by Kerrie Smith
Disclaimer: Characters are copyright of Marvel Entertainment Group. I'm not making a profit, and I promise to give their characters back when I'm done with them. Please don't sue me.
"Oh, Mr. Drake, thank you so much for stopping by!"
Bobby Drake scratched his head, and observed the woman in front of him. She was probably around 60 years old, about five feet high, and just as wide. "No prob, Mrs. Richardson," he replied.
"I called up my dear, old friend Charles, you're a friend of Charles', right?"
"Right! So I called my dear, old friend Charles, since he works so hard for mutant rights, and asked him if he knew any good, upstanding young people who might happen to be mutants-- you happen to be a mutant, right Mr. Drake?"
"That I am, ma'am."
"--To come talk to our poor little Aurora. She just really needs someone to talk to, you see."
Bobby sighed. He'd wondered why Professor Xavier hadn't given him too many details when he'd sent him over to the Westchester County Home for Displaced Children. The way Bobby figured, the prof hadn't wanted to scare him too much. Either that, or selective memory had blocked out all mention of Mrs. Myra Richardson, in the interest of Professor Xavier's sanity.
"What exactly is wrong with, um, 'little Aurora'?" Bobby asked hesitantly.
"Well," Mrs. Richardson began dramatically, twisting her hands. "She's a good child, really. A good, sweet, caring child."
"And she wants to be a superhero."
"And that's it."
Bobby scratched his head a lot. "Well, that's not so bad."
Mrs. Richardson just stared at him. "I mean, when I was a kid, I always wanted to be Hawkman, from 'Superfriends.' Not so much because of the wings... I liked the fact that he didn't wear a shirt. My mom always made me wear shirts."
Mrs. Richardson just stared at him.
"Um, never mind."
"While we encourage all the children to use their imagination... well, I'm worried that Aurora may get a little... carried away. She, um, tried to jump off the roof the other day."
Bobby held up his hands. "Hey, you need a suicide counselor, not me!"
"No, no, she, um, thought she could fly."
Bobby blinked. "And why would she think that?"
"Because she's a mutant."
"Does she have wings?"
"Does she have some sort of air control?"
"Energy-based flying ability?"
"What does she do?"
"Well, she sort of... glows."
"But she's been watching the X-Men on tv, and... sort of jumped to her own conclusions. Dreadful people, influencing children like that. Not nice, normal people like you and I."
"Not at all," Bobby agreed, making a note to stay on his toes the next time the professor seemed especially nice.
"What did you say you did, again, Mr. Drake?"
"I'm an accountant," he lied.
"Oh, that's just lovely! I think Aurora just needs someone, well, like her, to talk to. Could you?"
Bobby sighed. "Sure, Mrs. Richardson. Lead the way."
The sullen twelve-year-old stared at the rather pleasant-looking young man. The pleasant-looking-young man looked back at the sullen twelve-year-old.
"Aurora, I'd like you to meet Mr. Drake," Mrs. Richardson beamed happily. "Mr. Drake, this is Aurora Dante. Oh, dear. Darling, you can't go around with that towel around your neck..."
"It's not a towel," Aurora returned acidly. "It's a *cape.*"
I've never seen a cape with "Howard Johnson's" printed along the edge, Bobby thought to himself. Must be a new fashion statement. Remind me to tell Magneto.
"Er, yes, dear. Now, I thought perhaps you and Mr. Drake could go out for lunch, and to talk a little. What do you think?"
"He looks lame," Aurora decreed.
"He's a very nice young gentleman!" Mrs. Richardson defended, her voice going a little squeaky. "He's an accountant!"
The girl made a face that quite clearly said "And that makes him not lame?"
"Hey, no prob, Mrs. Richardson," Bobby said with a wave of his hand. "You have a bunch of kids here, right? I'm sure one of 'em wants to go to lunch with me."
Aurora stuck out her lower lip angrily. "I wanna go."
Bobby shrugged. "I dunno. I'm awfully lame. Maybe I'd better go find a boring kid to come with me and listen to my old accounting stories. Know any?"
