BHM The Shocking Adventures of Spark

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JimBob

Wondering Where You Are
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Thanks so much! This story has been a total tightrope--I didn't want to play the "thin savior" card so I've had to find roundabout ways to guide Ben on his journey of self-love, and it feels so cathartic to finally give him good things, along with the rest of the polycule. (And it's certainly helped that irl I've recently become the "Chloe" in a similar situation lmao)

Good for you! Every writer should be so dedicated to their research...
 

stevita

like the pancake
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Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
412
Location
Texas
So, a little life update: I recently gnawed my leg out of a bear trap escaping a toxic relationship that was never working in the first place. And I think a part of me always knew and had a bad feeling about him. I know I wrote Chloe to be my self-insert, seeing as she shares my height, build, and ethnicity, but personality-wise I think I'm more of a Ben. I so wanted to believe in my "Felicity" but he was always going to betray me in the end, and just like Ben it even happened while I was in a helplessly trapped position.

But I'm out now. And at least no evil scientists stole any of my bone marrow ;)

Anyway, life has been amazing since I took my freedom back. I cleaned my whole apartment, started two new jobs and I've even opened up my own small business. So if my absence made you worry, be relieved, I've been taking care of myself.

Anyway, Chapter 13 of Spark is well underway, I've been working on it in bits and pieces for the last couple months but now that I've gotten most of my stuff settled I'll try and finish it this week! And I have it all outlined and I know how it ends, so look forward to more food-porn, pudge love, wild sex, and, of course, mayhem!

Oh, and if you happen to pass through Texas and see some middle-aged-looking bald white guy with glasses dressed like a car salesman who doesn't know his own shirt size, smoking a cigar and driving a gray Mazda with a broken passenger's side headlight...

Do me a favor and pray for him. Because he made the biggest mistake in the history of this city trading me out for a newer faster make and model, and he'll end up at the bottom of the bayou if the good Lord doesn't bless him with some common damn sense.

(To the NSA guy assigned to monitor my internet activity: that wasn't a threat towards my ex, I'm just stating in the kindest way I know how to the simple fact that he's dumber than a sack of hammers.)
 

stevita

like the pancake
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Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
412
Location
Texas
THIRTEEN

Elisa's previously unkempt mess of brown hair was cut to about shoulder length, and wavy, rather than matted. She wore it gathered into a stubby ponytail at the base of her neck. She was still skinny, but, having had some time to recover from her incarceration, her cheeks had some color and her bones weren't so prominent. She had tennis shoes on, along with yoga pants and a sleeveless sports top that zipped up the front, and she was holding a long, thin metal pole. Ben would have hugged her, if not for the stoic, distant comportment with which she still carried herself: square in the shoulder, intense gaze, even in freedom. Well, that, and she was armed. "What are you doing here?" he asked. "N-not that I'm not glad to see you--!"


"The same as you, probably," said Elisa. "After we busted you out, I went looking for allies...for answers...and I found Ms. Mitchell."


"So do you have lightning powers now, too?"


"Not exactly. Ms. Mitchell says I'm a compulsive bio--a bio--uh, well, she can explain it better!"


"There's no need for all the formality, child," said Martika, before turning back to Ben. "It seems that when Elisa was injected with your DNA, she developed an inverse version of your power set. Instead of detecting others' emotions, she can inflict them in a compulsive attack, and if she really focuses, she can draw that energy into a biomanipulative burst capable of knocking her opponent unconscious."


"And she's got a stick," said Ben. "Are we sparring now, or what? Do I get a stick, too?"


"As per Elisa's wishes, I've flown in a coach from France to train her in La Canne," explained Martika. "If you'd like some sort of formal combat training, I'd be happy to extend to you the same offer, but until then, I won't put a weapon in your hands you're as likely to hurt yourself with than anything else."


"But she's got a stick--"


"But you've got lightning powers. Elisa, please help yourself to breakfast. Then both of you, follow me to the studio," instructed Martika, before fixing herself a stiff cocktail from the fridge and proceeding to lead the way.


The studio, as it turned out, was a room lined from floor-to-ceiling with mirrors, like a ballet classroom, except missing the wooden bars. Martika had set up a plush velvet armchair in the corner, and with a slight waddle, she ambled over to it and plopped herself down onto the cushion, her rotund thighs barely able to spread as the arms of the chair compressed them in place. "Do my combatants need a count?"


"A what?" asked Ben.


"No, Ma'am," said Elisa. Her expression set with determination, she stepped towards him, fixing him with her cold, blank stare.


Her powers went to work instantaneously--and how unfair was it that she had a grip on them already, when it had taken Ben years? That resentful thought soon slipped his mind, though, as a giddy warmth spread throughout his body, starting in the center of his chest and spreading to his extremities. He felt drunk--no, better than drunk, and his mind began to wander to each lucky break he'd caught in the last few weeks: the first time he mastered his powers with Martika...his dance with Bailey Sharp…his magical night with Malcolm and Chloe…


Elisa swung her metal pole at top speed straight at his head, stopping just short of striking him. "Hiiii-ya! Dead!" she declared.


"You're gonna need to do better than that, Big Ben," Martika teased in a sing-song voice from her seat. "Again."


Once more, Elisa began to cloud Ben's thoughts, but this time, he was ready for her. Fighting against the giddy haze she induced in him, he dodged a swing of her stick and mentally approached her consciousness with his own probe attack…


Her rage was like nothing he had ever taken in before. It was dizzying, almost paralyzing. He was surprised it could all be contained within her tiny body, her solitary mind. This was bigger than the torture she'd suffered at the sadistic hands of Dr. Duplicate. Bigger than the confinement, the filth, the nonstop verbal abuse. Bigger than the loss of Nora and her parents. Generations of families could have lived and died and never generated as much anger and pain as he was taking in now. It almost burned him to even brush what she had within her.


But he was strong, so much stronger than he'd ever been. He'd been feeding himself well. So had Chloe. So had Martika. Just before the groundswell of emotional power named Elisa Bieler could rip him apart from within, he channeled that energy into a burst of static shock and grabbed hold of her stick.


He reeled it back at the last possible second, letting most of the blast dissipate into the air as static. The remaining spark was too weak to harm Elisa, but just enough to send a crackle of electricity up and down her metal rod to force her to let go of the weapon with a tiny, surprised shriek. She staggered backwards and hit the mirrored wall. He caught her stick in both hands and held it perpendicular to her neck, an inch away from her skin. She was breathing hard. They both were. "Dead," he murmured.


Martika put her drink down and applauded. "Good game! But Elisa, stop pulling your punches. And Ben, don't be afraid to lay your whole weight into her. I know you're friends, but we're preparing for a war. Treat each other like you would any other enemy. Again."
 

stevita

like the pancake
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Joined
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Messages
412
Location
Texas
Biomanipulation 101 was held outside on the grounds, sitting criss-cross on picnic blankets, for the benefit of those students, like Heather, whose powers acted on lifeforms other than human beings. There were three other floramancers in her class, but she was by far the most accomplished, so she was one of the only students who didn't groan when Professor Wyndham announced on the last day before the winter recess, "I have a pop quiz for you all today!"


It took the petite, stick-limbed professor several moments to calm the class down. "Now, now, as you all know, I'm not like a regular professor. I'm a cool professor!" She smiled and shot her class the finger-guns, her slouched stance standing in stark contrast with her thin rimless glasses and tight, tight bun. "There are still no written exams here. All you have to do for me today is show the class a trick using your powers. Now, let's proceed in alphabetical order by last name. First up: David Alanis."


"Okay, so this is something I've been working on," said David as he stood and made his way toward the front of the class. "Watch this: I'm gonna turn myself into a frog!"


One by one, Heather watched as her fellow students strutted their stuff, transforming into objects, trees, other students; taller, smaller, or buffer versions of themselves, or simply changing their hair color. Occasionally, a rare projective biomanipulator would step up and require a partner: Carly Danvers healed one of their classmates' recent injuries, and Fernando Fuentes got one of the girls high on her brain's own serotonin. Then, at last…


"Heather Greene, would you please step up?"


