Promising your ex to murder your daughter’s tormentor must be a great way to fix up a relationship, because five minutes later, we were sitting on the same couch (though we did keep a certain distance) and chatting.
She was avoiding the question I knew she wanted to ask, perhaps even more than the question for me to kill someone. I wasn’t sure I could have answered her, anyway. It wouldn’t have been fair.
“So, you and Phil? How did that happen?” I asked, maybe a bit too curious. He wasn’t anything like the kind of guy I’d have thought she’d ever fall for.
She looked down at her feet (wearing plush pink slippers that looked like cats – something told me Charity had chosen them), half sad and half smiling.
“Uh, well, after… after you left, and after Henny was born, I kind of lost interest in… in bad boys. And the life, as a whole. I just wanted something stable, for myself, but even more for Henny,” she half-whispered.
Punch. Gut. Hurts. Deserve it.
“I’m glad you found him. That you found what you looked for, without me,” I said with total (fake) honesty. My dad was an asshole, but at least his lessons in proper lying turned out useful. “You deserve this and more.” That, at least, was no lie.
She looked up with slightly wet eyes, nodding. “Thank you, for… for understanding it.”
I snorted. “You talk as if I had cause to hold it against you. I screwed up, not you, so don’t you think you need to thank me for anything,”
Suddenly, I clapped my hands, loudly. She jumped in her seat.
Then she looked at me, and giggled. “Oh God, you still do that?” she asked in between trying to take a breath.
“Some things never change. And it got me a smile and a giggle,” I replied, winking. “Now, I’d like to talk to Hennessy before I go. Do you know how long she’ll sleep?”
Tamara shrugged, looking so helpless I wanted to hug her. I didn’t. I didn’t have that right anymore.
“I… I don’t know. She’s only lost control a few times like that. Once, it only took three hours for her to wake up. Another time, nearly a week.”
Reaching out, I took her hand, holding it with a light grip. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have just turned up like that.”
“No, no, you couldn’t have known. I just… I wish you’d shown up earlier. The day after you left, with that surprise you promised me,” she said, half-choked.
“Do… do you want to know? What I wanted to do?” Please say no.
She shook her head. “I… I think it would be better if I didn’t… didn’t know. For now. Maybe… maybe once I’ve worked this out.”
Same for me, I think.
“Tamara… I’m sorry. I just need to say it again. I’m sorry I wasn’t here, and I… I hope to make it up to you. And I don’t mean killing that piece of scat.”
She looked choked, then insecure, then… I couldn’t tell.
“Don’t. Don’t make it up to me, you didn’t wrong me,” she said. Her eyes were wet again. “It was Hennessy who suffered. Even before… even before he took her. She always yearned to know her father, but I couldn’t even tell her your name. She didn’t know whether to hate you for leaving, or to long to see you again, and it’s torn her up inside.”
That… hurt worse than getting pounded by Desolation-in-Light. Way worse.
“I will do whatever I have to to make amends. I swear it,” I said, as fervently as I could.
“Do so. It won’t be easy. She hates you… and she loves you. Even if she doesn’t know you at all.”
Suddenly, she gripped my hand like a steel vise, and her eyes transfixed me, as if she was looking right down into my soul. Hopefully not. She’s never seen the monkey.
“You won’t disappear again, understand?” Her voice was steel and her nails were digging into my arm, cutting into the fabric of my suit. “If you vanish again, I’ll come after you, and I‘ll kill you. got it? You will not abandon your daughter, is that clear?”
She’s never looked so beautiful. “Crystal. I’m here to stay.” There was nothing else to say.
As if on cue, Dearheart – Camille Schmitz, as I’d learned earlier – came down the stairs, dressed in sweatpants and a shirt. “Henny has woken up.”
* * *
Hennessy was lying on her bed, dressed in a pink silken pajama covered in hopping bunnies. Something told me that the princess ruled this house.
She looked at us, her purple eyes tired, but awake. She looked at me, paused… and looked away and at her mother.
Of course. I’m still the badguy.
“Oh Henny!” Tamara knelt down next to her daughter’s bed and took her hand in both of her own, squeezing it hard.
I expected them to talk, but they didn’t. Instead, they just looked each other in the eyes, and seemed to be communicating that way.
Leaning over to Camille, I asked: “How… how does her power mess up her speech?”
