by Lilian Colby
As fast as she walked out, Reuben walked straight back in.
| It's been three months since Reuben's gone “missing.” I quote missing because really, she just up and left. The only reason why it's referred to as missing is because Tony never wants to admit that Reuben left. He blames himself for her leaving, because he told her something we all knew she would go after at any length to find. Tony told Reuben her mother was never actually found dead. The last time we talked she was in hospital recovering from her surgeries. I still remember how I was hanging on every word she said, because I was expecting for her to just die at any moment. Even though her surgeries were successful, that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to die. She still had one major problem that we had no idea how to fix. That was the two tesseracts tearing her apart. Her two life forces are slowly eating at each other, and god only knows if she’s still alive. Although the crime rates have gone down a subsequential amount, and I think that’s her doing. The only way we can help Reuben is if she’s actually with us. Which she isn’t. Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t notice Kyle trying to get my attention.
“James, if this is going to work, we need you with us, not all depressed over Reuben. It’s been three months, c’mon man. You need to be fully here, not off in the distance.”
“Right, I’m here. What’s the plan?”
“What’s the plan? We’ve been planning this for months, what the Hell do you mean what’s the plan?”
“Right, sorry. I just spaced out.”
“James, you can’t keep on doing this. Yeah you miss Reuben, but so doesn’t everyone else. I mean, even Tony is handling it better than you. You just need to get over it and move on like the rest of us.”
“You’re talking about her like she’s dead, just saying.” I say, irritated.
The reason why Kyle is super tense is because this is the biggest battle we’ve taken on without our parents by our side. Instead, we were going to be a distraction while they went for the head honcho. We were a few blocks away, and within two blocks of the place, they already had guards up. I signaled to Kyle, and stayed low while he took the ones accessible out with his bow. I went through a window and took those guards out, and once I was done, Kyle and I proceeded ahead.
“This would be a hell of alot easier if Reuben was he-” Kyle stopped mid sentence, looking in the distance like he’s just seen a ghost. I followed his gaze, and was struck stupid.
“Well, speak of the devil.” Kyle said, cautiously proceeding. There she was. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She slowly approached us, almost like she didn’t recognize us.
“If this plan is going to work, we’re going to have to step up our game. The perimeter around here is tighter than an uptight blonde in high school.” She spoke out. It was enough to bring me back to what I was supposed to be doing.
“Right, let’s split up. I’ll take the right, and you’ll take the left.” I said, directing my words toward Kyle.
“And Reuben… You’ll take the inside.”
“Aye, aye, Cap’n.” She said, flashing me that gorgeous smile that I’ve to see for months now.
Splitting up, we quickly executed our plan. We finally got to the mission point, and realized that we just jumped into the deep end.
“Still want to be fish bait?” I hear Reuben quietly ask.
“It’s the only way they can get to him.” Kyle said.
I looked resiliently at Reuben, and noticed that her eyes were no longer the same vibrant blue, but more of a gray with a small tint of blue.
“I know. It’s gotten worse over the past few weeks. But I’m handling it. C’mon, we’ve got a mission to fulfil. You guys want to make your parents proud, right? Well, now’s your chance.” Reuben says. Without warning, she stands straight up, and we’re stuck, helpless at what her plan is.
“Hey, birdbrain! Did your mom drop you on your face, or were you always that ugly.”
“What the hell is going on out there?” Asked Clint.
“She’s back.” I say, my eyes slightly glazed over with tears of joy. “Reuben’s finally back.”
Finally executing our plan, we put the “Meistro” under custody. We all hurry outside, in hopes Reuben would still be here. walking out, we find our three kids mid conversation.
“Where did you come up with that? I never thought I’d hear something so funny during a battle.” Kyle asked.
“Who ever said battles needed to be dead serious?” Reuben said with a wide smile on her face.
“Reuben.” I say, breathing a deep sigh of relief.
“Hi, Dad. I’ve been gone a while, but I’m not going to leave for a while.” She says, an awkward smile on her face. Without hesitation, I walked straight up to Reuben and held her tight in my arms.
“Dad, you’re kind of crushing me..” Reuben said.
“Right, sorry, I, I just didn’t think I’d ever see you again.” I manage to get out, stuttering the entire time. I finally got to get a clear look at her face, and all the blood drained from my face. Her cheeks were so hollowed out, they were like craters, and her eyes, her eyes. It’s almost as if all life had been sucked out of them, because they were now and grey, with a slight tint of blue.
