RAW: The World Changes Quickly

Title: The World Changes Quickly
Author: Harper Kingsley

Run!

I woke to the sounds of shouts and screams; boots thundered in the hallway. It was with a sense of confusion that I stumbled to the apartment door and peered out the peephole.

Soldiers in full tactical gear were herding my neighbors out of their apartments. I saw Mrs. Hernandez struggling with all the strength of her aging body. She was brutally backhanded and her limp body was carried toward the elevator.

Everyone else was being rounded up and shackled into lines of five people. The first two lines were prodded until they began walking toward the stairs.

My view was abruptly blocked by a broad chest. The man had to be a giant. There was a patch across his left breast that had what looked like a shooting star stitched out of red and gold.

I backed away from the door and looked around my small apartment. I didn’t know what was going on, but I needed a weapon. Something to protect myself from these invaders.

There was a whirring sound and a low Pop!

The lock fell out of the door and the door swung wide open.

The soldier tromped in–it was like something out of a nightmare. Heavy boots thumped against carpeting worn thin by use. The red glow of optics focused on me out of the featureless round helmet.

/EXCERPT

Into the drowny deep they’d gone

Into the drowny deep they’d gone, far past the places other men had dared to travel. Past arching cities and seemingly endless green jungle, they’d set sail from the farthest edge of the Last Isle of Men, intent on seeing all the world had to offer.

They reached the edge of the world after two years of sailing. As the sun was setting, they finally reached the place where the world ended and the curving blackness of space began.

They traveled along the invisible barrier until they found the Door. Then they left the world behind and traveled the multiverse, experiencing things they’d only ever dreamed of seeing.

Ishmael

Title: Ishmael
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: murder mystery, suspense, different era
Characters: Major Ishmael Dupres, Captain Etienne Barnard

I don’t know how my life got to this point. It must be some phobia of success.”

Looking at the words printed on the paper, Ishmael wasn’t sure what to think. He looked from the words to his lieutenant, then back down at the words again.

“And this was written on the body?” he asked. He was relieved his voice didn’t shake.

“Carved into the flesh.” Captain Barnard’s voice never shook. He was the steady firmament that upheld Ishmael’s command.

“That is most disquieting,” Ishmael said. “How many victims has it been? 10? 12?”

“10, sir. And he’s been getting creative with his knife. It’s a frightening turn of events. Women are scared to walk the streets alone as of late.” Barnard frowned. “The merchants are upset. It’s costing them quite a bit of business that most shopping is ending so early.”

“Ah,” Ishmael said. He stared down at the paper, the words written in an oddly elegant scrawl. “We’re going to catch you, you bastard.”

“We’ll get him for you, sir. I promise,” Barnard said.

Ishmael nodded. “I know you will. You are remarkably skilled at your job, and your squad are the best on the street. Get your kids out there and find this guy. I will reward each and every one of you.”

“Sir, you know that’s not necessary.” There was a tinge of pink high on Barnard’s cheeks. It was an oddly charming sight.

“I know I don’t have to make the offer,” Ishmael said, “but I have quite a large amount of money at my disposal. I would feel better using it to reward a job well done than on simple pleasures.”

“Still sir, you’re far too generous,” Barnard said.

They both knew that he would accept the money. Not just for his officers, but for himself as well.

From his earliest youth, Etienne Barnard had had a taste for the finer things. It was how their paths had first crossed in fact, when Ishmael was nineteen and Barnard was twenty-three. Barnard had been modeling for shopping money and Ishmael had been intrigued.

They’d shared a meal and a conversation, and by the time they’d parted that day they’d exchanged contact information. They’d formed enough of a connection that when Barnard found himself in a bit of trouble, he’d called Ishmael for help.

And through that help, they’d ended up in a lifelong career as police officers. It had been a strange jumble of events that led to this office and this moment.

Ishmael trusted Barnard when he said the murderer would be brought to justice.

He stared down at the words of a killer: “I don’t know how my life got to this point. It must be some phobia of success.”

“We have to get him off the streets. For the peace of mind of our citizens if nothing else,” Ishmael said.

TBC…

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Prompt-Fill: 016. hand 2A

Prompt-Fill: 016. hand 2A

It was gone. Only a stump remained at the end of his wrist. They’d amputated his hand.

Tears gathered in his eyes. He’d trusted them when they said they wouldn’t do anything without his permission, yet they’d drugged him and cut off his hand. The betrayal stung even in the face of his loss.

The door began opening. He hurriedly wiped his eyes dry on the pillowcase and the shoulder of the hospital gown he wore.

By the time the nurse came in, he had a stoic expression on his face. She didn’t mention the redness of his eyes, simply gave him a smile and asked him how he was feeling.

“I’m feeling like they chopped off my hand,” he snarled, then bit his lip, instantly contrite. “I’m sorry. It’s not your fault.”

She gave him a sympathetic look. “From what I understand, it’s not your fault either. A decision had to be made or you would have died.”

“I know.” He avoided looking at the bandaged stump. He looked toward the window instead. “It’s sunny out there. All those days of rain, and now it’s sunny.”

The nurse—PAM, said her nametag—moved around the room. She opened things and shut things, checked readings on the machines and changed the IV so quickly and expertly he wouldn’t have noticed if he wasn’t watching.

“It’s a beautiful day,” she said. She crumpled up a blue paper cloth and tossed it in the garbage can. “I think I’m going to recommend that you get some time outside today.”

“What?” He gestured with his hand at his stump. “They cut off my hand yesterday.”

“That was yesterday,” she said. “This is today. And while the stump is still tender and I wouldn’t jostle it around, it should be okay while you sit in a wheelchair in the garden. It’s a lovely sunny day and we don’t know when the sun will next decide to visit us. You should get the chance to enjoy it a little.”

He wanted to object—”I don’t want to leave my room. My hand. They cut off my hand“—but the thought of being outside with the sun on his face was too appealing.

“Okay,” he said instead, tone grudging.

“Good.” She smiled brightly. “I can tell already that you’re a fighter. You’re going to be okay. I’m sure of it.”

“If you’re sure,” he said doubtfully.

“I’m sure,” she said. She glanced at her watch. “And I’m due on another floor in five minutes. So I’m going to run out of here. If you need anything, the call button is right there. Lunch is in forty minutes. And I will see you tomorrow. Bye!”

“Bye,” he echoed, but she was already gone. The clicking shut of the door was the only sign that she’d ever existed.

“How weird,” he whispered. But he felt better.

Sure, they’d amputated his hand, but he was still alive. And maybe he could 3D print himself a cool prosthesis. It was terrible. But it was going to be all right.

“I’m alive,” he said.

And when his family came to visit he managed a tremulous smile that gradually became real. Because they loved him. They were here. They’d made the decision he couldn’t manage to make.

He was alive.

=END=

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Thinking things; Excerpt of The Flameburst masturbating

There is a kind of “Cabin In the Woods”-type horror scenario happening in “American Dad” S12E07: “Ninety North, Zero West”.

They fail to stop the Santa archtype from returning the Titan’s eyes, and the Endbringer wakes up.

In its weakened state, angry!Steve runs into it with the train, popping its eyes out of its head. But if he hadn’t done that …


“What is even happening?” He struggled to pull his right glove on, wishing once again that he’d ordered those new uniforms. But this is what he had – something leftover from ’02 and smelling just a bit dingy – and he’d make the best of it. He always did.

“I don’t know, Dad. They’re just telling us all to get out of town.” Ashley wore her uniform and looked so much like her old self that it ached, but he could tell by the uncertainty in her voice that she was still scrambled eggs.

“We’ll help with the evacuation, but we’ll keep moving toward the [exit] points,” he decided. She had no place being in a fire fight, and she wasn’t leaving his side. So he’d just have to stick clear of whatever disaster was rocking the town. “Grab our Go Bags. We leave in fifteen minutes.”

Evan strode down the short hallway to his favorite bathroom and locked himself inside. He was trembling and sweating and he didn’t know why.

Except she’d been dead. There’d been a funeral. She’d been out of his life for so long that he was beginning to get over her loss. The pain had never left, but he’d been putting his life back together. Then she was back again.

He’d been through an emotional yoyo-fucking. Like he’d been strapped down and the Safe Word was unpronouncable and the fear was just starting to get overwhelming. He was shaking, on the edge of tears.

They should already be leaving the apartment. But he needed a few minutes to pull himself together. A little self-care now would mean better effectiveness later on.

He set the timer on his phone, then stripped out of his clothes. He stood in front of the mirror naked. Stared into his own eyes as he took five deep breaths.

Then he reached into the medicine cabinet and took two pumps of lube from the bottle and closed the mirror.

Evan held the cool jelly-like glob of lube in his hand and stared into his own reflected eyes.

He saw the flame burning in the blackness. Pupil and iris, gradually swallowed up by flame until he stared into pits of beckoning flame, tendrils reaching out like lashes. Ghostly echoes of hands and figures, indulging in pornographic acts.

He stared into those flaming depths, gorgeous sea anemone of beckoning flame, blues flickering ghostlike across the oranges and yellows. He imagined pressing himself into those wavering appendages and letting himself be pulled inside.

His hips rolled forward as he thrust into his right hand, his left palm pressing against the counter edge as his fingers desperately flexed and held on. He kept his lips pressed tight together and breathed in and out through his nose, huffing puffs and grunts that he consciously tried to slow down.

He was thrusting faster and faster. Those flames were eeling out of the darkness inside that other-him’s head. Flames were spooling out in writhing tentacles that slipped and slithered down his chest, around his thighs, and wrapped around both legs and feet. He was enshrouded in living flames.

He was caressed by the flames. They stroked across his shoulders, down his arms, prickling a trail of goosepimples. He shivered and flexed.

Tendrils looped around his chest, passing over and in his belly button before looping down between his legs and back up. It made him slide his bare feet apart and lean into the counter, arching his back as he thrust helplessly.

Evan was lost.

He knew he was.

But where else was he supposed to go?

Retirement or not, he was still the Flameburst.

He still loved the flames.

And they were taking him over now. He could feel it and he loved it, even as he hated the person he would become.

He’d do anything to protect Ashley. Even this.

He was fucked faster, harder. He was making a pitched whining sound that he tried to stop but couldn’t. His body was out of his control. He was being engulfed by the flames.

His hips thrust faster and faster. He was gripping the counter with desperate strength, his shoulders hunching forward as he jerked off.

He was focused on his groin. His breath was hitching and breaking as he whined/gasped, his bare toes flexing and lifting him up and down. He was close, he could feel it. He was so close.

So close, so close – a tear trickled unnoticed down his cheek as he desperately tried to reach that precipice. His thighs were trembling and he was stroking faster and faster, his hand slidng in a mix of lube and precome.

He could feel himself being opened up. Even as he fucked his fist, the flames were reaching around and up inside. And some part of him – the still stodgily straight part – wanted to protest what was about to happen. But the rest of him remembered that it felt so good to come.

He hadn’t been able to masturbate without the flames for years. And sex with normals had become a no-go when he’d nearly burnt that woman. Plus he thought flamelets dripping from his dick was a sign that his body wasn’t safe for sex with others.

He’d forgotten how good letting go felt. And how gorgeous his mirror-self was.

Flames licked over his body, urging him faster and faster. He was close. So close. So… close…

A fist of flame punching up into his body. That’s what it felt like. But instead of pain, there was a flooding warmth that arced through his whole body – bowing his back and zipping down to his fingers and toes – before recirculating around to pool in his groin.

He came so hard that he blacked out.

*

The Flameburst left the bathroom. He’d showered and done what he could to fix the old uniform. It had been saved in a box as a memento of the Good Old Days, and he’d gained a couple of pounds since then.

He moved his arms and legs up and down as he walked into the living room. He was going to need to stretch some of the stiffness out if he hoped to be combat effective.

He smiled at Ashley when he found her wearing a dark green peacoat with the bags and supplies arrayed around her. She was ready and waiting to go. “Good job, sport.”

She smiled at him a little uncertainly. “Okay.”

He stared at her for a moment. Without her memory, she didn’t know about his little swaps. She wouldn’t remember the warnings signs and avoid his triggers.

Evan would be angry if Ashley burned up. The Flameburst would probably feel regretful about it later too. Especially if Evan refused to swap with him anymore.

Everything was so beautiful and bright. Everything burned and he could make the whole world dance. But he had to hold himself back. Had to remember consequences and reasons why burning the world wasn’t allowed.

“Let’s get out of here, kiddo,” he said, trying to sound as jolly and Dad-like as he assumed Evan would. He hadn’t paid much attention to Evan’s interactions with amnesiac-Ashley, but he wasn’t capable of feeling fear.

The Flameburst pulled a parka over his uniform to cover it and to protect him from the icy weather outside. He zipped the coat up under his chin and flipped the hood over his head before putting on the backpack.

He wobbled a little as he adjusted to the weight, silently cursing his out of shape body. Then he grinned at the challenge.

He felt the flames flare around his heart: a burst of heat and pleasure rippled through his blood to engulf his limbs and groin. He flexed his buttocks and thighs to keep from thrusting forward.

It felt so strong.

Evan hadn’t been feeding his flames enough.

He’d been a dangerous explosive walking amongst unknowing people. The wrong word or gesture could have had him lash out with dangerous consequences. It was a careless disregard for safety.

Which said a lot about Evan’s mental state.

The Flameburst breathed in and out, a flame flickering at the back of his throat as he retaught his body control. He couldn’t allow any accidents.

“Let’s go.” He let Ashley open the door, but he stepped out first. He would keep her safe.

/EXCERPT

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“365 Prompts” – Prompt 041. blackberries 2A

“365 Prompts” by Harper Kingsley will be available as pre-release November 14. You can order a copy via Paypal or Patreon. Just send $5 and mention that it’s for “365 Prompts”.

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*

2. Tangled in the blackberry bushes, the small child howled in fear and pain. There were red scratches marring the dirty face and arms, one thorn having scratched dangerously close to a teary eye.

A. Tangled in the blackberry bushes, the small child howled in fear and pain. There were red scratches marring the dirty face and arms, one thorn having scratched dangerously close to a teary eye.

Anna ran forward, waving her arms to signal No. “Don’t move, kid. You hold still and I’ll help you.”

“Get me out of here. It hurts! It hurts!” the child screeched, making an aborted lunge forward. Anna winced when she saw that a long thorny branch was wrapped around the child’s chest, digging into the patched and worn cotton shirt.

“I’ll get you, I’ll get you, don’t move.” Anna tried to hide her panic and project a sense of calm concern. The last thing she wanted was for the kid to realize how afraid she was. “Why don’t you tell me your name, sweetie?”

“I’m not sweetie. I’m Brandon.”

“Oh. Well, hello Brandon. I’m Anna.” Working slowly, she began untangling the small body. He couldn’t have been older than four or five, dressed in clothes that would have done better in the rag bin. “Can you tell me where your parents are, Brandon?”

“Don’t have any,” he muttered, his attention focused on her hands. Which is why he missed the expression of shock and pity that crossed her face before she controlled herself.

*

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“365 Prompts” – Prompt 037. cellphone 2A.

2. The prepaid cellphone made an odd sound before dying, plunging the interior of the box into darkness. The occupant’s breath came louder in panic as the realization sunk in.

A. The prepaid cellphone made an odd sound before dying, plunging the interior of the box into darkness. Jackie’s breath came louder in panic as the realization sunk in.

Buried alive! I’ve been buried alive!

One minute she was enjoying the first real vacation she’d had in her entire life. And the next she was waking up in a box buried underground.

It didn’t seem fair.

*

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“365 Prompts” – partial Prompt-Fill: 004. spring 1A. “Out of the Wild Lands” by Harper Kingsley

Prompt 004. spring – 1A

1. It was a relief when the spring frost began. They’d been close to running out of nearly everything.

A. Once the river melted, it was a rush to finish building the boat and gather enough food to see them out of the Wild Lands. If they were lucky they could reach civilization within a few months. If they were unlucky they would die. They didn’t have a choice either way.

There was no staying where they were. They’d stripped the island of everything it had to offer, and there hadn’t been much to begin with.

It was either make the attempt now, or slowly starve to death. There was not going to be another opportunity.

/END PROMPT
Z
Z
Z

Prompt-Fill: “Out of the Wilds”
Author: Harper Kingsley

Once the river melted, it was a rush to finish building the boat and gather enough food to see them out of the Wild Lands. If they were lucky they could reach civilization within a few months. If they were unlucky they would die. They didn’t have a choice either way.

There was no staying where they were. They’d stripped the island of everything it had to offer, and there hadn’t been much to begin with.

It was either make the attempt now, or slowly starve to death. There was not going to be another opportunity.

“Quiet that baby,” Gareth ordered. He was lashing the last of the supplies to the boat and didn’t need the distraction.

“Yes sir.” Leilan shushed the blanket wrapped bundle, jostling it until the wails turned to an unhappy grumble. The baby had been fussing ever since her twin — her Other Half — had died. There was a real concern that she would follow after, the broken strings of her tattered soul pulling her down and down after her sister.

When Poiler had suggested killing the baby as a mercy — she must be suffering with her broken soul — Leilan had hit her as hard as he could and taken the baby himself. He couldn’t believe a mother could ever suggest murdering her own child. It made him suspicious of how the unnamed baby had died. She’d looked healthy after her birth; then she’d been quiet and still.

Leilan tightened his grip on the baby he held. She was alive. She needed him.

He stood out of the way as the men and women worked. He looked down at the baby’s face. She was skinnier than he liked, as his milk had only just begun to come in, but seemed healthy enough. He thought there was a chance that she would live.

“I’m going to risk it,” he said. She blinked up at him. One fist had worked itself free of the blanket and found its way into her mouth where she furiously gummed on tiny tiny knuckles. He chuckled and used two fingers to pull her hand out of her mouth. He wiped the slobber off with a scrap of cloth from his pocket, then tucked her arm back in the blanket.

“None of that,” he ordered when she looked about to cry. She hiccuped and blinked, but remained quiet. “Good girl.”

He jostled her a couple of times. “I’ve decided that you need a name if you’re going to be my daughter.” He licked his lips. “I think my mother would have approved her granddaughter sharing a name with her.”

He held her a bit away from himself so he could see all of her and she could see him. Even if she didn’t understand, this was an important moment. By giving her a name, he was accepting responsibility for her. She would be family.

“Melissa Kim of the House of Graythorn,” he said. “Welcome to my family, Melissa.”

“$85 Dry Cleaning Bill”

Title: $85 Dry Cleaning Bill
Author: Harper Kingsley

PROMPT: I need to wash my blanket. It smells like dirty girl.

FILL: I need to wash my blankie, Holden thought, wrinkling her nose.

The dark cream colored rectangle of fake fur smelled of dirty girl and rancid powdered Corpse. Her own familiar smell had been completely wiped away by her cousin. Her terrible, terrible cousin. The would-be necromancer and part-time necrophile.

Her blanket felt tainted now. And the smell made her want to gag. If she didn’t love that scrap of fabric so much she would have thrown it away. As it was, she’d have to take it to the Dry Cleaners and hope they could save it.

Holden bundled the blanket into a garbage bag and tied it shut. She tossed the bag in the backseat of her car and drove to a coffee shop where she enjoyed a black coffee sweetened by two sugars and a croissant sandwich for lunch. While she was there she ran a quick Internet search for highly rated Dry Cleaners.

She chose and saved the directions to Happy Harry’s onto her phone. She ignored the notification that said she’d had five missed calls (This is my day) and finished her coffee. Then she drove to the Dry Cleaners, who told her it was going to cost $85 to save her blanket.

By the time she was home getting ready for the evening’s Entertainment, she was simmering over the amount of the bill. Her cousin hadn’t even apologized when she’d made such a big mess at Thanksgiving. (That selfish bitch. She only thinks about herself. She didn’t even look sorry when she got Uncle Raymond’s fingers chopped off. It was all about her. Never mind our family.) She’d swooped in, dropped angry criminals on them all, killed a bunch of people, then flew back east. She’d turned their family into a spectacle. And she’d never truly apologized.

It hurt to think that the family had welcomed her into their homes and she’d treated them so shabbily. Holden had made a fool of herself welcoming her new famous cousin. She’d shown her around and introduced her to all of her friends. And what had she gotten in return? A bloodbath in her backyard. A pile of bloody clothes and makeshift medical supplies in her room. A bunch of sexually assaulted family members–male and female, old and young-young–that she could barely look at without feeling like crying. And an 85-frakking-dollar Dry Cleaning bill because her cousin’s “friend”/hitman/lackey had taken a nap on her bed without her permission.

Holden’s cousin’s whirlwind visit had been a series of horrifying events that their family might never fully recover from. There were so many emotional scars forming that she found it too selfish to mention her financial concerns to any of them. They’d been through so much.

She felt too guilty to complain about her badly damaged rental house.

So to keep her creditors off her back, she’d gotten the kind of job she’d promised herself she’d never do. But what real choice did she have?

It was either pay the bills or end up in Debtors’ Prison. Or worse.

She could end up on the Auction Block. Where she would regret being so wholesome and pretty (I’d get full body tattoos and hack my hair off before my sale date. I’d rather be a Menial than Property) when she was sold for Entertainment.

I have to get some money, Holden thought. I have to fix this somehow.

/END EXCERPT

Fill? 01 – on a gun

There’s a strange moment of disconnect between one thought and the next. It left him stumbling on numb legs.

He turned his body around and stood there, statuelike.

The world was made of fire.

It raged across the sky in blazing scarlet and gold. Giant wings reaching out to cover everything.

He tipped his head back and stared up at the parachute of light arching above him.

I’m going to die. The thought was spoken in a calm voice that rang through his ears as clearly as if they’d been outside of his own head.

It followed him as he ducked and ran and fought his way out of a city fallen to madness.

He came out of his fire with a starburst scar across the apple of his right cheek and an ankle that liked to pop when he walked. But he was alive and he could move to a suburban area and start a new life as a stay-at-home dad.

The woman he married was a dedicated career woman that had lokked startled by his offered Contract before agreeing.

The relationship wasn’t real, but he knew that he was a catch just on his looks alone.

It was kind of why he dressed as a farmer hipster when he wasn’t working. It was all plaid shirts, unshaven cheeks, and wildly tawsled hair.

He knew he was a hot mess. He could see the eyes that followed him around. It was why he’d switched to wearing glasses.

Add in Chucky, and suddenly he was the single dad that all kinds of women wanted to fix up.

Sometimes it made him laugh, when he was home alone with the sleeping baby. He would be watching TV in the living room, maybe smoking a little Calm and Cool, and he’d have a thought and find himself laughing like a loon.

Once upon a time he’d been a serious bad ass. He’d been a hero from the wars.

Then he was a rich woman’s darling husband and Contracted Trophy Spouse. They’d agreed to have a child that he would raise.

Then he was a widow receiving Survivor’s Benefits from her Memorial Trust. She’d arranged things so that both he and Chucky were taken care of. There was enough money that he didn’t have to work out of the home.

He was grateful to her. She’d been a generous wife when they were married, and she’d been generous in her death.

He made sure that her family saw plenty of Chucky. As much as he could manage anyway, as her family was well-traveled and it took a Google Calendar to follow them and schedule an appointment.

He’d added thousands of miles to his car keeping in contact with her family. It was something that she would have wanted.

Chucky became one of the Patriarch’s favorite grandchildren along with Frankie and the twins. By the time the first granddaughter was born–the apple of everyone’s eye–the gang of children running around was a hoard of well-loved family kids and their friends.

It made him proud to see his child growing up so well.

He could remember the horribleness of his own childhood.

This is why I survived, he thought. This is why that voice spoke to me.

Because if he hadn’t heard that voice ringing through his head, he wouldn’t have run. He would have hesitated. And he would have died with everyone else.

He stared around at the orderliness of his room and pushed away the memories of Before.

He was no kind of hero. He was just a man.

That was the promise he’d made himself and Chucky.

* * *

Charles glared at Nigel. How dare that old coot tell him what to do! But he knew there was no choice but to do as he was told. His parents had told him what to expect.

This was the man that had raised him until he was eight, then given him away. He didn’t see Nigel for fifteen years, then when they met again Nigel was nothing that he remembered.

The anal-retentive asshole took OCD to a whole other level of neurosis, but refused to take medication. He’d made friends with some hippies and followed an organic produce kick that involved aquaponics and hundreds of pounds worth of vegetables.

Yet he was still the man controlling Charles’ life until his twenty-fifth birthday. Which meant the marriage contract was valid and he’d just have to make the best of things, as he usually did.

Charliemehardy was the name he used online. Because he had big plans for what his life was going to be when he reached his Majority.

He’d continue to support Nigel, but he’d get his own place and his own life.

