There had never been much foot traffic in the morning, and yet, no matter how many times he told Mr. Wixton to open shop after lunch, the man never relented. The mornings were too quiet and the engines too loud. People were either commuting to work or still blissfully snuggled in their home's warm embrace, not walking down the loud, downtown district blocks.
Edward Wixton didn't mind his few employees having the extra hours, however, and still made them clock in at seven-forty-five every morning and open shop at eight-o-five on the dot.
After alphabetizing the fourth shelf of the morning, Max sighed and stretching the hunched-over soreness from his back, walked over to the cashier's booth. Plopping down into one of the chairs, he swiveled it around so he could face the window and the city he loved so much. Not that he could see a lot, of course.
The new holographic display took up most of the view, but he remembered a time when it didn't, and how he got caught many a times staring off into the distance, captured by the permeating backdrop of Millennium City. The growl of old non-self driving cars, the rattling metro rails, the howling sirens...
The chiming bells above the door shook him from his stupor and crumbling the old receipt he had began to draw on into his pocket, shoved a smile onto his face as a gentleman in a tailored suit strode hesitantly to the counter. It took nearly twenty minutes to figure out he needed something suitable for his preteen daughter. After a wry thought of Ed, Max pointed the father in the direction, ultimately leaving the decision to him. It took another twenty for him to decide and once he did, Max rang him up happily.
When he was gone and the chill of the morning set back in, he plopped in the chair and gave it a spin, waiting anxiously for Eddie to arrive for her shift. Technically, it had started when his did -- but she was the bosses' daughter and she did whatever she wanted. That spunk of hers made the day go by faster and made his favorite shop on Lincoln Boulevard just a little bit brighter.
There was never any business at goddamn 8:05am, so she never came that early. Her father left for the office at six sharp, and she couldn't hardly peel her eyelids open at that time in the morning. He was the earliest of early risers. She was not. Thus, Eddie had been entrusted to handle getting to places herself. And that lead to a little bit of dishonesty.
She was a menace on any type of blade or wheel. Roller skates were a personal favorite, (they were so retro) but she often got around by skateboard, scooter, or even those really old shoes with the wheels in the heels. Heelies. She loved her Heelies. And she refused, with all the malice in her heart, to wear any form of protection.
The only reason she didn't sleep 'till 3pm was because she enjoyed Max's company, and she didn't have that much hate in her heart for the shop. She just didn't enjoy matching her dad's peppy optimism, and the whole "sunshine does you good!" outlook. It was easier to be a little bit rude then to let every little thing make you feel some way or to put on a smile that wasn't genuine.
She was a little bit gloomy. So what?
Eddie was fully awake at 11:32am, and had guzzled an ungodly amount of cereal before changing out of her pajamas and tying up her blades. She loved to glide through the city, causing people to look up from their Holophones and their morning coffee. Millennium city was alive, no matter how deep they stuck their noses in their screens. She loved it. She loved the bustle and she loved the noise and she liked knowing she was where everything was happening.
There was a corner bakery on 55th street, which she skidded to a halt in front of. "Morning, Ed," Chirped Bradley, already ducking his head into the display case to grab her usual. "Or should I say, afternoon. Bright and early as usual." He always teased her like this. Brad was twenty, having graduated a couple years back. He worked at the bakery while attending Millennium Community College. He was two years ahead of her, but they had always made casual conversation.
"That jokes gets funnier every time you say it." She drawled.
Brad chuckled. "Maybe I'll get to change it when you actually wake up on time, hmm?"
Eddie rolled her eyes, handing over a crisp five in exchange for the bag. "See you tomorrow, Brad."
"See ya, Ed!"
And she was off again. By now, Wixton's Warehouse Comics was a two minute skate. It was the best part -- just getting into the lunch hustle, pushing past people with a bag of pastries in hand. Someone swore at her, and she laughed in their wake. Finally, she turned the corner and pulled into the shop.
