Welcome to the New Normal

Pulling Out The Stops

Denny takes a plunge

Thursday, 02 Dec 2027
Powers Analysis, Inc
Alamy Falls, CO
9:30 A.M.

Denny made one last check around her room at Power Analysis, not wanting to forget anything important for her 4-day trip with Drew. Not that you can’t conjure it up in case you do forget, but still¬ … She checked her watch and hissed at the time. She was running late. She zipped her duffle shut on her pad and clothes and checked herself in the mirror. Geek-themed tee and jeans, denim jacket over a hoodie and baseball cap. Nothing too fancy. She patted her pockets to check for the pad and pens she carried. Yup. Still there. Thus armed, she took the stairs down to the front lobby to wait for Drew to pick her up.

Drew pulled up to the front of the building in his little white Wave and walked up to the front door. It was nice, he thought, that Power Analysis had been willing to put Denny up when the monolith had destroyed her apartment. But looking around, he did admit to himself that there was no way he’d be able to live where he worked. Denny was made of tougher stuff than he was for sure.

He could see she only had a duffel, so no need to carry stuff for her. Drew waved through the glass doors as Denny came out. He was definitely a little nervous about the whole thing. If she freaked when she saw the one bed in the room….Well, then he’d be spending a lot of time by himself going forward.

“Hey,” Denny said as she breezed through the glass lobby doors. She smiled at Drew, thinking he looked a little nervous. So was she but she was determined not to show it. “Thanks for picking me up. Somehow, taking the bus or the monorail just seemed too… I don’t know.” She stopped in front of him and gave him a goofy grin to hide the sudden seizure seeing him inflicted on her. Something about his eyes … The way the morning light slanted across his face and lit the blue in them. Damned if she could put her finger on it, but it was something about him that derailed her every single time. She shook her head and got herself back on track. “Too pedestrian or something. This is supposed to be an adventure, yeah? None of the books I read as a kid had the hero starting out on the Number 2 Crosstown, you know?”

“Like I’m going to miss a chance for a long car ride together. All this world craziness can maybe get aside for a little while so we can talk comics on the way to a fun weekend together.” He smiled at her as they both climbed into the car to get the long trip started.

“You betcha,” Denny said and buckled up. She pulled her music player out of her pocket. “I brought tunes. You like Electric Edwardians? They’re old but they’re good.”

Drew nodded enthusiatically. “Oh, sure. I’m pretty eclectic. Just as long as it won’t put me to sleep in the car, it’s good by me.” He pressed the ignition button on the steering wheel and the car silently sprang into action. He pulled out of the parking lot, getting them onto the main highway out of Alamy Falls.

“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll make sure you stay awake.” Denny plugged in her player and gave Drew what she hoped was a playful leer. She didn’t quite dare put her hand on his thigh—in part because as nervous as he seemed to be she might make him crash the car. Instead, she engaged him in conversation as the Wave turned southeast to catch the best route to Taos. By the time Drew turned southwest again at La Junta, she had him deep in a discussion on the top ten best movie sequels of the past century. When they turned onto the interstate at Trinidad, the conversation had changed over to comics. They made good time passing through the mountains to Raton and their talk fell into pockets of silence as they took in the natural beauty of the heights.

Denny tried to memorize it all, devouring the trees and the sky, the rocks and the snow, even the air with her eyes. She got Drew to play one of her favorite mental background games of labeling the colors they saw. They devised silly names: Impossible Blue, Lost Horizon Grey, Roughshod Brown, Persevering Green, Barfitudinous Pink. They laughed and discarded one list after another and drove on.

The sun was sliding toward afternoon when they turned west into the mountains cutting Taos off from the grasslands. The view of Eagle’s Nest Lake was just too beautiful not to stop and stare. She leaned on the turn out railing and drank her fill of it and truth to tell, leaned into Drew a bit, too. And always they were talking, about anything and everything, without care for time or obligations beyond enjoying the sights and each other’s company. If they turned around at sunset for Alamy Falls, Denny would have called the trip a win. But they got back in the car and drove on for Taos and the con that awaited them there.

As they drew into Taos proper, a buzz started to grow in Denny’s stomach, not exactly unpleasant but not something she could completely ignore, either. She had plans for the weekend that had nothing to do with the con, per se, but nevertheless the con made what she’d planned possible. Before she knew it, Drew was hauling out from behind the wheel and checking them in. The internal buzz grew. This time it was genuine excitement at being at a con hotel, being surrounded by fellow geeks in costume, and getting immersed in the camaraderie of like-minded people. As Drew signed the paperwork, Denny breathed a laugh and shook her head as an improbably costumed con-goer walked by.

“Wow,” she said, meaning everything. “Just… wow.”

Alternate Realities had always been a big, crazy con and it seemed that the introduction of Powers into the world had only made the Taos-based conference bigger and crazier it seemed. Besides the people wearing costumes representing every geek genre, there were people wearing costumes from the various power groups, including a heavy Vanguard contingent, which Drew thought was pretty awesome. Alamy Falls, represent! “Pretty amazing, huh?” He grabbed their bags and headed for the elevators in the center of the hotel lobby. Big and glass, the elevator stretched all the way to the top of the hotel, and as Drew’s eyes followed it upwards, he could see geeks on every floor. I’m with my people.