“Who am I marrying?” he asked.

Nigel shrugged elegantly. “That’s going to be up to you. I’ll have some profiles put together and arrange some invitations, but you choose who you like.”

Charles sighed in relief. At least he was going to be allowed a bit of freedom.

He glanced at his watch. “Oop, looks like I’ve gotta run, Daddy. I’ll see you later!”

Nigel tapped his cheek meaningfully. “Kiss.”

It was maybe a bit embarrassing at times, but Charles never refused the request. He pressed a brief kiss against the scar on Nigel’s cheek. “Later, Daddy.”

He hurried out of the study and down the back hall stairs. It took him until he reached the car to put his public mask back in place.

That was the thing about family. They could strip him bare in ways his friends had never managed.

Tuesday Night, by Harper Kingsley – Chapter Eleven (2/2) [Kanon, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel, mm]

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm

Chapter Eleven was split into two posts due to size. This is the part two.

CHAPTER ELEVEN continued…

Following Seth was like second nature. Tony had to admit that the guy had fallen into the role of leader as natural as breathing. Probably a result of the leadership courses he’d received at the Training Center as a teenager. Tony had only managed summer classes until the CMPF scholarship, but Seth had been training to be a superhero from the time he was fourteen years old.

Part of Tony would always wonder what his life would have been like if he’d had the money for the intensive training Seth had received. But that was an old regret, one that he couldn’t do anything about now.

They were jogging a winding path that cut through side streets and down alleys, keeping an eye out for any people. Everything seemed deserted. It was eerie to see no people bustling about during the day. It gave a horror movie vibe that made the patch of skin between his shoulders itch.

Seth must have shared his unease, because they were moving at a good clip. It wouldn’t take them too long to reach Triangle Park, maybe another twenty minutes.

Tony was starting to think things were looking like cake. They’d reach the Park, lay the charges, and be out of range before the fireworks started. They were going to make it.

A flicker of warning. He body-slammed Seth out of the way with a flying tackle. “Get down!”

The ground they would have passed through exploded with a rain of pulverized asphalt and burning debris.

Tony rolled off Seth, his rifle already firing. He was in that headspace where everything seemed to move slowly and his targets were limned by some inexplicable brightness, drawing his attention. The squeeze of the trigger was like breathing, and he felt nothing as unarmored human bodies exploded into blood and vaporized bone.

He felt Seth at his back and heard the echoing discharge of another gauss rifle. They moved in sync, a crabwalk that carried them through the crowd of zombified civilians. There were a few AR-15s, an RPG here and there, but most of them had only small arms, knives, and makeshift clubs–baseball bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs, and a few cricket bats notable mostly for their “Huh” value.

Dozens of people quickly became hundreds, maybe even thousands, until they crammed the streets in a mass of blank-eyed aggression. The alien controllers didn’t care if their human meat puppets were hurt or killed. They kept feeding them out onto the street in an overwhelming mass.

Tony was questioning the hive mind’s plans when the first cape arrived. Flying low to avoid the overhead air patrols and the ion cannons mounted on the satellite weapon’s platforms. The hive had learned not to tempt the airspace quarantine.

Tony wondered how many flying metahumans had to reach the height limit and be vaporized before the aliens had learned to keep their drones below twenty feet. He tried not to think of how many of them had been people he’d known.

Now wasn’t the time to think about all that. He had to focus on the battle in front of him and the trouble flying up on them. Monteressa, the Iron Woman of Prague. Her flesh gleamed like silver nitrate and her hair was writhing coils of living metal.

Her origin story was mostly rumors and speculation. She was a foreign national that had fallen in love with an American superheroine named Hartache. They rotated their residency with six months in America and six months in Prague, and they were lauded as a great example of international cooperation. It didn’t hurt that Hartache was sexy in form-fitting reddish-brown leather and the exposed portions of her face looked like they belonged to an equally attractive face. They were a power couple in every sense of the word.

“Keep an eye out for Hartache,” Seth advised.

“Roger.” Tony was already scanning roof tops and vantage points where the crossbow wielding shapechanger could be crouching.

Hartache could transform herself into a white hart–a beautiful doe with hooves she’d had specially shod to enable her to punch through human flesh even easier than a natural deer. She was also a deadly shot with a crossbow and had won a bronze medal at the Meta Olympics. It was where she’d met Monteressa, who’d won the silver in the Mid-Range Strength category by lifting and crushing a tank within the thirty second time limit.

There was a crawling sensation between Tony’s shoulder blades and he whirled around to see Hartache take the shot. She was firing between the safety rails of an apartment’s balcony, her mouth a tight line and her movements sure.

Time seemed to slow down as the arrow came toward him. Over the shouts and growls of the crowding drones, he thought he could heard the buzzing thrum of the arrow’s flight, but that had to be pure imagination.

It seemed natural to grab the nearest drone–he refused to think of it as a man with a family and a life, with children and an everyday existence–and pulled it in front of him just as the arrow struck.

The razor-tipped arrowhead jutted obscenely through the drone’s chest. The drone made a gasping, gurgling sound, blood pouring from its mouth as it died.

Tony threw the body toward Monteressa and dodged Hartache’s follow-up shot. There was the dull whump of the drone’s body exploding as the charge in the shaft released. Monteressa disappeared from view.

Time was moving and jerking and he was seeing things in snapshot movements, but he didn’t let himself hesitate. He kicked a woman in the face and made a linebacker’s charge through the crowd.

“Come on!” he shouted, thundering through bodies with a single minded purpose. They needed to get away before Monteressa recovered. Before Hartache took her next shot. Before the already approaching flyers reached them, capes a trailing point in the sky, painting a rainbow above the street.

The only thing saving them was the height of the buildings and the flyers’ inability to go above twenty feet. But it was only a matter of time before the flyers made it through the maze to their location. They needed to get under cover and evade, otherwise they’d be overwhelmed.

Tony could feel the warm rush of Seth’s power against his back. The white glow reflected around him even as his helm automatically adjusted the brightness level. He didn’t look back, trusting that Seth was following. He could hear the screams and cries as drones got too close and were burned by Seth’s aura; he didn’t need to see it.

There was the sound of Seth’s gauss rifle firing, clearing some of the path ahead, but it was Tony that slammed his way through the crush of bodies. It was Tony that broke bones and smashed delicate human flesh with a single-minded forward charge.

The flyers were closing in, but Tony reached the nearest building and plowed through the door with glass shattering around him. He charged through aisles stocked with baby toys and clothes, maternity wear, and furniture that broke with startling ease. He kept going, Seth keeping the following drones from crowding around them, slowing them down with their breakable human bodies.

All Tony knew was that he needed to keep them moving before the drones manages to clear the pile up of bodies from the door. Or before Monteressa knocked down the wall, letting in the swarm.

Tony suddenly cut left and plowed through the side wall into the neighboring store. It looked like some kind of Scottish supply place, smelling of leather polish and wool, framed tartans mounted on the walls.

Tony kept moving, shoving what he could out of his way, but mostly crashing through it. His heart sounded a steady beat in his ears, faster than normal, but a tempo that he could move to.

He focused on putting one foot in front of the other as he crashed through three more buildings before judging from the map that breaking through the back wall of the furniture store would put them on Fuller Avenue. The other shops would have opened on a narrow alley of tight-squeezes.

Breaking through that final wall, he staggered a little dazedly before shaking it off. Even with his near invulnerability, he was going to be aching tomorrow.

Like in most big cities, the buildings were reinforced to prevent the average metahuman with superstrength from being able to blow through the walls. So while the adjoining walls had been rebar laced cinder blocks filled with concrete, the back wall of the furniture store had been reinforced with plastisteel. Which would be dangerous if a fire broke out, as the firefighters would have a hard time breaking through it, but it was more than enough to stop most thieves.

“You okay?” Seth asked.

“I’m good,” he growled through gritted teeth, not slowing down. They were running at speed, boots pounding the pavement.

Already he could hear the shouts of the mob changing direction, closing in. He was glad the hive mind had been too dumb to pack the neighboring streets with bodies, but he wasn’t going to underestimate its ability to learn. If they slowed down, they’d be hedged in, trapped for the metahumans with superstrength and offensive capabilities to handle.

They had to keep moving or they were done. There were too many people in the city for them to fight every single one and survive.

“Take the lead,” he said, moving back so Seth was in front. Even with his helm adjusted, he was blinded for the seconds until Seth’s bright aura blinked out.

Tony knew himself well enough to recognize when he needed to pass off command. He had no idea where they should go next, which meant it was time for Seth to step up.

“We’ll lose our pursuers,” Seth said, “then get back on track with our mission.”

“Roger.”

“*Roger, roger*,” Seth said in imitation of a B1 battle droid.

Tony rolled his eyes and felt some of the tension leave his shoulders. As long as there were jokes, then there was hope they would see things through. They would complete the mission and make it home.

He followed Seth and held onto his belief that they weren’t going to fail. Not today.

* * *

Stealing a car would have been an option worth exploring if there had been other vehicles driving around. It was eerie with no motors running and empty streets in which to run down. He wondered if maybe the hive mind couldn’t use enough control to get groups of people driving.

It was the telecontroller’s dilemma. Being able to remote control human beings, but only able to move them like action figures. Because the more bodies one mind tried to control, the harder it was, and the more jerky and unnatural the motions.

Setting a bunch of mindcontrolled people to a single task was easier than trying to focus on too many minds at once. There was a reason Mindswap walked around in one meatsuit at a time. Suppressing the native mind without causing the body to die from shock was a talent.

Still, having millions of bodies that responded to the same attack command was hard to beat. Even if they couldn’t drive cars and act autonomously, they were able to converge on the same location and clog up escape routes. It gave the drones with metabilities the time to gather.

Part of Seth was panicking at the near to impossible task in front of him. Most of him kept moving forward, ducking and dodging down streets and running through buildings as needed. The rest of him was a gibbering mess praying they made it through alive and unmaimed.
“This is the last circle round,” he said. “We’re in it to win it after this.”

“Good. We’ve run more today than I’ve run in months. I might possibly be out of shape.” The sound of Tony’s voice belied his words. His breath wasn’t coming too fast and he was wasn’t straining to keep up with Seth.

“You’ve got longer legs than me. I have to have run *twice* as much as your lazy ass.” Seth held his left hand out at his side, counting down three fingers before flipping his thumb in the down direction.

“Let’s do this,” was all Tony said. It made Seth wonder if he was really worth all the trust Tony was showing him. Then he decided that he was grateful for it.

They ran through a series of building and jumped between one parking garage to the next before getting back on track to their target.

There were no pursuers in sight, proof that they’d thrown off the hive mind. It wasn’t going to take very long before they were tracked down, but by then they should have set off their charges and would be free to hole up until the end of the world was over.

Triangle Park was a bright green beacon on their maps. The mileage counter at the corner of his map told Seth they were only 4.6 miles away from their goal.

They were almost there. Almost ready to do or die.

“When we get home, I’m going to make an ice cream sandwich cake with raspberry jam filling and chocolate cream cheese frosting. I’ve been wanting to try it for a while.”

“What are you talking about?” Tony asked.

Seth’s lips quirked, though he couldn’t quite manage a real smile at the moment. “I saw some pictures. Three ice cream sandwiches lined up one way, then three more on top in a cross hatch, then another three on top, all slathered with frosting before being sliced. It’s all chocolate graham crackers and vanilla ice cream. I almost licked the screen, the pictures looked so good. I don’t want to die without trying it first.”

“Hey, don’t talk like that. We’re not going to die,” Tony said.

“I know,” Seth said. “I refuse to die before I’ve eaten an ice cream sandwich cake. So we’re going to have to live through today. Deal?”

“Deal.”

Seth turned his face forward and focused on running. He was feeling the burn in his legs and there was blood drying stiff on his sleeves, but he wrapped himself in the moment. Holding tight to the thought that they were going to go home and they would have something to celebrate when they got there.

All they had to do was complete their part of the master plan. It was simple.

*
Triangle Park had recently gone through a redevelopment. Millions of dollars had been poured into transforming it into the park version of paradise, with a splashing fountain, decorative fish pond, exercise area, children’s playground, and the kind of groundskeeping marvels that had seen the park featured in magazines. Only now there was a makeshift circus tent shrouding whatever project the drones were working on. Thousands of sheets had been sewn together into a rippling wall of white, red, and Spongebob Squarepants.

It should have been whimsical. Serious adult bedsheets interspersed with the sheets of childhood. An apparatus looming high in the sky to hold up a tent made out of bedsheets. It should have been a hint of the strange in an otherwise normal world, and instead it made Seth feel threatened.

Because whatever was behind that sheet tent, it was dangerous. It was something a single-focused hive mind had gone out of its way to hide from human satellites and their cameras. It was some secret weapon that was waiting to be unleashed.

Which was why Seth and Tony had been tasked with blowing it up.

Aliens were trying to get a foothold on Earth. There was a lot of suspicious activity happening in Star City, but the aliens were smart enough to keep things obscured. Which meant dozens of superhero groups had been given lists of probable targets before being sent out.

Any target could be the one that stopped the aliens. Any mission could be the one that stopped giant killer aliens from making Earth their new home. Each target had a chance of being the one that stopped a war. And no one knew which missions and which group was the important one.

So right now, examining the scene that was Triangle Park, Seth felt his focus tightening. This could be for all the marbles, and he refused to be the one to fuck things up.

“Good luck,” he breathed.

“You too,” Tony said.

Then they were moving in opposite directions, Seth headed toward the swan-topped fountain, Tony toward the gazebo. If they survived, they were to meet up past the East Gate on the far end of the park. If they didn’t survive… well, then they’d be dining in Valhalla and none of this mattered anyway.

There were drones moving around the big tent. Carrying planks of wood and coils of wire, tromping around in their own little world. Seth was glad not to be noticed.

He stayed to the peripherals, moving amongst the trees. He wanted to use the cover as long as possible before he was forced to expose himself. He felt like he had a target painted on his skin. One drone catching sight of him too soon and everything would be over.

As he walked, he dropped tiny thumbtack charges. Unless they were being shoved into a keyhole to blow the lock on a door, they were mostly a popping firecracker sound and a bit of light. But they could be activated with a simple remote, and he figured a bit of distraction would do him good.

Ghosting amongst the trees, he set the camera on his helm to 360-degrees and hoped it was recording everything. No matter what happened, Overwatch would appreciate the enemy intel. Even if they got it from a satellite transmission after he was already dead.

He knelt down to pile the last of the thumbtack charges on the ground and smoothed a handful of loose dirt on top of them.

He wasn’t looking to start a fire, but the surrounding brush was dry and he could hope a little. It would make the perfect distraction while he made his getaway.

Seth rose to his feet, slipping his pack into his arms, and moseyed around the edge of the park, trying to remain unnoticed. He was glad the aliens were in their own personal world for the most part. It let him walk right past the fountain and drop the pack under one of the benches.
He kept walking at a steady pace, ignoring the nerves crawling along his spine. He wondered how Tony was doing and hoped that he’d gotten away.

He drew even with a public restroom and reached into his pocket to toggle the detonator.

The thumbtack charges went off with a series of popping cracks that culminated in a mass detonation that was surprisingly loud. He saw drones running passed the bathroom and took the opportunity to head toward the East Gate.

* * *

Sweat was soaking through Tony’s shirt and paranoia made him think that he was being watched. He could be caught at any moment, though he kept walking.

*Five minutes*, he thought. That was how much time he had to get away before the bombs blew.

Seth had set up some kind of distraction, and how Tony hadn’t wet himself when the crackling-pops had gone off was a pure miracle. But the drones were still occupied, a gathering crowd circling the distant tree-line.

If Tony had a grenade launcher, they’d all be dead in two shots. The brain controlling the drones wasn’t very smart, or at least hadn’t learned human tactics yet.

There was a reason the precogs were saying this was the only time to prevent a foothold. Because once the Gate was open, the more dangerous minds would come through and straightforward guerrilla tactics would no longer work.

It was with a sigh of relief that he spotted Seth lingering at the East Gate. The drones wouldn’t have spotted him under the brush cover he was ducked behind, but to Tony’s HUD he glowed friendly green.

Tony walked past, not breaking stride, and Seth appeared at his side. They kept moving at an even pace as the clock in the corner of the HUD counted down to 00:00.

There was a flash of light behind them and the sound of a million birds chirping. Instinct had them breaking into a run, the noise dampening on their helms not enough to completely block the *sound*. To unprotected ears it must have been agony.

“What was that? I though those were bombs–you know, ones that go bang–but whatever that was did not seem like an explosion.”

“No clue. Keep moving.”

There was the echo of wailing cries around them, a harsh counterpoint to the shrilling bird chirp. Tony risked a glance back and saw drones writhing on the ground, hands clutching ears that bled red.

He spotted something shiny and metallic rising from behind one man and that was enough for him.

He faced forward and ran until his lungs ached. Fled the memory of whatever that thing had been, with spiderlike legs on a centipede body and a needle-ridged maw gaping where a mouth should be. All he knew was that he didn’t want whatever that was to touch him. Didn’t want it to find a home in his body, nestled snug along his spine as it fed through into his mind.

He ran as though his life depended on it and didn’t stop until the sound of birds was a distant memory.

*
They were squatting in a small two bedroom apartment. Wordlessly they shared the master bedroom, huddled around each other on the queen-sized bed. The door to the second room stayed firmly shut, the child’s single bed with its cartoon sheets undisturbed.

Tony hadn’t let himself dwell on the rust-colored stains on the playmat or the drag marks on the carpet. Definitely didn’t focus on the small size of the fingers that had made those marks, desperate and clawing.

There wasn’t a lot of food in the kitchen, but they had ration bars in their pockets and they made do. The last thing they wanted was to be wandering the city streets scavenging, not when the hive mind seemed to have changed tactics.

Drones had taken to the streets in roving packs. They hadn’t quite gotten to the point of doing building-by-building searches, but Tony figured it was only a matter of time. The hive mind was adapting.

They’d watched as a family of four was run out into the middle of the street. The woman had bucked and screamed as her husband was pressed facedown on the ground. The angle was bad, keeping Tony from seeing the details, but within moments the man was up, helping to hold down the two terrified children, then his wife.

Fifteen minutes later, the drone pack had four new members. They slunk off into the dusk in search of prey, gliding together as though they shared one spine. It had been a chilling display, one he couldn’t look away from.

“I feel like I’m trapped in a horror movie,” he said. They had fallen into whispers since leaving Triangle Park. It felt strange to be so afraid all the time, but Tony thought that he had forgotten any other way to be.

“There’s a reason why I don’t like horror movies.” Seth turned off the burner and carried the pot of ramen to their nest of couch cushions and blankets. He settled opposite Tony in a crosslegged position.

Tony blinked at him. “Uh, why don’t you like horror movies?”

Seth passed him a fork and an oddly shallow blue bowl. “Because they’re too much like my real life and I don’t need that kind of drama. Eat up. We’re supposed to call in tonight.”

Tony used his fork to scoop noodles into his bowl. At Seth’s frown he took some of the cut cabbage too. He was worried about the call in; it would be their first contact with command in two days.

They would find out how many of their comrades had died or been subverted by the enemy. He didn’t want to hear that they were alone, that the mission was a failure.

“When did saving the world get so hard?” he muttered.

“About the same time we actually started saving *the world* and not just a few people living on it. I mean, if saving the world were easy, then everyone would be doing it.”

Tony ate some ramen, careful not to slurp juice everywhere. “Saving the world is important. I think I’m going to ask for a raise when we get out of here. Like a cost of living increase or something.”

“Do you want me to go in with you? That way we’ll present a united front.”

“Sure. Thanks.”

Sitting in the darkened living room of the apartment, the curtains drawn tight over the windows to increase the cavelike intensity, Tony got an erection.

He was only half-hard, but it was accompanied by the realization that Seth was beautiful. Not soft and pretty like a girl, but beautiful in the way of a handsome man that was healthy and who took care of himself.

It wasn’t a sudden realization–Seth *had* been voted #5 on the list of Magnificent Metas–but Tony had never thought about it. He’d never had the reality of Seth’s beauty strike him like this, a burst of raw arousal, of *want*.

They could die at any moment, or worse. They were alone in a hostile city with no backup and no easy escape.

*I would fuck him*, Tony thought. He lowered his face over his noodles, hoping the steam would hide his blush. But the thought was in his head, the idea had been planted.

He wasn’t blind, he’d caught the interest in Seth’s gaze before, the speculation. There’d been times when he’d wondered what it would be like–who’d do what, touch where, how Seth’s mouth would taste–but he’d already fucked one teammate and had things turn bad. It wasn’t something he wanted to risk with Seth, who was his friend and had been so awesome and supportive.

Except here they were, Tony’s dick was hard, and they could be attacked at any moment.

It was stupid and dangerous. It was a risk that distracted from the danger.

But Seth’s lips were made for kisses. His shoulders were broad and his body was all lean muscle. And though Tony winced away from the idea of sucking Seth’s dick, he’d seen it enough times in the locker room to be curious about the feel of it in his hand. Would it be weird touching someone else’s dick, or would it be like handling his own from a new angle?

*What is wrong with me?* he thought. *Nothing*, the answer floated back.

It felt like a mistake, but it was something he wanted more than anything. If he was going to die, he was going to taste Seth’s mouth first. One kiss, one firm press of lips, one brush of tongue. *One time with his mouth wrapped around my cock*.

“Can I kiss you?” he blurted. His cheeks were burning hot, but he forced himself to meet Seth’s eyes.

“What?”

“Can I kiss you?” Tony repeated.

Seth wore a disbelieving expression and he stared at Tony long enough to be uncomfortable. Then, “Okay.”

Tony’s heart was trip-thumping, but he didn’t hesitate. He set his plate on the floor and crawled close to Seth on his hands and knees.

He licked his chapped lips before leaning forward to press his mouth to Seth’s. He kept his eyes open and saw Seth’s lashes flutter as they kissed. Their tongues brushed and tangled.

Tony pressed close and closer to Seth, finally pushing Seth onto his back so he could straddle his thighs. Tony leaned over Seth, their kisses turning into a furious clash of teeth and tongue. He ground his hard on against Seth and felt an answering hardness as Seth rocked up against him with a desperate moan.

It was dumb to do this with danger so close, but Tony wasn’t going to miss this chance. They could die or be captured at any time. This could be their last opportunity.

*And maybe you’re fooling yourself*, he thought. *Who cares? I want this*.

Tony fumbled at the front of Seth’s shirt before remembering how the seals worked. He wanted to feel naked flesh against his own.

“Wait,” Seth said. He pressed his palms flat against Tony’s chest and pushed him away. “What are we doing?”

“We’re having sex,” Tony said. He wanted to grab Seth and grind their dicks together. He wanted more heady kisses. He wanted to come all over Seth’s face.

“But you’re straight.” Seth’s fingers caressed the front of Tony’s uniform shirt.

“I think I could better be described as bi-curious,” Tony said. “And the person I want to explore this curiosity with is you. Do you not want to?” If Seth said No, he would go to the bathroom and finish himself off, then they could pretend that nothing had happened.

“Well, I …” Seth chewed his lower lip, his gaze roving over Tony’s face. “If we do this, are you going to freak out?”

“Of course not,” Tony said. “We’re friends. If it doesn’t work out, then we can treat it as a lesson learned. But if it does work out, well, we can have great sex before dying.”

Seth snorted a laugh. “This is going to be a disaster,” he said, but his hands slid across Tony’s chest to grab his shoulders, pulling him down against him.

They kissed and touched, and somewhere in there they ended up naked and it was good. Seth’s skin was warm, almost hot, and Tony loved the feel of so much heat wrapped around him.

There was no penetration–Tony wasn’t ready for that step and they didn’t have any lube anyway–but they rubbed off against each other, Seth’s hand wrapped around both of their dicks.

There were kisses and caresses and the feel of Seth’s mouth sucking on his balls helped Tony’s decision to have sex with Seth again when they had more time and lube.

“Wow. That was awesome,” Tony said. He was splayed on the floor, his head resting on Seth’s shoulder.

“No gay freak out then?” Seth asked. He stroked his fingers down Tony’s side.

“Why would I freak out? That was great. I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t like the idea of another penis, but it was you, so whatever. Was it good for you?”

“Yeah. It was good.”

Tony tipped his chin so he could get a clear view of Seth’s face. It was a relief to see Seth’s pleased smile and know that he hadn’t managed to ruin everything.

Tony closed his eyes and relaxed, his body going limp. He’d been wound tight for days, fearing attack at any moment. It felt good to have the tension release his muscles.

