A/N - I named Rhyme and Reason after their voice actors, Amy Sedaris and Tyler Labine.
The one about the dinner party
When the elevator doors broke apart, Father was the first one out. He marched onto the 11th floor like a whisking snowstorm. Amy followed on his heels, imitating his posture to the best of her ability. She could get the 'arms folded behind the back' look down just fine, mostly, but her eight-year-old frame combined with the hand-me-down white cape simply didn't command the same authority his broad shoulders and navy blue one did. Plus, she was dragging a bright pink suitcase behind her. It kept bumping into her shoe and tipping sideways onto just one of its wheels. For the sake of being dramatic, Amy made sure to pound her feet against the floor with every step. They made pat, pat, pat sounds on the thin carpet of the apartment's hall.
Up ahead, Father let out a grunt. "Good graham crackers. You're making that one face again, aren't you?"
Amy scrunched her eyebrows together, and forced her voice into a low growl. "When there is serious business afoot, I always do."
"Amelia," Father snapped, whipping around. He flung his arm out to the side, and his cape flashed behind him. Amy fell back, clutching her fingers to the collar of her shirt. Her father's superpowers gave him control over wind, and when his temper got the best of him, it always bushed his pale blue hair into a stringy, frazzled mess. Like now. Four seconds of silence passed, and Father grabbed his nose between two knuckles. His hair settled down into its usual centered flop again. "Holy hazelnuts, okay. How do I go delicately about this…?"
Dropping her gaze, Amy scratched her arm. As the seconds ticked by, she kept darting quick glances up at her father's face, and then back to the floor. The rhyming words miss, hiss, bliss, and kiss drifted through her head, but she avoided saying any of them aloud.
Father let go of his face. He fell to one knee, folding his arms across his stomach, and fixed her with a stare between the eyes. "Millie, listen. Daddy is taking on a big, big job tonight. I don't expect to be back for a few days, at the very least. If we play nice with the Eiffel family this evening, they'll be happy to take care of you while I'm away. It's very, very important that you be a good girl tonight so we can make the best possible impression. You need a place to stay, and I don't want them to change their minds."
Her eyes wandered to a splotchy birthmark on her arm (It looked like a milkshake with a straw from this angle, but when rotated just right, it looked more like a skyscraper). She nudged her suitcase with her foot. Father shook her shoulder just a bit.
"Millie. You need to look professional for Daddy's big meeting tonight. Your big buck teeth are certainly not professional. Keep them hidden away today, okay? Don't speak unless you have to. Don't pull strange faces. Don't smile. Don't misbehave."
Amy blinked several times, then glanced away again. She fixed the snowflake barrette in her hair with one hand. "Yes, sir."
With a sharp nod, Father jolted up and spun around. Amy followed him with her suitcase, in slow motion, with her eyes closed. Three doors later, they arrived at their destination. Room 1159. "Look at that," he muttered, raising his hand to knock. "The Eiffel's apartment is exactly four floors above ours."
Floor 7, Floor 11. That rhymed. Amy raised her head. She could already smell the sweet steamed vegetables cooking on the other side of the door, and definitely some kind of meat, too, although she couldn't tell exactly what it was. Still, it was a deep, crispy, warm sort of smell that filled both her mouth and her nose. Her tongue poked between her lips. Meat wasn't as common a dish in the Wenling home as alphabet soup or macaroni and cheese, and then and there, Amy made it her mission in life to convince Mr. and Mrs. Eiffel to invite her and her father over for dinner every single month they allowed it.
Father's hand hovered where it was. "Are you sure you can be on your best behavior, Millie?"
"Yes, sir." Amy knew the rules: No teasing anyone in the Eiffel family about their superpowers, no bragging about her own superpowers (even though super strength, super speed, and freeze breath were hard to top), and absolutely no starting a superpowered fight indoors. All sparring matches had to be taken outside.
