Lancelot
Issue 1

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     She spent the evening hours circling the city looking for something constructive to do with her time. She kept an ear on the police bands, but even with her impressive speed there was nothing so immediate that she could arrive in time to help. That was the trouble with civilian level crime. Usually it wasn’t reported until it was over. At that point it was better for the police to arrive and mop things up.

    She responded to a few car accidents, but was only able to make any major difference at one. She pulled a rather handsome young man out of the burning vehicle where he stuttered out a thank you and then after a moment of sheepishly eyeing her stomached asked.

    “So is being fat part of your powers?”

 

     She pursed her lips and with her best authoritative tone managed to choke out:

    “S-Sorry I have to go.” and raced away trying to ignore the burning in her cheeks.

 

     By this point it was getting late and she was beginning to think she had wasted her whole day when she happened to look over her shoulder into an alleyway. Three men in ski masks were holding a man in a business suit up at gunpoint. It looked like a typical mugging to Gwen, but it was far more exciting than car crashes or bicycle thefts.

    She sped into the alley and rocketed forward into one of the masked assailants just as he turned to face her. She hit him at a force that normally would have put him out but hadn’t taken her increased mass into account. The man was thrown to the end of the alleyway where his gun went off alerting his two friends.

 

     “Who’s the cow?” asked one of the men in a thick east coast accent. Gwen barely stifled a roar. She’d had quite enough indignity for one day and in the blink of an eye she was directly in front of the unfortunate man. She lifted him by his shirt front and cocked her fist back when she heard the distinct click of a trigger being pulled.

     She looked to her right and noticed two things. The first was that the man in the business suit was using this distraction to run away as quickly as possible and the second was that the third mugger, apparently undeterred by her superhuman speed had raised his weapon and fired directly at her. She saw the bullet exit the gun in a plume of fire and reflexively sidestepped at supersonic speed. Unfortunately, the cramped alley didn’t offer her a lot of stopping room and rather than stopping half a food to the right she careened into the concrete wall several feet away. She dropped the other criminal and felt her head smack against the building's facade.

    In a daze she crumpled to the floor of the alley and looked up to see a gun pointed at her face...

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    Gwen Tried to leap to her feet but again was thrown off by her own momentum striking the wall a second time. The mugger laughed.

    “My god, this is the best they could send for this city? A tub of walking lard that can’t control her own powers?” Before he could fire there was a flurry of movement in front of her and a man in a long blue coat and a cowboy hat jumped from the rooftop and landed between the hero and her would be assailant, held his fists out in front of him and pressed them together. As he pulled them apart a long, leather bullwhip seemed to materialize and slide out of one closed hand. He cracked it loudly and the mugger backed away by a few steps.

    “Pardon the intrusion.” The cowboy said. His voice was deep and smooth and carried a southern accent almost as thick as gwen herself. “But where I come from a man doesn’t speak that way about a lady unless he’s prepared to get punched in the mouth.” The robber, momentarily put off raised the gun again. The was another crack from the whip and the gun was pulled from the criminal’s hand and flipped gracefully into the cowboy’s open palm. He lifted his hat. Set the handgun on his head and let the stetson drop back down on top of it.

      Between the cowboys wild dreadlocks and the gun Gwen doubted that the hat would sit comfortably on his head but as soon as the weapon was out of sight the hat impossibly seemed to slide back into place, as if the firearm had disappeared completely. The mugger looked stunned and the cowboy grinned.

     “Now!” He announced. He clapped and the bullwhip disappeared between his hands. He crossed his arms in his coat and withdrew them, now wearing boxing gloves. “Lets see how you look without any front teeth.” The mugger turned and ran down the other end of the alley. The man in the coat simply laughed and returned his hands to his jacket where they emerged free of gloves. He spun on his heel to face Gwen and bowed deeply as he helped her to her feet.

    “Enchanté Mon Chéri.” His accent made his pronunciation nearly unrecognisable as French. Gwen accepted the hand and rose to her feet. She was still a bit woozy but more than a bit curious about the man who had helped her. “My name is Pockets.” He said. As he withdrew a rose from behind his back and handed it to her. “And who might you be?”

     “I’m Gwen--” She started, before realizing that she didn’t have a new hero name yet. “--ivere. Gwenivere. I’m the new hero assigned to Reynoldsville.”

     “‘Nol’sville” He corrected, without a hint of annoyance. “And I’m charmed to meet our new official representative of the BSD.”

     “Right.” She relied dubiously. She sized him up as best she could. He was tall, handsome, his clothes were rumpled and torn in places and the nature of his powers were perplexing to say the least. “I didn’t read about any ‘Pockets’ in this city’s file. You’re a vigilante, aren’t you?” He shrugged with a grin.

     “Oh, I’m a hero same as you, just in a less official sense is all.” her expression remained serious.

    “Unregistered hero activity is illegal. I could report you to the bureau.” He pressed a hand to his chest as if wounded and Gwen flinched wondering if he was about to somehow summon another weapon. His behavior seemed to be purely for dramatic effect though as he began his lament.

     “A man saves a beautiful woman from certain peril and is rewarded with threats? Madam, your cruelty knows no end.” he grinned as he saw her cheeks flush. She was the top ranked hero in the world damn it. She shouldn’t have trouble with some petty muggers, but Pockets was right. If he hadn’t arrived she would have been in trouble. She sighed and allowed her aggressive posture to relax.

     “Look, I appreciate the save. Just keep out of sight and I can avoid having to report you.” he removed his hat and placed it against his chest. As she had suspected, the robber's gun was nowhere to be seen.

    “You are too kind, Mon Chéri. Good evening.” And with that he tossed his hat skyward. As it reached the roof of the building a rope uncoiled itself from inside and dropped down into Pockets’s waiting hand. He saluted her and began climbing the wall. She shook her head in a mix of confusion and amusement and made her way back to the hotel.

     It wasn’t until she was nearly there that a funny thing occurred to her. How had the vigilante found her? If he wasn’t registered with the BSD he shouldn't be getting reports on her location. Even if he was listening in on a police scanner the mugging hadn’t been reported. His arrival was just a bit too convenient for her to shrug it off as a coincidence. Her face darkened. There was more to the southerner than there appeared to be. She just hoped that she wouldn’t regret letting him get away.

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    “Well this is a surprise.” The voice on the other end of the phone cooed. “How’ve you been Gwen?” the hero rolled her eyes. There was nothing less fun than talking to an ex.

 

    “I’ve been better, Cade. I’m in the city. I was wondering if we could talk.”

 

    “I’m free all day. You know where to find me.” God he was laying it on thick.

    “I’m meeting Brainchild first, I’ll be by as soon as--” She cut herself short. “-- I’ll have to call you back.”