Having sex with Seth should have bothered him. He’d never been attracted to another man before. He *should* be having a big gay freak out, except Seth was his friend. The orgasm had felt great and he wanted to have more with Seth.

*I’m not gay*, he thought. *I still like women a lot. But I can accept that I’m bisexual*.

Tony smiled and curled his body closer against Seth. He would nap before they called in to headquarters.

*And if I’m lucky, maybe I can get Seth to give me a handjob later*. Tony smiled contentedly.

/CHAPTER (2/2)

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“Hush” has to be one of the greatest Buffy episodes ever made. Seriously. It’s creepy and compelling, and even considering the lack of dialogue, it has an amazing storyline.
T-Shirts, Buffy - The Gentlemen Clock... | TeePublic
T-Shirts, Buffy – The Gentlemen Clock… | TeePublic

Tuesday Night, by Harper Kingsley – Chapter Eleven (1/2) [Kanon, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel, mm]

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm

Because Chapter Eleven is 10,000 words, it has been split into two parts. Thank you.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Evan agreed to be Henry’s nanny and Tony felt some of his overprotective worry ease. If someone decided to come after Henry they would only have a few seconds to be surprised before they were vaporized by one of the world’s strongest pyrokinetics. Which meant Tony felt ready to go back to work, secure with the knowledge that Evan was keeping Henry safe.

It was still hard that first week, leaving Henry behind. He’d grown used to taking care of the little guy. Saying goodbye even for the day felt horrible. But at least he knew he could trust Evan. The man *had* nearly been his father-in-law after all.

Once he’d gone on his first patrol since Henry’s arrival, Tony could admit that he’d missed it. From the feel of the uniform against his skin to the thrill of facing down bad guys, he’d missed it all. The only thing he hadn’t missed was the paperwork–that he could have happily done without.

Being back on duty wasn’t without some stress. He was on call, but his schedule had been worked so he went home at night rather than being in the Demi Lair 24/7. There was still some tension over the whole slept with Solar/had a baby with Solar/ran Solar and Pulsar out of the group awkward drama. And then there were the two new members, WarSong and Saint Kloude. Adding new members to any group always changed the dynamics and he hadn’t had a chance to fully adapt to the changes when there was the first all hands on deck call.

“What’s happening?” Tony pulled on his body armor and his knuckle busters. Just because he was near impervious when powered up didn’t mean he went on duty in a tee shirt and a pair of jeans. He liked the added protection of armor and some offensive weaponry.

Seth had finished suiting up and was industriously loading both of their guns with lethal rounds. It wasn’t an optimistic sight for whatever they were facing.

“No clue, though it’s an All Call. We’re being assigned as backup for the League,” Seth said.

“Shit.” The last All Call had involved the 10-foot-tall Dogbryan rampaging through Midtown, which was bad enough, except he’d been working with the Dark Magician. Tony had spent two hours transformed into a chicken, which had resulted in a week of cock jokes once he’d been turned back.

Tony hurriedly finished dressing, then accepted his guns. He checked them before snapping them in their thigh holsters, but it was more by rote than anything else. He trusted Seth with his life.

“Here.” Seth held out the heavy-duty helm Tony usually eschewed. “Wouldn’t want to lose an eye.”

“Thanks.” The helm was actually a helmet that fit over Tony’s head and latched to the near-invisible clamps attached to his armored neck protector. Heavy and black with no visible eye slit, the inside padding conformed to the shape of his face and the plastisteel was one way transparent–he could look out, but no one could look in.

“I feel like a big dildo,” he said, fighting a shudder at the eerie reverberations. He hated the helm.

Seth laughed and put on his own white helm. He was also wearing full battle dress, the armor adding bulk to his shoulders and chest. “At least you’re not the only one all dressed up. I felt like a tool when I took on Parakeith.”

Tony winced. Seth had won the battle of course, but he’d also had to spend a month in the infirmary. He wondered if Seth still had pins in his left leg or if they’d all been removed. The armor had been the only thing that saved the leg–healers could repair most anything as long as they had something to work with. After that point there was only the cybernetics department at Lucifer Labs.

Tony checked himself over in the mirror, running through his mental checklist. “I’m ready,” he said.

Seth slapped him on the shoulder. He didn’t feel it through the armor. “Let’s go find out what’s threatening the Earth today. I’m kind of hoping for zombies.”

“Bite your tongue.” Tony held the locker room door open for him, then they walked down the hallways side-by-side.

An All Call meant massive amounts of danger and failure not being an option. Maybe Tony should have been scared, but mostly he was excited. With Seth at his side, geared up as Sunfire and looking ready to kick some ass, Tony thought there wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.

They were the heroes of this story, and the heroes always won.

*
Four hours later, Tony wasn’t so confident. The briefing had taken most of the wind out of his sails and he was seriously wondering if any of them were going to make it. Not that he would ever think to back out.

He had a duty to perform even if it killed him. Countless lives were depending on him and the fifty other superheroes crammed aboard the three re-purposed and armor plated school buses. No one was allowed to fly, not if it gave the Zarplaxian Horde a chance to adapt to their defenses.

He stared out the bus window and was glad of Seth’s presence on the bench seat beside him. Tony’s expression was grim and he forced down his fear, his gauntlets clenching against his helm where it rested on his lap. He hated breathing in the thing and would put it back on when they were closer to the mark.

“You doing okay?”

Tony glanced at Seth. “Sure, why not? We’re only facing the real life equivalent of the Borg. Why would I be worried?”

“I promise that I’ll rescue you if you get assimilated,” Seth said.

“Thanks.” One corner of Tony’s mouth lifted. “Just don’t let me go all Locutus and we’ll be all right.”

“Nerd,” Seth said fondly. He’d taken his own helm off and was sipping from a juice box, his right leg jiggling. There was no other sign of nerves about him, and just seeing him let Tony pretend that everything was going to be all right. None of his people were going to die today.

He glanced over his shoulder at where Powergirl was giving a last pep talk to the rookies with Queen Midnight adding her own words of advice here and there. Saint Kloude looked like he was about to piss himself, but WarSong was grimly determined. Tony hoped they didn’t die.

He twitched when Seth leaned against him, resting his head on his shoulder. Tony thought about making a comment, then swallowed it back down. He wrapped his arm around Seth and pulled him closer.

Minutes passed and he could feel Seth start to sag then jerk himself awake.

“Take a nap. I’ll wake you when we’re there,” he said gruffly.

“What about you?” Seth asked.

“Please. You know I can’t sleep before a mission. I get too excited.” He brushed his gauntleted hand against Seth’s ear. “Go to sleep.”

“Okay.”

Tony took Seth’s helm and rested it on the floor between his feet. He stared out the window and listened to Seth breathe against his shoulder. It was a soothing sound, not quite a snore.

He was glad Evan had Henry. No matter what happened, Henry would be all right–Evan would kill anyone that got too close. So even if they lost today’s battle–which the precogs only gave them a 40% chance of winning–Evan would take Henry far away and join whatever resistance managed to form itself.

Needing the comfort, Tony hummed softly. A tuneless melody that eventually became an old lullaby his grandmother used to sing to him. He couldn’t remember her face, but he could still feel her love, and he wrapped it tight around himself as they rode into battle.

Not everyone was going to survive today. But he promised himself that he would keep Seth safe. It wasn’t going to be like the day Ashley died, alone and miserable, out of view of everyone as Tony let himself be distracted and forgot to watch her back.

*I’ve got you*, he thought. And it felt right to press a kiss against the top of Seth’s head, sealing the deal. *I’ve got you*.

* * *

There had been a time when Seth never would have thought he could sleep before a battle, but experience had trained him to rest when he could. It was better than brooding about what was going to happen. Plus he appreciated being well-rested before a fight.

Tony had kept his word and woken him before they’d entered Star City, which was eerily deserted.

“Where are all the people?” someone loudly wondered.

“They’re being turned into alien killing machines. Weren’t you listening during the briefing?” someone else replied to a round of nervous laughter.

Seth put his helm on and made sure it was thoroughly clamped down.

The Zarplaxians were able to control their victims through robotic spiders that injected nanobots in through the base of the skull. From the captured videos it had looked excruciating, the victims writhing and screaming, blood coming from their eyes, ears, noses, and mouths until they were thoroughly infested. Then they became drones to the Zarplaxian Hive Mind located half a galaxy away.

Their mission today was to keep the Zarplaxian scouts from gaining a foothold on Earth. The Teen Demis and other supergroups were to contain the situation in Star City while a second group was working on taking out the subspace ansible and destroying the connection to the Hive.

If things went well, the victims would be freed from Hive control and there would be time to clear the nanos from their bloodstreams. If things went bad, they’d be facing a city full of rampaging people under the control of a remorseless ubermind able to infect more drones while building what one precog had termed “a giant space toilet” that was able to bring in Warriors from the Zarplaxian homeworld. All the precogs agreed that letting even one Warrior Caste through would spell disaster for Earth. Evidently a Warrior was three hundred tons of world devastating power with the equivalent of a micro-singularity in its chest capable of swallowing cities whole.

The Zarplaxian Horde was not looking to add humanity to its empire. They were creating drones for the sole purpose of using them to build the giant machine through which they traveled. Then the Warriors would wipe away all animal life and the colonists would come through and take over their new home.

It seemed the Zarplaxians only used space travel to launch their drone ships–economy car-sized spheres loaded with nano spiders and the ansible components. For the Zarplaxians themselves, their species was so vast in size that humans were like ants. As their population grew, they needed more and more planets to contain them, and their Empire was expanding outward, swallowing countless worlds.

Seth drew in a deep breath as the bus rumbled to a stop in a grocery store parking lot. The other two buses in their group had already separated to their own target locations, and he knew there was another twelve buses loaded with superheroes out there, though he didn’t know where. Command hadn’t wanted anyone on the ground to know the full troop locations and plans because there was a real risk that any one of them could be infected. They were all considered expendable.

“All right, haul your asses off the bus and make way on foot to your target locations. Maintain radio silence and good luck,” Kid Nitro said, pulling the lever that opened the doors. He didn’t wait for a response, zipping down the steps and away in a blur that quickly disappeared. He had his own mission to perform, as did they.

Seth shuffled off the bus and met up with the other Teen Demis. Their group would stick together, though after the ansible went down they were supposed to separate into pairs–Seth had already claimed Tony as his partner.

Other groups had already gathered their gear and were trooping off. Seth saw Captain Ferocious from the Young Bloods starting his guys moving off at a trot, Pyremaker missing from their team. Like the psionics, the pyrokinetics were being kept in reserve. If the situation got bad, the order was for the pyros to torch everything in the city, including their own teammates.

Seth wasn’t too concerned for himself, but Queen Midnight was the only other flame resistant member of the Teen Demis. Everyone else would go up like a roman candle, and anyone trying to fly away would be shot down by air support.

Command was not risking any Zarplaxian drones escaping. They all knew what was at stake here. They all knew their own people would put them down for the greater good. It was sobering, but there was no room for failure.

“All right, guys, let’s get moving,” Powergirl said, her voice echoing eerily through her helm. “We’ve got about a million drones between us and our objective.”

It felt vaguely disrespectful to think of them as drones, but there needed to be some disassociation. Otherwise there was a real concern that one of them might hesitate at the wrong moment, caught up in the realization that they were killing people–mothers and fathers, young children with their whole lives spread out before them–and not saving the world.

It was unfortunate, but the citizens of Star City had already been written off by the CMPF and the World Council. What were the lives of a few million when compared to all of humanity? It sucked, but they were all marked expendable, and it was something that needed to be remembered when they confronted a bunch of “drones.”

Seth glanced at the rookies. It was impossible to read expressions with their helms on, but he figured they had to be scared. It sucked that their first All Call involved an apocalypse scenario, but that was the luck of the draw. He hoped they survived.

“Let’s go,” Powergirl said, not even bothering to try for a cheery pep talk. She sounded grimly determined and her shoulders were square as she set off across the parking lot.

They followed after her. They had twelve miles to go and they were making them on foot, their Command assigned packs bulging with gear.
Their mission was to reach the Alcott building and lay the charges for the experimental ELF bomb. The satellite dish on the roof was supposed to boost the signal somehow, though Seth hadn’t understood the specifics.

All he knew was they were laying the charges, and if things went well, all unshielded humans–drone or not–would be knocked unconscious for up to 26-hours. It would cause some kind of biological system reboot.

The whole thing felt really sci-fi to him, but considering they were fighting aliens he was willing to accept the idea as long as it worked. He just hoped the transmitters they’d been given really would shield them from the blast. It would suck to get knocked out by their own tech.

“Keep an eye out for flyers,” Powergirl warned.

Queen Midnight had her gauss rifle ready in her hands. “On it.”

From the briefing they knew Star City had nearly a hundred thousand metahumans of varying ability levels. After Behemoth’s rampage most of the active alphas had been wiped out, but things were still dangerous. Some flying kid strapped to a bomb could still ruin the plan.

Seth kept near Tony and tried not to think of the last time he’d walked these streets. Sure, it had happened on the other side of town, but he didn’t think he’d ever forget the screaming agony as his leg splintered in the grip of one meaty hand, his hip dislocating with a squelching-pop.

“God, I hate this city,” he muttered.

Tony bumped his shoulder, his helm still facing forward as he watched the road ahead. “We got this. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got you.”

It was dumb to feel so relieved, considering what they were headed into, but having Tony close soothed him. It was hard to be afraid when Tony was nearby.

He remained watchful and wary as they followed Powergirl’s lead. Tony watched the left while he had the right, and between the two of them they guarded the rear from attack. The newbies were kept toward the middle of the group where they could be somewhat protected.

There was something eerie about walking down the empty streets of a once bustling metropolis. It might have been more soothing to know the people were all dead, at least then there wouldn’t have to be so much wondering about where they were, what they were doing. Millions of people didn’t just disappear. Not when they were being controlled by an alien hive-mind.

“I’ve got movement in the high rise on our nine,” Tony said, voice low even with their secured coms. “Window on the fourteenth floor.”

“I see it,” Queen Midnight said. “There were reports of unaltered humans hiding out. Might be one of them.”

“We can’t risk it. WarSong, you’re up,” Powergirl said. “Take out the target with a minimum of fuss and meet us on the corner of that peach building. I’m marking it on your map. Follow the caret.”

“Yessir.” WarSong drifted to the edge of the group and into the shadow of the building. Their watcher wouldn’t be able to see her from that angle.

The Teen Demis moved on, Queen Midnight’s shadows a near invisible pressure against their body armor. She’d be able to block a few armor piercing rounds, enough that they’d have a chance to prepare for incoming.

“Did she call me sir?” Powergirl asked.

“Yessir,” Seth said and there was a brief chuckle in response. They were all wound tight, waiting for a mass of mind-controlled zombies to fall on them.

“I’m too old for this shit,” Powergirl said. “Stay frosty, people. Hive-mind means if that was a hostile then they already know we’re here.”

They made their way to the peach colored building, which turned out to be more orangeish when they got close. Seth kept an eye on his side, tensed to catch any motion.

He hoped it was an unaltered civilian that had been watching them. Then wondered what kind of monster he had to be that he was wishing WarSong was killing some poor regular shmoe. They just couldn’t risk their op being busted–all witnesses needed to be handled, quietly and surgically.

Seth pushed any guilt away and focused on the Now. He’d have time for guilt and self-recriminations later, when the world wasn’t invaded by a hostile alien force.

He kept alert, eyes scanning his section. Tony was a spot of warm presence on his left, a green-for-friendly blob on the map located in the corner of his helm’s HUD.

He pushed away everything but the mission and firmly gripped his gauss rifle, ready to fire at any sign of hostiles. He was ready.

* * *

Tony was sweating into his jock. Every time there was a hint of serious danger, his balls decided to sweat until he was a drippy mess between the legs. Moisture wicking underwear kept him from swimming in his own fear, but he could tell the material lining his cup had worn thin. It was a minor irritation, but he had to force himself not to be distracted.

Getting his team killed because he had sweaty balls would not go over well with Overwatch. Plus the guilt would probably send him right over the edge.

Tony kept his eyes sharp and ignored the discomfort in his pants. “She’s taking a while,” he said.

They’d been waiting near to fifteen slow crawling minutes. WarSong should have been in and out in less than ten. Even spread out under the overhang with parked cars to hopefully conceal them, they were dangerously exposed. The longer they spent in one place the more vulnerable they were to detection.

Tony shifted in his crouch, trying to give his crotch some room to breathe. The sweat was making him itch and he gritted his teeth at the sensation. It was like fire ants infesting his balls, little nips that were getting worse and worse. Sweat trickled down the side of his face.

“I feel uncomfortable saying this,” Seth sounded strained, “but I feel like there’s ants in my pants. My, uh, my balls feel like they’re getting, uh. It’s very uncomfortable.”

“You too?” Queen Midnight breathed. “Oh shit, I think we’ve been made.”

With her pronouncement, it suddenly felt as though someone had literally set Tony’s crotch on fire. With a propane torch.

His knees hit the pavement and he hunched over the agony in his groin. It was not just his balls anymore, but his dick and deep up into his pelvis. His nerves were screaming out and there was nothing he could do to stop the pain.

Tears flooded his eyes and he gritted his teeth hard enough to hear his molars grate together. He hunched over himself, his armor keeping him from clutching his tormented genitals.

“Fu-fuck,” he groaned.

Dimly he heard shouts and crashes, but it wasn’t until the pain cut out that he knew the world around him still existed. Strangely distorted with bright splashes of color and sound that echoed through his skull, but still there.

He was grabbed by the shoulders and pulled away in time to watch a mid-sized car cartwheel through the spot where he’d been kneeling. He blinked at the strangeness of everything and let himself be pulled along in a stumbling run, Seth’s hand gripping his hand hard enough that he could feel it through his gloves. It was an anchor keeping him from slipping away.

“Come on.”

Tony followed Seth, counting on him to lead him to safety. He was too out of it to trust himself.

It was a whirl of alleyways and long stretches of street, of using cars and buildings for cover as they fled as fast as they could on foot. Tony could feel his heart thudding in his chest and his panting breaths made his helm hot and moist inside. All he knew was that they were running from the enemy and he was glad the sharp pain had stopped. His dick and balls still ached, though it was a dull echo.

Finally Seth seemed to think they’d thrown off pursuit. He shoved Tony into a narrow alley between two brick buildings and pulled him down into an exterior stairwell.

Tony panted for breath, resting his head against Seth’s back. He tried to say something, but the words wouldn’t come. His brain felt scrambled and words were too hard to get out.

“I think we’re good.” Seth peered down the alley toward the street, his back a tense line. “We might be good.”

Tony shuddered and breathed and wanted to take his helm off except that probably wasn’t a good idea. At the moment he couldn’t have said why it would be bad, he was just trusting his training.

“Are you all right?” Seth turned around, his hands holding Tony’s shoulders. He sounded concerned, though it was impossible to read his expression through the blank smoothness of his helm. “Tony? Teen Steel, respond!”

It was the snap of command that had Tony stiffening. His mouth opened and moved, though it took several tries to get sensible words out. “I… I’m all right.”

Seth’s sigh of relief seemed weirdly close, intimate, through the coms. “Thank God, I don’t think I could handle any of this alone.”

“Where’s…” Tony cleared his throat. “Where’s the team?”

“I don’t know. We scattered in different directions. We have to figure they’ve all been compromised. We’re alone. Mission parameters have changed.”

Command had figured something like this could happen. Until the threat was taken out and the All Clear was sounded, they would be a two-man group and they weren’t to trust anyone, not even their own teammates.

“Shit,” Tony muttered. He was glad he wasn’t alone, but it was going to be tough completing the mission with just the two of them. Tough, but not impossible.

“We can do this,” Seth said.

“Yeah.” Tony tried to keep the doubt out of his voice, knowing they didn’t have any other choice. The Earth was at risk and duty didn’t stop just because the team had been split up and his balls hurt. “We can do this.”

Seth gripped his shoulders tight and leaned forward to clunk their helms together softly. “We can do this. We’ll stay here about half an hour and rest up, then we’ll fulfill our secondary objective. We got this.”

“Yeah.” Tony wanted to believe. “We got this.”

* * *

Whatever that attack had been, it had hit Tony hard. Enough to put the guy’s body into shock, at least that’s what Seth figured was going on.
In the scuffle, Seth had caught a glimpse of their attacker before the man’s face had exploded into vapor under the high-powered fire of his gauss rifle. It had been the minor supervillain known as Hotfoot. He had the ability to manipulate the nerves of his victims, bringing a burning sensation that could focus on a group of people with one target taking the brunt of his focus. It looked like Tony had been his main target.

Seth looked toward Tony and saw that he’d folded himself into the corner against the door. His knees were drawn up against his chest and his head was tilted sideways, the side of his helm pressed against the cement. He looked like he’d be uncomfortable, but Seth didn’t want to bother him when they were going to be moving out in a few minutes.

He wished that he could see Tony’s face, but they weren’t to remove their helms during the mission. Not when the enemy could take control of a host within a few seconds of tapping a spinal node. Safety had to come first, even if Seth was worried about Tony.

Hotfoot didn’t give his victims permanent nerve damage, but Seth had seen the Bingo Books. Hotfoot was a smalltime villain with an ability that could cause psychosomatic pain in the people he targeted. He’d only used his powers on a small scale, not wanting to end up on some cape’s hit list, but there had been notes in the file speculating that a concentrated enough dose of his metability could create a permanent disability in his targets.

It would be psychological in nature, but Tony could spend the rest of his life suffering from the symptoms of nerve damage, including recurring flareups of agonizing pain.

Seth’s chronometer vibrated on his wrist before he turned off the alarm. It was time to move out. They had a mission to complete.

He laid a hand on Tony’s shoulder, not squeezing and definitely not shaking. He didn’t need to trigger an aggressive response. “Tony, it’s Seth. Time to wake up.”

There was a discontented groan through the coms and Tony’s helm covered head shifted. “I’m awake.”

“Good. We’ve got work to do. What’s your status?”

Seth moved out of the way as Tony climbed to his knees, his arms and head rotating as he worked the kinks out. “I feel like I’ve been run over, but I’m ready.”

“All right. I’ll hold you to that.” Seth didn’t have a choice. This was an all-hands on deck op and he wasn’t looking to complete the mission alone. “We move out in five.”

“Yes, sir.” There wasn’t a trace of mockery in Tony’s voice. He’d put his game face on.

Seth pushed all the worry and affection away from his mind and pulled the mission to the forefront. There was no time for sentimentality or affection. They had a job to do, and in the end they were both expendable. Even if he loved Tony.

“Let’s get out of here. I’m marking the secondary target on the map and denoting it Primary Objective. If we get separated, you go after your backup target and you don’t hesitate. Understood?”

“Understood.”

Just as Seth didn’t know what Tony’s fallback target was, Tony didn’t know what Seth’s was. If they were lucky, neither one of them would have to activate their solo missions–the Suicide Plans. Because if Seth was forced to switch his powers to max and burn his way through the central mass of enemy territory, there wasn’t going to be anything left of him–win, lose, or fail.

Being able to burn hotter than the sun was an awesome power in theory. But there came a point when his own body couldn’t protect him from the damage anymore. He’d burn like a road flare–fierce, bright, and hot enough that there’d be nothing left inside, just a burnt out husk.

Given his choice, he’d rather stay as far away from Objective Three as possible. And he didn’t want to even think about what Tony’s solo mission would entail.

*It doesn’t matter*, he thought. *We have our PO and we’re not going to let anything stop us. We* will *complete the mission*.

He looked down the alley. “It’s clear. Let’s go.”

They’d wrapped their packs with dull black duct tape, which meant there wasn’t a single jangle as they moved out. Seth kept an eye toward Tony for a few steps, but the other man seemed all right. There was no stiffness in his stride at least and he didn’t voice a complaint.

Seth faced forward. The mission was the priority.

/CHAPTER (1/2)

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Tuesday Night, by Harper Kingsley – Chapter Ten [Kanon, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel, mm]

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm

CHAPTER TEN

The situation blew up. Seth cursed himself for being a jinx. Especially since it *literally* blew up along with most of Bill’s Discount Computer and Electronic Component Emporium and the people inside.

The scene was a mess of blood and body parts. Saint Kloude had already thrown up and WarSong looked like she wanted to, though she was maintaining a stoic expression. Right up until she tripped over the charred remains of an arm and was caught mere inches from face-planting in a pile of red that Seth refused to identify. WarSong gagged loudly, and not from the firm grip Powergirl had on her cape.

“You’re all right,” Powergirl said. “Don’t focus on any of this and don’t breathe through your nose.”

