The Elvis Avenger rocked the house. He played a bunch of Elvis classics, and some new songs he’d written that were along the lines of something Elvis would have sung. He wore a rhinestone spangled jacket with a popped collar, but that was the only physical similarity. EA is a slender blonde guy. He didn’t look much like a superhero, but he was one heck of a performer. He owned the crowd, what little there was of it. I was surprised at how small the turnout was. EA isn't very well-known, either as a superhero or a singer.
Vlad shed his stuffy jacket and tie, and unbuttoned the top couple of buttons on the ruffly tuxedo shirt. It was a hot look on him, and he jammed with the rest of the crowd. When Elvis started singing Blue Suede Shoes, he dragged me to an open area off to the side, and danced with me like it was a sock hop.
We went to get a drink afterward, far enough from the music that we could talk. Vlad bought me a Sprite and some of the crawfish with Cajun spices. They dropped them live into a big boiling vat of water and spices. Even after all the great seafood I’d already eaten, I couldn’t resist.
“He is as skilled a performer as his namesake,” Vlad said as we sat at a little picnic table way in the back, still listening to the great music, but at a less overwhelming volume.
“You saw Elvis perform?”
“Many times. I lived in Las Vegas for much of the sixties and seventies. It was a tragedy that the world lost such a talent after so few years.”
“I forget that you’re as old as me, older, I mean. There aren’t many people who still remember Elvis when he was young.”
Vlad looked a little faraway. “There are a lot of things I remember that others have forgotten. The older you get, the more disconnected you can become.” Then he grinned wide. “It can make beautiful women call you a stalker if you lose track of the current cultural rules.”
“I don’t think there’s ever been a time when it was cool to stare in women’s windows at 3 AM.”
He coughed a laugh. “Perhaps not. But I have not been in danger of being arrested for it in other times.”
“It’s time to break the habit …” I broke off the banter as I watched some big ugly guy swat a girl in a short skirt on the ass. “You don’t want to be like that asshole.”
The girl turned with a “Hey!” and slapped the big bruiser in the face. “Hands off, jerk.”
The lady had guts, I have to say. The guy looked like he could snap her in half with two fingers. He looked big enough to snap Fafnir in half.
The giant jerk chuckled and invaded the lady’s personal space. He rumbled something low and no doubt obscene.
“Leave me alone,” the girl said, voice quavery as she backed up. But the crawfish stand was behind her, so she couldn’t go far.
Vlad got a look like he ate something sour, and sighed. “Some things do not change.” He walked up beside the big guy, and completely ignoring him, said, “Oh, there you are, dear. I’ve found us a good spot up front.” He held his hand out to the girl as if they were old friends.
She eagerly took the offered escape, and Vlad immediately pulled her behind him.
Big and ugly poked a finger at his chest. “I saw her first, buddy. Go back to your own bitch.” He looked over at me and grinned, showing some teeth replaced with gold. “Or, I’ll just trade you.”
Vlad took a step left, so he was standing between me and the troll. He pulled the girl along behind him. “Perhaps you should go enjoy the show from up front,” he suggested mildly over his shoulder.
“Thanks,” the girl said, and beat a hasty retreat toward the stage.
The troll tried to follow, but Vlad got in his way. It was almost comical. Vlad was about my size, 5’10” or so, with a swimmer’s sleek build. The other guy was 6’4” or so, and clearly weighed three of Vlad. It looked like an uneven match. I thought it was, too, but not the way other folks might think.
“Get out of my way, wuss.”
Predictably, the guy tried to shove Vlad out of his way.
Vlad caught his arm and pivoted around in the direction the guy was shoving, pulling the big guy with him, and adding a shove of his own once the guy was faced the opposite way. The guy stumbled a few steps, then turned around and growled. “You’re going to wish you hadn’t done that.”
“Undoubtedly,” Vlad agreed. “I already wish I’d simply taken you out, rather than trying to give you a gentle hint.”
