It’s a turn of events that he wasn’t expecting, that she moves first, a swift duck forward into his chest, a hard impact that almost knocks the breath out of him. Her grip is tight, almost desperate, and he can feel it now more than ever, the way she’s shaking. With a sigh, he settles a hand against the back of his young friend’s head, fingers brushing over her hair, other arm coming up in a protective curl just under her shoulders. This is not what she does. She doesn’t move first, doesn’t seek out affection for all that she soaks it in like a sponge, practically basks in the light of positive attention, an observation that has led him to doing his best to be as demonstrative with the kid as possible. As much as she will let him. She doesn’t ask for reassurance, for comfort, either verbally or through action. This, though, this is different.
Pat and Barb beat Courtney home, Mike hiding in his room as they sit in the kitchen, pondering more about the mysterious weapon the ISA is building, avoiding talking about Courtney’s absence.
It’s nearing eleven at night, when the front door opens.
The two move to the door, planned scolding cancelled before it began as three extra teenagers enter their home.
If Barbara’s surprised by the costumes, she doesn’t show it, immediately moving to comfort Yolanda, despite not knowing the crying girl.
Pat lifts an eyebrow, watching the usually untouchable girl move from under Rick’s shoulder and into his wife’s arms, sobbing. Barbara meets his gaze, question in her eyes as she glances over to Courtney, silent as she stands by the stairwell.
Pat looks toward Rick and Beth for an explanation, and is surprised as Beth takes Yolanda’s former place and Rick’s eyes glisten.
“Let’s move to the couch.” Barbara decides for them all, walking Yolanda to the living room as Rick brings Beth behind her.
Courtney still stands by the stairwell, gaze firmly on the ground and away from them.
“Court?” Pat asks softly, unsure as he puts a hand on her shoulder.
It’s a turn of events that he isn’t expecting, that she moves first, a swift duck forward into his chest, a hard impact that almost knocks the breath out of him. Her grip is tight, almost desperate, and he can feel it now more than ever, the way she’s shaking. With a sigh, he settles a hand against the back of her head, fingers brushing over her hair, other arm coming up in a protective curl just under her shoulders.
This is not what she does. She doesn’t move first, doesn’t seek out affection for all that she soaks it in like a sponge, practically basks in the light of positive attention, an observation that has led him to doing his best to be as demonstrative with the kid as possible. As much as she will let him. She doesn’t ask for reassurance, for comfort, either verbally or through action. This, though, this is different.
His gaze meets Barb’s again, both shocked as Courtney shakes in his arms, not crying or speaking.
“What happened?” Barbara asks Rick, the most put-together of the teenagers.
Best as Pat can tell, the kids aren’t seriously injured, just some bruises and layers of dirt covering them.
“Courtney’s Staff got stolen, so we went to the ISA base to get it back.”
Pat wants to get angry, but he’s more concerned that there’s more to the story.
“How’d you know it was taken?” Barb asks, sitting between the two girls on the couch, Rick on the other side of Beth.
“Henry Jr. told us. He had his dad’s powers.”
Pat lifts his eyebrow further, mouthing telepathy to his confused wife, noticing how Courtney moves impossibly closer to him, as if to escape the conversation entirely.
“Had?” Pat asks the room, which seemed to be the wrong thing to do, Yolanda sobbing harder and his chest actually starting to hurt, with how hard Courtney’s pressed against him.
Barbara’s gaze is horrified when he meets it, his resigned and pained.
This is the last thing I wanted for them.
“Honey, what happened?” Barbara asks Beth, the girl still strangely silent.
She simply holds up her goggles, and a hologram fills the room.
None of the kids look at the hologram, Yolanda’s face in Barbara’s shoulder, Courtney’s in Pat’s shirt, and their two friends staring at the carpet.
Pat sees the shock and horror on Barbara’s face grow as they watch the cave-in, and the hologram ends as the group goes to leave the tunnel, Brainwave simply staring the kids down as they go.
It’s now that Courtney makes a noise, a broken sob signaling the start of her tears as Pat’s shirt gets wet, him immediately moving to comfort her further as she cries.