“We… we could have died,” WarSong stated. She was shocky, her suit sporting burnt holes that revealed the pale skin beneath. Strands of long black hair hung wild around her head, but her torn and dirty gloves couldn’t tame them and she didn’t have a hair-tie anyway.

Seth watched her for a few seconds before turning away. She wouldn’t want him close to her right now and he didn’t have the words to make anything okay.

He looked around the cordoned off blast zone, the press already gathering around the edges. The air was heavy with the scent of burning, and acrid black smoke trailed up into the sky.

Baby Calypso was dead. It wasn’t his fault, but it had happened on his watch. He thought he could still hear the echoes of her screams, but that was just guilty imagining. Because he hadn’t been fast enough, smart enough, and he hadn’t made sure the rookies were prepared enough.

Large black boots clumped across the wreckage to stop in front of him. “Sunfire, report.”

Seth looked into the grim face of Caspian Dukes, Watch-Commander of the League of Superheroes. His appearance here was proof that Seth had screwed up.

“The situation was more volatile than expected,” he said, keeping his voice even. “We didn’t realize they’d wired the hostages to blow until seconds before the explosion. We managed to contain the blast zone, but neither the hostages nor the prisoners survived.”

Dukes looked around the wreckage. There was no expression on his face. “No, they did not. This is going to be a media nightmare, kid. Get ready to take some heat.”

“Yes, sir,” Seth said.

It might have been unfair since he’d no longer been in command at the time, but he’d been the first arrival on scene. To the media and the world at large, this cock-up would be tied to the name Sunfire forever more. *He’d* certainly be carrying the guilt around.

“There’s enough people here to handle the clean up, so why don’t you get out of here? Remember to turn in your after action report.”

“Yes, sir.” Seth gave him a nod and turned away. That was something he appreciated about Dukes: he spoke straight and didn’t waste time on lectures. He knew that sometimes things got screwed up and someone had to take the blame regardless of what really happened.

Seth was going to be stuck with the blame for this mess. Which was why his first words to Powergirl after leaving Dukes were, “I’m taking a few days off from public gigs.”

Her mouth opened, then closed as she looked around. She nodded. “I understand.”

“Thanks. I’m headed back to the Lair. Dukes cleared me,” he said. “Unless you need me for something?”

“No, you can get out of here. Maybe take a shower. You smell.”

“Thanks for the suggestion.” He held out his fist for a quick knuckle bump. It amused him to know that she thought it was childish but would do it anyway. “Laters!”

He got out of there before she thought to ask him to take the newbies with him. He couldn’t handle it at the moment.

*
Reaching the Demi Lair, Seth ducked through the balcony doors against protocol. He wasn’t in the mood for a full security check, which is what he would have gotten if he’d gone through the lobby. From the flashes of light and the sound below he knew the media was waiting to ambush him or any other member of the Teen Demis they could catch. He didn’t look in their direction, refusing to give them a clear face shot.

He paused long enough to wash his hands and make himself two sandwiches before retreating to his room. He left the sandwiches on the desk before going into the bathroom and taking a shower. He scrubbed his hair three times to get all the soot and stink out, then changed into sweatpants and a plain tee shirt before flopping into his desk chair.

He took a bite of sandwich as he woke up his computer and pinged Tony’s video chat. He needed something to think about that didn’t have anything to do with how he’d fucked up today.

Tony’s face appearing on the screen was like a balm to the soul. “Hello.”

Seth tried hard not to sound needy. “Hey, I know I’m early, but I felt like checking in with you. How’s Henry?”

Tony’s smile was bright. “No probs, man. I was tired of staring at the walls two hours ago.” He raked a hand through his hair. “Henry’s sleeping, if you can’t tell. I’ve already snuck in there three times to make sure he’s still breathing. I don’t think he’s ever slept this long. It’s scaring me.”

Seth could feel himself relaxing into the comfort of Tony’s odd sense of humor. “Well, I’m glad you’ve been enjoying your free time.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Seriously, someone should warn about how boring babies are. They’re like eating, sleeping jellybeans that spit up everywhere.” He brushed his fingers over a small discolored splotch on the front of his shirt.

“Gross. You’re still wearing it?”

“Hey, I got tired of washing laundry all the time. Plus I care about the environment.”

“Solar powered here, though I get where you’re coming from.” Seth laughed at the expression Tony gave him.

The whole “Sunfire might be solar powered” thing had been a long-running belief in criminal circles. Which explained all the dark boxes Seth had broken out of over the years. There were some people that refused to accept that his power was self-generated.

“You’re an ass,” Tony said, and to Seth’s hopelessly infatuated brain it sounded like an endearment.

“Thank you,” he said.

“What?”

“I was having a bad day and seeing your face has made it better.”

“What happened?”

Seth shrugged. “You’re probably going to see the story on the news in a little while. What should have been a routine arrest went bad. A bunch of people died on my watch. Same shit, different day.”

“Huh. It seems like there might be more to the story, but I’m not going to grill you.” Tony chewed on his lip. “I saw Evan Lee. Did you know he lives in our building?”

“I did not know that,” Seth said. “How is he?”

Tony shook his head. “Still trying to handle things. He looks much better than he did, but I don’t think he’s ever going to be all right.”

“I feel bad for him.”

“Me too. I feel like I should do something for him, but I have no idea what.” Tony reached forward and the image jostled as he picked up the laptop and carried it into his bedroom. At Seth’s look, he grinned. “Sorry. I couldn’t talk in the kitchen because the counter is too low. Wouldn’t want to force you to stare up my nose.”

A completely cheesy and inappropriate comeback was on the tip of Seth’s tongue, but he bit it back. There was no reason to make things weird. “Thanks for thinking of me.”

Tony disappeared from the screen for a few seconds as he set the laptop on the bureau facing the bed. When he reappeared it was to flop onto the navy blue comforter, his jean-clad legs looking ridiculously long. His white socks were heather gray colored across the soles.

It was stupid and embarrassing and Seth made sure not to shift uncomfortably, but he was hard. *Instant boner*, he thought ruefully. It was something he’d thought would stop happening when he was out of his teens, but Tony had always been able to push his buttons. And at least they weren’t in person, where his hard on would be obvious in his sweatpants.

“So…” He cleared his throat. “Evan is in our building?”

“Yeah. We went to lunch the other day and it was nice talking to him. I think I’m going to invite him over to our place tomorrow. Is that all right with you?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

Tony shrugged, the bottom of his shirt riding up to expose a sliver of skin. His jeans were button fly. Seth bit the inside of his lip to keep from making a sound.

“I don’t know. I guess I don’t want to invite someone over and find out it makes you mad.”

“Why would I be mad? It’s your apartment too, and besides, Evan is a cool guy.” When he wasn’t being the Flame Burst and roasting supervillains alive. His kill-count was in the triple digits, yet he was a good guy. Seth tried not to think about it too hard.

“Okay, cool. I’m kind of worried about him and I don’t like the thought of him being alone.”

Tony rested his head on a plump pillow, laying his hand on his stomach and crossing his ankles. It was an innocent pose that still made Seth’s heart beat a little fast. It was like one of those candid shots in magazines of attractive people being effortlessly sexy; where it shouldn’t have been masturbation fodder but was.

Seth felt ashamed of his own arousal in that Tony was his friend. He’d always thought it was wrong to lust after a friend that didn’t know the feelings they were invoking, but he didn’t feel brave enough to say anything either. Being rejected would be awful–days of weeping in his room, eating ice cream right out of the container, and watching things like *What Dreams May Come* and *Autumn of My Heart*–but he’d be able to deal with it. What he couldn’t face was Tony rejecting his feelings, then maybe deciding they couldn’t be friends anymore too.

*I’m pathetic*, he thought.

Give him a planetary threat and he wouldn’t hesitate to throw himself into the fray. But faced with the man he secretly loved, and he turned into a coward. All the words he wanted to say dried in his throat and his confessions turned to lies and promises that everything was okay.

*How have I become this? When did I start hiding who I am and pretending to be someone I’m not? I wasn’t friendzoned; I’ve just never gotten up the balls to say the words*.

To look at Tony, face animated as he talked, not noticing that Seth was responding with “Uh huh” and “Really?” when it came to his turn to speak, there was an ache in Seth’s chest. Because he wanted this forever. To listen to Tony, to laugh with Tony, to fight with Tony at his side.

He wanted Tony–best friend, lover, life mate, whatever he could have. It was desperation and indecision, a hunger that would never be tamed, because Tony had burrowed into the center of him and blocked all other loves from taking hold.

How lonely would it be to spend the rest of his life wanting Tony and never having more than this? When had he become so greedy that friendship wasn’t enough and he *burned* for more?

Teammate, roommate, lover–it was the progression part of him insisted he take. *Say the words*, some inner voice cried, but he couldn’t because he was too afraid. So he dithered in his one-sided love and lied to himself that what he had was enough.

To look at Tony spread across the bed, talking to him through a computer screen. Close, yet so far away; it hurt, but it was all that he had. He didn’t dare to ask for more because he couldn’t risk losing it all.

“… and kale. It was a strange first meeting, but the food was surprisingly good. So do you think it’s a good idea?” Tony asked.

Seth blinked. He’d been wrapped up in his personal angst and had missed most of what Tony was saying. He scrambled, but he had no clue what they’d been talking about other than it had started with Evan Lee.

“Sure?” he said, near wincing at how it sounded. There was no way Tony could believe he’d been listening.

“Great!” Tony beamed. “I’ll ask him tomorrow. I think he would make a great babysitter, but I was on the fence about it. You’ve made me feel better about the idea.”

“Awesome.” Seth didn’t know what had just happened, but he thought he might have recommended Evan Lee–the Flame Burst! Superhero voted most likely to vaporize his enemies–as Henry’s nanny.

For the rest of their conversation Seth stayed on point. It was a battle to keep his eyes focused on Tony’s face and not his muscular arms or chest. And he definitely did not stare at the juncture of his legs where the outline of his dick against the denim gave clear evidence that Tony tucked left.

There were no more important topics, but at least Seth didn’t have to feel guilty that he was objectifying his straight best friend. Though by the time Tony signed off to go check on Henry, the bread on Seth’s sandwiches was a little dry and his erection was pressed again his zipper to the point of distorting the metal.

He ate both sandwiches, washing them down with sips of water. Then he jerked off furiously into his fist, his eyes squeezed tight shut as he pictured Tony lying on that bed, legs spread and dick out, the button fly splayed wide, framing his pelvis. He imagined putting his mouth there, sucking on Tony’s dick, licking his balls. When he came it was with the imagined splatter of Tony coming all over his face then licking him clean, Tony’s scent absorbing into his skin, claiming him.

*I am so fucked*, he thought, but he had such a pleasant buzz that there was no fire in it. He’d become used to wanting men that didn’t want him back, though he tried hard never to think of Biotox.

There were so many people that had shown their interest in him, but he was the idiot that fell and fell hard for the ones that didn’t want him. Physically imposing men that hypothetically could hold him down and do whatever they wanted to him. Strong and decisive men that could wrap their arms around him and give him the illusion that he wasn’t the strongest person in the room. He could be the one protected for once, cared for and loved, with a larger body spooned around him at night to keep the nightmares away. Because at the end of the day he wasn’t a superhero, he was just a man.

A man that had fallen for his oblivious best friend.

/CHAPTER

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Funny thing, I was desperate to watch episodes of Darkwing Duck a couple of months ago. I found some episodes on YouTube, and I realized that nostalgia is a lying b-witch. Anyways, here’s some Darkwing Duck love.
T-Shirts, The Terror that Flaps in th... | TeePublic
T-Shirts, The Terror that Flaps in th… | TeePublic

Tuesday Night, by Harper Kingsley – Chapter Nine [Kanon, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel, mm]

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm

CHAPTER NINE

Being on call had never felt like torture before, but four days in and he couldn’t help wishing he could at least leave for the night. The thought of going home to his own place appealed, where Tony and Henry were waiting for him. Instead he lounged in the common room playing first-person shooters and wishing there was some action.

At least if he was kicking criminal ass he could tell himself his time wasn’t being wasted. Plus there was something cathartic about punching supervillains in the face. Instead he was hanging out in the Lair *waiting* for something exciting to happen. It was frustrating.

There was the clatter of footsteps and Powergirl came in with their two new trial recruits, Saint Kloude and WarSong. They still had that faintly shocked look about them. That “I must be dreaming” expression of newbie superheroes everywhere.

“Hey Sunfire, can you do me a favor and take these guys out on a patrol?”

Seth was tempted to say No, but he could feel the walls closing in on him and the idea of getting out for a while appealed. He tossed his controller on the coffee table and stood, stretching his arms over his head. “Yeah sure, why not? Come on noobs, gear up and let’s get out of here.”

From the exposed portions of WarSong’s face he could tell she was surprised he had agreed to take them out, which called into question what people thought of him. Maybe he needed to spend more time bonding with his teammates–they were the ones he depended on watching his back after all.

How could he count on a team that didn’t trust him to be there for them? How could *Tony* count on them?

When a split second could mean the difference between living or dying, there was no room for doubt or distrust. There was training and discipline, teamwork and camaraderie. They depended on him and he depended on them, and funerals were never any fun.

Seth went to the gear room and pulled on his cape and strapped his matching yellow utility belt around his waist. He glanced at himself in the full-length mirror and once again had to wonder at his costume choice. White bodysuit, yellow cape and belt, and a mask that covered most of his face while leaving his mouth exposed.

He’d chosen his Sunfire uniform when he was fourteen years old. A young and idealistic kid, he’d never imagined a time when he wouldn’t have six-pack abs and the muscular physique of a young god. It wasn’t a problem yet–he looked damn good and he knew it–but in ten or fifteen years when his metabolism started slowing down he’d be looking at embarrassing bulges and unflattering angles if he didn’t keep to his workout routine.

Glancing at WarSong and Saint Kloude he knew WarSong at least would be regretting her outfit. Skintight red leather that hugged every curve and made her breasts look at least three times too large for her slender build. If she gained five pounds she wouldn’t just be uncomfortable in her outfit, she’d be looking at magazines and blogs pointing out the weight-gain.

Being in the public eye was one of the drawbacks of being a superhero. It could be brutal.

Seth pursed his lips, swallowing any comment he wanted to make. WarSong might better appreciate costume advice from another woman. He would talk to Powergirl and Queen Midnight later.

Saint Kloude, who had a stocky build garbed in black fatigue pants, a faux-muscled chest plate, and a black jacket, had left himself room to grow or contract in his uniform. He looked bigger and more muscled than he was, which would have the less serious criminals leery of facing him head on.

“You guys ready?” Seth asked.

WarSong shared a look with Saint Kloude. “We’re ready,” she said.

Seth nodded. “Let’s go.”

*
Flying over the city was one of those things that never lost its appeal. There was something about being able to look down and see the world spread out below–the people tiny ants crawling around–that brought a sense of being in control of one’s own life.

WarSong flew on currents of elemental wind, her black hair whipping around seductively. Saint Kloude was held aloft by a puffy white cloud that had appeared with a snap of his fingers. They followed Seth as he pointed out various features of the city below. The coms gave the three of them the same intimacy as if they were alone in a room.

“You don’t have to shout,” Seth said. “I can hear you perfectly fine.”

“Oh, sorry,” Saint Kloude blurted. “We just got the coms and…”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it, I get it. Just remember that even if I’m a mile away, I’m still really close on the coms. Speak normally and I’ll hear you fine.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ugh,” Seth groaned, “it’s Sunfire, not sir. I work for a living.”

“Yes, s–… Yes Sunfire.”

“Smooth, real smooth.” Seth drew in a deep breath. “How you doing over there Song? Holding it together?”

“That’s WarSong, and yes I am.”

“I can see how Saint Kloude got his name, but what about you? Some kind of vocal control like the Whirling Dervish? Can you get people to dance until they die too?”

“No. I’ve got strength, flight, and a bit of empathy. With some concentration I can sow the seeds of discord in my enemies, but there’s no singing involved.”

“So why the name?” Seth asked.

She sounded defensive, “Because I like it and it’s the name I wanted to use.”

“Okay.” He was glad to spot something below. He needed to change the subject before things got any more uncomfortable. “I see happenings at six o’clock. Let’s check it out.”

There was an instinct every superhero got after they’d been on the job a while. It was an ability to spot metahuman happenings even when powers weren’t being tossed around.

Everyday crime was outside of his purview and was handled by the local authorities. Unless his stepping in could stop an immediate threat to a citizen’s life or safety, it was better to leave things to the police. Otherwise there started being bad blood and situations like New Stanwyck happened. The police came to resent the superheroes so much that there were riots and forty-six people were vaporized when someone threw a grenade at The Time-Keeper. Unable to stop the blast, he projected it outward, right into the crowd of his attackers. Mostly off-duty cops, it had been a bad scene all around.

Seth was happy to leave mundane crimes to the police. It meant less paperwork for him as well as a clear divide between what was and wasn’t his responsibility.

“We’ll come in low near that yellow building and move in on foot. Keep your powers holstered and don’t do anything until I say. Understand?”

The noobs hurriedly agreed and he barely kept from rolling his eyes. There was a more than good chance they were going to screw things up, but that was the fundamental part of handling noobs. He was here to keep the damage to a minimum and make sure they didn’t get themselves killed.

“WarSong, take point. Saint Kloude, you’re in the support position. I will observe to see how you both handle things.”

“Yes, Sunfire.”

He hung back as WarSong dove toward the yellow building and dropped down to the street. He noticed she stumbled a little before catching her balance on her fashionable high-heeled boots. Saint Kloude dissipated his cloud when he was a few inches off the ground and drew his pistol, taking up a guard position at her back. Seth noted the way he kept a wary eye out even behind himself.

*Good eye*, Seth thought. *I’m not going to step in unless things go pear-shaped*.

He let them get a bit ahead, then followed after. He didn’t want them to get too far away. If things turned serious he didn’t want to have to explain to Overwatch how he’d let two new superheroes get themselves hurt or killed. It wouldn’t turn out well.

He watched as WarSong and Saint Kloude cased the suspicious activity. Their chatter on the coms made it clear that they didn’t know what had twigged his danger sense. Which didn’t stop them from charging headfirst into danger. And neither one of them bothered to ask him what he thought was happening.

Seth kept his expression blank as he followed them through the delivery gate of Bill’s Discount Computer and Electronic Component Emporium. The place was supposed to be closed, yet several people moved in and out, loading boxes into a van that was hidden from the view of people on the street.

To an inexperienced eye it might have looked like a simple off hour delivery of supplies, most likely to a large company considering the amounts being loaded onto the van. Except Seth had recognized one of the women as Baby Calypso in an ill-fitting coverall. She was a small-time criminal, but she’d recently been tied to Jericho Slim’s operation as a mercenary cape, which upped her danger quotient.

Jericho Slim and his collection of suit wearing killers was quickly gaining ground in the city’s underworld. Not just drugs and prostitution anymore; there were rumors that he was dabbling in superscience. Which made it likely that his people robbing an electronics supply depot wasn’t because they wanted to sell the parts.

This was the biggest part of a superhero’s job–preventing the major events from happening. Or at the least getting a much needed heads up about trouble before it appeared.

Seth ghosted after WarSong and Saint Kloude. He took a few seconds to send a text to Powergirl letting her know what was going on. He was a bit disappointed that neither of the noobs bothered to call in before heading into what might be a dangerous situation. They were showing a foolish level of self-confidence.

He wasn’t sure what they were expecting to happen, but he got to have a ringside seat as they stumbled directly into the path of a guy that had to be close to eight feet of solid muscle and bad attitude. And from the way he managed to grab WarSong by the arm and fling her, he had to be packing the superstrength.

Saint Kloude stood protection over his downed teammate until she was back on her feet. Then he was smart enough to stand aside as she went on the offensive.

Seth might have made a comment on how it wasn’t a good idea to fight mad, but WarSong was showing a remarkable ability to handle a fight. Especially when three of the guy’s buddies stepped out and immediately attacked her. Saint Kloude chose the wise course of guarding her back as she went to town with punches, kicks, and painful whacks with the baton she’d produced from her belt. Seth was duly impressed.

She’d gotten all four guys down and was zip-tying the wrists of the first one when Calypso popped out of the store to see what was going on. There was barely a second of frozen surprise before Calypso jolted into action with a *whizz*-crack! of her energy shield snapping into place. She didn’t look as if she planned to go down easy.

Calypso was a mostly small time criminal, but she packed a decent powerbase. If she had wanted to put some superheroes in the grave, she could have done it on multiple occasions, but she always held back in her fights. As a result, there was an unspoken rule that no superhero test her triggers, which included her mother and the embarrassing scene where DocTorious publicly humiliated her before dumping her during their joint heist.

“Hey, I know you. You’re that Baby Calypso chick. Didn’t DocTorious shoot you in the stomach and throw you over Niagara Falls?” Seth winced and wanted to tell Saint Kloude to shut the hell up. But it was already too late.

Calypso’s bright purple mask hid her expression, but every line of her body bespoke of killing rage. Seth wanted to tell Saint Kloude to run, but there wasn’t time.

Calypso struck Saint Kloude with a blast of yellow-orange force, sending him tumbling feet over head until he slammed his shoulder against the wall and collapsed to his knees. “You shut your mouth! Or I’m going to rip your voice box out through your throat.”

Seth stepped forward, ready to involve himself, but WarSong got in front of Saint Kloude with an aggressive stance. Her fists were raised and her red painted lips were a firm slash.

“Back off, bitch!” WarSong growled.

Calypso gave her a disbelieving look. Then she laughed. “And what are you supposed to be? Did the baby hero decide to visit an S&M shop for her first costume? Take some advice, little girl: go home. I’m outta your league.”

“Guess we’re going to have to find that out,” WarSong said. “When I kick your ass.”

“Tough talk from the baby cape.” Calypso brought her own fists up. “Physical offense only. If you bring on the powers, then I’m going to crack you open and suck out your juicy center.”

“Mm, meaty.” WarSong lunged forward to grapple Calypso. Her right knee came up to slam against Calypso’s spine with cracking impacts against her armor.

Seth watched the fight and was impressed with WarSong’s martial arts skill. Though he would have told her that physically fighting someone like Calypso was a bad idea. Because while WarSong had middle of the road superstrength, Calypso had alpha levels. It was a mismatched fight, and WarSong didn’t know how out of her league she was.

He winced at a particularly nasty strike of WarSong’s fist against Calypso’s face. It sounded like a mallet pounding a slab of meat. “Ugh.”

There was no way he could let these two keep going at it. Least because WarSong already had a bloody nose and blackened eye while Calypso was unmarked, and more because it was a waste of time.

He stepped forward and clapped his hands to gather attention. “All right, break it up. WarSong, what the hell are you doing? We’re here to arrest lawbreakers, not start a brawl on company time.”

He kept a lookout for any surprise visitors and used his cape to hide the tension in his shoulders. Looking confident was 80% of the job.
Still, it was always hair-raising to do a walk-up on a possibly deadly situation. Most villains were looking to make some quick cash and stay out of prison, but there were always exceptions. The villains that were looking to make a name and gain supervillain status. The crazies that didn’t care about consequences, just about fighting the strongest heroes they could and seeing blood splash concrete. The murderers and psychopaths that had been granted the genetic equivalent of small arms or nuclear weapons.

Seth was aware of his own mortality. He wasn’t a foolishly overconfident kid anymore. He’d seen too many superheroes die, their screams the last sounds heard from them. He’d made promises to himself about all the ways he didn’t plan on dying. And one of those ways was being murdered because he forgot that even the most harmless looking person could be dangerous.

“Sunfire,” Calypso sounded surprised. She’d thought she was only facing a couple of new superheroes. She hadn’t expected him.

“By order of the Central Metahuman Policing Force, you are under arrest. Stop resisting and come quietly or I will use force against you.”

“Wow, I never expected you to be so serious.” She pushed WarSong away with contemptuous ease, proving that she’d only been playing before.

“You’re really handsome,” she said. “I thought all those pictures had to be touched up, but you’re really very good looking. Have you ever thought about being a model? The world would pay tons of money for pics of your stunning man-breasts.” She laughed.

Seth was feeling a bit sexually harassed, which happened more often than he was comfortable with. “My so-called man-breasts are my own, and I choose not to expose them in photographs. It’s part of my strong sense of self-worth,” he said, laying his palm over his heart.

“Now, are you going to come quietly, or are we going to add resisting arrest to the charges against you?” he asked. He wasn’t going to let her take over the situation. She was the criminal, and he was here to arrest her.

“And what does resisting arrest get me? An extra six months in the slam?” She cocked her hip out, her dyed purple hair falling across her shoulder.