Grinning ear to ear, Heather rose from where she was seated. As she took her first step forward, a crackle of earth from below her feet sent all heads turning in her direction. Great whips of sturdy root shot out of the ground to wrap themselves gingerly around her calves, up her thick thighs, and finally encased her belly and back, supporting her and shifting with her every step--retreating into the ground and rising once more to grip her each time she put down her foot--step by step, until she had reached the front of the class. There, she had the network of roots and vines fashion themselves into a wide and ample throne, which she sat upon with a serene smile and elegantly crossed ankles. "Thank you, brothers and sisters," she muttered to the plants. Then, louder, to the class: "Impressed?"


Wyndham made some notes on her clipboard. "That was a great display, Heather! But how do you think your organic armor will hold up on the battlefield? Remember, crooks have guns."


"Oh, I wasn't planning on using this for self-defense," said Heather. "It's more of a mobility aid?"


"But you aren't disabled."


"Not now," Heather agreed. "But everyone can see I'm a big girl. Well, except Mary, in the front row. Hi, Mary!" She waved to one of the other floramancers, a blind girl who had earlier demonstrated her ability to make flowers bloom by touching them with her fingertips.


"Hi, Heather."


"Anyway, if I ever get really big, like, so big I can't easily walk on my own, I still want to get around and go outside, so I've been honing this move as a failsafe."


"Interesting." Wyndham made a few more notes before handing Heather her assessment. Heather gaped, staring at the paper in disbelief, khol-rimmed eyes bugging.


"70 percent? But that was advanced biomanipulation! You gave Matt Crenshaw full marks and all he did was turn himself blue!"


"Look, Heather," said the professor, "you're obviously a talented and powerful girl. But if I rewarded you for using your abilities to enable your obesity, what kind of message would that send?"


Heather felt her cheeks grow hot. Gritting her teeth, she tore her assessment sheet in two and let the pieces flutter to the ground--littering wasn't so bad if it was biodegradable, right? "You know what? Fuck you. This has been a waste of a semester," she snapped and walked off.


***


"Heather!" Chloe ran up to her girlfriend as she spotted her across the grassy quad. "I thought Bio 101 didn't let out for another 30 minutes? You're out way ear--oh. Oh." If Heather's memories hadn't given away how her last class was, her sour expression certainly would have. "That is like, so, totally bogus! Fuck that professor!"


"I'm over it," Heather lied, and Chloe wasn't about to force her to unpack what had happened. She'd talk about it when she talked about it.


"And here I was, waiting around for you because I was so super stoked to give you a special surprise, and here comes Professor Poop-For-Brains to ruin the big moment."


"A surprise? For Me?" Heather's cheeks pinked. She glanced down shyly and smiled. "Well, I do love surprises. I bet it'll cheer me up."


"Wait for it...wait for it…" Chloe went rummaging in her chunky, red leather bag for a few moments until she found what she was looking for. "Ta-da!" she exclaimed, whipping out a pair of cruise tickets and thrusting them under Heather's nose.


Heather raped, taking them in hand. "A Caribbean cruise?"


"I figured, Ben's going home with his brother for the break, and Mal's going home with his dad…"


"How are you and the boys, by the way?"


"Great! Super great. But I've said it before and I'll say it again, I need all of you in my life. Anyway, I haven't been back to my parents' since I started school, and since we both don't have any people to go to that like us, maybe we could...get away? If you don't want to I can easily sell the other ticket--"


"She said, as a formality," said Heather, wrapping an arm around Chloe. "You already know what I think."


"I know...but I wanna hear you say it out loud."


She pulled Chloe against her side with a smirk.


At the beginning of the year, she'd been a docile, submissive thing, longing for any love for her chubby, growing body. Even if she had to endure humiliation, she'd gladly take it, because at least it would mean someone was paying attention. And even now, she knew there was a part of her that would always love being called a greedy mindless hog. But that wasn't all she was. Chloe had shown her that, with her tenderness and trust. Bailey had shown her that, with the opportunity she afforded her. And being Evergreen had shown her more than anything.


She could be large and in charge.


She could have her cake, and eat it, too.


"I'll go with you," she said, "but here are my terms. I need you to dedicate yourself to really making me huge. I want you pouring buffet soft serve down my throat by the bucket after every meal." She took Chloe's warm hand and moved it to the crest of her protruding stomach. "I want you to keep my gut so stuffed and heavy that people think I'm pregnant with twins. If I so much as say I'm hungry, I need you to bring me a big ol' plate loaded up with food...and that'll just be a snack." She smiled wickedly and kissed Chloe firmly on the lips. Chloe practically swooned, needing Heather to catch her around the middle of her back and keep her upright. "Think you can be a good girl and do that for me?"


The senior telepath nodded breathlessly. "I'll be the best girl. I promise. Anything for my big, fat, sexy gothic princess."
 

stevita

like the pancake
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Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
412
Location
Texas
"Let's break here, Tiff, who knows when we'll find another open table. You want me to fetch you anything?"


"Aww, that's so sweet of you, D'von! Now that you mention it...maybe a couple of those funnel cakes? And a large lemonade? Here's my card--"


"Girl, put your money away!" commanded D'von as the chunky redhead began to fish in her purse. "I told you already, it's my treat."


She flushed and helped herself to a seat on the bench of a covered picnic table. "Well, if you insist. Ben, you want anything?"


Ben shrugged. "Corn dog? Small drink? Anything but LaCroix."


D'von quirked an eyebrow behind his sunglasses. "You eat food now?"


"It's a long story," said Ben, joining his brother's girlfriend on the bench.


It was a cold, brisk day on the boardwalk, a weekend into the winter break. Between the Taylor-Moore boys and Tiffany, no rides had been ridden: Tiffany and Ben would never pass the weight limits, and D'von, despite being barely into his late twenties, was already complaining of aching bones and altitude-induced arthritis: blame a career in bartending. But they'd walked the carnival, played a few games--D'von had won Tiffany a truly gargantuan plush monkey, and Ben had maxed out the strength meter, a huge boost to his self-esteem. Training with Martika and Elisa was paying off, evidently.


He never used to like third-wheeling for D'von and Tiffany. She was nice enough...but those two were just so lovey-dovey, and it used to bring him to short-circuits.


He was in control now, at the expense of his waistline...but when he thought of Chloe's hands on him, touching him how she knew he liked to be touched...Malcolm's mouth...both their sweet affirmations...it was all well worth it.


In D'von's absence, Tiffany glanced Ben's way, twirling a strand of hair around one pudgy finger. "Your brother told me he has mind control powers."


"Yep." Ben gave a curt nod. "Are you scared?"


"No...no. If anything, it's exciting. And he never takes the sunglasses off unless I tell him to. If anything, he lets me be in control."


"Sounds like D'von. But you know, people get scared."


"What, of Deviants? Look, I've done the research, ever since he told me. If anything, you guys should be scared. 'You guys', listen to me being presumptuous. Do you have a superpower?"


"Yeah...but it's not that impressive until the sun goes down. Maybe someday I'll show you."


Just as D'von was returning with the food, Ben's phone rang in his back pocket. Despite the unknown number, he chanced an answer.


"Ben! Ben, oh, thank God. It's Mal, I can't stay at my dad's, and Chloe's out of town--"


"Wait, slow down. You okay?"


"Fine, kinda. My dad and me, we just got into it about my weight and we had this big argument and I bolted, my phone's dead, I'm on a payphone--"


"They still have those?" said Ben. "And did you tell your dad you just helped rescue a bunch of people?"


".....I probably should have led with that. But the fight was pretty bad, and I'm out a place to sleep, bro."


"Hang on." Ben turned to his brother, palming the receiver. "Is it cool if my homeboy...kinda boyfriend really...sleeps on the couch?"


D'von scoffed. "He don't want to sleep in the bed with you?"


He made a good point.


"I got you, homie," said Ben, fighting back a grin. "You'll like it at my place. My brother's a great cook, and my door locks. Where should I send the Uber?"


"Thanks. But I don't even know, bro…"


"Do you have a cross street?"


"I'm like...up a block from this fancy looking place called Fitzgerald's, across the street from...I think it's a Christian bookstore?"


"Right. I know where you are." Corner of Elgin and Third. It was always weird, talking to people who didn't drive.


But Ben felt a real affection for the guy, mess though he was.


