A Hero’s Mercy

Being a hero was no easy job.

That’s why I never really wanted it in the first place.

Fighting crime? I was okay with that. Getting shot at? Again, not something that really concerned me. Running into dangerous situations? Fiery buildings? Crumbling structures? Yeah, I can do that. I can do all that, no sweat. Easy as pie.

But this?

This part of the job?

…no.

This was why I was so reluctant. Why I, in part, kind of hated being a hero.

Because heroes do all the dirty work.

Sirens screamed below, bellowing out their cry for justice.

Howls resounded in my ears, along with a faint hitching of breath.

A contradictory cry.

One for mercy.

Here, in the concrete jungle, there were no soft landings. No mercy from falls of great height. Nothing to catch you.

Here, there was just capture. Judgement.

Justice.

Concrete against your feet as you tried your best to break your fall.

Concrete that had no mercy.

Though, in the wild, they don’t contradict. Don’t exist in desperate boxes, mercy and justice. They don’t have to. They’re equals. Always walking hand in hand.

The silver wolf calls out, speaks the words softly. A truth sung through a dog whistle, a faint cry that can be heard by only a few.

Mercy is for the just.

“Damn. I came so far.”

The cry is quiet. Meant for the one speaking, and only the one speaking.

But still.

It catches my ears.

“You’ve left quite the trail,” I say aloud. “I can’t imagine that you did have that much further to go.”

She doesn’t expect that. Her words were spoken so quietly. And I’ve spoken so directly. Her mask hides what lies in the windows of the soul, what she’s truly thinking, but I still see her eyes flicker to me nonetheless. Observing a feature of mine that she must’ve thought was just for show.

The ears.

They point skyward, stand tall. Silver wolf’s ears that adorn my otherwise human head.

Most people are surprised when they find that they’re real. Not just for show.

Reluctantly, she explains. “My life… it was in danger with them around. I only took from them what they would’ve taken from me, that’s all.”

Another thing people take for granted:

My wolf facade.

They simply think the mask and the ears and the tail are part of my costume. Part of the show.

They’re anything but.

I can hear the call resound in me. The way my heart beats strong to her words.

I can’t disagree.

Can’t say that I don’t blame her.

If these men would’ve taken her life from her, then yes, I understand.

I’d have done the same.

“Not just me,” she continues, slumping over. “It was him too.”

“Him?”

“My boyfriend. My love,” she says the last part with more sincerity. Marking it as the truer title for the bearer.

And again, I’m met with pounding heartbeats. A resounding agreement. Resonance for what she’s done.

“That’s how you’ve been gauging how far you are, right? Whatever road takes you back to him, and when you can make the journey.”

At this point, surprise and reservation have all been used up. She nods, spills the rest of her soul.

“Yeah, but, truth is: I don’t even know if he’s still there. If he’s still waiting for me.”

Her voice afflicts me. Puts pressure in a place that belongs to my stomach. A space that fills with a bitter rock, when it should be free.

“Why wouldn’t he be waiting for you?”

Her eyes are clouded by the mask, but her face says it all.

Shamefully, she slumps further.

“I… I told him not to wait up. Told him to move on. To do what he needed to do. I didn’t want him caught up in waiting for me if I ended up never returning. Or if it got too difficult for him. I wanted him to be happy.”

“How selfish.”

The sirens fade as the moment materializes. Becomes even more solid than before.

She’s struck. This anti-hero whose ass I just whooped. Who’s sitting with her hands tied. Who’s talking to me as if we’re both equals.

And I know now:

We are.

Quite equal.

This anti-hero killing the ghosts of her past. Laying them to rest. And myself, the reluctant hero. Only in this kind of business so I can legally use my powers. So I can defend myself. So I can survive.

So the people I love can survive.

We’re equals.

At that level, our souls resting eye to eye, and with that understanding, I speak.

“Do you really think of the man you loved as so weak? So narrow minded? If he has to move on so easily, do you truly think he loves you? What did he say when you said that? Was he relieved? Did he cry? Did he beg you not to leave him behind? Survival is necessary, and I understand your actions well enough. But, breaking him and leaving him behind? Putting your ideals of his happiness above his reality? That’s pure selfishness.”

And it’s back.

Her shock.

But there isn’t any time for shock. Not if she wants a chance to fix it.

Her binds unwind.

“Fix it,” I tell her. “Find him. Fix it. Tell him you’re the selfish one. What you’ve done was for both of you, but what you said was for your own satisfaction. To eat your own fear. Find him. Fix it.”

Hands unbound, she grips her wrists as she stands. A look of awe on her face.

“Why’re you releasing me?” she asks, perplexed.

I smirk. My trademark, cocky-hero smirk.

And I spout my “nonsense”. The thing that separates me from the rest of them.

“Because I’m a hero. My job is to save people, and let them save themselves. I don’t want to live my life fixing someone’s mistakes if they’re willing to fix them themselves. Besides, I don’t think anyone can fix this one but you.”

An understanding passes between us. Awakens my wolf senses. Hears the call of a kindred spirit. An honest anti-hero. A person pushed to use power, forced into it.

A survivor.

Like me.

When the police make it to the rooftop, they find me empty-handed, sitting on the ground.

“What happened!?” the chief demands.

I grin crookedly at him.

“She pushed me down sir. Took off into one of them galaxies of hers. Don’t know where she went.”

His gruff eyes glare at me. Tear into me as best they can.

Clearly, he knows better than to believe me.

But.

He doesn’t have any prove.

I smile politely at those knife-eyes.

“Let’s go,” he tells his men. Then, under his breath, he gives life to his thoughts on me. “Knew I shouldn’t have trusted her.”

But when they leave, someone stays.

He stays.

The truest of heroes.

The one who sees through the white eyes of the silver wolf.

Sees through me.

“Will it be alright?” he asks me.

I smile at him. Glad that, of all people, he cares what I think.

He cares.

“As far as our part is concerned? Yes. It’ll be alright. But for her…”

I can’t comment.

I can only hope.

Hope her boy is as good as mine.

“Help me up?” I ask him, holding out my hand.

Without hesitation, he takes it.

He always does.

Always would.

That’s the power of the just.

“I hate this part of the job,” I remind him as we make our way off the rooftop.

“I know,” he replies, smiling smugly at me. “But you’re good at it.”

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