Home > Invincible Nemesis

Invincible Nemesis
Author: Ryder O'Malley




“… and that’s why they call it a Reverse Alejandro Sandwich.”

It’s another morning at the HideOut. I’m on my second cup of coffee, and I still can’t keep up with Alejandro’s antics. The crowd is thinner than usual. It won’t be dead for long. It had turned into the local hangout for folks needing an injection of pep, or a place to prepare for the struggles of the real world. Despite its popularity, Chad had maintained its coffee-shop charm, and the smell on its own was intoxicating.

“Liar,” Xander said. “I’m Googling that.”

The conversation at our table bordered on inappropriate on the best of days. If I hadn’t helped Chad relaunch the coffee shop, I’m sure he’d ask us to leave and never come back. Thankfully, he repaid his debt with endless cups of coffee.

Either I looked more exhausted than usual, or Chad had telepathy as he appeared with another cup. There wasn’t a man alive who made a cup of Joe as strong as this man, and lord knows I needed it.

“Holy crap!” Xander shoved his phone in Griffin’s face. “He has a position named after him. I see why Theo keeps you around.”

Griffin’s face was a mixture of horror and confusion. One day at a time, Alejandro corrupted that poor boy. I had my suspicions Griffin’s boyfriend was going to get himself a Reverse Alejandro Sandwich tonight. Or at least an attempt. I’d laugh when I got a call from the hospital with Griffin demanding I ask no questions.

“Hot sauce? Really?”

Alejandro is our resident trouble-making sexpert. Xander serves as the big brother, willing to clock anybody who messes with his friends. I referred to Griffin as the kid in the group, but after a year of being part of the Breakfast club, our starry-eyed geek was hardly new.

“Papi, you with us?”

Then there was me—the dad. Sure, it’s partly because I’m the big burly man that needed a haircut and had a beard with more salt than pepper. Do the kids still say beefy? Alejandro liked to say I’m “thicc” with emphasis on the extra “c.” I might be the father figure of this group, but I could teach these youngsters a thing or two.

“I prefer my Reverse Alejandro Sandwich with Sriracha.”

The table froze.

Avoid eye contact, Bernard. It’ll keep them guessing. If I could figure out how to work my phone, I’d pretend to be reading the news. But I didn’t dare ask them for help. I’d never hear the end of it. It was bad enough I had to Google half the things they talked about. Man, even my inner monologue sounded old.

It took less than a second before activity resumed and Xander taunted Alejandro about his boyfriend. When Griffin joined in, they both gave him grief about his handsome live-in boyfriend. It would only be a matter of time before they turned on Xander. It was like this every morning, playful banter with an undercurrent of love. Cheesy, I know. But the Breakfast club had become a constant in our lives, and when their lives changed or relationships found trouble waters, we’d be here, ready to pick up the pieces.

“Earth to Bernard.” Xander waved his hand in my face. “Are you having a stroke? Should we call somebody?”

“You’re the paramedic,” Griffin said. “Shouldn’t you know the signs?”

“Are you going to give him mouth-to-mouth?” Asked Alejandro.

I hung my head while raising my hand. Chad doesn’t ask questions. I’ve known the coffee shop owner for years, longer than the actual Breakfast club. Like the truest of friends, he sat a fresh cup of coffee on the table, and like a telepath, he pulled a flask out of his apron and set it down, nudging it closer to the mug.

I chuckled at the gesture. “Do you remember the last time we started drinking at this hour?”

“Did it get sexy?” If I could shoot lasers from my eyes, Alejandro would be soot in his chair.

“I remember somebody woke up with a tattoo on their butt.” Chad gave me a wink.

Bastard. They all conspired against me.

All three raised their hands as if they were schoolchildren begging to be called on. They were insufferable. But I couldn’t help but smile. Chad backed away, mouthing, “I’m sorry,” while he made a heart with his hands.

“We’re going to put a pin in that. Xander, buddy, pal, mi amigo.” Xander leaned forward as if he were going to spill state secrets. Alejandro’s line of questioning wouldn’t end well. “When you were with Bernard, did you two ever, you know…”

“Were there gentlemanly relations?” Griffin added.

“Did you attend the bedroom rodeo?”

“See an optometrist about the one-eyed bandit?”

“Explored the hidden valley?”

“Gave a hot beef injection?”

“Boarded the beef bus?”

“Glazed his doughnut?”

“Played hide the sausage?”

“That’s a lot of food,” Griffin said.

I leaned forward to speak, and Alejandro held up his finger in my face. “Shhh. We’ll get to your ‘Slippery When Wet’ tattoo in a moment.”

Xander and I dated for two months. I had just arrived in Vanguard for a new job and, after leaving a relationship behind, we gave it a shot. As a couple, we had been awkward. But a series of uncomfortable dates had turned into a wonderful friendship. However, if he opened his mouth, I might kill him.

“He was a perfect gentleman.”

Alejandro and Griffin whispered. It was Griffin who cleared his throat. “The council agrees. Xander has no knowledge of Bernard’s penis.”

That was not entirely correct, but some mysteries were best left undisturbed.

“Since we’re talking about Bernard and his penis…” I brainstormed a dozen ways to murder Xander and hide his body. “When are you going to get back out there and start dating?”

I prided myself on doling out advice. But the moment attention turned to me and my life, I grew uncomfortable. It had been years since I went on a proper date. Other than Xander, I had dated nobody since arriving in Vanguard. It was hard to build a relationship when I continued focusing on the past and unresolved what-ifs.

Alejandro gripped my thigh under the table. Of the three, he was the only one who knew about the relationship I’d left behind. Circumstances had brought it crumbling to the ground and every day I thought about that decision. It haunted me every time I thought about my love life.

“You alright, Papi?”

I nodded. “With work being shut down until who knows when, I’d be a lousy, special someone.”

For months, I had been working as the Director of Public Relations for one of the world’s premiere superhero teams. Okay, that’s a bit of a fib. Working for the Centurions served as my cover story for being one of the founding members. Yes, I’m a superhero, but other than Alejandro, nobody knew. I preferred compartmentalizing my life to protect my loved ones. Villains always wanted to kidnap somebody important to a hero. It’s like they read the same play book. I couldn’t imagine putting these three or Chad and the HideOut in danger.

A week ago, Eclipse broke into our headquarters and stole data from the computers. We still hadn’t figured out what he’d stolen, and despite strong-arming him in prison, he laughed at my efforts. Until we figured it out, the team had been suspended. I don’t want to admit it, but I missed heroing.

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