8 Chapter 8

Mark flew through the evening sky, his mind still buzzing with the events of the day. The revelation about his dad leading the new Guardians of the Globe, how his dad played him like a goddamn fool, and how Eve was in the know had left him in a state of heightened awareness. As he approached home, he couldn't help but feel furious but, at the same time, powerless.

Descending gracefully, Mark landed in the backyard, his superhero costume still having a pristine look since he didn't really do much heroing that day or any training. The door creaked open, and he stepped into the cozy warmth of his home. The aroma of his mom's cooking wafted through the air, creating a small sense of comfort that was barely noticeable since apparently he wasn't even worth any trust in his dad's eyes.

Instead of letting his problems show on his face, he put a smile on his face as he flew up his room while throwing a casual greeting to his mom. He was determined to prove his dad wrong—that he could keep a secret if he put his mind to it.

Mark entered his room, the door closing behind him. The familiar surroundings offered a temporary refuge from the outside world. He glanced around the room, the posters on the wall, the desk cluttered with textbooks, and some handcream and tissue. Better not to talk about their uses.

His phone buzzed with a message, and he checked it to find a text from Amber. "Hey, Mark! Looking forward to our dinner tonight."

Mark's mood felt even more than it was at the thought of spending time with Amber. He replied, instead, "Hey, Amber! Definitely looking forward to it too. How about I pick you up at 7?" He hated himself for it, but this needed to be done.

Amber's response came quickly: "Sounds great! Can't wait."

Mark tried to push aside the lingering frustration and conflicting emotions as he got ready for his dinner with Amber. He changed into a more casual outfit, making an effort to appear relaxed, all things considered.

As the clock ticked towards 7, Mark took a deep breath and flew to Amber's house. He landed gracefully outside her front door and rang the doorbell, his mind preoccupied with the impending conversation. Amber opened the door, a bright smile on her face.

"Hey, Mark! You're right on time," Amber greeted, her smile infectious. She looked stunning, dressed in a casual yet elegant outfit that emphasized her easygoing charm.

Mark returned the smile, doing his best to appear composed. "Hey, Amber. Ready for dinner?"

Amber nodded, stepping out and closing the door behind her. "Absolutely! I can't wait to taste some homemade food. Plus, it's been a while since we had a proper dinner date."

Mark offered his arm, to which Amber looked at Mark for a little bit before smiling and taking his offer. They both agreed on taking a walk to his house, Amber to enjoy the moment and Mark to have more time to mentally prepare.

As they walked through the evening streets, Amber chatted animatedly about her day and how helping others was nice. He listened, making an effort to engage in the conversation and respond appropriately. The city lights cast a warm glow, creating a romantic atmosphere that felt unneeded, in Mark's opinion.

They arrived at Mark's house, and Mark held the door open for Amber, offering her a warm smile. "After you."

Amber entered, and Mark led her to the dining area, where his mom had prepared a lovely dinner spread. The aroma of the food filled the air, and Debbie greeted them with a warm smile.

"Hello, Amber, was it? My son has said a lot about you. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Debbie Grayson, but you can just call me Debbie." She said she was genuinely happy to have a guest.

Amber returned the warm greeting. "Hi, Mrs. Grayson! It's so nice to finally meet you. Mark has told me a lot about you as well."

Debbie chuckled with a twinkle in her eyes. "Oh, has he now? Well, I hope it's all good things." She motioned for them to take a seat. "Please, make yourselves comfortable. Dinner is ready."

Nolan pocketed his phone and looked at Amber with... disdain? That couldn't be right; Mark couldn't really be sure, but his dad had no reason to hate her, right?

"Hmm, so you are Amber." Nolan raised an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed. "I heard you like to do community services; for the betterment of the world, every little helps, right?" He got up and extended his hand, making a gesture to smile at her. "Nolan Grayson..."