“Amazing doesn’t even cover it.” Denny said, eyes wide, and hurried to catch up when she discovered Drew had moved for the elevators without her. As they waited for the elevator to arrive, she said, “Awesome and mindblowing and … Dammit, how’re gonna decide what to do first?”

It was a quandary. The Dealer’s Room beckoned with artwork and merchandise, glimpsed through the wide lobby doorway. The Panel Schedule at the front desk was equally tempting. And then there was the very real fact that she had a boyfriend and a whole weekend to spend with him …

“Let’s start with getting our stuff in our room,” Drew said, the smile hiding the nerves he was feeling. It was going to be awesome having a weekend along with Denny, but he could definitely feel the butterflies in his stomach. The elevator dinged and they walked into the glass elevator with their stuff. With a press of button 11, the elevator started soaring upward, giving them a wonderful view of a geek mecca beginning to unfold throughout the hotel.

“Oooh….,” Denny crooned and gave a little bounce on her toes. “I love elevators. I love flying. That drop your stomach does when you first start moving.” Charged by the atmosphere and the sense that anything was possible, she leaned into Drew and whispered in his ear. “You do that to me, you know.”

He nodded, loving the feeling of her body pressed up against his, not wanting to spoil the moment by saying the wrong thing. Then the elevator hit their floor, the door dinged as it opened, and the moment was gone. Drew grabbed the handle of both bags and rolled them into the hallway, moving left towards 1107. Which was around the corner from the elevator, about midway down the hall. He let them into their room, which was a spacious suite with a single king sized bed in the middle of the right wall. Drew lifted the bags onto the bed and then looked at Denny, expectantly. “What do you think?”

“Whoa. Big bed,” Denny breathed. Sliding a look at Drew, she smiled a little internal smile and cut loose with a whoop. Two steps running and she launched herself into the air and flopped onto that perfect pristine bed. She threw her arms wide and hugged the duvet and pressed her face into the fabric and breathed deep. “Mmmm. I love how they smell. Don’t you?” She looked up at Drew and grinned at him. “They smell like … possibilities. Like a new blank notebook waiting for you to draw in it.”

Drew breathed a big sigh of relief. He had been a little worried that Denny might freak out when she saw there was only one bed. She had taken it in stride though. She was awesome that way, he thought. He went and bounced on the bed beside her. “Yeah, that’s about right, like opening a book for the first time, not knowing what you’re going to get.” He leaned in a little closer and gave her a kiss, one that felt like it had all the promise in the world.

Oh, the possibility implied in that kiss. Denny opened herself to it and to Drew. This was what she’d wanted for weeks, had struggled with for even longer. Cassie had been right: Seize the day. Denny grabbed Drew with both hands and pulled him closer.

Drew kissed her again. And again. And again, until he felt like he was going to explode with happiness and excitement. He kissed down her neck and across her face, his hands rubbing her back through her shirt. His hands started to slip under the shirt, to lift it up over her. Then he stopped. It took all his willpower, but he stopped. She seemed as excited as he did, but he didn’t want this to go bad. “Are you sure, Denny? Last chance, I think, because if we go too much farther and have to stop, I may keel over from the intensity.” His voice was partially joking, but only partially. Denny made him feel like he had never really felt before.

Drew’s hands were warm and assured on her and his kisses felt incredible. Every nerve afire, she gave back as good as she got and Drew’s full stop left her head spinning.
What—? She took a deep breath to steady her insides and then his words sank in, melting her heart. Does he know just how much he makes me love him when he does that? She slid her hands through his hair and pulled him closer so she could whisper in his ear. “I’m sure.”

Their bags got kicked off the bed and pretty much everything they wore followed right after. Blinking up at the ceiling as they cooled down sometime later, Denny gave it a thoroughly pleased grin. It had been better than she’d thought it would be. Drew was a warm weight on her chest as she cradled him, idly running her fingers through his hair and stroking his brow. She didn’t think she’d ever get tired of doing that, of doing any of it. It just felt right, in a way that evaded description. Huh. You? Unable to describe anything? Good trick.

Denny watched Drew’s expression as they cuddled and was inwardly amused at what she saw: amazement, wonder, and contentment. It rather matched what she felt, actually, along with a certain amount of pride. Oh yeah. She gave as good as she got. If it were possible to do a little victory dance without getting up and jigging right there on the spot, she’d have done it. Denny chuckled and shook her head. Her smile would just have to do.

“Hey, there,” she breathed, stroking Drew’s hair from his incredible blue eyes. “Got any music going through your head right now?”

“The assorted hits of Frankie Holyshitwow and his 20 piece band. They’re playing something classical and majestic and soaring.” Drew looked her deep in the eyes. “I mean…damn, Denny. Did you suspect it’d be anything like this?”