 

    Lance skidded to a stop outside the apartment. The first thing she noticed were the police cruisers parked outside. They flanked the entrance to the studio like guard dogs. They were both empty and had their lights off as she approached. It wasn’t too uncommon for the police to meet with supers especially ones with brainchilds specialty. With a good telepath you could get secrets out of the toughest criminals, but Gwen couldn’t see any reason that the police would come here rather than having the psychic meet them at the station. Something was wrong

 

    She placed a hand on the door and it glided open soundlessly. Two officers stood with their backs to her in the main living area of the apartment. On the floor in front of them was a black plastic sheet and underneath the sheet was a large and vaguely human shape. Judging by the size of the lumps head there was really only one person it could be. Gwen’s hand jumped to her mouth and she let out an involuntary gasp.

    One of the officers spun on his heel and looked up at her. He looked surprised but not angry.

 

    “What are you doing here?” Lance held up her hands defensively.

 

    “Easy. I’m a hero. I can give you my serial number.”

 

    “That’s not what he asked.” a syrupy smooth voice asked from the kitchen. A tall thin woman in a leotard and a top hat stepped from the kitchen holding a cup of coffee in one hand and a magic wand in the other. “I’m the super assigned to this case so why are you here?” oh great. Gwen dropped her hands to her sides.

 

    “What happened here, Krystal.” Lancelot tried to keep her tone even. Professionalism was the name of the game, especially in front of civilians. They didn’t need to know about her distaste for her fellow BSD member.

    “That’s not public information” One of the officers chimed in. “I’ll ask again, what are you doing here?” Krystal rolled her eyes.

    “Save it, Bojack. We know it wasn’t her. Why don’t both of you wait outside? We need to have some girl talk.” Krystal kept her eyes fixed on Gwen as the officers left. Gwen didn’t feel like playing along and glanced down again at the bulge under the tarp. Jesus. This was the third hero in this city to be targeted in less than a week. “So what can I do for you Lancie?”

 

    “I know who killed her.” She responded confidently, finally looking up at Krystal. The magician's eyebrows raised in surprise.

 

    “Oh? Who’s that then?” Krystal crossed her arms and took a sip of her coffee.

    “I was supposed to meet her today to get her help with a villain I’ve been tracking down.” She set her jaw and nodded firmly toward Krystal. “It’s Augustus.” Krystal just clicked her teeth.

 

    “It wasn’t him this time, speedy.” the magician said with a sly smile.She snapped her fingers and a purple mist filled the room. It culminated most heavily directly above the body. “See that? That’s magical residue. Whoever got to her had some serious hexing power and last I checked Augustus was more of a tech guy.”

 

    “He could have hired someone...” Gwen insisted, only momentarily caught off guard. “...Or maybe he--” Krystal held up a hand to silence her
 

    “Three things. First, I know maybe three guys strong enough to do this.One of them is in prison and the other two wouldn’t be caught dead being someone else's lackey.” Lance almost protested but Krystal charged ahead. “Second, If I remember correctly Brainchild never fought Augustus. She was a damn good detective but not much of a fighter, he literally had no reason to feel threatened by her.” again Gwen instinctively started to retort. This time she cut herself short as she realized that Krystal did have a point. “And three,” Krystal punctuated this with a stern look and a snap of her fingers. “This is a case you haven’t  been assigned to in a city you no longer work in. Newsflash, you’re not the MVP anymore, so go home and let me do my job.”

    Gwen felt her lip curl and her brow furrow but as much as she hated to admit it Krystal was right. She could be reprimanded or even dismissed from the BSD for interfering in a case off of her beat.
 

    “So you’ve got this handled then?” Lance asked a bit deflated. The magician nodded  and lancelot let out a sigh. “I might have jumped the gun earlier, but someone is targeting the hero's here, Krystal. Don’t let him get to you too.” She turned and headed toward the door.

 

    “You just worry about yourself, tubby. Jesus, he really did a number on you didn’t he?” Gwen spun on Krystal having had just about enough indignity for the day but found the other hero staring at her ass with a look of both horror and morbid curiosity. She whistled. “From supersonic to the sonic drive through.” Gwen almost fired back a verbal retort but the best thing that she could come up with was pointing out that Sonic had a ‘drive-up’ not a ‘drive through’ and somehow she felt that that wouldn’t help her case. Besides, beneath the flippant remarks and the bitchy attitude, Krystal seemed genuinely shaken by Lancelot’s startling transformation. “You mind if I take a look?” she asked. Her voice indicated honest concern.

 

    Gwen eyed the fellow hero and then stepped forward cautiously. She had never particularly trusted magic but if it might help her get back to normal she was willing to try anything. Krystal set her coffee down and grabbed Gwen’s belly in both hands. She let the shirt ride up and squeezed the yielding flesh between her fingers. She whistled again.

 

    “Wow. I’m just glad he got you instead of me. Did this all happen at once or have you been snacking since?” Gwen resisted the urge to relieve the woman of her teeth.

 

    “Can you fix it?” She asked biting back embarrassment and trying to keep her cool.

 

    “Hmm? Fix it?” She looked up confused. “Are you kidding? You turning into a porker is the best thing that ever happened to me! Can’t be the top hero ranking if you’re off in some nowhere city doing god-knows-what. Besides,” She slapped her own tight rear for emphasis. “You don’t get a body like this with cheap tricks. I might be able to do something though.” She put a thoughtful finger to her lips and then pulled Gwen in close with one hand. She dusted her belly with a fine purple mist with the other. It faded before it reached her skin.

 

    “W-what was that?” Gwen demanded her surprise almost outweighing her indignation.

 

    “Just a parting gift. Call it a reminder to stay on your own turf from now on.”

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    Gwen was making her way toward the Valiant city coastline and wondering just how she was going to be able to sit through her meeting with Cade when her stomach started rumbling. She looked down in shock and narrowly avoided hitting a street sign.

 

    “What? Already?” She’d been trying to cut back for the sake of her wardrobe, but apparently, her belly had other plans. “Fine, we’ll stop and get some food on the way. Happy?” Her stomach let out a gurgle in response and she burst into a nearby burger joint scaring a mother and child as they attempted to exit.

 

    “Er… Sorry.” She blurted not breaking stride on the way to the counter. “Could I get a chocolate shake and a large order of fries?”

 

    “Sure!” The girl behind the counter was bubbly and chipper despite obvious confusion at having a superhero she’d never heard of at her counter. “Would you like those smothered?”

    “Smothered? I dunno. Is that good?” The girl behind the counter lit up.

 

    “Oh my god! They’re amazing. We cover them in chili and cheese and--”

 

    “I’m sold.” Lance interrupted enthusiastically. “Get me that… two orders of that.” She dug some cash out of her wallet. “Thanks!”

    “You are going to love it!” The cashier insisted as she inputted the order. “So are you new to the city?” Lance pulled her eyes away from the picture of the fries on the menu and managed to make eye contact.

