He catches a glimpse of the new costume in the half-instant between her arrival and her change back to her civvies. It's tighter now, and it emphasizes her modest breasts. Probably marketing's idea.

He's seen the action figures. They look like someone has gone at her strategically with a large vise and an air pump.

"Hi honey!" she says, and pecks him on the cheek. He pulls the chair away from the table. She sits down, takes up the menu.

She always has this distracted look on her face, like she's not actually there, like she's living in another place, another time. Even now, she sits with one leg planted firmly off from the table, her body leaning to the side.

A runner on the blocks.

That was, of course, what attracted him to her in the first place. He wasn't sure why she fell for him, but he had figured it kicked in somewhere between the second drink and the third orgasm.

He had once heard the joke-from his less than feminist coworkers-that the best relationship was made up of one part sex, one part making dinner, and another part sex. She's not much of a cook; instant oatmeal is too slow for her. And every one of the mercifully few times she's tried to talk about "where this relationship is going", she's been interupted by her cell phone, informing her that Doctor McEvil has robbed a bank, or there's a giant gorilla in the financial district, or Timmy'd fallen down a well.

There are a lot of distractions available for a speed-based superheroine. She could probably deal with most of these in a commercial break. Except for the people wanting photos, and who was she to say no?

Their lunchtime conversation is empty and meaningless. She's not really paying attention, as previously mentioned, and he's nervous, thumbing something in his pocket. She doesn't notice. At least, he thinks she doesn't.

While struggling with a particularly recalcitrant quiche, his mind jumps to the time her cell phone was acting up, and They called his land line instead. He was somewhat engaged at the time, and the ring nearly made him fall off the bed, largely because the phone was unplugged. She had laughed, and answered, and left him half-finished and wanting.

"So," she says. "He won, huh?"

It seems odd, coming from her mouth, like she should be ahead of the curve, getting disillusioned with that guy already, and wondering if Hilary would be going for the nomination.

Of course, you couldn't throw a brick these days without-

Before the end of the first ring, she's already snapped her cellphone open and turned away from him, switched totally, completely off with dizzying speed. He knows that she's physically right in front of him, but the distance between them has widened to a vast gulf.

They've made it automatic, by this point. She checks the ID, sees it's from Them, and knows to switch to super-speed for the four seconds it'll take for her to receive a full mission briefing, complete with psychological profile. To anyone else, it'd sound like a faint buzz.

She says "Okay" for the benefit of any observers in the area. They've got her on satellite survaillance so tight they'd know if her tea was cold; she could just make a secret hand sign or something.

She snaps the phone off and turns to him. For a brief few seconds, he's subjected to the full glare of her attention, and he's reminded why he loves her.

"I don't think this is going to work out," she says, and the bottom drops out of his stomach.

"What, lunch?" He's clutching at straws and they both know it.

"This. This relationship we have."

"So that's what they're calling it now."

"Don't...don't be petty." Her elbows are on the table, she's leaning forward, and she can't look him in the eye. It occurs to him he's never seen her look uncomfortable before, shifting uneasily like this. Her face brightens. "We can still be friends, right?"

"Yeah, sure," he says. He's thinking of the object he still clutches. More potential than the atomic bomb.

"Good," she smiles and tosses some money on the table. "I'll get the tab."

And then she's gone, leaving nothing behind but a broken heart.

He pulls the little velvet box out of his pocket.

"Crap," he says.