Cassie had mentioned that he’d been feeling left out. It wasn’t as if I’d been ignoring him though. Anyway, technically I’d seen him most weeks—Stapledon program stuff every other weekend, (officially credited) Stapledon distance learning classes each week, and sometimes additional team practices midweek.
Of course, Lee had taken a couple weeks off from that recently—apparently so he could arrange accidents with blenders.
How did that even work?
“Nick?” Vaughn asked. He sounded a little irritated.
“Sorry. Lee killed a bunch of people, and I’m a little distracted.”
Vaughn blinked. “Whoa. Like how many? And who?”
“Syndicate L people who learned my identity last spring, and as for numbers, he told me 37.”
“That’s a lot.” Vaughn shook his head.
“I know. I’m still not sure what to do about it.”
Vaughn nodded. “I guess. On the other hand, it’s probably a load off your mind.”
Part of me wanted to deny it, but honestly? “It is, kind of. They weren’t good people. The problem is they were still people.”
Frowning, he said, “Isn’t he supposed to listen to you? Your grandpa made a deal with the guy, right?”
“It doesn’t work like that. All he owes me by that deal is lessons in fighting, and if I want them, music lessons. Well, that and protection, and not just for me, for all of his children and grandchildren.”
“That sounds like work. Didn’t you say he had… five kids? How many cousins do you have?”
I thought about it. “Twenty-three. My mom’s got the least children, and I think Rachel and I are the youngest too.”
“That’s a lot of people to watch.”
I shrugged. “I think most of my uncles and cousins stay out of trouble, or at least stay away from supervillains.”
Vaughn grinned at that. “Yeah. I get that. My older sisters never get attacked by anybody, but here I am. It seems like it’s been non-stop supervillains ever since I zapped myself with the chair.”
“No kidding. For me it seems like it was the moment I chose to put the suit on. I mean, honestly, I’ve kind of been training for this my whole life, and no one bugged me until I brought the Rocket suit out of retirement.”
Vaughn pulled Jeremy’s chair out from under his desk. “Mind if I sit down?”
“No, but that’s Jeremy’s chair, so he might if he gets back.”
Sitting, he said, “I’ll get up if he cares.”
Seeing no reason to argue, I pulled out my own chair and sat down, finally opening my can of pop.
Vaughn leaned back in his chair. “This is the kind of thing I miss—us as a team hanging out. When Cassie was around, she pushed stuff like getting together for movies. I don’t think we’ve even gotten together once since she left.”
I searched my memory, and he was right. We hadn’t even done anything during Christmas break—not as a group anyway. A few of us had been at Haley’s family Christmas party, but there wasn’t any reason for everybody to attend.
Plus, with most of us at different colleges (or not in college), it was hard to get people together. The post-St. Louis board meeting had been the first time in months.
I’d never really thought of Cassie as the glue that held us together, but maybe I should have. She’d pushed to revive the League in the first place.
“I wonder if we should do something about that?” I asked.
Sitting up, Vaughn said, “Yeah, without a doubt. Haley, Sydney and Camille are doing their own thing. All the rest of us are doing school and Stapledon. I’m sure no one’s going to have time for a regular movie night, but now that we’re becoming official, we should get together, you know? Even if it’s only for pizza, it’s something. It’ll be a step toward feeling like a team anyway.”
“Okay,” I said. “Are you going to do it? I’m working on Cassie’s armor, and I’m trying to arrange a visit to the Xiniti watching the jump gate.”
Vaughn’s eyes widened a little at the last part. “Seriously? I was mostly just talking, but someone should do it. We really are splintering, and if all that stuff the board was saying is true, we’re going to need to be more of a team than we’ve been lately.”
At his words, the weight of that meeting came back to me. I hadn’t really felt it then, but on reflection, it had hit me harder. We were all going to die if we didn’t make the right decisions in the next few years. Sure, the board had said that if they stepped back, and let us make our own decisions, it gave us a better chance, but it was clear that there were no guarantees.
If Vaughn was willing to do the work, better him than me.
“Go for it,” I said, “but if you’re thinking next weekend, you’re going to have to be careful about times. I’m trying to set up the time for my visit to the Xiniti then.”
“You’re bringing me along for that, right?” He didn’t sound angry, but he sounded a little more concerned than he had.
“If you want to go,” I said.
He stared at me, and then laughed. “And see the Xiniti? I’m going.”