God, but she was hungover. Cutting through the throbbing stupor in her head, she remembered brief glimpses of the previous night.
It was her 40th birthday party. Carl had spent weeks setting it up. It was at her favorite pub, with all her friends and only those members of her family she actually liked. He'd hired the finest chefs to cook her favorite foods and used the considerable connections he had as Editor-in-Chief of Newsplanet to get her favorite band to play.
And, far as she could remember, she got blind raving drunk an hour into it, made a pass at Carl's best friend, threw up and passed out. He caught her as she fell, of course. He always caught her when she fell, since that first day they met, hurtling down the side of a massive skyscraper. He caught her then, and every time since. Right up to last night, when she fell over unconscious after flashing her chest at the entire party. Her memory was fuzzy on the matter, but she remembered him taking her home, cleaning her up and putting her to bed with a glass of water and a big bucket.
And that was how intrepid girl reporter Lauren Lance entered her 40s. Of course, it was Lauren Lance-Kane these days, and she was pretty sure 40 meant she couldn't call herself a girl any more. It was funny; she'd fought the "girl reporter" label her entire career, but right now she'd kill for someone to call her a girl.
"How's my girl doing?"
She mustered a smile for him, slowly trying to raise her head. "Ohhh, you know--know me," she coughed. "'M ready an'...rarin'...uggghhhhh..." she slowly burrowed her head deep into the pillow. All that could be heard from her was a low moan, muffled further by the pillow. Then she was silent for a while.
Then, "...'m sorry."
He came to the side of the bed, sitting in the air a few inches above the bed, so as not to disturb her. "Don't be silly. It was your party. Though you really should have been there. The Slow Children played 3 sets." When she groaned, he smiled. "Don't worry. I captured the whole thing on a brain chip. When yours is feeling better, we can take a trip to the Sanctuary and you can use the Mentallus helmet to have another go at the party."
She started to cry.
"Hey hey," he rubbed her back. He always worried when she cried, given that it hardly ever happened. "Hey, what's... wait." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small glass vial. "I want to talk, but you should drink this first. I went to retrieve it from the Sanctuary this morning."
She sat up gingerly, wincing a bit at the muted daylight that crept in through the closed blinds. She snuffled, her tears and hangover momentarily forgotten as curiosity got the better of her. "What is it?"
He held out the vial. "It's just a bit of Titanic serum. I thought it might help."
She took it, looking over the vial. "But that's dangerous for me to take," she said. "This stuff can kill me." She'd taken Titanic serum twice before, back when she and Carl were first dating, back before she knew he was The Titan. She dated him in his heroic persona for a while, and in that time had occasion to become involved in his adventures. One of those adventures involved the first time she'd taken Titanic serum, the second time she'd taken it was after they started getting serious. He'd just revealed his identity to her and they'd had the big talk. She knew he was essentially immortal, and she took the Titanic serum in the hope that she'd be able to share that life with him. It had given her powers like his for a day, as it did the first time, but when the serum wore off she was deathly ill for two days. Dr. Molecule looked her over and determined that the serum had completely compromised her system. If she took it too many more times, it could damage her irreversibly. Which was why she was a bit puzzled about him offering it as a hangover cure.
"It's not what you're used to," he said. "It's a much milder form. I had Doc Molecule help me make some. I was going to give you the vial last night, after the party."
She grinned sheepishly, then looked at the vial. "So, it's safe to drink?" She didn't wait for an answer and drank it all down. She immediately began feeling better. "Wow," she said. "Talk about hitting the spot." She examined herself. "Not feeling all that Titanic, though."
He shook his head. "You won't," he said. "Oh, you'll be a bit stronger for a day or so, more stamina, slightly faster. You'll heal a lot quicker, obviously," he gestured at her. Then he shrugged. "But don't expect to be throwing cars around or shooting raybeams out of your eyes. And flying is right out." He looked at her, and she could tell he was monitoring her vitals with his enhanced senses. "What's going on?" he asked.
She tried to laugh and brush it off, but she knew he wouldn't have it. She managed to buy some time while she got out of bed and got dressed, but finally had to steel herself for the conversation to come. Fortunately, at that moment, the front wall of their apartment was torn away. He was in costume before she could blink.
"Get to the safe room," he said, in the deep baritone of his Titan voice.
"I want to see what--"
She left the room, bypassing the saferoom and instead making for the stairs to the roof. She'd have a much better view from up there.
What she saw when she got there took her a bit by surprise. An army of flying warrior women had descended upon the city. And at the lead was...
"Princess Hero," she heard her husband say. "What is this? What on Earth do you think you're doing?!"
"I am a princess no longer, Titan," Lauren heard her say. "I have forgone the cape of the hero in favor of the cloak of a queen. I am the Warrior Queen of Amaz, and I have come for my consort."
Lauren turned and ran for the stairs, so she only heard the first part of her husband's answer. "Dina," he said, calling her by her true name, "this is absurd. I have no inten--"
She raced down the stairs, knowing already what the Queen had planned. Magic. Amaz was a world of magic. For all his great powers, her husband was vulnerable to magic. She was moving pretty fast, so the Titanic serum must be doing something. Not enough to go toe to toe with Queenie out there, though, that was for sure.
Dina. She swore under her breath. She'd always been jealous of Dina. She didn't want to be, she'd hoped she was better than that, but...no. They had tried to be friends, for Carl's sake, but they really didn't have much in common, other than Carl, and Lauren preferred they not have too much of Carl in common. Bad enough Carl and Dina had so much in common. She was nearly as strong as he was, with most of his other powers. She could fight monsters and mad scientists with him and they could fly in outer space together. How does an "intrepid girl reporter" compete with that?
Carl had insisted he didn't want her to, that Lauren had something Dina never could, and that was why he loved her so much. She never asked him what that something was, and she actually did believe him, but she was happy nonetheless when Dina was called home to replace her mother on the throne. She and Carl had gone to the coronation, but hadn't stayed long.
And now Dina was back, and after her man. She stopped back in their apartment to grab something, then ran the rest of the way to the ground floor. She made it outside just as Dina was putting Carl under her spell. Lauren grabbed a large lead pipe that would have been far too heavy to lift any other day and cracked the Queen across the back of the head with it. It was hard enough to knock the bigger woman down.
"Get your hands off my husband, whore," she said. Behind her, Carl had begun to stir from his spellbound state. Before he could come around, Dina punched her in the face. She felt her nose break from the punch and cracked a couple of ribs when she hit the wall.
"You dare?!" Dina stormed over to Lauren, who pulled herself to her feet. Carl struggled to shake off the spell. "Your husband is mine, animal. As a favor to my new consort, I'd planned to leave you alive." She gripped Lauren by the throat. "Plans can change."
"Here's...grk...hoping..." Lauren choked out. She pulled one of the explosive charges The Knight Watchman left at the apartment from her pocket and shoved it down Dina's metal breastplate.
The explosion threw the two women to opposite sides of the street. Dina went down and didn't get back up. Her warriors gathered around her. She would live, but she'd be going home without a consort. The warrior women looked in Lauren's direction with grudging respect and gathered up their fallen queen. They left as quickly as they came. She felt herself falling, knowing the blast must have done her in. Then she felt strong arms around her, and a gentle deep voice in her ear, telling her it would be all right.
He'd caught her again. Like he always did. Like he always would. But she was happy to know that, sometimes, he needed her to catch him too.