Chuck pressed his fingertips into the biological scanner.
"Welcome Home" appeared in little red LCD dots and the silver door to his hidden underground headquarters slid open.
Beasley was there to welcome him as usual and take his boots.
"How did it go? You're alive, which cranks it up to 'pretty ok', right?" Beasley had been there from the beginning. Back in the orphanage when he was just Nigel, they'd become fast friends but he'd always been timid. He was happy in his role, the Silent Assistant. To him, it felt just as mysterious as if he were the one in costume each night.
Chuck grimaced as he peeled off his ergonomically correct, NASA-knock-off suit and mask. He'd really pulled something in his shoulder picking that guy up over his head.
"I got him."
"Great. Well, they're waiting for you upstairs."
He'd have to attend to his injury later. Beasley, ever swift and efficient, had already separated Chuck's grappling hooks, guns, grenades and other various secret weapons from his suit pieces - breastplate, tights, boots - in order to prepare them for cleaning and was holding open the elevator door.
Chuck, having made a quick change into a tailored Italian grey suit with silver and white damask tie, stepped into the elevator as he slicked a comb through his hair and checked the mirrored walls for flecks of dried blood or visible bruises. Clean as a whistle. He’d taken care not to get too roughed up tonight.
"Oh, and Chuck?" Beasley leaned towards the rapidly closing doors. He wanted to get this bit in at the last second. "Sasha's here."
"And that's when I said to him, I said, if I'd wanted a peace treaty I would have asked for a peace treaty."
Sasha chuckled politely at the former Governor's anti-climactic joke as she slipped away and into the empty library off the great room, hundreds of feet above Chuck's lair. She polished off the last of her champagne and turned the glass upside down in her hand. Her silver-painted finger tips swept the bookshelf closest to eye level until she found the groove she knew well. Sasha inserted the rim of the glass into its spot and turned it counter-clockwise. The shelf swiftly swiveled out and around to reveal a seemingly identical shelf that fit in perfectly with the rest of the book case. However, all the books were different. Sasha scanned them until she found the one she was looking for: Until We Have Faces by C.S.Lewis. She pulled it off the shelf and opened it to the inside of the back cover where a library card was stashed in its manila holder. She retrieved the card, slid the book back in place, spun the shelf around and was out of the room before anyone noticed she'd gone.
The governor was telling yet another painfully un-rousing anecdote.
"The Prime Minister, you see, is a friend of mine. So I told him I'd get Britney Spears to give him a private concert and you know what he said to that? You know? He said, 'No, no. We no like Britney Spears no more. We like woman with lots of hair. We want Cher."
Chuck's guests laughed appropriately - Michael the Governor's assistant, Leslie the journalist from City Weekly, Terence the owner and CEO of Chapman's Bank, Alex the head of Chuck's advertising firm CHK, Chuck's attorney, Steven, and Sasha, Chuck's, well, her title was fluid. The only one who didn't laugh, and who made a show of rolling her eyes, was Bunny - the Governor's wife.
Chuck came in to save the day.
"Thank you all for coming. Please, please find a seat. Governor do you have enough to drink there, sir? You do? Great. Everyone ok? Beasley put out hors d'oeuvre, didn't he? Help yourselves. Ok, well, Steven, why don't you get us started?"
Sasha studied her lover. Former lover. They didn't know quite what they were anymore. But she knew him better than he knew himself and that shoulder was going to need a good icing. She put her hand into the pocket of her dress (he'd bought it for her years ago) and stroked the library card. Looking back to him she realized that he hadn't given her a single glance since he'd come in.
Chuck peered at Sasha from the corner of his eye. She had the card in her right pocket and he could barely contain his grin. He had to cut this meeting short. Steven was finishing up his presentation.
"So that's the offer from Chapman's and I have these all in folders for you to review."
"Yes, yes. We will all need time to review the offer. Why don't we set up a meeting at my CHK office for next week?"
Alex gave Chuck a look but followed along.
“I’ll take a look at the calendar and send off an email tomorrow morning.”
“Excellent. Thank you all for coming. See you next week.” Chuck tried not to rush his guests out but only reached about 80% of the goal.
Soon everyone had gone except Sasha. They finally made eye contact.
"I thought this was supposed to be the big reveal. What'd you bring the press in for?" Sasha said.
Chuck ignored the question.
"I see you found it."
"Well, it wasn't hard to find now was it?"
"Of course, I remembered." Sasha said, without the least bit of tenderness. "If I were surprised at anything it would be that you managed to remember. Now what is it?"
"That," Chuck moved in close and slipped his wide hands around her narrow waist, "is up to you to find out."
Sasha pulled away. A soft, menacing wind whipped through the room, traced the lofted ceilings and fluttered between Chuck's pant legs and Sasha's skirt hem. It dissipated as Sasha took a breath, her eyes un-clouding from milky white to her neutral gray.
"We're not together, you know." She managed to say.
"I know that. But why not, for God's sake? We're the perfect couple! Besides, I can't focus on fighting crime when you're standing there in that tight, leather, purpley-black suit, right next to me, and I'm not even allowed to touch you! Really, when you think about it, us being apart is bad for the citizens of Capitol City."
"I'm not buying it Chuck."
Sasha stared at him long and hard. She could see right through to his muscles, his skeleton, his cells but not his heart. Not his soul.
"Stop trying to get inside me, Sasha. You and I both know your power doesn't work that way. And if it did, it'd be completely immoral to use it for that. And stupid. I'm showing you all my guts right now."
"I know," she said under her breath.
Suddenly the elevator doors slid open. Beasley sat slumped over in a corner, not moving. Sasha and Chuck ran to him, Chuck sliding to his knees and thrusting two fingers under Beasley's jaw.
Sasha reached down and pulled a piece of paper out of his hand. She read it aloud.
"Aren't secret hideaways supposed to be...secret?"
Beasley sat, although sat may have been too active a word for someone who had just fainted, in one of the over-sized plush chair in the library. Sasha blew a smarting cold wind into his face to awaken him.
He was groggy at first but he rebounded like a cat.
"Sir! Chuck! Sir Chuck!"
"They haven't knighted me yet, Beasley. Just slow down and tell us what happened."
Beasley rubbed his left temple.
"Well, I was down...downstairs...I had just put all your accessories away and your suit and was waiting for the elevator - I wanted to pop up for a moment and see if the refreshments needed to be refilled. Just as the door opened...