Finally satisfied, Father tapped the backs of his knuckles against the door. Only two seconds passed before it flew open to reveal a short, round woman with fluffy hair so black, it was almost blue. The ruffled shirt under her coat was exactly the same color. Mrs. Eiffel threw her arms out to the sides like she wanted a great big hug, beaming at both of them the entire time.
"Perfect, you're early! Ryan is putting the finishing touches on the steak as we speak, and we'll be ready to eat in just another moment. I'll get you both some hot chocolate. Come right in and make yourselves comfy- It's so wonderful to meet you face to face at last, Mr. Zephyr. I'm Hazel, Ryan's wife."
"Please call me Nathan Wenling," he said, scooping her hand beneath the wrist. Rather than shake it, he lifted it to his lips. "We're all friends and equals here. You know, my daughter and I can't thank you enough for inviting us. I daresay she's been looking forward to it all week. I can hardly get another word out of her mouth."
Mrs. Eiffel leaned to the left, bracing her forearm against the frame of the door. A smile broke across her face. "Oh, is this little Millie herself? She's so much taller than the pictures in the paper made her out to be. Don't children just grow up so fast?"
"I go by Amy," Amy corrected, but the adults were already talking over her. Oh well. She shook her head. Her eyes skimmed up the wall to the ceiling, where one of the hallway lights flickered like a strangled ghost. Gently, she kicked her shoe against the frame of the door. It left a tiny black smudge. She rehearsed her lines in silence once again: Hi, I'm in your son Tyler's class at school; I don't know him well but he seems nice; we played Tag together once and he didn't even get mad when I used my super speed; I turn nine in three weeks and maybe he can come to my party; my favorite thing to learn in school is English; your apartment looks so nice; the food is even more delicious than it smells, maybe you can teach me how to [insert one of the famous Eiffel craft projects here] while I'm staying with you for the month…
Whatever Father said seemed to delight Mrs. Eiffel. She brought her hands together in a clap. "Well, you and Ryan will have all evening to talk yourselves silly. I'll just get my bumbling self out of your way. Come in, everyone. Sit wherever you like."
She moved away from the door for the first time. "Whoa," Amy said, peering out from beneath her father's tentative arm. The apartment layout was automatically familiar, with the same red-brown floorboards and speckled gray countertops found in her home downstairs. The whole place was very, very clean, even though the Eiffels were in the middle of cooking dinner. The small table had been set like a fancy restaurant table, and now awaited company like a seagull waited for fries. No backpacks, books, or stacks of paperwork were crammed between the plates. Even the dishes in the sink were already rinsed and tucked away in the dishwasher. A steam cooker full of vegetables rested on the counter's end. Behind the counter was the living room, with a really big couch shaped like the letter C. A blue blanket lay on one of its arms, and newspapers were stacked on the table between it and the tiny TV. The blinds were pulled up, but the windows showed only black. Amy knew the view from downstairs, and it would only be bricks. But somehow, that seemed less disappointing from up here.
Mr. Eiffel stood by the stove, wiping his dough-covered hands on a green cloth and smiling at them. He didn't seem very interesting. Nothing at all like the usual people her father tried to impress. He wasn't very tall, and looked a little scattered around the edges with his dark hair all frizzy. A smear of sauce crossed one lens of his glasses. He dressed entirely in black with his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. But he seemed nice, at least. Amy waved to him, careful to keep her buck teeth tucked behind her lips. Mr. Eiffel waved back, then turned to ask Mrs. Eiffel a question about the cups all the kids would be using at dinner tonight.
Amy trailed her eyes behind him, up to the tops of the cabinets and the fridge. It was strange to see unfamiliar decorations in the corners of an apartment that looked just like home. Everywhere she looked, shoe box dioramas brimming with tiny clay figurines stared back at her. Ceramic elephants marched between the salt and pepper shakers. Paper cranes dangled from the ceiling on bits of wire, and animals folded out of towels lined every available shelf. Pine cones with googly eyes guarded the sink on four stick legs each, like scruffy wooden mice.
