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Get Up, Buttercup

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As a child, his mom and dad would take him out to conventions all the time whenever he asked. They’d go in the crowded building and he’d ask for the heroes to sign after waiting for so long behind many other children and adults alike.

At home, they’d play Hero. He’d tie a towel around his neck and act like Homelander, the all American man, who’s confusingly not from Earth. His mom rarely ever played the hostage, it’s always dad who’s the hostage, even back then he was a bit of a nervous wreck. Mom would play the villain.

Those were the memories he would end up reminiscing the older he got.

One day, he jumps off the couch and yells “Cannonball!” as some sort of stupid attack name, only to land far too heavily on the ground, cracking the wooden flooring.

His parents panic.

He was only five back then, but more things happened after that.

Far too many.

He couldn’t control anything he did, didn’t know what the trigger was. His parents were close to losing their minds. They’d whisper in the dark of the night, while he pretends to sleep, worrying about what would happen if someone saw him using his powers.

They feared that some will tell everyone, blow off any shreds of his secret identity.

Government agents would come and take him away, never to be seen again, to be experimented on.

Gangs would kidnap him and brainwash him into being a member, a new age villain, a Supervillain.

At 6, he was too young to understand much, he just knew that having powers as a child was not ideal, and that powers should only be given to adult heroes.

He’d look back at the heroes on the screens and revere them for their choices. With all the problems attached to becoming a hero, and they still decide to become so, to help everyone else. He’s too afraid to be a Hero, too afraid of anyone hurting his mom and dad, and Heroes probably also have a mom and dad, yet they were still out there.

In his mind, they truly were heroes.

0o0o0

They had to move multiple times and rent in New York is too much of a hassle to pay easily. He tries to help out, he learns how to do hardware and would make people pay him if they want something fixed. He’s cheap compared to other hardware stores in the block, so everyone would come to him.

But sometimes, he’s forced to do it for free, because bullies are mean and jerks.

His mom would kiss his bandaged knee and tells him not to worry. She’d talk with the bullies’ parents, not like that ever helped, but at least she tries. Dad was sometimes too busy with his job to do anything.

He was too weak, always bullied, so how could he stop it when a big and meaner bully would come?

0o0o0

Hughie looks at his feet, imagining clouds, and bounces, floating a bit as he did before fluttering back down to earth. His mom would laugh, still holding his hands like they always did when they walked back home at a late hour from her grocery job. She made sure to hold him tighter as he does, floating higher and higher the more he tries.

“Hughie, don’t float, how can I get you back if the wind takes you away?”

“Don’t worry mommy, I’ll never let you go.” He says.

He never lets go of the one he loves.

They stop when they find a man standing in front of them, looking at them with what he only understood in his adult life as fear. His eyes would drill deeply into his own.

“That kid’s a fucking Supe.”

“You’re drunk, go home.” His mom says hurriedly as she immediately kneels down and carries him off the floor.

“I know what I saw. No human can do what he did!?”

That hurt, the insinuation that he wasn’t human.

“What did he do?”

“Fly?!”

“He’s skipping, mind your own business and leave us alone.” She shoves him accidentally as she passes him on the curb. “Don’t ever let people know you have powers, Hughie, they’ll try to hurt you.” She tells him in whispers as she tries to walk away.

He nods before resting his head on her shoulders and watched the man turn around, angrily glaring at them.

Before he knew it, a gun was pointed at them.

Hughie couldn’t stop a bullet.

The ground was harsh, scrapping on his shoulders as his mother gags, blood comes out of her mouth accompanied by wet coughing, assaulting his ears more than the gunshots did. Hughie was scared, he tries to get up, tries to help her.

She was screaming, and she was in pain. He sees the bullet wound and put his hand on it. He wanted her okay, wanted her to not be in pain, and the wound glows as it tries to stitch itself back together.

But before he knew it, a harsh kick to the head throws him away, and the yell of a deranged man could be heard, someone screams with more gunshots following. Hughie opens his eyes and finds the man down on the ground held by a stranger and others trying to save his mom.

He tries to get close, but someone else held him back, trying to tell him that everything’s going to be alright.

But he knew how to make everything alright, he can do it, he can heal? Despite only ever just changing his weight, he can also heal.

But they never let him get close, and he sees it, see the last moment of his mother’s life as she looks at him, still coughing, but weakly reaching out to him.

He pushes whoever held him back, far too harshly than he intended, and finally grabbed onto his mom’s hands, he tries to will his powers into being, to save her, but his mom shakes her head weakly, and the light in her eyes dims.

0o0o0

He tells him the truth, about how the man was angry because he has powers. This only makes it worse. His dad never lets go of him after that. He always made sure he was within his sight.

They’d spend a long time on the couch, watching TV, just to calm him down during a panic attack induced by his disappearance.

Hughie would look at the heroes, and then look at his own hands, and thinks about how he can’t ever be a hero, not when he had the blood of his mom in his hands. If he can’t save his own mom, how could he save other moms?

He would end up scrubbing his hands raw at night, trying to take the blood away. He’d spend hours behind the tap in the bathroom finishing a pack of soap. When his dad confronted him about the lacking amount of cleaning product and concerning rise of water bills, he cracks down and cries, admitting to the truth.

Therapy wasn’t good.

He couldn’t tell his therapist the truth. You don’t really know a therapist, for all he knew, they could be working with the government.

And his mom told him to never share his powers.

Hughie would lie through his teeth when it concerned his powers. No one but his dad will ever know. At his final therapy session, he figured out what he should do for once.

He looks at himself in the mirror, stares hard with intense focus …

… and willed himself to lose his powers.

His eyes glowed a bit, a luminescent blue.

He felt a part of himself ripping away, and he drops. Something breaks inside of him.

Dad finds him, nose bloodied and unable to ever use his powers since.

0o0o0

Anthony was his best friend. He doesn’t understand why Hughie was weird or different, but he didn’t really care. Instead, Anthony cared about his feelings, asked if he felt safe or not, spend time with him playing video games.

Hughie looks at this and appreciates his friend’s presence.

With time, dad starts to relax on his hold over him, he spoke with Anthony’s parents from time to time and felt that it was safe to let him spend time away from him. As long as he was with them.

They’d usually do something in the halls at first, before escalating towards his neighborhood block. Hughie never spent time outside his own apartment building, in fear of any accidents occurring.

But being with a friend made him feel a little bit brave, that not everything in this world is wrong.

Then one day, he hides behind a bag of animal food for four hours.

He meets a girl who thought he was weird for doing that, but then laughed at him and called him lame for saying what he did about someone’s girlfriend.

From time to time, he’d go back to the animal store and finds the same girl, they’d hang out, and Anthony would back him up whenever dad asks about his whereabouts.

“You should ask her out.” Anthony once said, shooting hoops and missing by a large gap. He only grimaced in reply.

“I can’t just ask Robin out! She thinks I’m lame.”

“Watching you guys trying not to flirt with each other is like watching monkeys trying to communicate with facetime.”

“Is that even a thing?”

“I don't know, but the monkeys will be better at it than you two.”

When Hughie was in his second year of college, Robin asks him out instead.

0o0o0

Robin dies in his arms, and he screams.

People start to notice the blood around him, and they try to help, but he couldn’t, he just sees blood and her arms and remembers a long time ago when he was super-abled and couldn’t help either.

Now he’s normal, and more worthless than he’s ever been, and the super-abled were a lot worse.

He sees A-Track, mumbling, erratic, saying he can’t stop and runs off as if the death of a girl that he murdered was nothing.

He looks down at her arms, and thinks, she can’t be gone.

And the next thing he knew, he sees a shadow, a figure, stand in front of him were her hands were. Some people notice as they scream, flashes come up but he can’t focus on it.

Hughie, Hughie, oh god, Hughie”  She talks. Hughie feels himself dropping on the floor, eyes wide, and a slight tint of blue covering his sight. “Hughie, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, please be strong, baby.”  She says, dropping down next to him, the arms moving as if it were still alive with the ghost speaking.

“Rob-Robin.” He whimpers, the hand moved to touch his face, before her figure flickered out of existence, arms dropping next to him with a splat of blood.

The noise, the loud noises turn into ringing. He looks around him as people pointed phones at him. But he couldn’t handle it, because turning around means feeling the drips on his face, and seeing blood on the ground with the spine and the jaw and-

He faints.

0o0o0

His dad stood next to him, holding him in a half hug. Robin’s family were all huddled together, her mom crying her eyes out.

There were a lot of people, people that along with Robin’s family as well as him, can pinpoint as to who they were in connection to her. But they noticed … a lot of unknowns. People he never heard of before. The type of people Robin would never associate with, even.

That’s when he hears someone whispers.

“How can a Supe die that easily?”

“Dude, her powers are literally turning ghost. She needs to die to discover her powers, no wonder no one ever heard of her before if she didn’t know it herself.”

Something cracks inside of him. He knew for a fact that Robin was not a Supe, he knew because he understood what happened right after her death.

He wanted her back.

He didn’t think about how he wanted her back, he just wanted her back, and not her body. She was suffering because he didn’t think it through, and he couldn’t let her suffer any longer. He thought wrong, and Robin paid the price, and now all these people are just here to ogle at her casket that didn’t even have anything but her two arms inside it.

At the end, he had to call up the funeral director to help kick out anyone who doesn’t have any relationship to her, stating that this is a family and friend private funeral. Robin’s parents and sister looked grateful.

0o0o0

When they get back home they sit on the couch, like they always do. It was his only comfort having his dad here. If only his dad could also listen to him instead of just sit next to him. He does hear him, but he doesn’t … get it sometimes.

But how can a normal person understand a Supe?

He hates it, the couch. It used to have all three of them. Mom physically died, but the two of them basically died along with her.