She gave me a scorching gaze that, by all means, should leave only a blast shadow of me on the wall, but answered, “She can’t speak. She can’t read or write, and she has no unconscious body language. She has trouble understanding body language, and she needs to really, really strain herself to understand spoken language.”
I’m almost tempted to ask dad for help with the Ascendant. Almost.
“So we can only really communicate through mental contact?”
This is going to be bad. Real bad. Fucking monkey.
“Right. I so look forward to having her brainblast you to next month.”
I didn’t reply.
A minute or so later, Tamara rose from her position and came over to us.
“She’ll speak to you – alone,” she said, looking years younger, now that her daughter was well again. Or as well as she could be. “Camille, come on, let’s leave them.”
Camille looked ready to object, but then she turned to face Hennessy… and walked out with another word, closely followed by Tamara.
Leaving me alone with my daughter.
We looked each other in the eyes, and I could feel her power reach into my mind, slipping right past the monkey. If I was right about my suspicions, this was not a quirk of her power, but due to the… contact we’d made all those years past. Somehow, the monkey didn’t really recognize her power as foreign, and thus did not defend against it all that well.
Also, if what I’d learned so far was right, then even this power, elementary though it was, drained her already limited reserves. Even her sole, reliable means of both interpreting others and expressing herself were limited.
Least I could do was make it easy for her, so I suppressed the monkey as far as I could, and opened myself up as far as I could.
Yeah, I wasn’t really good at either.
“Hennessy, may I come closer to you?” I said, speaking loudly and clearly, even though I felt like whispering.
It visibly took her a second or two to understand the sentence, then she answered.
Whoa, I thought, but then I tried to answer in kind as I approached. Gratitude. It wasn’t pure, I could tell, not as simple as hers – there was also relief, and hesitation, and a host of other emotions mixed in.
But she nodded, so she’d gotten the message. Probably had learned to seperate the important parts from the chaos of human emotions.
I knelt down in front of her. That was a gesture she should be able to easily interpret, regardless of all issues. I didn’t touch her though, didn’t take her hands into mine, even if I ached to get closer to her.
To tell her that everything would be alright. That I was sorry. So incredibly, incredibly sorry.
She laid her head to the side, as if looking at something strange, unfamiliar. I couldn’t read her, at all. Her face was calm, solemn, emotionless.
All the markers, all the usual hints we humans used to understand each other, even if it was subconscious… they weren’t there.
She smells good, at least. Like flowers, though I’ll be damned if I could tell which ones.
And I was getting sidetracked at least. A lifetime of not taking things too serious, catching up now.
Soft, smooth fingertips touched my cheek. Warm, they were so incredibly warm.
I looked up again, not having noticed how I’d been looking at the ground. She was as solemn as ever, but her eyes were pained, though I couldn’t tell by what.
Clarity. Sadness, Emptiness.
“I’m so sorry, Hennessy. I should have been here, with you.” I always promised myself I’d be a better father than my own had been.
Her eyes half-closed, and she raised my chin.
It wasn’t enough. My remorse, it wasn’t enough for her.
“What can I do? Tell me, I’ll do it!”
“About what? Clarity about what?” I focused on the confusion, trying to get it through to her.
Clarity. Sadness. Pain. Loneliness. Anger, rage, hatred.
She was all but pounding my head, trying to get through my thick skull.
She wants me to feel all that she felt.
“Do it. Show me.” Acceptance. Gratitude.
She reached out with her hands, cupping my face. Leaning forward, she pressed her lips to my forehead.
Any other moment, I would have loved it, but she didn’t let me enjoy it even for a second.
Instead, once again, she let the world break.
* * *
I was drawn into a maelstrom of emotions and memories, drowned in it.
A memory, her mother putting her to bed in that dingy old apartment of hers. She was barely five, and a happy child, though she always got sad when her mother cried.
And her mother cried a lot, but never in front of her. She put her to bed, then she went into the living room – the apartment only had a bedroom and a living room – turned on the TV so Hennessy wouldn’t be able to hear (but she still did) and just cried.
The other children always made fun of her, because her clothes were old and she had no daddy. At the school, on the playground, most of them were so mean, and she couldn’t really get why.
I saw the garden again, limbs and bodies and more still, but less than before, pieces burning away as she used her power to show me.
