Careless Words (mm cb musc)

Chapter 1

“Covering this breaking story…..once again, Superbear has come through for the city and prevented a potential disaster from occurring. More details coming up on KRON 4 News at 6.”

I smiled as I turned from the TV back to the table, laying down the last of the silverware, looking over at the rice cooking on the stove, and then out at the veggies and meat cooking on the closed grill out on the back porch. One of the small advantages of X-ray vision, I thought to myself.

The intercom crackled. “Sweetie, I’m home.”

“Supper’s ready, Jimmy,” I said to the air, heading out to the back porch, the savory odor of grilled chicken and roasted corn wafting out as I flipped them onto the waiting platter. I heard the faint clank as Jim worked the concealed door, then his boots on the stairs as he came up from the cellar; I grinned as he shot up behind me in the blink of an eye, kissing the back of my neck, his hands on my shoulders.

Jim licked his lips, looking hungrily at the plate. “Man, I could smell that clear on the other side of the Golden Gate.” He looked up and down at my apron, a wide smirk across his handsome face. “So how are you this evening, Mrs. Crocker?”

“Very funny, sweetheart,” I chuckled, laying the plate down on the table. “I got home later than I planned and didn’t have time to change out of corporate drag – so it was this or another trip to the cleaner’s after one of my famous spills.”

“On you, for some reason, it looks sexy – but so would a flour sack,” Jim chortled, sitting down and shoveling rice and chicken onto his plate. “So how was your day?”

“The usual busyness,” I replied, pouring my milk and his ice tea. “At work, three client meetings, one conference call, and a business lunch in which nothing said bears repeating. On the way to and from, one purse-snatching, two muggers, and one disabled vehicle blocking the ramp to the Bay Bridge. I daresay yours was more exciting.”

He rolled his eyes. “Another freighter of dubious origin – of course, overloaded and not wanting to attract attention to their expired licenses, so they don’t call for help until the last minute when they’re just about to hit rocks and spill fuel all over the coast.” He speared a piece of bird and chewed thoughtfully. “I need to talk to the Coast Guard about this before I put my back out pushing those things into port.”

“Yeah, I don’t think the state of California can afford another worker’s comp claim,” I laughed, attacking my own plate. “At least you got to exercise a bit – the only heavy lifting I got to do was getting that lady’s purse back to her. Ever been tipped a Tic-Tac for your trouble?”

“No, but I usually brush and use mouthwash after drinking my morning coffee and eating your extra-spicy breakfast burritos, cub,” Jim chided gently, taking another piece of corn. “No wonder you’re so feisty tonight. Planning to go out on patrol?”

“Yes I am,” I said, stretching out with a growl. “Right now, I feel like I’ve been caged all day and am going to explode if I don’t do SOMETHING useful for the city. Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“While I do miss you when you’re gone, sweetie,” Jim crunched through a mouthful of kernels, “I also want you to be happy and get your exercise. That, and if I don’t let you go, from the looks of you, I’ll be walking bowlegged for a week.”

“You don’t seem to mind ME not being able to put my knees together for days,” I grinned wickedly, getting up from the table and dropping my plate in the sink. “Isn’t what’s good for the cub good for the bear?”

He growled, then flexed. “You’ve won a few matches, as I and my glutes seem to recall. But I think you like it better down below as compared to up top.”

“Guilty as charged,” I chuckled, heading over to the table and nuzzling him on top of the head, then heading for the basement. “I know, ‘Be careful’, ‘Watch your back’, ‘Wear a sweater’, the usual.”

“Just looking out for you, Dan,” Jimmy said, shaking his head. “You’re still a cub, and you’re still getting used to your powers. Be careful – OK, I said it, I said it.” His eyes went soft. “I love you, Dan.”

“I love you too, Jimmy,” I said, smiling back at him, then eagerly pulling at the secret opening in the basement wall.

