“Okay, what’s this one again?” asked Wisp.
Angus stroked his mustache. “That’s the Dangerous Double Daiquiri. It has orange juice, orange bitters, rum, and…” Wisp coughed hard. Her whole face tightened and turned red. ” and, as I was saying, a spot of Everclear. Sweet, but packs a punch.”
Tremor slid a glass of water across the bar to Wisp’s hand. Angus reflexively braced a few expensive bottles from shaking off their shelves. Tremor said, “Take it easy champ. You know there’ll be alcohol after your birthday, right?”
Paladin drank her ‘Triple D’ shot then pounded the glassware on the counter. “Ha! That does taste like getting punched in the mouth by Amy.”
Battlemaiden smirked, “When have you ever been punched by Amy Dangerous?”
Paladin held her hands defensively. She said, “It was an honest mistake. We were fighting Flex. I was caught up in their skin folds. Amy reeled back and didn’t know I was inside. She put both of us out cold.”
The girls laughed. Cafe Infinity was quiet. It’s booths were empty save for a few couples talking in soft voices. The lights of the city gleamed through the surrounding windows. A piano played lounge covers of pop songs.
Everyone wore a paper partyhat. Wisp adjusted her plastic tiara and read her sash again. It read, ‘OLD AS DIRT’. She said, “I still don’t think this is appropriate. I mean even if I were old wouldn’t it just be rude to other older people. I’m just gonna take it off.”
“You can’t!” said Paladin while taking two more shots from Angus. “It’s a Girl Pals Gang tradition.”
Battlemaiden nodded, “It’s true. They even make me wear it.”
Tremor leaned in and asked, “Wait, hold the phone. We actually know when your birthday is?”
Paladin shook her head, “Nah, we just guessed and picked a date. Till she tells us her actual birthday, we will continue to throw her a party every August 11th.”
Wisp looked confused. “Why August 11th?”
Battlemaiden shook her head, “Because they want an excuse to drink and there aren’t any other drinking holidays near it. This last year I wasn’t even in town.”
Tremor pushed in front of Wisp. She asked, “Hey, where have you been? It seems like I never see you.”
Paladin downed a shot and answered for Battlemaiden, “It’s a big damn secret.”
Battlemaiden put a hand on Paladin’s back. She said, “I’m not trying to be rude. After the Artificial Insurrection, there were some… loose threads that needed attention. Only a couple more to tie up before I’m back on a regular beat.”
Paladin eyed her, “Can you at least give us a hint about where you go?”
The tattooed woman shook her head. She waved Angus over. She asked for a glass of water with no ice. She sipped at the water, savoring it.
Wisp felt so rude. She never asked if Battlemaiden wanted anything. She was a legend, the girl thought. How could I have forgot. The birthday girl smacked her forehead dramatically and asked, “I’m so sorry Battlemaiden, did you want a drink?”
The woman answered, “No thank you. I don’t drink.”
“Oh?” Wisp asked, “Is that… uh… a religious thing or?”
“Nah, I just don’t like how it tastes,” answered Maiden.
Tremor gave Wisp a side-eye. She leaned in close and cupped her hand to the teen’s ear and said, “Plus the last time she drank she got into a fight with Ronny Rage. She started puking all over his muscle car in the middle of the battle.”
“Tequila makes me sick, okay?” Maiden said. “To be clear, I was aiming for his air intake.”
Angus slid a glass of water across the bar. He asked Wisp, “Would you care for another specialty shot?”
“Who haven’t I tried yet?”
The man rolled the end of his mustache between his fingers and thought. Clicking his tongue, he ducked under the counter to retrieve a few different bottles. He mixed silver, white, clear, and glittery alcohols together and then passed her the glass. “Try a Moonglow. People don’t ask for it as much as they used to but it’s an excellent drink. It’s like a White Russian but sweeter.”
Wisp slurped it down. “That is good. What is the glittery alcohol?”
The bartender began to answer but was cut off by a pair of cackles at the front door. Everyone in the cafe flinched. Bison and Echo entered together. They swayed uneasily using one another as support. Both carried half-empty liquor bottles. A light flashed and Angus was at their side. He helped them waddle to the bar while discreetly taking their bottles.
Bison clapped Wisp on the back and said, “Sorry we’re late. We went to the wrong bar.”
“What?” Wisp said. “How many other superhero bars on the roofs of skyscrapers are there in New Amsterdam?”
Echo held up a finger as if to say something but bleched instead. Bison laughed but answered Wisp, “We went to the Infinity Lounge by accident. They have an infinity pool and the booths have mirrors all the way around them so you think you can see forever. Oh, and for the record, we realized we were at the wrong place but then we found Jon Morris having dinner with his husband. We made him show us mirror spells in the booth… then we pre-gamed a little too much. Scoot over Tremor.”
The young woman looked from Bison to Wisp but finally relinquished and moved over. Then Echo tried to push Tremor out of her stool to sit next to Bison. She moved a second time.
Angus shook his head. He was muttering under his breath, “That Infinity Lounge is a travesty. They keep wrecking my Yelp reviews.”
Echo laughed and slapped the bar top. She said, “Bartender!” Angus turned to her. He was cringing. “Couple of shots me and my friend.” She slipped off her stool. Bison caught her and the two fell over each other laughing again. Angus narrowed his eyes and placed two glasses of ice water on the counter. Echo stood up. She held onto the counter to stabilize herself. She took a sip of the water and then said, “Ha-ha, but really. Two shots. The Ichivals have Absinthe in them, right? We’ll take those.”