Age nine, close to christmas. Her mother had lost another job. They barely had enough money to eat, no money to keep the heating up. They’d huddled together under all of their blankets for the night, and her mother was reading her a book.
It was too cold for her mother to go cry in the living room at night. She wouldn’t let her daughter freeze. So she waited until she thought her asleep, and cried then. Not as often as earlier, when she’d been younger, but she still did it every now and then. Santa Clause wasn’t coming this year. Again.
Her twelveth birthday and mommy was taking her and Marge to the movies! Tickets had become really cheap, because of Screensaver, who was now her super-favourite hero, even if he couldn’t fly! She could finally go to the movies with her pocket money, not just when a friend took her on a birthday or something!
The movie had barely started when she suddenly started getting drowsy, dizzy. It wasn’t boring, so why was she falling asleep? She turned her head to look at her mother, to ask what was wrong with her, but that movement was enough to make her fall off her seat.
The world got blurry as she saw her mother slide down onto the floor, trying to pull her into an embrace. She could taste the buttery popcorn they had bought on her tongue, but also something bitter.
Hands in black gloves grabbed her mother, pulling her away. Other hands in black gloves, strong and ungentle, grabbed her, lifting her like a wet sack. She saw men in black costumes, with angel’s faces on their masks, grabbing Marge and other children. Her whole body was so numb, so weak, she couldn’t even try to push the bad man with the angel face away.
The man stepped over her prone mother, but she tried to grab him, even though she looked so weak. He kicked her in the face, and the last thing Hennessy saw before she blacked out was blood gushing from her mother’s shattered nose.
She woke up again to see the man who’d taken her, who’d kicked her mother, take his helmet off as she lay on a cold table. Another man in a priest’s robe with a white angelmask walked into her field of vision, holding a syringe.
Her tongue was still numb, her whole body was, and she could only watch as he moved the syringe towards her right eye… she couldn’t even move her eye around, she felt so heavy. And then the needle went into her eye, there was pain and then pure bliss…
* * *
My eyes flew open after what felt like hours and hours and days of torture that made my last eighteen years seem like a holiday vacation.
Even if it hadn’t been my daughter who went through it, it would be crushing. But it was her, and I felt like exploding, going on a rampage, killing and killing everyone even tangentially responsible.
I looked up at her from the ground. She was so beautiful. So solemn. A serene judge (in pink bunny pajamas), sitting on the edge of her bed, looking down on me with those purple eyes. My eyes. Exactly mine.
She went through it with me. Crazy girl, you shouldn’t have.
I threw myself at her, wrapping my arms around her waist. She didn’t flinch, probably saw it coming, or maybe her body really was that devoid of unconscious reaction.
“Oh Hennessy, I…” I choked, unable to form words, but she could probably feel what I was feeling, right now.
I don’t know how long I cried into her lap like a baby, but I finally regained my composure and pulled back, looking up at her empty face.
There were no tears in her eyes. But the emotions she was projecting… so much pain, so much hatred. Not just in regards to me but…
She suffered so much, and I became the target of all her hatred and frustration, I realized. Every time she was hurt, every time her mother was hurt… I was the only one she could really blame for it all.
And she was right to, as far as I was concerned.
I opened my mouth to say something, but she put a finger on my lips.
Refusal. Betrayal. Pain. Rejection.
Understanding, I took her hand with my own. It was so slender, so warm… so soft. Not like my hands.
Before she could react, I kissed the palm of her hand, then its back. Then I rose up, bowing.
“I’m here to stay, Hennessy,” Reassurance, Sincerity, “If you want anything… need anything, no matter what, just call this number,” I wrote it down on a post-it note, folding the paper so the sticky side was covered up, and put it into her hand, “Or just come to four-one Merlin street. The house with the red door.” I’d checked by phone, my old place still stood, and it was still mine. Something to thank Dad for, probably.
She didn’t respond, didn’t give any response, but she didn’t discard the paper, either.
I left her room.
* * *
Camille, Tamara, Phil and Charity were all waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs.
Camille looked like she was just waiting for an excuse to tear me to shreds (I was sure she was sincere), Phil looked sympathetic (the guy was way too nice), Tamara looked hopeful for a moment – until she saw my facial expression – and Charity looked confused at the whole scene.
“I’ll be going now,” I said to Tamara. Then I turned to Phil, saying, “Thank you for being so… nice about this. I probably would have reacted worse in your place.” He just shrugged.