Chapter 2

The fog whistled past my ears as I shot through the sky, my cape flapping behind, laughing as I pulled up into a loop, then diving through an archway and rocketing back vertically. “You’re not a cub, you’re an OTTER,” Superbear had said on that first night, laughing as he watched me dance through the sky, overcome with the sheer joy of being airborne. I hope I never lose this, I thought to myself, looking down at the darkening streets, a river of car lights going up and down, engines struggling against the inexorable grades.

“So what you going to do now, fag?”

I stopped stock still in midair as I picked up a voice….not directed at me, but coming from over there….THAT didn’t sound healthy…

“G-guys….please…..I didn’t do anything….j-just leave me alone….”

Middle-pitched, definitely scared and quivering…..I homed in on the sound, following it back down a side street, over to an alleyway…

“Whaddya think, fellas? Should we let the queer get off for looking at us like that?”

Sixteen or seventeen, that classic bully timbre……as I rounded the corner, I looked down on a scene that was all too scarily familiar – a slightly-built teenager, mop of sandy brown hair askew, eyes wide and frightened, pinned up against a back wall as a group of thugs bore down on him.

“No! Hell no! No! No!”

“YES,” I boomed, landing with a crunch in front of them. “Actually, I can think of a better reason – which is, very simply put, you’ll have to come through me to do it.”

The group leader’s eyes bulged, the rusty chain in his hands clanking. “Who the fuck are you?”

“I never thought I’d say this to an American teenager, but you need to watch more TV,” I said proudly, pointing to my chest. “Logo? Cape? Does the name ‘Supercub’ mean anything to you?”

“I never heard of no Supercub, and anyone who helps a faggot out has to be one,” he spat back, whirling the chain warningly as his buddies fell into a phalanx behind him, two brandishing bats, the flash of a knife in other’s hands in the evening light. “What you going to do, faggot? Hit us with your purse?”

“Actually, to borrow from ‘Men on Film’, this one gets two SNAPS,” I said, a BOOM echoing down the alleyway as my indestructible fingers cracked together twice with superhuman strength, the shockwave knocking first the linebacker-looking teen on the left, then the tall spindly redhead on the right, backwards against the alley wall, their weapons clattering uselessly to the ground, “and a ROUND the WORLD,” the vortex as my arm spun at supersonic speed picking up the sallow knife-wielder in the middle, flinging him ten feet away, his knife torn out of his hand and then vaporizing in mid-air with a well-timed shot of heat vision.

I dusted my hands together. “Well, how was that?”

He looked to both sides, terrified….seeing his buddies sprawled out, groaning…”Fucking QUEER,” he screamed, swinging the chain with all his strength, his aim still true, it cracking against my jaw….then shattering into a hail of shrapnel, pieces flying off, ricocheting off the walls. He staggered, falling off balance…..shrieking as I reached out, picked him up, held him by the collar at arms’ length…..his frantic blows bouncing helplessly off my arms.

“Fuck, man, let me go, we were only kidding –“

“Sure you were,” I snarled, his eyes wide with horror as his feet left the ground, the other three teenagers rooted to the ground, not daring to move. “And I’m only kidding when I say that scum like you don’t deserve to live, much less walk the streets.” I tossed him over into the middle of his groaning buddies. “Get lost before I change my mind.”

I turned to the wide-eyed teen as the sound of what had to be stolen Skechers running like hell in the opposite direction faded away. “Are you all right?”

“I – I am now,” he said, staring at me in wonder. “You – you’re Supercub…Superbear’s new partner…”

“At least SOMEBODY here reads the newspaper,” I chuckled, offering him my hand; he took it as if he couldn’t quite believe it was real. “Yes, I am Supercub. I presume you have a name, too?”
“I – oh jeez, I’m sorry….uh….I’m Eddie. Eddie Rodriguez.” His mouth moved a few times, squeaking the words out. “Wow….you really….you really kicked those guys’s butts! That was so cool!”

“Piece of cake,” I laughed, flexing my bicep. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Eddie. C’mon, I’ll walk you home.”

We made our way down through the Mission, Eddie hesitant at first; soon, though, the words started to spill from his mouth, chattering as he talked about his interests – almost as if he had never had a real friend.