Bison gave her a shove, “Gross, I’ll pass. Give me a double Guardian Garth.”
Angus shook his head, “Maybe you two should try a water first. Pace yourselves.”
Bison snarled, “I think I know when I’ve had enough.”
Wisp put a hand on the big hero’s shoulder. She said, “Come on, let’s take it easy. Angus is just trying to help keep you from getting a hangover.”
Bison brushed her away. “I can take care of myself. Give me a damn drink.”
Angus said, “No.”
Bison reached across the bar and grabbed a whiskey bottle. In the blink of an eye, her arm was behind her head. Angus took the bottle from her and handed it to Wisp. Bison tried to hurl the man over her head but he disappeared and reappeared behind the counter. He wiggled a finger at her and said, “No fighting inside. One more outburst and I’m calling Bouncer.” A red rubber man at the door was watching intently.
Bison opened her mouth but she stopped. Dark streaks ran down Wisp’s cheeks. Wisp didn’t try to hide her tears. She hoped Bison would see them, to see her. She didn’t want to hurt her partner but she wanted to be seen. Bison stood up, “Maybe I should just go. I ruin everything.”
Wisp said, “No, stay, please. We want you here. I want you here.”
Bison moved toward the door. “You’re just being nice. I know I’m just bringing everyone down. I’m worthless.”
“No,” Wisp said. She jumped up from her seat to catch up to Bison. “We were all waiting on you gals before we went out. We wanted to make you a part of my party. We just… worry that you are overdoing it. We want you here.” Sparks danced at the corners of her eyes and at the tips of her fingers.
The wrestler looked at Tremor, Paladin, and Battlemaiden. Echo stood up and took her hand. Bison said, “I’m sorry but-” A rumble shook the Infinity Cafe. Outside the front doors, a mass of arms, legs, claws, and tentacles lurched across the front garden. Beelzebub roared making the glassware chime. Bison sighed, “Welp, you lot better get out there and kick his ass. I’d just screw it up.”
Wisp slapped her across the face. Faint waves of heat and light radiated off her. She pushed a shining burning finger into the big woman’s chest. “Listen here. This is my birthday.” She pointed with her other hand to the tiara. “There is no one else I would want to fight a gross man-bug-monster with me. Sure, sometimes you overdo it. Sometimes you’re reckless. Oh, and sometimes you make me furious by treating me like a little kid, but you’re my partner. Citadel Command may have put us together but I wouldn’t want anyone else. So, are you with me?” She wiped a couple of loose tears running down Bison’s mask away. Beelzebub snarled outside.
Bison nodded. “I’m with you.”
Wisp said, “Alright, let’s go kick that body horror’s backside.” Tremor, Paladin, Battlemaiden, and Echo clapped from the bar. They shouted encouraging words and held their glasses up in a toast. “Aren’t all of you coming?” Wisp asked.
Battlemaiden said, “You two got this. Tag us in if you can’t handle him.”
The pair fist bumped and ran to the front garden. Beelzebub attacked the pair with a salvo of appendages. Mouths bit at them and hissed as they missed. Wisp released a column of white-hot energy into a set of eyes on his flank. The creature retracted in pain as Bison let loose a punch. The shockwave made him double over into a withering blob. Bison and Wisp watched the creature closely. It gurgled something. They walked closer to listen. A pair of tentacles erupted from the ground behind them. Wisp tried to ignite her powers but blacked out. Bison shrieked. Fur grew all over her body as her muscles rippled. The tentacle holding her snapped. She leapt into the air and brought both fists down on Beelzebub’s main head. The creature flattened out and dropped Wisp.
Bison grabbed the flaccid tentacle and spun the creature in a circle above her head. Bison said, “Hey, Wisp, blow out your candles,” and threw the creature into the air. Wisp hurled a column of blinding power that rocketed the monster out of sight over the ocean. The bar crowd cheered.
Wisp said, “Blow your candles out?”
Bison laughed and gave her a bear hug, “It was the best I could up with.”
They both chuckled. Returning inside, Angus greeted them with a pair of glasses, “Cheers, you two deserve it.” One shot was tall, thin, and bright yellow while the other was short, stout, and blue. “It’s your shots.”
Wisp took hers and asked, “What is it?”
The bartender said, “Lemon, ginger and bourbon.”
“It’s perfect!” Wisp said taking a sip.
Bison held up a hand, “Thanks, but, maybe I’ll have that water first.”
Angus nodded. Wisp took the shot from him and threw it back. “Mmm, tequila and blue soda. It’s a little rough.” She winked at Bison, “But I like it.”
Angus gave a little bow and flashed back behind the bar. Tremor, Paladin, and Battlemaiden clapped them across their backs. “You gals were awesome,” said Tremor.
Bison looked around, “Where’s-“
Echo walked out of the bathroom. She looked surprised, “Did I miss the whole thing? I needed to throw up.”
Battlemaiden said, “Don’t worry, I videoed the whole thing.” She held up an older model of flip camera phone. The party gathered around her screen. Wisp watched everyone’s face as they watched the replay. She put an arm around Bison. Feeling Echo’s arm, she adjusted a little higher. She smiled.