Part II: Sidekicks
In retrospect, unmasking a vigilante known for taking down groups of criminals bare-handed, might not have been Eli's brightest idea. But then, they do say hindsight is 20/20.
For a while, Eli expected for something to happen. Of course something would happen, after all, you couldn't unmask a vigilante without there being any consequences. The problem was, he didn't know what to expect.
Maybe that was why he had become so paranoid (not that he would admit it).
There were many things that Eli expected as a result of having ripped off Vigilante's mask and exposing his not-so-secret identity. One of them, for example, was being wiped off the face of the Earth by a vengeful masked man. At the very least, he expected a threat or some blackmail. So, what actually happened was more surprising.
Or rather, it was the lack of anything happening that shocked Eli so much — because that was exactly what had occurred. Matthew had glared at him and then left and Eli had hurried home. He might have looked over his shoulder a couple of times, but it wasn't him being paranoid, he told himself. Of course not.
He was relieved to get home, and made sure to lock his door and windows; though he wasn't really sure how much good that would do him if Matthew decided to kill him in his sleep. He had to admit, as well as his plan had worked, he really should have thought things through a bit more. As it happened, he woke up safe and sound in his bed the next morning, got dressed, had some slightly burnt toast and coffee for breakfast, and then went to his morning classes. It wasn't until he had to go to work that he realized he'd probably see Matthew at the shop and to be honest. He wasn't really looking forward to that. Fortunately for him, Matthew didn't show up that day.
In fact, he didn't show up for days after the night of Eli's brilliant plan. Vigilante, on the other hand, made plenty of appearances. He was all over the news, even when he didn't stop any robbers or save people from burning buildings, the media couldn't stop talking about him. Eli supposed it was all very good for the ratings. He tried not to watch the news too often, not that he had much time to do so anyway.
It was about two weeks later — maybe more — when Eli saw Matthew again. It wasn't quite in the way he'd thought it would be.
School had been exhausting that day – Eli had to question the merits of a pop quiz – and work was only slightly better. Michael, at the very least, did his best to help him. Together, they were able to deal with the crowds that swarmed the shop. It was a relief for Eli, when he was finally able to get home.
He wasted no time in getting washed up and changed into more comfortable clothes, before heating up some leftover soup for dinner. There was a gameshow playing on the television. It wasn't the best choice, but it wasn't bad either and Eli got a bit into it once he was seated on the couch with his food. He was on the third consecutive game show – they were surprisingly addictive once you started watching – when he heard some odd noise from somewhere in his small apartment.
It wasn't a loud sound, or anything threatening, really. It was just a small 'click' that would have gone unnoticed if the t.v. hadn't suddenly switched to a commercial. The short transition between the show and the commercial quiet enough that Eli caught the sound. But then, he recalled one of his neighbors commenting on the break-ins that had been all too common as of late in that area.
That was really all it took for Eli's overworked mind to imagine all sorts of scenarios. After that, it wasn't long before he was cautiously getting up from the couch and slowly making his way to his bedroom. He moved as quietly as possible, picking up the first thing he could reach on his way there, not even bothering to look at what the object was.
Trying not to be seen, Eli peered around the doorframe and into his room, squinting as he tried to make out things through the darkness. He cursed himself for not leaving a light on – even if it was a good way to save on electricity. It was with much panic that he managed to make out the shape of someone standing in front on his window, apparently shutting it as they stepped in.
His blood ran cold and his heart beat faster as he watched. Seconds seeming to be hours instead, dragging on as Eli pushed his body into action.
Finally, Eli managed to get his body to react to the danger he was possibly in. The man turned to shut the window, and that was when Eli burst through the doorway.
In later years, Eli would look back on that night and be grateful for the way things had turned out. He would also wonder how he could have failed to notice that his so-called weapon was a water bottle. As it was, at the time he hadn't really been all too aware of what was going on. One moment he was beating the supposed burglar over the head with a water bottle and the next, he was being tossed onto his bed. Eli scrambled up, attempting to get out of the bed. Suddenly, the lights turned on, making Eli blink furiously as his eyes adjusted to the brightness.
"Jesus! Do you attack everyone that comes in here?"
Oh. Eli knew that voice. He hadn't heard it in a while — didn't think he wanted to hear it again — but there it was.
"Matthew?" Eli didn't have to ask. He didn't think there were many other men who dressed up like comic book rejects. At least, he hoped not. "What the hell!? You scared the crap out of me!" Anger had always been easier to express for Eli.
"So you hit me with a water bottle?"
"I thought you were a burglar! I was defending myself!" Eli said.
"With a water bottle," Matthew pointed out with a deadpan look.
"Shut up," Eli snapped. He knew his ears were probably red and wished Matthew hadn't turned on the lights. It was only a moment later that Eli remembered that he was supposed to be wary of Matthew. After all, he'd been expecting the man to show up and exact his revenge for quite some time.
"W-what are you doing here?" he asked, wishing he could sound a bit braver. Matthew acted as though he hadn't noticed the slight tremor in Eli's voice, something Eli thought to be highly unlikely. Matthew was the type of man who noticed everything. It was a very irritating characteristic.
"Just thought we should have a chat," Matthew said, entirely too calm. He leaned on Eli's desk, arms crossed over his chest.