“So you want to be an engineer, Eddie?”

“Yeah, I do,” he said, perking up immediately. “I love math and stuff, and I’ve been building this cool stuff – this guy down the street has an electrical shop, and I’ve been helping him fix things, he gives me his leftovers.”

“Sounds pretty cool – you’ll have to stay in school for that, you know,” I said as we halted outside a small apartment complex.

His face darkened. “Yeah… That’s where those guys are…..they’re going to –“

“And you’re going to stand up to them, Eddie,” I smiled. “Use your brain. Teach ‘em a lesson. Don’t let them kick you around. And, if you need any help,” I said, pulling out a small card, “just call this number. ”

“Yeah….I guess, ” he said, staring quizzically at the card. “You have a PHONE number?”

“It’s our hotline. Kind of hard for people to get in touch with us otherwise.”

“Cool…..well….I guess I’ll….” he headed towards the house…”see you around.”

“Good night and take care, Eddie,” I said, lifting off, heading back across the district, patting myself on the back for a job well-done.

Chapter 3

“Mmmph,” I said, stuffing the last of my leftover-chicken-breast sandwich in my mouth as my mobile played “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” off in the distance. In a flash, I was upstairs, wrestling with my discarded pants, fumbling and flipping the phone open. “Mmmhi…ssmmweetie”

“What in the world are you doing?” Jim’s mellow baritone laughed through the tiny speaker. “Don’t tell me you’re sucking your thumb – or anything else, for that matter.”

“Home for lunch,” I swallowed, the last bite dropping down my throat, a contented belch following up in exchange.

“Dan, it’s 11 AM.”

“OK, so I took brunch instead,” I chuckled, floating back down the stairs to the kitchen. “It was a boring morning, to say the least, and all of what I need to get done I can do at home, so I came back. Where are you?”

I could hear Jim grimace over the phone. “On my way to a site visit with you-know-who.”

“I never thought Lord Voldemort would be interested in your services, dear,” I smiled, taking a generous swig of milk.

“I am going to regret getting you ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’, aren’t I? You’re probably publishing the spoilers on the Internet right now, Mister-I-can-read-an-almost-six hundred-page-book-in-two-seconds.”

“They were there LONG before I ever did anything about it.”

“Pleading innocence doesn’t work for you, cub,” Jimmy laughed. “The important thing is, though, do you mind handling things while I’m gone?”

“The city’s in good hands, sweetheart, and your timing couldn’t be better – I’ve already got my clothes off and am raring to go.”
“Damn you, Dan,” Jim snarled under his breath, his grin clearly audible, “you KNOW what that does to me. Why do I even bother calling you when I’m wearing tent-able pants?”

“Janet Reno, naked, in a shower, sweetie,” I giggled. “Don’t worry, You-Know-Who won’t notice, she’ll be so glad to see you – and talk your ear off. Everything’s under control. Take care and….I love you, Jimmy.”

“Love you too, Dan,” Jim said. “OK, I’m here – time to get it over with. Bye now.”

“Bye beautiful,” I said, flicking the phone shut with a casual flip. Almost got that to be second nature, I thought, remembering the first two phones I had destroyed with a careless flick, the one’s earpiece embedding itself in the wall. Super-strength was fun, but learning to control it had been an adventure in itself – not to mention hard on keyboards, glasses, and at least two car door handles.

Suddenly a strident brrrrriiinnng – inaudible to any ordinary human – came from the concealed passage below the basement.. I froze – the Bear Phone! My war whoop shook the vases on the mantelpiece as I (literally) flew down the stairs, my costume magically appearing as I pushed my way through the hidden door and into the Den, then picking up the phone. “This is Supercub.”

“Um….hello….I….” the voice sounded tired…despondent…”this is Mira Rodriguez.”

“Yes ma’am… can I help you?”

“I…I’m…Eddie’s mother.” The sound of muffled sniffles came over the phone. “He….he…didn’t come home last night…..the school just called, he didn’t come today.”

