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the ash we have become

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Helen stepped out of the room, closing the door softly behind her. Only a few hours ago their house was destroyed and they were forced to try and find somewhere else to stay for the night. The children had finally settled down from the overwhelming events and were safely asleep in their beds. Helen walked down the hallway and sighed as she glanced at clock in the room. It was already a quarter past two. 

She glanced at the glass sliding door that led to the small outside area. She stretched her arm so that she could flick the lock, but found herself hesitating. Instead, she moved her hand to the handle and slid open the door. She walked over to it and stepped outside into the night air. Her eyes closed and she finally allowed herself to exhale all of the worry and stress she had been holding inside. She let her shoulders sag and found herself staring up into the night sky. 

Helen felt a dull throbbing in her skull that she noticed for the first time that day. She wondered if it was from being blown up, the excessive stress, or just sheer exhaustion. She seriously hoped it was just from the stress and exhaustion. She briefly remembered blacking out after the explosion, but the adrenaline from it all forced her not to think about any potential injuries on herself.  She winced slightly and brought her hand up to touch her head. 

Before she could try to assess herself anymore, she heard the glass door sliding open. Instinctively, she jumped at the sound and spun around. She glanced up and saw her husband standing there, quietly sliding the glass door closed behind him. He had changed into his pajamas and she expected him to look as sleepy as she felt, but the expression he wore told her that there was a lot more on his mind than just sleep. 

“Hey,” he said softly. 

“Hi,” she replied, moving her hand from her head.  

“What’re you doing out here?” he asked. 

Helen gave a little shrug and looked back to the sky. “I don’t know. I guess I just needed some fresh air.” 

Bob walked over so that he was standing next to her. “Helen...Are you avoiding me?” He sounded weak and vulnerable, so much the opposite of what he had been chasing after these past few months. Mr. Incredible was never unsure of himself, but he certainly sounded like a broken man in this moment. She wanted to laugh at the irony. He had risked so much just to be that man again, and now he was someone she felt like she didn’t even recognize. He wasn’t Mr. Incredible, but he wasn’t Bob Parr. At least, not the Bob Parr she thought she knew. 

“I don’t know,” she answered him again. Her voice was barely above a whisper and she shifted her gaze down. 

“I- I don’t know what I can say to make everything better,” he started, placing a hand on her shoulder. 

Helen immediately pulled away from him. “Nothing. Nothing you say can make any of this any better.” She said it with a calmness that surprised herself. It was cold and harsh, and she stared at him, challenging him. 

“I know,” Bob looked at her, his blue eyes widening slightly at her reaction. 

“I mean, seriously,” Helen furrowed her brow at him. “Bob, what the hell was all of this?”

“I just- I wanted to do some hero work,” he said. “You should know better than anyone, but you deny that part of yourself.”

Helen felt a flash of anger rise in her. This was an argument they had shared several times throughout the years. “No, I don’t deny that part of myself! I have come to terms with the fact that those days happened and we can’t always have things our way. I understand that I’m a mother and that my family comes first, not my own personal dreams of reliving the glory days!” 

“I didn’t intend for any of this to happen,” he argued, his own temper starting to rise up. “You think this is how I wanted things to go? You think I wanted to drag my family into this?”

Helen stepped towards him. “No, actually. I don’t think you wanted to drag your family into this. That would require you to even think about your family! You just wanted the whole thing to be about you! It’s always about you !”  

Bob glared at her but there was something else there. Inside his eyes, she saw a sadness swirling there. He was clenching his fists in frustration and let out a shaky breath. “I didn’t think this would turn into what it did. I never considered that taking this job would put you or the kids in danger.” 

“Yeah, well-” she started to speak, but he cut her off. 

“I thought you were dead,” he said. “God, Helen, I thought you were dead.”

She pressed her lips together in a tight line and she watched as he tried to formulate what he wanted to say next. Bob was never good at expressing things like this. He could be flirty and romantic, but when it came to discussing his deep inner emotions, he always struggled with finding the words. She stood there, their eyes staring into each other’s. She could see a faint gloss building and she wasn’t prepared to see him cry. 

“I’m not dead,” she said, stepping towards him. “I’m fine. The kids are okay. We’re all safe.” She reached out to touch him, but he reached out and caught her wrist. His expression was so utterly hurt. It was graver than anything she had ever seen. His eyes were searching her shocked expression and the next words he spoke were barely a whisper. 

“Did you really think I was cheating?” 

Helen blinked and she felt her own tears forming in her eyes. She really didn’t want to have this conversation with him. It was well past two in the morning, her head was still killing her, and she really just wanted to go to sleep and try to forget this all happened.  Yes, she could fall asleep and this would all just be some awful dream. But, she knew that they needed to talk, and why not just keep this day going? 

She took a breath and tried to hold his gaze. “Yes, I did.” 

Bob grimaced as if her words caused him physical pain, and he tightened his grip on her wrist. “Helen, I swear to you, I swear to you on everything, I would never- I could never cheat on you.” 

“How many times have you lied to me?” Helen felt the tears starting to run down her cheeks. “How many times have you stood right in front of me and lied to me?”

“Helen-” 

“No,” she shook her head. “I’m your wife. We made a commitment to each other for better or for worse. You have looked at me and lied to me for years.”

“I didn’t want to lie!” he protested, his expression growing panicked. 

