Decisions, Decisions
by John Guilfoyle




"You're certain, Dr. Wight?"

"Oh yes, Sarah, quite certain. You appear to be quite a busy girl, and it's going to take me some time to ferret out what this maniac is up to, and where he might strike next. There's really no need for you to come back to Philadelphia at the moment."

"Okay... but you know my number if you need me. And remember what I said -- about using me for bait if you have to."

Wight snorted slightly. "I should hope it doesn't come to that, dear. I'll keep you abreast of any breaking developments."

"Cool. Talk to you soon, professor."

"Indeed! Good-bye."

Hanging up the phone, Sarah stretched out on the sofa and closed her eyes. She'd really hoped that Dr. Wight's leads would have lead to something more substantive by now, but Wight had impressed upon her that mystical sleuthing was a delicate business that simply could not be rushed.

So here she was then, stuck in New York City, fighting with her mom over her burgeoning independence, with Paula over a variety of petty little things, and with her agent, James Raddison, over his fee for helping land her the movie role with Blur -- shooting was to begin in two months, she'd recently found out. Sarah hated worrying about financial matters, but things hadn't been going as well as she or her mother had hoped they would. The majority of her promotional work was pretty small-time, and most of the cash from big jobs like the photo shoot for People went straight to Sarah's insurance carrier -- which had recently doubled her premium -- and to her outstanding debts, which were substantial. Even with the sizable salary she'd been promised by the movie studio, Sarah knew that it wouldn't last long, given the kinds of expenses she was incurring as Knock-out -- expenses like the custom-made, super-tough undergarments she currently wore under her t-shirt and exercise pants.

The sound of a key in a lock made Sarah open her eyes. That would be Paula coming back from the grocery store. Sitting up, she offered, "Hi."

Paula dropped a trio of jam-packed brown bags onto the counter in the kitchen, then returned to close the door and hang up her jacket. "Hey," she returned simply.

"Get anything good?" Sarah asked, wishing her roommate would suddenly forget the arguments they'd been having.

Opening the fridge, Paula began to put things away. "Yup," she answered.

"Like what?"

"Stuff for a salad. Fresh pasta, fresh fruit. Ice-cream. The usual."

"Ah." Sighing for a moment, Sarah turned to look out the broad windows that offered such a great view of the city. "Paula, can we skip this step -- skip all this being cranky with one another and just get right to being made up and friends again? Because this sucks."

"Yeah, it does." Approaching the couch, Paula set down a bottle of red wine and two glasses, then sat down beside her friend, who moved her muscular legs to make room.

"I thought you were going to the gym this afternoon," Paula asked, struggling to remove the cork from the wine bottle.

"I was, but I kind of got side-tracked. I guess I'm just a little depressed lately. About money, that thing in Philadelphia and fighting with you."

Paula filled both glasses to the brim. "Let's get drunk, then. I'm sorry I said those things about you and Tommy."

"I'm sorry too," Sarah breathed, relieved. Taking the glass Paula handed to her, she said, "You know, after that fight I had in Los Angeles -- with those armored guys -- I told myself I wasn't going to overindulge again. I never know when Knock-out might be needed."

"Ah, make an exception. It's not like Mastodon's gonna coming busting in here looking for you."

"God, I hope not," Sarah said after taking a drink. "I am so not in the mood to fight. With you, him, or anyone."

Paula kicked off her shoes and put her feet up on the glass coffee table in front of the couch. "Well, he pretty much beat the crap out of you last time, right? I can see not wanting to go through that again."

"No, I just mean that I'm feeling kind of mellow, like I just want to kick back and relax a bit. Not fight supervillains, not go to the gym, not fly out to L.A., not wrangle with Raddison, and not sell fucking Superderm skin lotion on late-night television. I just want to do my own thing... and right now, that's nothing."

Raising her glass in a mock toast, Paula laughed. "Nothing wrong with that, babe. Oop! Did I ever tell you that Alex called this morning? When you were out with your mother?"

Refilling her glass, Sarah shook her head no. "No. Alex who?"

"Um... St. John? St. Claire, maybe? I don't remember. He said he was the dude you met at the Boom Room. English accent. Sounded cute."

"Oh -- Alex! Now I know who you mean. He called? Really? Cool. Is he going to call back or anything, or did you get a number?"

"Look at you," Paula laughed. "His number's over by the phone. He wanted you to call him."

Getting to her feet, Sarah walked over and picked up the piece of paper Paula had scribbled the number on. "Cool. I wonder what he wants?"