"Um... I could listen," Aurora said quietly. "I'm a good listener."
Bobby thought about it. "I don't know... That short kid with the glasses--"
Bobby grinned. "Aah, I guess so."
"So where are we going?" Aurora demanded as they walked out to the parking lot.
"I was thinking... IHOP," Bobby decided.
"Pancakes?" Aurora replied, eyes wide. "For lunch?"
"Pancakes are good at any time of the day. Or night, for that matter," Bobby replied, in the tone of the Older and Wiser Who Know These Things. "Do you like pancakes?"
"Yeah!" Aurora replied before remembering that Mr. Drake was Lame. "Um, they're okay."
"Excellent," Bobby intoned in his much-practiced Mr. Burns impression, as he unlocked the car door.
"This is your car?" Aurora asked, clearly offended.
"I'll have you know, this is a quality 1984 Ford Escort," Bobby replied.
"It smells funny," Aurora replied, crawling into the passenger seat.
"That's because Hank and I went fishing the other week. He fell in the lake. Hank smells kinda bad when he gets wet."
"Is Hank your dog?" Aurora asked hopefully.
"Er, no. He's my best friend."
"There's a guy at the orphanage named Frankie. He smells bad when he gets wet, too."
Aurora contemplated this. "No. He just smells bad, period."
"Buckle your belt, kiddo," Bobby reminded her.
"Do I hafta?"
"Yes. This car has a special ignition. It won't start unless everyone's seat belts are buckled."
"Really, Mr. Drake?"
"Yup. And you can call me Bobby. Since we're friends and stuff."
"Okay," Aurora said, buckling her seat belt. "I think you should know that you can't call me Aurora, though."
Bobby looked at her. "Oh? And why not?"
"Because I'm a superhero. I don't want anyone to know my secret identity."
"Then what should I call you?" Bobby asked, pulling out of the parking lot.
"Lightwave," Aurora replied proudly.
Not the worst codename I've ever heard, Bobby thought to himself. A definite step up from "Moonboy." Or "Foxbat."
"So, what exactly are your superpowers, Lightwave?"
Aurora's eyes grew wide. She'd never had this sort of reaction from a grown-up before. Usually, they would reply that she was certainly NOT a superhero, and for Pete's sake, take off that towel. Perhaps this Mr. Drake wasn't so much of a grown-up as... a very large kid. "I make light," she replied proudly.
"That's quite the feat," Bobby replied. "Kinda like Dazzler, eh?"
Bobby blinked. "The famous mutant rock star? Sang 'Wanna Share My Spotlight'? Blue jumpsuits? Face paint? Roller skates?"
Aurora looked at him as though he'd just called her a "whippersnapper" and started lamenting the current price of cabbage.
You are so old, Bobby's subconscious informed him.
Shut up, Bobby replied.
"Look!" Aurora announced, holding up her hands. They were encompassed in a golden glow, about as bright as a flashlight.
"Very nice," Bobby replied. "Can you do colors?"
Aurora frowned. "Um... no."
"Ah, well. Practice makes perfect. So tell me, Lightwave, how many supervillians have you vanquished?"
Aurora scowled. "None, yet. They're afraid of me."
"I can see why."
"But I made up a neato story about what would happen if they did!"
"A superhero AND a writer? You're very talented."
"Want to hear it?"
"Duh. Of course I do."
"Well, it starts with Destructoman and his evil sidekick, Mrs. Evilson..."
Aurora chewed the last of her pancakes. "Hey, Bobby?"
"What's up, Lightwave?"
"Are you really an accountant?"
Bobby raised one eyebrow. "Why do you ask?"
"You're too cool to be an accountant."
Aurora was pretty impressed. Over the past hour, Bobby had managed to pack away a rather impressive amount of pancakes, listened to all her superhero stories, and display quite a wealth of cartoon knowledge.
"Well, ya got me," he admitted. "I lied to Mrs. Richardson."
"That's okay," Aurora assured him. "I do it all the time. So what do you really do?"
Bobby looked around conspiratorially. "It's a secret. I can't tell you here."