Malcolm arrived in his Uber just in time for dinner--D'von was pouring drinks for the house, as was tradition before he started to cook. Malcolm had a probably shoplifted messenger bag full of probably shoplifted goods slung over one shoulder and a big smile on his face. "You must be the brother...and this must be your girl?" he asked as D'von answered the door, Tiffany close at his heels.


"That's me, D'von, and this here is Tiff. Well, get your ass inside here, brother!" D'von urged, clapping Malcolm on the back of the shoulder and leading him inside. The impact caused his whole body to jiggle, especially his soft underbelly, curving over the waistband of his tight sweatpants and testing the tensile strength of the threads of his thin white shirt. There was easily a fresh five pounds around his middle since the last time Ben had seen him. His cheeks heated. He wanted to squeeze that impeccable roll of dough...feel its pliant softness spilling between his own fat fingers...maybe nibble on it a bit. That sweet growing potbelly deserved some attention for sure.


Later.


"You want a vodka smash?" asked D'von.


"Yeah, bet, bro! I brought over some tequila, too, I didn't know what you had here," said Malcolm, starting to unpack his bag and setting each of his items on the cabinet by the door. "I got some food and stuff, too, I know Ben said you could cook, but I figured maybe I'd make it easier on you, put together some sides or something."


Wow. As seductive as Ben had come to find Malcolm's blase, bad-boy facade, it was a refreshing change to see him behaving like a proper, polite houseguest. Perhaps Chloe's restaurant worker veteran hospitality was rubbing off on him. She'd certainly influenced the expansion of his waistline; it was well within the confines of reality that she'd come to influence his demeanor as well.


"You guys need me to help?" he asked as D'von led Malcolm into the kitchen. Both brother and boyfriend turned around a step away from the doorway.


"No offense, babe, but I seen the mess you made in the panini press at school," said Malcolm.


D'von smirked. "Did he tell you he almost burnt down the house with the waffle maker?" he pitched in.


"No way! Making waffles?" Malcolm laughed. Ben's cheeks heated, even as he watched his shorter beau's launch jiggle adorably.


"Chicken waffles," he admitted, embarrassed. D'von rolled his eyes.


"First of all, it's chicken AND waffles. And second, you have to make the chicken and the waffles separate, and you don't use ground ass chicken, and you definitely don't throw the goddamn chicken in the waffle maker without no oil. It's good, bro, your services will not be needed."


Both Malcolm and Tiffany burst out laughing.


"And you, what your name is, Malcolm? Come on, this way now. I'm hearing you know your way round a stove, but I might have a few tips and tricks to teach you about food...drinks...whatever you wanna know."


The boys were at work in the kitchen for about an hour while Ben and Tiffany watched TV in the living room, shooting the shit back and forth and making fun of every stupid weight loss commercial they saw.


"Do they really expect us to believe the 'before' and 'after' pictures are the same person?" Tiffany scoffed at the side-by-side images on the screen, above the boldened 1-800 number to call to purchase some alleged miracle pill for three easy payments of $19.95. "Even if you could lose that much weight, everyone knows your skin doesn't bounce back like that."


"Sometimes they hire a biomanipulator for these commercials," explained Ben.


"A what?"


"A shapeshifter. It's a Deviant thing."


"Oh, right, the superpowers! So do they shapeshift hundreds of pounds heavier for one picture and then go back to normal for another?"


"Yep, takes less than five minutes if your photographer's any good."


"That's crooked!" gasped Tiffany. "But I'm sure you Deviants--can I say that, by the way?"


"Only if you ain't shouting it from a car window and throwing beer cans at us or whatever."


"People do that?!"


"That'n worse," muttered Ben, suddenly stoic. Memories from inside Dr. Duplicate's lab sent a chill through his very blood. "It's a whole world right next to yours that you wouldn't believe."


With impeccable timing, D'von and Malcolm entered the room to serve dinner on the coffee table. D'von had a cocktail ready for everyone, and Malcolm poured a round of shots. "What we toasting to?" asked D'von.


"Shit, why we gotta be so formal about it?" asked Malcolm, plopping down on the couch and pulling his plate into his lap.


"Believe it or not, I run a proper, polite house," said D'von. "Benjamin?"


"I got nothing."


"Well, here, then!" Tiffany piped up. "Everybody raise your glasses!" She picked up her shot, arm flab swaying a bit in a way that made D'von's jaw drop, and recited, "May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back, and…and may you be in Heaven before the Devil knows you're dead! That's a little Irish toast my dad taught me."


"Hear, hear!" D'von clinked glasses with her while Ben tipped his cocktail in solidarity. Malcolm got the bottle ready in hand for another round of shots.
 

stevita

like the pancake
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Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
412
Location
Texas
That night, Ben led the way into his bedroom, belly comfortably satiated on a hearty helping of D'von's signature pesto salmon, spiced rice, and whatever vegetables Malcolm had managed to grill up--he couldn't identify all of them, but he hadn't wanted to ask at the table and look stupid in the process. There were onions? Garlic, maybe? Bell...pepper? Malcolm stumbled in after, a few paces behind, his footing unsure in the dark, his balance impaired--not that Ben was exactly sober after a couple rounds, but some point at dinner, Malcolm had abandoned his cocktail in favor of shots back-to-back.


"Your family is sooooo nice," Malcolm drawled, collapsing onto the mattress. "Tell you the truth, my dad and I have been tense ever since Mamita left this earth." His night vision adjusting, Ben watched by the moonlight let in by the open blinds as Malcolm rolled onto his side and fiddled with the rosary around his neck.


Ben barely knew what to say besides, "Sorry, dude."


"Ain't your fault my dad is a hardass. Do me a favor and hold me?"


"Like...how? I'm still new."


"Here, just take your hand...lay down like this…"


Gently, but clumsily, Malcolm guided Ben onto the mattress and pulled his arm around himself. His hand landed on the doughy swell of flesh right below Malcolm's navel and he gave an involuntary squeeze, a faint electricity coursing through his veins and warming his whole body in a way that maybe had to do with his powers, but probably not.


"Like that, huh?"


Ben swallowed and let out a strangled noise by way of answer, realizing all too late how hard his cock had gotten against Malcolm's widening ass through his sweatpants. Damn shame Malcolm was already this drunk and half asleep. Not that Ben would have known what to even do with him.


"That's another five pounds, recent, and it all went straight to the gut I think. Chloe's over the fuckin' moon, man. She said if I can keep it on for more than a month she'll finally give me back my--" he paused to let out a yawn, "--cocaine stash."


"Surprised you don't just steal some," Ben mumbled, beginning to grow a bit tired himself as he continued to palm absently at Malcolm's generous handful of belly chub. Man, Chloe had been onto something all along. This was so soothing. It was like playing with a stress ball. A softer, sexier stress ball that rewarded his efforts with tiny gasps and sighs of appreciation.


"Yeah, well, when you got it and you're serious about keeping it, you stay slick about it. See, you're from Blackwater like me...but what a lot of people don't know is there's really two Blackwater Cities. There's yours, with the money and the cars and shit, and then there's mine, with the spraypaint and danger. But you're learning that, ain't you...Sparky? Or is it just Spark?"


Ben froze. His hand went stiff. "How--?"


"You think Chloe don't talk?"


"Oh, I know she talk. I just didn't realize--"


"Nothing's a secret from her, bro. But look, all she told me is you're taking sparring lessons, getting ready for your next big showdown with the Division, maybe gonna be the next big friendly neighborhood hero. Heather's working on something for you, by the way."


"Heather is?"


"Yeah, but don't worry about it. She don't even need your measurements or nothing. If you know 'em, Chloe knows 'em, and she'll pass 'em along. Hey, could you go back to doing that squeezing thing? It feels really good. It's like ever since I put on all this weight all my nerves been turned up to the maximum."


***


The smell was heavenly when Ben awoke. Were those pancakes?


Malcolm was up and about, darting in and out of the room as Ben rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "¡Buenas!" he said brightly. "Your brother and his girl went out for brunch. They invited us, but I didn't want to fuck with your whole beauty sleep, y'know? But I think I did alright."


By the look, and aroma, of things alone, 'alright' was a definite understatement. Rolling out of bed to follow Malcolm into the kitchen, he found the table laden with a mouth-watering assortment of breakfast foods, both familiar and exotic: there were waffles (not pancakes), bacon, and eggs scrambled with vegetables and cheese, along with more of the same beans from yesterday, tortillas that were dark blue for some reason, and...some sort of funny-looking, sliced fried bananas?