 

    “Um… no. I work in Reynoldsville actually.” She was trying to be polite but the smell of frying potatoes in the back was very distracting.

 

    “Oh. I’ll have to look you up.” The cashier chirped and then smiled back down at the register. There was a look of satisfaction on her face. Lance managed to take her attention off of food long enough to give the girl a once over. She wasn’t exactly slim herself. True, she didn’t reach Lancelot’s proportions, but she had hips that were nearly as wide as her shoulders and Gwen could make out the outline of her belly even under her apron.

    She might have put a bit more thought on the effect that she seemed to have on this girl but at that very moment another worker deposited a tray in front of her containing more cheese and potatoes than Gwen had ever seen. Her tongue nearly lulled from her mouth and she grabbed her food, just managing a quick “Thanks again” before running out the door.

 

    She scarfed down the food and eased her rumbling stomach just long enough for a moment of clarity. She’d been hungry recently, yeah, but not more so than usual. This was something new.

    “Krystal.” Gwen snarled to herself as she started to realize just what the magician's parting gift had been. She took in a deep breath and forced herself to focus. She’d meet with Cade first. Once she was sure he was safe she’d figure out this new problem. She arrived at the dock and sent him a quick text letting him know she was there.

    The water began to bubble and churn as suddenly a titanic bronze submarine rose from the bay. The water around it was pushed aside and the smaller boats at the dock were jostled by the wave. Once it had fully surfaced a long golden walkway was extended toward Gwen and stopped just as it reached the edge of the dock. At the other end of the walkway a door opened up and Cade, otherwise know as Valiant city’s resident naval hero: The Commodore stepped out from the sub

    “Lance!” He yelped enthusiastically and jogged down the ramp to meet her and stopped just short of throwing his arms around her. “It’s so good to see you! How long has it been?” Gwen took a minute to respond. She’d been getting weird looks and cruel jokes about her weight since the incident with Augustus. Cade was the first one who didn’t even seem to notice.

    “Good to see you too Cade! If I recall it was last valentine's day when you showed up at my house with chocolates and a mariachi band.” She shuddered at the memory. “I’m afraid I’m here on business.” he waved a hand dismissively.

    “Of course, but after all this time what kind of host would I be if I didn’t entertain you. Come on.” he turned around and strode down the walkway again. Gwen was left rubbing the back of her head unsure what to do. Cade was an ex. One that she had no interest in getting back together with, but the Commodore had never seemed to figure that out. Not to give the wrong idea. Cade was a hero, and a gentleman to a fault, but much like the submarine he chose to live in, Gwen found him to be incredibly stuffy. She sighed and followed after him. He was harmless, and besides if he was “entertaining” that would mean food and despite her double order of fries Gwen was rapidly feeling the dull throbbing hunger easing its way back into the pit of her stomach.

 

    As they walked down a long hallway Cade spoke to her over his shoulder. “So to what do I owe the pleasure, Gwendolyn?”

    “I wanted to check up on you.” Gwen admitted. She’d been in the submarine before. She could tell that they were heading toward one of the dining rooms and based on the smells wafting through the air Cade had instructed the kitchen staff to prepare for her visit. “I have reason to believe someone’s targeting Valiant city’s heroes. He nodded thoughtfully but didn’t look back at her.

    “Augustus, right?” He asked. “He was the one that you had trouble with last week.” It was his first acknowledgment to her weight gain.

    “Yeah.” She managed a flat tone.

 

    “If I recall before that he tried to take over the city. I believe I was the one to handle him. Shot him down with one of the ship's surface to air torpedos. I imagine he’d be just as cross with me as he was with you.” Gwen nodded.

 

    “That’s what I was worried about anyway.” She admitted. “Notice anything weird?”

 

    “Nothing at all. Though I'm not sure I would notice if he was trying something. I never met the man in person.” The hallway opened up to a large dining room. At one end the table was a window which reached up to the ceiling and delivered a gorgeous undersea view of the outside of the ship. From here you could see all manner of animal and plant life that made their home in Valliant city’s bay area.

    Gwen barely noticed the view though as she was too distracted by the incredible assortment of food in front of her. There was a full rack of ribs, a spiral cut ham, dozens of varieties of fruit and vegetable and a bottle of wine likely more expensive than anything else on the table.

 

    “Cade, you didn’t need to go through the trouble.” there was more awe than conviction in her voice.

 

    “I know, but one must strive to be hospitable when meeting an old friend. Especially one who’s been through what you have.” He sat down and gestured for her to sit next to him. She obliged.

 

    “But I’m dieting.” she said weakly her eyes transfixed on the smorgasbord in front of her. He dismissed her with a wave of a hand.

 

    “Nonsense. Dig in. I’ve seen the power of your metabolism first hand, you’ll be back to your old self in no time. You deserve something nice after such an ordeal. Besides…” He paused for a moment as if a bit embarrassed by what he was about to say. “I wanted to make it clear to you that I’m not at all bothered by what’s happened. It’s no secret that I’ve always been fond of you. Our short time together was one of the most fulfilling chapters of my life. I don’t want you to think that some silly weight is enough to change the way that I--” he looked up and came to an abrupt stop in the middle of his monologue.

 

    Gwen had managed to hold back for some time, but once Cade had said “Dig in” she had obliged with enthusiasm. Driven by a hunger that resembled madness Gwen had set to work devouring everything set in front of her. The ham was gone in minutes and the ribs followed suit soon afterward. There had been all manner of seafood that Gwen had greedily inhaled and she hadn’t ignored the vegetables or fruit either. By the time Gwen felt whatever hex Krystal had put on her begin to fade the table was empty. She had eaten everything. Everything except of course the bottle of wine. After witnessing Gwen’s single woman war on every morsel of food on his table Cade had felt compelled to finish that off himself.

    They said their goodbyes and Lance even offered a hug after he led her back down the gangplank. This time Gwen seemed to be the more enthusiastic of the two.

 

    “You promise you’ll let me know if you suspect anything.”

 

    “Hmmm? Oh yeah. I’ll call you right away.”

 

    “Alright. Take care of yourself.” He waved as she jogged away and then slowly turned and sulked back into the sub with an expression that up until then Gwen had only seen on the face of combat veterans. It was the look of someone who had seen something that couldn’t easily be unseen. She winced making a mental note to find a way to get back at Krystal.

    One thing was for sure. She wouldn’t need to worry about the Commodore showing up unannounced next Valentine’s day.

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    Reynoldsville and Valiant city were connected by one long stretch of highway that wound through the mountains and across the desert. Under normal circumstances, the trip would have taken seconds, but at her reduced speed, Gwen found herself with several hours on her hands to reflect on the day's events. She wasn’t enjoying it.

 

    Her own humiliation aside, she’d lost a colleague and was no closer to unraveling whatever sort of scheme Augustus was up to. He was up to something. She was sure of that and she would figure out what even if she had to make this same run every day for the next month. She gritted her teeth and drummed her feet harder against the pavement.