“I know, Dad. James noticed the same thing. It’s gotten worse over the past few weeks, and I’ve been watching you guys closely. Three days ago, I finally came to the realization that I was in serious trouble, and I knew about this plan. I figured I’d come help out the boys, and give you an explanation. But, now I’m realizing how selfish I’m being. I walked out of your life without an explanation, and here I am, prying back in….” Reuben said, hanging her head low.
“Reuben, you’re not being selfish. You have no idea how relieved we all are. Come on, let's get you home.” Natasha said, walking up from behind me. Reuben’s eyes glazed out with tears, and she basically just collapsed into my arms, letting out small sobs. I comfort her, and I tell the team to go home, and that we’d meet them there. I think she wanted to be saved from the humiliation of letting the team see her weak.
“It’s okay Rue. Just promise me you will never leave again.”
“Dad, I’m not going to be living with you forever you know.” She said, a grin on her face.
“Okay, smarty pants. Let’s go home.”
“Home sounds like a good idea.” She replied.
Finally bringing my baby girl home, the whole team seemed thrilled, yet shocked that Rue was back home. The last person to come up to Rue was-
“Thor!” Rue exclaimed, throwing her arms around him.
“Reuben,” Thor said, a somber look on his face.
“Thor, what’s that look on your face for?” Rue asked him, not giving any thought about how badly seeing her was affecting Thor.
“Pardon me, but Reuben, you look absolutely terrible.” Thor blurted.
“It’s that bad, huh?” Reuben said, looking to her feet. “Were you able to find anything?”
“There is no possible way to extract one tesseract without taking the other one as well. And with everything you’ve been through, I’m not sure what would happen. Whether you’d be fine, or…. all the injuries you’ve suffered from that the tesseract healed would come back, putting your life at risk…”
“So either way, there’s a possibility of death?” Reuben said, letting out a small snort. “Did…. all of you know…. about this?” Reuben said in a flat tone.
“Yes. That is why everyone is relieved to see you. You’re not dead!” Thor said, a smile on his face. Obviously, he was trying to lighten the mood, but it wasn’t working so well.
“I might as well be,” Reuben muttered.
“Why don’t you go and get some rest? I’m sure you’ve probably missed your bed.”
“You’re damn right, I missed my bed.” Reuben said, a small smirk on her face.
“Well, I’m gonna go practice dying. Dead girl walking!” She shouted back to us, walking to her room.
How could I have been so selfish. I was so relieved to finally have my daughter back, I had completely forgotten her condition. I mean, yeah, I could tell she wasn’t all right, but. But I just couldn’t make myself face the fact that my daughter was dying. Eighteen years of life, and with the snap of a finger, she could drop any second.
Damn. As fast as she walked out, she waltzed straight back in. But Reuben wasn’t her normal self, not like before. I think the fact that her life source is destroying her is slowly dawning on her. I need to go see her. I need to go see what’s going on, and if I can help. Just as I move from my desk, BAM! My door flew open, and Reuben trudged into my room and flopped down on my bed.
“Hey.” She said, lying on her stomach, her head resting on her arms, looking at me. God, she’s so gorgeous and she doesn’t even realize it.
“Hey, come be my body pillow, I’m tired.” She said.
“Oh, I suppose I should go to bed as well.” I hear myself say. Well, it was 1:30 A.m.
I go into the bathroom and change into my sweatpants and shirt, and when I walk out, Reuben is curled up on her side, fast asleep.
“You jerk.” I mumble, lying down next to her.
“Who’s the jerk?” She says, her eyes now open, staring at me, grinning.
“You.” I say.
“Oh really? I’m really the jerk?” She says, snuggling up to me.
“Yeah, you are.” I say, kissing her softly on the forehead.
“I’m sorry for leaving.” She suddenly blurted. I couldn’t really speak what was on my mind. But I knew the one thing that kept on rising up to the surface was the right thing to say.
“Please, just please, let me know where you’re going next time. I thought you were dead…”
“Well, clearly I’m not.” She says, looking me in the eye. Looking back into her eyes, I could tell she had a plan. Slowly, our faces inched towards each other, like it was a natural thing. Our lips finally met, and the sweet, soft kiss sent thrills through my heart. I never thought that this day would come, the day I’d finally be able to kiss reuben again. But after a few minutes, I noticed something different. Reuben’s hands were cold, along with her lips. I reluctantly pulled my lips away, and Reuben gave me a funny look.