"Maaaaaaaax!" She called, gliding in the first few feet and then stopping herself by grabbing the counter, plopping the bag down. "Eat your doughnut while it's warm. What's up? Did I miss anything good?" Eddie hoisted herself up and yanked off her roller blades, pulling some shoes out of her backpack and putting those on instead. "Or did you draw anything? Somethin' to show?" Eddie grinned at him. She loved his drawings. They were damn good, and always pretty interesting too. A little bit cryptic, sometimes, but still good.
The door swung open with a squealing chime and jumping slightly, Max turned from the window and smiled widely when he recognized the brunette on wheels. Ignoring the onslaught of questions momentarily, he shifted in his chair in order to snatch the warm donut out of the bag.
"Unng, this is good. Thanks Ed." Max said between bites of his donut. "Almost makes up for you bein' so late."
With a laugh and the last bite of his donut, Max grew thoughtful as he focused back on the questions she asked. "Nothin' big. Only one customer came through- Some guy looking for age appropriate comics for his daughter.
"Been pretty quiet since, really. Even the streets..." Trailing off, Max reached into his pocket and withdrew the crumpled receipt. Flattening it out, he looked down at the sketch for the first time. In a hurried hand Max had sketched a lone tower, back-dropped by Millennium's unique skyline. A curved outline gave shape to a shoreline near the tower and in minute strokes, Millennium Bridge in the distance.
He had no idea where it was, but if he had to guess, it was somewhere near North Bay, and he didn't know anyone who lived out there. That meant it wasn't...
"Just some random thing," Max said with a shrug, tossing the receipt in Ed's direction. "I'm going to be starving after this and lunch will be here soon. You pack anything or are we goin' to order something?"
"Almost? Are you kidding? It should cover me for two late days," She said with a huff, flipping her hair as she pulled her goodie of choice out of the bag; a warm chocolate chip cookie, bigger than her hand, swinging her legs as she sat on the counter, nibbling away. She laughed at the idea of a man fumbling around the store in an attempt to appease his daughter. Eddie knew very well how complicated teenage girls were.
"Ooooh," She cooed as he flattened out the receipt, grinning at the cityscape he had illustrated. "I've never seen this building before," Eddie hummed, examining it. "Is this Millennium Bridge? Did you make this up?" She laughed. Maybe this building would pop up someday and she'd laugh at him. Max the Architect.
She pocketed the drawing. She always kept 'em. Eddie didn't like watching him throw away his little scribbles or doodles. A drawer full, actually. They were fun to look at.
"Nah, all I had were the pastries. I was thinkin' we'd order from Joe's?" She finished off the cookie and swept the bag into the trashcan behind the counter. "Ooh, we could order pizza and then read the new issues of Pathfinder and Majestas! Dad said they're coming in at lunch. I heard they're kickass. Think someone dies?" She hopped off the counter and turned to face him excitedly.
"Are you still workin' on your Pathfinder comics?" She walked over to his shelf in the back, and yanked out a handful of comics. She picked up the first one off the stack and fell silent, a small smile on her face as she flipped through his hand drawn comics.
Max perked up at the promise of new comics, especially ones containing the power couple duo of Pathfinder and Majestas. Glancing down at his holowatch and realizing it was only a few minutes til, the young man jumped up, crumbled the wrinkled pastry bag and tossed it into the garbage.
“C’mon, c’mon,” Max urged with a smile, scooting his best friend from off the counter. “You know how your dad is-- We should be ready for the warehouse deliverers… I swear those guys give him reports or something.
“Actually, wait--Mind watchin’ the front for me for a bit?” Max glanced back down at his holowatch, giddy with both excitement and hunger. “It’ll only take me a few to tidy up.”
Before turning on his heel, Max looked pointedly at Eddie, trying his best to skirt around a few of her questions. “Figure out what you want from Joe’s, then we’ll pig out and read those comics.”
“Yeah, yeah, sure. Whatever. Go tidy up.” She said with a yawn, a purposefully large one as she dived into the chair he had abandoned, laughing at him as he shooed her off the counter. Shamelessly kicking her feet up, Eddie pulled out her holophone and flipped through Joe’s menu. Yeah, she had it bookmarked.. They ate there too damn often.