Barbara wants to come over to the two of them, he knows, but her hands are full as Yolanda becomes deadweight, curling into Barbara as Beth simply rests her head on Barbara’s shoulder, a hand in Rick’s as he silently cries.
“What’s… going on?” they hear from behind Pat and Courtney, Pat glancing back to see Mike, rubbing his eyes as he steps down the stairs.
“Um…” Pat starts, glancing at Barb for help.
“Mike, sweetie, can you make some hot chocolate?” Barbara asks, ignoring that her living room is full of crying costumed superheroes.
Mike steps next to Pat, glancing at Courtney.
“Sure, Courtney, are you okay?”
He reaches toward her, only just barely tapping her arm before she moves to him, hugging her brother like a limpet.
“I’ll… get the chocolate.” Pat decides, emotions mixed between pride in his son’s adaptability as he immediately hugs back, and concern as Courtney’s face is revealed, mask removed and face red.
Beth gets up quick, giving Rick whiplash as he stands with her.
He leads the two to the kitchen, Rick still holding hands with Beth as she follows Pat to the kitchen.
Pat gets the cups out, being sure to grab the funny, joke mugs he and Barbara bought a while ago.
Beth moves to the pantry, Rick disconnecting to lean against the counter next to the sink.
Beth pulls the cocoa powder out, Rick silently filling the mugs Pat hands him with water to be warmed up.
Normally Pat would use the teapot, but the microwave’ll do in a pinch.
He heats up the mugs, Beth waiting with what he’d bet money on being perfectly measured amounts of cocoa powder.
Rick’s practically silent as he moves toward the pantry, opening it and searching for a moment before pulling out a marshmallow pack.
Pat lets Beth put the powder in the mugs, considering for a moment.
“Have you guys had dinner?”
Rick pauses, having moved to put marshmallows in the mugs.
Pat nods, getting a tray for Beth to bring the mugs out on.
“I’ll whip something up, feel like taquitos?”
Beth puts a mug down hard, and Rick glares.
“We’re not feeling like much of anything, right now, Pat.”
His lips purse, accepting the comment for what it is.
“I’ll be there in a moment.”
He comes back with another tray, bowls of ice cream sundaes on it.
Ignoring Barbara’s slightly disapproving look, he puts the tray on the coffee table, glancing toward Mike to see that he’s managed to move Courtney to the armchair, the two sharing it as she stares mulishly at nothing.
Pat puts a bowl in his son’s lap, their gaze meeting as he gives Mike a small, prideful smile.
Mike simply gives him a confused look back, still not sure what’s going on, but willing to wait as he balances two mugs and a bowl in his lap, encouraging his sister to drink the hot chocolate.
God, he loves his son.
“Do your parents know where you are?” Barbara asks, and Beth answers.
“Rick’s uncle doesn’t care, my parents think I’m at a sleepover, and Yolanda’s parents don’t know she’s breaking curfew.”
Barbara’s eyebrow keeps rising, glancing toward Pat in confusion.
He shrugs, pursing his lips as he hands out more bowls, accepting empty mugs.
Yolanda still hasn’t moved from Barbara’s side.
“I think we can fit two of you in the guest room, um… Rick? Would you be alright on the couch?”
He looks like he’s about to glare, then glances toward the three girls before reconsidering.
“Yeah. I’ll be alright.”
Pat moves toward Courtney and Mike, taking the bowl and mugs away as Mike pulls Courtney to her feet.
“Yolanda, sweetheart? Can you please come with me? We should get you cleaned up.”
The teenager is silent as she stands with Barbara, Beth following as Rick moves to help Pat clean up the bowls and mugs.
“Mike, can you get Court upstairs? You seem to be having the most luck.”
His son nods, sliding off of the couch as he pulls Courtney with him. She’s like a zombie, following as Mike grabs her slightly-melted ice cream bowl, shrugging at his dad as they leave.
He sighs, putting the bowls and mugs in the sink to be dealt with tomorrow.
Pat faces Rick.
“I’ve probably got some old clothes that’ll fit you, I’m gonna go grab those and a blanket. You okay with a couch pillow?”