Only mom understood him completely, but how the hell would he be sure about that? She died when he was seven, for all he knew she wouldn’t be understanding him now as an adult.

“-the spread … just really nice.” his father says, and he realized he skipped everything he said. He had to breath in with his eyes closed, because spreads? Really?

That’s when they both heard her voice.

Of course, Hughie would know this voice, who wouldn’t? The CEO of Vought, the sponsor of the seven.

He sees the headline banner “A-TRAIN OFFERS DEEPEST CONDOLENCES” in big letter, but in smaller letters below it says, “TRAGIC LOSS CHASING BANK ROBBERS”.

And that … felt wrong.

His father tries to change it, but Hughie doesn’t let him.

His ear is ringing again, that sharp ringing that reminds you of old amps that need fine-tuning, that comes up and splits your ears the moment you turn one on.

“My deepest condolences to Robin Ward’s family. I was chasing these bank robbers,” Hughie’s hearing … the ringing’s too loud. “And she just stepped in the middle of the street, and I-I couldn’t-”

“In the middle of the street?” Hughie says out loud. She wasn’t. “She was half a step off the fucking curb.”

“Oh come now, Hughie, don’t get upset.” His dad starts, there’s worry, there’s an old worry that he hasn’t heard in a long time, not since therapy, “Just- He knows …”

The ringing is too loud.

His dad’s hand was on his shoulders, in that same old familiar soothing way. But it wasn’t helping.

It wasn’t helping because-

They’re lying.

And they’re ruining Robin’s reputation, making it sound like it was her fault. He couldn’t-

I want him to stop lying, and to tell the whole goddamn truth.”

“There was no bank robbery, she was right on the curb. I lied. I just wasn’t focusing enough and didn’t care if anyone’s on the sidewalk to move to the middle of the street.”

Silence. The ringing is gone, and the TV’s background sounds hushed as something horrible was being processed. Hughie felt sick, and he felt the hand on his shoulder move to the back of his head, pulling his head closer.

“Oh god, Hughie, stop it, you’re hurting yourself!” His dad was freaking out, and now tissue’s filled his view as they slowly turned red.

Even without seeing the screen, he can tell that the press conference exploded with questions.

Hughie just felt dizzy.

He’s hearing the doorbell now, he wasn’t even sure if that’s real anymore.

“Hughie! Oh god, oh no. Fuck.” His dad had to get off the couch and lay him carefully, with an anxious face, he apologized, leaving him alone. He felt something soaking the couch beneath him, raising his hands only gave him the view of hands drenched with blood.

He screams.

Chapter Text

He’s laying down on the hospital bed, his dad next to him. In front of them were some Vought employees with the CEO and fucking A-Train.

“Get out.” His father demands. He’s never like this, Hughie thinks. Dad’s never been confrontational. He’s always been mild-mannered, so it’s jarring to have him act like this. He had a hard time figuring out if any of this is real or a construct of the drugs they hooked him on. “You dare come here to show your faces after what you’ve done?!”

“Mr. Campbell, we’re only concerned for-”

“You murdered a girl in cold blood. You’re a speedster. You should be concerned. Your speed kills. What if it were your girlfriend! Or brother!” His father stresses, the boiling anger near spilling, and despite all of it, his hand on his own were just as gentle, if a tad bit too cautious.

He could see the effect his words had on them, none of them cared. Not until his dad said that it could have been his girlfriend or brother did A-Train reacted.

Hughie looks at them inspects them with the same stare that Anthony liked to call the hard stare down. Only his dad knew that he was trying to hold himself back.

“Why were you running so fast if there wasn’t a bank robbery?” He asks, and A-Train opens his mouth, about to answer.

‘Truthfully’ he thinks, but the CEO stops him from answering.

“It’s Vought business, unfortunately. Company secrets.” He looks at her, and sees the fakeness, slowly slobbering down her face. It left him feeling somewhat ill.

“Then, what are you giving Robin’s family?”

“The same as you, they have signed their NDA contracts.”

“And you gave them bribe money to stay silent.” He continues, looking down at the confidentiality agreement. “So they can never talk about their dead daughter and how she was killed?”

“We assure you, Mr. Campbell, that it’s all an accident.”

“Oh, I know. Manslaughter.”

“Involuntary Manslaughter, it was an accident and she was on the street.”

“On the curb from what A-Train said.” Hughie reminds them before looking up. “This isn’t the first time it happened, isn’t it?” He asks, but none of them answered, not that he’d let them do so.

“You came in record time, already have papers at the ready. Even with a team of lawyers, you wouldn’t be able to finish this confidential agreement in two days and think up all the loopholes. This is off a template. Meaning, it either happened before, or it was anticipated that you would need it when you hired A-Train.”

“Accidents do happen sometimes.” She says, smiling.

“I find it … off. You’re the CEO, I’ll understand if that lawyer and PA over there came for this agreement, but why you? I talked to Robin’s folks, and they said you weren’t there, but that’s probably because they already signed the contract and can’t do anything against what A-Train said on TV earlier today.”

“Hughie, it’s been a day.” His dad reminds him. Hughie’s eyes went immediately to the window, where the sky was dark, before flicking back to the watch on his dad’s wrists and sees that it’s 10 PM.

“Yesterday.” He corrects himself. “If they had known, they could have taken legal action. You should be afraid, but …” His eyes flickered towards the window again, something … funny was going on.

Windows are transparent, but the view looked off.

“We weren’t even married.” He continues.

“From research, we found out that you were planning to propose to her, meaning that you might as well be considered fiancée, and we usually treat them as spouses.”

“How did you figure that out? Went through my bank account without anyone’s notice? Stalked and questioned all the people we knew?” He says, bluntly. Only Anthony knew about that, not even his dad knew. “The plan was to eat in a restaurant, then leave when it's late, and go to a park. I would have dropped on my knee and gave her a ring under a lamp.”

Most likely because he’d chicken out in the restaurant but still adamant enough to go through the proposal even if the setting wasn’t as romantic as a candlelit dinner.

“Hughie, calm down son.” He hears his father say, his eyes flickered back to his dad, who’s worry shone in his eyes.

Typical, dad only ever acted whenever his powers start to lose control. He hated it. It felt like he was being treated as a bomb instead of his child.

He looks away and instead lands his eyes on the IV stuck to his hands. It doesn’t have a needle, but it does have a plastic that’s inside his skin, meaning that its proper use is to have it stabbed inside someone.

He wants to take it out and stab A-Train’s throat.

He’d be feeding him like the fucking vegetable that he is.

He comes back to reality, hardly breathing right. His father gave him a strained smile, patting his hand.

Maybe he really was a bomb ready to explode?

“You want something from me, spit it out.” He finally demands.

The CEO gives him a strained smile as well, not the same brand that dad would sport, but one that’s horribly stretched around her cheeks, like wires pulling on lips to show the fake enthusiasm.

“We would like for you to also sign this.” She says. The PA behind her pulls out some papers from her file, giving it to him. Hughie weakly grabs onto it and reads.

He could feel his blood boiling as he starts reading.

“We’ll also pay for the emotional and physical damages that this has caused you, including the medical bill of your current hospitalization fee.” He can feel his dad squeezing his arms.

Neither dad nor himself could pay for any of this, even with their combined salary.

This is a very enticing, manipulative, and clearly calculated.

They must have also researched him to know that he’s prone to psychological damage, only a few people in his current life knew about his therapy stint, and that’s because they’ve moved again since mom’s death.

It wasn’t as if he was the only person to lose someone close to him and went to therapy, he’s just a tragic story next to the other one.

His dad would definitely put him back in therapy. He does not want that. He can’t go back again. It was torture and horrible. With this offer, he would do it.

Looking up to his dad, he decides to do something he never thought he’d do again. He looks him in the eyes, and give him the stare, the very same one that dad always saw before something changed around, causing his poor dad some slight fear and alarm.

We don’t need to pay for the medical bills.” He says before taking a deep breath. “I’m a rare case, and they’re going to pay me to stay just so they can study me for future references. I have a rare nerve disease, you see. For a while, it was contained, but technology back then couldn’t really analyze it. The accident had triggered it back, I probably would have a hard time leaving the hospital now-”

“I didn’t even touch you!” A-Train yells. Hughie felt himself and his dad both flinch from the sound, his ears ringing again.

“No, but would anyone really believe you now, after you lied in live television? For all we know, you could be lying again to hide more of the damage you caused.”

“A-Train, leave. You two as well.” Stillwell orders her entourage, signaling at the door. A-Train was about to ignore her orders, but Hughie gives him a look.

You should listen to her.” There was a minuscule change in A-Train’s attitude, it was there for a second before he decides to leave willingly. Stillwell gives the hero a sharp gaze before turning back to him, there was a knowing glint in her eyes, something that was dying to be let out but simply didn’t.

Stillwell was a woman who worked with Supes. She could probably spot someone with powers just as easily as she hired them.

This means that he should probably stop using it for a while.

“Unfortunately, your father isn’t considered for the NDA, could he also leave us alone?” She asks, all super sweet and nice. His dad squeezes his hand, but Hughie shakes his head at him.

“Dad, please.”

“Don’t sign anything without thinking about it.”

Dad must have said that because he used his power to get themselves out of paying, otherwise, he’d try to get him to sign. As nauseating and immoral as it sounds, Hughie could power his way out of it.

It wasn’t as if they could arrest him for unlawful use of powers, he was unregistered.

His dad stands up, reluctantly let go of his arm and leaves, Hughie already felt how cold the place is without him.

The IV is colder.

“All of my heroes are trained for public conferences, or at least brought up to snuff on how to act during a meeting.”

“Yes, very well trained.” He says sarcastically.