If Ben had never advertised himself as the adventurous type when it came to food, it was only because he never used to actually eat, but now that that had changed, he helped himself to a seat, a tall glass of juice, and a generous selection of all his plate could hold. "That's it, dig in, dude," Malcolm encouraged him with a smile and a firm squeeze to his shoulder.


"You have got to teach me how to cook like this," said Ben in between samples of the spread. Malcolm said something unintelligible through a huge mouthful of food, his own plate piled high. Ben was surprised he didn't choke. "You really were serious about getting your coke stash back from Chloe, huh?"


Malcolm swallowed thickly, gulped down some juice, and gave a vigorous nod. "Yeah I am. I might need some help though."


"Whatcha mean?" asked Ben, his head tilting curiously.


"I'm just saying." Malcolm set his plate on the table, looked over at Ben, and smirked. "Sometimes Chloe gives me a little special encouragement. She's got the strap and everything, but you've got the real deal. And this all might go down easier if I was going face-first into it."


***


"You don't wanna go balls-deep at first, babe, even though I--" Malcolm gasped, bent over the bed with a nearly-demolished plate of waffles before him and Ben inside him, fingers gripping his fleshy hips. "I know you want to, but you just wanna hit the--"


"Like that?" asked Ben, pulling out abruptly by an inch or so. Malcolm yelped, before letting out a low groan between labored breaths.


"Perfect." He gave a vigorous nod. "So close...remember when I said I wanted to--?"


On cue, Ben grabbed a fistful of Malcolm's hair and shoved his face into the sticky, syrupy remains of his breakfast. "Wanted to what, huh? Cum with your mouth full?"


Malcolm shot his load with a strangled gag, and Ben's own orgasm overtook him seconds after, catching him panting and unprepared. He'd never given anyone a prostate orgasm before. It was hotter than he ever could have imagined.


Malcolm rolled over and collapsed on his back, one hand resting on the upper crest of his taut, distended belly. Ben watched as it rose and fell with his breathing and sat down on the bed next to him, laying a hand over the smaller man's. "Why is this so hot?"


"Chloe can explain it better. Course she can, she's in your head. Something about wanting to give me the things I never got. Her whole family's military, so she knows all about that life of discipline and deprivation, too. She ever tell you she was related to Fire--?"


THUMP THUMP THUMP.


The house might have looked nice, with D'von's decorative touch--family photos in frames in the hallway, nice rug, good placemats on the table--but it had been built in the 30s, and the walls were paper thin. D'von slept upstairs, which wasn't the best living arrangement for someone with his exclusive addiction to very large women.


Apparently, he and Tiffany were home.


Ben winced at the telltale crash of his brother's mattress breaking through the bottom of the bed frame. His charming barman brother had repaired that thing time and time again using nothing but his tools and his hands, but clearly a more sustainable solution was in order.


Ben reached for a textbook on the edge of his bedside table and chucked it at the ceiling. "JUST GET IT REPLACED, D'VON!"
 

stevita

like the pancake
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Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
412
Location
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The whole gang reconvened at Chloe's apartment the day before the spring semester was to start. Ben was told nothing about the meeting, other than the fact that 'Heather's present for him was ready'.


Heather greeted him and Malcolm at the door, all smiles and dark eyeliner and sun-pinkened flesh on display. He'd seen the same black band shirt on her before--and thank God for another Complicated Scheme fan--along with her weathered black chain-adorned jeans, but while the shirt used to cover her middle, it now rode up like a crop top, and the pants looked painted on, with a roll of belly spilling over the waistband. Chloe had no doubt spent the whole break stuffing her well.


"Mal! Ben! Come on in! Chloe's getting groceries, but Ben, she told me you're in training, and, well, if you have a name, you need a costume, so I put something together for you between snacks and vacation stuff and...well, ya know. Anyway, I left everything on the bed, here, you can change in Chloe's room, go on, now!" She practically shoved him past the bedroom threshold and slammed the door behind him.


Ben did not, in fact, know his measurements. But as he slipped on the outfit Heather had laid out for him on the bed and glanced in the mirror, it became apparent that just from being in his head, Chloe knew his dimensions probably better than he did--well enough, even, to pass the information along to her gothic seamstress girlfriend.


There was a sturdy but lightweight double-breasted jacket in gunmetal gray, with accent stripes in a reflective, fluorescent yellow that almost shone white, along with matching slacks that sat comfortably at his waist and tucked neatly into a pair of black combat boots. Along with a domino mask and off-center beret, the whole ensemble gave him a distinctly foreign military vibe.


"Sexy, huh?" called Heather from the next room.


"Sure, if you're into electric Che Guevara." Really, though, it wasn't half bad, he thought to himself as he examined his reflection in Chloe's full-length mirror. He wasn't quite sure about the little hat...but he was thankful Heather hadn't included any fishnets.


"Trust me, it's the hat that like, ties the rest of it together!"


Ben startled at the sound of Chloe's voice through the bedroom door. He hadn't even heard her come home, stealthy creature that she could be despite that motor-mouth on her.


"You want me to come out and show you, or can you see just as well from inside my head?" he asked her.


"Of course I can! Lately I've, like, really been getting a handle on these powers. But don't keep Heather and Mal in suspense!"


Just then, Ben's phone vibrated in the back pocket of the pants he'd cast off on the floor. He bent down to fish it out and checked the screen. He hadn't been expecting a call from Martika, but that was all the more reason to believe that whatever she had going on, it was urgent.


"Hang on, I need to take this phone call."


"Oh, I know."


Taking one last look at himself in the mirror, Ben smirked and began to get cocky as he answered the phone: "Spark speaking."


Martika snickered into the receiver. "Is that what you're calling yourself now? Well, I have to say, the enthusiasm will come in handy. I have a little job for you. Tonight. Normally I'd enlist Knockout--she has more training--but there's a chance things could go sideways, and she's a little young to be taken downtown by the cops."


"Wait, who?"


"Oh, Elisa. She's experimenting with her alter-ego."


Ask Ben, Elisa was a little young to be using the name 'Knockout'. But he supposed it suited her powerset.


"Meet me at my penthouse at nine tonight. Oh, and Ben--oh, I'm sorry, Spark--bring a mask."

**********

(A/n: took me long enough! There's a few more chapters coming, so don't touch that dial!)
 

stevita

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(A/n: I hate posting short updates and I hate to drop a half-chapter on you guys without bringing it to a satisfying conclusion, but I have been working on this segment for a really long time and I've been really excited to bring back a character you've met before, but maybe forgot about. So here's the first half of Chapter 14, featuring Big Tech's ex, Tegan...)

FOURTEEN


Heather and Chloe lovingly packed Ben's costume in two layers of bubble-wrap, and once everything was tucked neatly into his backpack, Chloe handed him a crisp hundred dollar bill. "It's been a good Christmas season at the restaurant. Take this for a snack along the way, and use the change as a tip for Martika's valet."


Of course Chloe would know he'd forgotten all about the valet. "Good looking out. I'll pay you back!"


She dismissed him with a wave of her hand. "Consider what's mine, yours. After all, we are sharing Malcolm." If Malcolm had anything to say about that, he offered no discernible response besides a reddening of his rounded cheeks.


He knew he ought to eat something before he showed up to Martika's--if his appetite spiked in the middle of his commute, he'd arrive a misfiring mess--but he also knew his mentor would be at no shortage of food, with her full kitchen staff at her beck and call, and for some reason, he wanted her to do the honors. So, he drove straight to her building, handed his keys off to the valet, and handed the gentleman the whole lump sum. Carl--for that's what read the man's nametag--was probably used to accepting even heftier tips on the regular from the residents here, and Ben figured it would suit his future well to be on good terms with Martika's people.


When Martika answered the door to her penthouse, Ben got his wish.


She was wearing...God, how could he describe her...outfit? Costume? He had seen her in her lingerie before, and she had always looked breezily beautiful in all her breadth and her confident carriage, but now?


Now, she looked dangerous.


A black leather bustier strained to contain her bountiful breasts and left cleavage for days on display, its steel-boned structure doing nothing to conceal the outline of her round belly and voluptuous hips--if anything, the ensemble made the curves of her figure all the more obvious. Her black leather pants clung to her thick thighs and burgeoning backside like a second skin, and yet, not a thread of their stitching appeared worn-down or out-of-place.


