“Lift your left hand a little higher!” Metal clanked against metal. “That's it. Good.”
Faiza concentrated on the swing of Dane's blade. Sparring with him kept her blood racing, and kept her mind from being preoccupied with all the other things she wanted to do with him. Kissing was wonderful, but she knew he wanted more. So did she, but...
“Faiza! Pete Wisdom stuck his head through the door of the training room. “Telephone.”
“What?” She let the sword tip dip. “Who?”
“Your mum,” he said as she passed him. “Who else would have our number?”
She ran to the lounge and picked up the phone. “Mum? What's wrong? Is Papa okay?”
Ever since he father had been converted into a vampire by Dracula she feared that something would go horribly wrong. Lady Jacqueline had been so kind in helping with advice on his transition, but he was having trouble coping. All it would take would be one walk out the door into the sun and...
“Fine, Faiza. Everything is fine.”
In her relief she became impatient. “Then why did you call me here? I have things to do.”
“Do not take that tone with me, child. I called to tell you that your Aunt Faiza will be here tomorrow, and superhero or not, I expect you to be here too.”
“I have enough to worry about with your father. She doesn't know what he has become. Nor you.”
“You can't tell her.”
“I know that. Mr. Wisdom has made that quite clear. That is, I believe, why they call it a secret identity. Be here at one.”
“But...” Dial tone. She couldn't blame her mother. Aunt Faiza made everyone nervous.
“This is a bad time.” Pete Wisdom leaned back on the corner of his desk.
“With Brian and Meggan on their second honeymoon...”
“I don't think that's wise. My aunt...”
Pete winked. “Let us know if you need backup.”
“I should go with you. This is obviously hard on you, and I want to be there for you.”
Faiza sighed and leaned backwards against the wall, crossing her arms. “The best way for you to be there for me is not to be there.” She frowned. “Okay, that sounded weird.”
Dane leaned in towards her, his hand pressed against the wall next to her shoulder. He had that difficult-to-resist puppy dog expression on his face, so it was just as well he was wearing street clothes. When he was wearing armour it was too hard not to laugh. “How can I grow on her if she doesn't meet me? Your parents like me.”
“They do.” She cupped his cheek with her palm. “They do now. But don't think that my being with you is the easiest thing in the world for them. And my aunt is not as... progressive as they are. Besides,” She took his hand in hers. “My mother is stressed enough with my father's condition without me adding to it.”
“I won't. I'll charm her.”
“I know this is important. I know this is the woman you were named for. But I feel like if you cut me out now, something between us won't be the same. I just want to know something.” He took as step back and looked into her big, brown eyes. “Faiza, do I embarrass you?”
“What?” She blinked in surprise. “No, of course not. Never.” She tugged thoughtfully on the hem of her hijab as she considered what he said. “Okay. You can come. But no swords, no armour, no flying horses, no outward signs of affection and please, don't try to speak Urdu.”
"So, Faiza, your mother says you are not practicing medicine at this time." The diminutive, roundish older woman seemed unassuming as she took the cup of chai from her sister-in-law, her eyes never leaving her niece. "So much time and money spent receiving your education. What could possibly be more important than being a doctor?"
"I am still a doctor, Auntie." Faiza's eyes did not meet her aunt's gaze. "I am not working with a hospital now, no. I am doing..." she looked up at Dane who sat on the uncomfortable antique armchair, trying to balance his cup of chai and plate of biscuits while shrugging his shoulders. "I'm doing work for the government."
"Really?" Her aunt gave her a disapproving look. "And you, Mr. Cook? Do you also work with the government?"
"You could say that, Mrs. Mahmud."
"Hmpt." she replied. "Somewhat evasive. Something I would rather expect from the British."
"I am British too, Auntie," Faiza said. "I was born here."
"There are some things one cannot avoid, bhanji," she said with a plastic smile. "More chai please, Farida?"
Faiza's mother bit back her tongue and poured the tea.
"I regret that my little brother was not here to greet me. I was quite surprised to see you and not him at the airport, Farida. It seems that I have one family member who takes her medical duties too lightly and another who is absorbed by them."
"I told you that he is unavoidably detained, but he will be here this evening. Now, let me get some more treats from the kitchen." She waited until she was behind a closed door before she mumbled some angry words under her breath.
"So, Mr. Whitman," Faiza's aunt said, turning her attention to her next victim, "You work with my dear niece. What is your relationship that you should come with her today for a family gathering?"
"Well, Mrs. Mahmud," he replied "We are, I mean Faiza and I..."
"Allah, defend me," Faiza whispered softly.
"Yes, young man?" Her aunt's expression was stern. Her eyes could not have been more cutting were they laser beams.
Dane didn't complete his answer, because at that moment the ceiling of the Hussain living room collapsed on all their heads.
Excalibur awoke to the sight of battle raging in her parent's house. Pete Wisdom and his M13 team fought a group of what appeared to be super villains though she didn't recognize any of them. Dane was now wearing his full Black Knight battle dress and even Meggan and Brian, dressed as Captain Britain, were part of the fray.
Faiza stood up and dusted herself off as her teammates fought off the attackers. The leader gestured hurriedly and opened a swirling vortex in what was left of the front hallway, beckoning his comrades to him. They and the vortex disappeared. Thankfully, none of M13 seemed hurt.
But she heard a woman moan and her mother cry. “Faiza! Your aunt!”
Her Aunt Faiza lay in the corner, a piece of wood from a ceiling beam piercing her abdomen. Her eyes were open and she was semi-conscious. Faiza pulled the wood out from her as her powers mended the older woman's wounds. Her aunt sat up, dazed by the experience but no physically worse for wear.
Dane ran to Faiza. “You were out for fifteen minutes. Are you okay?”
“I'm fine. What just happened?”
“Old enemy of the Black Knight,” Pete said. “I guess he could have picked a better time to try for a little pay back.”
“A little payback?” Farida Hussain looked around her living room. “Look at my house!”
“And what are you all doing here?” Faiza hugged her team members. “And you,” she said to Meggan. “You're supposed to be on a honeymoon!”
“And not back up one of our own?” Brian replied. “Anyone who attacks our friend and her family attacks us.”
Blade placed a hand on her shoulder. “You should know that by now, girl.”
“But who were they?” Faiza asked. “I thought I knew all the supervillain teams.”
“Well,” Pete said, “Dexter Diabolic and his Harbingers of Hatred aren’t exactly the stuff of legend.” He turned to Faiza’s mother. “Don't worry, Mrs. Hussain. The government will cover the damages.”
Faiza Mahmud, stood up and looked at her niece and the rest. “What. Is. Going. On?” she shouted.
“My daughter,” said Farida, “is a superhero. These are her friends. And I couldn't be prouder of her. She just, as you may have noticed, saved your life.”
“And Dane,” Faiza took his hand and led him to her aunt, “is my boyfriend. Whom I love.”
Aunt Faiza stared at them. “And where is my brother Josef? I suppose he's the King of England?”
Spitfire held out her hand. “How do you do, Mrs. Mahmud. I'm Lady Jacqueline Falsworth-Crichton. What do you know about vampires?”
“Oh, great. This will go well.” Faiza took Dane’s hand. “And I didn’t even get to use my sword.”