At first she'd tried to track his trajectory, but there were too many variables. As soon as she looked for a minor shallow earthquake, though, it was easy to figure out where he'd landed. It was a short drive, then a long walk through the woods.
The distance wasn't long, but travel on foot is inherently slow and she had to keep checking her compass to make sure she was headed in the right direction.
The first signs were freshly fallen branches, then treetops, and finally entire trees that had been knocked over, shattered, or thrown about. When she reached the impact site it had been cleared out by the force of what happened. Trees had been forced away leaving a ragged crater, its shape influenced by which roots had broken and which had held. There were pieces of the trademark blue hoodie. There were scraps of blue jeans. But there was no blood and no body.
Instead there was a disturbance that she guessed to be where he'd climbed out. She went to where the trail met the edge of the crater. On looking around she saw something metal.
His glasses, the green lenses missing, the frames bent to the point she barely recognized them as glasses.
Nearby was the hoodie. Damaged by a thousand tears and holes. Discarded.
She picked both up and looked for any signs that might be a trail.
She followed what she though were freshly damaged things that hadn't been broken by the impact, but she wasn't sure it if it was a real trail, or just her imagination.
The next thing she found was just odd. Hair. Human hair it seemed, and the right length to be his, but it seemed like an entire head worth of hair had fallen out in the span of a few meters.
Then she found him, propped up against a tree, apparently exhausted. It didn't surprise her who he was. She felt like it should have, but it didn't.
"All of that bullshit about how you totally weren't him," she said, "and here you are."
He didn't offer any of his usual protests. He just said, "I hope you brought my glasses, 'cause you're awfully blurry."
"The ones you left in my car are still in the glove compartment," she said, "You ok?"
"Eh..." he shrugged. "Medically I'm fine, but my powers are spent for the moment. After something like that it'll probably be a few hours more before I can get back in the fight."
She rolled her eyes.
"Come on, I'll drive you home," she said. She looked at her compass, figured out the way, and then walked a few steps, only then did she notice that he hadn't gotten up. That stopped her and she turned back. He was still in the same position, "Need a hand?"
He held out his arm, and she went over and pulled him up.
She helped him walk as they made their way back to the car. After a while she asked, "So how do you do that trick with the hair? Because that's how you finally convinced me that you weren't ... you."
"I can make my hair grow out or fall out at will," he said. "When I'm ... uh ... in costume, I grow it out to shoulder length, when I get back home let it all fall out and and then grow it back to normal."
"And then you tell me that since the hero's hair is clearly real, and your hair is shorter, you couldn't possibly be the hero."
"You've known I was a liar for years."
"But not about important things."
"If that's true then why were you so sure that hero me and normal me were the same person for so long? There was no trust there for me to violate."
"You're a jackass."
"I'm of unknown pedigree, thank you very much."
The bickering continued, and in truth she enjoyed it --even though it would be a lot more enjoyable if he weren't actually a jackass and it were all in lighthearted jest-- until they reached the car.
He collapsed into the passenger chair, retrieved his glasses from the glove compartment, and fell into silence. They listened to the raido on the drive home.
When she dropped him off she said, "Get some rest and eat something."
"I'm fine," he said. He was getting defensive. "This is just because of the exertion from the fight."
"You were in terrible shape before the fight," she said. "Hydrate, eat, sleep. And don't half ass any of it."
"Yes, master," came the sarcasm.
"You can't save the city if you don't take care of yourself first," she said. "And besides that, you're my friend and--"
"I thought I was a dirty rotten liar."
"A dirty rotten liar who is my friend," she said. "Now promise me you'll take better care of yourself."
For a bit he was quiet, then he said, "I will," in a completely serious tone. "And thank you."
"You're welcome," she said.
He walked into his apartment building, She drove to her home.
And the idea that a superhero's identity is mostly secret because people don't bother trying to figure out makes all the sense.
I'd read more about these characters if it were written. I like them. (I like her more, though - although this is a situation in which the lying was probably appropriate.)
And the idea that a superhero's identity is mostly secret because people don't bother trying to figure out makes all the sense.Delete
As wonderful as that is, I meant, "Hero got butt kicked, no one else bothered trying to figure out where he landed and see if he needed help."
Though what you said is generally true for the story as a whole as it is in my head, the fact of the matter is that most people have more important things on their minds.
He actually has some decent ways of hiding his identity in spite of not wearing a mask and having his face not change (the hair thing is a big one because people have seen the hero be pulled by the hair --HARD-- so they know it isn't a wig where in mundane life his hair is clearly much shorter) but the biggest thing is something that he isn't even trying to do.
He's a traditional superhero in that he deals with problems which can be punched in the face. Punching in the face is fairly easy and straightforward, especially since he has superpowers, and so he does it with confidence that shows in his posture, his mannerisms, his tone and mode of speech, and would also show in the look in his eyes if not for his sunglasses (which are naturally the same prescription as his mundane glasses but no one knows the hero wears prescription glasses.)
On the other hand making friends, navigating social situations, surviving small talk, and generally living a normal life are hard as hell for him so he gives off entirely different vibes.
He'd lose a hero-him imitation contest because the only immediately obvious thing he has in common with hero-him his how he looks. Of course that would require him to enter said contest which he'd never do because so many strangers == scary.
He'd actually like to be able to bring hero-confidence to everyday life (and doesn't realize it would do more to threaten his secret than much of anything else ever could) but social situations are so much harder and more scary than death rays.
As wonderful as that is, I meant, "Hero got butt kicked, no one else bothered trying to figure out where he landed and see if he needed help."Delete
Ahh - that makes sense.
And the point about confidence is interesting. I'm the sort of person who sees punching-in-the-face as fraught with complications, but that's the philosopher in me; I can see how someone with social anxiety problems could see superheroing as the simpler, less terrifying part of their life.
Oh, I see punching in the face as fraught too, but if you're a super hero fighting super villains, a lot of the issues presumably go away.Delete
Mm - yeah, depending on the supervillain, that could become very straightforward very quickly.Delete