Amber, slightly taken aback by the weirdly tense introduction, shook Nolan's hand with a polite smile. "Nice to meet you, Mr. Grayson. Mark has told me a lot about you."

Nolan returned the handshake, glaring daggers at Mark. "I'm sure he has." He released her hand and gestured to the dining table. "Shall we have a seat? Dinner is served."

They took their seats, and Debbie began serving the homemade meal. The atmosphere at the table was tense. Mark tried to focus on the conversation, engaging in small talk and exchanging smiles with Amber, but he couldn't shake off the feeling that his dad was scrutinizing every move, silently judging his very existence.

Amber, sensing the tension, tried to lighten the mood. "Mrs. Grayson, this smells amazing. Thank you for having me over for dinner."

Debbie smiled warmly. "Oh, it's our pleasure, Amber. We're always happy to welcome Mark's friends into our home."

Nolan nodded, his gaze shifting between Mark and Amber. "Yes, friends are important." His tone held a certain edge, and Mark could tell his dad was trying to convey something to Amber, something Mark didn't like.

Amber smiled as he placed her chin over her hand. "Friends? It seems like Mark hasn't told you as much as I thought."

Nolan raised an eyebrow, his expression shifting to a more curious demeanor and even sadistic enjoyment. "Oh, really? Pray, do enlighten me. What have I been missing out on?"

Mark, internally cringing, tried to intervene. "Dad, it's not the moment. Let's just enjoy the dinner and leave the details out for later, okay?"

But Nolan, seemingly determined to make things uncomfortable, leaned back in his chair, a smirk playing on his lips. "No, no, Mark. I'm genuinely interested. What secrets have you been keeping from your old man?" He emphasized 'old man,' making the situation even more awkward.

Amber chuckled nervously, glancing at Mark, before deciding to play along. "Well, Mr. Grayson, it's not much of a secret. Mark and I—we're more than just friends. We're dating."

Nolan's eyes narrowed, and he leaned forward, his gaze intensifying. "Dating, you say?" The tension in the air grew thicker, and Mark regretted bringing Amber into this mess.

Amber nodded, her smile faltering slightly under Nolan's scrutinizing gaze. "Yes, we've been together for a while now."

Nolan's expression remained unreadable for a moment, and then he leaned back, crossing his arms. "Well, isn't that interesting?" His tone was laced with a hint of sarcasm.

Debbie, trying to diffuse the tension, jumped into the conversation. "Young love, how sweet! It's wonderful to see Mark happy. I hope you both enjoy the dinner."

Amber offered a grateful smile, and Mark felt a mix of embarrassment and frustration. He tried to focus on the food, hoping that his dad would drop the subject.

Nolan, however, seemed to have other plans. "So, Amber, I'll hate to be that guy, but it seems like little Marcus here hasn't exactly been keeping you in the know either."

Mark almost choked when he heard that cursed name. Nolan's words hung in the air, and Mark could feel the weight of the impending revelation. Amber looked confused, glancing between Mark and Nolan, sensing that something was amiss.

Debbie, on the other hand, also looked at Nolan with curiosity as she placed a trail with servings of coffee.

Nolan continued with a sly grin, "Why don't we hear it from the man of the hour, say Mark? Isn't it time to pop that poor girl's bubble and stop her daydreaming?"

Mark sighed inwardly, realizing that there was no escaping the situation. He glanced at Amber, his expression apologetic, before turning to face his dad. "Dad, it's not the time for this. Can we talk about it later?"

Nolan leaned back in his chair, a calculating glint in his eyes. "Oh, but Mark, when is the right time for the truth? Secrets have a way of catching up to us, don't they?"

Amber, growing more bewildered by the moment, looked at Mark expectantly. "Mark, what's going on?" She placed a hand on her shoulder and looked into his eyes for answers.

Mark took a deep breath, his frustration and discomfort evident. He met Amber's gaze, the weight of his dad's revelation hanging in the air. "Amber, I should've told you earlier, and I'm sorry for not being honest. The truth is, I'm invincible. I'm a superhero."