“What’s wrong?” she blankly asked.
“Your hands, and your lips; they’re freezing. Like a cold stone.”
“I know… it’s been getting progressively worse. But hey, Thor found a cure, so I’ll be okay soon.”
“No, reuben, you won’t. There’s no guarantee that you will be okay.”
“But there’s no guarantee that I won’t be okay, either….” She said, a somber look on her face.
“Reuben, please. Just consider what could happen You could die, and don’t want to lose you. I can’t bare losing you again. I can’t handle it.”
Reuben just buried her face in my chest, mumbling a few words that I couldn’t quite catch. We didn’t say anything more. We just held each other, and soon fell into our own fantasies that each of our brains would want.
Falling asleep in James’ arms was the most secure I’ve felt in months. His strong aura overwhelming me. And yet, something is missing. I’ve changed, and I’ve lost so much over the past few months. I learn that my mother hasn’t been found dead, so now she really is missing in action. Guess I shouldn’t have crossed that out in the records. After that unfortunate thought, I woke up with a start, sitting up straight. James woke up immediately, asking what was wrong, worry clearly written on his face.
“It's nothing…. Just a bad dream….” I respond.
“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked me.
“James…” I say, looking him in the eye.
“I'm sorry. I'm sorry how selfish I was, dropping off the face of the earth like that. I understand if you're mad at me, because I would be mad at me too….”
“Reuben, I'll admit that I WAS mad, I didn't understand why you ran, and I at first blamed myself. I thought that I had smothered you, and you didn't know how to react. But now, I understand. You ran, because you knew your mother was still alive. In all honesty, I would have done something similar, but I would've kept in close contact.”
“Yeah, that's the difference between you and I. You're mind is always set on home; but in my mind, I'm my own home. Wherever I went, it was my home. But now, it's changed… A lot. Now, I've come to the realization that YOU are my home. I have come to a new point in my life, and when I was gone, you have no idea how much it absolutely killed me to not see you, or kiss you, or cuddle you, or just hear your voice. While I was gone, I came to a realization. That realization is, I love you.” In the midst of all this, a few tears had gone down my cheek, and James gingerly wiped them away, and smiled at me. He pulled my head to his a chest, and I just listened to his heart beat. It wasn't calm and steady as usual, instead it was beating a little faster.
“I love you” I heard James whisper as he kissed the top of my head.
With those three words, I knew this is something that I’ve been waiting for for too long.
The darkness that surrounded me was eerie, and the only sound made was that of my ragged breath and quick moving foot steps. My memory was shattered, and I couldn’t remember what I was running from, but I knew there was danger. I tried desperately to escape the black sheet that was around me, but it just kept going on and on. I felt tiredness begin to plague me, but I kept pushing on. I tried using my powers, but it was as if they had never even existed. I felt myself begin to gradually slow down, my legs trembling as i tried to push on. Finally succumbing to the weakness flowing through my muscles, I collapsed to the ground. I began to shake, shear terror coursing through my veins. Why had I been running? How long had I been running? And why the HELL are my powers not WORKING? I couldn’t find an answer to two out of the three questions. However, the answer for one question came sooner than anticipated.
“Have you come to your senses and stopped running?”
The sudden voice made me jump, but the voice didn’t send terror. It was a voice that used to resemble security and love.
“Fool. I am not your mother. She has been lost to the depths of lost souls.”
I managed to get that small sentence out, and weakly stood up. There was a creepy laugh, that of someone knowing something I did not.
“Come on! Stop being a coward! Show yourself!”
The woman who had stolen my Mother’s voice finally stepped out, I and was genuinely surprised. Although, I should have suspected it.
“Why do you have my Mother’s voice? How is this even POSSIBLE?”
“It's not.” She smiled.
The voice came from Red Skull’s mistress, whom was dressed in all green, just as she was yesterday.
“What do you want from me? You're not under his orders anymore. You don't have to do anything to me.”
“You really are your Father’s daughter. Overinflated confidence, thinks she's better than everyone around her. You're completely oblivious to what lies in between the lines.”
“And what might lie between the lines?” I timidly asked.
“Are you sure that you're prepared for the truth?”
After she asked me that question, she began to fade away.
“Wait! What do you mean?!” I desperately asked, but there was no answer.
I collapsed to the ground and was once again surrounded by darkness.