Of course: with money like she had, she would have sprung for nothing less than the finest custom tailoring when it came to her superhero digs.


A matching black domino mask fit neatly around her eyes to conceal her identity. Sleek yet sturdy leather boots clung to her calves, stopping just short of where her thighs began to roll over her knees. Her big, bouncy curls flowed freely to her mid-back, and at her belt, she kept a sheathed knife the length of her forearm.


There was a tall glass on the armoire by her door, full of ice but half-drained of the effervescent pink liquid within. What's more, she was holding a gigantic blueberry muffin.


"Ben!" she squealed, her purple-lipsticked smile contorting into a grimace as she beheld him. "Don't think I can't feel you running on fumes. You know you can't turn up hungry to the scene of a crime--or are you trying to kill us both?" With that, she broke off a big chunk of muffin and thumbed it into his mouth.


He struggled to chew and swallow the mouthful, between its creamy texture, decadent sweetness, and light, crumbly topping, but finally managed to choke it down. His cock stiffened against his thigh. "Guess it slipped my mind to grab some food," he lied.


He couldn't help but feel a twinge of guilt: he already had Chloe and Malcolm to keep him happily stuffed to his heart's content. Wanting to bring Martika into it made him feel greedy, especially knowing that she had a boyfriend out of town somewhere. But the hungry smirk on her face told him he wasn't the only one getting something out of this.


"Did you bring what I told you?" she asked.


"Did ya one better! Is there anywhere I can change?"


"You know where the bathroom is," she said, and gestured with a pop of her head towards the end of the hall.


Five minutes later had him reconvening with his mentor in the entryway, all suited up and ready to go. Leaning against the wall, Martika threw him a wolf-whistle and a conspicuous once-over. "Looking sharp, Spark!"


He stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Thanks, uh...what's your hero name again?"


"Crucifix," she reminded him. "Before we head out, though, I did want to mention that heroism isn't all about high-flying, flashy adventures, catching bad guys, and winning the hearts of swooning damsels in distress."


"Okay...what are you getting at?"


She sighed, her shoulders slumping. "Please don't panic when I spring this on you: tonight, we're robbing a liposuction clinic."


***


"So there's no Crucifix-mobile or nothing?" asked Ben in Martika's passenger's seat between the last couple bites of the muffin she'd all but forced on him in her doorway. With how much she loved to flash her cash, he had expected her to have a separate car for superhero business, but here he sat in the black SUV he'd already seen, only tonight, she had turned the neon purple undercarriage lights on, bathing the backalkeys in an ominous glow as she nudged the vehicle at a slow crawl toward its destination.


"I know it's not ideal, but it's difficult to come by a car that'll comfortably seat a woman of my proportions."


He kept forgetting about just how fat she was. When he glanced at her, in profile, he saw only beauty, even now, when she was at her deadliest. The gentle curves of her chubby cheeks and double chin were merely an afterthought to the glare of dangerous determination burning in her eyes, the inviting warmth of her soft belly and pillowy breasts secondary to the tension coiled in her arms and shoulders. Her grip on the steering wheel was so tight, she might have been trying to strangle it.


As they pulled up in front of the Pryor Cosmetic Hospital, Ben's insides began to churn with uncertainty. "So, uh...I probably should have asked this earlier...but why a lipo clinic?"


"Well, according to the intelligence I've managed to gather...along with the evidence you gave me when we first met...the cosmetic surgery is largely a front," Martika explained. "Of course, I wouldn't have expected you to get a thorough look at all the drugs and equipment in the Rivington laboratory while you were incarcerated there. But, my people were able to digitally enhance the photos you provided, and, well, the name Pryor Pharma is plastered on everything."


"You mean--?"


"Yes," said Martika as she fished in the cup holder for a cigarette to light up. "The same people who own and operate this hospital are responsible for supplying the entities that tortured and experimented on you and your friend Ms. Bieler." She pulled on her cigarette and exhaled slowly, letting off a neat pair of smoke rings. "Disrupting their supply could buy time for the prisoners in that lab, and any others the Division might be operating. I completely understand, though, if you'd rather stay outside and stand lookout, rather than come in with me."


"N-no, I should finish this," insisted Ben.


"Oh, believe you me: by the end of tonight, it'll be far from finished."


"Still. I need to see it through."


A rapping at the passenger's side window startled Ben, causing him to jump in his seat with a small yelp. Outside was a security officer in a uniform and knockoff police cap, shining a flashlight through the glass. "Roll down the window, won't you?" said Martika. Ben winced, but complied.


"Excuse me, Ma'am," said the guard, turning the light now on the radio star, "but you can't park here."


Martika smirked wickedly. "Oh, I can't park here, is that what you said?" She reached over Ben and stroked the back of the interloper's hand with the tip of one overlong fingernail.


Instantly, the man collapsed with a blood-curdling shriek. Ben leaned his head out the open window to see what had happened to him. There, on the asphalt, he lay convulsing, still screaming, his expression contorted in agony.


"Holy shit," Ben breathed. "This is just like that British book about the wizard school."


"This is nothing like that British book about the wizard school." After refereeing a quick dispute between her belly and the seat belt, Martika swung her car door open and beckoned with a head gesture for Ben to follow her out. "He'll live. He's just not too happy at the moment. C'mon now. I'll need your electric powers to bypass the security system."
 

stevita

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Technically, the Pryor Cosmetic Hospital was closed for the night.


Technically, nobody was supposed to be in the building after hours.


But what was a struggling receptionist to do on a salary that barely covered her rent, let alone her electric and internet bills?


By the cool blue light of the front-desk monitor, Tegan Fanning sat hunched in the dark, scrolling through local hiring ads on Gregslist. She knew she'd be in trouble with her superiors if they caught her abusing the company wi-fi to look for better jobs...but she'd never been caught before.


A scream from outside barely startled her from her search. People got assaulted all the time around here. Proximity to violent crime was a price she had grown used to paying for working a block away from Blackwater's only methadone clinic. She wasn't particularly worried. Her shitty Ford Focus was parked outside with duct tape over a crack in the windshield. Any passing junkie would no doubt take one look at it and deem it not worth a break-in. And if someone tried to bust down the hospital door, she had her phone in easy reach in case she had to call the cops--or the Bombshell hotline.


Not that she necessarily endorsed a so-called 'superheroine' who dealt with criminals by fattening them to such great weights that it paralyzed them...but she'd done it before. At the time, she hadn't had a choice. She'd been sitting in traffic when some crazed lunatic took a random passerby hostage at the point of some kind of futuristic weapon. The incident had struck her as too big of a deal to leave to the cops, so she's done her civic duty, and if she would call Bombshell for a stranger, she'd be more than willing to do the same for herself.


If it came to that.


Not that she imagined it would.


She was just about to refresh the page when a fuse blew and took out power to the entire building. Her eyes blew wide in the sudden darkness. "Stupid, cheap faulty wiring," she muttered to herself. "Plastic fucking surgeons really can't afford to spring for a practice in a nicer part of town?"


Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a faint light.


Her breath caught in her throat.


Whatever the source of the mysterious light, it was on the move, and fast approaching her position. She tried to stand, to grab her phone, to do anything at all, but she was immobilized by a sudden sense of helplessness, and it wasn't like she'd have gotten far with her vision still adjusting, anyway.


What seemed like an eternity passed before the intruder finally encountered her. The source of the light: a hovering ball of pure electricity floating inches above his open palm. "Are--are you supposed to be in here?" he asked in a choked whisper, looking just as shocked to see her as she was to see him. The light was too dim for her to make out any of his features in detail, but she could tell that he was a big guy--big as in tall, but he also had to be pushing three hundred pounds, if not more.


The words tumbled out of her mouth of their own accord: "Holy shit, an electric fat guy."


He sighed, his shoulders slumping. "Really? That's all you got for me?"


"Are you gonna, like, hurt me?" Tegan stammered.


"That depends. Are you gonna call the cops?" he asked, his gaze dropping to her right hand, which was frozen in position halfway to her cellphone on the reception desk.


"I was actually thinking of calling Bombshell, but like...has that ship already sailed, or…?"