Actually, Amy liked the place, but something about it definitely crawled beneath her father's skin. She'd always known him to be a quiet and relaxed man, but with a sudden snap, he went completely stiff beside her. One hand tightened into a fist, bunching the nice fabric of the silky shirt he'd been so proud to wear. He took half a step backwards. Hm? Amy glanced around the kitchen again, then back at her father. His fingers clenched in the front of his hair.
"Oh, graham crackers," he muttered. "They're normals. Your class is brimming with supers, and I picked the normals. It's going to be a long night."
"Did you say something, Nathan?" Mr. Eiffel asked, turning his head. Father's gaze swept over him up and down, then dropped down to what he himself was wearing: The black fingerless gloves, the thick belt with his looping logo stamped across it, the dark blue cape with the rosy golden trim. He grimaced.
"I just hope I'm not overdressed."
At that, Amy adjusted her barrette again and chewed on the inside of one cheek.
"Excuse me, Hazel," Father said, raising her voice. Mrs. Eiffel turned, and Father's hand pressed against Amy's shoulder. "Would you mind it terribly if Millie used your bathroom?"
Mrs. Eiffel smiled. "Of course. It's just down the hall there. Hand me your suitcase, Millie, and I'll get it put away and waiting for you."
"That's very kind, thank you. Come along, Mil."
"I don't need to go," she protested, but her father's hand didn't leave her, so she found herself giving in. But she did drag her boots for an entire three seconds, so there.
True to form, the Eiffel's narrow hall was identical to the Wenling one, albeit more organized and accented with family photos everywhere you looked. Their bathroom had green towels instead of blue, and liquid soap instead of bars. Someone had hung a painting of yellow flowers on the wall. When the door was shut, Father turned around and dropped into his familiar stiff crouch. "All right, Millie. Can you listen to Daddy, please?"
"This soap is coconut," Amy said, bringing the bottle to her nose. Her thumb bounced against its squishy spout of a top. Bubbles puttered from the tip.
"Focus, sweetheart." Father cupped Amy's cheek in her hand. Reluctantly, Amy tore her attention from the soap dispenser and forced their eyes to connect. Her father's expression was calm as a mom, firm as a germ. "Amelia. Listen."
He breathed in, lowering his head. Then breathed out, and met her gaze again. His fingers tightened against her face. "The Eiffel family isn't like most of the other families in our apartment building, and their kids aren't like most of the kids who go to your school. They don't have superpowers."
"How can you tell?"
"I just can," he said simply. "Ryan had a bandage on his forehead. Hazel's ears are pierced, but the holes haven't sealed up even though she isn't wearing any earrings tonight. They're both normals. That means their kids are normals, too. Millie? Are you listening to me?"
She looked up, one finger still wrapped in a loose thread of her hand-me-down cape. "Yes, sir."
"Normals don't heal as quickly as supers like you and I do. So when you play with the other kids, you need to be gentle. No super-strength. In fact, when we're around the Eiffels, don't use your powers at all. Okay?"
Oh. Amy thought about it, twisting the toe of her shoe into the bathroom tile. "Okay…"
They flushed the toilet to make their visit to the bathroom less suspicious, and Father even had her wash her hands (with soap!) just to be sure they covered their tracks. Amy was still shaking off the last few drips when she stepped into the hall again. To her surprise, there were three whole kids in the Eiffel family, all with dark eyes and shiny blue-black hair. They'd all been so quiet when she and her father arrived, she never would have guessed they existed. I mean, yeah, Tyler was supposed to exist, but in the maybe three or four conversations Amy had ever had with him, he'd never mentioned a big sister or little brother.
The three kids stood between her and the kitchen, with Mrs. Eiffel behind them. The girl had long, pretty braids and a bright white toothpaste commercial sort of smile. The scruffy toddler on the end was too young to even go to kindergarten. The boy in the middle lifted his hand as high as his chin and flicked it in a shy wave. Amy almost smiled back at him, remembering at the last moment to keep her awkward front teeth tucked away. She did smile, but with closed lips.