 

    As she rounded a corner she could make out something in the distance ahead of her. It was an object that appeared to be floating several feet above the road. Her eyebrows leaped as she finally recognized it and skidded clumsily to a stop. Less than a meter in front of her and floating several feet off the ground was the BSD’s second highest ranked hero: Kaptain Kazap.

    “Afternoon Lance.” he said in an icy cold voice “I’ve heard you've had a busy day.” She scrambled to her feet with as much composure as she could manage. The Kaptain cut an imposing figure. Over six feet tall, well muscled and with eyes that burned with an eerie light whenever he used his powers. He had a myriad of powers including flight, superhuman strength and near invulnerability. Few heroes had even the faintest hope of dethroning Lancelot from her position as the world’s greatest hero, but even before her accident, Kaptain Kazap had come pretty close. He lowered himself to the ground and his eyes returned to their normal crystal blue.

 

    “This is about Krystal, isn’t it? Is this an official scolding?” She asked. She raised herself to her full height and met his gaze with unwavering defiance. The other hero nodded solemnly.

    “I asked to be the one to meet you. I thought you deserved a friendly face.” He smiled sheepishly and just like that all of her frustration flowed out of her like a deflating balloon.

    “Thanks, Kaz. I appreciate it. So what’s the damage?”

 

    “Significant actually. Krystal was pretty upset.” He rubbed the back of his head. “First, no more access to any BSD files on Augustus or any assignments based out of Valiant city.” She protested but he held up a hand. “Second, you’re barred from doing any hero work within the Valiant City limits.” She winced. Between the two of those, her investigation had been pretty thoroughly eviscerated.

 

    “You do know that Krystal Hexed me earlier, don’t you?” He nodded.

 

    “Which is why the BSD isn’t taking any more serious punitive action against you. She was out of line Lance. You’ve been through enough this past week.” She kicked at the dirt in front of her and shrugged. “I did bring you something though!” he spoke up and reached into a small pocket on his belt. He withdrew a silver watch with two pink faces.

 

    “My Communicator watch!” She yelped and grabbed it excitedly and slapped it on her wrist. “I thought I wasn’t allowed to have it back until I was out of identity protection.” He shrugged this time and a broad smile crossed his face.

 

    “I pulled some strings. Figured you could use a reminder of what kind of hero you are.” his face suddenly turned stony. “I know that you’re not going to stop looking into this, Lance, but you’re not at your best right now. Just promise that if you find anything you’ll give me a ring and we’ll tackle it together.” She nodded and rubbed a fist across her nose trying to maintain her composure.

    “Augustus is planning something, Kaz.” He nodded.

    “I believe you, but I’m not worried. He picked the wrong hero to mess with.” She smiled and hugged him. At first, he seemed surprised but then returned the hug. They broke the embrace. And he floated up into the air again. “Just keep that watch on. If I find out anything you’ll be the first to know.” She saluted and with a roar like a jet engine he took off toward Valiant City. A series of sonic booms popped behind him. She let out a sigh of envy and continued her long trip back to Reynoldsville.

    When she finally made it back to the hotel she collapsed on the bed and pulled off her mask. She pawed at her tummy trying to figure out if she could actually see how much of today's feast with the Commodore had already been added to her figure. No more BSD intelligence and no more trips to Valiant city made for a pretty serious roadblock. Maybe it was time for her to focus on getting back into shape.

    She grabbed Mark’s business card and dialed his number.

 

    “Hey, it’s Gwen.” She said cheerily to the voicemail. “Sorry to leave you hanging. Just wanted to let you know you could expect me to be in for my shift tomorrow.”

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  Working in the coffee shop wasn’t a hard job. In truth, Gwen barely found it stimulating, but the routine of work gave her a chance to take her mind off of her investigation. She’d even made some progress on her weight loss in that she’d only occasionally indulged in the sweets that the coffee shop kept so temptingly on display. In the past week she’d managed to lose three pounds. Granted she’d put on fifteen since her fight with Augustus, but at least now things were moving in the right direction.


    True to their word the BSD had cut her off from all information that wasn’t pertinent to her work in Reynoldsville and Gwen had been forced to admit a temporary defeat. The world of superpowered crime was just too big for one girl to monitor on her own. Without being able to follow up on any leads she was at a standstill and that frustrated her more than she’d care to admit.

 

    Mark was a big help to her in that regard. As a former hero himself, he understood her need to be in control. With his help she was starting to come to terms with things here and devote herself fully to getting back into shape. She’d be able to go full days feeling almost content before accidentally bumping something with her ass or catching a customer staring at her belly and suddenly that righteous fury would reach a boiling point again and she’d spend hours fuming and trying to think of some way to track down the Roman and make him pay for what he did to her. There was never a good answer though and eventually, her fury would settle down to a dull fuming.


    It was during one such fuming session (she’d been set off by spending two minutes looking for her pen only to find it lying on the counter just barely obscured by her bust line) when a familiar face walked into the otherwise empty coffee shop.


    “Pockets?” She asked as he approached the counter. He stared at her for half a second before jumping back in surprise.

 

    “You! You’re the blonde babe from the alley. The speedy one.” Gwen indicated for him to keep his voice down but couldn’t help cracking a smile. Secret identities, though extremely important to heroes, were incredibly impractical to keep. A few face to face conversations with another hero and you’d have trouble not recognizing them even out of costume.


    “That’s me! Still doing illegal hero work?”

 

    “You know me so well.” He leaned down on the counter. “I never figured you for the coffee shop type.” She waved him off.

 

    “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”

 

    “Likewise.” He replied with a crooked grin. “Any chance I could get a vanilla frap?” She nodded and started on his drink. She eyed him carefully trying to get a sense of the vigilante across the counter from her.
 

    “So--” She started casually. “I was wondering, the other night, how did you know to find me in that alleyway? Did you hack into the BSD servers or something?” He cocked an eyebrow and laughed.

 

    “You’re faith in my technological know-how is grossly misplaced.” He added a flourish by removing his hat and placing it on his chest. “Naw, I have my own information network.” She stopped and looked over at him.

 

    “Just local?” She asked carefully.

 

    “Hmmm? Yeah, mostly, though I’ve done some out of state jobs. It’s the best information ring in these United States if you ask me.” She was suddenly in front of him, The drink which moments ago she had barely started was now finished.

 

    “On the house.” She insisted as she shoved it into his hand. “Now tell me more about this network.” He seemed taken aback at her enthusiasm at first but soon regained his smile.

 

    “Truckers.” he said flatly.

 

    “I’m sorry?”

 

    “You heard me. Truckers. There are thousands of them. They crisscross this country on every major road and every major city. Back when I was driving we all talked via CB radio. Now, what with cell phones and the internet they’re more networked than ever.” Gwen's initial skepticism was starting to fade and was replaced with a manic embrace of the southerner's bizarre logic. “They see something weird, I get a ring and I jump into action. Most times I arrive before the police even know something’s wrong.” He smiled and she stared at him.