I knelt in front of the little princess. “I’m sorry for scaring you, my dear. Please, don’t be angry at or afraid of your sister. She deserves neither.”
Nodding at Camille as I rose (she didn’t nod back and kept staring daggers) I opened the door. Then I turned around just in time for Tamara to hug me as hard as she could.
Old memories reared up, of tender nights and- No, that way lies madness.
For just a moment, I rested my chin on top of her head (being six foot ten made that easy), hugged her back, and then I left without a word.
That part of my life was over. Of our life. I knew I had no chance to ever get back with her again the moment she asked me to commit murder, no matter how justified it might be.
And Hennessy was unlikely to ever forgive me, regardless of what I did.
I got into the car and drove away.
* * *
I drove to Cartastrophy’s workshop over near the industrial district (well, what little of that remained). It was just as well-hidden as ever, basically an oversized garage-slash-basement-lair underneath (fittingly, or perhaps ironically) a car repair shop operated by his sister and her boyfriend.
Husband, actually. They’d actually gotten married, she told me after a series of hugs and kisses (she’d first gone after me, but I’d never shown any more than polite interest, and she’d only later fallen for Warren’s older brother). And they’d had six children (which showed, if barely, on her hips and chest), one of which was a Gadgeteer like his uncle and had joined the Junior Heroes, while one of their daughters had turned into a flying brick and was working for the Matriarch now (of course, she was still around. She’d been one of the first supervillains, back in the day, and she’d probably be around long after I bit the dust), which made family gatherings awkward, even if her hero brother didn’t know about it…
And she kept on chattering until we reached the secret entrance to Warren’s underground workshop, where she just let me enter and went back up.
“Aap? Is that you, buddy?!” shouted a high, agitated voice from a mound of half-assembled car parts.
“Who else could it be?” I asked jokingly, buffing my suit (Vek had fixed it after the fight – that woman’s power was way useful for this kind of lifestyle).
He leapt out of the pile of scrap and tackled me into a hug – ruining my suit, because he was, as always, covered in grease – though I barely moved. Even if I didn’t have the monkey’s passive enhancements, Warren barely cracked five feet, was underweight even for his height and had even lost what little hair he’d had back in the day (curse of genetics – his whole family had to deal with early loss of hair). Dressed in a dirty white undershirt and greasy overalls of indeterminate original colour, he was the very image of the underground, low-level techno-villain.
I hugged the little man right back, laughing. “God above, how I missed you! How’s it going, Cartastrophy?”
He chuckled, pulling back to look up (and up, and up), “Awesome! I got nephews and nieces crawling up my butt, I got a few patents going through my nephew over at the Juniors and I won the lottery a few years back, so I’m set for life!”
Chuckling, I patted his back as he took me towards the living area of his workshop. Which was also his home, all in all. He rarely left.
Then I saw the poster over his workbench, and froze.
“… and little Quentin is al- Aap? What’s going on, budd- oh, you’ve seen it? Hot, eh? Cost me a mint to get it.”
He had a life-sized, full-colour poster of Chayot and Dearheart on his wall. The background looked like a blasted battlefield, the two of them were barely decent, their costumes torn, and they were wrapped around each other, kissing passionately. And not in the “we’re really good friends” way, more like “we’re way past the fourth date and home base” way.
“Guy who managed to get the shot was auctioning it. Cost me ten grand to get it, and I was lucky,” he explained with utter pride. “Keeps me warm at night, you know. I mean, I know they’re underage, but they’ve got to be the second and third-hottest girls in the state, and Chayot could probably tie with number one if she wasn’t always dressed like that.”
He pointed at another poster next to it. It showed a stunning young woman – a girl, really, probably around Hennessy’s age – with long, lustrous white hair, purple eyes and full, pouty lips. She was dressed in a black costume somewhere between a skintight suit and an evening dress, skintight above the waist, less tight below, with deep red stockings beneath, very elegant while still showing off that she was very obviously a high-level adonis and proud of it. And yes, her costume incorporated high heels. Very pointy ones, in fact. Finally, she also wore an elegant golden half-mask, covering her eyes, nose and part of her forehead, finely wrought to suggest some manner of bird, or something similar, perhaps.
She was also, quite clearly, posing for the shot. No way it was accidental, with the way she was sitting, one leg pulled up so her cheek was resting on her knee.