“And yet you still did. You told me this was a conference for your job, and come to find out, you were fired from Insuracare months ago! I find blonde hairs on your supersuit, I hear you talking to some woman on the phone late at night…”

“It looked suspicious, sure,” he relented. “But you really thought I was? That was the reason you came, wasn’t it?”

“I went to Edna,” Helen said. “She explained to me how men at your age are ‘prone to certain weakness.’ I didn’t want to believe it, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to think it could be true. You’ve been working out more, you’ve been gone so often on these business trips... So, yeah, Bob, I thought you were cheating on me.”

“But, you don’t- Helen, you don’t still think I was cheating on you?” he loosened his grip on her wrist and allowed her to pull away. “Honey, please, you have to believe me.”

“I’ve believed you for years,” she whispered. “I’ve always given you the benefit of the doubt and I’ve always put my trust in you. When we revealed our real identities to each other, I knew you were someone I could trust. But, I don’t think you’re the same person anymore, and I don’t think I am either.”

“What?” Bob cried out. The panic in his voice almost made her jump. “What do you mean?”

“You’re asking me to believe you when all you’ve done is lie.” she said bluntly. 

“Okay, yes, I lied! I lied about the job, I lied about doing undercover super work with Lucuis, I lied about a lot of things! I’m not proud of that. However, I’m not lying to you about this!” his voice was growing increasingly louder. “Like you said, you’re my wife. I made a commitment to you and I haven’t broken that commitment. I never have and I never will.”

“I want to believe you,” she sighed. “And a part of me does, it’s just, Bob, I’m so angry with you.” she admitted.

She glanced down at her feet to avoid his gaze. She realized she was still wearing her shoes, having not taken even the smallest second to think for herself. Staring at her shoes, she felt herself fighting back tears. Perhaps this was the problem. Helen never put herself first. Never. She was a mother first and foremost, and that meant that her children’s well being and happiness came before hers. However, she often also put Bob ahead of herself. She loved him so much, and because of that love, she allowed herself to be worn down. She shouldn’t have been bothered when her eyes found his bare feet and traveled up the length of his grey pyjama pants. It was a frivolous thing to be let bother her, but she supposed her mind was finding a lot of problems recently. 

“You should be angry,” he said. “Buddy killed so many supers. I put us all at risk for my own chance to play hero again. I made you doubt our marriage and my love for you. I made a lot of mistakes these past few months, so you should be angry. I’m angry with myself. If I had lost you...any of you, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Helen looked up at him. “The lies have to stop.”

“Okay, yes,” he nodded. “They will.”

“I mean it,” she said. “I can’t take this anymore.”

Bob gave her a pitiful look and let out a distressed whine. “No more lies, Helen. Like I said, I can’t lose you again. I can’t.”

She held his gaze for a moment. Earlier that day was the most terrified she had ever seen her husband. They had gone on many missions together before in the glory days, but she had never seen him look so scared. Back in the glory days, she had been injured a handful of times, but he never tried to keep her from fighting in the next fight. Now, he wanted to keep her sidelined just to keep her safe. It was both infuriating and somewhat endearing. Maybe this experience really opened up his mind to how serious his decisions were impacting those around him. Maybe things really would change. 

She let out a breath. “Okay, no more lies.”

Before Helen could add anything else, her husband took her reaction as consent to pull her into a hug. He wrapped his arms around her, his large body engulfing her in a familiar warmth. Although she was angry with him, she found herself hugging back. She stretched her arms around his torso and felt herself give a small smile as he tightened his hold on her.

“I’m just so glad you’re alive.” he whispered, the affection in his voice making her heart beat faster. 

“Yeah,” she replied. “I was really worried about you too.”

Bob pulled back a little and gave her a look. “About me?”

“You said yourself that Syndrome killed a lot of supers,” Helen said, rolling her eyes slightly at his obvious vanity. “You also weren’t in a great position when I rescued you.”

“Oh, so you rescued me?” he asked, teasing her. “Is that what you’re calling everything that happened?”

“Don’t push it,” she gave him a small laugh that was almost genuine. She would have been frustrated for allowing him to make her laugh after everything, but when she laughed, her head gave her a painful throb and she found herself wincing in pain. 

“Helen?” Bob asked, his large hand coming to cradle her head. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” she said. 

Bob gave her a quizzical glance as he began scanning her for injury. While he may have never asked her to sit on the sidelines before, he was always extremely paranoid when she had any injury. Helen always assumed it was because he was never injured easily, and so when he saw someone else with pain, he always overestimated how serious it was. 

“Hey, we just promised no more lies.” he argued. 

“That was a promise for you,” she quipped, arching her brow at him. 

“Helen,” he said, the warning in his voice was very clear.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “I blacked out for a few seconds after the explosion with the kids. It couldn’t have been very long, because when I opened my eyes we were still falling.”

“What?!” Bob asked. “Why didn’t you say anything?” 

“There were more important things to worry about,” she pointed out. “I’m exhausted. It’s probably just a really bad headache from everything.” 

Bob nodded but she could tell he was not convinced. “We should go to bed. We can talk some more tomorrow about how we’re going to handle everything.” He gestured to their current situation with his hands. 

“Okay, yeah,” she agreed. She pulled herself away from him and reached for the glass door. 

“Hey, Helen?” Bob called out to her before she could step inside. “I really am sorry...for everything.”

Helen stopped and gave him a small smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. She was going to trust his words. He was her husband after all, and when she really thought about it, she knew that when it came down to it, she really could depend on him for anything. But, there was a voice in the back of her mind that made her promise to herself that this was his last chance. 

She was done with the lies.