 

    “That’s perfect!” She exclaimed nearly leaping over the counter. “Let me grab you a booth I’ve got a proposition for you.”  

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  “So tell me if I’ve got this straight.” Mark had a smile at the edge of his lips as he locked the door to the coffee shop. “For the past month you've been patrolling with an unlisted hero who wears a cowboy hat and gets his intel from truckers?” Gwen laughed.

 

    “Well, when you put it like that it sounds crazy.” The shop had actually closed over an hour ago. Closing usually took fifteen minutes. When Gwen closed on her own she was out in two, but when her and Mark closed together things had a way of being dragged out. She didn't mind. Mark was the only person in town who knew her secret and as an ex-hero himself she could vent to him without fear of misunderstanding or judgment.

 

    “Oh right. I make it sound crazy.” Mark favored her with an exaggerated eye roll and they started walking down the street toward her hotel.

 

    “Can't argue with results. I've stopped more muggings this week than the entire LA police force sees in a month.”

 

    “Source?” he asked. She waved him off.

 

    “And it's not just small fish. I've tested him. His guys were able to find leads on four villains at large in three different states.” He gave her a side eye. “Which--” she held up her palms innocently. “I passed on to the BSD.” he favored her with an approving nod.

 

    “And your Roman friend? Any luck finding him?” Her grimace was answer enough. “Guess not.”

 

    “He's always been slippery. He'll pop up eventually.” her lip twitched but otherwise she kept her cool. “What about you? Any advice on how to handle a guy like Augustus?”

 

    “Oh, I've got some ideas.” He joked. “But it looks like this is your stop.” He pointed out the hotel as they approached. She shrugged.

 

    “Guess they'll have to wait until our next closing shift.”

 

    “Next Friday then?” He asked with just a trace of disappointment. “Or… if you value my advice that much we could keep walking until we get to that pizza place.” He indicated a pizza parlor a few blocks down. It was the same one Gwen had ordered from before.

 

    “Oh?” She teased. “You do know I wasn't always this fat. Don't think you can bribe me with pizza.”

    “Gwen!” He responded with mock horror. “You can bribe anyone with pizza.”


 

    +++


 

    They were sat in a booth which Gwen barely slid into. She made a show of perusing the menu in an attempt to hide the fact that she already had it memorized.

 

    “I hope you know that you're an enabler.” She chided. “I'll never be back to full speed if I keep eating at places like this.” Mark shrugged.

 

    “I don't know about that.” he said offhandedly without looking up from his own menu. She cocked an eyebrow at him and crossed her arms over her chest.

 

    “Oh really?” She tried to hide her real annoyance under a veneer of humor. Mark was sweet but he clearly didn't know what he was talking about. He looked up at her and smirked as he tried to read her facial expression. Finally, he shrugged and decided to push ahead.

 

    “I just think it might all be in your head. You always played fast and loose with the laws of physics before. Forgive the pun.”

 

    “No.” She chirped. She stared him down daring him to say more. Neither broke for a few tense moments until Mark finally sighed.

 

    “All I'm saying is you're a human being who can run faster than the speed of sound, can stop on a dime and all the while maintains perfect hair. Why should a little weight change anything?”

 

    “A little weight?!” She yelped and stood up from the table “this isn't exactly the freshman fifteen, Mark!” She shook her belly in his face as if to illustrate her point and only stopped when she noticed that the restaurant had suddenly gotten very quiet. Mark turned beet red and looked away and Gwen found herself vividly aware that the entire restaurant was staring at her. She sat down sheepishly and lowered her face toward Mark trying to make herself as small as possible.

 

    “I think I would you know anyway.” She scolded in a stage whisper.

 

    “I'm just suggesting this might all be psychosomatic.” His tone was much more even than his flushed cheeks would suggest. She might have protested but the timely arrival of their server mercifully offered an opportunity to change the subject.

 

    The rest of the meal was full of jokes at each other's expense and the two of them sharing stories about some of their more outlandish missions and Gwen going into excessive detail about how much she hated her suit. Mark seemed to be taking note of her every gripe: The fit, the color, the mask. Gwen was having too good a time to hold back for Mark's benefit and after almost an hour they had made their way through two large pizzas and a plate of wings. Gwen had easily taken the lion’s share of the food but unlike her lunch with the Commodore Mark didn't seem to mind.

 

    “By the way,” Gwen asked. She was finally getting brave enough to try serious conversion again. “Still have that advice on how to handle Augustus?” He looked surprised through a particularly big mouth full of pizza. He swallowed.

 

    “Yes, but you're not going to like it.” She gave him another warning stare as she opened her straw for her third refill of Doctor Pepper.

 

    “Go on.”

 

    “Okay.” He set down his pizza and held out his arms c add if delivering a sermon. “Don't go after him.”

 

    “Boo!” She yelled in disapproval and blew her straw wrapper at him. He flinched as it impacted against his nose.

 

    “I'm serious. He might not show up again at all. There have been no major attacks on Valiant city's heroes in months. Besides, what are you averaging now? 400 miles an hour? What are you going to do if he does show up? Run all the way over there and hope he’s performing the world's slowest crime?” She nodded through a sip of soda as if to say she understood his logic.

 

    “And what if I find him before he shows up again?” She pointed out as she broke contact with her straw. He held up his palms.

 

    “You said yourself that he's slippery. I doubt you'll find him before he wants to be found.” Gwen just smiled and leaned forward.

 

    “Not this time.” There was a look of sly certainty in her eyes. “He wiped Atomic Automaton’s memory, remember? I think he's vulnerable. I think he's got a secret. Something he doesn't want anyone to find out.” Mark didn't look convinced.

 

    “And that would be what?” Gwen was interrupted by the sound of her phone vibrating. She pulled it from her pocket and looked at the screen. Her smile widened.

 

    “I think I'm about to find out!”

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    Gwen hadn't been on a plane in years. By virtue of her powers, she hadn't often found herself in need of transportation. The last aircraft Gwen had been on had been a private jet owned by another hero. The seats had been significantly bigger and she had been significantly smaller.

 

    She’d have just as soon made the run to Valiant city but seeing as she had been barred from doing hero work there she figured it would be safer to enter less conspicuously. Besides, Pockets was coming with her and she doubted he'd enjoy being carried for nine hundred miles. He was in the seat next to her playing Tetris on a Gameboy.

 

    It had of course been him who’d texted her earlier that week while she was out with Mark. It had been a solid lead. Solid enough at least to get her to drop everything and fly out here. According to Pockets’s trucker network three of Agustus’s former goons had been stopping by a warehouse on Wednesday nights to protect a “special shipment”. Gwen knew from experience that the three of them didn’t have enough combined brain cells to pull a job on their own. Once they touched down it would be a simple matter of waiting for that shipment and tracing it back to its supplier.