“Hughie, Hughie, Hughie,” She says, tutting at him as if he were a child. She walks closer to him, to where his dad sat not a few seconds ago, and sits on his chair. She clasps her hands together as she leans back on the chair, and giving him a reproaching look.

“A-Train couldn’t tell a lie for the last two days, ever since the conference. Are you telling me that this is a coincidence?”

“Seems you got a bad case of survivor guilt,” Hughie mumbled before looking away from her, back to the window, blocking any sight of her. He still felt off whenever he looked outside.

“There really isn’t any guilt from any of them. It’s detrimental to their health if they let all the weight of guilt get them down, stopping them from continuing their jobs. So, it’s our jobs to help them along with these sorts of cases.”

“I was right,” Hughie realized. “I’m not the first one.”

“This doesn’t mean you can just freely ruin a person’s career.” She said, Hughie finally looks back at her. “A-Train is, after all, part of the seven, an elite superhero, compared to hundreds of other heroes. He has a larger fan base. If word got out, that a normal joe like you, is the reason he won’t be able to continue his job, you’ll be in a deep mess.”

Hughie couldn’t say anything.

“Think about it, an obsessive fan community, and I’m discounting the Super-abled community. People tend to get protective of their own.”

In fact, he couldn’t do anything.

There’s a fine line in his head, a really thin one, that separates reality from his wants. It hurt whenever he was reminded of his powers, it hurt trying to click it off whenever his mind went away, imagining all the horrid shit that neither of his parents would ever be proud of if they knew he had them.

That little silver lining in his head is protecting everyone else from himself.

He wasn’t proud of himself either, sometimes having alarmingly gruesome ways to let out his anger on others and having a weak defense against it.

But this is Madelyn Stillwell. He can’t just will reality into killing her like he would will himself to float up.

“I already lost everything.” He said. “What else could I lose?”

Stillwell gives him that fake smile again, before pointing at the door, the silence helped to pinpoint what exactly she wanted to show him.

He hears his dad talking.

He unconsciously clenches his hands, rage suddenly filing him up. How fucking dare her, casually pinpointing his dad as if his life was insignificant. The same sort of insignificance they were treating Robin’s death with.

“I’m not signing the NDA. Get out.” He yells at her. She sighs, acting disappointed as she stood up and took out her business card.

“The offer still stands. Oh, and if you ever do go to public with this, you’ll be faced with a lawsuit.” She says before she walks away.

Hughie’s hand was hurting him with how hard he was clutching it, and he lets out a strained breath before calling out to her just as she opened the door.

“It’s not me you should be worried about, it’s your heroes.” She took a few moments just standing there before sending a nod with a tight smile, leaving him alone.

Not a few seconds later, his dad runs back in, looking haggard.

Hughie immediately reaches out to him, and his dad pulls him into a tight hug.

“What did she do?”

“She- She threatened you, I should have signed like you originally wanted.”

“Oh … Hughie, don’t say that. You stuck by what you believed in, and the fact that … that horrid man is outside running free leaves me ill to the gills.” His father admits. Hughie pushes himself a bit to look at his dad’s worried face. “That man had no empathy whatsoever for what happened to Robin, I can’t believe … can’t believe that he’s considered a hero. I’m glad that you stuck for what you believed in for once.”

“But- We still- They’re threatening your life!”

“Hughie … son … This won’t be the first or last time my life will be threatened. We spent our whole lives moving from place to place to avoid danger, yes, the stakes are higher this time, but we can still disappear like we usually do.”

“We can’t. You’re too old to go through this anymore, and we stayed in this place for at least seven years.”

“Then we’ll find another place to stay for seven more years.” His father said as if it were nothing.

“This is Vought,” He says, finally letting go of his dad’s hug, feeling a little embarrassed for needing that at all. “We can’t just disappear, the only disappearing that would probably occur is probably because they wanted it. We have to … we have to use my-”

“No.”

“Dad?”

“You’re already risking yourself; you haven’t used it in many years, and suddenly using it like this is going to be more devastating than it already is. You didn’t stop bleeding from your nose for hours Hughie, I didn’t even know a person can die through nosebleeds.”

“It’ll still protect us.”

“No. Hughie. This is final. You can’t use your powers until you’re well enough to do it. Only then you can, and you’ll do it in baby steps.” This was his dad’s final say, but Hughie disagreed. What if something happened when he wasn’t well enough?

He grabs his dad’s hand and takes a deep breath before opening his mouth “Nothing will ever harm you.

Hughie promptly faints.

Chapter Text

He was finally able to get free from his father’s sight.

His stunt might have pushed a few days away from his life, staying stuck in the hospital for a while longer. But it was worth it, knowing his dad will stay safe from anyone wanting to hurt him.

He couldn’t lose him, not like how he lost Robin, not like how he lost mom. Dad was basically defenseless against everything, and he needs help staying safe.

Bending reality to his will is hard, and he was losing a lot of blood because of it, but it’s worth it.

But a week in the hospital left him far too tired, far too exhausted. It felt like someone was pressing down on his chest and lungs for sleeping a day, none the less a week. Gravity can fuck you up, and this is why people say you should stand up for most of the day. How can people handle sleeping all day like that? Doesn’t it hurt? How can they even breathe normally?

He finds himself ordering from a deli and in the park, gouging himself out on the most delicious food on earth after so long inside the hospital. Boiled carrots might be good, but everything else was just … Urgh …

He doesn’t even bother focusing on whoever sat next to him, he only had his food to care about.

Until he hears the conversation and actually felt a bit sad for her, and suddenly felt guilty for having such a good time while someone else was probably suffering. She sounded like she had a rough day. He also had a rough day, a rough week really, but everyone had a different amount of pain tolerance, and she looked too young to be having this conversation in the middle of the city next to a stranger.

“Excuse me, I’m- I’m sorry but are you okay? It just seemed like a …” He wasn’t good at this comforting thing. “A tough call.”

She looked like she was put in a bad place by his sudden question. He swallows whatever food was left inside his mouth and starts apologizing.

“No, no, it’s okay. Uh …” She starts wringing her hands together, a nervous habit he picked up because he usually does that too. “I’m just having a bad day.”

“… Yeah,” He laughs a bit. “Me too.” He looks at his arms, they’ve changed its place when they realized how long he’d probably stay, and a person can’t really function with the IV thing on the back of the palm. The only reason this thing was still attached to him is because he’s honestly too much of a fucking coward to pull it off without the fear of messing it up.

So, he did what any sensible hospital runaway would do.

Unscrewed the lines and just did his best to cover it up.

“Is it like a- a work thing? Or a li-life thing?”

“It’s a work thing,” She said, nodding as she remembers whatever problem was bothering hir before looking at him. “And you?”

“Me? It’s ah … a life thing.” He said before jokingly as he raised his sleeve to show her the IV plastic insert thing. She gasped, and he realized that this might not have been a lighthearted thing to joke about, and almost hit himself with how callous he’s acting.

“That a saline lock.” She says, still shocked. Hughie shrugs.

“I didn’t know it was called that, I just called it the plastic IV needle thing.”

“Should you even be out here? Shouldn’t you be in the hospital?” She asks with worry, standing up and reaches up to him as if he were invalid and needed help guiding back to his room. He immediately covers up his arms.

“Please don’t take me back, I needed to get out, I can’t stand laying on bed for another day.”

“That’s still not healthy for you to leave! Whatever you got in the hospital for, it was serious enough for an IV.”

“I’ve already got enough blood pumped into me, and on to me really, to fill me up for life. I can’t go back, and … uh … look!” He says, picking up the deli sandwich he ordered, there was a whole other strip left inside. “I got real food now. They’ll take it away if I go back, so please.”

“Oh god,” She groans. “We both must have gotten the bad end of the stick this week.” She says, groaning as she drops down on the bench, leaning on her knees. Hughie blinks at her, then a few more times as he tries to stop the sudden wave of sadness and tears threatening to spill.

Bad week, huh?

“Yeah … yeah … But … life goes on.” He tries cheering up, ignoring the crack in his voice. “A girl I know told me that you can’t just stop after one fall. You can stand up again and continue, or you can give up and stay on your ass for the rest of your life. So … whatever work problem you had, you shouldn’t be giving up!”

Then, he stops as he realized something important.

“That’s- That’s if you like your job. If you don’t, or if you’re … you know, selling smack? Then quit.”

The woman looks up at him, somber eyes that were also shining, and cracks a smile on her lips. A small chuckle comes out of her as she straightens up her pose.

“I love my job, and it’s not selling smack, but thanks for the advice.” She says before giving him her hand. “I’m Annie.”

He nervously accepts her greeting and shakes her hand. “Hughie.”

“Well, Hughie, I think it’s time that you should go back to the hospital.”

“Urgh, do I have to? I hate it there.”

“Come on, how bad can it be.” She says as she urges to stand up and starts pushing him towards the gates. “You should be grateful that I didn’t think you’re a junkie.”

“Do I look like a junkie to you?” He asks, incredulous. She pauses for a second, tempting him to see what’s stopping her. He’s met with a raised brow.

“I met you while you’re stuffing your face with delis like they’re munchies and you showed me a needle stuck into your arm.”

“Ah, but here’s the thing, IVs are literally plastic needles, not needles needles. You can’t get high on plastic.” She still did not look impressed. “Can- Can you?”

“I don’t know, you tell me?”

0o0o0

He was alone for once, surprising, especially after the berating that he got from the day shift nurses. They must have stayed long enough to warn the night shift about what he did because they kept checking on him every half hour.

His dad had obviously been disappointed about what he did but couldn’t stay angry long enough to justify a silent treatment.

Curiously enough, the hospital staff did find a rare nerve connection in his nervous system that allowed them to keep him around. This had justified his hospital stay. He’d been through multiple MRIs and had some CAT scans so that they could try to pinpoint what the tangled mess of his nerves actually meant.