The troll swung a bowling ball fist at Vlad’s head. Vlad ducked, stepped in close, and hit him hard in the gut with an open hand strike, a lot like I did to him the first time we met.
The guy flew backward off his feet, straight into the crawfish boiling pot. It spilled steam and boiling water mixed with cayenne all over him. He bellowed in agony, and I put a hand over my mouth, horrified.
Vlad had been gentle, not intending to do serious harm, but the boiling water and steam meant severe burns to any normal human. I might have to heal the guy. Bleah.
But he got up, and instead of blistered and burned, he just looked pissed off. He hit Vlad back, and Vlad went flying over the heads of the crowd and into the side of the building. Yikes! Not an ordinary human obnoxious jerk. This troll was a supe.
He went after Vlad, lying in a pile of splintered wood siding and looking more surprised than hurt.
I rabbit punched the troll hard in the kidneys as he was reaching for Vlad. He looked at me, laughed, and said, “You can tickle me later, after I finish off your boyfriend.”
It was hard to hear him because we were back close to the stage, and the music was louder, but I think that’s what he said. Crap. This was looking bad. A super-powered fight in the middle of a crowd of normals was a guarantee of collateral damage. And this guy wasn’t going to go down easy.
He picked up Vlad by the throat.
Vlad shifted to dragon form, doubling in size and getting black and scaly, and a lot harder to hurt, just as Heartbreak Hotel started playing at an ear-splitting volume.
The massive jerk didn’t even blink when Vlad shifted, just drew back his fist for another punch while holding Vlad’s throat in the other hand.
I had a bad feeling that invulnerable scales or not, Vlad was going to feel that punch, and it made me feel really sad and lonely. Why can’t I find a guy who can deal with me being different who isn’t from another time?
I’m always the one who doesn’t fit in in any crowd.
I looked at Vlad, and I just wanted to hug him. He understood. He’d been alone in a crowd even longer than me.
The big troll set Vlad down. Vlad hugged me hard, and held on tight. My heart was breaking. I’ve never felt so lonely in my life.
Vlad shifted back to human form, and laid his head on my shoulder. My shoulder got a little wet.
Vlad sniffled in my ear, and said, “We are being controlled. This feels too sudden and out of place.”
I looked up, and in an area several feet around us, folks were hugging each other and looking weepy. The big guy who had been about to smash in Vlad’s face was crying and the girl he’d assaulted was patting him on the shoulder. “I just didn’t want to be alone again tonight. I’m sorry,” he said, and the girl hugged him while he bawled like a baby.
"I'd totally go out with you if you'd just been nicer about asking," the girl said, tears in her eyes. "I really wanted someone to take me home tonight."
I looked up at the stage, where the Elvis Avenger sang, with the same skill and passion as the original, his gaze focused hard on the big troll, “I feel so lonely baby, I feel so lonely, I could cry.”
The superhero with the guitar and the sparkly jacket caught me looking at him with my mouth open, and winked.
Wow, that’s a hell of a superpower.
Elvis Avenger switched to a happy, upbeat song next, and the tears dried up. Folks started laughing. The big troll asked the girl he’d groped to dance, politely, and she said yes.
Vlad wiped his eyes subtly on my shirt, but didn’t stop hugging me.
I wasn’t comfortable with that much PDA, but I shifted to face the stage and let him keep his arm around my waist. “It was him, the Elvis Avenger,” I shouted into Vlad’s ear.
“Ah.” Vlad looked thoughtful for a moment, then looked at the ugly troll dancing with the pretty girl in the short skirt. “That is a dangerous power. Imagine what might have happened if he hadn't modified the lyrics.”
I shrugged, not worried. The Elvis Avenger used his ability only to defuse a dangerous situation, and while we got caught in some bleed over, he didn’t seem to be using it the rest of the time, even though he could pack the house if he did. “He’s a Protector.” They’re sworn to use their powers only for good.
“So is White Knight,” Vlad said with an ironic twist to his lips.
I didn’t really have anything to say to that.