"Look, I'm just here to do a quick, in-and-out robbery. I didn't want to hurt anyone, but if you wanna do fat jokes all night--"


"Spark!" cried a female voice in the darkness. "Is the coast clear, or what?"


Fuck. So he did have backup.


"Look, I'm sorry," Tegan pleaded. "I didn't mean to say all that rude stuff. Sometimes it just comes out of me like--like vomit, but with words. I was actually almost bulimic once in high school, and well...old habits. Steal anything you want, though, you really don't have to hurt me!"


"Spark! I asked you a question!"


"Cool, cool, cool," muttered the electric fa--Spark, his name was Spark, Tegan reminded herself. "Listen, though, my, uh...accomplice? She's kind of jumpy. I know you're feeling cooperative. But just so she doesn't lose her cool and attack you, maybe you should fake like I already electrocuted you? If she thinks you're unconscious, she'll leave you alone."


"So, what, just scream, fall, and play possum?"


"Exactly."


She could do that. She'd been through the motions hundreds of times in high school theatre.


She took a deep breath, let off a shriek, and slumped out of her chair, onto her side, on the ground. "How was that?"


"Oscar worthy, now just shut up!"


"SPARK?!"


"All clear, Crucifix! One witness, but she's down for the count. You can move on in."
 

stevita

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It took Ben and Martika several trips, and halfway to sunrise, to load the SUV up with stolen serums, samples, and drugs, but troublingly, by the time they had cleared out the vaults of the hospital, there was still room in the backseat. Ben didn't believe for a second that their haul was the entirety of the inventory. Whatever wasn't on site must have already been shipped off to its destination, to be used for its nefarious purpose.


Martika drove until they reached the edge of the river with their bounty and parked the car along the bank. There, by moonlight, she began hauling crates full of vials and syringes out of the trunk and backseat, with Ben close at her heels, following her example. "We're just gonna get rid of all this stuff?" he asked.


"Well, yes--I figured our enemies would have a rough time finding it all at the bottom of the river," said Martika. "Unless you had a better idea."


He glanced from the stacks of boxes to her masked face.


"Don't let me stop you from whatever you're thinking of doing, Spark, but be advised: these are drugs, not candy."


His heart jumped into his throat. He could feel her eyes on him through her mask...but there was no hiding his curiosity from his mentor, and so, he figured, he might as well just do the thing he wanted to do…


He rummaged through the contraband until he found what he was looking for: vials of the familiar suppressant Dr. Duplicate and his goons had administered to him and the other prisoners to nullify their powers. Holding a single dose under the dim light of the sky, he squinted to read the label. "Found anything fun?" asked Martika. "Sedatives? Painkillers? Those nice Marilyn Monroe barbiturates, maybe?"


He shook his head. "This is what they shot us up with to make us ordinary."


"Oh...I see."


"Without our powers, we couldn't defend ourselves. But I couldn't ricochet, either. For the first time since I came into the electromancy, I actually lost some weight."


"And is that what you want?" she asked. "A convenient little diet pill in your back pocket that doubles as an off-switch to your powers? A way to return to normal life whenever you feel like it, if only for a little while?"


Now that the possibility was within his easy reach, it was tempting.


But then he thought back to the cold, hard nights on the floor of his cell, the hours he spent aching for comfort and missing the extra weight that had melted off of his body...longing for someone to fill his stomach with a nice, warm meal...dreaming of Chloe holding him, fortifying him, softening him back up with her affection…


"No," he decided at last. "All I want is justice." With that, he bent down, heaved the whole box of suppressants over one shoulder, and chucked it into the river below.
 

stevita

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FIFTEEN

***

"Next to take the floor," announced the MC into the microphone, "after her long hiatus from the super scene, a former Division heroine now clocking in on the payroll of Commissioner Jasmine Freeman of the BCPD, please welcome the one-and-only, enigmatic Kilowatt, escorted by America's favorite savior himself and leader of the Frontline Force, Captain Justice!"


From his place at Martika's side on the marble steps descending to the dance floor below, Ben watched as the petite but curvy little woman known to the public as Kilowatt curtseyed before the crowd, hand-in-hand with the blond, broad-shouldered Captain Justice. Kilowatt had swapped out the police uniform she had worn to the preceding conference for a glimmering, sleeveless gown in navy blue, dotted with tens of thousands of golden rhinestones, along with a matching masquerade mask and a gossamer sash draped elegantly over her elbows. Captain Justice's blue super suit would have matched her ensemble, if not for the silver star emblazoned across his chest and the gaudy striped cape he only wore to these sorts of see-and-be-seen public affairs, since capes had been banned on the battlefield by the Division for the last few decades. "I can't believe Kilowatt came here with that cocksucker," Martika muttered to Ben.


"I can't believe he came with her! She's openly admitted to playing him on your show."


Martika scoffed. "Guys like Captain J don't bother listening in on gloom-and-doom social justice shows like mine. They think their chiseled jawlines, eight-pack abs and federal contracts make them invincible. Just you wait, though. In a few years, when those muscles start to go soft, he'll be the next one the Division decides to throw in cryo-freeze...if they don't just take him apart for organ donations when their newer, prettier ops take damage in the field."


"Not to be outdone by his teammate, next on the dance floor, we have Human Taser, of the BCPD, accompanied by none other than his direct supervisor, Commissioner Jasmine Freeman herself!" announced the MC. The Commissioner stole the show in a periwinkle blue, floor-length gown, while her date--her subordinate--wore a simple suit and tie with a pocket square matching the shade of her dress. While she waved gratuitously to the crowd, all smiles, he stood stoically, expressionless. "This marks Mr. Taser's third time attending the Electromancers' Conference and Masquerade, and his first year attending since his retirement from the military. On behalf of the Electromancers' Union, I'd like to wish him luck in his future career as both an officer and as the Commissioner's spokesman against the nationwide epidemic of friendly fire against both government-employed and rogue superheroes alike."


"I heard," whispered the man behind Ben on the staircase to his date, "Freeman only hired Taser as her second choice. She wanted Bombshell for her spokesgirl."


"Really?" asked the woman on his arm. "I thought you said Taser made a big deal in the media about vying for that job. He's definitely the most qualified person here to talk about the whole friendly fire thing. Why would there even be competition from that freak that makes people fat?"


Martika glanced inconspicuously over her shoulder. "Don't look now," she murmured to Ben, "but we're right in front of Lightning Rod and Seismic Siren."


At the sound of a familiar name, Ben started to whip around instinctively, until Martika gripped his arm to hold him in place, facing forward. "I said don't look!"


"Sorry. It's just...I know that guy."


It didn't seem like Lightning Rod recognized him, though, which tracked, sadly. They'd met at last year's Electromancers' Masquerade. Lightning Rod, under the influence of several glasses of free champagne, had bared his heart to Ben, sharing the story of his humble upbringing, followed by a hard college career at Rivington, ridiculed for his threadbare clothes and inner-city mannerisms, until finally, he had his big break and subsequent rise to fame.


And who had Ben been back then, aside from the random electric fat guy escorted by Bombshell?


"Next onto the dance floor…"


Martika gave Ben's fleshy upper arm a squeeze through the sleeve of his costume jacket with her long, glittery nails. "That's us!" she said, her chubby cheeks rounding as she smiled behind the ornate, stainless steel mask she'd had custom made for the occasion.


"The Union is always honored to welcome in new blood," said the MC.


Nevermind that Ben had literally been to this event before...just never as Spark.


"Therefore, it is my pleasure and honor to introduce Spark, the Northwest Coast's newest up-and-coming electromagnetic rogue hero, along with his date, the radio star you know and love as the voice of disenfranchised Deviants everywhere, Martika Mitchell of Nail Me to the Cross!"


"That's Martika Mitchell?" hissed Seismic Siren to Lightning Rod. "Somehow I pictured her slimmer."


Martika nudged Ben into the spotlight, but let the music play for a bar and a half before stepping up to join him in what he could only assume was a calculated move on her part to make him look good…


And it worked.


For a split second, he was alone before the crowd. And then…


Then the indomitable Ms. Mitchell sidled shyly up to his side, a vision in her big, beauty-queen curls, and yet, so understated. Her steel-gray dress, though voluminous enough to give stately curves to her plump frame, was free from much embellishment, and she'd left off the high heels for the night in favor of dainty ballet flats. A simple diamond necklace with a yellow citrine centerpiece completed her look and tied her color scheme in with Ben's gray and yellow ensemble, and as much weight as her name held, she made a show of looking up at him as if to show the world that appearing on Spark's arm was the highlight of her life.


