Red Cross tended to his roses. He liked his roses, he liked touching them, feeling the soft petals, smelling them, tending to them. He liked the red ones best, though he had a few varieties here and there. He even liked the thorns. Beauty with a pointy edge, that’s what he liked to call them.
Like all the women in his life.
He found a dead rose. He cut it with his gardening shears, held it in his hand.
His back garden was his sacred space. It was where he went to collect his thoughts, to forget all about supervillains and mind control and machines from other dimensions.
This place was serene.
And then the doorbell rang.
“Who the fuck is it now?” he groaned, his tranquility ruined.
Of course it was Chaz.
Chaz pushed through, carrying Rosa in his arms. She was bleeding badly, she looked like she was beaten up by a 12-metre tall robot.
“Red Cross! So glad to see your face, man. Help me. She was beaten up by a 15-metre tall robot,” Chaz said, panting.
“Oh. I underestimated her. Put her over there, quick.” Red Cross put his dead rose and his gardening shears on the coffee table and pointed at the couch.
Chaz put her down on the couch, making a mess.
Red Cross hurried to the kitchen and put water in the boiler, brought clean towels and his first-aid kit.
Chaz frowned. “What the hell are you doing, man?”
“Um, treating her?” Red Cross said in his best ‘well, duh,’ voice and carried on cleaning Rosa’s wounds.
Chaz sniffed and pushed his torn cape out of the way. His suit was torn, burned and sawed off in places, but the man was practically a flying brick, he’d always be fine. Rosa was not bulletproof, on the other hand. A force manipulator, she was also extremely powerful and was able to withstand capital-ship destroying amounts of barrage from her enemies.
Well, it seemed this time, the enemy had enough firepower to bring down two capital ships.
Chaz paced up and down. “Red Cross, do your thing! What are you waiting for? She’s dying, man,” the big hero pleaded.
Red Cross looked up, stitching up a bleeding wound on her leg. “You know I can’t, dammit! Is this why you came to me instead of a hospital?”
“Puh! Hospitals can’t save her, and you know it. Only you can. Do the thing, heal her with your power.” The man wiggled his fat, muscled fingers in a lay on hands gesture.
“I know you forget things ’cause of getting hit on the head all the time, but I’m telling you again: My power only works up to eleven. I can’t just heal her.”
Chaz grabbed Red Cross by the shoulders as if the man was a rag doll. He was openly crying, his face a mess of emotional pain mixed in with black soot and dirt. “Red Cross… Read my lips. I don’t care what it takes. Save her.”
Red Cross bowed his head and shut his eyes. “Man… I-I can’t. You think you’re the first person to ask me to save a loved one?”
Chaz let him go and turned around. He punched the wall, making a clean hole in the concrete.
Red Cross turned to the unconscious Rosa. She was a mess, a gorgeous woman turned into bashed meat. He wasn’t insensitive. He knew what the man was going through. In fact, he was feeling the exact same thing right at that moment.
“You knew I’d be conflicted,” Red Cross said softly, a tear running down and tickling the tip of his nose. “You knew I’d be tempted to use it.”
Chaz turned to him, and raised his fist. It was still full of dust from the reinforced concrete support column he’d just punched through. It was a threat, it was obvious. He used to be a friend, a good one actually, but now…
They both knew he’d stop at nothing to save her.
“You love her too,” Chaz said. “That’s why I brought her to you.”
“I did, yes.”
“Bullshit!” Chaz spat out. “You still do. Look, man, I’m sorry that she chose me over you. I’m sorry that was the reason for your retirement.”
“That wasn’t it…” Red Cross complained.
“Whatever. Not the time,” Chaz slashed the air with his superhero palm. “You still love her. I can see it in your eyes. It’s the same pain as mine, seeing her like that.”
“Then why did you put her in danger, Chaz?” Red Cross snapped back at the superhero.
“You know how it is. Robots. Aliens. Mirror universes. Who’s gonna stop all that?”
“Us,” they both said in a softer voice.
There was a long pause.
“She’s dying…” Chaz said, his voice cracking. “Please.”
The hero of the planet fell on his knees and begged Red Cross, clutching at his gardener’s pants. “I beg you. I’ll do anything. I’ll get her to retire, to be safe. Just save her, please.”
Red Cross’s shoulders sagged even more. He knew this day was gonna come.
His healing powers were a curse, basically. Like much of poetic irony, they were exponential. The bigger things he healed, the greater the effect became when he used them the next time. And healing superheroes? Well, that counted as: a lot.
His healing aura had grown so big that he couldn’t control it. It only had one setting: too much. Far too much. Chaz knew it. Even the world leaders had stopped offering him the world’s riches and their countries’ sexiest women in payment if he healed them from some affliction or other.
Some were altruistic, they wanted the healing for their children.
It pained Red Cross to have to say no, every single time.