Oh no! “Ms. Rodriguez…..can you think of anywhere he might be?”

“No….no….I’ve looked everywhere. He….he came home two nights ago, all beat up……said those boys at school got him again….but he was going to take care of it.” More sobs. “I didn’t know what to do….I looked in his room, found this card….he had mentioned you helped him before –“

“I’m on it, Ms. Rodriguez. Don’t worry, I’ll find him…..let me know if you hear anything else…..thank you.” I hung up the phone, turning to fly off, heart pounding…..freezing halfway up the passage when it rang again. When it rains, it pours, I thought, dashing back down. “This is Supercub.”

“Supercub….we have a hostage situation.”

Chapter 4

The flashing gumballs made an odd contrast to the afternoon sun as I dropped downward out of the sky, landing gently by the front fender of the lead car grouped in front of a dilapidated old storefront. A willowy, Nordic-featured woman came forward out of the officers grouped behind them, her plainclothes a marked contrast to the tight blue of the others.

“Supercub, I presume,” she said, offering a quick and perfunctory hand. “Detective Nielson, SFPD. Glad you could help us.”

“That’s why Superbear and I are here, Detective,” I said, scanning the area, trying to get a good glimpse of who was inside. She coughed; I automatically looked her direction, then turned a ruddier red when I failed to turn off my vision power in time.

She smiled a crooked smile at my blush, then snapped back to business. “Do you see anything?”

“Not much, I’m afraid,” I said, quickly turning back to the building. “There seems to be a lot of lead in there – old pipes, insulation, what looks like eight layers of paint. It’s too hazy to get a good idea.”

She grimaced. “That’s not much help. We’ve been getting reports of odd activity around this building for the past week – noises, strange odors, lights going off and on up and down the block, that sort of thing. I was just assigned to investigate – but then we got a call today. Frantic voice, sounded like a teen playing a prank, screaming he was being held hostage.”

She looked over at the broken-down storefront, glass broken, hazy with dust. “We got about ten seconds worth of call – enough to trace the location. Very garbled – the only clear thing we got was something about Eddie.” Her expression darkened as she saw my jaw harden, breath suddenly catch in my chest. “Supercub – what is it?”

“This just got seriously personal, Detective,” I growled. “I have a missing friend named Eddie. If he’s in there –“

“He may be in danger,” she said, a flash of concern crossing her face. “We haven’t been able to figure out what’s going on – all the entrances appear to be barricaded and for some reason, our electronic listening devices can’t pick up anything. We don’t know who, what, how many –“

“I guess I’ll have to find out,” I said, quickly lifting off, shooting around the blind side of the structure……there… open—WOAH, I said, pulling my fingers back as I felt an electrical tingle. Mild to me, but to anyone else who tried that… mind raced as I found the hotwire, quickly soldering a short circuit with pressure and heat vision. Gingerly I climbed through the opening, feeling the hairs on my arms stand on end. This building is one giant freaking toaster, I grimaced, carefully floating over the floor, seeing the wires strung along its length. Slowly I came up to an overhang…..the upstairs ending, providing an unobstructed view to the floor…….and….Eddie sitting over in the corner!

Instantly I was right beside him. “All right you bastards, this is too much!” I yelled, shielding him with my body. “You mess with my friends, you mess with—“

“It’s OK, Supercub, it’s OK,” Eddie said in monotone, his expression vibrating a deep chord of danger inside me as he looked at me calmly. “Everything’s fine. I’m just standing up for myself, like you told me to do.”

“What do you mean, you’re….” my voice trailed off as I looked around….my heart catching up in my throat as I saw one….two….three…..four prone forms sprawled out on the floor…bodies wrapped in wire….ohmigod…the—the bullies! “Eddie, you didn’t –“

“No, Supercub,” Eddie responded lifelessly, pausing…..”not yet, anyway.” His eyes bored into mine, a horrifying mixture of desperation and don’t-care burning inside them. “It happened again….they came after me, beat me up…..but then I remembered what you said….they’re nothing but scum who don’t deserve to live.”