"Amy." Mrs. Eiffel tapped each head in turn. "This is Pearl, Tyler, and Keaton. You'll be staying in Pearl's room while you're here. Tyler's in your grade, of course. I'm sure you know each other well- he always talks about how nice it is when you walk him to the library before class."
"It was just three times," Tyler corrected, his fingers curling into the neck of his sweater.
Oh, yeah. Absently, Amy bobbed her head. A couple of thick-headed bullies had pushed him off the top of the slide on the playground and then laughed when the wood chips he landed on made his hands bleed, and since she had superpowers and all, she hadn't been about to allow teasing on her watch. Tyler always came to school early enough to poke around the library, and the first day after the incident with the boys on the slide, Amy had accidentally-on-purpose followed him just to make sure they didn't try to bother him off the playground, either. She hadn't known he didn't have any superpowers, but she'd always sensed he was a little bit, well, strange.
Tyler looked different here than he did at school. Less confident, less controlling. In class, he was the boy who seized all the good crayons from the art supply bin. Teachers always congratulated him on writing the best stories. One time he even won a giant rainbow pinwheel as a prize. But here in his apartment, squished between his older sister and a younger brother almost as big as he was, he looked so small, like a lunchbox crammed into a cupboard between two backpacks. It almost, almost made her giggle. His turtleneck sweater drowned him in a puddle of red and green. Amy covered her mouth to keep from showing her teeth, biting on the flap of skin between her thumb and forefinger.
"Hot chocolate?" Mrs. Eiffel asked, holding out two green mugs. Amy and her father each took one, trailing into the kitchen after her. The drink scalded the corners of her lips, but Amy gulped it down anyway. Apple cider would forever be her favorite, but hot chocolate was definitely a very, very close second. It was just so… warm.
A finger tapped her shoulder. Amy's fingers clenched the mug. When she spun around, she found herself nose to nose with Pearl, who smiled and bounced on her toes.
"Hi, Millie! After dinner, you should come see my room. It's pink with princesses. I have three really good pillows, but I want you to pick which one you want. It'll be so fun to have you over, and if you need more blankets, just ask me! We can share."
Amy cringed at the sound of her 'M' name. Somehow, Tyler noticed. When Pearl trotted off, he materialized where she had been, wide-eyed and still gripping the thick neck of his sweater.
"Hey, um. You go by Amy at school, right? Do you like 'Amy' or 'Millie' better?"
She averted her eyes. "I hate getting called Millie." Truth be told, Amy wasn't the most exciting name, but at least it was better than Millie. Mom had called her Millie.
"Oh, okay. So you're Amy." Tyler darted off and found a seat at the table between his brother and sister. Amy circled the table and sat across from him, in the seat her father pulled out for her. He covered her lap in a napkin, because the Eiffels were fancy enough that they used napkins for dinner. And they had a white tablecloth. Amy could scarcely remember the last time she'd eaten in a restaurant. Too bad there weren't any kids' menus with crayons.
Father raised his own hot chocolate to his lips for the first time, but didn't sip it. Steam trails played across his face. When he sat down, he leaned his elbows on the table. "So. Ryan. Rumor has it that you folk were living quite comfortably in Ontario until this summer. Was it difficult to leave family behind in Canada?"
"Every day," Mr. Eiffel sighed, setting a tall pot of soup in the middle of the table. The pot had its own tiny wire tray to keep it off the cloth. "Two sets of grandparents for the kids, four sets of great-grandparents…"
"I can only imagine. What brought you down to Massachusetts?"
"My brother's built a name for himself in Boston."
Mrs. Eiffel ladled a serving of soup into Keaton's bowl. "Beyond that, Ryan and I share a love for the sea. The harbor's nice, and he and I both received job offers in the area, too."
"Oh, you work? Do tell. There's a villain conference coming up, you know. I'll take care to spread the word so we can keep property damage in the area to a minimum."
"I graduated from dental school last spring."
