"A great man and leader of Townsville's last words to me were "I did my duty to queen and country, that's all that matters now. I'll be going to that great pickle jar in the sky soon."" Sara Bellum, the city's current mayor, said.
"Of course by then, the Mayor had gone senile and his mind had spilled away like the liquid in a shattered jar of dill pickles," the Mayor's ex-secretary reflected silently.
The former Mayor of Townsville, a tiny, monocled man who had been mayor so long that no one quite remembered his name, had died only three days before, having choked to death on his favorite snack. The irony was not lost on Ms. Bellum, who had been the Mayor's secretary for over ten years, until he had retired at the age of seventy. He likely would have survived, had someone been there to administer the Heimlich maneuver. His hysterical wife had found him in front the refrigerator after coming home from a spa treatment.
And now all of the citizens of Townsville were attending his funeral, including the city's own heroic trio of children, the Powerpuff Girls.
"Ugh, can't they hurry it up! He was the mayor for crying out loud, not someone important!" Buttercup complained, arms crossed across the front of the long sleeved black dress she had been made to wear for the occasion. It was old, musty, and looked at least forty years out of date. No doubt the Professor had dug it out of the attic.
Several people turned in their seats and glared at the green Powerpuff.
"Look at it this way, Buttercup, at least you get to leave the house." Blossom sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose in exasperation at her sister.
It had been the first time in weeks since Buttercup had returned home from the hospital (after ingesting explosives laced Chemical X and nearly dying) that the girls' father, Professor P.L. Utonium, had let her leave their suburban home.
"The Professor didn't even let me go out on Saturday for me and Ace's two year anniversary. We had to order in takeout and watch some cruddy movie on pay-per-view. So much for a romantic date." Buttercup rolled her lime green eyes.
"He's just worried about you, sis. You were in a really bad accident." Bubbles chimed in.
"It was no accident. Mojo Jojo planted those explosives," Buttercup said darkly. "And besides, it's been two months. I'm better now. And, I've got my powers back. I can and will be a superhero again. I'm not some helpless child."
"It's not about you being helpless. The Professor knows you can handle yourself. It's about your health, mental and physical. You've never been injured this badly before and you don't seem to know your own limitations." Blossom said snootily.
"I'll show you limitations, Miss Priss." The dark haired triplet muttered.
"- And now, Professor Utonium would like to say a few words about the deceased." interrupted the wrinkly old funeral home director.
" And that means the Utonium girls oughtta shuddup!" someone exclaimed.
A few people sniggered. Buttercup was tempted to shout back, but merely stuck out her tongue instead. It was, after all, a reasonably high profile funeral and Buttercup was a high profile attendee. She didn't want her face plastered on the cover of some tabloid rag with a headline like "Powerpuffs Interupt Former Mayor's Funeral! Could the Girls Be Dangerously Out Of Control?" It wasn't worth it, and considering how long it had been since she'd fought crime, Buttercup and her sisters needed all the good press they could get.
After the Mayor had been buried, the Utoniums stopped at at a fast food joint. The Professor, having been tinkering in his laboratory since dawn, insisted he was too tired to cook that night. They ordered nearly enough burgers and fries to feed a small village and sat down at a corner table. Blossom and Bubbles sat down on one side and Buttercup and the Professor sat on the other.
Buttercup heard the click of cameras as the restaurant's other patrons realized the Powerpuff Girls were in their midst, and she wished she'd been allowed to change out of her hideous funeral dress before they'd come there. Nevertheless, she dug into her food like she didn't know when the next time she'd be able to eat. Her sisters giggled as she got ketchup all over her face and on the offending dress clothes.
In contrast, Bubbles ate her food primly and slowly like a proper little lady, while Blossom read over the burger's ingredients and calorie count before digging in.
It was several minutes before anyone spoke, and by then Buttercup had demolished nine burgers, five ice cream sundaes, and countless fries.
"Girls, I've been thinking a lot about- I'm not going to be around forever and- I've been thinking about starting to... write my will. I've set up an appointment with an estate lawyer for next Tuesday." their creator said nervously.
The enthusiastic eating stopped abruptly. Pink, blue, and green eyes grew wide. It was a real mood killer by Buttercup's reckoning.
"Professor, don't say that." Bubbles whimpered, tears already filling her large blue eyes.
"It's not like he's gonna keel over any second, right, Professor?" Buttercup snorted.
A sad look flashed across the genius's face.
"Professor? Dad?" Blossom said softly.
"I went to the doctor's office for a routine check-up and they found an anomaly. I came back a few days later and the doctor did a few scans and x-rays and... they found a tumour in my brain. I'd been having migraines, but I thought it was because I'd been staying up late and working in my lab." Utonium said.
"Is it...terminal, Professor?" the redhead asked.
"The tumour is still small, but after a few chemotherapy sessions, the doctor might be able to do surgery. But it's growing at an unprecedented rate." he avoided his daughter's question.
"How long've you got?" Buttercup asked somberly.
"Well, I'll have to go through chemo, surgery, and-"
"Professor, how long have you got!" Buttercup interrupted.
"If they tumour doesn't go away after chemo and it becomes too large to operate, I only have about a year. A year and a half, if I'm lucky. But the worst part isn't that I'm going to die, it's that I'll never get to see you three grow up, get married, and start families of your own." their father said soberly.
