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Everything They're Asking For and More


Electra

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(Shortly after "The Old Girl is Dying on Her Feet")

 

 

Later that night, with all the dinner dishes done and the guests settled and the kids long asleep, Paige settled herself at the vanity table in the master bedroom. Richard's powers may have kept them both young, but that didn't mean she could afford to skimp on the moisturizing routine. "So," she began, looking at Richard in the mirror as she began unscrewing jars, "we've reassured everybody that the world's not ending. We've told the kids and your mom that nothing's going to change, we've told the crew we're not laying anybody off. I guess it's time for us to figure out what we're actually going to do."

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Richard disappeared for an instant, then returned with a map of the world to stand behind her. "Botswana," he said seriously as he pointed to a spot in Africa. "Stable government, they speak English, no extradition  treaty, and our money'll go a long way. We can buy another house, do some black ops jobs for the king, maybe try and break into Dakana again...no?" He winked, then disappeared long enough to make the map do the same thing. 

 

"As much as I'm tempted to do a Dirty Secrets of the Discovery Channel special," he said with a bitter laugh as he dropped down onto the bed, "we need something big. I think we may have missed the boat on Secrets of the Centurion," he confessed, "the only people who still care don't want them getting out." 

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"Breaking into Dakana was pretty fun," Paige agreed with a nostalgic smile, "but they probably won't go so easy on us now that we're not twenty year old kids anymore. I think we may be too old and respectable to do crimes anymore, sweetheart. Especially after we've spent fifteen years telling everybody how they're done." 

 

Paige spread a thin film of lotion under one eye, then another entirely different lotion over the eyelid, watching herself in the mirror as she spoke. "We could take six months off," she offered. "Call it a bite at the retirement apple. You're fifty-seven this year, I'm fifty-five, it's Hollywood." She shrugged. "I figure we've got a lot of years of work left in us, but who couldn't use a break? We can use the money we've been funneling back into the company to produce some bright young unknown's miniseries, let Fred and Frank head it up while we're gone. Do you know it's been years since I've been to the moon?" 

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Richard looked down at the backs of his hands, conscious of how the freckles there were just a trifle larger every year. Maybe they both looked twenty years younger than their actual ages, but even that was - well, he didn't like thinking about that for too long. His mom looked great close to ninety but sometimes people offered her the senior menu anyway. "I don't want to retire," he muttered. "And yeah, I know you don't mean retire retire, but it...shit." He ran his fingers over the faint stubble on his chin. "I'm sorry, baby, my head's not in it tonight." He rubbed his eyes and said, "But if we're going to the Moon, I'm getting a spacesuit this time, because I do not want to start bouncing off the walls again." 

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"That's fair," Paige agreed, laughing a little because she knew he wanted her to. "Call it a sabbatical, then," she suggested, unscrewing another tube of lotion and smoothing it over her cheekbones. "We don't even have to make a plan. We could get another RV like when the kids were little, take it across the country. We've been so busy these past few years, I don't think we've ever even taken Bryant camping. And it would be nice to get out to Iowa and see the family."

 

Whenever Paige said "the family" in that diffident tone, she didn't mean Anna or the kids. Getting her nieces and nephew supervised release and eventual pardons or commutations had been the work of years, but nobody could argue that there hadn't been extenuating circumstances involved. The Psion children had been just that, children, and under the control of a power telepath at that. They'd never really had meaningful choices for what they'd done, and though Ember still wasn't out of the secure psychiatric floor at Blackstone, at least they were all safe. Even Josh, at long, long last. "I got a note from Julie the other day; she's expecting again. She's actually happy about it this time." Paige's face was tired in the mirror, but she was smiling. 

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Richard forgot about his insecurity at the tone in Paige's voice, and appeared behind her, hand on her shoulder. "We can do that," he said easily. "If we get out there in August, we can take them out to the State Fair." They'd both learned, long ago, that a great way to avoid being recognized was to go somewhere that everyone was looking somewhere else. Richard had been visiting the Iowa State Fair on and off since Clock Queen and Tempus Fugitive had robbed the tills and stolen the butter sculpture 'just to have' forty-five years earlier. "Jeez, this is what, three?" He considered reflectively, then said, "I'm glad she's found something she actually wants to do with her life." 

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"The fair sounds good," Paige agreed, covering his hand with her own well-moisturized fingers for a moment. "But no teaching the kids to line-jump, I mean it." She laughed. "I'd also like to get a chance to see if Julie's oldest and Josh's boy are showing any powers yet. Julie hasn't said in her letters. By all rights they ought to be in Nicholson, just given their heritage, but I think it's going to be a long walk to convince them. Maybe we can talk about how Bryant is going to be starting there in the fall." 

 

She squeezed Richard's fingers once, then went back to her pots and tubes. "I know it's a little strange, but I'm not as worried as I thought I'd be about what our next project will be. It seems like something always comes up when we need it to. I mean, we got this gig in the first place because I was busking magic on the street with Holly on my back in a snuggli. We don't do things like normal people. When the next thing comes along, we're going to be ready for it. I just want to make sure we finish this current thing up right." 