His words ripped through my chest like a bullet. “Eddie, I didn’t mean—“

“So I set all this up. This place sits on top of the junction box for the whole block, so it has plenty of power. No one ever comes in, so it was perfect for me to experiment,” he droned tonelessly, his recitation a cruel mockery of his usual enthusiastic bubble. “All I had to do was lure them here, stun them—“
“Eddie….no….you can’t do this,” I said, almost in shock. “You can’t kill these guys – they--”

“Made my life a living hell!” he flared, his voice cracking. “They treat me like shit, beat the crap out of me. You said I should stand up for myself – well, I’m doing it!”

“Eddie, you kill these guys, you’re a murderer,” I stuttered, hammering away, my super-strength useless against an emotional wall built of years of abuse. “You’ll go to prison, you’ll—“

“Why should I care?” he spat back. “I can’t live like this – hiding out, having to take back ways, looking over my shoulder. There’s no other way to get rid of them.”

I squared my shoulders and started toward him. “Eddie, I hate to do this, but if you won’t –“

“NO!” he screamed, holding up a remote. “One step closer and these guys are DEAD.” His face twisted in rage. “You LIED to me. You’re sticking up for these JERKS. You’re no better than they are.” His voice rose to a fever pitch. “No one cares. No one FUCKING CARES about me!”

Chapter 5

Eddie’s eyes blazed with desperate hatred as his words echoed off the dank walls. I stood stunned, feeling my power, my strength seem to drain away, useless, my bragging words being thrown back in my face, the damage they had caused laid out and plainly visible. My God, what have I done?

“Eddie, you have to listen to me,” I started softly. “You’re right, these guys are jerks. I can’t guarantee you that they won’t beat you up again. I can’t guarantee that other people won’t hurt you because of what you are.”

“Then what’s the point, Supercub,” Eddie said, his voice more quiet, slower……quickly he reached down to the floor, picking up a nearby wire. “It doesn’t matter, does it? I kill them…..and then I follow. All it takes is crossing this circuit.” His eyes softened, becoming almost wistful. “No more pain, no more problems.”

“There’s a lot of point, Eddie. Trust me on this one.”

“Maybe for you, Supercub. No one can hurt you. No one can beat you up because you’re gay. But for the rest of us –“

“Eddie,” I said, choosing my words with surgical care, “you’re right. I am invulnerable and, like you saw, I can take care of myself in a fight. But I hurt the same way you do inside – fear, rejection, all that.”

I looked at him. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it too. It hurts that I wasn’t there to help when those guys beat you up. I hate that I can’t stop every accident, that I can’t save every life. But Eddie…..if I stop caring, if I give up….no one gets helped, no one gets saved, nothing gets done.”

He stared at the floor as I continued, desperately trying to reach into him, to touch what I knew was still there. “You’re an electrical genius, Eddie. I couldn’t have wired this place like you did in a thousand years – I blow fuses plugging in Christmas trees. You did it, and you did it with nothing but leftovers. That’s amazing and it’s something not many people – heck, no one else could do.”

I looked at him, his face dirty and tear-streaked, the picture of a teen driven to the edge. “And I can tell you this….your family cares about you. Your mom cares about you – in fact, she called me this afternoon, asking me to help find you.”

His eyes met mine. “She was crying, Eddie. She knows these guys hurt you before, and she was terrified that even worse might have happened.” I saw his shoulders begin to slump. “And I came looking for you, Eddie….not just because it’s what a hero does….but because I care about you. I don’t want to see you die – I want to see you grow up, become an engineer, fulfill your dream, regardless of what people do to or think about you.”

I sucked in my breath. “Eddie…..I was wrong. I was pissed at what these guys were doing to you because I’ve seen it before and other of my friends have gotten hurt….and I let my mouth get out of control.” Hanging my head, I continued, “But….hurting them because we can….is wrong. For both you and me. If we’re powerful enough to hurt them….we’re also powerful enough to help them.”