As the adults talked about boring adult things, Amy got up to get her food. She heaped her plate with steak, potatoes, and steamed vegetables, then moved towards the comfy living room couch. Specifically, the seat with the TV remote on it, right next to that cozy blanket. Instantly, Mrs. Eiffel's attention zipped over to her.
"Oh! No food over the carpet, please, dear."
Amy froze mid-step. Her foot came down behind her. She looked down at her food, then up again. "It's on a plate."
"Millie," said her father, the lip of his hot chocolate mug hovering against his mouth. She glanced over her shoulder at him. He was giving her that look of his, both his eyebrows high and pressed together in their middles.
"Wait!" This was perfect! She had super speed! She fell into it as naturally as reaching out a finger to pop a bubble. The world slowed around her like Jell-O in a dish. One moment, she was standing there. The next, everyone but her sat almost-frozen in place, and everyone was very quiet. Her hand blurred even before her own eyes. It would be at least thirty seconds before any voices reached her ears, and only then if someone was fast enough to speak as soon as her super speed kicked in. Amy shoveled her food into her mouth in great big bites, although it really didn't matter how fast she ate. From her point of view she might still feel like she was moving in a mostly-normal speed, but this way when she finished, the night would still be young. That left plenty of time for watching TV or even playing some games.
At last, she dropped her fork on the plate, and set the plate up on the counter beside the serving dishes. "There. I'm done. It was really good, thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Eiffel!"
Father's hands came down on either side of his food. His plate rattled against the table. Uh-oh. Amy shrank back, one foot behind the other. Her hands moved to the front of her shirt. Bearing all his weight on his palms, Father stood. His chair scraped across the floor. "Amelia Wenling. Please sit with us at the table until you are excused."
Now everyone was watching her. Mr. Eiffel, Mrs. Eiffel, and all three of their children, too. Even the ones who had to twist their chairs halfway around to see her. Amy stared at the toes of her boots until her gaze blurred and burned. Her hands dropped to her waist, linked in a ball. She licked one half of her lips. "Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir."
Each step towards the table scorched her feet with flaming thorns. Amy took the seat on her father's right side in silence. She'd put her plate away already, so now she had just enough space in front of her to plop down her head, if she wanted to. She started to place her elbows on the table, but a soft nudge of her father's leg against her own made her change her mind. As the grown-ups all began to talk again, Amy mostly bounced her legs and stared at the salt shaker just in front of her. Tyler sat on the other side of it with his hands folded in his lap, but every few seconds, he'd sneak a peek at her and quickly look away. Most of his food was gone. He hadn't finished his potatoes. He hadn't even started his potatoes. The cheese melting on top of them still lay in separate stripes instead of a goopy mess.
"The truck is supposed to pass through by 4:00," Father droned, and Mr. Eiffel nodded his agreement.
"Three weeks, do you think it will get you?"
"Five, but only if I get caught."
"We're honored that you trust us. We'll look after her like our own."
Bleh. Work talk. Always with the work talk; Father could make a talk with other grown-ups last for hours. Maybe that was another of his powers. Pearl looked just as captivated by all of it as her parents did, so there was no point in trying to talk to her. Hm.
Stretching out her foot, Amy prodded Tyler in the knee. His shoulders jumped. He fired a look across the table like his feelings were hurt, but like he was also super curious to see whether she had done it on purpose or not.
"Hey," she whispered, cupping one hand around her mouth. Tyler squinted, and Amy pointed down at the table. Then, slipping from her seat, she ducked beneath the tablecloth.
A moment later, Tyler joined her underneath the table on his hands and knees. "What are we doing?"
Amy shifted away from Keaton's kicking legs. "Are your family always like this?"
"Like what?" He actually really did sound confused. Amy flipped her hands over.
"So much… talking? How much longer before we can turn on the TV? Or maybe go out walking?"
Tyler shrugged without taking his hands off the floor. "Well, first, everyone has to finish eating. Then we have to do dishes and sweep. Usually it's baths next, but not today because we already took them early, and so I guess we'd just get in pajamas next. Then we can listen to the radio or watch TV for a little while, and maybe have dessert before bed as long as we were on our best behavior today. Maybe ice cream with rainbow sprinkles. I like mint chocolate chip."