“Matriarch the second, that is,” explained Warren.
“Seriously? Did number one finally bite it?” I was surprised. The first matriarch had possibly been the first female supervillain, ever. She’d been around since the early twenties, and she’d never been caught. She’d also been a really good lay, even if I’d only had the pleasure once before I got together with Tamara.
“Yeah, she did. Three years ago. But her daughter had already been her sidekick, and she took up the name and what she could salvage from her old organization. Seeing how it was basically a family business, most of her mom’s people stuck with her, and she’s already the local Queen of the Underworld,” he said. “Also, quite hot, just like the other two. And Chayot’s archenemy, they got a real classic rivalry going. Man, some of the stories that go around ab-“
“Warren, before you put your foot into your mouth any further, I should tell you that Chayot happens to be my daughter,” I said quickly, before the urge to break his legs (and other parts) became too strong.
He turned as pale as a corpse. “Oh shit!”
Running forward, he tore the poster of my daughter and her lover (this actually explained a lot about Camille’s behaviour, I thought) off the wall, feeding it immediately into a nearby furnace.
“Sorry man, I didn’t kn- shit man, your daughter!?” He turned to look at me. “Wait… Meow-meow’s and yours!?”
I nodded, relaxing. “Yeah man. Found out just a few hours ago,” I replied.
He walked up to me, taking my hand in his, squeezing it as hard as he could.
“Man, I don’t know what… I mean, you had… I’m so sorry man, had I known, I’d have been keeping an eye on her, you know? But… shit man… What about Meow-meow, is she taking you back?”
I shook my head. “Married, got another kid by the new guy. She’s happy there.”
“Yeah, shit man,” was all I could say. I sat down on a stool, and he pulled another one over to sit opposite of me.
“Have you heard about…?”
I nodded. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m here. He’s back, and I want his head,” I explained.
He nodded. “There isn’t much I can tell you, I’m afraid. The Ascendant is way, way above my weightclass. But I know he’s a major member of a bigger group, calling itself ‘The Companions of the Future’. Real crazy old-school supervillain group, trying to turn everyone into metahumans and kill all those who can’t manifest.”
“Sounds a lot like Weisswald’s ideology,” I said. I’d heard rumors about the Companions before, but never anything concrete.
He nodded, his face serious. “They’re way old, some say they go back to the late twenties. There are even rumors that Weisswald used to be a member, or at least had some ties to them.”
“I see. Do you have any idea how to find the Ascendant? I really want to get my hands on him.” Some of the monkey must have shown through my eyes, because he flinched, growing nervous. He’d seen me let the monkey out, once.
“No, buddy, sorry. But,” he replied, looking at the poster of the Matriarch. “If anyone knows, she does. And I’m sure I can get you a meeting.”
Raising an eyebrow, I asked bemused, “Oh? The basement dweller knows the queen bee of Chicago’s underworld? How come?”
He snickered. “Hey, I didn’t buy that poster at the shop, you know? I do jobs for her, fixing her cars or motorcycles and all. Plus, she really likes stories of our old pranking days.”
“Well, maybe she’ll even like me then.”
He snorted. “Oh, shut up. You’ll probably have her swooning.” He’d always been jealous of my looks, even if I’d never lorded them over him.
“Now, let me make a few calls,” he said as he walked towards a wall-mounted telephone.
* * *
Warren changed into his Cartastrophy costume – basically armoured overalls with lots of tools and special parts in pouches and on several belts, and a helmet that looked like a motorcycle helmet with a car’s grille on the front, all in chrome and black. If he wasn’t, well, barely five feet tall, he’d probably strike an imposing figure in it.
We took his current favourite car – he was always overhauling them, to the point where no single car really lasted more than a few months at a time, even if it wasn’t destroyed – outside and made our way to the Matriarch’s base – the Seventh Cloud Casino. It stood right in the middle of the entertainment district of Chicago and was incredibly garish. Always had been.
“What can you tell me about the new Matriarch? Same powers as her mother?” Things might get difficult if she had her mother’s mental abilities. I’d have a hard time convincing her to help me piss off the Companions.
“Not quite. She’s only really got one power, apart from her physique six rating,” he explained.
“Physique?” That was a new one.