Amber's eyes widened, a mix of disbelief and confusion crossing her face. "Invincible? Like the one on the news?" She looked at Nolan and Mark and came to a conclusion. "I'm—are you Omni-Man?"

Nolan immediately lost his smile and was replaced by a glare. Mark, it seemed, had a talent for always making things as messy as possible, even when he was supposed to end them in a peaceful manner.

Clenching his fist under the table with a neutral look on his face, he intervened. "Was it really necessary to talk about this? Didn't you have something else to say to her? something about, I don't know, ending it?" Mark could tell from his voice that his dad was going to murder him, or at least there was a high possibility for that to happen.

Mark gulped but decided to go for it; he would end it his way, not like his dad wanted him to do it. "She needs to know this, dad; it wouldn't be fair for her not to know why it couldn't work out."

Amber, still processing the revelation, looked back and forth between Mark and Nolan. She didn't know what to think about the situation so all she could do was stay quiet for now.

Nolan, however, was not pleased with Mark's response. His eyes narrowed, and his jaw tensed as he shot a stern look at his son. "Is that your excuse, Mark? Bringing her into our world and jeopardizing everything for something so trivial. And for what? a pretty face you found in college?"

Mark felt a surge of anger at his dad's dismissive tone, but he tried to keep his composure. "It's not just that, Dad. Amber deserves to know the truth. She's a part of my life, and I won't keep her in the dark."

Nolan scoffed, leaning forward with a condescending grin. "Was part of your life, you mean, and the truth? You think revealing your little superhero secret is going to magically make everything better? Mark, you have no idea what you're doing or what you have done. This isn't some comic book; you take the consequences of your actions like a man."

Debbie, sensing the escalating conflict, intervened with a calm yet firm voice. "Enough, both of you. This is not the time or the place for this kind of discussion. Amber, dear, I'm sorry for this unexpected turn of events. Let's enjoy our dinner, and we can talk about everything later, in a more suitable setting."

Mark stood up, his frustration and anger bubbling beneath the surface. "No, Mom, we need to talk about this now. Amber deserves to know the truth, and I won't let Dad manipulate the situation like he always does!"

Nolan clenched his jaw, his gaze locked on Mark. "You always had a flair for the dramatic, didn't you?" His body started to tense in preparation, and he slowly got up, following Mark's example.

Amber placed both hands on the table and looked at Nolan. "Mr. Grayson, I think Mark is doing the right thing by being honest with me. I deserve to know the truth if we're going to be in a relationship," Amber said, maintaining a calm but assertive tone.

Debbie sighed, realizing that the evening had taken a turn for the worse. She tried to diffuse the tension like an adult, something she expected Nolan to know better about. "Look, everyone, let's take a step back. Amber, I appreciate your understanding. Mark, perhaps we can find a better time to discuss this, without turning it into a confrontation."

Nolan, however, wasn't willing to back down. He shot a cold look at Mark. "No, Debbie. We've danced around this for too long. It's time Mark faces the consequences of his choices."

Amber spoke up, feeling fed up with Nolan's attitude. "Consequences? Mr. Grayson, I don't see why Mark being honest about who he is should have consequences. If anything, it shows integrity."

Nolan gave her a cruel smile. "If he won't do it, I will. Mark decided to cut your little relationship short." He tapped at the table. "How is that for integrity? Do you think he still has any? after putting on a show and letting you believe there was ever going to be something between you two?"

Amber's expression shifted from shock to hurt, and she turned her gaze towards Mark, searching for an explanation. The room fell into an uncomfortable silence, broken only by Nolan's smug satisfaction.

Mark, realizing the gravity of the situation, took a step closer to Amber. "Amber, I... I didn't want it to be like this. I wanted to tell you, but I didn't know how, and then my dad..."

Amber interrupted, her voice laced with disappointment. "Your dad? So, he's the reason you're ending things?"

