Leo is propped up against a familiar-feeling material. He’s disoriented. He realizes he’s on his back, laying on Otto’s hood. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Pneuma and Numina talking. He strains to hear the conversation for a moment, realizes it’s none of his business, and lolls his head backward.
“Hey buddy,” he whispers weakly. “You doin’ okay?”
Otto rumbles beneath him. “I can’t transform, boss. I think somethin’ fused internally. Good news is, the safety interlocks worked, cut in before I pulled every muscle in my body. And I’m outta gas. Listen, did ya know that GWAR did a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘She Bop’?”
Leo laughs. It hurts doing so. “That’s terrifying. We’ll fix you up, I promise. You did great, Otto.”
A pair of beautiful faces come into his vision. “Leo! Thank goodness.” It’s Aria.
The other girl smiles. “Hi Leo. ‘Summer Skye Newman’. What do you think…?” She looks more worried than usual, for a moment.
Leo tries to reach up a hand. “It’s beautiful. It sounds amazing. You’re both amazing.” The arm comes down. “Listen… my chest hurts… and I can’t feel my left arm… am I…?”
“That’s acid reflux,” Aria says, more businesslike. “And you pinched a nerve in the arm by sleeping on it, it’s fine.” She cradles his cheek in her palm, all smiles again. “We did it. Everyone did it. Vyortovia retreated.”
Leo blinks a few times. “Oh, well. Hooray for our side.”
Summer nods, and grins at her sister, then at Leo. “You told them you had a plan. Now everyone wants to know what it is. They saw you three barrel out there, take out a bunch of guys, fight the Dread Queen, and then suddenly she punches you and sis, and everyone takes off. People are asking your secret.”
Leo closes his eyes. “The secret is to never give up,” he announces. A thought comes to him, and he pats his chest with a hand. It’s bare. “Hey. Hey. My armor. My shirt. Is anyone with a camera around–”
“It’s fine, you’re fine,” comes Aria’s soothing voice, quickly heading off his fears. “The med techs just had to examine you.”
“Well, okay. But why is my shirt still off?”
“I uh, I don’t see where it is right now,” Aria says, looking away guiltily. It’s laying on the ground in front of her, and she surreptitiously kicks it underneath Otto. Summer just giggles.
“Where’s Adam?” Leo asks. “Sol. Shit. I gotta talk to Adam. He’s gonna need me.”
The girls glance at each other, temporarily speechless. Otto fills in, his deep voice rumbling down Leo’s spine. “He needs space and time, boss. Now’s not right. Let him come to you.”
Leo remembers that last message. It gnaws at him, badly, but finally he breaks through the knot of tension in his heart. “I told him I trusted him to take care of things alone. Guess I better stick to that.”
“We’ve all done a lot of growing up lately,” murmurs Aria. “This is his.”
“I’m sorry,” Leo murmurs. “Flesh and blood. I always feel with you three that I’m the weakest and slowest. Thanks for putting up with me.”
“You are the strongest, in some very important ways,” Summer says. With a quick and guilty glance in Aria’s direction, she leans down and kisses his cheek. Leo feels the heat of concentrated laser light, the vibration of ultrasound. Aria just smiles and nods approvingly.
“Alright. Well cool. Let’s… Harry… chips and pizza.” Let the girls dote on Otto next, as they surely will. The big lug has earned it, with interest. Leo feels himself slip into a nap, with a contented smile on his face.
author: Bill G.