Buster got a ride home from his parents that night. Luckily, Rose had thought to inform them when she and Rocky had left; Buster's father didn't take well to sudden requests. As it stood, he had bought Buster some dinner instead of taking him straight home. A sign he wasn't angry, Buster thought. He still hadn't quite figured his father out after all these years.
When Buster walked into the apartment, he found Rocky doing the dishes. When he caught sight of Buster, he turned the water off and turned to him.
“So... How'd it go?” he asked carefully.
“W-Well, she obviously knows,” Buster replied, “but she seems kinda spacey. I get the feeling no one would believe her if she told anyone.”
“Mmm... That's good, I guess...” Rocky replied. He had to be cautious around this subject since Buster tended to be sensitive to talking about it. So far, only his immediate family members and most of the kids at his old school knew about his power. As long as Rocky was tactful with what he said though, he probably wouldn't have a problem.
“Hey, you don't need to do that...” Buster said, gesturing to the sink full of dirty dishes.
“No, it's fine. You had a rough day, so...”
“No, I mean, you literally don't have to. I can do it much faster.”
“H-Huh? I guess I'm not the best dishwasher out there, but I don't suck that badly...”
Buster sighed and shook his head. “You know who I am, right? Move over.” Buster pushed Rocky away from the sink and turned on the water. He began manipulating it into a small sphere, then turned the faucet back off. He then got some dish soap out of the bottle with his power in the same way. He then began wiping down each dish with one clean stroke each, leaving them squeaky clean. He had the job done in about a minute.
“See?” Buster said. “This is how I used to wash my stuff back in the forest. It's a lot easier to make sure it's sanitized with the soap, though.” He grinned.
“...Ah.” Rocky couldn't think of much else to say. He felt kinda stupid for not realizing it earlier.
“Just FYI, I can do laundry too, but I can't really say I've ever had to do mass loads before. Might give it a try sometime, though.”
“O-Okay. Well, I guess I'll leave the dishes to you, then. If you're okay with it, that is.”
“It's cool. I don't have much to do around here during the day. Other than watch TV. I don't feel very comfortable going outside the house, but... I can tell you from experience that there's definitely a lot more to do out there.” Buster paused for a moment. “Oh, I guess there's your computer too, but I don't really know how to use that very well...”
“Well, all you've gotta do is put in the password and then click on the icon. After that, you just...” Rocky continued speaking in some kind of technical jargon that he could not comprehend. Not wanting to be outdone, Buster pretended to understand.
The next morning, Buster tried getting ready like a regular person for a change. He took a real shower and brushed his teeth. He found it to be comparatively boring and time-consuming. Although it was easy to get hot water out of the shower, and there was a certain soothing sensation about having it constantly pour down on you at high pressure.
Today Rocky hadn't left anything specific in the fridge for him, and all the fried chicken from a few nights ago was gone by now. Nonetheless, he was able to scrounge something up out of a big box. He hadn't seen pizza in a long time, but what teenager would ever forget about it? Even though I'm eighteen, so I'm technically not a minor, but the number still has 'teen' in it, so...
He flopped down on the couch preparing to watch TV. He began scrolling through the available channels looking for something interesting to watch. Ragin' Roosters, The Jersey (Buster skipped this one before reading the whole title), Stories from a Killer, Legend of the Blue Drop, Jewelery Marketplace, PAYED PROGRAMMING, World War 2: The After Years--
Buster scrolled up quickly and tried his hardest not to panic. Legend of the Blue Drop. He read the summary: “Documentary: A high school boy uses what experts are calling “super powers” to flood his school. Rumors abound regarding this mysterious subject. Released 2012”
As he read the summary, Buster's heart dropped straight into his stomach, and he began to feel sick. Out of sheer impulse, he selected the program and it began playing. He had to know what it said.
Om the screen was a high school-age guy. His head was wrapped in gauze, he had a black eye, and he was laying in a hospital bed. Buster couldn't quite recognize him.
“It was crazy, man,” the boy on the screen was saying. “Outta like, nowhere, the guy just snapped and went crazy. I mean, he was weird anyway, but we didn't even do anything to him!”
“Did you think he intended to harm anyone, Casey?” said another voice from behind the camera.
Buster's eyes grew wide. Casey! That was the twelfth grader who bullied him all the time! He and his buddies would always ridicule him and hit him and call him names because of what he could do.
“Oh, for sure,” Casey replied. “The dude was just rampaging. I don't think he had anything else on his mind at the time.”
Buster stood up and began yelling at the television set. “You're a damn liar, Casey!!” He screamed. “It was nobody's fault but yourself!! Why don't you tell them what really happened!?”
Next on the screen was another girl from his high school whom Buster barely recognized. He didn't talk to her much, but he at least knew her name.
“Yeah, we've all taken to calling him the Blue Drop,” the girl, Ashley, told the camera. “That's because he has blue fur, and he controls water. He said it was naturally blue, but come on, he must have been dying it. I'll tell you one thing, he was pretty dedicated to go through the trouble of dying his entire body blue!”
A picture of Buster flashed on the screen. It was very slowly rotating and getting closer to the camera. It wasn't one of his better pictures; he was looking at the camera out of the corner of his eyes, looking annoyed, with a book in front of him.
“A dedicated personality. An immature adolescent mind. And a power beyond his control,” the narrator said darkly. “Add in supposed bullying at school and a fractured home life, and it was a recipe... for disaster.”
“Oh, so you know about the bullying after all, huh?” Buster asked. “Bet you don't know who was bullying me, though! Bet Casey told 'em it was someone else! And, fractured home life? Where in blue blazes did they get that from?”