He was pretty sure it had something to do with his powers, but no one figured out that he had powers yet anyways. It was just weird that he managed to give himself a diagnose just by thinking about it. He should take it off the moment he’s released, no need for more complications.

The nurse just left to check on another patient, and he was left alone with bad cable in this private room that he didn’t know why he was given in the first place.

Probably Vought trying to appease him, and to have their private meetings with him here so that no one else could be privy to any facts from eavesdropping.

He looks down at his arm, then slowly looks upwards to his fingers, he moves them a bit. Raising his hands, he tries to imagine what he could do.

He knew for a fact that whatever he wants can be achieved …

… But the idea of … of bringing back the dead makes him feel disgusted. Like an insult to their memory, and he has the feeling that he’s only going to make them suffer for the rest of their second life.

He doesn’t know if it’s true, but like the ringing in his ears, he knows that he should listen to these feelings. Instincts.

He remembers her hands, remembers holding onto her as she was desecrated completely in front of him.

He didn’t see the moment of impact.

But he remembers the rush, the winds trying to carry him away, the smell of blood, the force trying to kidnap him away but his feet planting itself resolutely on the ground.

Remembers the moments before, how she lovingly looked back at him. Her eyes locked onto his own as he leans closer to her, sharing a kiss. Backing away a bit, seeing the tuft of blond dyed curls that she was trying that month, she planned on red for the next one.

The next thing he knew, he sees the flickers of a ghost in front of him, a woman holding his hands as she tries to claw herself back to reality.

He sucks in a breath before letting go, but the ghost was adamant on coming back, if for a moment.

“Rob- Robin?”

“I’m back, again?”

“Oh, god, I thought- I thought I was imagining-” She was here, she was really here, next to his bed holding onto his hands, the feeling was so light and soft yet still ingrained to his mind. He starts tearing up. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I could have- I could have brought you back. But I-”

Hughie, you never told me you were a Supe?”

“I …” There was no accusation in her tone, or betrayal in her eyes, she was just looking at him for clarification. Forgiving him despite how he never sharing such a deep dark secret that could have affected their lives. “You’re not mad?”

“I was meant to die that day.” She says in that very same way that she does whenever she had something to think about. “And knowing what would have happened if I didn’t, I’m glad that you didn’t bring me back completely.”

“But- But your parents? Your sister? Don’t you want-”

“I’d like to see them one last time, yes. To say goodbye.” She says, still understanding. He doesn’t know what the afterlife was like, doesn’t want to know either. But if Robin was alright, tranquil really, then he’s glad that she’s fine there, even if it did hurt being left behind.

That she won’t feel any more pain like he’s feeling right now.

“Stop crying, babe. It’s alright. I’m happy. I … I didn’t really feel anything.” She tells him, nausea immediately comes up, but he tries to hold it in. What if that weren’t true? What if she did feel it and she’s trying to spare him? “Babe, you’re turning green.”

“I’m so sorry,” His voice cracks. “I’m such a failure.”

“No, Hughie, you’re not. You’ve done the right thing in not bringing me back.” She tells him, and how can she even say that?

“I’m essentially a murderer, assisted murder.”

“Honey, please. Stop crying. You didn’t. A-Train murdered me, not you. You were …” Then she stops. For one scary moment, he feared that his powers failed him. “Were you really going to propose to me?”

Hughie couldn’t help but choke back a laugh, wiping his face with his other unoccupied arm and gives her a watery grin. “Yeah ... In the park.”

“If it makes you feel better, I would have said yes.”

“That makes me really happy, I’m just- You’re gone now. I don’t know what to do anymore.”

“You have to go on.”

“But I can’t. A-Train admits to killing you in front of live television in front of the public the truth and everyone’s just ignoring it like it’s nothing! I can’t let that- It’s not fair!”

“It’s not worth it, messing your life just for avenging me? You have your dad to worry about.”

“It’s worth it. I don’t want you to die for nothing.” He says adamantly. Robin’s ghost looks at him for a moment, no movement or sound. From time to time, there was a slight flicker from her figure. Suddenly, she chuckles, dropping her head a bit.

“I knew you had it in you.”

“For all its worth, I’m sorry. I should have brought you back, but I didn’t because- Because I was scared. My whole life, my mom and dad would try their best to hide my powers from anyone. My mom told me not to use it right before she died. I could have- If I didn’t listen to them, I’d be-”

“If you think like that, we probably would have never met in that Dennys that night. You’d probably be like one of those dicks who spend their days wherever the hell it is they put Supes at.”

“Yeah ... specialty bars and VIP lounges. Instead of the old run of the mill bar, Dennys, and bowling alleys.”

“You’d be getting all the attention, the guy who brings people back to life. Vought would have probably wanted you on their payroll. Imagine this as a selling point: The necromancer! No one will ever die!”

“That’s not my power, Robin.” He tells her, and she frowns, leaning down a bit closer, as if waiting for him to continue. “It’s a- it’s- it’s complicated. I can … I can heal too.”

“Holy shit. That is so cool! Why didn’t you try to join Vought?”

“And leave you and my dad to the vulture and the media?”

“You’d still want to date me even after that?”

“Robin,” He felt exasperated. He squeezes her hands just a bit, welling for her to feel it. She squeezed back, the warmth seeping into his very bones as recognition. “I’d marry you.”

Her smile was all he could see at that moment, her eyes happy as whatever darkness that prevailed before disappeared. A slight flickering of her face makes her look to the side before sighing sadly, as if talking to someone else.

“I have to go, I can’t stay any longer without a body.”

“Robin, wait! I- I love you!”

“I love you too, watch out for yourself, Hughie. Don’t- Don’t die because of me.” She says before slowly disappearing, like a mist that you approach on an oddly cold morning, clearing whenever you get closer to the fog.

He felt something inside him settles as she completely fades.

His hand might have been empty, but at least it didn’t hold a corpse this time around. He lets it fall. His lips stretch into a mockery of a smile. Maybe he did right in not bringing her back, but it still hurt, it will forever hurt like how mom died.

Robin felt relaxed, like she was in heaven, with whoever it was that was trying to get her back, it was-

“Holy shit.”

Hughie’s thoughts immediately snap as he was brought back to reality. A man, in front of his bed, appears. Slowly, the skin forms around the torso before reaching the rest of his body. Hughie stopped breathing as the face starts to form like how he’d seen so many times on TV.

Translucent.

Chapter Text

“You’re a Supe.”

“What are you talking about?” Hughie blurts out, trying to act dumb, unsuccessfully. He eyes the Nurse call button for a few seconds but flinched when he heard a finger snap in front of his face.

“Eyes on me buddy, you call, and you’re gone.”

“I- I- Ah …” Hughie looks up at the man before changing his sight to the window. He suddenly remembers his uneasy feeling since he came here, every time he looked at the window, he’d feel like something was wrong!

This whole time, Translucent was with him in this room!

He felt ill.

“Your- Your dick’s out, man. I- I was looking for that button to, you know, raise my leg and cover it up.” He was bullshitting, but that doesn’t mean he needs the man to know that. But to sell the lie, he touches the button that would raise his legs upwards so that he…

Covers up the man’s junk, essentially.

“Cute, buddy, real cute. But we have a more important thing to talk about other than my beautifully sculpted cock.”

“Can we please not talk about that?”

“What? My dick?”

“No, I mean- Yes! That.” He agrees wholeheartedly.

“Also, your powers,” Translucent says, smirking widely as he pulls a chair on the side he’s been trying to look at. Hughie almost changes direction but was stopped as he felt a rough calloused hand wrap around his jaws, yanking him to look back at the man’s face.

He sees a splatter of blood dropping down on his bedsheets, and he cursed, knowing the small amount of time he spent with Robin was going to wreck him for a few days more. Just when he thought he’ll finally leave.

“How did you slip from our eyes, Hughie?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Kiddo, don’t act like that. I saw everything. Bringing back the spirits of the dead? Something about bringing them back completely. Robin Ward called you by the perfect name, a necromancer! Do you know how rare that is? Let me give you a hint.”

Translucent pulls him closer, his face right in front of his. It was so close; he can tell what he ate for lunch, and it was not hospital food.

“You’re the first person to do that.”

“I don’t have-!”

He was cut off from talking when the door to the room opened, showing a tall bearded man with a scowl walking int. His leather jacket made him look even more intimidating than what he might have originally looked.

He pauses, stopping at the entrance looking at the scene inside.

There was a tense moment, and even Translucent was taken aback by this turn of events.

Whatever image they gave, the man’s expression said that he was not impressed.

Hughie didn’t even know the man but forced himself to finally move and yell “Run away!”

“Shut up, kid.” Translucent says harshly before letting go.

The stranger does not run away. In fact, he threw his hands up and runs in with full determination to punch Translucent in the face. It was too late, because the man was already shifting, disappearing and letting the light wrap around him.

The man still punches him, and from the sound of the ground’s thudding, he also knocked the hero down.

“Campbell, run away!” The man tells him, Hughie only had a second to think about how this guy knew his name before deciding that this really isn’t the time.

“I’ll call for help.”

“Don’t bother-” The man was suddenly punched so hard, blood started coming out of his mouth, he then instantly spits on the hero, covering Translucent's face with blood. “No one’s gonna be fighting a hero.”

“Kid, stay in your place, or we’re looking for you after this.” Translucent replies as he tries to wipe the blood off his face while wrestling the stranger.

“Not if I have anything to say about it.” The man intejects, throwing Translucent to the window, smashing the glass.

“Shit.” He mumbled as he gets off the bed, only to feel his legs give out once he touches the ground. The floor was getting closer. He tries to stop himself from falling by grabbing something, anything, but he failed in that spectacularly.

Not only does he fall face flat on the floor, but he ripped up whatever he grabbed.