Best behavior. Always with this 'best behavior' stuff. She should have known. "Oh," Amy mumbled, shoulders slumping. She slid even farther from Keaton when he kicked a little more. Her elbow bumped against a chair leg, and she winced as fake snowflakes spluttered up her arm.
"Well." Tyler glanced down, then up again. He scraped one flop of hair out of his eyes. "Hey. I mean, you're staying with us for maybe a month, right? We'll get to watch TV at least once while you're here."
Amy balled her fists against her forehead. She didn't know. She didn't know anything. Her father, one of the most successful and dangerous supervillains in town, wanted to rob a fancy delivery truck really, really early in the morning, and he acted like he had a plan, but everything could still go so wrong. The truck might change its expected route. The other villains he teamed up with could betray him. They might rob the wrong car altogether. The police might stump him with a puzzle game he absolutely needed to know the answer to. Even if he did get the money he was after, he'd be lying low for days. Win or lose, he wouldn't be back for a week, at least.
Her hands dropped to her knees. She let go of her breath. Tyler watched her, arms folded just a little bit. "My dad says your family are normals," she said.
His head tipped even farther to the right. "Normals?"
"You don't have superpowers."
Tyler shrugged, tugging the hems of his sleeves over his hands. Amy scooted closer to him and lowered her whisper further.
"What superpower do you think you'd have if you did have a superpower?"
"Um. I don't know. I'd have to know all my choices and think about it before I picked one." Tyler looked up at her again, his eyes wide. "What kinds of powers are there?"
"Well…" Amy was surprised she had to think about it, but she did. She tapped one finger against her chin. "There are nature powers, like mine. I have freeze breath. My dad has wind powers, so he's super speedy. My mom had water powers, and she was super strong."
"What happened to your mom?"
Amy shrugged. Losing interest in the table, she lifted a tiny flap of the tablecloth between Keaton and Tyler's empty chair and peered into the living room. The adults were still talking about serious things in fake-cheerful voices to hide the dark and spooky parts. Maybe they wouldn't notice. Amy dropped to her forearms and wiggled her way beneath Tyler's chair. She crawled all the way to the living room and hid behind the newspaper-laden coffee table and one curve of the large U-shaped couch. Tyler followed her.
"Where's your Christmas tree?" Amy asked, sitting back on her heels. It seemed like it was pretty late in December not to have one set up and decorated.
"My family doesn't celebrate Christmas."
"Really? Never ever? There's a Christmas tree on your sweater."
Tyler blinked and looked down at his chest. One hand moved to cover the simple, spiky tree sewn across the middle. "Oh, yeah. Well, my mom said I have to wear this to be a good host because you guys were coming over. I don't know."
"Ah." Amy leaned her head back against the couch. Her attention slid from the blank TV to the dark windows with their blinds hitched up and then to the neatly folded blanket behind her. She pulled the blanket from the couch's arm into her lap. The blue top was super silky, but the bottom was super fluffy and looked like cotton. She couldn't decide which way she wanted it.
"Does it bother you that your dad used to be a superhero, and now he's a bad guy?" Tyler asked, out of nowhere.
Amy's hands stiffened in the blanket. She raised her head, but didn't say anything. What was she supposed to say?
"I did research. By myself." Tyler lifted a stack of newspapers from the coffee table, clutching them close to his chest in a hug. They didn't line up straight. Sharp corners jabbed in all directions. His fingers fumbled about, clenching in the creases. A few loose inside pages slipped from his grip and swirled to the floor. Tyler ignored them, setting his jaw. He rifled through the stack for a minute and finally held one page out to Amy.
She took it. She didn't want to look at the little gray picture in the article, but she did. It was actually two pictures: One of Zephyr accepting yet another key to the city in a long line of keys, dressed in the old sky blue and white costume he sometimes wore for pajamas now, and one of Zephyr spotted fleeing from the bank with two lumpy bags of cash in his arms and a dozen more floating behind him in the wind, his blue cape darker and his white clothes exchanged for black.