Aurora wrinkled her nose. "You're lyin'! I bet it's something lame!"
"Well, it's not accounting. You want to go for a walk in the park? I think maybe I can tell you there."
"Okay," Aurora quickly agreed.
"Waitress!" Bobby barked dramatically. "Check, please!"
"Look at that kid with the frisbee! I can throw a frisbee better than that!"
"Bobby," Aurora protested, pulling on his jacket. "You promised to tell me what you do!"
"Well, you caught me," Bobby sighed. "I'm a superhero, too."
"You are not!" Aurora protested.
"Are not! Where's your cape?"
"Capes are for wusses."
Aurora made in indignant sound.
"Well, it's okay for girls to wear capes. But only wussy guy superheroes wear capes."
"Superman wears a cape!"
Bobby arched one eyebrow.
"You're LYING," Aurora announced. "Prove it."
Bobby blinked. No one had ever really doubted his claim before. Carefully, he scanned the park. Despite the nice weather, there were relatively few people strolling about. "You asked for it." And then with a rush of cold air, he iced up.
To his shock, Aurora was not impressed. "Big deal. You're a mutant. I 'spected as much. You're still not a superhero."
"I'm Iceman!" Bobby protested.
"Never heard of ya."
Bobby sank back into human form. "I'm one of the X-Men!"
"Look, I gotta comic book by saving up box tops for FOUR MONTHS. An' it's got Cyclops and Phoenix an' Wolverine an' Storm an' Rogue an' Gambit an' Beast an' Longshot in it. No Iceman."
Bobby fumed. He remembered that particular comic book. Someone had decided to chronicle their adventures in four-colored glory. Unfortunately, the author of said comic book used quite a lot of poetic license. Jean was quite proud of the size they'd drawn her... upper attributes.
"That's just made-up stuff."
"And I saw on the news. Storm and Cannonball and Wolverine fought some yucky bad mutants in the city morgue."
Bobby racked his brain, trying to remember when that happened. "Oh... I was out of town then."
Aurora shook her head. "Tryin' to be a superhero. Don't even have a cape..."
Bobby whipped out his wallet. "Lookie, I got the Beast's driver's license. That's gotta count for something."
Aurora examined it dubiously. "That's nothin'. I gotta Batman credit card." Whipping out her own wallet, she presented Bobby with a yellow and black plastic card.
"Batman Credit Card," Bobby read. "Valid wherever Batman Credit Cards are accepted. Can't imagine that's too many places..."
Smugly, Aurora placed it back in her wallet. "Sorry, Bobby, we can't all be superheroes."
"Aurora, you're not a superhero." Aurora stopped dead, betrayal in her eyes. "You're mean. I thought you were nice and different, but you're just MEAN."
Bobby sighed, and ran his fingers through his hair. "Look, kid, can we talk?"
"No." Aurora stomped over to the swings and sat down heavily on one, crossing her arms.
Gingerly, Bobby sat down on the one next to her. "Look, kiddo--"
"I'm IGNORING you."
"When I was your age, I wanted to be Hawkman."
Aurora gave him a sideways glance. "From the 'Superfriends'? But he was stupid. All he had was wings. He didn't even wear a shirt."
Bobby shrugged. "I thought he was pretty cool. And then, when I was fourteen, I learned I could make things really cold."
Aurora clenched her fist, golden light forming around it.
"And I thought WOW! I can be a superhero! Just like Hawkman! But see, back then, no one had heard of mutants. So I had to keep it a big secret. Then one day, one of my friends was in trouble, so I had to save her."
"And then you were a big hero, huh?" Aurora snorted.
"Nope. I got thrown in jail and almost lynched."
Aurora's eyes bugged from their sockets.
"But then um, Cyclops saved me."
"See? He's a hero."
"And then I joined the X-Men and thought, yah, I can finally be a hero, just like I always wanted!"
"Must be nice," Aurora replied loftily, obviously not believing him.
"And it was pretty cool. For about two days." He didn't go on.
Aurora finally looked at him. "Why?"
"Because it HURTS getting hit by laser beams and robots."