Moving his head to see what it was, he flinches and pushed himself away from a torn-up, clearly live, wire. Looking at where it could have been previously, he finds a socket plugged into an outlet without a wire attached to it.

Then the bed flips over him.

Hughie screams.

He promptly dropped his head on the ground and wrapped his arms around it for protection. The sound of the bed crashing told him that it’s probably safe to look up now, but he was sorely mistaken, for not a second later, a face splats down next to him.

Hughie felt himself shake when he looks beside him to confirm that, yes, it’s a face on the floor, just a picture of a face, as a pattern, on the floor, made out of blood.

He immediately vomits. Translucent gets off the floor, ignoring him, as if nothing happened.

Hughie could barely tell what’s happening around him by the sounds. The hero was light on his feet and he loses him when whoever the other - leather jacket guy - runs at him again, his heavy footsteps masking Translucent’s.

This was all pointless.

Translucent is fucking bulletproof! He’s covered in a carbon bases alloy that bends the light and can fight off a bullet made out of a diamond shell, and someone already fucking tried that. Nothing can stop him, and whoever the guy who’s trying to help him is, will get his life punched out of him.

As if the world wants to prove his point, the man drops on the ground, groaning loudly in pain, right after a loud thud that could only come from something hard punching a face.

Hughie sees the bed getting carried off the floor with nothing holding it up, and slowly it moves to the guy.

“NO! What are you doing! He’s a civilian and you’re a hero! You can't just hurt him!” He yells, stopping Translucent from taking another step.

“Oh, don’t bother, this guy came here intending to hurt me, it’s all in his eyes.” He says, tempting Hughie into looking at the man’s face again. He had to stop himself from showing any emotions, because the man did have a face that said he wanted to kill.

But what exactly was Translucent going to do? It was the same damn thing.

So, he glares at him.

“Oh, come on, Hughie, don’t act like that.”

“Only my friends call me Hughie.” He says before grabbing onto the exposed wire and throwing it at him. Luckily, for everyone in the room, Translucent screams and lets go of the bed, dropping it right next to the stranger, and only missing him by a few inches.

The hero drops on the floor, unconscious.

The man had a face of shock, looking at the bloodied invisible body. Hughie winced, knowing that all that blood came from the stranger and not Translucent himself.

“How? The guy’s invincible.” He demands, surprising Hughie with his British accent, and not the posh one.

“He’s made out of a carbon-based alloy, highly conductive. And- Err- even if he was invincible, that didn’t stop you from running at him?” Hughie replies, pushing himself off the floor, only to drop down again, his head too heavy to carry itself. “Huh?”

“Shit, you’re bleeding.”

“I didn’t get hit.”

“From the nose, you nitwit.” The guy says as he gets closer to him, pulling him off the floor.

“Why isn’t anyone here? All the noise we made should have alerted someone.” Hughie wondered aloud, noticing how empty the hallway was.

“Oh, now why would anyone else be on this floor? Vought owns a fuck ton of shares from this specific building and made sure it’s empty.” The stranger says.

“… Shit. I knew they wanted me away from people, but I thought-”

“Congratulation for seeing behind the simulation, let’s get you out of here before they send someone in.” He says as he helps him stand straight.

“What?! What about Translucent?!” He yells, pointing at the mass of floating blood. “We can’t just- I just killed a hero, holy-”

“We’ll just put him in a trunk, no one’s the wiser. Now, move if you don’t want any of them cucks coming here looking for you.”

“They’ll definitely keep looking for me.”

“Nice to know you have a brain on that shoulder, we need to-” The man pushes him, only to stop when Hughie winced and immediately tucked his arm into himself. They look at the IV pole on the floor. “I’ll just pull the plastic off for-”

“No! No. Just- go find a wheelchair or something and take the guy away. I’ll stay and wait for the nurse.”

“No way, buttercup. They’ll lock you up. You’re coming with me. Now get that thing off your arm while I look for a wheelchair." He says as he leaves the room. He stops for a second. "Names Butcher, by the way.”

Butcher?” Hughie asked incredulously as the man steps out.

What a fitting name for a guy who will literally throw a punch at a superhero.

He unscrews the line, contemplating if he should just pull the plastic off anyway because it’s painful to move his hands normally.

“Screw it.” He whispers before pulling out the thing, whimpering in the process. It’s plastic, why is it painful?!

It wasn’t that painful when they inserted it at the beginning. Goes to show that hospitals really can’t function without nurses to help around. He just continues unscrewing while putting the tape back in, not trusting himself with this task anymore.

He jumps in his place when he hears something bump into the door. Looking up, he sees Butcher standing there with a wheelchair.

“Get on, buttercup.” He orders as he steps in the room, right towards Translucent. Hughie listens and sits on the wheelchair. He yelps when he felt a weight drop onto his legs, an invisible weight.

“No! No! We are not putting a corpse on me!” He begs, but Butcher resolutely ignores him as he walks behinds him and starts pushing the chair. “Butcher!”

“Can’t you shut up for a moment.” He growls, finally stopping by the elevator and waiting for the door to open up.

“I’d have an easier time shutting up if a dead body isn’t on my lap, and I wasn't getting kidnapped.” The elevator opens, and Butcher pushes him in none too gently, hitting Translucent’s body on the door. “Jeez, be careful with him.”

“Campbell, the guy’s dead, we just killed him. You, specifically, killed him. He isn't feeling anything. Now, shut up. This is going to be harder pushing you around while you’re all bloodied like that when you didn’t even give a lick in that fight.” He tells him off as he closes the door.

“I’m sorry, who saved you in that fight?”

“You did a piss poor job at it.”

They both stop when the door didn’t completely close. Instead, it opens up before trying to close again, only to stop and repeat.

It closes again, but stops, and re-opens once more.

This confuses them.

On the last try, they hear a familiar groan coming out from the corpse as the elevator door fails to close once more.

Hughie had to cover his mouth, stopping himself from again as he carefully pulls whatever part of Translucent was stuck out of the door.

“See, piss poor job, he ain’t even dead.”

“We should be glad he isn’t dead!”

“No, kid, you should be worried. He’s alive. He knows our faces.” He said plainly as the door opens on their level. Some nurses at the reception were there, but they weren’t focusing on them as they move out. Hughie was too afraid to even make a sound, the night shift are supposed to be on the lookout for him, but he usually didn’t have a big guy in all black pushing him on the wheelchair, they must have ignored their silhouette.

Butcher, on the way outside, grabs a crutch from a guy with a cast on his leg who had been too distracted by the TV to notice. Hughie sends him a disbelieving look. “Dude.”

“He’s in a hospital, he’ll get another one.”

“Do you know how expensive the hospital is?”

“China town probably sells cheap.”

They’re finally outside, free. Not the exact circumstances that he wanted to earn his freedom through, but at least everyone’s alive … right?

They stop in front of a car with mismatched doors. Hughie had to calm and ready himself to ride this rust bucket.

New Yorkers shouldn’t ever own a car.

Butcher carries Translucent off his lap and drops him in the trunk.

“Great, I’m now an accessory to a crime.”

Butcher gives him a smug smile. He puts a hand on his shoulders before shoving the crutch at him. “Up, Buttercup, we’re ditching the chair.”

Hughie, unsteadily, gets up with the help of the stolen crutch. He had to stop himself from flinching when he sees Butcher almost kicking him, only for him to miss and hit the wheelchair. The thing drops to its side.

“See, now everyone’s going to think you’re kidnapped. You’re not the criminal anymore.”

“That is not a good thing.”

“You’re the one who didn’t want to be connected to any of this, you should be thankful. In.” He says, opening the door of the passenger seat for him.

Hughie looks at the door, before looking back at the hospital.

He can't imagine leaving without telling his dad … he promised to tell him if he ever planned to leave without discharge papers, he will be worried.

But he’ll be fine, he made sure of that. He’ll still be sick with concern, he had to go through a strenuous week, and now … this.

This … will lead to a lot of problems.

“Any minute, Buttercup.” The man calls from inside the car. Hughie looks back, gulps, and gets in.

He almost killed Translucent; he doesn’t have a choice in this.

Chapter Text

It had been night when they left the hospital, and now the sun’s in his eyes. The car stops in front of a crude building, he hesitates in stepping out.

“Any day now.”

“This guy can help us?”

“He will.” He mysteriously replies before knocking the door. Hughie’s eyes go back to the car, and to the trunk. Translucent can’t possibly survive in the heat like that … Can he?

Before he could ever express his concerns, the door opens. Behind it stood a woman with heavy eyeliner, really fluffy long black hair, and a circular tattoo on her chest. She was, honestly, intimidating. Her eyes pierced at Butcher, who stood closest to the door.

“Ello love, Frenchie about?”

Her gaze turns to him, and the next thing he knew, she has her hand on his face, dragging her palm across it. He stood frozen in place, not exactly knowing what to do with such a terrifying woman touching him like that. She patted his cheek and then tapped his nose.

She stops, turns around, and goes back in without saying anything. Hughie sends Butcher a perplexed look, but the sadist just smiles and says, “You’ll love this guy.”

He really doubts it.

He doesn’t even like Butcher.

He hops his way in and had to stop himself from reacting at the number of guns that were spread out on the table.

Oh, he’s going to love this guy, he thought sarcastically.

“-You brought my 40,000?” This catches Hughie’s attention. Great, he has a debt, and this could turn into another fight he wasn’t ready to witness. Hughie's doubting that he would help save this guy if he's against a gunman.

Then, Hughie jumps, because the lady from before comes from out of nowhere and pushed a glass of water at him. He peers down at it before nodding in thanks and drinks it up. She deemed it acceptable and left his side. He's starting to get scared thinking about what might happen if he ever refused.