“Nyet. Nein. Nosirree.” she said, shaking her head with glee. She kissed him exuberantly, letting it gentle as she finished by softly saying, “And thank you.”

Drew smiled and in the way he smiled, Denny could see the man he was and was going to be. “Thank you for being my first, Denny. Thank you for spending a weekend with me before the world comes to an end. Or at least before it goes veering off at a ninety degree angle.” He shifted his body a little, partially so he didn’t have quite have all his weight on her, but mostly so the wonderful feeling of her body on him wouldn’t get him revved up again. Not that he wouldn’t enjoy a round 2. Or a round 3 even. But he admitted to himself that right now, he just wanted to get lost in the moment with Denny.

You’re a hopeless romantic. And that was okay, he thought for the first time without the least bit of guilt or shame. Maybe even better than okay. Downright awesome.

When he looked at her that way, that special way that let her see everything he was and could be, Denny felt impossibly light and shining. Body? Brain? Didn’t need them. This was enough. Then he moved and the moment passed and she came back to herself again. “You’re welcome.” She gave him another kiss, slow and tender, and murmured, “Speaking of firsts … I have a surprise for you.”

“Good thing I’m in good shape. Too much surprise and I might end up with a heart attack.” In sharp contrast with the moment before, the boy in Drew rose to the top as he made a fake clutching motion at his chest to go along with a bad approximation of a choking sound. He grinned and kissed her on the cheek. “Sorry, can’t help myself. So hit me with the surprise. I can’t wait.”

If he’d taken a more serious tack, Denny privately thought she might have dithered over her decision. But trust Drew to keep it humorous and light—just what she needed.

“Okay,” she said and slipped from the glorious mess they’d made of the bed and bent over her bag. It took a minute to find what she wanted, the belt pouch she normally wore with her Artisan costume … the pouch she kept her origami in. She straightened and unzipped it as she turned around. “Here we go.”

Her fingers found her grey kitty of their own volition and with a practiced flick of her wrist, she summoned the cat midair as the origami sailed gracefully onto the bed.

Drew caught the kitten half by reflex, half by not wanting something with claws anywhere near his naked crotch. He stared it for a moment, a purring gray ball of fur in his hands. Then he turned and stared at Denny for a minute in astonishment. And then a huge smile broke across his face as he handed the kitten carefully to Denny. “Holy crap. I’m Artisan’s boyfriend.”

The two coolest things to ever happen in my life happened within 15 minutes of each other, Drew thought. Life was one hell of a ride.

And just like that, relief made Denny’s knees go to water. She sank onto the bed with Drew and stretched out beside him. She smiled shyly and said, “Thank you. You know what? I think I was more scared sharing this with you, than anything else we did here today.” She rubbed the purring kitty’s cheek and got an imperious head-butt in return. “It’s … well, it just feels so good to finally tell you. I never wanted to keep any secrets from you, Drew. But I didn’t want you to, well, think you had to do anything with me just because I’m Artisan, you know?”

“You don’t know how cool this is.” Drew rubbed Denny’s shoulder and ran his hand down her back slowly, loving the sensation of his fingertips against her smooth skin. He was beginning to think he might be ready for Round 2 again soon, if Denny (Artisan!!) was up for it.

Holy crap, he got to sleep with a member of the Vanguard! He didn’t feel like his excitement would ever temper down.

“You don’t understand how cool this is,” he repeated in amazement. “I’m freaking Lois Lane!”

That got a quizzical look from Denny. “Really? That’s funny, cuz I sure as hell don’t feel like Superman. Most days, I’m as effective as Jimmy Olsen in a firefight, whenever the Vanguard mixes it up with the bad guys.”

Drew shook his head. "But you have creativity and flexibility. That’s like having aces in the hole. Artisan out-thinks the villains.’ He leaned forward and gave her a long kiss. “Besides, I’d much rather be Artisan’s boyfriend than Superman’s.” Drew attempted to keep a straight face as he said it.

“Just remember to be Denny’s boyfriend, too, okay?” Damn, that kiss was nice but it couldn’t quell the doubt that popped up at the words Artisan’s boyfriend. “Artisan is what I do, but it’s not who I am. Not all of who I am.”

Drew nodded. “Give me five or ten minutes and I’ll work it out of my system. I wanted to go out with Denny. And that’s who I made love with a little while ago. If you gave up being Artisan, I’d hope you’d still want me, because I’d be impossible to get rid of.” He hugged her tight, feeling her breasts press up against him, which started the predictable reaction down below.

Great, first she thinks you’re using her for her powers and next, she’ll think you’re using her for sex. He didn’t really believe that inner monologue. Well, maybe only just a little bit. Drew felt so lucky that Denny wanted to be with him, but he knew that luck was a fragile thing. And he didn’t want what he and Denny had to be fragile. Not at all.

“That’s good, Mister,” Denny said, trying hard to be stern but failing utterly, her doubt laid to rest. The kitty purred from a safe spot on the bed as Denny pushed Drew back against the pillows and threw a leg over him.“I went across space and time to get you. I’m not about to let you go.”

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