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"We'll do fine," agreed Richard. "I just want to do better than fine. We're the most amazing family in this whole town, we deserve better than a memorial special where all our guests say goodbye." He put his hands on the back of her chair and kissed the top of her head, then had a thought. "Maybe we shouldn't be in it. No, honestly, I'm not talking about the strike again!" he added quickly. "Something with no Corner With Hologram and Fast-Forward, just something that's about the super community. Something we weren't involved in at the time." Which was hard. They'd been involved in a lot of things over the years.  

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"That's harder than you think, we've been involved in a lot of stuff," Paige pointed out. "Or if we haven't been involved, we've reported on it already. I suppose we could break out one of the biggies we never felt like we could cover in a standalone, or the ones we didn't have time to do all the legwork on." She smoothed lotion over her jawline and down her neck, filling the air with a delicate scent of lemons. "The three days of laughing in Manila in 78, or the Moore Era superteams, or what the hell the Curator actually did back in 2013 while we were mountain climbing." She slanted a look his direction. "Or just give the audience what they really want, a ninety minute blooper reel with fifteen years worth of you running into things." 

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"Hey!" said Richard, his hand over his heart. "There's no way my greatest hits album would only take ninety minutes! I bring the quality every time!" He grinned and said, "You know what we could do-" She picked up on the thought without him having to say it, and he dodged the lipstick she whipped at him with telekinesis only thanks to time-powered super-speed. "I am pretty sure that thing in Manila was just somebody's cover for cocaine." The 1970s were also far beyond the recollections of their core audience, which in all honesty was probably one reason they'd been canceled - for all that Richard didn't like to dwell on that too much. "The thing with the robots? Huh." He returned her lipstick while adding, "You know, we've got those two Internet, uh, consultants we could turn to, I know they have a thing about the Curator they've always wanted to do. And there are enough people around who remember that we could get a lot of interviews."

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"You want to get Miss Americana back on the show because she boosts ratings," Paige guessed, sedately floating the lipstick back to her makeup caddy. "Or wait, do you mean those nutjobs in Greenbank with the TikToks? Oh Richard, no..." She laughed out loud as she began replacing the tops on her beauty products. "Every time they at us on Twitter, you get caught up in whatever bizarre idea they've got going. They're funny, sure, but they're conspiracy kooks, and I don't even want to know what kind of wall-sized spiderweb they could get going on robot doppelgangers." 

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"Can't it be both?" said Richard with a shrug. "And you're the one who said I needed to pay more attention to social media," he said with a laugh. "Kinsley and Darin aren't that bad. Come on, between the alien shapeshifters, time travelers, and magic lizard people that you and I have personally met, is it really so crazy to think that there are things out there we don't understand and that people are keeping from us?" It was an old - well not exactly argument, but a difference of opinion about how the world works. "Besides, if they are nuts, giving them a platform will give us a chance to show where they're wrong. That's gotta be a good thing, right?" 

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Paige sighed. "It certainly wouldn't be the only reason I'd do a show about the Curator, but I suppose they do reflect a continuing public interest in the story." She smiled ruefully. "And after all these years and the letters and tweets and videos, it's possible that they are objectively our biggest fans. But I am absolutely one-hundred percent not doing that interview." She stood and stretched, then began shucking her clothes to put on a comfortable nightgown. "We'll toss the Curator idea to the production team, see what they think. Could be that it's too long ago, or too Freedom City centric." 

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Richard had been married to Paige for a long time and been with her a long time before that, but he still stopped talking for a moment to enjoy the view. His own bedtime rituals could be done in the time it took the bathroom door to swing shut behind him. "I'll take care of it," said Richard easily, "good to stay in touch with the Millennials. Maybe the team'll have a bigger angle on it, maybe bring in some space people..." He studied Paige for a moment longer, then said, "Babe, I know we're gonna be all right, and I know this was maybe a long time coming." He pecked her on the back of the neck and murmured, "But those guys are idiots taking you off television." 

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She laughed, reaching behind herself to thread her fingers through his hair. "I always said they were idiots putting me on it in the first place. And that we were idiots to do it, given our backgrounds. But we made it work out okay. It's what we do, we roll with whatever happens to us. When the next thing comes along, we'll grab it with both hands and ride, just like we've always done." She turned and slid her arms around his waist, touching her forehead to his. "And in the meantime, we'll make this the best season we've ever had. Nobody's going to forget us." 

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"You're damn right." He gave her a long kiss, arms around her waist, then smiled. "You know, I won't miss juggling a cross-country commute with one kid in boarding school and one kid in daycare." The plan at some point in their lives had been for it to be just one kid at this point, and that one almost ready to leave for college - but the two of them had always been very good at improvising. "That'll let me get hands-on with my favorite show." He zipped away, just long enough to turn off the lights. 

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