“I’ve got something better. How about double the amount that I owe you?”

The lady suddenly appears next to this Frenchie guy a cigarette to smoke on. “The doubly of zero is a zero.” He says then looks at him before pointing at him with the cigarette. “And who’s he?”

“That’s Hughie Campbell, I saved him from a little accident last night.”

“He kidnapped me.” He explains before carefully putting the glass back on the table, next to the guns. Frenchie gives him an impressed look.

“And you’re alive?”

That, admittingly, freaks him out. Were there other people this butcher guy kidnapped and got killed?

“You and I worked together, and you’re still in one piece.”

“Am I?”

Right, this proves it, Butcher is not someone he should get involved with. He turns around, ready to leave, but stops when he hears Frenchie agree to this arrangement, losing his chance of escape.

“We’ll need a cattle prod.”

0o0o0

They shock Translucent for the second time in 24 hours.

Frenchie loses his mind, yelling at Butcher for bringing the man to his doorstep. Saying something about him being chipped.

Hughie was frozen in place, staring at the invisible man clearly despite being ... well, invisible.  The way Translucent cursed then changed his expression as he turns to look at him dropped something in his stomach.

Hughie knew that he missed up big time.

Because the man thinks no one’s watching him, so he wasn’t careful with hiding his expression. His face was showing true, unadulterated, fear. The same type of fear he’d see in the mirror when he thinks about his dad.

“I have an idea on how to block off signals.” He replies, getting their attention. “We need tinfoil, lots of tinfoil.”

“You’re still helping us, even when this guy kidnapped you?”

“I mean, it’s like he said, Translucent saw our faces, and to be honest, he tried to extort me before Butcher appeared, so …”

They end up in front of a Trader Joe's of all places, he was about to step out but gets pushed back in the car by Frenchie.

“You stay here, petite Hughie. Can’t have people seeing you in blood.”

“They’d be calling some coppers on us,” Butcher says, both he and Frenchie agree on something for once. “We'll be getting you a propper coat, don't you worry.” Hughie slowly nods and sits back in the car, slowly closing in on himself to try and hide the blood.

It was futile.

When they were gone, Hughie starts to get bored and reached for the radio.

He regrets it immediately.

“The police suspect it to be a kidnapping, while other sources agree that Mr. Campbell could have killed himself after the tragic loss of his-” He groans loudly as he changed the station. “Blood test concluded that at least two people were in his room.”

Change.

“I talked to some people working in the hospital, they said they heard Hughie Campbell refusing to sign an NDA, and right after that, the CEO of Vought comes out of his room. If he refused that from a big wig, they’ll need to silence him some other way, right?”

“You're sounding like a lunatic. You heard the reports, the guy tried to get out of his room before, he’s probably just making sure people won’t look for him and think he’s dead.”

 

The sound of radio cuts the conversation as he tunes into another channel.

“-the top subreddit?”

“Sounds fake, but okay.”

“No way, I think he’s on to something. Like, think about it. Why does no one ever question all the collateral damage superheroes cause? There’re accidents, Robin Ward’s death is proof of that. But that can’t be the only accident. And when you do search online, you find help groups for people affected by Supes. It’s all hush-hush, one of the rules is to not name the hero who caused their suffering.”

“Okay, so you might be right about that. But Vought trying to silence one guy? Let’s be real, they have money, they can do it professionally without getting caught. And they have so many Supes that they probably won’t need to hire someone to do it and still leave the room spotless.”

“Guys, are you listening to yourselves?  They’re heroes, they won’t do something like that.”

“A-Train killed a girl a week ago, Marj. He didn’t look guilty, at all. You can’t go through life killing someone like that without feeling any remorse?! Unless he …”

“Are you seriously saying that he could have killed other people?”

“It could have been another ‘accident’ for all we know-”

“Either way, is no one questioning why there weren’t any cameras around the building?”

Hughie changed that channel as well, far too uncomfortable with how close to the truth this guy was about A-Train.

“I don’t know, it’s just weird that this guy who, by the way, has a newly discovered nerve disease that basically renders him to unconsciousness, to throw a bed like that. From the pictures posted online, the room looks like a burglary gone wrong.”

“So, you’re betting that someone did kidnap him, but why?”

“Well, from what I heard, people think A-Train himself kidnapped him.”

“I’m not saying I agree or not, but it's awfully suspicious, don’t you think?”

He hears a kick come from the boot of the car. Hughie immediately shuts the radio off and turns around.

“Campbell? Campbell! Listen, let me out and I’ll help you get away from these people.” The muffled voice of Translucent came from behind the backseat.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. The guy knows my name, and probably knows other things about me since he did come to my room.” He says as he slowly lost any energy to keep his head up, giving up, he dropped his head on the shoulder rest.

“We can get you protection.”

“And my dad? No, not risking it.”

“Hughie, listen to yourself, you could be next.”

“Next? Next for what?”

“What else? They’ll kill me, then kill you.”

“… Ahh …” Translucent wasn't lying, he could be next for all he knew. From everything he heard and saw today, there was a really high chance of him getting killed because of this.

“Can’t you use your powers or something?”

“What? Why would I- How can I even use it!”

“It’s your powers, you should know! Bring the spirit of their loved ones or something, like how you brought your girlfriend back. That’ll cripple them for a few seconds, and that’s all I’ll need to get us free.”

“My hospital room says otherwise,” Hughie says, pressing his hands around his stomach, trying to stop any feeling of nausea from resurfacing. “I can’t use my powers. I’m … I bleed out when I do.”

“… Holy shit, that’s what your neuro problem is!”

“Yeah, can’t exactly tell the hospital I’m super-abled.”

“Why the hell not? They’d help you better, maybe even bring you to us.”

“Why the hell- I live in New York, Translucent. They kidnap super-abled kids on the streets.”

“As if that even happens when the Seven themselves live in this city.” He replies arrogantly, Hughie frowns.

“I knew a supe gangster, said he was taken away from his family when he was like 12 and was forced to work for them. You think you guys are the pinnacle of society, and that all super-abled people are treated like how you are, but fuck no. You guys don’t even step foot on the streets where your tower is and help the rest of us, so why should we come out to join you?”

“A-Train’s from NY.”

“And look how messed up you made him. He was- He was the guy, you know. Came straight out of this city, he represented us. But now he’s … so … he killed my girlfriend!” He yells, only to suddenly jump in his seat when the door to the back opens. Tinfoil drops in front of him, blocking his view of the ratty leather chairs.

He finds Butcher looking at him with a raised brow.

“Having a mental breakdown, buttercup? How 'bout you wait on that until we block the asshole’s signal.”

0o0o0

They end up in an old abandoned restaurant’s basement, they wheel the guy in a cage, then covered up the ceiling with tin foil and duct tape. Frenchie then electrifies the cage.

If Hughie were in any other situation, he’d concede with Butcher’s statement on liking this guy. But this is not a good situation.

When they walk out, they start talking about killing Translucent.

“You’re gonna kill him?” He asks worriedly, still remembering the expression on the Translucent’s face when he was back in the trunk.

“We didn’t bring him here to have a fucking happy meal.”

“I thought you’d just- question him, Or something. You can’t just kill him.”

“At Gitmo, we had to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a 183 time in six months to get him to talk. Now, we ain’t got six months, I doubt we even got six hours.”

“There are so many crazy things you just said,” Hughie says, thinking about the fact that Butcher waterboarded someone. “But right now, you’re talking about randomly killing one of the most famous men on the planet. A goddamn national treasure. People tend to notice that.”

“What do you think will happen if we let him go?” He questions before walking away. Hughie had to breathe in again before pressing a hand on his forehead, trying to calm down.

“Why are you even in this if you didn’t agree to join?” Frenchie asked, shaking his head. Hughie pursed his lips.

“I literally got kidnapped. Before that, I was getting interrogated by this asshole.” He waves at the steel door. “I wasn’t exactly in my right mindset to refuse.”

“Well, you’ve done good not refusing, Butcher doesn’t leave witnesses behind.”

That’s … not good to know. He pushed himself off the counter and forced himself to walk to the stairs, he needed some water.

While drinking, his eyes roamed the dusty place before landing on a jar hidden under the cabinets. ‘Tips’ was written on it. He didn’t know what kind of idiot would forget to take their tips, basically your whole livelihood if you worked as a waiter, but he’s so glad because there are a few coins in it.

He drops on his knees, hissing in pain, and fishes out a few quarters. The moment he heard some noise nearby, he jumps in his place forgetting about the top of the cupboard and hitting it. Carefully looks out to find-

Butcher with a big gun.

He must have caught the guy’s attention because he turns to look at him with a raised brow.

“You okay there, Buttercup?”

“Can you guys stop calling me that? I don’t even know what a buttercup is.”

“Powerpuff girl, tiny, acts tough but is pretty insecure. Green eyes. A bit adorable really, like you.”

“Shut up.” He growls, but the man only laughs at him as he moves back down the stairs.

Once he was sure that Butcher was down, he forces himself off the floor, grabbing his now trusty crutch – god please forgive him and help the poor soul they stole this from – to lean on and help him get out of the place.

He opens the door and looks around, squinting under the sun’s glare, before he finally finds a phonebooth.

He hopes this one still works.

After wasting so much energy to reach it, he leans on the booth and puts in a quarter.

It picks up on the first ringing.

“Hello?” The voice sounded so weak, so tired and scared, but still pretty much alive. Hughie sighs in relief.

“Dad! Oh god, dad, did anyone come to the house or-”

“Hughie? Hughie! where are you?” His dad interrupts, he sounded so relieved that it made Hughie queasy for even leaving him in the first place.