    
The plan was simple at least. What was proving more difficult was enduring the agonizingly slow plane ride. Gwen had thought it was bad having to reduce her speed so much, now she had to travel while sitting down and constantly getting elbowed in the side by Pockets. It was too hot, she was uncomfortable and she was desperately eager to begin their investigation. When the plane finally did touch down it took all of her self-control to avoid running out the door at super speed. They picked up a rental car and headed for the warehouse district.

+++
 

    The stakeout proved just as frustrating as the plane ride. As a woman who could move faster than human thought, Lancelot was almost guaranteed to hate any activity that involved sitting and waiting. She did her best to distract herself with a big box of donuts she'd picked up from a gas station where they'd stopped to change.

 

    “Aren't you trying to lose weight?” Pockets inquired as he peered down at the truck lot through a telescope he'd pulled from his pocket.

 

    “I can worry about that after Augustus is captured.” She shot back between mouthfuls.  “See anything yet?” without looking up he pulled a pair of binoculars out of his coat and handed them to her. She smiled as she spotted three men in brightly colored costumes standing outside one of the buildings.

 

    These were B-class villains at best. Cold Snap, Mister Mirage, and Sergeant shillelagh. The Legionnaire had used them mostly for muscle while doing all the hard work himself. Still she wasn't sure how well she'd fare against the three of them at her reduced speed. A large expensive looking semi truck pulled up. They jumped up and took up defensive positions beside the vehicle. This must have been the special shipment.

“Think you can get the heat off of that truck while I get a closer look.”

“It would be my honor.” he jumped down from the hill they were snooping from and battle crawled around to the edge of the building. Once he was sure he hadn't been seen he removed his jacket and fluffed it in the air like a bed sheet. He pulled it away to reveal a huge suspended gong. He pulled a mallet from his sleeve and brought it against the gong with an incredible crash. The Villains responded immediately.

She couldn’t tell what they were saying from this distance, but Gwen watched as Cold snap pointed toward the source of the noise and apparently told the others to check it out as  Mister Mirage, and Sergeant shillelagh jogged around the building to investigate. Gwen smiled and leaped down the hill. In the past, she could have run down and taken a look at whatever was in the truck so quickly that none of the thugs would have noticed. This time she’d have to rely more on stealth.

 

    She took care to avoid Cold Snap’s line of sight as she slid around the edge of the truck. She slipped into the open door quickly enough to avoid suspicion but slowly enough to keep from making unnecessary noise. She turned to open one of the crates and was greeted by the grinning face of Mr. Mirage.

“Hey there, Sweet Cheeks!” He barked at her in a thick Boston accent. “Oh, ya thought I left with the other guy? Guess you’ve never heard of a Mir--” She clocked him across the chin before he could finish his stupid line. Cold snap threw the doors open. He’d evidently been alerted by his comrade's one-liner. Gwen could see Sergeant Shillelagh running toward the truck from around the edge of the building but he was suddenly pulled back when a bullwhip wrapped around his ankle.

 

    Gwen jumped just as he fired a blast of ice into the truck. She leaped over his head to safety and a woozy Mister Mirage was caught in the beam and stuck fast to a pile of crates. Gwen landed behind Cold Snap and kicked him in the back knocking him into the bed of the truck and closing the door.

She turned around to check on Pockets and then dove to the side, narrowly avoiding a wooden club that sailed over her head.

“Ay n’ begorrah!” yelled Sergeant Shillelagh. “Nearly took yer ‘ed off there, innit?” Pockets was staggering and rubbing his head through his hat seemed to indicated he’d taken a pretty good blow to the head himself. Sergeant Shillelagh turned around and smacked the lock on the back of the truck with an explosive-Shillelagh.
 

    Cold snap was inside frantically pulling on Mister Mirage’s arm in an attempt to free him from the crates. The wood gave before the ice did and both the villains and the contents of the container spilled out onto the truck bed. All three villains turned to fight and Gwen felt a smile cross her face as she raised her fists. It had been too long since she last fought someone with superpowers. She was more than ready. That was when she noticed the special cargo lying on the floor.

“Wait, timeout!” She exclaimed and made a “T” with her hands.

“Pardon?” Spat Sergeant Shillelagh.

“You can’t just call--” Cold Snap started, but Gwen was already behind him picking something up from the floor of the truck.

“What is this?” Gwen spat, thrusting it in Mister Mirage’s face.

“Uhhh. A duck?” He was right. The truck bed with flooded with tiny brown rubber ducks. “Whatever it is, we’ll be damned if we let you thieves take it.”
 

    “Thieves?” Pockets shouted. “Well don’t y’all recognize superheroes when you see them?” The three cons exchanged a knowing glance.

 

    “I see how it is.” Cold snap said. He approached Pockets and shoved a finger into his chest. “You two wannabees hear about our old wraps and decide to try to make a name for your selves taking us down. Well, the joke is on you, pal. We’ve gone respectable.” Gwen laughed.

“So you’re only here on Wednesdays for the special shipments and you expect us to believe that you’re… what? Working security?”

“Special shipments?” Mister Mirage asked sincerely. “We work Wednesdays because that’s the only time we’re scheduled for. Hard to get full-time work when you’ve got a super crime on your record.” Gwen felt herself blushing but tried to stay in control.

 

    “Got any proof of that.”
 

    “Work papers? Sure!” Cold snap pulled up a wallet and approached her with a card. He stopped a few feet in front of her and lifted his shutter shades. “Wait a minute… Lancelot?” There was a moment stunned silence and before anyone could say anything there was a gust of wind and both Gwen and Pockets were gone.

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    In the space of a blink Pockets found himself back in the rental car. Gwen appeared in the seat next to him, buckled her seatbelt and began driving. Her body language radiated annoyance. They drove in silence for a moment before he spoke up.

    “So… you’re Lancelot?” She didn’t respond. “Big fan.” She jerked the steering wheel and pulled over to the side of the road

 

    “Your lead was a bust.” she accused.

 

    “Please, they’re criminals. They could have been hiding something in the shipments.” She shook her head.

 

    “I checked. Just ducks all the way down. Just a routine shipment.” He cocked an eyebrow. Such feats were possible for Lancelot, but he’d never seen Gwen perform them.

    “I’m not so convinced. There’s something weird about that shipment. I’m sure it’s buried but there has to be a paper trail. We’ll get a hotel, stay in town a few days and--” She cut him off by raising a hand.

    “We can’t stay in town. I’m barred from doing hero work here. That’s why I’ve got to prove Augustus is up to something and clear my reputation.” He stared at her. She couldn’t place the look of indignation on his face.

 

    “So, what? So you can leave Nol’sville and move back here like nothing ever happened?”