"Chat about what?" Eli already knew, of course, but he figured he might as well try to delay his oncoming doom. As nervous as he felt at that moment, he thought it was made worse by the grin on Matthew's face.
"Well, to be honest, I really wanted to ask you for a favor," Matthew said. Eli didn't know whether to be worried or relieved.
"I'm not going to tell anyone who you are," he said, because he was pretty sure that was what Matthew wanted. He sincerely hoped he was right. Just a moment later, those hopes were shattered.
"Oh, I know you won't," Matthew agreed, with a certainty that Eli should have expected. "Even if you did, I doubt anyone would believe you." Eli wished that weren't so true. Really though, who would believe some broke college student who made coffee for a living?
"Then what do you want?" Eli asked, not knowing what else Matthew could possibly ask for. The smile spreading slowly across Matthew's face should have been enough to tell Eli he wouldn't like what was coming next.
- - - - - - - - - -
When Eli pictured himself at this stage in his life, he'd always thought he'd lead a decent life. He'd work hard, go to school, and maybe even date someone if he found the time.
Never in his life had he expected to be waiting on the rooftop of an old apartment building with a bag of drugs in his pocket.
It was cold that night, his hands feeling numb even as he refused to draw them out into the crisp night air. Standing outside, on top of an old building didn't really help matters. He had to wonder if Matthew had asked him to meet there just to piss him off. That was something that Eli could definitely see the man doing.
He stood there for a while longer, looking around, before he decided to just leave. Eli had other things to do. Better things than standing around in the freezing cold waiting for some masked weirdo to swoop down.
The sudden sound of the man's voice nearly made Eli jump in alarm. As it was, he was able to hold back on that and instead grit his teeth in irritation, turning to look at Matthew with a slight glare. He wasn't surprised to see that the masked man didn't look the least bit apologetic.
"You're late," he managed to say through his annoyance.
"Yeah, I had to stop for a bit a couple of blocks back," Matthew said, not giving any other details. Eli supposed he'd run into another chance to look 'heroic'.
"Right, and you couldn't have picked a better spot to have me wait for you?" he asked, crossing his arms over his chest as a sign of his irritation and because it offered a bit more warmth. "Seriously, why did you pick this place?"
"Don't complain," Matthew said simply, and Eli could tell he was trying not to grin. "It's on your way home, no one ever comes here, and you get a nice view while you wait," he said. Eli just tried not to punch the guy. He'd noticed he had trouble controlling that particular instinct. So far — and miraculously — he'd managed.
"How the hell do you even know it's on my way home?" It was immediately after he'd asked that Eli realized he didn't really want to know. "Wait, you know what, nevermind," he said, effectively stopping Matthew, who looked like he was about to answer with something that would just make Eli want to push him off the roof.
Instead, he dug in his pocket and tossed the little bag with white powder. Matthew caught it easily.
"Good job, I didn't think you'd actually manage it," he said. Eli rolled his eyes — he hadn't thought so either.
When Matthew had scared him nearly half to death in his apartment just a few nights earlier, he never would have guessed what he would be asked to do as a 'favor'. Much less that he would only have to go as far as his own school to complete said favor. Eli tried not to be too shocked, it wasn't like he hadn't heard about college kids dealing. He just hadn't thought it would be his friend's roommate.
"You're not gonna beat up the guy, are you?" Eli asked, shifting nervously on his feet. He knew what the guy was doing was wrong, but he still felt guilty about helping Matthew catch him.
"No, but this will help clean things up in your school," Matthew said, noting the younger man's discomfort. "Besides, I'm not after him. I'm hoping to get someone higher up than him," he added. Eli supposed that was a good thing, so he handed over the slip of paper with the information of the dealer. Matthew tucked it away in his pocket.
"Why are you even bothering with this?" Eli couldn't help but ask. "I mean, shouldn't the cops be dealing with these things?" Matthew just smiled and shook his head.
"Don't worry about that Eli," he said. "You should go home, it's getting late. You have an early class tomorrow, right?"
Eli blinked, surprised at Matthew's knowledge of his schedule. "How the hell do you know that?!" he asked, decidedly creeped out.
"You always talk about school in the coffee shop," Matthew said with a shrug.
"And you just happen to remember my schedule," Eli said, unconvinced.
"What can I say, I'm a good listener," the masked man said easily.
"You're creepy, that's what you are," Eli countered. "And by the way, why are you always following me?" He hadn't had the chance to ask him before, but Eli wouldn't forget this time.
"Because you choose the worst streets to walk through on your way home," Matthew said with a dull tone. Eli tried not to blush at that. It wasn't his fault he was too broke to live in a nice neighborhood. "I figured I could take a break to make sure you made it home in one piece."
"Yeah, well, it's still creepy," Eli said, trying not to wince at how lame that sounded. Matthew laughed, too used to Eli's insults to be offended.
"I'll keep that in mind, now go home," he said. Eli decided he was too tired to keep talking to Matthew and began to make his way to the door that lead inside and to the stairs. "By the way, you make a great sidekick."
Eli stopped and scowled, turning back to look at Matthew with a glare. He wasn't surprised in the least to find him gone.