Dementra, Warrior Queen of Galadron, sat on my couch, applying nail polish. “And then, the Lords of Chaos challenged me to a battle to the death for my crown. Can you believe that? Of course, I had no choice but to accept, and it was glorious. I strangled the lives from them with my bare hands. Just to make a point. Then I took my King to the bedchamber and made savage love under the waning light of the four moons.”
“I can totally see you doing that,” I said.
Dementra chuckled. “And what of your love life? Have you bedded any interesting consorts lately?”
I held up a pair of movies. “Steel Magnolias or Rhinestone?”
Dementra examined her painted nails. “Are the Steel Magnolias any relation to the Iron Rose Society?”
“Not at all.”
“Then it makes no difference to me.”
“You’re not really into the spirit of Dolly Parton night,” I said.
“I’ll admit it confuses me that you choose to honor someone with no martial prowess.”
“Stallone is in Rhinestone.”
“Ah, yes, the tragic warrior of Philadelphia who ended the Cold War with equal parts physical might and poetry. Let’s go with that then.”
“You do know Rocky isn’t real, right?” I asked.
“I’m not an idiot. He’s a mythic archetype, like Hercules or Calamity Jane.”
I didn’t correct her. Otherwise, we could be here all night. Dementra had acclimated to our culture. Meanwhile, the one time I’d gone to Galadron, I’d nearly started an intergalactic war by asking to excuse myself to use the bathroom.
Someone knocked on the door. I expected the pizza guy, but it was only Henry.
“Hello, ladies,” he said. “Sorry I’m late. But I brought beer and chocolate.”
The pizza guy arrived just behind him. While I was paying, Henry took a seat on the couch. “So what are we watching?”
“Rhinestone,” said Dementra. “It’s Dolly Parton night.”
Henry made a face. “I thought it’d be more action-y. Given that you’re not exactly the most girly pair I know.”
I dropped the pizza on the kitchen table. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Come on. You can’t be offended by that. Dementra here comes from a planet where everything is fighting everything else all the time. And you . . . I’ve never even see you in a dress. Some of us on the team thought you might be a lesbian. Not me. Your hair isn’t short enough.”
Henry might have been one of the good guys, but he was also a real jerk. His ability to see the future didn’t stop him from staying stupid shit because he didn’t care.
“What are you doing here, Henry?”
“Dementra invited me.”
“It’s Ladies’ Night,” I said.
“That’s a bit sexist, isn’t it?” he asked.
The main difference between superheroes and villains wasn’t respect for life or freedom or any such credo. It was self-control. Everyone was irritated now and then, but when you could lift a city block or shoot lasers from your eyes, you had to learn to keep your irritation in check. It wasn’t always easy. Doctor Explodium always claimed that it was someone trying to sneak eleven items in the Ten Items or Fewer line that had inspired his plans for world domination. There were times when I wanted to chuck that annoying person on their cell phone in the movie theater into the sun or to crush my neighbor’s dog for barking at three in the morning.
I opened the pizza box.
“I would’ve gone with 9 to 5, myself,” said Henry. “Now that’s classic Parton. Could you grab me a slice while you’re at it?”
I pondered the perks of supervillainy, and in the myriad possible futures from this moment, Henry must’ve spotted one that ended with me punching every thoughtless creep in a rampage of sweet, sweet vengeance, starting with him and ending with my passive aggressive mother.
“Never mind. I’ll get my own,” he said as he cleared a space on my sofa for me. “Sit. I’ll grab you a beer.”
Smiling, I sat and started the movie.