He kept his expression professionally stern. “Due to the recent passing of the McLaughlin-Hewett Metahuman Defense Bill, if you are deemed to be a serious threat to others through purposeful use of your metability, I am required by law to use lethal force.” At her shocked look, he shrugged. “People are tired of good men and women being killed in prison breakouts. When you have the power of a god, people don’t have it in them to be so lenient toward you.

“Give yourself up, Calypso,” he said. “I don’t want to have to kill you. But I will if you push it.”

She took two stumbling steps back, raking her hands through her hair. “Oh god. I thought it was one of those crazy rumors. There’s no way they could really pass deadly force as a law. Superheroes don’t kill. They lock us up.”

“Not anymore,” Seth said. “You have a long criminal history, and it’s basically three strikes and you’re out. People could have died during some of your crimes. The new law says there’s no more room for playing nice.”

“You mean *normals* could have died,” she sneered. “Like I’m some kind of freak.”

“It is what it is,” Seth said. “You’ve misused your metabilities for years and now the law isn’t on your side anymore. So wise up and turn yourself over.”

“And then what? Are they going to send me to Butcher Bay?” She was starting to look scared and that made him nervous. The last thing he needed was to have her panic and go berserk.

“You’re looking at Super Max and full dampeners,” he said. He always tried to be straight with the villains he put away. The last thing he needed was to earn the reputation of a jackal. It would make it harder for him to arrest criminals in the future.

Seth ran a visual check on the newbies. They’d taken up ready stances and were watching the perimeter. It looked like they’d finally remembered their training.

“You won’t be going to Butcher Bay, but you *will* be doing community service. I’ve heard that the two situations are comparable.” He let his lips twitch up in a smile and turned the Charm up a few notches, just enough that she would think her sudden interest in him was natural, but not enough for her to get suspicious if she had any kind of psionic resistance.

“How can I trust you? You’re going to lock me up or kill me if I fight. The law is wrong. So how can I trust someone that’s said he’ll follow the law and kill people? Me? How could you kill me?”

Seth kept himself from rolling his eyes and sighing. A little bit of Charm, and everyone turned into a drama queen. All sweeping soliloquies and the deep-rooted idea that they were the center of his world. Instant obsessive love that switched gears on higher brain function and turned even the smartest of people into momentary fools.

The slight bit of Charm resistance Tony had was one of the first things that had drawn Seth to him. Tony had enough that Seth could let his guard down and not worry about accidentally ensnaring him. There was a reason why Tony’s room at the Demi Liar was the closest to his. No one else had been willing to sleep next to a Charmer. There were too many disturbing stories around for them to feel comfortable.

He only had to look at Calypso to see why people were scared. He barely gave her a taste and she looked at him with the defiance already defeated in her eyes. The strength swamped and absorbed by her overwhelming desire to please him.

“I don’t want to hurt you.” *More than I already have*. “Turn yourself in, do your time. It shouldn’t be too long,” he said.

She wavered, he could see it, the brief reluctance as her mind fought back. But it only lasted a few breaths before she relaxed and held her wrists out invitingly. She smiled coyly. “Are you going to cuff me, officer? Do you want to give me a strip search?”

“WarSong will put the cuffs on you. You’re going to let her do it, aren’t you?” He didn’t want to get close to her. If he put her down too deep the result would be a permanent obsession on her part. And he wasn’t too keen on receiving hanks of hair in the mail or having her kill a President in his honor. It seemed like too much.

Calypso turned toward WarSong with a benign expression, her wrists extended. Credit to WarSong, she didn’t relax her guard even when the suppression cuffs were snapped in place. She’d realized how overmatched she’d been. It was an uncomfortable wake up call for every young superhero. Seth still remembered meeting the Inevitable Imogenia for the first time, and the sheer horror when he’d realized how helpless he was before her.

“Thank you for coming with us,” he said, giving Calypso a smile. She glowed under his attention and he pushed away the sense of unease.

Charm had a low risk, and a high yield of success. It was a subtle effect with a lasting result, and it scared the hell out of him. It was the gift he was the least likely to use in a fight. Except he’d been given his orders and he was signed on for another six years with the CMPF.

“Saint Kloude, call the wagon for a pick up. WarSong, make sure the prisoner is thoroughly secured.” He gave Calypso a smile and lightened his tone. “I know you would never betray my trust by escaping–everyone’s always said that you’re an honorable criminal–but the guys upstairs have gotten a bit paranoid and all these memos were sent around. You understand, don’t you?”

The tension that had been bunching Calypso’s shoulders slipped away. He could practically see her brain tuning itself to his frequency. It left a bad taste in his mouth and made him not want to look at her.

“Of course I understand. I will behave so well, you’ll see. They’ll give you awards for handling prisoners,” she said. Her face turned toward him, a blossom to the sun. She followed him with her eyes even as WarSong gagged her and immobilized her on the ground. She near burned a hole through him with her focused interest.

Seth shuddered at the creepy sensation and pulled his ePad out of his utility belt. It had an application that worked with the added sensors tech-support had installed to let it look through walls. The details weren’t great, but it let him tell where people were.

He was disappointed by the image quality. There were a lot of blocked spots due to electronics parts and EMP shielded alcoves. But he was able to make out six people inside moving around, and a mass of warm bodies all piled up in one room.

He glanced at Calypso, knowing she’d happily tell him anything she knew. But that was the one thing he wasn’t allowed to do.

Charm could be used to make criminals more receptive to turning themselves in peacefully, but they could not be questioned by the Charmer. He wasn’t even going to be allowed to speak to her after her Representative arrived. Not that he wanted to.

Sure, it would be great to ask her what exactly was going on here and have her spill everything. There’d be a lot less danger entering the building and they’d know everything waiting for them. Good intel all the way as she tried to impress him.

And right there was the problem for him. The fact that she would try to impress him. That every second of attention he gave her would reinforce the psychosis building in her brain. It wouldn’t take much for him to become the center of her world.

Humans were surprisingly fragile creatures, their minds malleable to whims and suggestions. Even the most stable of people were susceptible to Charm-obsession, and there was no cure. Only distance.

He kept in Calypso’s line of sight, but he did not look at her and he focused on the building before him. From what he’d learned at Charm School, he’d become an icon for her, an unattainable goal that would still keep her moving forward with her life.

To speak to her or give her further attention was to risk giving her a command suggestion. One wrong look and she might latch on to some passing notion. A worm of thought would burrow through her brain, unleashing the worst form of obsession and zealotry.

School had taught him that being an icon was a powerful and lasting impression. To introduce the idea of a behavior change and offer no other feedback–the criminal would come to their own decision to follow the laws. It was a legal method of using a Charm metability without being charged with misuse.

Iconography was a quickly growing field of study. It made logic out of Charm phenoms like Darkstar and Masque, who didn’t have to reinforce the effect they had. One time with them was one time too many.

Seth wasn’t a strong Charmer, or he had enough control on it to keep from affecting everyone around. He was able to pretend most times that he was a normal guy. Being a superhero was his job, and in his off time he ate pizza and played video games. Except–he risked a corner of the eye glance at Calypso–he had it in him to turn someone into a slave to his will. It was just a little push.

He hated that he’d been ordered to use his Charm on prisoners. Being the icon and impetus that made people live better was a great idea in theory, but he didn’t like the way it made him feel.

He’d met plenty of other Charmers that shared his distaste. The power felt unpleasant to use in an offensive capacity. It was like crawling naked through a room full of slugs. There was an instinctive gagging cringe as slime coated every surface and bodies burst beneath his hands and knees. Only it was all in his head and his superiors insisted that he use his ability again and again.

He’d heard there were some Charmers blessed with a fantastic biofeedback response. They enjoyed focusing their Charm on people and received a burst of pleasure in return. It was said that they could literally feed off of their victims, psychic vampires of the creepiest kind. They were secret life thieves.

Seth hated every second he consciously used his Charm. It did not like being focused and used. If he could get away with it, he would never use it again, but orders were orders.

Seth turned away from Calypso and did what he usually did when his morals started twinging away at him–buried the discomfort down deep. He’d already used his Charm, there was no taking it back. The best thing he could do for Calypso was to make sure they never met again.

Was it weird that he hoped prison therapists would be able to break through his Charm-hold on her? He didn’t want her to go back to her criminal life, but he didn’t want to forever be buried in her mind either. A ghost looming so large that she gave up being herself and lived for him instead. He hated it.

“Backup should be arriving in ten,” Saint Kloude said through the com.

“Roger that. I’ll take some more sensor grabs, but it looks like they’re doing a long-term project inside. We wait for backup.”

“But sir…” It was WarSong.

“Negative,” Seth said firmly. “There’s too much blockage to get a clear image inside and you’re both rookies. We wait for proper scanning gear and we follow protocols. Clear?”

“Yes, sir.” They both sounded disappointed. He’d tell Powergirl that they needed to learn how to hide their emotions better.

“Live and grow stronger,” he said. “Backup is always the best thing to have. We’re not a bunch of cowboys going it alone. We’re a team, which means there’s always someone to watch our backs.”

Their agreement was lackluster at best, but he didn’t care. Gone were the days when superheroes headed into danger by themselves. As a result, the stories of dead heroes had gone down significantly. At least the CMPF had done that much.

Seth ran his ePad scanner over the building, careful to stay away from windows as he flew around it. The scanner was taking constant snapshots and the app would be compiling them together to create a complete 3D image.

He remembered a time before imaging tech existed. He would have crashed his way into the building and hoped for the best. The idea had been to get in and surprise the bad guys before they had a chance to respond. It was an idea that had mostly worked, though there had been a few times when the bad guys were ready and waiting. It was then that he was grateful to have an alpha-class offensive metability. He was able to burn his way through most trouble while other heroes had died for the sin of going in without a plan. Capes that he had known and admired, but who didn’t possess the powerbase to claim the title of superhero.

He hoped that new heroes like WarSong and Saint Kloude would appreciate how lucky they were to have imaging technology and backup to call when there was trouble. Because as boring as it was to kids raised on stories of legendary heroes like The Deliverer and Blue Ice, the new ways were safer and had a higher success rate. The time of lone superheroes battling to stop the apocalypse were over.

There were way too many metahumans needing to be policed for single heroes to handle the job. There had been studies done about the veritable explosion of metahumans that had emerged from the population of normals since the late 1800s. From single digit beta-class to millions of alphas worldwide.

In the last ten years the metahuman-to-human ratio had risen twelve percent. There was talk that 46% of humans possessed some form of metability, though most were completely useless. Still, that was a massive shift in the human genome. There was a theory that normals would become extinct within the next one hundred years.

Seth shook his head to clear it. He was only thinking about that population study because he was trying *not* to think about giving Tony a call. He’d only watched that *Capes and Cowls* documentary because Tony was into that kind of thing. It was the same with the ancient alien stuff.

He sighed and kept his eye on the ePad, making certain that each scene was complete before moving on to the next. The software was still a bit buggy and not giving a scan time to process was a way to spoil the whole image. It was a lesson he’d learned the hard way.

His senses were alert to anyone spotting him, but he wasn’t too worried. From the infrared readings there was no one close enough to see him through the windows and there were no hot spots in the closet-sized room he was 98% sure was the surveillance room. Whoever was inside wasn’t expecting interference.

He thought about calling Tony and seeing how Henry was doing, but he knew better. Personal calls during an operation was one of the biggest no-nos out there. He didn’t want to be called to the carpet by Overwatch. They monitored all the team phones with the obsessive detail of a bunch of retired capes.

A personal call had gotten Katmandu’s family killed. She’d called the babysitter to ask about her kid’s cold, and the call had been traced right to her house. It had been a gruesome lesson, one they still used in training.

Sunfire might scoff in the face of danger, but Seth refused to be the one to get Henry killed. Even with Tony there to save the day, a “Hey, I miss you” phone call wasn’t worth sacrificing safety.

He sighed and got back to work. Unless the situation blew up, he’d be able to call Tony in a few hours.

/CHAPTER

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I feel like this tee shirt deserves a story. Though I’d want a happy ending, not a Torchwood-“time traveling romances never work out” ending. (Just saying. Torchwood turned into a very unhappy show ;_;)
T-Shirts, Back For That Dance | TeePublic
T-Shirts, Back For That Dance | TeePublic

Tuesday Night, by Harper Kingsley – Chapter Eight [Kanon, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel, mm]

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm

CHAPTER EIGHT

Awkward emotional breakdown, check. Tony felt embarrassed even thinking about it, but Seth hadn’t said a word. There was no big push for him to talk about his feelings or to even explain why the thought of trusting Henry to strangers was driving him neurotic. Tony appreciated it; he was not ready to talk.

He was happy to spend the next week pretending that everything was normal and acting like he hadn’t had a big breakdown in the kitchen. He wanted things to go back to status quo, which was made difficult by the baby depending on him, but he was willing to repress and deny until the whole incident was forgotten.

He was sitting on the living room couch with Henry on his lap, watching Seth get ready to leave. It was weird to think that it was going to be just him and Henry for a while, but that was the way things worked for an active superhero.

The Teen Demis had a policy of two weeks on and two weeks off. There was the occasional stretch of vacation time depending on circumstances.

Seth pulled on his jacket and slung his overnight bag over his shoulder. “Well, I’m outta here for two weeks. Think you can handle things alone?”

“Please,” Tony waved his hand, “I’m a superhero. Changing diapers and baby food are no sweat.”

Seth laughed. “What about when he had that awful green poop? You were losing your mind.”

“Dude, that was just wrong. I still can’t believe *that* came out of this little guy. I thought he was really sick.”

Seth rolled his eyes and stepped close to brush his fingers against Henry’s head. “Be a good little man for Daddy. No weird alien poops please.” He leaned forward to press a kiss against Henry’s forehead. Tony couldn’t help catching a whiff of his cologne and the slight trace of his shampoo when he got close.

Seth pulled away reluctantly. “It’s hard to say goodbye to this little guy.”

Tony cleared his throat. “Yeah,” he said gruffly, not sure what he was feeling.

“Well, gotta go,” Seth said. “See you guys in a couple of days.”

Tony said “Bye” as he watched Seth leave, the door clicking shut behind him.

He’d never realized how hard it was to be the one left behind, but Sunfire was on call and Teen Steel was off duty.

“This sucks,” Tony said.

He looked down at Henry, who was wearing a fuzzy Blue Ice onesie with an attached hood that looked like Blue Ice’s mask. “You wanna get out of here for a while?” he asked. Henry laughed and tried to grab his nose. “I’m taking that as a yes. Let’s go for a walk.”

There was a baby carriage folded up in the hall closet, but Tony went for the carrier that attached Henry to his chest, his legs free to dangle and kick energetically. The kid seemed to really love being able to look around and see everything during their walks together.

Tony fumbled Henry into his tiny jacket, snapping the front buttons before loading him into the baby carrier. He stuck two diapers and the small pouch of wipes into the carrier pocket along with a juice bottle and they were ready to go. He didn’t figure they’d be gone too long.

“Come on, buddy. Let’s go visit the world.”

Henry laughed and wriggled excitedly. He was a cheery baby.

Tony made sure he had his wallet and keys, then used the elevator to get down to the lobby. Music played from the overhead speakers, some cheesy bit of pop that he thought he should recognize.

“You know, Henry, I don’t think Daddy is very cool,” he said. Then he had a moment of feeling weird at how easy it was to call himself “Daddy.”

Henry had wriggled his way into Tony’s life. It was getting hard to imagine a life without him in it. Tony didn’t think he would ever choose to go back. Henry belonged with him.

“I think I’ve fallen in love with you, in a non-creepy ‘I want to be your dad forever’ way.” He didn’t know what was going to happen when Solar came back for Henry, but he didn’t think it was going to be nice. For her.

“Come on. Let’s go for a walk.”

*
As a four month old baby there wasn’t much Henry could do yet. Still, Tony couldn’t help admiring the massive playground located four blocks from The Archon. Once Henry was big enough to play, he was going to love the brightly painted slides, swings, and seesaws. There was even a spider-cage jungle gym.

Tony walked around the park, taking in all the kids. There was no graffiti and he saw a maintenance worker picking up the few pieces of trash with a metal stick. The grass was bright green, the picnic tables were clean of bird poop, and in all he felt like Henry was going to love the place once he was mobile. It was better than anywhere Tony had played as a kid.

He continued on their walk, checking out the shopping areas and restaurants, making mental notes of the places he thought Seth might like. There was even a large baby boutique whose window he peeked through without going in.

Today was reconnaissance only, though he was tempted by some of the baby formal wear. The thought of Henry in a baby tuxedo was almost too much for him.

Finally he turned around and started home. They’d already had one diaper change and one mini-bottle of watery apple juice. Henry was about ready for some pureed sweet potato and formula, and there was a microwave pizza calling Tony’s name.

He was busy talking to Henry, who had slept for a while but was now wide awake, when he heard someone call his name. Turning, he was surprised to see Evan Lee, Ashley’s father. Also known as the Flame Burst.

It looked like Evan had come out of the Mexican restaurant, a takeaway box in his hand. He looked older than Tony remembered, more tired. He hadn’t taken the death of his daughter well and had taken a leave of absence from the League of Superheroes. Though from what Tony had heard, the LOA hadn’t been his idea. Overwatch had voiced concern over the Flame Burst’s brutal treatment of criminals. In the last two years he had become a superhero that all criminals feared, and not just the big offenders.

“Evan, hey.” Tony smiled. “How are you?”

“Good, good, I’m good,” Evan said. “I’ve gotten back into the yoga, and the meditation has helped clear my mind.”

He kept glancing at Henry, though he was too polite to inquire. Tony stroked Henry’s head. “Oh, this is Henry. My son.”

Evan was surprised. “A baby? Wow. I would not have expected something like this. Wow. Little Tony with a baby. So… have you gotten married? What’s going on with you?”

Tony shook his head. “Not married and not with anyone. I just… one night of unclear thinking and bam, his name is Henry. It wasn’t anything I expected, but I wouldn’t trade him, you know? I was wallowing for a long time there and I think Henry has anchored me. He’s this little life depending on me.”

“Yeah, I know how that is,” Evan said. His eyes went distant and sad, lost in the memories of long ago.

Henry made a snuffling noise and wriggled against Tony. “Oh, hey look, this guy is wanting to be fed,” Tony said.

Evan waved his free hand. “Oh no, I understand. You’ve gotta get him home.”

“Well, you still have my number right?” Tony asked. “I’m on parental leave right now, so if you want to get together or anything my schedule is free at the moment. We can have lunch or you could come over.”

“Still living at the Lair?” Evan asked.

“Naw,” Tony said, “I had to get a real place because of the baby. I’ve got an apartment at The Archon.”

Evan blinked. “You’re at The Archon? Me too.” At Tony’s surprise, Evan shrugged. “I had to sell the house–too many memories–and The Archon is pretty much the best place for someone like me.”

“Huh. What a coincidence. Are you going home now? You could walk with us,” Tony offered.

“Unfortunately I have an appointment,” Evan sounded genuinely regretful. “I just stopped off to pick up some of these amazing chocolate donut things.” He hefted the takeaway box. “It’s a little bribery.”

“That’s too bad,” Tony said. “But look, call me and we can get together.”

“Sure. Is tomorrow good?”

“It’s great. I’ve been worried I was going to lose my mind or something. I’m not used to so much free time.”

Evan chuckled. “Yeah, I hear you.” He glanced at his watch. “Look, I’ve gotta go if I don’t want to be late. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Sure. See you later, Evan.”

“You too.”

Tony watched him go, then turned to continue his walk home.

He hadn’t seen Evan in months and it made him feel guilty. Because not only had Evan been Ashley’s dad, he’d also been a kind of mentor. He’d offered advice and friendship when Tony had needed it most. In fact, Tony had met Evan first, back when he’d been a skinny nothing of a kid slinking his way to a training center with dreams of someday being something more than a nothing.

The Flame Burst was a legend. He’d worked his way up from being a member of the teen supergroup the Young Bloods to being a member of the League of Superheroes. He was the deadly flame guy that most supervillains feared meeting, one of the world’s strongest pyrokinetics.

And he’d been Ashley’s dad, who wore sweater vests and drove an electric car. He signed petitions and really cared about the environment and eating GMO-free organic foods. He made lame jokes and loved to barbecue in non-ironic way.

It was obvious at a glance that Evan had not handled Ashley’s death well. It made Tony wish he had kept in touch rather than walling that whole part of his life off. It had just felt like anything to do with Ashley was too much for him to handle. The wounds had been too raw.

But now Tony promised himself and the ghost of Ashley that he wouldn’t leave Evan to sink into his grief alone. He would do what he could to help Evan, because Evan was a hero, and this time *he* needed to be saved.

Henry squirmed in the carrier and made his mewling “I’m hungry” almost-cry.

“Settle down,” Tony said. “We’re almost home and there’s plenty of nummies for you to eat.”

He hurried his footsteps, not wanting Henry to really start crying. For a baby, Henry had some strong lungs when he chose to use them.

/CHAPTER

Dead-Fett by bobtheartist
Dead-Fett by bobtheartist

Tuesday Night – Chapter Seven [Kanon, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel, mm]

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm

CHAPTER SEVEN

After asking Queen Midnight to babysit Henry for the day, they went to see the apartment. Tony was wearing clothes borrowed from Seth and had spent the night sleeping in one of the spare rooms. He was happy to get out of the Demi Lair and hoped his room would be cleared soon, otherwise he would start feeling as if he were taking advantage of Seth.

From the outside The Archon Complex was a grouping of four bland box buildings that covered a city block and was surrounded by a tall fence. Mounted along the top of the buildings the lethal defenses were hard to recognize. They were ready to take out any interloper not in possession of one of the special RF keyfobs. They were some of the most well-defended buildings in the city. The home of hundreds of superheroes that needed someplace to relax when they were off the clock.

Tony craned his neck to take everything in as he followed Seth passed the unnervingly lethal security checkpoint into the lobby of Building Two.

The Archon was beautiful on the inside. As a kid he’d lived in a tiny walk up apartment with an air conditioner that only worked half the time and a carpet that insisted on smelling faintly of the previous occupants. Once he’d registered to be a superhero he’d moved into dorm housing at the Training Center. This was the kind of place that he’d only dreamed of.

“This place seems like it’s way outside my price range,” he whispered.

Seth slanted him a smile. “Dude, eight hundred a month is in your price range. Just don’t tell anyone else living here what we’re paying.”

Tony thought that he was supposed to feel intimidated, but really he never wanted to leave. It was amazing.

He followed Seth in a wandering tour of the building and it became even more impressive. There was a a fully-stocked gym in the basement with a tunnel that led into Building Three where there was an Olympic-sized swimming pool. There was a massive laundry room with twenty washers and twenty dryers as well as uniformed laundry service personnel below Building One. And there was a store below Building Four that carried the essentials like soap and toothpaste as well as oven-ready freezer meals, fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. There were even racks of everyday clothing along with packages of underwear and socks.

“We don’t ever have to go outside again,” Tony said. They were standing in front of the window overlooking the pool where people were splashing around and laughing. He was pleased to see that there were two small children playing in the shallow end near the stairs. Both of them wore bright plastic arm floaties as they slapped at a beach ball. It was nice to think that Henry would have some friends.

Seth laughed. “Come on, let’s go check out the apartment. You don’t want to make up your mind about staying until you see where we’re living. It might be terrible.”

Tony gave him a look, but followed him anyway. “Seriously, this place is amazing.”

“Sure.” They passed a brightly colored door that Seth nodded toward. “That’s the 24-hour daycare. Once we enroll Henry, they’ll accept him at any time of day or night. They have some of the best protection in the city. A lot of off-duty heroes even take shifts acting as security.”

Tony glanced back at the primary blue colored door as they waited for the elevator. “We’ll have to check them out.”

“Later,” Seth said when the doors opened. He pushed the button for the fourth floor. “Let’s go see where we’re going to be living.”

Stepping out of the elevator, there was a long hallway of security doors with gold number plates attached. There weren’t any peepholes, but Tony recognized the small black disks above the frames as pinhole cameras. They were likely attached to state of the art monitoring systems inside.

“This is us.” Seth unlocked the door with 447 etched on the number plate. He pushed it open with an expansive hand wave. “Ta da!”

Tony stepped inside and was amazed. “You didn’t tell me it was fully furnished.”

The apartment was open and inviting with plush couches and chairs and gleaming black wood tables and cabinets. The hardwood floor was protected by handwoven rugs. There were potted flowers and brightly green plants arranged here and there invitingly. One glance at the kitchen showed shiny new appliances and real granite counter-tops.

“It shouldn’t be,” Seth said. “Looks like Nana is interfering again.” He sighed. “We can have this all hauled out of here if you want.”

