Layla Williams never intended to become a supervillain.
Ok, scratch that. Layla Williams never intended to become a traditional supervillain. The cackling wannabe fascist dictator thing? Totally not her cup of kombucha. Laying waste to a city, burning an entire state, stealing the world’s supply of paper towels? Layla doesn’t have aspirations that lean in that direction.
Layla’s more of what the cops label an “eco terrorist.” When people log illegally, she destroys their equipment. When corporations dump poison into the water system, she reroutes the pipes to dump proof of their crimes on their doorsteps. When Monsanto muscles in on local farmers, she withers the fields and drives Monsanto out of business.
She wears a mask to do it though, and has minions in themed uniformed, and issues manifestos festooned with a lot of exclamation points. So they send capes after her, instead of cops.
She doesn’t have a dedicated nemesis, not yet. She’s still young, and getting her start. They do the dance of facing off, yelling at each other a bit, giving a good show to the hovering cameras, and then fight it out. Layla escapes and the hero gives an interview about the importance of due process, and that’s it until the next crisis.
It’s a bit awkward the first time they send Will after her. Not that the government knows her true identity, of course. If they knew, she’d be in jail, capes or no capes. The secret identity is vital.
Layla goes through the usual song and dance routine, but seeing Will throws her off her game a bit. Later, when she watches the newsreel footage, she notices all the mistakes, the missteps, the stumbling over her words. If she’s not careful, they’ll notice too, and keep sending Will after her. She’d rather not have her boyfriend as a nemesis, that’d be entirely too much time together, at home and at work.
Will gets home late, the debriefing and interviews having taken a while. Layla’s already in her pajamas on the couch, cuddling with Warren and watching Netflix, when Will arrives.
“Hi …” Will says, still at the door. He hesitates, like this isn’t his home too, like he hasn’t been living here for the past three years with Layla and Warren.
“Hey,” Layla smiles. “There’s some pizza in the oven. Should still be warm.”
Will fetches it and hovers by the couch.
“Is something wrong?” Layla asks.
“No! Nothing’s wrong …” Will sits down, beside Warren, and eats the pizza.
Warren nudges him. “You’re all tense, Stronghold, what’s up?”
“I’m not tense!” Will snaps. The plate in his hands cracks in half.
Warren and Layla look at the plate.
Will storms off to his room.
“What’s eating him?” Warren asks.
“I don’t know.” Layla snuggles closer to Warren and tries to relax.
They send a woman after her next, with ice powers. Layla vaguely remembers her from Sky High, a year or two older than her.
Next is Warren. He doesn’t play to the cameras much at all, and when she watches his interviews later he’s terse and monosyllabic. Even theater classes at Sky High never made Warren into the kind of showman a cape needs to be for the cameras. Some idiot reporter makes the mistake of bringing up Warren’s dad, to which Warren responds “This interview is over” and leaves the podium.
Layla locks up her secret lair and heads home, dreading the fallout.
Layla walks in on a fight, though thankfully not one with powers. Will and Warren are shouting at each other, but she can’t make out the words, and they stop as soon as she comes through the door.
“What’s up, guys?” she asks, hanging up her jacket and kicking off her shoes.
“Nothing.” They say it almost in unison.
Layla frowns. “Fine, if you don’t want to talk about it, I don’t wanna be around you two tonight.” She grabs a plate of leftovers. “I had an excellent day!” she snaps, before slamming her bedroom door behind herself.
The bed feels very empty. It’s rare that at least one of them isn’t sleeping beside Layla at night. It’s why they bought such a big bed in the first place. The boys have separate rooms, but rarely use them for sleeping, more for storage and alone time when the apartment starts to feel a bit cramped.
Layla tosses and turns for a long time before sleep finally takes her. The beginnings of a plan start to form in her mind.
Layla changes the script. When they send Will after her again, she takes him captive. She demands they send Warren next, and when he arrives, she takes him too. She ties them up with living vines and sends her minions away, warning them to stay out of the room until she sends for them.
Once the minions have fled, Layla removes her mask.
“Layla, we know –” Warren starts, but Layla cuts him off.
“We need to have a talk. All of us.” Layla crosses her arms. “We promised that this wasn’t going to be a problem. When I started taking this path, you said it wouldn’t change things between us. It’s been changing things.”
Will sighs heavily. “I don’t think either of us thought we’d get sent after you.”
Layla nods. “Well, unless I get a nemesis, that’s gonna keep happening.”
“Are you happy?” Warren blurts out, suddenly.
Layla stares at him in shock. “Of course I’m happy! This is amazing! I finally get to use my powers like I’ve always wanted to. I have minions who help me. I have a fanclub. I saved five rainforests last year. They’re naming a new species of orchid after me, after I toppled that pesticide company! Why can’t either of you be supportive of me now that I’m finally successful?!” She doesn’t realize she’s yelling until she feels the sting of tears in her eyes.
“Ok, screw this.” Warren lights up his hands and drops down from the vines. “Layla, hey, hey, come here,” he gets his arms around her and holds her. “Stronghold, get the hell down. Stop pretending like you can’t.”
Will bursts free of the vines and joins them in a tangled hug.
“I just didn’t want you to get trapped doing something you didn’t enjoy.” Warren mumbles into her hair.
“And I really don’t like pretending to fight you. I don’t like fighting about how to load the dishwasher, let alone on national TV.” Will adds, pressed against her shoulder.
Layla hugs them both. This was the right idea. Even if she had to drag them to her lair, it was worth it in the long run.
“Ok, ok,” she wriggles free and kisses them each quickly. “Now, I have to call my minions back. Can you please pretend to be tied up for a while longer?”
They eagerly jump back into position. Layla summons new vines, puts her mask back on, and summons the minions.
The daring escape of two captive superheroes makes the 6 o’clock news, to their mutual delight. The government debrief is extensive and the interviews take a very long time. Layla gives up on waiting for the boys. She showers, makes pasta, throws a load of laundry into the washer, dozes off watching a horror movie on Netflix, throws the clothes into the dryer, and crawls into bed. Layla makes certain to leave her bedroom door open, in case they come home before sunrise.
Will and Warren arrive a bit past midnight, windswept – Will must have flown them over, which means they really were held a long time. They crawl into bed after her, bracketing her between their bodies.
“Missed you,” Layla murmurs.
“Missed you more,” Will says.
“Missed you mostest,” Warren counters.
“No more fighting,” Layla groans. “Not tonight, at least.”
They all share a laugh, snuggling into more comfortable positions.
Layla Williams never intended to become a supervillain. But so far, it’s really working out for her.