“It only has one setting, dammit!” Red Cross grunted and escaped the superhero’s grasp. Obviously that only happened by Chaz allowing him to, for if he desired it, he could pinch his ankles and Red Cross wouldn’t be going anywhere.
“I know I’m asking for too much.” Chaz said in his soft, rumbling voice that made millions of fans fall in love with him. Along with Rosa, who was dying on Red Cross’ couch, by the way.
“It’s literally too much. You have no idea.”
“Is it that bad? To heal the world?” Chaz squinted, presenting a logical argument, still on his knees. But he wasn’t begging any more, he just looked so damn tired.
“Of course not!” Red Cross snapped back, his palm towards Chaz. “But it won’t be good in the long run.”
“I don’t care,” Chaz said softly.
“Oh, you do. Trust me.”
“I. Don’t. Care.” Chaz said, pressing his lips together.
Red Cross paced up and down. He looked at his rose garden. So nice. So pretty, tranquil. Why should he be the one cursed with this burden? Roses died. People died. That was the circle of life. But try arguing that with a demigod that was collapsed on your carpet and demanded that you saved the love of his life.
Rosa. Red Cross loved Rosa, of course he did. She ripped his heart in two pieces when she broke up with him, and it never mended. Not even the great healer of the world couldn’t fix that one.
Red Cross turned to Rosa. She was a dying, bleeding, broken piece of meat in a faint woman-shaped form. Broken bones protruded from her soft skin. Her face was not pretty anymore, and Red Cross could see the rivets from the giant robot that had caved her skull in.
He clapped his hands together and rubbed them in his usual routine.
Chaz perked up, his face brightening up as if he had a spotlight on him on a nightly award ceremony. “You’re doing it?” he hushed.
“Shut up, I’m concentrating. Since I decided to do it, there’s no point in wasting time.”
Chaz said nothing, he stayed completely still. Red Cross was certain that he wasn’t even breathing. He just had his eyes fixed on Rosa’s broken form.
Red Cross created the healing light. It was very nice, polychromatic white light, brilliant, soothing. It shone between his hands, then grew and grew and grew, blinding them. Then it grew, enveloping the room, then the house, then entire city block, then the entire city, then the country, then the continent, then the entire planet.
Red Cross’ power only had one setting.
He healed the entire planet.
The dead rose on the coffee table became soft, supple, with a green stem and red petals.
But, most importantly, Rosa became whole.
She opened her eyes. Her beautiful eyelashes, her twinkling blue eyes. She looked at Red Cross towering on top of her. She looked disoriented.
“Don’t get up,” Red Cross said, pushing her shoulder down.
“What? Where am I?” She looked around.
Chaz crawled on the floor and cupped her delicate hand with his own two enormous hands. He was crying from joy. “Baby. You’re alive… I thought I lost you…”
Rosa pushed them both away and sat up straight. She looked down at her torn suit, it was obvious that her supple skin was not supposed to be this unharmed under the cuts and the laser blasts. “You idiots! You used it?” she screamed, turning to Red Cross.
“I had to.”
“No! You didn’t. You should have let me take the chance at a hospital,” Rosa shouted.
Red Cross and Chaz glanced at each other. They were in agreement. There were no regrets from the both of them.
Rosa stood up, they didn’t dare stop her this time and after all she was perfectly healthy now, and she turned on the TV.
Red Cross sighed audibly. He didn’t like the aftermath of his powers.
The announcer spoke, bleeding from his mouth and holding up a tooth. “Breaking news, coma patients around the world are waking up. In fact, every single patient in hospitals around the country seems to have just been healed by a miracle. Reports are still coming in, but the internet posts are trending and it seems this is happening all over the world. Clinically dead people have woken up, chatting, feeling just fine. People undergoing surgery simply got their wounds closed up with no scarring. Elder people are running in the streets, acting like children. Teeth implants have been pushed out and new teeth have appeared in their place. It is a miracle, it seems. Every one on the planet is now healthy.”
Red Cross winced.
Rosa slapped his arm. “See?”
Chaz tried to calm her down. “Rosa, my love. Is it really that bad?”
Rosa glared at him. “Chaz, leave the thinking to me, alright? Let’s keep the tasks to those who are better suited for them.”
“It’s bad, isn’t it?” Red Cross said, sinking on a chair. He held his regenerated rose in his hand, enjoying the fresh perfume.
“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” Rosa said, waving her arms around. “The impact of this event will reverberate after decades! Entire populations will shift, antibiotics will fail, an entire generation will outlive their fucking grandchildren, Red!” She was screaming facts at the top of her lungs. “We’ve done the math, for fuck’s sake. Or, did retirement make you senile all of a sudden?”
“You’re right,” Red Cross nodded deeply, his eyes on his beautiful red rose.
He turned his gaze to the beautiful Rosa, who was red from the blood flowing to her face. “I’d still do it if it meant not losing you in a heartbeat, Rosa.”