“Meat party?” She hollered. “And I still wanna see your comics. Don’t think you can avoid me!”
“Yeah,” Max hollered over his shoulder, “Gimme some of those spicy wings too!”
Taking the stairs two at a time, Max made his way up the back staircase, bubbling with excitement. The only dark spot on his mind was Eddie’s insistent badgering about his comics. She just never gave up and while he admired her persistence... he couldn’t tell her, of course, why it bothered him so…
Cleaning up last night’s mess first, Max then hurriedly dragged a broom across the floor, emptied the trash, rearranged the overstock, and made ample room for the new shipment. Satisfied, he made his way to the supply closet, grabbed two blankets and hid them under the desk for later.
“You got that ordered yet?” Max asked as he came down the stairs nearly ten minutes later. “I’m starving!”
Right after Max voiced his pizza opinion, Eddie got on the phone with Joe’s. A quick chat on the phone had their order of a meat party pizza and spicy wings well under way, and she kicked back with a content sigh.
With no one coming in, Eddie buried her face in the comic of Max’s she had pulled out of the stack. Happily settled into the chair behind the counter, she listened to Max shuffle around on the floor above, shaking her head at the random bumps and scratching noises. Whatever went on in that mind of his, she had no clue.
When the bell on the door rang Eddie’s shoes came off the counter quicker than lightning, Max’s comic neatly placed on the side of the counter. “Welcome to Wixton’s Warehouse Comics, anything I can get you?” She hummed, the sentence repeated a thousand times over.
The stranger had tussled white hair that looked all too familiar, and a trench coat that seemed even more familiar, and keen hazel green eyes that had Eddie just about leaning forward in her seat, watching his smile broaden, cheeks stretch.
She gripped the counter in shock.
“Oh, no. Thank you.” He hummed, voice smooth and almost innocent. “Just browsing.”
The bell chimed just as Max reached the last step and he hurried back to the front of the shop, wondering if the shipment had come in early. He couldn’t make out the brief introductory conversation, just mummering voices - one familiar and one not.
I guess those new comics haven’t made it in yet.
Sighing, Max made his way around the large display case, flattening out any wrinkles in his work shirt. He saw Eddie first and noticed her unusual expression and then his comic on the counter beside her. Max made a move to grab it before the customer could see the unprofessional, vision-laced comic… and that’s when he noticed him.
Casually striding over to a shelf in the back that caught his eye, the white haired man glanced back at Eddie and Max as they stared at him, dumbfounded. He straightened his shoulders, bristling. Oh.. No. That was very fast. I mean, really, Mason? What did you think.. Walking into a comic book shop? Crow warned you, dumbass!
He cleared his throat and smiled at the boy, picking a random comic off the shelf, detailing some off brand vigilante. He put it back very quickly and ran his fingertips along the spines of some one shelf below. These caught his eye a little bit more so.
Thumbing through the comic he found it oddly familiar.. It was about Pathfinder, obviously, by the big title on the cover.. But the story wasn’t about Pathfinder today. He was young.. Sixteen. And he was running from something that this stranger had run from too.
He walked right back up to the counter and eyed Max. “Uh, if I could.. I’d like to know who wrote this?” He said, a little bit more concern in his voice.
Oh no. Oh god. Oh my god what have I done. I told Mr. Wixton keeping my old comics in the shop was not a good idea!
Clearing his throat nervously, Max glanced around with wide, almost paranoid eyes. “I um, hm.” Fidgeting slightly, Max braced himself for what was about to come. “I did.”
The stranger stood, eyes narrowed, investigating Max with his thin gaze. Eddie stood, totally silent, mouth somewhat agape. She was ready to barrel the bastard if he ragged on Max, call him some lookalike and kick him out. But there was just no way.
“Have we met before?” Came the next question, and it was a little bit softer. The stranger’s eyes fell to the comic in his hands, and he thumbed through it as he waited for a response.