"I'm not used to you being this much shorter than me," he muttered.


"Doesn't it make you feel big and strong, though?" she countered. "All eyes on us, big guy. Please tell me you know how to foxtrot."


"The basics." Oriana had been the one to teach him, and there was only so much dancing you could stand to do with your cousin.


"Here, just step forward on your left," she said, gripping his hand in her fingerless-gloved one.


"I know that much."


"Then this should be easy for you."


Though she guided the pair of them around the dance floor, between the other dancing couples, any onlooker would have guessed he was the one leading, so effortlessly did she signal each change in direction with a subtle squeeze of his shoulder or barely-perceptible tug with her steps. He felt the others' gazes upon them--and not all of the eyes were kind--but not once was Martika shaken from her graceful dance.


"How do you do it?" asked Ben.


"Do what?"


He shrugged. "Glide through life like nothing bothers you."


"With ease and poise, knowing my left shoe is worth more than everything and everyone in this ballroom," she replied. "But it's really not about the money. It's about realizing that no matter how much better than you anyone might think they are, it doesn't give them any power over you. Not really." As the song came to its conclusion, she began to glance around the room, over each shoulder. "Are you dizzy? Do you want a snack, or maybe a drink? You know what I could really go for right now?"


"A snack?" Ben guessed. "Maybe a drink?"
 

stevita

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"Bingo. I'll be right back, I'm going to go find us some refreshments. Why don't you socialize with...oh! Kilowatt!" Martika beckoned the woman over with a wave of her hand. "Kilowatt, this is my date, Spark. Spark, this is Kilowatt. She was a guest on my show."


"I know," said Ben. "Kilowatt, right? Sorry the Division...y'know...froze you."


"Awe, bud, you don't need to worry about it! Loads of people in this room have it way worse than I did. At least I got to be asleep through the whole thing. Spark, was it?"


Up close and personal, Kilowatt was a beauty...and Ben felt guilty for thinking it, but it brought him comfort to see that the elegant electomancer was not exactly thin in build. She wasn't a big woman, by any means, but she wasn't built like a typical police officer, either. She had high cheekbones, visible collarbones, and an hourglass waist, but her DD breasts, pillar-like upper arms, and voluminous hips looked like they could have belonged to a heavier girl, and it wasn't a bad thing. It was hard to place her, ethnically, especially under strobe light and a disco ball, but her heavy-hooded, dark eyes, along with her accent, hinted at Spanish descent.


"Yep...Spark. That's me." As many months ago as Chloe had suggested the name, it was still a bit strange answering to it. "So how long have you known Mar--"


Fuck, he thought to himself as he looked over his shoulder into empty space. Martika had already left to fetch the snacks.


"Ya know, it's the craziest thing," said Kilowatt. "I was actually introduced to Ms. Mitchell through this mutual friend, 'Crucifix' or something like that. Or, I think it was Crucifix. And I assume she knows Ms. Mitchell. I might be wrong. I never got a good look at this Crucifix person, or whatever her name is, or was, if she yet lives. But she and two or three other people broke me out of cryo-freeze. Super disorienting, my head was spinning the whole time. And then, while I was still warming up, they asked me to use my lightning powers to help them thaw out a few other heroes the Division had froze...and how could I say no? The next thing I know, I'm waking up on Martika Mitchell's couch, and she wants my story. Crazy, right?"


"Yeah," Ben agreed. "Crazy." And slightly sketchy of Crucifix to play with Kilowatt's head like that...but then again, sometimes anonymous salvation was a necessary part of being a hero, wasn't it? There was a whole course about it Ben was scheduled to take in the coming semester. Bombshell never revealed her identity. Hell, she never even followed up with the people she rescued.


The music abruptly cut. Tap-tap-tap, went the test of a microphone. "Hello? Can everyone hear me?"


"Oh, hang on. This is important," said Kilowatt. She directed Ben's attention to the center of the room, where Human Taser had taken the podium.


A tall, athletic-looking man with square-cut hair and broad shoulders, Human Taser was much closer than Kilowatt to Ben's mental picture of an inner-city cop. "If I can have your attention for just a moment," he went on into the mic, "as much as we've all been enjoying the festivities tonight, it's important to remember the purpose of the formation of the Electromancers' Union. Here to say a few words is a beloved American heroine, who, depending on how long you've been a part of our family, you may have been waiting to hear from for quite sometime. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Miss Scarlet Flame to the stage."


He stepped aside with a humble gesture of his arm.


Only...nothing happened.


He cleared his throat and stepped back up to the podium. "Welcome Scarlet Flame to the stage!" he repeated.


There was a murmur from the crowd. Someone walked up behind Human Taser and whispered in his ear. He forced a smile and leaned down into the mic.


"It seems Ms. Flame has been called away on urgent business. But that's no problem, right? Sorry to bother all of you. Please, let the celebration commence as planned!"


Things around Ben started to happen incredibly fast. "I brought you back a beer," said Kilowatt, coming up behind him with two bottles in one hand. He hadn't even realized she had gone anywhere.


Then, Human Taser joined them. "Unbefuckinglievable," he muttered to himself, head down. "Third year in a row Flame's done this to us, and that's not even counting the years before I got here."


"Captain...it's okay," said Kilowatt, placing a hand on his shoulder.


"Thanks, Lieutenant. Say...is one of those beers for me?"


"I...uh…"


"Sure," said Ben. "I think Martika's bringing me something stronger."


"Perfect, then!" Kilowatt made to open one of the beers, but struggled with the cap. "Stupid, stupid arthritic hands!"


"Here, I got you girl," said Human Taser. With that, both the caps popped off, hands-free. Kilowatt handed a beer to her colleague and they clinked the necks together in cheers.


"So," said Ben, "I'm kind of new. If you don't mind me asking...why was the Union founded?"


"Look," said Human Taser, "I don't mean to drag Scarlet Flame's name through the dirt. I really don't. But do you remember the Electric Elite?"


Ben couldn't say he did. "Um…"


"A while back, the Division put her in charge of that team. And then they had her lead them into a massacre. That's when we knew we had to band together and get each others' backs. Voltage was the one what started this operation...Rest In Power, Queen. But I think she's proud of us up there where she is, with God drinking Veuve, or whatever the hell it is God drinks."


"The Division had ways--" Kilowatt started.


"I know, I know," said Human Taser. "It would just mean a lot to the bunch of us to hear Flame say she's sorry."


"I'm sure she is," said Kilowatt, both to her superior and to Ben. "I'll tell you right how, Spark, it's not easy trying to be a superhero, no matter who you work for. I was picked up by the Division early on, and you know how that went for me. But HT here has had it even worse. Back when he was in the Marines--"


"I don't really want to--"


"Come on, Captain. The new guy deserves to know the risks that come along with our line of work."


"And you can tell him all about your time in a block of ice until the damn cows come home, alright? But I don't want to talk about my shit, and I don't need you to talk about it for me. Got it, Lieutenant?"


"Okay, okay," said Kilowatt, baring an open palm in surrender. "I hope you're at least talking to Dr. Castro about it, though."


"Maybe you should just leave it," Ben told her, tentatively touching her forearm.


"Fucking thank you!" exclaimed Human Taser. "See? The new guy understands boundaries. Bro, where the fuck have you been this whole damn time?"


A guilty rush of heat crept up Ben's neck. Where had he been? It seemed like this bunch were long overdue to meet someone with a knack for de-escalation. And where was Martika with that drink?


"Probably in my little sad-guy dorm room, drinking vodka-and-LaCroix and watching Splice Sisters," he admitted.


At that, Human Taser's eyes lit up. "I thought they canceled that show! I've been trying to find it forever! I mean, not for me, but I have this nine-year-old cousin who just came into hydro powers, like, crazy early, she'd love it!"


"Oh, it did get canceled. But the whole thing's on FlickStream," said Ben.


"Shut the fuck up! No it's not!"


"Why would I lie about something like that?"


"Excuse me...excuse me...oof! Sorry," squeaked a new voice as a small shape softly bumped into Ben from behind. "Oh my god, so sorry! It's my first time here."