A shaky video played, showing a schoolyard being flooded, many pipes large and small sticking out of the severely-cracked concrete. Kids screamed and ran for the closest way out. And in the center of it, rising above the scene, was Buster. Somehow in that moment, he had made himself levitate by manipulating the water in his own body. He had tried and failed many times to replicate the result since.
The screen cut away to an older gentleman, the school's superintendent. “My take on this whole situation is a very black and white one,” the man said sternly. “We do not take incidents like this lightly. Buster injured five children that day, and destroyed a lot of school property.” The camera cut to a close-up of the superintendent's face. “And, yes, I would consider this a direct act of aggression. In fact, I would easily lump it in the same boat with school shootings.”
Buster turned off the TV. 'A recipe for disaster'... that's what this documentary was. They had the facts all wrong. Why did they have to do everything in their power to paint him in a bad light?
Still, he had no idea he had sent kids to the hospital. He figured that, at best, he had destroyed the schoolyard and flooded the place. He couldn't remember the moment clearly through all the rage.
Buster began levitating his bottle of water in front of him and stared at it, contemplating his power. He shortly couldn't stand the sight of it, and nearly crushed it, but he held back and closed his eyes as he let it drop to the floor and roll under the couch. After all, that was his only water bottle right now. If he destroyed it, he wouldn't be able to fix it. Plastic wasn't made out of water, after all.
When Rocky got home, Buster explained to him the documentary he had seen.
“A documentary!?” Rocky had exclaimed. “I didn't know about anything like that!”
As Buster continued to describe what he had seen, Rocky grew slowly calmer.
“That's... pretty bad,” he said simply, his face serious.
“You're telling me,” Buster replied. “It's no wonder that Ai girl knew me. They had me in a video and everything.”
“Want me to call Mom and Dad? Maybe they were interviewed about it or something without telling me.”
“Yeah... good idea.”
“Hey, Dad. Me and Buster were wondering... did anyone ever try to talk to you guys about... uh, what happened at Buster's school?” The line remained silent for a long while. Then the boys heard a sigh come from the speaker.
“Well, Rocky, I would rather not say anything about that... I don't want Buster to hear about it.
“Too late,” Buster said, “I just saw the documentary on TV today.”
Their father swore on the other side of the line. Then he sighed again. “How much did you see?”
“Everything. Well, enough, I guess.”
“What did you see!?”
“Okay, okay... I saw the kid who bullied me in the hospital... and I saw a video of myself. And... the principle saying that what is did was akin to a shooting rampage...” The line remained silent for a long while. “That's about it...” Buster concluded quietly.
After another long pause, Rocky broke the silence. “So, Dad... did anyone ever talk to you about it?”
“Yeah, yeah, some people tried to interview us for that stupid documentary,” Samson Lupo admitted. “Lot of newspapers, too. We declined to be interviewed, though, for all of them.”
“Why, then...” Buster began. “Why did you want me to come back home?”
“Mom and I figured that people must have forgotten about it by now, since a few years have gone by,” he said. “I'm surprised you were able to find it on live TV. What channel was it on, anyway?”
“Sorry... I wasn't paying attention.”
“Bah... Well if you ever remember, make sure you don't watch it anymore. Any channel that still plays that rubbish isn't worth watching.”
“You don't have to tell me twice.”
“Anyway, I honestly don't think it'll make much of a difference. You look a lot different than you did back then, aside from the, er, color. But I see kids with dyed fur all over the place these days, so it shouldn't stand out too much as long as you don't use your power in front of anyone.”
“Dad, the principal said it was like a shooting.”
“Don't listen to that! The whole of that documentary is lies, understand? You may have injured the kids who were bullying you, but it's not like you killed anyone. Besides, they recovered, and we even payed their hospital bills, so they would have to be really shallow people to still be holding a grudge after all these years.”
“I guess so... I do have one more question, though.”
“...Well, shoot. Spit it out!”
“...Am I wanted by the police?”
“...Yeah. The cops were looking for you for a long time after you left for the woods. They eventually gave up the search, though. They told us you had probably died out there, or committed suicide. The case is considered solved in official police records. And you are presumed dead.”
“So that means I'm a fugitive, doesn't it?” He asked it as a question, but he already knew the answer.
“Just don't do anything to draw attention to yourself. Like I said, they think you're dead. Even if a cop thought they saw you, they probably wouldn't think it was you; and the police aren't trained to believe in zombies.”
Rocky looked over after hanging up the phone. “You okay, Buster?” He was staring at the floor.
“I just can't believe this...” Buster responded quietly.
“It'll be okay. Nobody's after you right now. You can just pretend like you never even saw it.”
“I don't know about that...”
“Well... I mean, Dad said they shouldn't be holding a grudge against you or anything. I would still try to avoid them if I were you, but I don't think you'll have to deal with anything. Just live life normally, but keep your powers hidden.”
“But it's too late for that, isn't it?”
“What? The documentary is years old--”
“No, no. I mean Ai. She knows about me.”
“But not for sure. You said it yourself; she's a space cadet.”
“That was before I knew how public it was...”
Rocky sighed in exasperation. “What does it take to satisfy you? Look, I'm telling you it'll be okay. Just chill out, get a good night's rest. I'll see you in the morning, alright? I have a day off tomorrow.” With that, he got up and left after waiting to see if Buster had anything left to say. Buster still felt rather anxious about what he had just learned, but he tried his best to calm himself to no avail.
Buster couldn't sleep, so later that night, he knocked on Rocky's door. He heard some shifting around in the room, so he waited. After a few minutes, a shirtless, mess-up haired Rocky appeared, his eyes squinting with bags underneath. He handed Buster a bottle of sleep medicine and closed the door.
Buster would have had an opinion on the medicines available in society, as he did for most other things he had encountered since he returned, but he was a bit too busy sleeping to think about that.