It was as normal a day as any other at Gar's Bodega, in Lakewood Plaza Turbo. Many heroes lived here, and regular visitors came here as well, discounting the rivals at Boxmore Industries that attacked quite commonly today. It had been one of their more frequent assault days.
K.O., the Level 4 hero, was dragging along another two trash bags, stuffed with various scrap metal bolts and machine leftovers from when they beat up their robotic rivals last time.
"I hope that's the last of their attacks for today," he sighed out. Normally he was energetic and overly optimistic, as many described him. Now he felt like everything was sore and achy. All of the bodega workers were like that at the moment.
After shoving the trash into the recycling bin out back, he re-entered the bodega through the back, where all the products were stored in excess. K.O. saw himself in a mirror as he walked by, making him stop.
"Yeesh… I look really bad…" K.O. murmured, seeing the many bruises and scrapes all over his body. There was a burn mark on his left arm in the shape of a boot as well, it stood out considerably compared to the other injuries. The brushy haired young boy did not want to go guzzling health potions to treat all this. "Oh well… I'll feel much better after I eat," K.O. hummed to himself, continuing on his way with a bright smile, treating the injuries more like a personal battle trophy.
The Level 4 hero paused when he was about to leave as he heard a loud creak, followed by several snapping noises. When he looked up, he saw several of the over sized crates falling toward him.
"Whoa!" K.O. quickly made a pair of power fists around his arms, which formed into blue aura knuckles. He caught the first two boxes, throwing them off to the side. Same for the last two. "Whew… Okay, that's handled," K.O. chuckled in relief, guessing there had just been too much weight on one of the higher shelves that caused it to break. He was glad it was himself that this had happened to. His other co-workers would have destroyed the product stuffed crates without a second thought.
"Little buddy! You okay?!" a familiar voice chimed up. K.O. saw one of his best friends, the alien stockroom worker Radicles, come over shortly after the snapping noises.
"Yeah, I'm fine, Rad. Are you alright?" The young boy responded. K.O. had a small issue of caring more about others than himself, something that was a considerable strength and simultaneous weakness. Rad looked nearly as exhausted and injured as he was.
"Ye-yeah, yeah, sorry about that… I got two of the boxes mixed up and put the concrete blasters on the wrong shelf," Radicles explained. He was terrified that he had nearly crushed his dear friend alive. The Level 5 alien did that to himself often enough, he didn't need to do it to others.
"Maybe you should take a break, Rad. You really overdid it in that last fight," K.O. suggested. His close friend nodded, thinking that would be for the best. Neither wanted an earful from their boss.
"What's going on in here?!" Or it was far too late to escape their boss now. They knew that already by the feeling of the ground shaking. Whenever something happened inside the bodega, Mr. Gar seemed to always be ready to respond to anything.
They saw the muscular man himself step into the storage area whom K.O. idolized and always wanted to do his best to make proud. Mr. Gar could be scary though when he wanted to be. Other heroes would compare him to an army sergeant for that.
"E-everything's fine, Mr. Gar!" Rad tried to say, though their boss looked the two employees of his over.
"You two look horrible. What happened? I thought you all handled the last Boxmore attack already," Mr. Gar inquired. He lost count of how many attacks they had today. He took notice of the minimally damaged crates of products lying around. Eventually he spotted the broken storage rack above them.
"I-I might have…" Radicles was about to answer, but K.O. interrupted.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Gar! I accidentally threw a power fist… It broke the shelf, but I was able to catch everything," K.O. took the blame without hesitation.
"Uhh?" Rad was surprised and confused, not sure why his close friend was trying to take the heat in place of him. It wasn't like they owed him one.
"You know why those products are required to be so high up to begin with? It's because they're some of the cheapest, rarely sell or need restocking," Mr. Gar wanted to ignore it, yet there was an unfortunate detail that made it so he couldn't gloss over the incident. "This is your third mistake in the last two weeks, K.O. We need to talk privately."
K.O. casted his gaze down to the floor. "Yes sir, Mr. Gar," he nodded. He never enjoyed it when he disappointed his idol, it almost felt as bad as disappointing his own mother.
"Wait a second now, K.O. didn't…" Radicles tried to speak up again, but felt his vocal chords lock up when their boss snapped his head at his direction.
"Go take a break, Rad. I'll let you know when you can get back to work," Mr. Gar ordered. Rad complied, beginning to leave the storage room, though he saw his co-worked wink to him while their boss kept his attention on the alien before he closed the door.
"What were you thinking, little buddy?" the Level 5 alien whispered to himself. K.O. never did that sort of thing before. For sure, he was acting weird.
Radicles made his way through the store, going into the break room, where he found the cashier already on one of her usual post-fight breaks.
"Oh hey, Rad. I was starting to think you passed out somewhere," the Level 10 ninja, Enid, greeted him. She got her own injuries treated long before the alien appeared. Now she was just enjoying the peace before the customers would inevitably ruin it.
"Trust me, I'm about to," Rad plopped onto the nearby couch and groaned, both pained and disappointed in himself.