“I’ll be fine.”
Pat takes a moment to study him.
The kid stops where he is, pulling his hands out of the sink.
He leans against the counter, and lets out a hard sigh.
“I didn’t even like him.”
Pat doesn’t know how to respond.
“Beth and I found Solomon Grundy.”
This is a bit of a surprise, Pat himself having no luck tracking the monster down over the years.
“I spent my hour trying to break open his cage so I could fight him.”
At first Pat’s confused, but then he realizes.
The hologram showed them the bars, how everyone was trying to bend or break them to save Henry.
How they couldn’t.
“I used up my hour trying to take revenge on Solomon Grundy. If I had known…”
“But you didn’t.”
Pat moves toward Rick, knowing that feeling of guilt well.
“You couldn’t know. You had no idea what was going on, and I need you to really hear me when I say this.”
He puts his hand on the kid’s shoulder, making him meet his eyes.
“Henry’s death is not your fault.”
Apparently, that’s all it takes.
Rick rocks back and forth for a moment, face screwing up as he finally just leans toward Pat, forehead landing on Pat’s shoulder.
Pat doesn’t move other than to cup the back of Rick’s neck, the best comfort he can offer, right now.
Movement to his left shows Barbara’s reappearance, Pat glancing to see her putting spare clothes and a blanket on the couch.
She glances his way, and he sends her a sad smile.
She seems to understand, pursing her lips in acceptance.
This won’t be the last time they’ll have to do this.
In the morning, they let the kids sleep in.
Barbara doesn’t have to call the schools, thankful for the weekend, so she’s debating whether or not to call the other kids’ parents while Pat makes breakfast.
She decides to try to call Rick’s uncle, Pat reluctantly giving her the phone number, hanging up when nobody answers.
She gets a call from Beth’s parents before she can call them, the perks of being a coworker, and she explains how the sleepover’s likely going to be a bit longer, possibly lasting until Sunday night.
Barbara politely ignores how excited the girl’s parents sound at the news.
Neither parent knows how to get in contact with Yolanda’s parents, so they simply leave it be.
Rick wakes up while Pat finishes breakfast, the teen likely attracted to the scent of the copious amounts of bacon Pat has made.
He sits at the table, not speaking as Pat hands him a plate filled to the brim with food.
Rick takes a moment, blinking at the plate and slowly turning to squint at Pat.
The older man gives a reminiscent smile, answering the silent question.
“I remember how much Rex used to eat after using his hour. Eat up, you need the energy.”
Rick’s still pretty tired, it seems, Pat’s mentioning of his father going right over his head as he picks up his fork to eat.
Mike’s the first to come downstairs, and really, it’s more of a lunch at this point as he puts the stained ice cream bowl in the sink and grabs a plate.
Pat sits across from him, simply lifting an eyebrow.
“Courtney and the others are on their way down.” Mike responds, chowing down on the pancakes and bacon on his plate.
Surely enough, the three girls make their way down the stairs together, just as quiet as Rick.
Pat shares a heavy look with Barbara.
“Rick, I reached out to your uncle, I haven’t heard back, Beth, your parents won’t expect you home until tomorrow night. Yolanda, we couldn’t get in contact with your parents, will they worry?” Barbara asks, concerned as the girls sit to eat.
Yolanda glances up, not meeting her eyes as she replies.
“No, I’ll call them later. It’ll be fine.”
One of those sentences is a lie, but the parents both agree not to contest it.
The kids finish their brunch, moving silently as they clean the table up. Mike sits in confusion, watching the team of teenagers gather plates and cups, putting them in the ever-filling sink and rinsing them off as they go.
The group move to the living room, the four of them sitting on the couch as Mike and his parents watch.
They all sit in silence, with a question in the air.
What happens now?
Mike frowns at his dad, lifting a confused eyebrow.
“So I have questions. You guys have answers. Let’s talk.”
Pat puts his head in his hand as Barbara gives their son a wide-eyed look, but it turns out to be the right move as Rick lets out a huff.
Mike grins, moving to sit on the coffee table.