“I don’t know, I managed to get away for a few seconds to make this call, I’m next to an abandoned restaurant. To be honest, I’m actually surprised that the phone works, wasn’t there like only 4 payphones around? Maybe they only meant the classic-looking ones-” He didn’t even realize that he was spiraling away from what he was originally talking about until his dad cut him off.

“Hughie, focus. What else do you see around you?”

“Graffiti walls.”

“And? Come on, son, we’re trying to figure out where you are.”

“We?” He asks, frowning down on the ground. “Who’s we?”

“The police, Hughie, your room was a bloodied mess, it’s your blood, please tell me that you had an episode and left during one, and that you didn’t actually get kidnapped.”

“I- Uh- someone actually kidnapped me.”

“What?!”

“I don’t know his name, he gave me a fake one. All I know is he’s British and he’s working with a French guy.” He didn’t know why he wasn’t giving them names … but he could hear the distant ringing from afar, slowly getting closer the more determined he was in telling his dad who kidnapped him. It was the sound of amps overloading. The sound you were left with after hearing an explosion. All Hughie knew was that this ringing is nothing but a bad omen, and that he shouldn’t give away names.

It still felt like it was pressing on his head the more he hears it.

“Dad, I think I’ll pass out.”

“Hughie, no! No, we need more information, stay on the li-”

The phone cuts off, asking for more quarters. He sees his coins, only seeing cents, and realized that they won’t be enough. Tearing up, he drops the phone and pushed himself off the booth, forcing himself to hop back into the restaurant. They’ll probably figure out where he is, after all, there aren’t many phone booths that still work in New York anymore.

0o0o0

He goes down the stairs and freaks out when he sees Butcher heaving the fucking gun inside the room with the steel door.

“NO! No, no, no, no!” He calls out, trying to run down the stairs and stop them, only to trip on his feet, losing his grip on the crutch. In the exact same moment, Butcher shoots and fails in killing Translucent as the bullet ricochets off the man’s skin.

He was so lucky to trip on the floor because he can see the bullet flying right where he was just a few seconds ago.

Translucent mockingly laughs as he insults them, proclaiming how he’s invincible. Hughie squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ignore it. As if closing his eyes will stop him from hearing the jeers.

“Are you crazy!”

“No, just experimental. Frenchie, back later.” Butcher says, stepping aside from him and leaving him on the ground. Hughie pressed his lips tightly, trying not to let this irritate him. “You two got everything here under control, don’t try to bugger each other.” He orders as he happily and merrily skips on the stairs.

“Where are you going?” He yells but received no reply from the man.

After a few moments of just lying there on the ground, he pushed himself off with some difficulty.

“I think I’ll get sick.”

“You look like you’re sick. Here.” He hears from the guy, he glances up and sees Frenchie pulling off his apron before offering it to him. He takes it with some confusion before he sees a drop of blood splattering on the clothing.

Fuck.

When did he even use his powers?

“My dad’s going to kill me.”

“For what? Having a broken nose?”

“No, I- Uh- I have nosebleeds when I stress out.” That’s as close to the truth as he could give, especially to people who apparently torture and kill Supes for some reason.

“You almost got a hole in your head, I think you are allowed to be stressed out,” Frenchie says before moving about. Hughie gratefully starts wiping the blood off his face.

Chapter Text

“What made you think that shooting him was a good idea when he’s invincible.” He asked when his nose finally stops dripping. He looks at all the drop that’s been spilled and remembers his dad’s voice, echoing in his head as he said, “I didn’t even know a person can die through nosebleeds”.

He wondered if he really will die from blood loss, or that his powers were working extra hard in reproducing blood inside of him, like some sort of messed up health bar.

“I made a round of bullets out of the same meta-carbon material as his skin.”

“… So … you shed some of his skin? Cause that’s nasty.”

“Either you feel it's nasty and die, or ignore it and survive. What are a few skin cells in a bullet to your own being underground?” Frenchie said in a certain cool manner. Hughie had to take a moment to breath in, like how he usually practices. In and out, but not as deep or slow as the therapist said because he can’t fucking listen when he’s having a panic attack.

To be fair, Frenchie does have some point.

When Frenchie left him alone to check something upstairs, he fills up a cup of water and sneaks into the steel-doored room.

He’s been feeling sweaty, and tired, like something’s been holding him off for some time but doesn’t know what it is. Despite this, he had to push himself, or else, how can he get away from these lunatics?

He’s either been kidnapped and ordered around by Supe killers and probable villains, or he talks to an ego-maniac who works for the company that allows ‘accidents’ to happen, when he happens to be its latest victim.

Either that, or he goes back home, to the stifling environment he’s been living in since mom died.

“I brought you a cup of water.” He says and reaches out for the little hatch on the door to open it, but Translucent yells at him.

“Are you crazy?! This thing’s electrified!” Hughie stares at him, he felt too sluggish to understand what he said before it clicked. Face palming, he grabs his crutch to open the panel instead.

“Sorry, don’t know where my mind went.”

“Yeah, whatever, just give me the cup.” He demands, and Hughie was surprised when he feels the cup getting snatched away. Hughie carefully closes the steel door so that their conversations could at least be discrete.

Slowly, he slides down on the floor.

It’s now or never.

“I have a few questions … A-Train, when he ran through the girl, what was he doing that day?”

“What?” This catches the man off guard, his surprise clear on his face, only, it shouldn’t really be clear, it should be invisible. But Hughie never really followed the rules of this world, did he?

“He said on TV that there wasn’t a bank robbery, and Stillwell, your CEO, says it’s company business. What was it?”

“I legally can’t say anything.” The man replies, as he slowly takes off his meta-metal skin off. He was hugging his legs, trying to make himself as tiny as possible so that the cage doesn’t touch him, it doesn’t exactly fit his character. “I don’t even know myself.”

Don’t lie to me.” He says. Something in Translucent’s eyes changed like how a puzzle would click and open for the world to see inside.

“I don’t know where he was going, but I know where he was coming from, his girlfriend, Popclaw.”

“Why?”

“Don’t know, shoot up or something, they’ve been on hard drugs for some time.” He was truthful, he couldn’t lie to him now, not when Hughie wills it so. He bit his lips as he thinks about it, remembering the day, remembering the blood on the road, the way A-Train was gasping, saying how he couldn’t stop.

The box bag on his side, the blood and organ parts dripping down.

Drugs.

“What type of drugs?”

“They tried heroin but stopped. If you’re asking me, his speed got suspiciously higher, so I think they’re using Compound V. Urgh-” He growls, holding onto his head. “Stop. STOP. What the fuck are you doing to me?!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m just asking questions.”

“This is it. This was what’s wrong with A-Train. You’ve- I thought you’re a necromancer?”

“… I can do a lot more than bring people back to life.”

“You bring people back to life, you … you heal them too, and you can also make them tell the truth? Even miles apart?” Translucent starts talking, only to divulge into mumbles. That was interesting, he always acted so boastful and charming on TV, but to think his real personality wasn’t as grandiose. He was analytical. “You’re not hiding because you’re scared what the gangs will do to you … you’re scared because of what you’ll do to the gangs.”

Hughie felt his throat dry up, he looks away.

“I’m right. Holy shit. What other stuff can you do?”

“… Anything I want, as long as I want it.”

“What?” Translucent frowned, brows nearly touching as he starts thinking, before slowly parting away as the realization struck. “No …”

“I can do … anything. As long as I have enough blood in my body.”

“Shit. Fuck, shit. Do you know what anyone would do to get their hands on you? What those people outside this room will do to you if they find out? I heard what that guy said about Mohammed, and let me tell you, we never found him ever again.”

“They’re not finding out!” He snaps at him. How did Translucent hear them anyway? Wasn’t the door insulated? “They think I’m an invalid and are probably regretting taking me from the hospital. I just keep bleeding on them. They probably think I’m some fragile kid because they keep calling me nicknames.”

Which, okay, really a blow to the ego. He may not speak French, but he knows what Petite means. Hughie doesn’t even want to remind himself of Butcher’s attitude either.

“Good … good, okay. That’s perfect. Use your powers to get me out.”

“What?”

“You can do anything. Get me out, I’ll fight off those dumb fucks, then we’ll go to Vought. They’ll protect you.”

“I’m at my limits here, I can’t just get you out. Either way, Vought will never protect me. Stillwell hates me.”

“That’s not exactly true. She had a hunch about you, and that’s why she sent me. Must have figured out you’re one of us.”

“That isn’t going to help anyway. I can’t go back because the moment I’m in that building, I’ll kill A-Train.”

“That’s really adorable, kid, really adorable. But that’s not going to work, cause A-Train’s speed will mess you up. Let me talk to Stillwell, I’ll kick him off the team for you, he’s already losing public support, Vought’s been trying to figure out how to fix this, but firing him is on the table. How about that? Will you come then?”

“…” Tempting, but he can’t.

He thinks about how nonchalantly A-Train killed Robin, how they had an NDA sitting on the table of the kitchen ready by the next morning, how very well trained everyone was. This isn’t the first time a Supe killed someone and Vought shut them up with hush money. He doesn’t think he can stomach being somewhere like that, surrounded by people like that.

It’s like Translucent said, he’s not afraid of what people would do to him, he’s afraid what he’ll do to the people.

His only defense from slaughtering everyone was this stupid ringing sound in his head and that thin line in his mind as he imagines a way to decimate everyone. It’s hard stopping himself from hurting normal people, but what about Vought?

He can’t-

He can’t have another dead person on his hands.

“These people know who I am, I didn’t even introduce myself, not once, and they got my full name. They probably have other info on me, where I live, my father, where I work. I can’t risk it.”

“I'll get your dad in protection.”

“You can’t guarantee that it’ll keep him safe.” Hughie challenges, the man blankly stares at him. For a tense moment, he thinks that maybe he broke through the man.

“I can. You know why?” Translucent said, his mouth strained downwards and his eyes hating.