    “That’s the plan.” He shot her an icy stare.

    “It didn’t occur to you that your work in our city was making a difference then, did it? Look we’ve been a long time without any help from the BSD. I tried to join myself once it got so bad. They wanted to move me to a city with ‘higher level of meta-crime’. Why do you think I’m working off the grid.”

    “I’ll recommend That Reynoldsville be assigned a full-time hero once we get this all straightened out. First, Agustus needs to pay.”

 

    “Because he killed your friend?” there was a moment of confusion before she realized he meant Brainchild. He smirked. “I didn’t think so. Now It’s been a few months but the last picture I saw of Lancelot she was around… 130 pounds in full armor give or take.” he rubbed his chin. “Either you’ve been enjoying southern cooking or this here figure of yours is the source of your bad blood with that Augustus fellow.” She stared him down. She wanted to tell him what a violation it had been to her body. How because of him she’d lost her powers, her job, and her city and how she was sure that he wouldn’t have done it to her if he hadn’t had some deeper motive but instead she started the car up again. “Where are we going?” Pockets asked.

 

    “Back home.” She huffed. “I’ve got a lot to tell you and a long car ride might be just what we need.”

 

    “Drop me off here.” He said opening the door. She reached over to slam it closed.

    “Don’t be stupid.”

 

    “There's something going on with that shipment, Gwen. Three goons don’t just show up in full costume to guard a truck.”

    “Being a thug is their only marketable skill, Pockets. Their paperwork was in order. If I had access to BSD intelligence I would have known that before we arrived.”

    “I’m staying” He insisted. If he was anything he was persistent. After a tense silence she finally pulled over again.

 

    “Fine, but Valliant city isn’t Reynoldsville. It’s big and the supers here are serious. Stick to investigating and keep a low profile.” her voice was harsh but denoted real concern. “Here.” She handed him the keys to the car. “I can run home.”

 

    “I’ll find him, Gwen.” he insisted. She snorted.

 

    “If I thought you’d find him I’d stick around, but I know when I’ve been a jerk. Just promise that you’ll come back once you’re satisfied and that you won’t get caught.” he saluted and she got out of the car. He drove off down the highway with her keeping step for a few miles before they went their separate ways.

    She ran toward the mountains, beating herself up for believing Pockets’s tip, For not verifying the former villain's employment beforehand and for allowing that Roman psychopath to do this to her in the first place. She was so focused on berating herself that she almost didn’t notice two shapes ahead of her in the distance. She stopped on a dime a few feet ahead of them and glowered.

    “Kaptain. Krystal.” She greeted them both.

 

    “Lance.” The captain intoned back. “I wish this was under better circumstances.” How could they have found her? She had been so careful to keep a low profile. Maybe Cold Snap had reported her after they left. He certainly wouldn’t have called the BSD if he had something to hide.

    “You do know you’re not supposed to be here.” Krystal chimed in. She had a look of malicious satisfaction on her face. “What are we going to do with you?” Krystal’s toying didn’t match the Kaptain’s style.

 

    “I expected better from you, Lance. This is about Augustus isn’t it?”

    “He’s still out there.” she growled. That was answer enough. The Kaptain sighed.

 

    “This is a huge breach of protocol but I had hoped it would get you to stop this foolishness. He reached behind him into the pocket behind his cape and pulled out a melted metal object. At first the damage was too significant for her to make out what it was but then her eyes widened.

 

    “Is that his helmet?” She demanded. Kazap nodded in turn.

    “We found it a few weeks back. Looked like there had been an explosion in one of his secret bases while he was working on some sort of weapon. He’s gone, Lance.” She paused briefly to consider.

 

    “Did you find a body?” Krystal threw her hands in the air in exasperation.

 

    “Oh my god!” She shrieked. “You’re hopeless.”

 

    “Lancelot, since I can’t be sure that you won’t defy your order again I am hereby placing you on suspension until such a time as you are once again fit for duty.” Gwen’s fist clenched and Krystal burst into rancorous laughter. “We’ll provide you with a plane ticket back to Reynoldsville but after that you are cut off from any benefits from the BSD. We’ll need that suit back as well.”

 

    Krystal had wanted to make Gwen change right there.

 

    “What if she tries something?” She had insisted. Her eyes had burned with a certain cruel flame at the thought of making the other heroine show of her ruined body.

 

    “She won’t try anything.” Kazap insisted in an icy tone and had allowed her the decency of a gas station bathroom. She came out with her clothes in a neat pile and handed them to him. As she did he began removing the communicator watch from her wrist.

 

    “Please.” her voice was a pleading whisper. “He could still be out there. You’ve fought him as often as I have, you know I’m right. I know I messed up, but if he comes back I need to know.” The Kaptain stared her down with that vacant alien expression. Finally, he re-clasped the watch to her wrist and gave her a quiet nod.


    They brought her back to the airport. The Kaptain and Gwen sat in silence but Krystal gloated and guffawed from the front seat. The plane ride that had seemed like torture this morning now seemed like first-class accommodations compared to her long quiet flight home. She stewed in her own regrets and frustrations. How on earth had they known she’d come back?

    When she arrived in Reynoldsville she took a cab back to her hotel. She walked down the hall to her room anxious for a warm bed to sleep in but when she tried her key card in the lock the door didn’t budge. It suddenly occurred to her how cut off she really was. Until she was back into fighting shape she was on her own and the BSD wouldn’t so much as lift a finger to help her. She weighed her options and found only two. One was sleeping under a bridge. The other was decidedly more humiliating.

    She chose the latter and left the hotel. She walked several blocks down the street and turned into a suburb. After an hour of so of wandering around in the dark she found the address she was looking for. She approached, curled her hand into a fist, summoned up all her courage and knocked on the door. Mark answered in pajama bottoms and a bathrobe. He seemed surprised to see her.

    “I’ve been kicked out of my hotel.” She started. She felt hot shame fill her cheeks. “Can I stay with you?”

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     Gwen tried to take in as much of Mark’s condo as she could from where she sat in the living room. There was a kitchen through one door (Mark had disappeared into it to make her some tea), there was a bathroom of course at the end of a hall and that hall was flanked by two other rooms. She could assume that one of them was Mark’s bedroom and the other might have been a guest room though she couldn’t be sure without getting up to check and she certainly wasn’t going to snoop around his house. Mark returned with a huge mug of black tea, which he handed to her and then sat down in a chair opposite from hers. 

     “So I take it Pocket’s lead didn’t pan out?”

   “Ugh, Don’t get me started. I got caught by two of Valiant city’s heroes on the way out of town. I’m on suspension. They even took my suit.” He smiled and tried to hide it by taking a sip of his tea. “What’s so funny?”

   “You always hated that suit.”

   “I hated that it was the only suit that I had to work in! Now I don’t have a suit to work in at all.”