Mark hesitated for a moment. "No, it's not that simple. I care about you, Amber. But my dad, he has his reasons, and I can't ignore them."

Nolan scoffed, his arms crossed, as he observed the unfolding drama. "Reasons, Mark? more like responsibilities." He shakes his head in disbelief. "And this was your idea, not mine. I'm just making sure you do it, even if you lack the balls to pull through."

Mark didn't know what to say or how to defend himself; this wasn't how he imagined things would turn out. He was soon shaken from his thoughts as a slap found its mark on his face.

Amber, with tears in her eyes, turned her gaze away from him, unable to even look at his face. "So that's it, now I get it, I was just a little distraction when you got bored of playing hero; it all makes sense—the broken promises, standing me up, the excuses."

Mark winced as he looked at Amber's state. He reached out to her, his voice desperate. "Amber, it's not like that. I never meant to hurt you. I care about you, but there are things I can't control."

Amber, however, pulled away, her eyes still glistening with unshed tears. "Save it, Mark. I thought we had something real, but I guess I was just some pretty doll." She stood up, pushing the chair back, and looked at Nolan with a mixture of anger and betrayal. "And you, Mr. Grayson, treating this like some sick drama? Real classy."

Debbie, visibly distressed by the unfolding situation, tried to intervene once more. "Amber, I understand that this is a lot to take in. Please, let's talk about it calmly."

Amber shot a disapproving look at Mark before addressing Debbie. "Mrs. Grayson, I appreciate your hospitality, but I think it's best if I leave. I know when I'm not wanted."

Amber turned to leave, her steps quick and determined. Mark followed her in hopes of clearing this mess. "Amber, please, let me explain," Mark pleaded, reaching out to grab her arm gently.

Amber pulled away, her eyes cold. "Explain what, Mark? That you were pretending all this time? That your superhero act was more important than me? I can't believe I fell for it."

Mark sighed, frustration and regret etched on his face. "It's not a pretense, Amber. I am a superhero, and my dad... he has his reasons, his responsibilities. I wish I could have told you earlier, but it's complicated."

Amber shook her head, a bitter laugh escaping her lips. "Complicated? Mark, relationships are built on trust and honesty. You kept something this significant from me. What else are you hiding?"

Back at the dinner table, Debbie looked at Nolan with a mixture of disappointment and concern. "Nolan, was this really necessary? You've just caused a lot of pain for Mark and Amber."

Nolan, seemingly unaffected, leaned back in his chair, a cold smile playing on his lips. "Debbie, sometimes tough choices need to be made. Mark needs to understand the consequences of his actions, and Amber needed to know the truth."

Debbie sighed, shaking her head. "But at what cost, Nolan? This isn't the way to handle things. Mark is still our son, and Amber was our guest. You've only managed to hurt them more than was needed." She liked how Nolan was acting recently but now it was just like he was back to his old self.

Nolan's expression hardened. "Debbie, there are things Mark needs to learn, and sometimes, a harsh lesson is the only way. He can't keep living in a fantasy world."

Debbie, frustrated and concerned for her son, shot back, "And what about you, Nolan? Have you ever considered that your approach might be driving him away? You may be a superhero, but that doesn't make you infallible."

Nolan's gaze turned steely. "I do what needs to be done, Debbie. I won't apologize for it."

Debbie, realizing the futility of the argument, stood up and slapped him in the face. "I'm going to check on Mark and Amber. Maybe you should consider the consequences of your own actions as well."

Debbie walked out of the room, leaving Nolan alone with his thoughts. The sound of the door closing echoed in the silence that followed. He sighed, rubbing his face where Debbie had slapped him, not in pain but more as an act of self-reflection.

"I'm still just a human, after all." Nolan looked at the doorway while chastizing himself. He was better than this; he was beneath these things. No matter how furious he was about the whole thing, he didn't need to be like this; he was about to beat up Mark in the heat of the moment.

Next chapter