Ben turned around and regarded the stranger, a short, hard-muscled and wide-eyed youth of ambiguous gender with their dark hair gelled into a swooping faux-hawk, its fringe falling messily over the eye-holes of a rhinestoned mask. The newcomer wore a black gown that overflowed with tulle and shimmered in a pastel rainbow of hues reminiscent of the Northern Lights, but Ben didn't want to make any assumptions before the introductions were over with, even if he was overcome with the strangest sense of familiarity. "Wait...where have I seen you?" he asked.


The stranger shrugged. "The news, probably? I'm like, the sixth person to be introduced as 'the Division's first openly queer superhero,' since, ya know, the first five of them died. Name's Ember. Anyway, where is everyone getting the booze?"


"Here, I'll get you a beer!" Kilowatt piped up. "In fact, why don't I get a bucket of beers, for the bunch of us? Spark, do you mind helping me? I don't like touching ice."


"Right...since they froze you and whatnot," Ben nodded, following Kilowatt away from the group as she led him by the arm.


"Oh. My. God. I am so embarrassed!" confessed Kilowatt, once they were a safe ways away. "So, please don't judge me, but I kind of dropped Ember's name in my interview on Ms. Mitchell's radio show, and I completely misgendered her. I MEAN THEM!" she quickly corrected herself.


"Ember, Ember, I know that name...!" said Ben. "Didn't Bombshell open for them on an episode of Fredo Flores?"


"I heard Bombshell is the sweetest, despite her bad rap. Is it true? I mean, not that….sorry. It's presumptuous to assume that every fat guy has shot his shot with Bombshell. Not that I'm calling you fat!"


"It's okay."


"You're really just chubby. Man, why can't I go anywhere these days without sticking my foot in my mouth? Do you know anything about the science of being in deep freeze and whether or not it might, uh...might cause permanent brain damage?"


"Kilowatt! It's okay. I know I'm pretty fat." He gave the side of his stomach a pat with his free hand through the fabric of his costume. His expanse of flesh jiggled slightly under his own touch, and it was...nice? "It's cool. I like being the friendly neighborhood electric fat guy."


"Good...good," said Kilowatt. "I bet you're fun to hug."
 

stevita

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"Do you want a hug right now?"


"I have always been a hugger."


Without another word, he wrapped her up in his arms... even took her about a half inch off the ground. Instantly, he felt comfort radiate off of her, even if he wasn't reaching for it.


"Thanks," said Kilowatt as the embrace broke. "Have you ever thought about a career in law enforcement? You could be good for the force. You calm me down, and as for the Captain...this is the first time I've ever heard him talk about anything as normal as cartoons. Of course, it would be up to Commissioner Freeman. But I could put in a good word with her?"


"That's alright. I don't really see myself as a cop," said Ben.


After all, he couldn't guarantee that he and Crucifix wouldn't be robbing any more hospitals.


They reached the drinks station, where a bartender graciously handed them an iced-down bucket of beers before either of them even had to ask. "Here, I'll take it," said Ben, grabbing the handle while Kilowatt kept her wary distance.


"Thanks," she said with a small, wry smile. "Seriously, though, do you think Ember's mad at me?"


"What, over your segment on Nail Me? I'm sure they know no harm was meant. Again, you got frozen, and you basically missed the 2010s. A lot's changed about a lot of things. The conversation about gender...the Internet...oh! We totally impeached a President, too."


"No way!"


"Again...why would I lie about something like that?" said Ben. "But the point is, it would be stupid to expect you to be all up-to-speed about everything right away, and you're obviously trying your best. But if you really want to know what Ember thinks, the easiest way to find out is ask."


It was a short walk back to their original cluster of new friends. "HT, do you mind?" asked Kilowatt. With a sigh, Human Taser performed his bottlecap trick on all six beers in the bucket with a slight backwards pop of his head.


"Y'all finna make me change my name to Human Beer Opener, swear to fucking God."


"Oh, Ember," said Ben. "My new friend Kilowatt had a question. See, a while back, she was on this radio show--"


"I probably missed it," said Ember. "I haven't been able to get much free time to listen to podcasts lately, or have any me-time at all, really. But whatever you said, Kilowatt, it's fine, I swear, it's fine." They grabbed a beer and took a hard pull. "It's been a rough year to be a Deviant."


"What a relief," said Kilowatt. "I mean, not that you've been so busy. Just that we have no bad blood. Oh, who are you here with, by the way? Or did they change the bit about having to be an electromancer without a date since I've been here last?"


"And are you old enough to drink?" asked Human Taser.


Ben glanced off to the side and tried to act natural, being a few months shy himself of his 21st birthday.


"What are you, a cop or something?" asked Ember.


"You miss the introductions or something? Kilowatt and I are both cops--"


"And everything's legal at the Electromancers' Masquerade, unless they changed that while I was in the box," supplied Kilowatt.


Ember took another big gulp of their beer, pointed skyward, and sent forth a bolt of lightning that didn't quite reach the ceiling, but got damn close.


"SHIT!" swore Kilowatt. "But...I thought you were a pyromancer! What the fuck, girl?! Sorry! Dude! Does 'dude' work for you?"


"Honestly, I'm less worried about labels right now," said Ember, "and more worried about what I'm going to do for work now that I've effectively defected from the Division."


"Good for you!" said Kilowatt. "What was your back-breaking straw?"


"You know, I've never liked how willing they've been to just bury their gays," said Ember, "but what really nailed the coffin shut for me was when they locked me up in a filthy underground lab and forced my body full of all these extra superpowers." They looked pointedly at Ben. "He can tell you more about it. He was there, if I'm not mistaken. A little ways down the hall from me, in the holding cell across from that scary-quiet brunette, right? And weren't you also neighbors with that insufferable Novak girl?"


Ben's stomach did a backflip.


So that was where else he knew them from.


Ember's gaze shifted to a point past Ben's shoulder. "I better go. Kilowatt, heads up."


No sooner had Ember gotten rid of themself than Captain Justice appeared at Kilowatt's side. "There you are! I wasn't expecting to find you among the riff raff." The broad-shouldered blonde took Kilowatt around the waist and stooped down to kiss her neck. "Is it just me, or did your tits get bigger?"


"Blame the Commissioner, and all the donuts she keeps around the station. She says they're for her, but she never eats them. I think she's just obsessed with thick women. But if you approve, I see no reason to change my eating habits…" She reached backwards over her shoulder to touch his cheek and hooked him with a seductive glance.


Human Taser chuckled under his breath. "Girl's working him like a case and he don't even know it."


"So you and the Commissioner--?" Ben began.


"Nah, man. It's all professional between us. Jazz likes girls, I like guys. She just wanted to test the waters tonight, see if she could recruit. If you see her, she'll probably try and get you on the force. Ember was just talking you up as a natural born hostage negotiator. I just assumed y'all had a class together at hero school at some point, but I guess you musta pulled some tricks out the sleeve while you two were locked up together, huh?"


"Aww, shucks." Ben shifted his considerable weight from one foot to the other. "I guess I rose to the occasion once or twice."


"I'm sorry Scarlet Flame didn't show," Captain Justice said to Kilowatt. "I can talk to her the next time I see her?"


"Don't bother," shrugged Kilowatt. "Some of the newer electromancers are too young to know this, but she tried to come and state her case the year before I went under. And when she got here...well, we were drunk, and we were burning her in effigy. If I was her, I wouldn't want to come back, either."


About then was when Martika finally returned with a plate of canapes and a glass of sangria for Ben. "What have I missed?"


"Oh, thank God." Ben took two spinach puffs off her tray and shoved them both in his mouth at once. He hadn't eaten since before the Faraday matches--the conference always opened with the most confident members of the Union challenging their leader for his post in a combat tournament. For the last two decades, it had not gone well for the challengers. Killowatt and Lightning Rod had both gotten their asses kicked. That had been over four hours ago. It was only a matter of time until Ben's body ran out of available calories and started relying on ambient emotional energy instead, and with the personalities present in the room, he didn't want to wait for that to happen.


"Poor thing," said Martika, resting her hand on his upper belly as those first bites made their way down his throat. "You look ravenous! Want me to fix a to-go plate and we can go back to my car?"


"Please!"
 
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