Tony gave him a disbelieving look. “Are you kidding? I thought we were going to have to hit up a bunch of furniture stores and spend a small fortune. This place is great.”

Seth smiled, relieved. “Oh good. I thought I was going to have to yell at my grandmother and I don’t think it would have gone well for me.”

Tony didn’t know if he believed him, but wandered down the hallway to peer into each bedroom. He could feel Seth following after him.

There were king-sized beds with thick comforters and fat pillows. The furniture choices were masculine and bespoke of strength, but it wasn’t overpowering.

“We could live here,” he said. “This place is more than doable.”

“That’s the plan,” Seth said.

There were three bedrooms and they laid claim to the two largest ones. The room closest to Tony’s was designated Henry’s and it was the only one that needed new furniture. Seth’s grandmother hadn’t known there was going to be a baby.

“There’s a storage shed for each apartment downstairs in the basement,” Seth said. “We can move the bed down there.”

“Cool.” Tony smiled. “So all we have to get him is a real crib. He’s already getting too big for the bassinet.”

“He’s going to be big like you. He might be ready for the king-sized bed in a couple of years.”

“I don’t think they make cartoon sheets in that size,” Tony said.

Seth laughed. “You’d be surprised. Come on, let’s get this bed out of here, then we can get something to eat before we go buy a crib. We could be moved in by tonight.

Tony looked around and smiled. “Our own place.” It felt good.

* * *

He should have felt guilty about keeping Tony so close, possibly manipulating things to his own advantage, but he didn’t. He was happy to have Tony in his life and he’d even come to love having baby Henry around.

Tony was still on parental leave, but they’d been looking for someone to act as a babysitter. It was hard because Tony was very particular about who he wanted near Henry. It had reached the point that Seth had had to leave the apartment a few times to find some peace and quiet.

His suggestion that Henry could be trusted to The Archon daycare had been met with such a scathing look that Seth had retreated to his bedroom to play video games alone.

He put on some music and turned the sound up loud, not wanting to be disturbed. It was a tactic he’d used since he was a kid desperately escaping the overwhelming presence of his jet-setting father.

The man hadn’t been around much, but he liked to make his presence felt when he did bother to show up. Seth had learned to tiptoe around before he’d learned how to tie his own shoes. By the time he was twelve, Seth had come to believe he didn’t care one way or another about his father, right up until the man died. Then there were regrets and recriminations and no one to be their target.

Seth hated introspection and feeling sorry for himself, so he concentrated on the game. He didn’t want to think.

After two hours there was a knock on the door. “What?”

Tony opened the door and stuck his head in. He wore a red sauce splattered white apron and a contrite expression. “Sorry I’ve been such an asshole. I made spaghetti. Come eat?”

Seth looked at him for a long moment, then sighed. He paused the game and tossed the controller aside. “Fine. I could use something to eat.”

Tony smiled. “Yeah. You’re getting too skinny. We wouldn’t want your fans to worry that you’re getting sick. They’ll start imagining you’re dying or something.”

Seeing as Seth didn’t much care about his fans, he shrugged. “They can think whatever they want.” He stood with a stretch, trying to loosen the tension in his shoulders. When he looked back at Tony, he almost thought Tony was blushing, but it was impossible to tell.

He followed Tony out and was surprised to see that Tony had cleaned the whole apartment. It hadn’t been messy, but they were both prone to putting things down and leaving them for weeks at a time.

Seth appreciated the gesture for what it was: an apology.

“So there’s spaghetti?”

“My ‘World Famous Teen Steel Approved Spaghetti,'” Tony corrected. “With real meatballs.”

“Who would have thought you were such a gourmet,” Seth teased.

He pulled up a stool at the breakfast bar and poured himself a glass of Bolt Cola from the 2-liter Tony had arranged. He used the clear plastic tongs to add three ice cubes from the bowl Tony had left nearby.

“Fancy.”

Tony rolled his eyes at him with a good natured smile and thunked a wide bowl in front of him. “Eat.”

Seth looked at the bowl. There were almost too many noodles along with golf ball-sized meatballs. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese was sprinkled across the top of the spaghetti. There was a chunk of golden-brown garlic bread on one side and a fork and spoon jutting out the other.

“Thanks.” Seth used the spoon to twirl a neat bite of spaghetti on his fork and took a bite. “It’s good.”

“Don’t sound so surprised,” Tony said, but he looked pleased. He took off the apron and left it bunched up on the counter near the sink. He grabbed a bowl of his own and came around the counter to sit next to Seth. Their knees brushed.

They ate in companionable silence. The spaghetti was good, though the garlic bread was a bit too crunchy and seemed more garlic than bread. Seth ate every bite, and afterward he helped load the dishwasher.

“You’re right, you know,” Tony said.

Seth closed the door to the dishwasher and punched the buttons to start it. “About what?”

Tony leaned against the counter, holding his elbows with his hands. “Henry. You’re right that I’m going to have to be able to trust someone to care for him when I can’t. I’m just… I’m having a hard time letting go.”

“It’s not supposed to be easy,” Seth said. “If it was, there wouldn’t be so many goofy comedies about it. But you’ve got a job, man, one that you really love and that you need to keep to be able to pay for everything Henry needs.” He huffed a laugh. “I guess you could retire from crime fighting, but I can’t see you working at Java Johns. You’d end up throwing a rude customer through a window or something.”

“I could open my own restaurant,” Tony said. “Spaghetti’s not the only thing I can make. I can also do sandwiches.”

“I can see it now, ‘Tony’s Spaghetti and Sandwich Emporium.’ Also includes bad coffee and store bought donuts.”

Tony turned and grabbed the apron off the counter, throwing it at Seth. “My coffee is not bad!”

“Please. There’s a reason why you’re not allowed to touch the coffee maker at the Demi Lair. That stuff you call coffee is more like grounds and a little water. That’s why we have a bean to coffee machine here.”

Tony took the apron Seth held out and sighed. “There go my dreams of being a restaurateur. Seriously, I don’t know what to do. Henry is so small and he depends on me for everything and I’m me and I don’t even know what to do.”

“Obviously you’re not ready to put him in daycare,” Seth said. “It’s not a crime. But maybe we can get a nanny or something.”

“Do you think I’ll be able to handle it without freaking out?”

“Probably not,” Seth said. “But if we find the right person maybe you’ll get past your overprotective mama bear routine.”

Tony laughed, but it sounded more like tears. He looked like he desperately needed a hug, so Seth gave him one.

Wrapping his arms around Tony, who was prickly and stiff at first but gradually relaxed into the embrace, Seth couldn’t help wishing for more and hated himself a little. Until Tony’s arms wrapped around him and pulled him closer and he felt the sad wet trickle of tears against his neck.

Tony’s sobs were choked to near silence and his body shook with the force of his emotion. His grip on Seth would have been painfully tight for a normal human, but Seth was stronger than that.

Seth stroked the back of Tony’s head, not sure why Tony seemed so despairing, so helpless, but he was glad to be there for him.

“It’s all right. I’ve got you. Let it out.”

They were two man-boy superheroes clutching each other tight in an apartment kitchen. The overhead lights offered a soft golden glow. Tony’s sobs racked his whole body and Seth held him close, silently promising that everything would be all right.

They’d figure it out. Together.

/CHAPTER

See you next week, space cowboy…

Though if you’ve been enjoying “Tuesday Night,” you can show your support via Patreon.com/HarperKingsley or Paypal.me/HarperKingsley.

The Incredibelchers by primepremne
The Incredibelchers by primepremne

from: BustedTees.com

Tuesday Night – Chapter Six [Kanon, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel, mm]

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm

CHAPTER SIX

Parental leave was not the fun-time vacation he’d imagined it would be. For one thing, there was a needy baby that seemed freaked out about being in a strange environment with strangers. And when Henry David was sleeping–which was a lot–Tony had extra time on his hands where he couldn’t really do anything. There was no leaving the Lair, cranking up music or the TV, and definitely no trips out for half-naked lady chicken wings.

He’d taken to reading the baby books Seth had gotten him.

And that was another difference to his life. Sunfire had become Seth in his mind. They weren’t just teammates anymore. They were *friends*. Secret identity sharing friends.

Tony wasn’t stupid. For the Teen Demis their “secret” identities weren’t all that secret, but they maintained the pretense. The illusion that they would never have to fear a traitor in their midst.

Tony couldn’t help wanting to believe in Seth’s friendship. Especially when he’d had a giant responsibility so unexpectedly thrust upon him. He didn’t think he could handle things alone, and Seth distracted him from his problems.

There was an unhappy wail through the baby monitor and Tony stood. The baby was in his bedroom, where he’d put together a little Henry David corner with a bassinet and toys and a bookcase that he’d repurposed to hold all the baby supplies. It wasn’t the nicest setup, but the baby had everything he needed for the moment.

“*Sh, sh, sh. Shut up you little bastard*.”

Tony turned to look at the baby monitor. Henry David was really wailing now, and under it Tony could hear a harsh voice trying to shush him and promising terrible things.

Someone had Henry David.

His skin rippled and hardened. His eyesight sharpened and everything took on a glossy quality. Adrenaline pumped through his body.

Quietly, he went to the weapons locker hidden as a glass-fronted bookcase. He opened it and slapped his palm against the pad of the biolock.

He winced at the soft beep as the locker opened. It wasn’t an obvious sound, but he would rather the intruder remain unaware of him a little longer.

He scooped up a Beretta and slid a clip in place. He thought about grabbing a stun grenade, but he didn’t want to risk hurting Henry David.

Tony pushed the locker closed and left the com room to creep toward his bedroom door. It was his only way into the room as the window was nothing more than a narrow slit. How the intruder could have gotten in was a mystery for another time.

He strained to hear anything happening in the room, but there was nothing. It made him wish the bedrooms hadn’t been so sturdily constructed. Soundproofing wasn’t as great when he was on the other side.

He drew in a breath, then grabbed the doorknob and twisted. There was resistance as the lock tried to keep him out, but he broke it and slammed the door open.

He saw the room in a flash: Henry David was kicking up a fuss in his bassinet. A man in the tattered remains of a Malice’s Malcontent costume was digging through Tony’s dresser. The man’s eyes went wide behind his mask and his hand darted toward the homemade rifle he’d laid atop the dresser.

Tony shot him in the juncture of both shoulders.

There had been no thought and his fingers had squeezed so fast he thought he’d only fired once. Except the man was down, both arms rendered useless, and Tony wished he’d shot him between the eyes.

Malice and her Malcontents had been the ones to kill Ashley. Her father had decimated the group in retaliation, yet here one of them was. In Tony’s bedroom. With his infant son.

Tony wasn’t gentle when he grabbed the guy and slapped on the cuffs. The man whined as pulped muscle and bone scraped together and Tony couldn’t help hoping the doctors couldn’t fix him.

“You move and I’ll shoot you in the dick,” Tony growled. This wasn’t the kind of guy that cared about his own death.

Tony grabbed the man’s legs and wrested off his boots, flinging them out the open door. The last thing he needed was a shoe-knife in the eye.

He patted the Malcontent down, removing a dozen blades, some mystery objects he wasn’t willing to mess with, and a small leather-bound book. The guy didn’t like him touching the book, he noted.

“I don’t know what kind of genius you are, thinking this was a good place to break into, but I’ve got a few favors owed to me by Mind-Breaker.” The man struggled and cursed. Tony squeezed the Malcontent’s neck until he went still. “Be glad I don’t call in her brother. Mind-Raper likes to play with his toys before he breaks them. He could bring your every nightmare to life.”

“Please, not him,” the Malcontent whispered. His face was pressed against the floor, blood and tears staining the carpet.

Tony stood and backed toward the night table. He’d left his backup communicator in the drawer. He risked giving Henry David a glance, but other than his fury at being ignored he seemed all right.

Tony called Overwatch and requested a pickup. The crisp authority of the voice on the other end soothed him some. Enough that he didn’t sound like a rage junkie when he called Powergirl.

“*We’re on our way*,” she said.

Tony slipped the com in his pocket and sidled to the bassinet. He laid a soothing hand on David Henry’s chubby leg, but didn’t pick him up. The gun in his hand remained pointed at the Malcontent. The man wasn’t doing much, but Tony wasn’t going to be caught out.

A tiny hand plucked at his fingers. Henry David was still crying, but it had lost the sharp tone and his hands grabbed at Tony’s as he wriggled and kicked. He stared up at Tony’s face, wide-eyed and innocent.

“God, I hope this isn’t your first memory,” Tony said.

* * *

The idea that someone had broken into the Lair put them all on edge. But finding out the guy had made it into Tony’s room and threatened Henry David… Seth felt like he was going to puke.

He hadn’t even known how much Henry David meant to him until he realized the little boy could have been gone forever. He didn’t have much sympathy for the Malcontent’s gunshot wounds.

Fixing two cups of coffee, he was glad of the open kitchen plan that let him keep an eye on Tony where he sat on the longest couch. Tony clutched Henry David in both arms, staring down into that chubby cheeked face. The baby seemed more interested in gumming the baby cookie he clutched in his right fist than reassuring his dad.

Seth sighed and stirred sugar and a healthy splash of milk into the mugs on the counter in front of him. He wasn’t sure how he should approach Tony. He could tell the guy was still on edge, his lips pulled hard and tight against his teeth, giving his smiles a sharpness that wasn’t looking to go away soon.

Not that Seth could blame him. The situation was FUBAR and not looking to straighten itself out any time soon.

From what the CMPF interrogators had reported, the Malcontent had an atypical teleportation metability. Most teleporters had to visualize the area they wanted to appear, which meant they were relegating to teleporting to places they’d already been. The Malcontent on the other hand was able to focus on the mind of a living organism, though he was limited to using humans as animal minds were too different, and he could use his short-range teleportation ability to bring himself within ten feet of his target.

The architecture of the Demi Lair had nearly resulted in Henry David’s death. The comm center was located toward the inside of the building while the living quarters were at the outer wings. When the Malcontent had focused and brought himself into reach of the lone biosignal he was able to reach from the street, he’d thought he would get the jump on one of the Teen Demis. He’d found a baby instead.

Once he’d realized that he’d mis-targeted, the Malcontent had planned on waiting in Tony’s room until he came to check on the baby. He’d been looking around for a better weapon and hadn’t expected Tony to appear so quickly or to respond so aggressively.

It gave Seth a chill to realize how close they’d come to disaster. If the Malcontent had had access to better weaponry or if Henry David hadn’t begun to cry…

He added two spoonfuls of sugar to Tony’s mug and one spoonful to his own, then gave them each a quick stir before picking them up and carrying them into the living room.

“You all right?” He set the mugs on the table and held out his hands. “Here, let me hold him while you get cleaned up and drink your coffee.”

Tony clutched Henry David closer for a second before he noticed what Seth had: there was blood on the hem of his shirt and on his pant legs. “Shit.”

“Yeah.” Seth gently pried the baby away, cuddling him close. “I’ll stay right here with him, I promise.”

“Yeah. Yeah. Thanks.” Tony hurried from the room, pulling his shirt off as he went.

Seth looked down at Henry David. “What about you? Are you all right, little man? That was a traumatizing experience, wasn’t it?”

Henry David sucked on the baby cookie he held and didn’t seem to care. His dark hair stood up around his head like dandelion fluff and his brown eyes were untroubled.

“God, how can you be so cute? Can I get a bite of that cookie?” Seth made “nom nom” sounds and made like he was going to take a bite.

Henry David grinned at him, drool shining on his chin. Seth wiped it away with his sleeve before realizing what he’d done.

“Well, that’s gross. See what you made me do? You better stop being so cute or it’s going to get worse. Mom pants worse.”

Henry David laughed and kicked his feet against Seth’s leg. He was showing himself to be a happy baby. How Solar could have given him up was a mystery.

“You are just too cute,” Seth said. He couldn’t resist smelling the top of Henry David’s head. Baby powder, no-tears baby shampoo, and that indescribable *baby* smell.

He hadn’t been around babies very often. There had been the usual photo-ops and autograph sessions where someone would shove their baby at him, but this was different. He felt different about Henry David than he did those other babies, more connected.

“I don’t know what I would have done if something had happened to you, but it would have been mean.” It was strange to think that someone could have threatened the life of such a tiny, helpless person. Old people and children were supposed to have some kind of exemption from harm.

Seth wished Tony *had* shot the Malcontent in the dick. And how vindictive was that?

“I’m losing my mind.”

“What?”

Seth twitched and turned to see Tony striding toward the living room in jeans and a familiar green shirt. “Are you wearing my clothes?”

Tony shrugged. “My room is currently off-limits. Do you mind that I borrowed something to wear?”

Seth was tempted to ask Tony if he was wearing his underwear too, but refrained. “It’s fine. I’ve got plenty of clothes if you ever need anything.”

“I’ll say. From the size of it, that’s not a closet. That’s another bedroom,” Tony said. He sat on the couch. “I’ve never seen so many shoes not in a shoe store. When are you ever going to wear that many shoes?” There was no mockery in Tony’s voice or on his face. He was genuinely interested and Seth liked that.

“There’s something about a good pair of shoes that I can’t resist. I’m lucky my feet stopped growing or I would have gone bankrupt from all the replacements I had to keep buying.”

Tony shook his head. “You’re a weird guy.”

“Just because I don’t wear the same pair of shoes until they fall apart.” Seth jiggled Henry David. “Your daddy has no sense of style, but you can always come to Uncle Sunfire when you’re old enough for fashion. I’ll protect you from bad taste, Henry David.” He frowned. “Are we going to keep calling him Henry David forever?”

“It is his name,” Tony said.

“Yeah, but it’s so formal for such a tiny little man. Are you sure you want to saddle him with two names forever?” Seth tickled Henry David’s stomach and earned a smile and a pair of kicking legs. “Don’t you think he’d be happier as just Henry?”

“Solar named him and you know how fussy she can be.” Tony sounded indecisive.

“Well, she’s not here, is she? And she never outright said that he was supposed to be a double name.”

“That is true,” Tony said. He grinned at the baby. “What do you think about being Henry, huh? Are you a Henry? Or maybe you want to be a David?”

Seth passed the baby over. “Don’t confuse him now. Pick a name and stick to it, otherwise you’re going to be paying for his therapy in a few years. Right, Henry?” Seth chucked him under the chin one last time before heading toward the kitchen.

He could hear Tony talking to Henry David–Henry–and smiled to himself. Tony had been vibrating with barely contained energy, ready to do violence on anyone that looked at him wrong. He was still ready to react at a moment’s notice, but there wasn’t so much seething rage.

Seth made a bottle for Henry before putting together four sandwiches. He was surprised by how natural it had become to prepare a baby bottle–measured scoops of formula, water, and shake. Check the heat with the thermometer–no wrist checks for the metahuman–release any extra air, and don’t forget a clean towel from the drawer.

He carried the plate of sandwiches and bottle into the living room. He felt as though he should feel strange, but he didn’t. He felt like taking care of Henry and Tony was the right thing to do.

“You didn’t have to do this,” Tony said, taking a sandwich off the plate when Seth held the bottle away from him.

“It’s a sandwich. Eat it.” Seth sat on the couch and took a bite of his own sandwich.

He watched Tony gobble down his sandwich in three large bites. He rolled his eyes in exasperation, but let Tony take the bottle and start feeding Henry.

“It’s kind of scary that that guy got in here, huh?”

“And no one has any idea how he got past the wards. It’s disturbing. And he’s not talking.” Tony smiled down at Henry. “Slow down, you little pig. You’re going to choke.”

Seth finished his sandwich and brushed his hands together before leaning back. “So I was thinking, have you thought about getting your own place yet?”

“What, are you guys kicking me out of the Demi Lair?” Tony asked.

“No, of course not. I was thinking, that’s all. You’re a dad now, you know? I mean, the Demi Lair is usually pretty safe, but we’ve been attacked here before and a lot of times there’s only one of us on call. I don’t like the thought of you trying to protect Henry alone if we’re invaded by someone like the Morgoth and his followers again.”

Tony winced and Seth felt a bit bad. The Morgoth had leveled the original Demi Lair and Natsumi Satsuma, one of the Doppler Effect Trio, had died. Her brother and sister had left the group and retired somewhere. Seth had heard a rumor about a family farm in Iowa.

“But where am I supposed to go?” Tony asked. “There’s rarely an open apartment in one of the secured complexes, and most don’t accept kids.”

“Well, you can say no if you hate the idea, but you know my family owns some properties, right? Well, there’s an apartment that recently opened up at The Archon Complex and I was thinking maybe you’d like to move into it with me. There’s three bedrooms and the rent is actually really reasonable for the location. It’s a little much for one person, but two people sharing the rent …” Seth shrugged.

“You wouldn’t mind sharing a place with me and Henry David?”

Seth shrugged. “Why not? Our rooms are across from each other here and I’ve never noticed much. The soundproofing at The Archon is excellent.”

“Because nearly everyone has acute superhearing.”

“Right,” Seth said. “The buildings were built to withstand the abuses of alpha level metahumans. There’s a full-sized exercise room and pool, laundry facilities as well as a washer and dryer in each rental unit.”

“You sound like an advertisement.”

“And there’s a 24-hour daycare service,” Seth offered. “They’re used to parents dropping their kids off at all hours.”

“That would be perfect. It must cost a fortune.”

Seth held his finger and thumb half an inch apart. “A small one, but we’d have the friends and family discount. Eight hundred each.”

Tony whistled. “Whoa, that’s a good deal for The Archon.” He burped Henry. “You know what, yes. You’re a great roommate who’s managed to arrange an incredible apartment. Yes, we will move in with you.”

“Hear that, Henry? You’re getting your own room.” He smiled at Tony. “I’ll arrange to get some keys and we can look the place over tomorrow morning. How about that?”

“Excellent. Now I have to figure out what I’m doing for tonight.” Tony sighed and looked toward the hallway. “My room is currently a crime scene.”

“We can go buy some baby stuff for tonight and I’ll loan you some more clothes. Your room’s supposed to be released by tomorrow. They want to be sure that guy didn’t teleport in hidden bombs or something. Who knows how long he was in there messing around.”

“At least they’ll clean up the mess. The last thing I want to deal with is mopping up a bunch of blood.”

“Ah, fun.” Seth reached out to take Henry. “Eat. You need to keep your strength up.”

Tony looked at the two sandwiches on the plate, then shrugged with a smile and picked one up. “Thank you.”

/CHAPTER

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Tuesday Night – Chapter Five [Kanon, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel, mm]

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm
WARNING: Some spoilers for “Pulse of the City

CHAPTER FIVE

Powergirl had been on the phone for most of the morning. She was ever the responsible team leader and she wasn’t going to let anything stop her from following protocol. Seth admired her tenacity as she didn’t lose her temper over the game of phone tag she was playing.

He wondered what kind of holy hell was going to end up crashing on Solar’s head.

Seth gathered up his bowl of soup and crackers and retreated to the comfort of his room. There was nothing he needed to do and he felt safer in his own room. He’d rather not be the handy target for anyone’s frustrations.

He closed the door and settled at his desk. He pushed a stack of books farther away and started eating.

The day had started off crazy and not gotten any better. Everyone was on edge because of the presence of a little baby. He felt weirded out about it too.

He sighed and leaned over to grab the TV remote. He switched on a rerun of *Centrifical*, a cheesy science fiction show that Tony loved to watch. The new season was coming up and Seth had promised to watch it with him. Which meant catching up with the storyline.

He sighed and rolled his eyes. He had it bad.

What was it about Tony that was so amazing? *Everyone* seemed to want the guy. And Seth was no exception.

The first time he met Tony, he’d known he wanted to be the guy’s friend. It had gradually become something more on his part, but with a single glimpse he’d thought: “He will be my best friend.”

And they’d been friends for years and it had never become anything else. Seth liked to pretend he was okay with it. He was a big boy. He could accept bromance without getting pathetic about wanting more.

He sipped his soup and watched the silly sci-fi show. He figured this was going to be the last time things were going to be quiet like this.

Because Solar had left them her baby. *Tony’s* alleged baby.

The idea of it blew Seth’s mind. None of them were exactly the parental type. He was a bit boggled by Solar going through the whole birth before dropping the baby off like she had.

She could have left the baby at a fire station or a hospital. Safe harbor laws would have seen the baby taken in and cared for, no questions asked. Instead she’d dumped the baby on their doorstep like some kind of dare. She had to know Tony was in no way ready for kids, yet she hadn’t given him a phone call or a letter to prepare. She’d left the baby like “Here, Tony, you figure out what to do with this tiny helpless person.”

Seth shook his head. He didn’t think Solar was ever going to make it back onto his list of favorite people. She’d burnt her bridges, then peed on the ashes to make sure.