Slapping his forehead (fortunately, he’d taken off his helmet, or he might have hurt himself) he replied: “Ah, you don’t know it yet. We got a new rating system for powers. Way less confusing than the old one. I’ll explain it later, when we got more time.”
I nodded and urged him on to tell me about the Matriarch.
“Well, she’s a spawner – formerly Tiamat – and an Apex Tier to boot. Her shadow’s alive, and it’ll strangle you to death if she wants it to. Also, it has some weird precognition, or maybe just a really good danger sense going, plus a host of other minor powers,” he explained. “Defends her, keeps her out of danger and all. Also, knocking her out or mind controlling her – someone tried, once – ain’t smart, cause her shadow is always active and it’ll tear you to pieces for even trying.”
“Damn, the kids keep getting stronger nowadays,” I sighed, rubbing my forehead.
“They do. Reason why I’m not out there any more, not actively. Though even if not, I’d have probably hung up the helmet anyway when the Speedfreakz disbanded.”
I choked, hard. Even though I hadn’t been drinking. “The Speedfreakz disbanded? Why?” They’d been some of my favourite adversaries.
His shoulders slumped a little. “Savage Six attacked Austin about a year after you went off to war. The Speedfreakz happened to be there. Twinkletoe and Celeritas died. Afterwards, Hotrod went into support, he’s just building vehicles for other heroes now, and Ignipes just vanished. Rumor has it that he adopted Twinkletoe’s and Celeritas’ child. They’d just had one.”
I pulled myself back out of the memories that were welling up – I’d have to visit their graves as soon as I worked things out here – and continued: “Back to the matter at hand. Anything else I need to be aware of for this?”
“Yeah, my oldest niece is working for her. Girl got a screw loose, but she’s still family, so no fighting, alright?”
“Of course. Though it does worry me that you consider her to have a screw loose.”
“You’ll see what I mean.”
* * *
We reached the Seventh Cloud Casino and he drove into a back entrance that led us into an underground garage. A valet took the car – Cartastrophy already knew him – and we took the elevator up.
When the doors opened, we were greeted by the most ridiculously dressed teenager I had ever seen. She could not be more than sixteen years old, had a body like a pornstar, peroxide blonde straight hair in lots of braids, and was wearing the upper half of… a blue japanese school uniform? It barely covered her breasts, revealing the lower half, and were connected to a barely existent skirt by a set of pink suspenders. She was also wearing thigh high white socks and high-heeled boots. Really high heeled boots. Also, a traditional japanese fox mask.
Cartastrophy took a step forward and embraced her in a tight hug, which she returned.
Well, now I know.
“Aap Oordra, may I introduce, my niece Kakitsune,” I almost slapped my forehead, “Who is one of the Matriarch’s chief enforcers.” Either this girl was more powerful – and competent – than she looked, or the new Matriarch was really starved for metahuman muscle.
“A pleasure to meet you, my dear,” I said, focusing my eyes solely on her mask.
“The same, man. I’ve heard a gazillion stories about you, you know?” she replied with a drawl in her voice I couldn’t quite place. Maybe a badly affected accent?
“Ka-chan,” Slapping my forehead was getting more and more seductive, “My dear, we can chat later, can you take us to your boss quickly? I’m afraid our business is urgent,” he said. She nodded, fortunately, and took us through the hallway to a grand double door.
Through it, we entered a hall covered in heavy carpet, with a ceiling so high it could have been a cathedral, and pillars covered in mythological imagery. The original Matriarch had been grand on showmanship, and her daughter had obviously kept the decorations.
I also noticed a human-shaped shadow gliding over the floor, walls and ceiling, all around the grand room. A shadow no one was throwing. So, a living shadow, huh?
Said daughter was reclining on a divan, looking quite restless despite the relaxed setting. She was ringed by eleven minions – twelve, counting Kakitsune – who were very obviously metahumans (four of them didn’t look human, and the rest were way too beautiful to be normal).
We approached, and I realized that she was even more beautiful in the flesh than on the poster. A match for Hennessy, dark where she was light. They make good archenemies, I’m sure.
She rose from her divan as we approached, seeming… nervous.
Could I have a groupie here? It would make things considerably easier. Man, I hoped it was that.
“Greetings, Ma-” Cartastrophy began, but she just barreled past him and threw her arms around my neck.
“Finally, you’ve come,” she said, looking up at me with misty, purple eyes. My eyes. “I’ve been waiting for you, papa.”