He looked back at me, his eyes again welling with tears, as I talked on, “What these guys did to you, Eddie, was wrong, dead wrong. But they’re people too, and they deserve to live. Everyone deserves a chance to do better – you and me included.” I held out my hand to him. “Help me, Eddie. Help me help them – and you.”

He started to sob. “Supercub….I don’t know….I can’t—“

“You CAN, Eddie,” I said, reaching out, putting a hand on his shoulder. “You CAN.”

Together we walked over towards the first bully, his voice halting, then growing stronger as he directed me on how to cut them loose.

Chapter 6

The last fading streaks of sunset glistened off the waters of the East Bay as I stared towards Oakland, my back against the concrete spire of the Transamerica Pyramid, my mind stripped bare and bleeding as I whipped myself over and over internally for being idiotic, dumb, arrogant, pompous, selfish, and just plain stupid.

I heard the gentle thud of boots landing behind me. “Hi sweetie,” came Superbear’s rich tones over the hum of traffic below as he walked along the ledge towards me, his hands coming down on my shoulders. “How are you doing?”

“Just peachy,” I sighed. “I singlehandedly set four bashers loose on a city full of gays while sending a mixed-up teenager they were tormenting to jail. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be the next commencement speaker at Liberty University.”

“Supercub, you can’t blame yourself. You know very well that—‘

“Because I said those bullies didn’t deserve to live, Eddie set them up to be fried like bugs in a zapper of his own invention,” I tossed back bitterly. “You were right. I’m just a cub who’s still getting used to his powers – and maybe I shouldn’t have them, as irresponsible and stupid as I’ve --.”

“Stop right there,” Superbear growled, encircling me in his powerful grip. He held me close as I bent over, my head on his pecs, feeling tears of frustration drip down, fall onto their furry shelves. “There, there, calm down, my little one.”

“Superbear…I…” I sniffled…”I almost killed five people today, just ‘cause I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I said people didn’t deserve to live, and someone took me up on it. Heroes don’t do that. How could I do something so wrong and stupid and still call myself one?”

“The key word there, Supercub,” said Superbear, leaning over and stroking my copper buzzcut, “is ‘almost’. Yes, what you said was wrong and stupid, and I think you know that – maybe too well. But had you not gone in and taken care of things like you did, five people WOULD have died.” He hugged me closely. “Sweetheart, all super powers aside, you and I are still human. We screw up, we make mistakes, we learn from them.”

“Who’s learning what from this, Superbear?” I whined, pulling away from his grasp, turning back to the city, focusing in on where I knew Eddie’s house was. “Right now I’m up here in one piece, free as a bird with the man I love, four sick kids are walking the streets beating up gays for the hell of it, one of those gays is in the county jail, away from his family and—“ I stopped stock still, not believing what I saw.

“That’s what I came up here to tell you,” Superbear said, chuckling, coming up behind me and wrapping his thick hairy forearms around my chest as I stared down at the scene before me. He kissed the back of my neck softly. “Are you surprised to see Eddie at home, having supper?”

“Yeah…..I thought…..they put him in the cruiser, they—“

“Took him to the local station, NOT the Hall of Justice, on Detective Nielson’s orders,” said Superbear, rubbing up and down my stomach. “Then they released him to his parents after the District Attorney’s office called.” He smiled as I turned towards him, my jaw dropping. “You have a way with words, cub. Both she and the DA were quite impressed – especially the DA -- that you were so willing to vouch for Eddie.”

“I….I just told them the truth about what happened……and that I believed in him.”

“And that was all it took, Supercub,” Superbear spoke gently. He looked into my eyes. “Eddie’s still going to have to work off what he did, but because of you, he’s getting only community service. The bullies, according to the Detective, were even more amazed that YOU helped THEM, after all they’d done.” A fatherly smile crossed his features. “You made a difference today, Supercub – and I’m proud of you.”

“I….thanks sweetie…it just didn’t seem that way,” I stammered, flustered.