“N-no, we haven’t before… Although y-you look kinda’ familiar.”
Max glanced over at Eddie with wide can-you-believe-it eyes. The longer he stood there, the wider his mouth fell open. Shock, guilt, and a little bit of utter excitement rooted him to the spot.
As he flipped through the pages and reached the inside back cover, a sad smile fell on the stranger’s face as he stared at the illustration with wetness growing in his eyes. Startled, he looked back at Max with wide eyes.
“I know you,” He murmured. “M...Max. Max, that’s it.” He grinned, and Eddie stared with her mouth open. “It’s been.. Years. How do you.. How do you know this? How did you know about this? How did you draw this?” He waved the comic in front of Max, grip tight.
Watching as Pathfinder grew teary eyed on the last page of the comic, Max cringed, swapping guilty glances with the floor and the meta standing in front of him. He knew what was depicted on that page, he’d drawn it over multiple times, never quite knowing the entire truth. But… But it did feel like Max knew him, although it was only because of his power.
For years he had sketched that jawline, the curve of his nose, the tousled hair… before and after it’s color change. “How do you know me?” Max asked suddenly, brows drawn in confusion. “I uh… Yeah I drew those, but I think I need some answers, man.”
Leaving her spot behind the counter, she moved to stand behind Max, a hand on his shoulder almost protectively, worried about the man that stood before them. If Pathfinder, off the battlefield, wasn’t as heroic.
Taking a deep breath to steady himself, Pathfinder put the comic on the counter. Glancing between Max and his friend, his lips pulled together tightly, he sighed. Crow would hate him for this.. But he had no other choice. And he was glad to see the kid.
Furrowing his brows, his eyes began to glow the signature cerulean blue. Eddie’s grip tightened on his shoulder, so much so that it would hurt, and her eyes grew in shock. “Sorry.. About that. The comic you drew.. Is about me, o-over thirty years ago.”
His eyes had glowed because he had finally searched for Max, and he was indeed, right before him. As Marcy promised. “Majestas and I rescued you twenty years ago. Do you remember? You probably don’t. With your mom, Marcy, we sent you to a safehouse. You’ve.. Gotten.. Bigger.”
As the pain in his shoulder grew, Max reached up and took Eddie’s hand into his own, rolling his shoulder to lessen the growing cramp. His eyes, however, never left Pathfinder’s, and once the shock subsided an ounce, Max found his voice.
“You know my mom?” Shaking his head in disbelief, he glanced down at Eddie with a bemused laugh. “He says he knows my mom! Hahaha….
“Wait are you serious? Oh god, you must be… You said her name, and that means that tower… I mean… wait, you AND Majestas saved me? What the hell had happened?”
Eddie could find no words in her shock, which was a very rare occurrence for her. Pathfinder.. Had been Max’s family friend for god knows how long. There was a superhero, right under their noses! She couldn’t believe it. Twenty years ago Pathfinder had rescued Max and his mom!
Suddenly, she paused. Wh.. why had they needed to be rescued?
Clearing his throat, Mason rubbed his eyes. “These.. Er.. men.” He shook his head. “It’s not.. A discussion for the public. Listen, why don’t you.. Both of you.. You trust her, right?” Mason smiled lightly. “Both of you should come to our base. Meet Majestas.. Meet the rest of the team. We can explain everything.. And you’ve got to tell me how your abilities have developed.”
“My-my abilities?” Max laughed hesitantly, letting go of Eddie’s hand suddenly and taking a step backwards, fear in his eyes. When he spoke again it was only a whisper. “You know… You know about that too?”
Glancing out of the window guiltily, Max shook his head before covering his face with his hands. This wasn’t exactly how he wanted to reveal his powers to Eddie… his best friend… And for a stranger, and Pathfinder no less, to be the one to expose him…
“I trust her with my life.” Max said after a minute, though hesitant to look over at her. “I think we’d both love to meet Majestas and the rest of the team. An-And I think we both wanna hear that story… Right, Ed?”