He wondered how things were going to change for the Teen Demis. Because even if the baby was adopted out to a nice family, there was no doubt that things were going to be different for them all.

Group dynamics were shifting, and he didn’t know if it was going to be for the better.

* * *

“Results are in,” Queen Midnight announced. Tony held his breath. “Henry David is your son, results are 99.97% sure. And he does show markers for the Nor-gene mutation. I’m sorry.”

Tony looked at the baby–his *son*–and scrubbed a shaking hand over his face. “Well, so that happened.”

“Are you freaking out?” Queen Midnight asked.

“I am definitely freaking out, but also kind of not at the same time. I might be in shock, but none of this feels real to me.” He shook his head.

“Give it eighteen years,” Queen Midnight said, cleaning a tray of instruments.

Tony carefully picked up the baby, staring into his face. “Hello, Henry David. I guess I’m your daddy.”

Henry David blew a bubble and Tony gave a half-hysterical laugh. He didn’t know what was going to happen, but it looked like he had a baby to raise. He was responsible for another human life.

Part of him wanted to throw a screaming fit and hunt down Solar to have it out with her. There was a knot of fury growing in his chest. Not because she’d given birth to his baby without telling him or left said baby in the lobby like some package. But because she’d never bothered to get any testing done. She’d relegated Henry David to what very well could be an excruciating death.

The baby made a squeaking-chirp sound and Tony loosened his grip, worried that he’d hurt Henry David, but he was fine. His big brown eyes focused on Tony’s face, and when Tony smiled at him, Henry David smiled back.

Tony had read somewhere that babies were hyper-aware of the moods of people around them. Henry David must have sensed his anger, and if that was the case Tony would have to try harder to control his emotions around the baby. Which meant no thinking about Solar and no getting angry at her, at least when Henry David was in his arms.

“I don’t think I can do this,” he said. “It’s way too much.”

Queen Midnight gave him an unimpressed look. “Save your freakout for later. Henry David needs to be fed and put down for a nap.”

Almost as though he’d understood what she’d said, Henry David made a discontented sound. He kicked his small, socked feet against Tony’s chest.

Tony sighed. “Do we have supplies for him? What all did Solar leave us?”

“Not a whole lot. He’s got enough formula and diapers to *maybe* last him today,” she said.

“Guess I’m calling my aunt and telling her it’s a boy.” Not something he wanted to do, but she was the only one he knew to turn to.

Tony left the lab and returned to the common area to make up a bottle. He found Powergirl having a tense phone conversation that he didn’t want to interrupt. It looked like something important and he had enough on his plate without asking for more.

He carried the baby into the kitchen and dug around until he found the canister of formula and an empty bottle on a shelf next to the refrigerator.

“We will figure this out, yes we will,” he murmured at Henry David, so trusting and small in his arms. “There’s no reason for you to worry.” He thought he should feel ridiculous talking to a baby, but Henry David made a gurgling sound and blew a spit bubble with a big smile.

“Yeah, we’ve got this handled.”

Preparing a bottle with only one free hand was harder than he’d thought it would be. He managed to spill white powder on the counter, but by the end of it all he was able to feed Henry David and he labeled it a success.

He remembered back when his niece was a baby and helping his aunt to care for her, but Alison had been older than Henry David. He’d never seen her so tiny and completely helpless.

“You are incredibly small,” he said. He smiled at the way Henry David gulped at his bottle. “You’re a little pig though, so I guess you’ll be big soon enough.”

Watching the baby feed, he wasn’t sure what to feel. Here was this small baby completely dependent on him, and what did he do? He gave Henry David cursed genes that could see him dying young.

There was a sudden impulse to hide the baby somewhere. As though he could protect Henry David from ever reaching puberty and manifesting. All he needed was three kind fairies to hide Henry David in the woods and fate could be averted.

“You’re my kid. I’ll take care of you,” he whispered, holding the small body close.

Henry David kept sucking at the bottle, blinking his eyes at Tony. He was tiny and helpless, an entire person that fit within Tony’s hands. Anything could hurt him and the only protection he had was Tony.

“I’ll protect you. I promise.”

* * *

Seth wasn’t sure how to handle the baby situation. He couldn’t help thinking that everything was going to turn into a big mess. Because when it came down to it, Solar was made of drama, and she’d dropped the biggest bomb on them she could.

He figured she would wait until everyone bonded with Henry David and he was out of diapers. Then she’d show up and take him back in the most emotionally destructive way possible. She would try to hurt as many people as she could, and she’d succeed.

He knew he was bitter about her, but she’d always struck him as hurtful. She had a history of getting what she wanted and being completely ruthless about it. So her leaving a baby on their doorstep with a note and no apologies was a guaranteed slap across the face.

“Do you want to hold the baby?” Tony asked.

Even though it felt like it could be a mistake, Seth said “Sure” and took the baby. “He’s so light. I could accidentally drop him and not even notice.”

Tony made a face. “Please don’t drop the baby.”

“I’ll try my best,” Seth said. “Hi, little guy. So your name is Henry David, huh? It’s a little pretentious to be that guy with two names, but I guess it’s all right.” He cuddled Henry David against his chest and looked at Tony over the top of his downy head. “Do you know what you’re going to do?”

“No clue. I am not ready to be a dad, yet here he is. I’m freaking out.”

“Well, it doesn’t show too badly. You’re a little white around the eyes, but that’s it.” Henry David squirmed and gave a fussing cry. Seth wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. Little hands pushed against his chest and onesie covered legs kicked fruitlessly.

“Oh, hold him a minute,” Tony said. “I’ve gotta make his bottle. The dude’s a little pig.”

“So, he’s basically just like you?”

“Shut up.” Tony stood from the couch and went into the kitchen. Seth could see him setting the kettle on the stove and opening cupboards.

He stared into Henry David’s face. The baby went still for a moment, wide eyes focusing on his as though hypnotized. “You know what, you’re actually pretty cute.” Seth brushed a finger over one petal soft cheek.

Henry David fussed and kicked his feet, his fingers making little grabby motions. Seth stuck his finger against Henry David’s right palm, and the baby grabbed it as tight as he could. “You’re strong too. Just like you’re daddy.”

“Did you say something?” Tony came back in the room with a bottle in his hand and a towel over his arm.

Seth passed over the baby once Tony sat on the couch. “He’s got a good grip. He might have superstrength someday.”

Tony looked haunted for some reason. “Ah.” He stuck the nipple in Henry David’s mouth and the baby clamped on and started gulping loudly. “Geez, he’s really going to town. He might choke. Do you think I should take it away?”

“I don’t know.” Seth shrugged. “Make sure you burp him good and he’ll probably be okay.” After watching the baby drink for a moment, he leaned forward to reach the game console under the coffee table and started a video game.

Tony maneuvered Henry David into the crook of his arm and took his own controller for a half-hearted one handed game. “I don’t really know what I’m doing here.”

Seth stared forward at the screen. His guy was expertly clearing the room. “Who does? We’ll get some books and we have the Internet. Unless you’re thinking about giving him up?”

Out of the corner of his eye, Seth saw the way Tony tightened his grip on the baby, letting up when Henry David wriggled. “No. He’s family. My *son*. I wasn’t expecting it, but he’s here now. Besides, Solar said in her note that she would be coming back for him.”

Seth rolled his eyes. “I wouldn’t hold out for that happening any time soon.”

“Yeah.”

“We should concentrate on what’s happening right now.”

“We?” Tony asked.

“Unless you don’t want my help?”

Tony shook his head and waved his controller. “No, no. Help away, please. You will earn my eternal gratitude.”

“Whatever. As I was saying, you’re going to need a place for him to sleep, baby food, diapers, a real baby doctor, all that stuff.”

“I have the money,” Tony said. “I don’t spend much of my pay, and food and board are covered while I’m on call.” They each had a room in the Demi Lair and the food budget was handled by Powergirl and Overwatch.

“But you can’t be on call all the time anymore,” Seth said, “not if you’ve got a kid depending on you.”

“I know. I already tried calling my aunt, but she didn’t answer. I left a message.”

“You think she’d going to want to take care of a baby?”

“She’ll grumble, but I know she’ll help me out. I’m not going to ask her to raise him or anything. She’s too old to be taking on anymore kids. I think she’s enjoying her freedom.”

“I’ll bet. So you have to find a nanny or something.”

“Yeah, though I have a little while. Powergirl talked them around and I’ve been put on parental leave. I’ve got eight weeks to get everything handled.”

Seth whistled. “Whoa, that was nice of them. What are you going to do with all your spare time?”

“Lose my mind,” Tony joked. He dropped his controller and pulled the empty bottle away from Henry David. He spread the towel over his leg and lay the baby over his arm, patting his back. “At least they’re letting me stay in the Lair. I’ll be running support.” Which meant he would be the voice on the coms. Seth tried not to imagine the intimacy of Tony’s voice speaking right in his ear.

“Well, that’s good. At least you’ll still be drawing pay,” Seth said.

“Right? I was scared they were going to boot me out with a starving baby and nowhere to go.”

“Please. If it came down to it, I’d hide you two in my room and I know the others would help. Teen Demis stick together.”

Tony nudged Seth’s knee with his socked foot. “Thanks, man. You’re my best friend.”

Seth hoped he wasn’t blushing. “Yeah, well, you know.” He was happy to hear the words and finished the level alone in a rosy silence broken briefly by the sound of Henry David burping and Tony’s responding laughter.

He kept his eyes focused on the screen, a smile wanting to take over his face. It was stupid to be so happy, but there it was.

/CHAPTER

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Tuesday Night – Chapter Four [Kanon, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel, mm]

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm
WARNING: Some spoilers for “Pulse of the City

CHAPTER FOUR

Tony had taken to calling him by his real name. It should have been disconcerting, but instead Seth found himself pleased.

It was funny in retrospect, the look on Tony’s face the first time he’d called him “Seth” instead of “Sunfire.” Seth had been surprised, but he’d forced himself to pretend that it wasn’t a completely amazing, life altering event. Tony had wiped the strange expression off his face and pretended like it was completely natural for him to call Seth by his civilian. It was something he did from then on.

Seth tried to pretend that he wasn’t having inner conniptions. Tony was near pathologically set in his ways. The only member of the team he’d called by her real name was Ashley, and she’d been a childhood friend turned girlfriend. Seth was just another one of his teammates.

Even knowing it was stupid to feel honored just because Tony was willing to use his name, he really was. Though he kind of wished his heart would stop leaping into his throat every time Tony called him by name. It was stupid to start getting his hopes up again; all that would happen was that his heart would be broken.

Glancing at the clock on the wall, Seth stood from the couch and tried to escape from team movie night without anyone noticing.

He knew he’d failed when Tony immediately hit pause on the remote control. “Where are you going?” It wasn’t quite a demand–the tone was friendly for one thing–but it didn’t leave a lot of room for avoidance either.

“I’ve gotta head out for a while,” Seth said. “I have a family thing.”

Tony quirked an eyebrow. “A family thing?”

Seth looked at his teammates and didn’t want to say anything. These were the people he trusted his life to, but they weren’t exactly his friends. They were work colleagues. The only one he felt any real emotional connection to was Tony, and that whole deal was a tangled mess of misguided lust and awkwardness that he was hoping would solve itself.

Finally Seth gave in and said, “My grandmother is expecting me for a late supper.”

“Your grandmother?” Both of Tony’s eyebrows went up and did that strange mating caterpillar thing they did over the edge of his mask. “Why didn’t you say you had plans tonight?”

“It’s no big deal.” Seth shrugged. “You guys go back to watching the movie and I’ll be back later.” He met Tony’s eyes and tried to convey the thought that he would explain more in privacy.

“All right. Be careful,” Tony said.

Seth smiled in relief. At the best of times, Tony wasn’t the smartest guy on the planet, though he had a caring heart that usually made up for what he was missing in the brains department. Plus he was sexy enough to model underwear, and that earned him a lot of slack.

“I’ll see you later,” Seth said.

He zipped up his jacket and strode out through the balcony doors. He’d ditch the mask before he reached the hotel his grandmother was staying at. She didn’t approve of costumed hijinks, thought it was too low-brow.

She had firm ideals that she’d never bothered to change in ninety-six years. Never mind that she was an open metahuman with some kind of longevity metability. Nearly a centenarian, and she maybe looked to be in her early forties. It had been a hardship for him as a kid, having such a hot grandma. It had always freaked him out whenever someone said anything about how good looking she was.

She was his Nana. The idea of her being sexually appealing to anyone was more than he could bear. It was too disturbing.

Seth laughed at himself and twisted onto his back so he could look up at the night sky.

The stars were bright against the velvet dark and there was only a thin trail of clouds, vivid with the brightness of the fullmoon. It was a beautiful night, the air cool and clear. If he squinted, he imagined he could see the swirling heart of the Milky Way.

It was beautiful.

Seth smiled, basking in the light of the universe for a few minutes. Then he flew to the hotel where his Nana was staying and prepared himself for the grilling he was about to receive.

She would want to know everything that was happening in his life: his friends, his enemies, his dreams and desires. And she was entirely too perceptive, able to read every emotion on his face and tell what he was thinking.

When he’d been a kid he’d thought Nana was a mind-reader. But it was just that she knew him so well that there was nothing he could hide from her.

She was his Nana.

* * *

Tony pushed aside his curiosity about Sunfire’s secretiveness and focused on the movie. It was one he’d wanted to see for a while, but had missed in the theaters. The Doom Twins had held the city under siege for two months and most everyone he knew had been infested with brain worms. It had been a bad situation all around and he’d not had a chance to do anything non-brain worm related.

Yet he was having a hard time concentrating on the story and he didn’t know why. It was usually the kind of movie he would have enjoyed.

“Why are you so twitchy? This is a great movie,” Powergirl said. She was wearing black sweatpants and had a large bowl of buttery popcorn on her lap. She was as casual as she ever got.

Tony scrubbed a hand over his face. “Sorry. I’m way too distracted for movie night.”

She slanted him a “Whatever” glance and went back to focusing on the movie. A giant monster was ravaging a city while panicked civilians screamed and fled. There were lots of explosions and destroyed buildings. There was something poetic about the flames blazing against the backdrop of the night sky.

He stared at the monsters and wished he could get into the movie. There was something about giant robots that he’d always loved.

*What is wrong with me?* he wondered, slouching back on the couch. But he had an idea about what was going on and it made him nervous.

Sunfire was the kind of attractive that no one could deny. Golden blond hair, vivid green eyes, and pretty boy good looks that never came across as feminine. He wasn’t the usual muscle-bound hero that Tony knew himself to be. Sunfire was lean and fit and never seemed awkward in his costume.

Tony had always liked girls, and he still liked girls, but Sunfire was Sunfire. He was the kind of inescapable beautiful that no one should ever feel ashamed of admiring. So Tony didn’t.

Sometimes he checked out Sunfire and he had to admit that he liked what he saw. And it wasn’t like Sunfire was just a hot body. He was a good guy too, and a great friend to have.

Tony was glad to have someone he could hang out with at the Demi Lair. They hadn’t quite become out-of-costume friends, but they hung out a lot and Tony thought it was only a matter of time. Which made Tony curious about what Sunfire’s life was like out of costume.

*He has a grandmother. That’s something you know about him*, he thought. And that was completely pathetic considering they’d worked together for close to four years. But it wasn’t like he’d gone out of his way to open up his life to Sunfire either. They’d both held onto their secrets.

Tony was glad to have Sunfire as a friend because the guy was great. He’d been supportive after Ashley had died and Tony hadn’t known if he was going to be able to hold himself together. Sunfire hadn’t even given him much shit after his awkward team breaking fling with Solar. Sunfire had stayed at his side and gotten him through the worst of his grief and the accompanying mistakes.

He still missed Ashley and he didn’t think that was ever going to change. But he didn’t feel so much like a large chunk had been ripped out of the center him and he was bleeding out on the floor. He was going to be able to continue with the rest of his life.

And a large part of that new hope had come about because Sunfire was such a great friend. He had stuck around when Tony was in the midst of the angst and woe stage of loss. He hadn’t even complained when there’d been days worth of rage and tears.

Sunfire had given him other things to think about and gotten him through the worst of his grief. So it bothered him to realize how much he hadn’t bothered to learn about Sunfire. He’d been too self-involved, and he promised himself that things were going to be different.

Tony focused on the movie. The sequel was coming out in a couple of weeks. He figured he and Sunfire could go see it together.

* * *

As usual, Seth left his Nana’s presence feeling rung dry. She’d read so deep into him that he’d felt stripped naked to her eyes.

He stopped at the convenience store down the street from the Demi Lair and ignored the gaping clerk as he picked out a red Gatorade. The woman had to be new.

He paid for his drink and left, the door making a cheerful “bing-bong” sound. He cracked the lid on his Gatorade and drank while he walked along the quiet nighttime streets to headquarters. He scuffed his feet and tipped his head back to look at the sky.

Everyone knew the building the Teen Demis worked out of, and it was one of the most law abiding areas of the city. Having a national level supergroup in the neighborhood kept the trouble down to a minimum.

He finished his Gatorade and dropped the bottle in the recycle bin before using his keycard to unlock the door and going inside. The lobby was dimly lit. The big front desk looked strange without the usual bowl of hard candies and stack of handouts, but they were always put away at night.

He rubbed the back of his neck and trudged toward the wide metal elevator. He pushed the button and set about waiting.

“Muh.”

Seth turned, his hackles rising. That had been a strange sound. And when he concentrated, he thought he heard something moving, breathing in the shadowed room.

“Is someone there?” he asked, while keeping his back to the wall as he did a slow circuit, his eyes peeled for anything suspicious.

There was a muffled snuffling sound and he zeroed in on the area behind the desk. He gave it a wide berth, not wanting to fight in close quarters, and came around to the backside of it.

There was the fuzzy gold of a forcefield in a large box shape. Inside was a mostly white car seat with yellow ducks printed on the fabric cover. And strapped in the car seat was a baby wearing a navy blue onesie and a yellow knit cap.

Seth stood there for a long moment, unsure about what he was supposed to do.

The baby seemed to be sleeping, dark eyelashes a fringe against chubby cheeks. It stirred every once and awhile, body shifting and small sounds escaping as it tried to get comfortable, though it never woke. Drool shone down its chin to dampen the collar of its onesie. There was a green stuffed turtle tucked against the baby’s right arm, a tiny pale hand clenched on a flipper leg.

He noted the blue diaper bag behind the car seat and felt his stomach sink. Someone had abandoned a baby in the Demi Lair. Someone that had access to forcefield technology. The whole situation screamed “Danger!”

Seth approached the forcefield with care, ready to leap away if a trap went off. It wasn’t the first time that a child had been used as bait to take down a superhero. The baby only looked to be a few months old and he didn’t know what kind of person would use someone so tiny as bait.

The forcefield controller was on the floor practically under the wheels of a desk chair. He didn’t try to pick it up, just examined it closely for clues. Finally he brushed a finger across the blank screen, which obliged him by lighting up.

INPUT TD ID CODE

“TD” had to be Teen Demi. He tapped the team code into the numerical pad that appeared and there was a musical tone before the forcefield shut off with a snap.

“Well, that’s weird,” he muttered to himself.

He slowly approached the car seat and crouched down to try to peer under it. He didn’t see any pressure sensors or anything and he finally decided there wasn’t a bomb under the baby.

Seth picked up the car seat by the handle and noticed a white envelope underneath. He scooped up the envelope and carried the car seat toward the elevator, careful not to jostle it too much. The baby didn’t stir as they rode the elevator up to the top floor.

“Someone left us a little gift,” he announced as he stepped out.

“That’s a baby,” Powergirl said. She sat up from her languid sprawl on the couch. She barely managed to catch the bowl of popcorn that had been balanced on her chest and set it on the coffee table. “Where did you get a baby?”

“In the lobby inside a biolocked forcefield.” He held up the envelope. “Who wants the honor of reading the included note?”
Powergirl snatched it from his fingers. “I will.”

“Good.” Seth carried the car seat over to the dining table and set it down. He looked at the sleeping baby. “Maybe there’s something wrong with this kid. There’s been a lot of sleeping happening.”

Queen Midnight came over. Shadows licked strangely around her feet where they stuck out of her purple leopard print pajamas. “I’m not a pediatrician, but I can take a quick look.”

She was only a little uncertain as she unstrapped the baby and picked it up. Her shadows flowed up onto the table and wrapped around the car seat and moved it to the floor. Other shadows snatched the afghan off the back of one of the couches and smoothed it across the table for her to lay the baby on. The snaps of the onesie releasing were loud as she checked the baby over–a boy, Seth noted with a sideways glance.

Powergirl spat out a low curse and Seth looked at her. She glared at Tony. “Really, is this why the twins left?”

Tony gave her a baffled look. “What?”

“Were you banging Solar?” At Tony’s expression, she shook her head and began reading the note: “‘Dear Teen Demis. This is my baby. I’ve named him Henry David. His father is Teen Steel, who I think should take some responsibility for what he did. I’ll be back for Henry David later, but right now I’m with a new group and there’s no way I can take care of a baby and do my job at the same time. So make sure Teen Steel treats Henry David right, and thank you for caring about my baby. Sincerely, Solar.'”

Tony pointed, his mouth opening in a little ‘o’ of shock. “That’s my baby?”

“So she says,” Powergirl said. “DNA will prove one way or another. I just can’t believe she would abandon her baby like that. I mean, what the hell? Why wouldn’t she talk to one of us or something when she dropped him off?”

Seth piped up, “The baby was in a biolocked forcefield. If I hadn’t decided to come through the lobby, no one would have found the baby until morning. I am appalled that she could leave a baby like that.”

“She wanted to make sure it was one of us that found him,” Queen Midnight said. “This little guy seems fine, by the way. Though I am sad to say she drugged him to keep him quiet.” She held up a fold-creased piece of looseleaf paper. “She left a note saying what she used and instructing us to let him sleep it off.”

“She drugged a baby?” Tony raked a hand through his hair, his expression troubled. “But he’s so small.”

“It’s definitely not something that I’d recommend doing,” Queen Midnight said. She focused on getting the baby back into his clothes. There was something disturbing about the limp body being manhandled, no matter how careful she was.

Powergirl crossed her arms with a glare. “I’m still reeling at the information that Teen Steel slept with Solar, ran her out of the group, *and* got her pregnant. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it all, but I’m leaning towards pissed off.”

“I didn’t run her or Pulsar off,” Tony said. “We had sex once and it was a mistake. She never told me she was pregnant. I had no idea about *him*.”

“Well, he’s here now and what’s done is done,” Seth said, trying to head off a fight. He didn’t want to listen to Tony try to defend himself. “What’s the protocol for a member of the group having a baby?”

“It’s not something the group’s ever had to deal with,” Powergirl said. “It could be a PR nightmare. We’re a supposedly wholesome imaged supergroup. Babies are definitely not on the agenda. I’m going to have to report this to Overwatch.”

“Maybe you should wait until tomorrow to do that,” Seth suggested. “It’s nearly one in the morning now.”

Powergirl glanced at the wall clock. “You’re right. I’ll notify them first thing in the morning and they’ll contact Solar.” She pointed at Tony. “You don’t try to reach her at all.”

“But …”

She made a cutting gesture with her hand. “There are no buts. Overwatch will facilitate all communications. We don’t need you to get into a beef with Teen Demis West, because you better believe Solar will come out shiny clean. Don’t put us in that position. Follow ex-spouse protocols until you’re told otherwise. Understood?”

Tony looked reluctant, but he said, “I understand.”

Seth waved his hand. “So does this mean we have a baby in the Demi Lair?”

“Yeah,” Powergirl said.

“Well, this ought to be interesting,” Seth said. “And horrifying.”

He glanced at Tony, who was staring across the room at the baby and didn’t seem ready to get any closer. He had an expression on his face like he thought the baby would explode at any moment. It was funny and sad at the same time.

Seth didn’t know what Solar had been thinking to spring something like this on them all. A “Hey, I’m totally pregnant” greeting card would have been worth the money to send.

“But we’ll get through it,” he said.

Powergirl held up her fist. “Teen Demis stick together.”

“I left the forcefield generator and the baby’s diaper bag downstairs if you want to check them out,” he said.

“On it. Besides, we’re gonna want to figure out the diaper situation as soon as possible,” Queen Midnight said. She left, escaping the tension of the room.

Seth wished he could go with her. He stayed quiet instead. He sat at the table where he could stare at the baby and watch the way Tony slowly drifted across the room to stand in front of the car seat with a stupefied expression on his face.

The baby–Henry David–made a snuffling noise and turned his head in the other direction. Seth didn’t think, just pulled a napkin out of the dispenser and held it out to Tony, who took it and didn’t seem to know what to do for a moment. Then he tentatively patted at the drool coating the baby’s chin. He seemed to gain confidence when the baby didn’t shatter.

