She ducked under my slap and rolled me lightly over her shoulder. I went sprawling, but before I could land on the roof she'd rolled over me, grabbing my shoulders and pulling me into her roll, kicking up with her feet at the top of it. I was catapulted fifteen feet into the air, sprawling, and realized as I was coming down that I was going over the edge of the roof, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it.
“Cut either the heroes or the villains out of the equation, and you have one guy in tights showing up to do police work. It’s stupid. It looks ridiculous. But give a hero a villain and it becomes... I dunno. Cultural. It makes sense. If I’m there, and I’m robbing the bank, and I’m wearing bondage gear and making bad puns? Of course it makes sense that Darkhood shows up and shoots epoxy-spraying arrows at me. The absurdity cancels each other out.”
“Jesus – look at this!” She stabbed her finger at the bed. “That quilt cover’s silk. You know how to get bloodstains out of silk? You been reading Hints from Fucking Heloise, Marco?”
“You know what it is? It’s smug. No. No, it’s misogynistic. All these bad girls really need is a good hard dicking and then they’ll be sweet innocent little flowers and they’ll happily prance off into the kitchen and bake shit.” She shook her head. “I don’t know how the heroines put up with it. I really don’t. But then, I was a piss-poor heroine.”
"Leather's a cool boss. If we keep our noses clean for a few weeks? Then she'll forgive us and the next time we fuck up it'll be another speech. But, y'know, if we fuck up before that? She wasn't kidding last night. She's got no sense of perspective. She will burn your house to the ground and laugh while she's doing it." He laughed. "She doesn't always look crazy or sound crazy, but trust me, man. She's crazy."
“I don’t want to have to rescue you, Chapman. I’m not going out there to rescue you or perform for you. I’m going out to fight crime. And believe it or not? That’s not easy and that’s not safe. Not for me, not for innocent bystanders, not for idiot reporters, and not even for the criminals I’ll be taking down. And if you go waltzing around playing out your Truncheon fantasies, you might get hurt. You might get killed. Or? You might get me hurt or killed. And more likely than either of those? You might get some innocent bystander hurt or killed.”
She stepped back, her eyes still intense as lasers as they burned into mine. “Get this in your head, Chapman. We’re. Not. Getting. Anyone. Killed.”
“Look, I know it’s vigilante justice, but there’s a right way and a wrong way, you know? I can’t just go crack skulls because they might be selling drugs. I have to have more than that. If I don’t, then there’s too much of a chance of screwing up – of hurting someone because I don’t like their looks. There are words for that, and I don’t like those words at all. Nuh-uh. No thank you.”
“Or sometimes it’s just… it’s just what they do, and I have no idea why. I mentioned Bandolier? He loves Paramount City. And he really wants to kill the Beacon, but he’s also… he’s a friend and I don’t want to bag on him, but he’s… protective of her. He hates her but doesn’t want to hear shit about her. I know it’s not sexual or romantic or stalker-twisted-things-its-romantic. I just don’t know what it actually is. It’s like… rival baseball teams, only it’s a hero and villain and the villain builds a lot of deathtraps.”
“Hey spiky!” Leather shouted, tearing the box open and aside and lifting the Mountbatten Urn where it could be clearly seen. “Is this what you’re looking for? Huh?”
Darkhood skidded to a stop. “Leather! Put that down – gently! We can talk about this!”
“Yeah, about that? So not my style!” She giggled. “Think fast!”
I stared, my hands working my camera almost mechanically, as Leather did a forward in-air roll and flung the priceless urn out and away from herself, far over Darkhood’s head.
So, Leather’s just wrong?”
“Mm.” He leaned back. “She’s wrong headed. In a number of ways, really, but I’m thinking of a specific kind of thing, here. We don’t need villains to be heroes… but some villains like her? They need us to need them.”
“It’s how she sleeps at night. She wants to steal anything she likes without any consequences for it. She wants a certain standard of living. She wants to make the evening news. And she wants someone else to pay for it. But… she pretends to have a conscience. Not to you or me, mind. She’s deceiving herself. She knows that she should feel guilty unless she can find some justification. And what better justification than literally making heroes possible? If she decides she’s enabling heros to be heroic, then she can satisfy that fake conscience. Heroes inspire people and save lives but only so long as villains like her make heroes possible in the first place. Having settled that, she can go out and steal anything she wants and still sleep like a baby.” He shook his head. “That 'help?' I do not need, did not ask for, and vehemently oppose. Is that unambiguous enough for your purposes, Mister Chapman?”
“Because….” I looked off, down the street. “Because we live with you. Your kind. The heroes and the villains. We live with you and we thrill with you and sometimes we’re entertained by you and sometimes we’re terrified by you, but we don’t understand you. Not always.” I put my hands in my pockets. “Barbara Babcock’s a better reporter than I’ll ever be, but that’s just it. She reports on what Paragon and the rest of you do. Not on who you are. This… this is a chance to write about who you are.” I shrugged. “That’s too important to blow on a puff piece drooling over Leather in a PVC leotard.”