All three sisters felt tears burning in their eyes. They weren't ready to lose him, not so soon after their step-mother, Laura Keane. It felt like everyone they had ever cared about was dying around them, and they were powerless to stop it.
All three Powerpuff Girls burst into tears, right then and there at the fast food place.
No one, not even Buttercup continued to eat after that. The rest of the time at the burger joint was a blur, and she only remembered her father apologizing that he, in all likelihood, would not be able to restore Blossom and Bubbles's powers before his death. He apologized for a lot of things, but Buttercup wasn't really listening.
She thought instead of what the Professor's illness would mean for all of them, and how painful it would lose him so young. And the realization hit her that at fifteen and a half years old, she was on track to becoming an orphan.
After the restaurant, Buttercup literally flew up the stairs, a blur of black and green light, her sisters trailing behind her. Once all three Powerpuff Girls were in the room, Blossom shut the bedroom door behind her.
Buttercup stripped off the ugly, lacey dress, replacing it in an instant with green and black tank top, black yoga pants, and a battered, olive drab army jacket with the name Utonium stitched on the left side. She'd found it in the attic a week before, and thought it might have belonged to her grandfather or an uncle. Blossom followed suite, though at a much slower pace, shoving on a fuzzy pink and black striped sweater, her signature bow, and a pair of jeans. Only Bubbles stayed in her funeral attire as she sat in the corner, clutching her beloved Octi in both hands.
"It's just not fair!" Buttercup exploded.
"Why is it that some people get to live to be a hundred, but then some people die so young? The Professor's only...only fifty-seven." Blossom croaked, barely containing her tears. Bubbles, meanwhile wasn't even trying to hold back her anguish.
Buttercup started throwing pillows, lamps, and Bubbles's stuffed animals at the wall, Bubbles wailed like a banshee, and Blossom paced back and forth, talking as though she was trying to reason with the Grim Reaper himself. That went on for about ten minutes, and then all three girls went absolutely silent.
Blossom was the first to break the silence. "When, no, if the Professor dies, who you think he'll leave as our caregiver?"
"I don't think he'll leave us in foster care or at an orphanage. Maybe with Uncle Eugene or Mayor Bellum." Buttercup said quietly.
"Do you think the Professor's really gonna die?" Bubbles squeaked from her corner.
" I...I just don't know, Bubbles." the pink Powerpuff said softly.
"Do you think we'll still get to stay here or do ya think whoever gets to be in charge of us will sell it?" Buttercup mused.
"The Professor paid off the mortgage, so one of us might get it when we're old enough to inherit. I doubt Uncle Eugene or the mayor would sell it. They'd know how much this house means to the three of us." Blossom said.
They were all quiet again, and Buttercup thought of what all this would mean for herself, her sisters, their family. Ace. She needed to message him soon and tell him what had happened that day. This concerned him, too. If not for the Professor, they wouldn't have been able to continue dating, because, though at the time they had begun dating, Buttercup had been 13 going on 14 and Ace recently turned 16, Ace was now 18 and legally an adult. Had the Professor wanted to, he could've forced them to stop being together, despite the minor age difference. Ace owed P.L Utonium their relationship, even if he didn't want to admit it.
He had reason to care about Utonium, and not just because of Buttercup. The Professor had been one of the first people to believe in and trust the Gangreen Gang when they decided to stop their lives of crime. He had helped them gain better PR, found them better homes to live in... which they promptly moved to the dump, and let them into his home and into his life, but only when the Gang had earned it. The Professor had let them in and they became like family instead of enemies, in more ways than one.
Ace, Snake, Big Billy, Grubber, and Arturo were all grateful for the opportunity to prove themselves and to prove they could be more than bullies and thugs.
Not everyone had approved of Utonium taking them under his wing, especially Blossom and Bubbles. Buttercup had secretly been delighted, having never really gotten over her crush on Ace, not that she let her sisters know that. Heck for all Buttercup knew, Ace hadn't even known until after she lost her powers and she'd confessed that she had feelings for him.
"Whatever happens, we all need to stick together. We can't let anyone or anything separate us." Blossom said.
Bubbles and Buttercup nodded, silently agreeing to stay together.
Buttercup pulled out her bright green cell phone and began messaging Ace online. They texted back and forth for several minutes before she broke the bad news.
aceofhearts375: U okay?
DashofSpice117: Not really. I'm worried ' bout him, u know?
aceofhearts375: Want to talk about it?
DashofSpice117: Not really. Talked ' bout it enough w/ Bloss 'n Bubbles.
aceofhearts375: Do u want to come over?
DashofSpice117: Yeah, when can u get me?
aceofhearts375: B there in 10.
Buttercup let out a sigh or relief as she put her phone to sleep. She needed Ace to be there for her then even more than she did after the Girls had lost their powers.
She never thought it would cross her mind, but in a way she felt like she had more control over the situation then, even though she had been angry and upset at her loss. Maybe it was because with her powers, Buttercup had hoped that one day they would return, thinking it to be just a fluke. But this time it was a terminal disease that was coming between her and her father.
Buttercup promised herself she'd try to stay strong and be there for the Professor, but she knew if he died, she would break down and it wouldn't be pretty.
Please don't let my dad die. Please? Please...