Images of Rook’s base, the glow of the jet’s dashboard during our flights, and the earlier fight with Rook’s people blurred inside my head.
Daniel gave me a mental poke. Nick, talk.
“Just kind of out. Uh… This is Daniel, a friend of mine for years. You’ve met Haley, and probably Cassie…”
He nodded, which was good, because I wasn’t sure I had introduced him to Cassie.
I indicated Izzy with my hand. “This is Izzy. She’s visiting from California. Uh…”
I’d looked at her, realizing that she was wearing the same black and blue exercise clothes she’d worn during the fight. The only difference was that instead of wearing a mask, she was wearing glasses.
I racked my brain, trying to think if there had been any time tonight where we’d been in the presence of the press while she’d been around.
I couldn’t think of any.
That was enough relief that I might have sighed.
The funny part was that she really did seem different as a civilian. She held herself differently. She slouched a little, and didn’t meet people’s eyes—which had to be a challenge since she was taller than any one of us but Daniel.
“Yeah,” I said. “That’s everybody.”
On the TV, Flick’s interview had ended, and they must have talked about us because they’d gone into a montage of our history.
The announcer said, “The New Heroes League burst onto the scene in a fight with the Gray Giant, a foe who has killed far more experienced heroes.”
The screen showed the Gray Giant slamming me into the highway’s median, and then Daniel, Cassie, and I attacking him.
“Not content to fight minor criminals, they’ve exposed their mayor’s connection to a shadowy group known as the Cabal, triggering a worldwide search, and the discovery of power juice…”
The screen showed images of our press conference after catching Mayor Bouman, including the moment where Haley took my hand. Pictures of Ray and his team, the Cabal’s army, and seemingly anyone we’d ever fought (including Evil Beatnik and Izzy under his control) flipped through.
Jeremy followed my eyes and watched the TV for a few seconds. “That’s what I was wondering about. Were you guys watching the fight near here? One of the guys in the dorm got stuck in the traffic jam, and he saw part of it, and it was awesome.”
“Yeah?” How was I going to end this conversation? I’d just given him an open ended invitation to tell me more about the fight.
Jeremy opened his mouth to say more, but didn’t get a word out.
Cassie gave a nod toward the stairs. “Hey, weren’t we going to catch Courtney?”
“We should.” Daniel grinned at Jeremy, “Good to meet you. I’m sure we’ll run into each other again.”
“Sure,” Jeremy watched as Daniel, Cassie and Izzy started to turn, and as Haley touched my shoulder, steering me toward the hall.
That would have been it except that I noticed Jeremy’s eyes widen. In my head, I heard Daniel.
Then Jeremy looked a little confused, as if he’d forgotten something. He stared at us, brow furrowing, concentrating.
Nick, it’s decision time. What do you want me to do with him? I can keep him from making the connection for now, but he could make it again any time, and I won’t be here.
I absorbed that. Why? Why did he make it now? Was it SuperTV?
No. It was Haley and you. The moment where she took your hand and guided you away when you obviously weren’t sure what to do next. Lots of people thought it was cute—one of those little humanizing moments. She did the same thing just now, and she’ll probably do it again.
I didn’t know what to say. My mind felt blank. Maybe it was tiredness. Maybe it was more than physical fatigue. How many big decisions could I handle in a day? This wasn’t life or death, but it was big, and in some ways, it wasn’t much of a choice.
Between risking discovery at an unpredictable moment, or giving Jeremy the same version of the block we’d given Kayla, and planned to give Courtney, we didn’t have a real choice.
Right. Daniel’s face didn’t show much emotion about it, but he seemed a little worried to me.
OK. Let him remember what he just thought, and I’ll try to get him to come back to our room. Maybe Cassie and Haley could go get Courtney?
Jeremy stared at me. “No shit,” he said.
“We’d better talk about it privately.” I tried to keep my voice calm, and mostly succeeded.
At the same time, I hoped Daniel would be up to blocking two people after everything we’d already done that night.