"Where's K.O.?" Enid sat up on her favorite beanbag chair. Usually by now their littlest friend would be relaxing too after the clean up like usual for his post-battle tasks.
"Talking with Mr. Gar. …Hey, why did K.O. have a burn mark from your boots?" Rad asked, having noticed it. Enid could light her legs on fire to throw out projectiles or increase damage from her kicks. Enid became a little nervous hearing that get brought up.
"Oh, uh… Well, me and him were doing a combo, y'know. He turns into a ball and I kick him?" Enid started.
"Yeah, that rebound thing or whatever you called it…" the alien nodded. Their little friend's flexibility knew no bounds. He could easily curl into a ball as a projectile. Both of K.O.'s co-workers had a combo they could do with it.
"Raymond figured out a counter for it, and well, I had to kick K.O. a dozen times to actually take'em down," Enid finished. It was shameful of her, she knew and felt it well. She had gotten lost in the heat of the moment during their fight. The last kick had been harder than the rest, and as result had left that burn mark on K.O.
"Jeez Enid…" Rad sat up in his chair after his body stopped aching as badly. His purple haired friend didn't appreciate that judgmental tone, yet she tried to ignore it.
"What about you? Why're you looking so down?" Enid quirked, he looked more upset than exhausted really.
"I screwed up in the storage room and almost squished the little dude, but he took the blame for me when Mr. Gar came," Radicles exclaimed. It was all too confusing for him. He hadn't even asked the brushy haired boy to take the fall for him. K.O. just had done it so suddenly and Rad didn't know why.
Before they could talk any further, they saw K.O. enter the break room, seeing him punch out, only to then come pick up his backpack from nearby.
"Hey, K.O. What's going on?" Enid stood up and came over to him. K.O. slung his backpack over his shoulder.
"Oh, because I've messed up so much lately, Mr. Gar is sending me home early today," K.O. explained. The news didn't seem to affect his joy at all, despite it shocking his co-workers.
"What?! K.O., why'd you take the fall for me?" Rad reacted, distressed upon hearing this.
"You'd lose money if you got in trouble anymore. I wasn't in nearly as much trouble," K.O. simply replied. He kept track of his friends at work, to try and help them if they needed it. The last thing they needed was a large mess on their hands. He figured sacrificing a day at his favorite place on the planet beat someone else losing money they might need.
"That still isn't right little buddy. I'm gonna go talk to Mr. Gar and tell him the truth," Radicles insisted, not appreciating someone else taking the blame for his fumble, though Enid grabbed his shoulder to stop him.
"I think you're leaving out a detail there, K.O. You wanna go home early?" the ninja guessed. K.O. did love helping everybody he could, but it was apparent to her that the Level 4 hero had wanted to get off work early, and a perfect opportunity had come up that let him do just that.
"Well… I'm not really going home," the brushy haired boy confessed. As always, he wasn't the best at lying, unless he absolutely had to. This time, he simply wasn't trying.
"So… where are you going?" asked Enid.
"School let out and doesn't start back up for a while, and Dendy invited me to a sleepover at her lab. Mommy said she'd take me after work." K.O. explained, having been looking forward to this since his close classmate had announced the idea a month back.
"You know you can just ask to get off early, right?" Rad spoke back, though he knew with Mr. Gar, asking to leave early without a good reason was going to go nowhere.
"I've never been prouder," Enid grinned, as if she had taught K.O. how to act more devious like this. The young boy hugged his close friends.
"I should get going, I'll see you guys Monday! Bye!" K.O. made to leave, looking pleased with himself despite the many injuries he had accrued today.
"It looks like I'm gonna win that bet after all," Rad hummed smugly once the bodega cleaner was gone. Enid rolled her eyes.
"It's a sleepover, not a date, Rad," she retorted. Their bet was on how long it would take before Dendy and K.O. got together. Enid seemed close to losing at this rate. The two went back to enjoying their break, hoping they would have no more attacks from Boxmore today.
K.O. walked from Gar's bodega to the nearby fitness dojo. Most of the regulars to his mother's fitness program were already gone by now. He was about to go inside, but he paused at the door when he saw an all too familiar mouse.
"Is that… Fink?" K.O. tilted his head. Fink, a similarly aged mouse that worked loyally to Professor Venomous, K.O.'s semi-estranged father. Carol was doing simple poses and watching Fink try to copy them to the best of her tiny ability. K.O. stared out of curiosity.
"Alright now just reach to the sky," the high-Levelled single mother said. Fink tried to do so, raising her arms up high, only for a sharp pain to shoot out through the mouse's back, making her collapse to the floor.
Fink roared. "I hate this! I feel like my body's trying to fall apart!" she complained while rolling around slightly on the floor.
"Don't worry. You'll feel way better the more ya stretch," Carol tried to reassure, though was more or less drowned out for the most part. K.O. decided to step inside after snapping out of his gazing at the weird situation going on.
"Hey, mommy," the Level 4 hero greeted his mother.
"Oh, hey Peanut! You're here early," the strong woman gave her son a tight hug. He squeaked, trying to ignore his own pain now from all the various bruises and scrapes, which made him want to fall to the floor as well.