Looking at the remarkable curves afforded by Sarah's tight pants and t-shirt, Paula nearly choked on her wine. "You've got to be kidding. What do you think he wants, super-babe?"

"Oh, shut-up, super-model," Sarah bit back. "Alex isn't that kind of guy. He's... like a gentleman. He's British, remember."

"La-tee-da," Paula chuckled. "He saw you in your sexy little Knock-out number, right? He's not calling because he wants to play checkers, Sarah. Or have afternoon tea."

"I hope not," Sarah smiled. "Truth is, Ms. Know-it-all, that Alex is a metahuman, like me. We have a bit in common, and I bet he doesn't know too many other people in the city. I'm calling him."

"Ask me if I'm surprised?" Paula laughed.

******

Paula looked sidelong at her friend as the two of them made breakfast together, side-by-side in their small kitchen. "Well... you're certainly in better spirits today than you've been. You got laid last night, didn't you -- you screwed Alex's brains out, right?"

Sarah laughed at her roommate's crassness. "No, I did not 'screw his brains out.' I might have," she continued, smiling, "but you interrupted us with that phone call."

"Sorry. I was worried! We were supposed to have dinner together, and when I called the gym to see if you were still there, and they said you'd never arrived... well, I got a little concerned. You know, being who you are... some people kind of have it out for you. Did I really ruin the moment? You didn't have to answer your cell phone, you know."

"I know," Sarah answered, chopping up mushrooms and onions for the omelets they were making. "But I never know when it'll be mom, or the police -- or whoever -- needing Knock-out. Besides, it's probably a good thing I didn't sleep with Alex right away. Look where it got me with Tommy," she sighed.

"So what about Tommy? And what about Mark, for that matter? Weren't you just out with him a few days ago?"

"I haven't heard from Tommy since I met him -- you know that as well as I do. I think it was purely physical with him anyway... and Mark, well, I don't know. I really like Mark -- but I just can't see getting romantically involved. I'm afraid I'd hurt him or something."

"You mean in bed? During sex?"

"Yeah. You know how klutzy I can be."

Paula snorted. "That's ridiculous!"

"No it's not. I'm better than I used to be about accidentally breaking stuff, but it still happens a few times a week. And that's with me focusing on it. During sex, I'm... distracted. God knows what I'd break."

"So that's why you're all hot for Alex, and why you nailed Tommy Champion after only knowing him a couple of days? Just because they're metahumans? That's retarded!"

Sarah shook her head and flipped the omelets. "No, it's not like that -- I really like Alex, regardless of him being metahuman. And the thing with Tommy... I think I was just really frustrated, and kind of vulnerable. I don't blame him for taking advantage of me or anything stupid like that -- I wanted it as bad as he did, maybe more."

"I don't buy it. You've had three guys in your life since you've been to New York -- Mark, Tommy and Alex. Tommy and Alex are superhuman, and have either had sex with you or are about to, from the sounds of it." Shushing her friend as she was about to protest, Paula finished, "And then we have Mark. Handsome, smart, funny, head over heels for you -- and you won't even give him the time of day. Girl, you've got issues."

Sarah's shoulders slumped slightly. "I know. But whenever I'm with Mark and I think about getting more involved, something in the back of my mind screams no. I can't help it!"

Paula rolled her eyes. "Whatever. So where does this leave you with the other two? I thought you were kind of pining for Tommy there for a couple of weeks. Are you all over him now?"

Sarah bit absently at her lip and thought for a moment. She answered hesitantly. "Yes? Yes. I think I'm over him. I was never all that into him in the first place."

"Bull! You've been checking the phone messages like crazy these past few weeks. You used to avoid the answering machine like the plague because it was always your mom or agent leaving messages. Don't try to tell me you didn't at least have a crush on him. Sounds like you still do, actually."

A black storm cloud forming over her head, Sarah grumbled, "Alright, alright, I don't know what I want. Fine." Turning off the burner she'd been using on the stove, she added, "Now can we please just have breakfast without talking about guys? Let's just enjoy the rest of the day."

Pouring two glasses of freshly-squeezed orange juice, Paula capitulated. "Okay, okay. You win. No more guy-talk."

"Good," Sarah said, happy to be onto other subjects as they moved to the table to eat.

Paula grinned as she sat down. "One last question. You said that Alex was really tall -- does that mean that he has a--"

"Paula! For God's sake!"

"Sorry. Pass the pepper please..."

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