It was, absolutely, like a punch to the gut. The words that fell out of Pathfinder’s mouth were more shocking than Pathfinder himself. Max.. with.. Powers? She couldn’t believe it. And so much more so, because of her own.
At Max’s words she felt a smile fall on her lips, flickering with nervousness but a genuine one nonetheless. She trusted him with her life too. “R-r-right.” She stuttered, longing to hold his hand again for a reason she wouldn’t admit.
“Great.” Mason said with a grin. “I’ll have the address dropped off.” Digging into his pocket, he pulled out a fifty and left it on the counter. “Assuming I can purchase this, yeah?” He hummed, waving the comic. “When you come to the base.. Bring ‘em.”
“You mean bring the… rest? Y-yeah, I can do that.” Smiling hesitantly between Eddie and Pathfinder, who gave off an oddly relaxing warmth, Max ran a weary hand across his face, still slightly in shock. “When uh, when will Majestas drop off the address? Our shift ends at six, b-but we could stay a little longer.”
Smirking, Mason turned on his heel. “You won’t need to be here to pick it up.” Was all he offered as he turned out into the street, bell chiming after him.
Pathfinder’s last comment sent a shiver down his spine and as the door closed behind him, he swallowed audibly, glancing guiltily over at Eddie. Maybe it was best to get it all out in the open now…
“So um… So, uh… I guess you know that I have powers now…”
For a while Eddie let silence hang between them, staring at him searchingly. There were words begging to be spilled.. She didn’t know where to begin, how to ever begin, but her lips turned upwards in a smile, and suddenly, she pulled him into a tight hug.
“S’okay, Max. It’s okay.” She hummed, giving him one last squeeze before pulling away and rubbing frantically at her eye. Eddie, crying? Not a chance. Allergies or something. “I.. I have.. Powers.. Too.”
Max pretended not to see the moisture in Eddie’s eyes and instead swallowed again audibly. He wished her hug hadn’t been so short, and taken aback by the thought, Max scratched at the back of his head. Speaking to the ground, Max spoke softly. “I uh… I know… I’ve known for awhile actually. Kinda, uh, due to my powers, ya’ know? S-sorry I never said anything… I-i just didn’t know h-how to bring it up.”
Letting out a laugh that sounded more like a held back sob, she shook her head. “I always k-knew you were up to something.” She said with another small laugh. “Ah.. I should’ve guessed. What even are your powers anyway, Max?”
Huffing out a laugh himself, Max shook his head, his curly hair bouncing slightly. “I uh, I see things through my art. Sometimes the past… Like that comic of Pathfinder, or the future… Like that time in eighth grade… when you broke your leg. It’s kinda hard to explain really… I dunno’ know.
“Yours… Your powers have something to do with your mouth… I mean,” Laughing in spite of himself, Max shook his head, “Sonic scream stuff or somethin’?”
Keeping her gaze on him, Eddie’s brows furrowed, putting the pieces together. “You.. you did warn me, back then. In eighth grade.” She shook her head. “I should’ve known.” She said breathily. “So.. all your Pathfinder comics.. They’re.. Real?” She blinked, recalling all the stories. “All the drawings you did.. They’ve happened? O-or.. they will happen?”
Shaking her head, she grinned at Max. “Okay.. yeah, that.. And.. a little more.” Her eyes sparkled as she opened her mouth once more, and this time, the sound of her voice entirely changed, matching Max’s pitch perfectly. “A lot more.”
“C-can you do that with anyone’s voice?” For a moment Max went silent before his face broke out into a conspiratorial smile. “Is this why your dad rarely ever finds out about your extremely poor attendance at school?”
His face sombered slightly, however, as he answered her question. “Yeah, they’re all real. I mean, I think all of them are real. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. B-but the Pathfinder ones… yeah, all of those are real.
“And it’s hard to tell sometimes, what has happened and what will. Sometimes I don’t know until I see it… Or something happens, like meeting Pathfinder today.”