Seth had to admit the baby was cute, but it–he–was a baby. They were a team of superheroes, and now they’d been given a baby.

*This is going to be a complete disaster*, he thought.

* * *

He was a father. The idea of it boggled the mind.

Tony was keeping Henry David company while Queen Midnight gave the baby a complete physical. She’d turned the heat up in the med lab and Henry David was only wearing a diaper. He kicked his feet in the car seat, his hand clenched around a ring of toy plastic keys that had come out of the diaper bag.

“He’s small,” Tony observed.

Queen Midnight laughed. “He’s only four months old. He hasn’t even seen his first winter yet.”

Tony stared at the baby. The night of frenetic panicking had relieved some of the wilder emotions, but now he was in a state of shock. He kept looking at the baby, his eyes tracing over those chubby cheeks, the full-lips, and dark brown eyes.

He couldn’t tell if the baby looked like him or not, but it didn’t matter. Solar had had a baby. A baby she said was his.

He’d already caught Powergirl slanting him curious glances at breakfast. She hadn’t said anything, but she hadn’t had to.

There was a four month old baby in the Demi Lair. It was only a matter of time until word got out and the speculation started. Everyone was going to know that he’d slept with Solar and she’d gotten pregnant. Even if Henry David wasn’t his, the idea would already be out there.

He was going to lose some endorsements. His reputation was going to take a hit with parent groups. Everyone in the superhero community was going to know he’d slept with a teammate and ran her out of the group.

Tony was a realist, and as the idea unfolded in his mind, he could visualize how the situation might play out.

Solar would put on one of her cutesy girl outfits and knock about ten years off her apparent age. She’d blink her large gray eyes and the world would bow down before her long curling lashes. And if she decided to point the finger at him, Tony would take all the blame.

Because she was pretty, perky, and charming, while he was big and strong and looked older. Never mind that he was nineteen and she was twenty-two. Solar was the media darling, voted Cutest Cape three years running.

Tony looked at Henry David and couldn’t help feeling as if his whole life was over. His kid or not, the baby would cause his life to change forever.

“When will we get the paternity results?” he asked.

Queen Midnight washed her hands in the metal sink. “Another hour or two. I had to send out to Lucifer Labs.”

Tony felt a jolt. “Will they know it’s me?”

“I sent them as anonymous results and requested a full genetic screening at the same time.”

Tony hadn’t even thought of that. “Oh, thanks.”

If Henry David was his kid, there was a chance he could have an active Nor-gene mutation in the future. Tony’s older sister had manifested at twelve–the ability to fly, and a deadly inversion of all flesh on or in her body. She’d died horribly and Tony had been desperately afraid the same could happen to him. He remembered the way his mother had wept when they’d received the results saying he was *only* a carrier of the gene. It had felt like a death sentence had been lifted.

But if Henry David was his son …

“God, I hope he’s clean.”

“It’s a one-in-four chance. You should prepare yourself for the possibility. And even if he’s got it, he could manifest a benign mutation. I knew a girl with dragonfly wings once. She said her biggest problem was tailoring a winter coat to fit.”

“Or he could die screaming as his body tears itself apart.” Tony rubbed a hand over his face, not wanting to see Henry David’s sweet innocence.

If Solar had called about the pregnancy, he would have told her he was a carrier. They could have tested Henry David in the womb and gotten him some gene-therapies that were only possible in utero.

As it was, if Henry David had the Nor-gene mutation the best thing to hope for was that he never manifested as a metahuman. The gene was directly tied to metability. No manifestation of metabilities, no fatal physical mutation.

It hurt to think about hearing those horrific, agonized screams again. To catch a peek through a door and see the blood and mangled flesh and have Mommy sit him down to say Sissy wasn’t ever coming back. Sissy was *dead*.

Tony didn’t realize he was crying until he noticed his hand was wet. It was strange.

He barely remembered her, yet his sister had left an indelible mark on his psyche. She’d been the reason he’d decided to never have kids, not without some serious gene scanning.

Yet here was a baby with his dark eyes and hair and all he could do was hope it wasn’t his. Because how could he condemn such a tiny person to such a horrible possibility?

“A one-in-four chance,” he said. “One-in-four.”

/CHAPTER

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Tuesday Night – Chapter Three [Kanon, superhero, Sunfire/Teen Steel, mm]

Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Kanon-verse
Genre: superhero, mm
WARNING: Some spoilers for “Pulse of the City

CHAPTER THREE

“What?” Tony asked dumbly.

Powergirl’s eyes were like gimlets. “For some reason Solar decided she wanted to switch to Teen Demis West Coast. Pulsar, of course, is going along with her. For some reason I feel like we’re losing two of our members because of something *you* did.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Tony said. He imagined he could feel a trail of sweat working its way down the side of his neck. He was definitely the focus of her evil eye and he figured at any moment Powergirl would start sucking the meat from his bones. It was a daunting prospect.

If there was something she’d definitely fly off the handle about, it was the idea of someone screwing up the team dynamic. She took her role as team leader *very* seriously.

Tony had a feeling that when the whole story came out he was going to get his ass kicked. He figured he should enjoy the anonymity as long as it lasted. He would be hating life soon enough.

“So, they’re both leaving the group?” he asked. “Won’t that leave us short handed?”

Powergirl gave a sudden, tired shrug. “The only good thing is that this is happening in the off season. We’ll be able to start recruiting some new members and get some people trained up before the season starts.” She reached forward to grab the bowl of chips Tony had left on the table. She slouched on the couch and cradled the bowl in her arms as she began to snack.

It was a rather incongruous picture she presented: young demigod in her uniform of leather skirt and chest armor. The bowl was green plastic, the chips the bright orange of their cheddar cheese and sour cream flavoring. A figure representing the hope of a generation, chomping on chips and letting her relative youth shine for once.

Sometimes Tony worried that Powergirl would suffer a heart attack due to all the pressure she put on herself to be perfect.

They maybe didn’t hang out in their time off, but Tony still saw Powergirl as a friend. He didn’t like the idea of her driving herself too far. It didn’t seem worth it.

“It’s gonna be all right,” he said. “Take it from me, Sunfire and I will both help you in whatever. You don’t need to think you have to handle everything alone.”

She slumped back on the couch. She’d stolen his spot, but he let her have it and perched on an armchair instead. She was not wearing a face he wanted to argue with.

“Why me?” she asked. “I’m pretty sure previous team leaders never had it so hard. I bet they got to have actual days off and could sleep at night without being woken up at all hours.”

“Are you regretting volunteering for the job?” Tony asked.

“I should have known better,” she said. “When you–a Legacy–practically ran screaming from the job, I should have known it wasn’t gonna be all cake and pie.”

“Nope, it’s also some serious shit,” Tony laughed.

“Thank you,” Powergirl said. “Thank you for making me feel like even more of a jerk for taking the leadership job. Did you know I gave up going to college for this superhero gig?”

Tony winced. “I’m sorry.”

Powergirl–Danica Strong–shrugged like it didn’t matter. “What are you sorry for? I mean, this is something I’ve wanted my whole life. It’s a little more work than I thought it would be as a child. Still, *I* think it’s worth it.”

Tony eyed her for a moment. “Are you trying to make me feel even worse? Is this some super sly guilt trip thing?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Tony shook his head. “Never mind,” he said. “So we’re opening up positions on the team. That’ll be fun times for all, am I right?”

She grimaced. “You would be wrong. If there’s one thing I hate about an open recruitment, it’s that all the crazies come out of the woodwork. Every single one of them looking for their chance to be annoying. It gets on my nerves.”

“Wow, have you thought about poster work?” he asked. He made a frame with his hands. “I can picture it now: *Powergirl says, ‘Get a life, you wannabe losers*.’ It’s a million dollar idea.”

She rolled her eyes at him. “You’re kind of embarrassing to be around.”

“But you know you love me!” He waggled his eyebrows until she laughed, throwing a chip at him. He caught it with adroit skill and stuck it in his mouth. “Thanks!”

She waved a hand at him. “Whatever. Go do whatever it is you do when you’re not playing video games.”

He clutched a hand to his chest. “But Dani, it’s the middle of the day! Aren’t you worried I’m going to end up with horribly hairy palms?”

Powergirl made a disgusted face. “Oh gross, TMI, way too much, for reals.”

He laughed and stood up, shuffling toward the elevator door and the freedom of *outside*. “Well, if you don’t need me…” He flashed her a bright smile. “I’ll see you later then!”

He slapped his hand on the button, then darted into the elevator as soon as it opened. There was no way he wanted to linger and give her a real chance to bust him. That way lay madness and a boring lecture.

When he was finally standing outside the building, he had to wonder where he was going to go. All he’d thought about was *escape*, there’d been no destination in mind.

Tony shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and wandered down the street, his shoulders slumped. He hated when his screw ups came with consequences attached.

He didn’t want Solar or Pulsar to quit the group. If he could have, he would have gone back in time and slapped himself for being an idiot jerk. Though knowing his luck, the paradox of having two of him in the same space and time would immediately end the universe.

*Life is hard*, he thought. Then he had to grimace when he realized he was feeling sorry for himself once again. It seemed like every time he lost focus, he fell into an invisible pit of despair. And since he didn’t want to be *that* guy, when he caught himself he would feel like a jerk.

Once again he had to admit that Sunfire was right when he called him a doom and gloomer. He spent too much of his life being unhappy.

*I wonder where Sunfire is*, he thought.

The other superhero had left the Demi Lair early in the morning and hadn’t answered any of Tony’s text messages. It was aggravating as Tony was wandering around with nothing to do.

*You use the guy a lot*, he thought. And it was true that he always seemed to go to Sunfire for help in solving his problems. It was just that the guy was always there for him and never complained or acted like he was too busy.

It seemed natural for Tony to take advantage of that willingness to help. But when he thought about it, he felt like a jerk.

Tony felt new resolve fill him and walked with more confidence as he came up with an idea of where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do.

Sunfire was always helping him out and never asked for anything in return. So he figured he might as well get the guy a gift to show that he appreciated the fact that he was always there. He didn’t want Sunfire to ever feel taken advantage of, not when he meant so much to Tony.

There had been a time in Tony’s life where he’d had so many people he called friend that he hadn’t known what to do with them all. Then he’d discovered the meaning of “fair weather friend” and received a good dose of bitter reality.

Sunfire had become one of his best friends. It wasn’t something he’d expected when he’d joined the group and met the handsome superhero for the first time. From his looks and rather extravagant way of acting, Tony had been sure that Sunfire was going to be an arrogant narcissist. Instead, Sunfire was one of the most down-to-earth, generous superheroes Tony had ever met.

The unflinching support Sunfire had given him after Ashley’s death made Tony appreciate his friendship more. The sometimes acerbic wit was a bonus as far as he was concerned.

Filled with purpose, he strode down the sidewalk toward a store he’d walked past, but never entered. High fashion wasn’t his thing, he was more a jeans and tee shirt kind of guy when it came to the clothes he wore outside his uniform. But he knew that Sunfire appreciated expensive clothes.

Pushing open the door, he had to use his heroic bravery to get himself to step inside. This definitely wasn’t his kind of place, he could tell just by the music playing.

“Can I help you find anything?” the salesman asked, appearing at his elbow while he wandered amongst the shirts. He looked like he worked out a bit, enough to keep himself fit and toned so his tee shirt could stretch skintight across his chest. Tony had to fight to keep from looking at the guy’s nipples.

“Uh, yeah, I guess,” he muttered, then cleared his throat. “I’m looking for a gift for a friend. Maybe a nice sweater or something.”

“All right. Well we have some nice cashmere stuff over here.” The guy tugged on Tony’s arm, pulling him toward a middle display.

Tony wasn’t sure about the casual contact. Some stranger touching him without permission seemed like something he shouldn’t put up with. But the salesman had done it so naturally that he thought he might come across like a total jerk if he objected.

“What color are your friend’s eyes?” the salesman asked, already beginning to sort through a pile of bright crew-necked sweaters.

“Green,” Tony said, watching him bemusedly. He’d never had someone take over his life so casually before.

“Well, these are what we have–the ones I like the best anyway.” The man held out three sweaters.

Tony brushed his fingers across one and found it to be so soft his fingers tingled. “Wow, these are nice.” He took the one he thought most resembled the hue of Sunfire’s eyes.

“I think I’m gonna take this one.” He looked around. “And do you have cologne? He said something about running out of the stuff he normally uses.”

“Of course.” The salesman tucked the discarded shirts back on the shelf, then led Tony across the store to a glass display cabinet.

Looking at all those little bottles and boxes trapped behind glass, Tony felt a bit out of his element. He was happy to let the salesman steer his choices.

Soon he found himself standing in front of the trendy boutique, blinking in the sunlight with the handle of a bag clenched in his fist. He felt a bit as though he’d been spit out by a whirlwind.

He’d gotten the sweater and cologne for Sunfire. He’d also been talked into a pair of expensive jeans and a couple of tee shirts for himself. He wasn’t quite sure how it had even happened.

Tony shook his head. Either that sales guy had the most subversive metability he’d ever come across, or Tony was more of a sucker than he’d realized.

He started walking back toward the Demi Lair, his wallet much poorer than when he’d started the day. He hoped Sunfire liked what he’d bought him or he’d feel like even more or a tool.

* * *

There was definitely a weird vibe in the air. It made him kind of glad that Tony had used his day off to go out. There was the sense that everything was about to blow up.

“What the hell is going on?” Queen Midnight whispered, her eyes flicking around.

“No clue,” Seth answered.

She sighed and leaned against the wall next to him. Whatever was going on, they’d both taken the opportunity to duck out of the line of fire.

Powergirl looked pissed as she stomped around. She paused every once and a while to shoot a glare at Solar, who was busy bossing Pulsar around.

The twins looked like they were packing up everything they owned. Though no one had even said why.

He glanced at Queen Midnight out of the corner of his eye. He wondered if she’d even noticed the tension that had filled the place ever since Tony hadn’t been able to keep it in his pants around Solar. She always came across as happily oblivious, but he knew a lot more went on behind her heavily kohled eyes than she bothered to show.

Looking at Solar, he couldn’t help the resentment he felt. She was tiny and pretty and she always had one eye turned toward Tony. And she’d gotten him too, even if it was only for one night.

There was no way Seth was going to say that Tony was completely innocent. He’d definitely known what he was doing when he had sex with her. But the way she was playing it off to her brother…

Seth narrowed his eyes. She was folding a bunch of towels while Pulsar hefted large boxes out of their rooms and stacked them on the floor next to the elevator.

“So, where the hell are they going?” Queen Midnight asked.

Seth shrugged. “I have no idea. We’re obviously not important members of the group if they don’t feel the need to tell us what’s going on.”

She snorted, her silver bracelets jangling as she rubbed the tip of her nose with the back of her hand. “So I guess they’re leaving the group permanently. I wonder who we’re gonna get to replace them.”

“We’ll find out a week after we get our new members. And it’s not like I’m bitter about that or anything.”

“Heh, you sound pretty bitter,” she said. “Are we supposed to be helping these guys pack up or anything?”

“No way,” Seth scoffed. “If they can’t bother to let us know they’re leaving, then we don’t have to help them with their shit.”

Pulsar paused in carrying an overlarge box to give him a rather nasty look, but Seth didn’t care. He was tired of all the crap and was to the point where he could vaporize the jerk twins without a single regret.

He’d spent the bulk of his life trying to be the nice guy, and he honestly was very laid-back, but he was quickly reaching his breaking point. Mostly because everyone kept trying to drag him into the middle of their drama whether he wanted to be involved or not.

He didn’t know how it had happened, but at some point he’d stopped thinking of his teammates as friends or even people he wanted to make a good impression on. The only one he really cared about was Tony, and that was because he had the hots for him.

Seth glanced at Queen Midnight. Outside of the goth clothes and the freaky supernatural powers she was usually a rather normal girl. She did have a tendency to fall into depressive moods. For months at a time she would wallow in angst and woe as she brooded about the possibility of ending up in hell when she died. It was part and parcel with the whole “sold half her soul for superpowers” deal she had going. Hers was a sad story, and he really *did* sympathize with her, but she could become a downer to be around for too long.

Still, even at her most depressed and gloomy, he’d feel worse about Queen Midnight leaving than he was about the twins. They were just coworkers, not any kind of friend. Sure, they’d stopped some crime together and been rewarded, but it was all part of the job. The nearest they’d ever come to hanging out was when he’d done that rather slick spread with the two of them for Super People Magazine. They’d barely had any contact otherwise, and team meals didn’t count.

When it came down to it, the twins were rarely a blip on his radar. They were his teammates, not his friends. When the job was done for the day he told them goodnight and that was that.

Seth crossed his arms and watched what was happening around him.

“I wonder where they’re going to go,” Queen Midnight mused. She’d pulled a blade out from somewhere and was using the sharp point to clean under her nails.

“I don’t care.” Seth watched Solar pick up a small box and carry it for herself into the elevator. Her long blond hair had been pulled back into two side-by-side ponytails and she wore a green tee shirt and dark wash denim shorts. Her legs were long and bare and there wasn’t a single hint of a sock creeping out of her black sneakers.

She was pretty and perky and it was a battle to keep from clawing her eyes out. Every time he saw her, all he could think about was Tony wrapped up in her arms, pressing his lips against hers as he slipped between her legs.

He couldn’t say that he wasn’t jealous when the sight of her made him want to push her out the door. Her presence put him on edge, and he wasn’t that upset about her leaving the team.

Seth sighed and pushed away from the wall to head into the kitchen. He pulled open the fridge and grabbed a package of lunch meat, a package of cheese, a bag of spinach, a plump tomato, and the squeeze bottle of mayonnaise.

“Do you want a sandwich?” he asked Queen Midnight, popping open the lid of the mayonnaise before grabbing up a sharp knife. She looked completely lost as she watched the twins packing up their stuff.

She blinked at him, her eyes flicking down to the tomato he was slicing. She shook herself. “A sandwich, sure. That would be nice.”

He offered her a smile that she hesitantly returned. There was a shine to her eyes that had him thinking that maybe he should spend more time with her as a friend. She wasn’t his favorite person, but she was a teammate, someone he depended on to keep him alive when he went out to fight the baddies. And it wasn’t like she was terrible to be around or anything.

“All right, that’s everything,” Pulsar announced, standing in the middle of the room. He was wearing a tight orange tee shirt and dark washed jeans. Even with his mask half covering his face he managed to look like a douchebag. It was one of the few things Seth liked about Pulsar. He was honest to a fault, never hiding the fact that he wasn’t a nice guy.

“If you contact the usual cleaning place, we’ll pay the bill. I’ve left our keys in the bowl there. Hold onto any mail that comes in and I’ll send for it later.” Pulsar was matter of fact. He was treating them as though they were strangers.

Seth grit his teeth and finished assembling the sandwich he was making before starting the next. “Hand me a plate,” he told Queen Midnight.

She bit her lip a second, then hurried to the cupboard behind him. She seemed shocked by Pulsar’s behavior.

Seth could have told her that Pulsar was a jerk. He was so wrapped up in his sister that there wasn’t room for anyone else in his world. There was a more than good chance that he’d never had a date in his life.

Solar wanted to leave, so that’s what the twins would do. And as easy as that, Pulsar went from trusted teammate, to just another costumed hero they might work with someday in the future.

Seth made a mental note to have all the locks and codes changed. He didn’t trust anyone.

He gave Queen Midnight a small smile when she set two plates down in front of the cutting board. He plopped a sandwich on one plate and pushed it toward her with his finger.

“Thank you,” she whispered, taking her plate and backing up until she could lean against the counter behind him. She was trying hard not to look at Pulsar, her face kept studiously downturned as she took small bites.

“Well, don’t you have something to say, Sunfire? You always have an opinion on everything.”

Dropping his sandwich on his plate, Seth pushed up his sleeves and went to wash his hands at the sink. He squeezed the thick, orange smelling soap into his palms and rubbed them together before rinsing them under the hottest water the faucet could produce. He wiped his hands off on the kitchen towel, then turned and calmly faced Pulsar. “I don’t know what you expect me to say. We were comrades and now we’re not. Good luck in all your future endeavors.”

Pulsar snorted. “I always knew you were a class act.” He shook his head and announced to the rest of the room, “We’re leaving.”

“Don’t be so rude, Nate,” Solar said, stepping out of the elevator. “We’re really sorry to be leaving like this.” She smiled, showing off her pearly white teeth. She’d always gotten what she wanted and would do whatever to keep the status quo.

“I know it leaves you all in the lurch, but we felt like it’s time for us to move on. We’ll really miss you though.” She held her hand out to Pulsar, her bangle bracelets clinking together. “Let’s go. We have a long drive ahead of us. Goodbye!”

With that, they were gone. If the elevator could have slammed, the sound would have been a loud one.

“Can you believe those guys? Really!” Powergirl flung up her hands and stalked toward her room. There was the sound of her door slamming.

“Well, that went well,” Seth said, taking a big bite out of his sandwich.

* * *

There was a weird vibe in the air when he got back to the Demi Lair. It set Tony’s skin creeping and he was immediately on high alert, his powers activating. He felt better with his invulnerability wrapped close around him.

“What’s going on?” he asked, carrying the shopping bags to the L-shaped couches.

Sunfire was sitting on his recliner playing a video game on the big screen. He didn’t even look at Tony. “The twins left.”

“Where to?” Tony asked, flopping down next to the bags and propping his feet on the coffee table. He didn’t want to think about Solar, not when he was full of so many regrets over what they’d done. He’d never been that fond of playing the bad guy, especially when he felt as though he’d done wrong.

“They’re leaving the group.” Sunfire focused on his game. The controller clacked under his fingers while on screen characters died amongst the explosions. “I called to arrange for the locks to be changed and for the cleaning service to come through. I figure we should have the whole place cleaned while we’re at it. It’s more cost-effective.”

Tony groaned and covered his face with his hands. “Why does this keep getting worse and worse?”

“Is this a bro-moment?” Sunfire asked, tossing a plasma grenade. “Am I supposed to be all supportive and ‘Dude, bitch is crazy’ just because you weren’t smart enough not to screw a teammate? Yeah, that’s not happening. You done wrong *bro*.”

“Wow,” Tony said, “you know how to make me feel like a piece of crap.”

“The crappier you feel now,” Sunfire said, “the less likely I’ll catch you sexing up our last two female members. I don’t want to have to beat you up. That’d be lame.”

“I don’t think I’d enjoy it that much either,” Tony said.

Sunfire had always been the closest to him in the Teen Demis after Ashley. Now that she was gone–*dead*–Sunfire was the only real friend Tony had in the group. He didn’t know what he would do if Sunfire turned from him.

“God, you’re such a dick.” Tony thumped his fists against his forehead, then leaned forward to grab the red game controller from under the table. He activated it and chose his usual guy.

“Did I say I wanted to play with you?” Sunfire asked.

“Shut up and let’s play,” Tony growled, lobbing some grenades of his own.

Sunfire sighed, but went back to playing.

They fell into a companionable silence, the only sound the game. For a little while, even if everything wasn’t all right, it was bearable. And that was good enough.

*
By the time the city had grown dark outside, they’d managed to amass a large collection of empty Thunder Bolt energy drink cans. Tony lifted his head and experienced a long moment of disconnect. When he glanced at the clock, he was surprised to find that they had been playing for close to three hours.

“Holy crap.” He rubbed his hand over his face. “I’m going to take a piss, then order the world’s biggest pizza. I’m starving.”

“Yeah, food sounds good,” Sunfire said, straightening his long legs out and pointing his toes. “And pizza with you seems like the best thing ever.”

“Nice.” Tony ran off to the bathroom.

He still felt bad about Solar and Pulsar leaving the Teen Demis, but there wasn’t anything he could do about. The twins had already left and there was no forwarding address for them. So he would go on with his life and he would never make that same mistake again.

Having sex with a coworker was messy. Especially when one person got totally butthurt that things didn’t work out.

It had taken him a long time, but he knew now that Solar–Carrie–was in love with him. And knowing or not, he’d taken advantage of her for his own selfish desires. He’d hurt her doing it too, and that made him an asshole.

So it was good that she was gone. He wouldn’t constantly be hurting her with his presence and she would be able to get a fresh start. It wasn’t like there’s been much holding the twins in the area. And once they’d been in the Teen Demis, they could hire on to any supergroup they wanted or go solo.

The twins had made a smart choice for *them*. And he would have to deal with the guilt he felt at running them off.

Thus began his closer than usual friendship with Sunfire.

/CHAPTER

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