     “Isn’t that the point?” He asked. She cocked her head appraisingly. Technically he was right though it wasn’t the most politic thing to say right now. “I’m just saying maybe you can use a rest, take some time off; Slow down, forgive the pun.”

   “No.” She chirped in response and took a sip of her tea. It was still too hot and she set it on the coffee table. “What made you quit?” She finally asked. She knew that it was an impertinent question especially considering the fact that he was giving her a place to stay but in the months that they’d know each other he’d never said. To her surprise he had to stifle a laugh.

     “Nothing as dramatic as you might think. Super crime is just too much. Everyone is ten steps ahead of each other and you end up second guessing everything you do. At some point it becomes more mind games than heroism and I just got tired of it.” He shrugged. “I didn’t have your stamina.” Gwen pursed her lips uncomfortable with how much his observation fit her current situation.

   Augustus was likely dead. The only definitive attack was linked to Brainchild who had no history with Augustus and was likely killed by a magical villain unrelated to him. Maybe all these years of trying to stay one step ahead and her recent embarrassment at Augustus's hands had made her paranoid.

   “Don’t suppose that one of those is a guest room?” She asked. He smiled apologetically.

     “Workshop. You can take my bed I’ll have the couch.” She protested.

   “No no! I’m putting you out. I couldn’t--”
 

     “Gwen.” he interrupted. “You won’t fit.” She turned and looked at the couch behind her and sure enough her ass was almost twice the size of each of the cushions. She flushed and picked up her mug again to hide her face.

   “You’re right. I’m sorry, that was stupid.” She wiped at her cheek with the back of her sleeve before realizing what a compromising gesture that was. She glanced up and caught the look of concern on Mark’s face and just like that Gwen’s resolve cracked. She’d been doomed the minute she’d doubted her suspicions about Augustus. Her composure and attitude had all been based around a seething furnace of hatred for the man and what he’d done to her. With that out of the way she was being faced with new emotions that she wasn’t entirely prepared for.
 

     She was fat now, and she’d been so focused on her plan for revenge that she hadn’t bothered losing any weight. If she didn’t have the motivation to do it before how could she be expected to now that everything she’d cared about was being taken from her? She felt her eyes begin to well up with tears as she realized that she was never going to be a superhero again and that she’d never get closure from the man that had done this to her.

   Mark rushed over as she began to sob and she covered her face with her sleeve.

   “Hey!” placed an arm around her shoulder and shushed her gently. “Come on. Let me show you where you’re going to be sleeping.” He led her by the arm to his bedroom and sat her down on the bed. “You’re going to be a hero again. Tomorrow we’ll make a plan, okay? And if you need me I’ll be right outside on the couch.” She pulled her arm away from her face and forced herself to meet his gaze. He was already leaving the room but his eyes lingered on her’s for a moment so brief that without her powers she’d have scarcely been able to measure it. It was infinitesimal but it was so plainly apparent to her that she couldn’t believe she hadn’t aquínoticed it earlier.

   “Mark?” She called after him, wincing at the quaver she heard in her own voice. He stopped and she mustered up her composure. “You don’t have to sleep on the couch. I wouldn’t mind having you here.” This time there was no quaver. Her voice had a fragility to it but that was eclipsed by a confidence so complete that it neared the point of certainly. She was a gymnast stepping out onto a tightrope fully aware that the fall would kill her but certain that she was skilled enough to cross unharmed.

   She met his eyes and he met hers and when she smiled at him it was gentle and shy but the glint in her eyes told him that she knew she’d won. He closed the door and joined her. The condo was a little colder than she would’ve liked, but as Mark’s hand ran over the hardened tips of her nipples, she decided she didn’t really mind.

 

She lifted his shirt off feeling the hardness of his chest and gasped as he returned the favor. Her own softness contrasted with his firm body. She stepped over her bra and pants, abandoned on the hardwood floor, and took his hand. She led him into his bed, glancing at him over her shoulder. His eyes, shining with anticipation, traced every curve in her back.

 

    She plopped down on the bed watching his hands carefully take in all of the curves and contours of her body. His explorations just as foreign to her as to him. New sensations spread across flesh that hadn’t been there the last time she’d been touched by a man. Up until now viewing her burgeoning body as an object of sexual pleasure had seemed absurd to the point of being offensive but now, under the influence of his frantic hands it seemed almost painfully apparent.

   Her breasts heaved with each breath and each squeeze caused her to draw those breaths more quickly. The flare of her hips accentuated and multiplied by her new girth, her thighs whose powerful muscles tensed with each shock of foreign and incomprehensible pleasure and the soft rolling mass of her tummy as he pressed against her. Each of these parts of her both concealing and somehow indicating her hot plump sex which suddenly and unexpectedly demanded whatever new sensations this body had to offer. 

     She closed her eyes and moaned gently as he took one of her nipples into his mouth. Her fingers ran through his hair. Her back arched and the back of her head hit the mattress. She bit her lip as he switched to the other nipple.

     He nipped and kissed at her soft flesh as his fingertips traced over her body. Lower… lower… She gasped, and her whole body responded to his stimulation. He pressed his face into her belly, his finger circling the sensitive bud. He lifted her leg… And in a brief diversion of clarity it occurred to her that he was enjoying this new body just as much as she was. 

      She glanced down at him, but her breasts and stomach obscured all but his dark hair from view. 

He peeked up at her over her mounds of flesh, smirking. She raised a brow, but before he could place the meaning of that glint in her eye he found himself lying on the bed with her ample thighs pressed against either side of his torso. She leaned over him and moved slowly. Her nipples were cold against his chest, beneath her he felt himself brush over the underside of her belly, and she rolled her hips feeling him press into her softness. 

      Gwen did it again, even more slowly stroking him with her chub. Any vulnerability from earlier was gone. Now she was the one in control.

     She sat up straight, hair tickling down her back, and lowered herself onto him. He lifted her belly and watched himself disappear inside her, then let it plop down on his chest.  Electricity spread through her body as he filled her. Literal sparks jumped from his fingertips. She tilted her head back and bounced on top of him. Her fingers ran through her hair, her hand gripped her left breast.

     He looked up at her, eyes burning with desire, she turned her face away and closed her eyes, heat building in her cheeks. He pushed himself up on his arm and touched her face. She peered at him through her bangs and he kissed her chin. He leaned against the headrest and grabbed her hips. She cried out, wrapping her arms around him, clutching him to her breast.

    They moved together and both of them found new heights of pleasure in her body. It ended with both of them sweating and exhausted and utterly alive. Lance looked down at herself  and raised one leg to spy at her toes behind the billowing mass of her chest and stomach. If she’d had trouble motivating herself to lose weight when it had merely been an inconvenience she would certainly have trouble now that she associated her fat body with these delicious new sensations.  She felt an odd mix of excitement and revulsion at the thought.

   She resolved not to think about it until the morning. She pulled herself close to Mark and went to sleep.