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Partners Not In Crime

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On the bright side, the only thing broken in the entire Messina News building was the windows on the 11th floor. What wasn’t so great was that the 11th floor happened to be the location of the office of a certain Balthazar Jones. Pedro tried to convince himself that it was a fluke and that Balthazar would forgive him for shattering all the glass on his floor.

But now really wasn’t the time to worry about that.

“Ben! Ben, how are you holding up bud?” Pedro said, kneeling over Ben who was propped up against a desk, taking off his mask and checking him for wounds.

“I’m… I’m all right I’m fine really.”

“Your side is bleeding,” Pedro said, lifting the tight fabric of Ben’s suit from where it was scratched and bloody on his left side.

“It’s just a scratch.”

“That’s what people say in movies when they’re about to die,” Pedro said frowning.

“Yeah but I actually mean it okay? Like really I’m not in that much pain, it can’t be that deep.”

Checking the wound, Pedro breathed a sigh of relief. Ben was right. “Oh thank God.”

“Ten points to me for not being mortally wounded!” Ben said, tried to punch the air then winced and stopped.

Pedro fell back into a sitting position on the floor and took his mask off, wiping his brow with the back of his hand. He smiled at Ben. “Good work back there.”

“You’re just saying that cause I almost died.”

“No I’m not I really mean it.”

“Sure you do.”

“I do though. And I was thinking, you know what we were talking about earlier about you being my sidekick?”

Ben stopped fooling around and actually looked up at Pedro with expectant and excited eyes. “Yeah?”

“Well I think-”

But just then, they heard the ding of an elevator and running footsteps in their direction.

“Shit.” Ben mumbled, putting a hand on his wound and trying to lift himself up to move. Pedro stood up to help him and act as a crutch but Ben pushed him away, struggling to stand upright on his own.

“Pedro!” A small reporter in a blazer rounded the side of a hallway at full speed.

Ben tried to cover his face with his free hand but staggered and grabbed the desk behind him.

“Balthazar! Ben don’t worry, Balth is a friend.”

“A friend?” Ben said, raising an eyebrow. “You never told me about this friend who also appears to be unsurprised to find The Captain and Flame bleeding on the floor of a news building.”

“Balthazar knows my real identity, yes. But it’s all right, we can trust them, I promise.”

“Hello,” Balthazar said. “On the subject of bleeding, can I get … Flame… a bandage?”

“Oh right yes Ben this is Balthazar Jones, reporter and photographer for the Messina News. Balthazar, this is Benedick Hobbes,” he wrapped his arm around Ben and looked at him proudly, “my partner.”

Ben looked surprised and gleeful, turning to look at Pedro. “You mean it?”

“I definitely mean it. It’s been a long time coming to be honest.”

“Oh man, I don’t even know what to say.”

But at this glowing display, Balthazar’s face fell. “Oh umm congratulations,” Balthazar said. “I hope you two are really happy together.”

“Thanks!” Ben beamed at him but Pedro was shocked out of his joy by the tone of Balthazar’s voice.

“Anyway,” Balthazar said, looking down dejectedly and fumbling about in his messenger bag, “about that bandage…”

“Oh right! Yeah thanks so much,” Pedro said, letting go of Ben and letting him stagger back to the desk on his own. The time for friendship had passed. “That’s really great of you to help out my work partner here who’s gotten a bit scratched up.” Pedro took the bandage Balthazar handed him and maybe he brushed his hand against Balthazar’s for a bit longer than was necessary and held eye contact a bit more than was socially appropriate. “We work so well together that that’s why we’re partners in umm not crime because that’s what we fight but partners in heroism and thank you for the bandage because I need to make sure he’s alive so we can go be partners against saving crime some more. Like as part of our job. Not that we get paid for it or anything but it’s a good situation in which to be partners. Like normal people in the day partners at night but like for fighting crime, not…”

Balthazar giggled. “Oh yeah? So you always work together to fight crime?”

“I mean no not always I do a bit of solo work here and there like I don’t know rescuing kittens and stuff it’s ummm you know, no big deal,” Pedro said, leaning on one of the office desks and running his hand through his signature hair.

“That’s funny cause I could have sworn I saw a superhero saving some kittens from out of a tree the other day and the woman I spoke to after that said it was a pretty big deal to her…”

“Really? Oh huh what a coincidence I don’t know maybe it was me but it’s funny that I didn’t see you there, huh?”

Balthazar laughs, remembering that he has some real gems in his photography collection that look a lot like The Captain striking random hero poses towards his camera and casually leaning against a tree and flipping his hair a lot while handing a kitten to an old woman.

“Hey lovebirds,” Ben said, “Are you two gonna stop flirting for two seconds and hand me a damn bandage or what?”