“It was though, Supercub,” Superbear murmured as he hugged me again. “Sometimes what’s right isn’t easy, nor does it feel good…..but it’s always right. You ARE a hero…because you did what was right.” He looked over my shoulder, his smile broadening. “Meanwhile, judging by the amount of cussing coming from the engine room over yonder, methinks the ferry heading to Treasure Island is in need of a bit of assistance. How about you do some of the boat pushing for a change?”

“I think that sounds like just the job for Supercub,” I growled, hitting a double-biceps, then lifting off. Hovering horizontally, I kissed Superbear, feeling his steely-hard lips go soft as we came together, his tongue gently brushing mine. “Thanks, beautiful. I needed that.”

“You also need supper,” Jimmy laughed, wagging his finger playfully at me. “One more good deed for the day, and then I expect you home. Your dinner will get cold.”

“Yes sir!” I said, streaking off into the sky, chuckling as I shot low over the waves.


“Got everything you need, Eddie?”

“Yeah Supercub,” Eddie said hesitantly as he closed the gate behind him, looking down at his shoes. “I – I’m sorry about what I said. About you being just like those guys and all. Thank you for sticking up for me with the police and everything.”

“Apology accepted, Eddie,” I said warmly, shaking his hand. “Now come on. We’ve got a ways to walk and I –“

“Hey….Supercub….” came another voice from behind us. I saw Eddie stiffen. Slowly I turned around….to see three of the bullies, the redhead, the sallow one, and the linebacker-build staring at us.

“Hello, gentlemen,” I said coolly, looking from eye to eye. “What can I do for you today?”

“We….uh….saw you over here and wanted to ask you something,” the redhead spoke tentatively.

“Go ahead.”

They stared at each other….shuffling their feet, almost as if they were embarrassed….finally the linebacker-build spoke. “Why’d you do that?”

“Um….reading minds isn’t exactly on my list of powers, guys. Why’d I do what?”

“Why….why didn’t you just let him kill us?” the sallow one spoke. “You kicked our butts good the other day, and we beat him up again. He was going to get us back. Why did you stop him?”

“I didn’t let you beat him up. Why should I let him kill you?”

They paused, stunned. “But…but….you’re queer!” the redhead stuttered.

“Yup, I’m a card-carrying, man-kissing, “Will and Grace”-watching queer, with all the rights and privileges thereof,” I chuckled. “So?”

“B-but…..don’t queers have to stick together or something?”

I sighed. “Little lesson, guys. Being queer means only one thing, and that’s that you’re a guy who likes guys or a girl who likes girls. It doesn’t make you wear matched clothes, hate football, or drive a Mini Cooper – and it sure as heck doesn’t change what’s right and what’s wrong.”

I looked over at each of them. “You guys can bank on one thing. If anyone tries to beat you up, I’ll stop ‘em, just like I stopped you from beating up on Eddie. Queer, straight, doesn’t matter – it’s ALWAYS wrong to beat people up.” I started to walk away. “Come on, Eddie, let’s get going.”

“Hey….Supercub…..Eddie….wait,” the linebacker-build said.

I turned. “Yes?”

Slowly he and his buddies started to smile. “You…’re OK, Supercub. So are you, Eddie.”

I looked back at them. “Thanks guys. I appreciate that.” Reaching into my boot top, I tossed each of them a card. “Call me if you ever need any help.”

Eddie looked back incredulously as we walked away, the three teens looking down at their cards, then watching us head down the street with wondering expressions on their faces. “Supercub…..I don’t get it. You WANT them to call you? That just sounds….wrong.”

“Like a certain handsome bear once told me, Eddie,” I smiled, “sometimes doing what’s right isn’t easy, nor does it feel good…..but it’s always right.” I patted him on the back, then pointed at mine. “Now, jump aboard. I told Missy I was bringing her an expert in security system wiring, and she told me to have you at the Community Center at 9 AM or she’d take a piece out of my furry hide – and I do believe she could do it.”

He laughed as he clambered onto my back, holding on tightly as we lifted off into the clear morning sky.

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