“Wow.” She hummed, grabbing him by the shoulders. “Listen man, you can’t tell anyone! Especially my dad! But, seriously.. Seriously, we’re frickin.. We got invited to.. To frickin.. Pathfinder’s headquarters! Your mom knows Pathfinder! Holy shit, what the hell has Marcy been hiding? I love your mom, dude, but shit! Holy shit! You tell the future and crap with your powers! We could be superheroes, Max!”
“Superheroes? Eddie-- are you crazy?” Max scoffed but smiled nonetheless down at his best friend. The thrill of the idea took hold of him in an instant, but then… “I really wouldn’t be that good of a superhero, Eddie, but you? Pfft, people would love ya’.
“And don’t worry, I haven’t told anyone yet, have I?”
Snorting, she gave him a little push, turning away and ruffling her own hair, still shaking her head in disbelief. “I can’t believe it, man. I can’t.. I can’t fucking believe it.” Taking one more step before stopping, she spun back on her heels and narrowed her eyes at him. “I.. I trust you with my life too, Max.” She said with a smile.
Blushing slightly, Max glanced away. He hadn’t exactly meant to phrase it like that, but it was the truth. His stomach growled audibly, and before he could stop himself, “Hey, did you ever get that order sent in?”
But the bell chimed and Max jumped, taking a step back and glancing at the door.
“Two new shipments. You wanna sign for Mr. Wixton, Max, or do you wanna’ sign for your dad, Edna? Nice to see ya, by the way. Actually made it to your shift on time I see… Good, good.” He held the door open for his partner, who wheeled in two boxes on a dolly and made his way towards the back.
Taking a deep breath and putting on a new face, Eddie stepped forward. “Don’t sass me, Hal. How many times I gotta tell you it’s Eddie?” Grabbing the pen from his hand, she scribbled a barely legible signature and smiled as she watched the cart filled with boxes roll into the back. She spared a smile to Eddie before turning back to Hal. “You gonna put in a good word for me with my pops?”
“Well, you’re doing your job, ain’t cha’?” But Hal smiled and nodded, whistled for his partner to hurry it up, and mock bowed at the pair of them. “I’ll be sure to give your dad some good tidings.”
And then they were gone and Max, still slightly red in the cheeks, grew redder when his stomach growled loudly once more.
“I heard that.” Eddie deadpanned, the smile betraying the cool tone as she, once more, pulled herself up onto the countertop and swung her legs about. “My poor dad really has to keep track of me through the word of his delivery men. Admittedly, I really thought that was the piz--”
The door chimed once again and Eddie hopped off the counter quicker than anyone could tell her no. “Delivery for --” “Yes, yes, thank you!” Eddie cried, snatched the plastic bag, producing a five dollar tip, and spinning back around.
“Ugh,” Max groaned, tracing Eddie’s steps to the door so he could flip a switch on the holographic display to read they were closed for lunch. “Let’s go eat, right now.”
He draped an arm across Eddie’s shoulders as they made their way to the back of the store and up into the “back room”. He snatched the two blankets from underneath the desk and laid them out across the floor and then turned to the two new shipments. He opened both boxes with glee, flipping through the comics with pleasure. He grabbed the newest edition of what they were after, flipped it to page one and set it between them.
“You ready?” Max said excitedly, already reaching into his wingbox.
Watching him rush into the back, Eddie smiled. For a flash, for a brief moment in time.. She could see him as a little kid again. See him running into the back with a figurine in hand, and she following close after, on some sort of wheeled contraption even though it wasn’t allowed in the store. Toothless grins and bubbly laughter followed with every page flip of a shiny new comic book.
Flopping down next to him, pulling out a slice of pizza, she nodded with a soft smile, not any sort of smirk or jostle.. A smile. “Yeah.. always. But I’m flipping the pages. No wing sauce on this baby like last time.” And with that she settled down, biting off a giant chunk of her pizza and engulfing the title of the first page, Pathfinder and Majestas.