broken into a school to steal all their fundraising chocolate.
JJ punched his locker and left a big dent in it. He was so angry with himself for letting the Hummingbird terrorize the city, he didn't even care that he might be jeopardizing his chances of winning National Best Team Member by damaging company property.
He couldn't keep letting the Hummingbird escape just because he liked kissing him. It was irresponsible!
JJ slept all day. When he woke up at about 6pm, Yuri was shaking out a cereal box.
"We're out of Froot Loops," Yuri muttered. "And this is the last bag of milk. So go buy some more."
JJ felt something snap inside him, like he'd been putting elastic bands around his feelings to keep them wrapped up tight but now they'd stretched too far. "How can we be out of cereal?" he yelled. "I just went to Costco three weeks ago! And why can't you buy the damn milk for a change?"
Yuri stared at JJ. "Whatever," he said but JJ could tell he was shocked.
JJ knew he should apologize but he was just still so mad. "And stop leaving your dishes on the table!"
"Why can't you mind your own business?" Yuri yelled back. He stalked off to his room, spilling his half-full bowl of soggy cereal.
JJ sighed. It was his fault for yelling. He dropped down on the couch. Maybe if he put on the Sons of Anarchy Christmas Special again, Yuri would come back out. They'd done some of their best kissing to that special.
But he wasn't even through the opening credits when his mobile buzzed.
The Hummingbird was tearing up the Fairview Pointe-Claire Squish, stuffing gummies into his mouth by the handful and throwing the rest around the room with a fury JJ had never seen before.
JJ skated into the room and took a barrage of Prosecco Bears to the face. "We can't keep doing this," he called. "I have to stop you." He launched himself at the Hummingbird, fist raised. The Hummingbird juked out of the way and JJ just put a hole through a display case.
The Hummingbird flew up to the ceiling and JJ skated after him, throwing another punch that just took down the light fixture.
"You'll never catch me," the Hummingbird yelled. "This will never end!"
JJ's heart felt sad because in so many ways he didn't want this to be over. But he was a hero and so he knew what he had to do. He threw himself after the Hummingbird in the near-dark, finally getting a hand around his ankle and dragging him down.
The Hummingbird flapped and fought, but JJ got his weight onto him, pinning him to the floor. He just had to hold the Hummingbird there until the police came in with their special super manacles and then this would be done. Finished. Over.
"Sorry," JJ whispered.
The Hummingbird screamed in his face.
The next thing JJ knew, a cop was slapping his cheek. "You forgot your ear protection, idiot," she said. "He got away again!"
"Oh, no." JJ sat up and rubbed his head. He was just going to have to try even harder tomorrow. "Can I borrow ten bucks?"
JJ walked to the dep instead of skating. He didn't deserve to use his powers right now. Outsmarted by the Hummingbird or betrayed by his own heart? Probably both. But at least he could make it up to Yuri by getting the milk.
He reached for the handle of the dairy case. Then froze.
There, pulling out a three-pack of milk bags, was the Hummingbird. And under his arm was a box of Froot Loops.
JJ swallowed twice before he could speak. "It's you," he whispered.
"Oh, fuck," Yuri said.
"This is great!" JJ said, wrestling the huge pack of cereal boxes through the apartement door. "We can just stay at home, eat cereal on the couch, make out during Netflix time. Not terrorize the city any more." He dumped the cereal down and reached inside his jacket pocket. "I even got you more Prosecco Bears gummies!"
Yuri rolled his eyes, but he did join JJ on the couch. And he did make out with JJ during the Walking Dead. And it was good, really nice and sweet, except for the sounds of zombies eating people in the background.
JJ couldn't wait to do it again the next night.
A week later, a week of productive work days and snuggly zombie kissing nights, they were on the couch again. JJ watched through his fingers until three people had been killed by zombies. Then he turned to Yuri to start the make-out session.
"I have to go to the bathroom," Yuri said. He jumped up and left the room.
JJ ate a gummy bear while he waited. It was almost as sweet as Yuri's mouth. Then his mobile buzzed: di-dah-dah-dah. He ran to the window. Sure enough, the Crown of Light was up. There's a new super villain, the message read. He's dressed like a bee and he's robbing an artisanal honey store.
Shoot! There was the whole evening ruined. JJ left a note for Yuri on the coffee table and ran down to the alley. On the way, his mobile buzzed again, dah-di-dah-dah this time, from Yuri.
All it said was: Remember the milk!