Amy crunched the newspaper in her hands. Her palms had gotten sweaty. Ink rubbed off on her thumb. "Well, maybe if the city actually paid superheroes for catching criminals and saving people, he wouldn't have had to change when I was born. Did you ever think about that? Huh? He had a baby and no one even cared enough to help him. Maybe it's the city's fault he went bad."
Tyler made his eyebrows go scrunchy. "How is it the city's fault that Zephyr started committing crimes? He's the one being bad."
"Because after my mom died, he had to take care of me all by himself. He tried to get the city to pay him for superhero stuff so he could buy food and diapers and everything, but the mayor said doing good deeds was its own reward." The story carried familiar weight on her tongue. She could have said it underwater with her eyes closed after spinning around three times.
Tyler's eyes crossed, and Amy wondered what he was thinking about. He tapped one finger against his cheek, and tilted back his head to look at the ceiling. "Maybe superheroes shouldn't have kids, then. Can't he just get a regular job?"
"No." Duh. "It's 'beneath a super' because it's 'complicated adult stuff.' You'll understand when you're older."
"I think I'll still think stealing's wrong when I'm older."
"Hey, my dad only steals money from city projects that are wasteful, bad ideas." Amy threw her arms into the air. "Like the park statue project. Why should we build statues of people who are dead when there are living people alive today in this town who don't have any food to eat? I'm a living person! Living people are more important than big dumb statues!"
"… Oh." Tyler looked down at his newspaper stash. Gingerly, he set them on the table again, and gave the stack's top a pat. He left his hand there for a long time. Except for the chatter at the kitchen table, it was quiet. "I guess that's reasonable," he finally said. "Sort of. After your dad started causing trouble in the city, did he ever ask the mayor again if he could be paid to go back to being a superhero?"
Amy huffed through her nostrils and threw a stare at the silent TV. "I don't know, okay?"
"Maybe he should ask. The city probably lost a lot of money when he became a villain. They might want him to be a hero again. I bet they'd pay him."
"He never listens to me," she muttered to the floor.
Dinner ended eventually, and then it was time for everyone to help clean. Father used his wind powers to lift the bowls, cups, and napkins from the table, snapping his fingers in a constant rhythm as he directed them towards the sink. Mr. Eiffel wiped down the counter, Mrs. Eiffel and Pearl did the dishes, and Amy and Tyler tackled the table together. Using super speed made the job go much faster. For everyone else, at least.
"I should go," Father said, shaking Mr. Eiffel's hand in good-bye. "Wouldn't want to miss my train."
"We'll take good care of Millie," Mr. Eiffel promised. "Three meals a day, homework done, never late for school."
"Amy," Tyler corrected, pouring crumbs into the trash can. Amy stood silently behind him. When her father passed by, she reached out her arm.
"Daddy? I mean, sir?" Amy grasped the silky end of his cape and tugged hard, biting her lip. When he turned, she pulled back her hand. "So, uh, when do you think you'll be back from jail?"
Father's eyes softened. He bent down, not quite crouching, and stroked the loose threads of blue hair that had swung from her careful barrette. "Oh, Millie… I'll be home in a few months, without fail. And that's only if we get caught. If all goes well, you'll see me within a week. Then we'll go out for ice cream."
He kissed her forehead, rubbing behind her skull with his fingertips. Amy didn't try to hug him back, but waited respectfully for him to pull away. He did. Straightening, he walked away towards the door. She walked away towards the windows. It was dark enough outside that she could still see her father reflected in the glass clearly, instead of the brick wall. He wasn't even looking at her. Even worse, Tyler was, his brown eyes all big and round with knowing pity. Her shoulders cringed. Her hands tightened together at her sides. Was that bitter? Bitterness felt right, so bitter she would be. Just for a month, or maybe just a week. However long it took.
When Father opened the door to the Eiffel's apartment, Amy closed her eyes so she didn't have to watch it shut without him.