"Mr. Gar let me leave early," K.O. looked over to Fink who now lay flat on her back, staring angrily at the ceiling, like a toddler that realized her tantrum was failing to do anything. "Err, why's she here?" he asked.
"Well, I owed Venomous a favor after he helped me with your last birthday present… He had to go out of the Neutral Zone for work until Monday and asked if we could watch Fink while he's gone," Carol explained. The blonde woman really hated that man, despite his continuous efforts to make it up to their son for all he did, and she loathed the rat's attitude. Sadly, a favor was a favor.
"Why isn't Fink with Boxmore then?" K.O. chirped. Boxmore industries was a giant mostly robotic family that Venomous and Fink may as well be a part of by now.
"They're all busy tonight and don't trust me alone," Fink sat up, trying to ignore the pain in her back. "I told boss I don't need no babysitters, especially not stinkin' heroes!" she ranted. Not even trying to hide how much she hated being separated from her boss. Even if she was K.O.'s age, she sure didn't act like it sometime's.
"Yeah, yeah, but what you DO need, is more exercise. You're basically a ball of tight muscles," Carol claimed. Fink spent most of her down time playing video games when she wasn't helping her boss, though even when she was aiding him, there wasn't usually much physical activity involved.
"Can I help?" K.O. offered. He felt his mother rub his head, messing up his brushy hair a little.
"Nah… this was just the ending stretching," Carol replied, "Do you need help though? You look like you just came back from a war with Boxmore."
"I'm fine, Mommy. I'll be better after dinner!" K.O. reassured. He was really excited for Dendy's sleepover tonight, though he was worried about leaving his mother alone with the henchmouse.
Their conversation was interrupted by Carol's phone ringing. "Oh, hang on, honey, I need to take this," Carol said. Her son nodded, letting his mom step outside. The Level 4 hero decided to approach Fink.
"Are you feeling any better?" K.O. chirped, concerned, offering a hand to her, only for it to get shoved aside.
"No! Everything feels worse now! Your mom put me through those stupid exercises, three times more than the others!" Fink whined, ignoring how Carol's other regulars were on the older side of the age spectrum, discounting one or two, including Enid's mother.
"I can help your back feel better if you want?" he offered. Fink gave a glare. She'd refuse right then and there, but she couldn't exactly ignore the pain.
"Fine," she huffed, her tail twitching to express her irritation.
"Okay," K.O. smiled, "Lay on your stomach!"
Fink wanted to argue, she sighed. Not like she could do much with being exhausted from the very long workout. Once she was lying on her stomach, the young boy began to rub her back.
"I have to do this a lot for Enid, too. Don't worry," K.O. reassured. Enid had a lot of leg cramping problems after fights. Though at first, all he got in response was squeaks and groans of pain. Eventually, it began to make Fink feel better, like her back was releasing all of its tension.
"Ohhh that's way better…" Fink purred, loving this massage now. She had only ever given them to Professor Venomous, but she had never received one until today.
"A good hero can do more than just fight with their hands," K.O. repeated one of the many things his mother had taught him. Though his green haired friend didn't really reply. She was enjoying this massage for all its worth, starting to think this time at Carol's wouldn't be that bad.
"K.O.! Something's come up and…" Carol paused when she saw the content mouse, looking to be near asleep with how comfortable she was becoming. The single mother snapping a few pictures with her phone while she had the chance, finding the scene adorable.
"What's wrong Mommy?" K.O. asked, stopping the massage, which disappointed Fink.
"Punching Judy got hurt and I need to go to the hospital to make sure she doesn't try to leave against doctor's orders," Carol tried to explain it to the best of her ability. Punching Judy was her son's former babysitter, before he got a job and she was stubborn when it came to hospitals. This was not the first time she had to do something like this to help a friend.
"Can I come?" K.O. offered, feeling his mother patting his head. Fink finally getting up out of the floor, feeling much better.
"Sorry, sweetie. I think it'd be better if I just took you to Dendy's now… But do you think you could watch Fink?" Carol asked her son. She knew about the two's past fights and didn't wish to burden him with a responsibility he didn't want, especially when he already had plans. Yet the high level hero didn't want to cause more unneeded trouble at the hospital than their inevitably would be..
"I told you I don't need a babysitter!" Fink repeated, starting to get sick of being treated like a toddler.
"Alright, mommy. I'm sure Dendy'd be happy to have another friend over tonight," K.O. answered with a smile. Except he was oblivious to how much the rat and kappa truly hated each other. He hadn't a clue why either.
"Let's get a move on then!" Carol gave a thumbs up, heading off to get to the car. Fink sighed, resigning herself. She had no say nor shout in this matter.
"Thanks… I guess you're good with your hands," Fink told the Level 4 hero as she passed by him, fighting with herself to end the sentence with a cheap quip at his expense.
"I'm just happy to help," K.O. smiled and followed, though the violently awkward silence set in afterwards. Earning a thanks from the young mouse was a very hard task. He was more than happy with it. K.O. just hoped Dendy wouldn't mind an extra guest arriving unannounced.