Aurora blinked. "Then you're not a very good superhero."
"Nope. Everyone gets hit sometimes. And did you know you have to practice, too? Get up early every morning to PRACTICE FIGHTING."
"It could be fun."
"You think getting zapped by lightning bolts and exploding playing cards is fun? It's not. And you know what else?"
Aurora looked at him solemnly.
"Sometimes people die."
Aurora fiddled with her hands. "I didn't think of that."
"No one ever does."
Aurora sniffed loudly. "IT'S NOT FAIR!"
Bobby was taken about. "What?"
"How come all the other kids get to pretend whatever they want, and no one cares? I just wanted to pretend to be a superhero..."
Bobby chuckled sadly. "'Cause kid, you got something in your genes that says you *could* be a superhero. Everybody just worries about you because they don't want you to run off and try something dangerous. That, and trying to jump off the roof."
"I just wanted to see if I could fly."
"Maybe someday you will," Bobby replied.
"You think? That would be a real superpower..."
"Aurora..." Bobby said sternly.
"Someday," she replied meekly.
"You still want to be a superhero?" he asked.
"Yeah," Aurora muttered. "I mean, I promise to stop jumpin' off the roof, and stuff. But... well... I want to save the universe. I mean, sure you can get hurt, and stuff, but so do police! And there must be a reason you do it!"
"True," Bobby said soberly. "But a superhero must have iron will and a strong heart."
"I know," Aurora sniffed.
"And there is the final test..."
"What is it?"
"I didn't want it to come to this..." Bobby sighed, loosening his tie.
"I'm ready," Aurora reassured.
Five minutes later, Bobby Drake led a stricken, white-faced Aurora Dante back to his battered 1984 Ford Escort. Her cape was slung over his right arm.
"I'm glad you changed your mind, kiddo," Bobby grinned.
Aurora nodded numbly.
Bobby snapped his fingers. "Hey, I think I have one of my old Dazzler 8-tracks in the trunk. We can listen to it on the way home."
"So how did this afternoon go?" Jean asked, watching Bobby assemble a sandwich of Scooby-Doo-ish proportions.
"Good," Bobby replied, contemplating the ham and the salami. "I cannot decide, I must have them both!" he finally announced.
"Oh, sorry. Yeah, 'Rora's a real cute kid. And I think I talked her out of the superhero business."
"Oh?" Jean asked.
"Yeah. She's too young for that sorta thing. Besides, she, well, she makes light. I mean, yeah, Cypher got by on less, but..."
"I know what you mean, Bobby," Jean said. "Although I wouldn't be surprised if she turned out to be quite formidable someday."
"Oh, me, neither," Bobby replied around a huge mouthful of lunchmeat.
"So how did you dissuade her?" Jean asked.
"Well, first I told her that superheroing hurt. Jean, do you remember when my nose was straight?"
"Vaguely. Hank broke it when you were seventeen, didn't he?"
"Yup. And then I told her about the death thing."
Jean nodded sympathetically.
"And was still pretty gung-ho about it," Bobby admitted, adding some mustard to his sandwich.
"So what did you do?"
"I did what I had to, Jeannie."
"I showed her my spandex uniform."
"Hey, it worked."
Aurora looked up from the box where she was packing away the last of her comic books. "Hi, Frankie."
"Superman is on tv. Wanna come watch?"
Frankie's eyebrows shot up. "No? Hey, where's your cape?"
Aurora pursed her lips. "I'm not gonna be a superhero any more."
"Nope. Changed my mind."
"So what are you gonna be?"
Aurora Dante got a pensive look on her face. "I was thinking maybe... a rock star."
Li'l Author's Notes:
1) Don't mock the Batman credit card. It's a real thing. My cousin has one. And it really says "Valid wherever Batman credit cards are accepted." Really.
2) As they say, "credit where credit is due." Aurora "Lightwave" Dante was based one one of the characters from "Spiderman and His Amazing Friends." The actual character was older, worked for SHIELD and was... urk... Iceman's half sister. I know someone out there remembers this... Anyway, that's where she came from.
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