“… Why?”

“Because my son’s in protection.” The man confessed, and everything fell down inside his mind.

Son.

He has a son.

Translucent has a son and Translucent must be worried about his kid like how his own dad always worries about himself. He closed his eyes for a moment, and tries to stop himself from screaming, because he can’t do this, he can’t let anything happen to anyone else like that.

He’s breathing heavily again. In and out. Trying to make it slow, but it’s too damn difficult. The world was suddenly getting bigger, a lot bigger than it should really be. He was turning small, too small to reach for anything, too small to do anything.

Butcher and Frenchie admit to having tortured another Supe. So, what will happen if they find out that he’s a Supe?

Vought kills people as well.

Why is there so much death?

There’s too much blood. Hughie’s drowning, trying to claw out of the blood bath. Trying to gulp for air, only to choke on the metal. The foul stench. Robin’s hands- 

His face was splashed with so much blood, it’s makeup now, and he’s a fool of a clown to forget it all, he’s a fool because he’s drowning in blood-

“Kid! focus!”

“I- I need to think.” He gasps, pushing himself off the ground. Waiting to see crimson-colored handprints on the ground, and for a faint moment, he did.

“Wait! No! What about our escape plan?”

“I’ll- I’ll think of something.” He doesn’t know if he’s lying or not, he just wants to hide in a corner, he needs his dad. “But I’ll only do it if you go through your promise of putting my dad in whatever safety protection program you have and get A-Train kicked out.”

“… Deal.”

Hughie shuts the door behind him, and finds himself on top of the sink, nausea finally delivering its promise. But its blood that comes out, all he smells is blood, and it’s making him sick.

When he finally stops, he hears it.

He hears the ringing.

“Stop, please, stop it. I don’t want anything, I don’t want anything to happen.” He begged, clutching on to his ears, trying to block the sounds that are coming from nowhere. There’s no stopping it, because he was lying.

He wants everything to stop.

The buzzing sound was splitting is his head.

“Oh god, please, make it stop. I don’t want to feel sick anymore, I don’t want to feel miserable anymore. I can’t keep doing this.” But these wishes won’t ever get granted? Why would they? Does he really want it to stop?

The note that only he can hear ... high in volume and ready to rip his brain apart ... he ... he ...

He̠͔ ̗d͎e̳s͔e̦̻̙r̤̦͚v̭̦̭e̠͕͕͕͚ͅs͓̮̫͔̹̯̺ ̰͎̪̱͉̯͎i̥͓̝̣̹̘̮t̰̤.͖͉̖̙̥̪

 

He could have brought them back, his mom, and Robin, but he didn’t. He’s as bad as they are. He’s a murderer.

 

N̄̍̈́̓ͦͧ̉o̥͇͕̱t͚̦̼͖̓̅̑h̝͔̙̓ͥiͧͤ̅̈̏̈́͋ṋ̯̬̖̓͐ͣͦ̓g̺̘̈́ͮ́ ͍̝̲̩̰͉͌̉̊ͣ̊͆͌w͌̆̈̈͌̓̚iͧ̇͛͐ͣlͯ̔͐̏̆̈l̯͚̹̦͈ ̜͓͎̦͕̳̋̂ͦ̌e͙̟̅̋ͫv̻̱̻̟͋ͪ̈ͤ̃̏̀e͓͖̔̔ͤ̑r̿ͩ̒͋͆̃ͨ ̟̭̟̆ͧ̐̚sͦt͉̘͉͉̋̄̀̾̆̔̋o̘̮̹͚͌ͤ͐̀̎p̭̈́ͮ̇̊́̾ͣ ͚̾̑ͥ͂iͯͩͩ̽̊̒ṯ͙͍͓ͬ̐͒ͬͣ̓ͅ.̱͉̜̭̻̙̅̇̍ͅ

 

The sound of glass shattered above him, snapping him out of his thoughts.

There wasn’t any blood.

The ringing is gone.

It doesn’t smell like blood either.

No pressure was on his mind.

It’s gone.

Moving his head upwards, he finds a poster of a blue-eyed baby, staring back at him in bewilderment. The baby was covered in blo- Spaghetti. Spaghetti. It made a mess, and the poster tells it to “Keep your hands clean.”

Hughie blinks, feeling the moisture in his eyes, and he starts to rub it away.

It was like a message from above.

Like someone’s watching over him and telling him what to do.

To stay clean.

It was such a simple command, why can’t he do that?

He doesn’t know, but he’s so grateful. So, fucking grateful. Who wants to look like this dumb shit, covered in red sauce and looking stupidly back at whoever stares at it. He doesn’t want that, he doesn’t want to look like this baby.

It can’t clean itself up.

He’s not a baby, he’s not going to let anyone get killed in his sight anymore.

0o0o0

Frenchie keeps trying to break Translucent’s skin.

He ends up using a chainsaw, and it’s too loud. He had to sit by the corner furthest away from that room while covering his ears.

Frenchie runs out of the room, cursing the man’s skin as he throws the chainsaw. This made Hughie’s own skin crawl. There was too much echo in this place, too much sound. It wasn't as bad as the ringing in his head, but it was still terrible.

Then Frenchie hits the table himself, dropping more things on the ground, clunking.

He wants him to stop.

The guy must have noticed, because he reaches for an orange pill bottle in his pocket and takes one out, offering it to him.

“Here, take it.”

He doesn’t want it.

“What is that?”

“It will help with your, uh, anxiety. It’s LSD and MDMA. This is a candy flip. It’ll smooth you right out, take it.”

The only type of LSD Hughie’s letting in his body that actually smooths him is the songs from the music artist.

“Thank you, but I don’t think now’s the time for … a major Hallucinogen.” The hospital kept drugging him through pills, like the things that are already getting inside him through the IV wasn’t enough. He doesn’t want anything that’s stopping him from feeling anymore.

Frenchie doesn’t seem offended, he shrugs and takes the pill himself before going to the next table and sitting on it, propping his feet upwards, causing more noise.

“What are you, exactly?” Hughie starts, cause why not, how much worse can it get? “Chemist? Engineer? Mechanic?”

“I do many things. I’m a gunner by trade,” He's reminded of the guns in his hideout. “But as you can see, I developed a certain niche.”

Hughie looks away. He can already tell what it was.

“Killing superheroes?”

“No.” He surprisingly says, pulling out a cigar. “You can count on one hand the number of dead superheroes. Each one has a unique power, each a unique challenge.” He lights his cigar and starts smoking. “Truly, they are magnificent creatures.”

Hughie gulps.

He was a creature to them.

“Who pays you to kill them?”

“Whoever can pay,” Frenchie answers, nonchalant. As if that life that he’s taken away was nothing. There’s no reason to kill. He won’t do it unless he’s paid. So, he might be safe. Might be …

But not Butcher. The man has a grudge.

“So, when you kill a Supe, or- or anyone, doesn’t it hurt?” Frenchie, who was smoking casually, stops. He moves the cigarette away from his face and gives him a searching look. “Doesn’t it make you feel miserable? Like- Like a part of you is empty? Or that they’re always watching you? Always on your back of your mind?”

Frenchie must have found whatever he was looking for. He sniffs and taps on his cigarette a bit.

“I saw this woman once, in a midtown elevator. No more for ten seconds, I see her huh? Stunning. Five-nine. Hair so black it absorbed the light, you know? Tom Ford pencil skirt, Louboutin stilettos. C'est magnifique.” He smiled, as if still looking at her. “But she had, uh, I never forget this, you see ... she had dirt under her fingernails and callouses on her hands, and I see this and I say, Oh, strange for such a refined woman like this. Is she a gardener? A sculptor? What is it? And I think about this, I think about her all the time.”

He stops.

Something dies inside the man. Hughie knew whatever he’s going to say was bad.

“She was the first person I ever killed.” He stops looking away, stops looking at whatever void he was staring at, imagining whoever he killed. “I carry them all with me. It's like scars in a way, and I think you know exactly what I mean.”

“… Yeah …” He admits, nodding a  bit as he tries to ignore the man’s eyes. “My mom died because of me. He saw me, and he- I don’t know, he just hated me. Tried to shoot me because of something I did. I don’t- I don’t remember it, it’s been a long time. But he kills my mom instead. All because ... all because I probably looked at someone funny.”

“Do you feel her? In the back of your head? Always watching you?” Frenchie questions, throwing his own questions back at him.

Hughie gives him a bitter smile.

“All the time.”

0o0o0

He’s late. He’s late because these psychos pushed a bomb inside Translucent’s ass and were ready to detonate it, pulling him outside despite him trying to say otherwise. He sees Translucent’s betrayed expression and couldn’t help but look away.

He closed his eyes, trying his best to ignore the screeching in his head, he needs to- to stop it.

He wills for Butcher to stop, to have the detonation pushed away, for-

For something.

Then it happens.

“Homelander’s here,” Frenchie says, and Hughie opens his eyes. The two other cursed and ran outside while they ordered him to keep watch of Translucent. Once they’re out, Hughie counts his heartbeat till he reaches ten, and then runs off to the steel door.

The door opens just as he reached it, smacking him on the head.

“Well, shit.”

“I was going to help you out, we need to move now-” The ringing explodes in his ear, and he screams, grabbing his head and trying his best not to pull out his hair. “No, no, no! He’s gone.”

“Who?”

“Homelander, something exploded, and he flew off!”

“How did you- never mind, get up, we need to start moving.”

“No! No, we can’t. They have a bomb inside you, we can’t just- can’t just go. They’ll rig another remote and- and-”

His eyes land on a baby poster. The blue-eyed baby covered with spaghetti looking at him. Red sauce dripping down on it. Hughie looks back at his arm, and everything clicks in place.

The blood on his skin, dripping.

He felt sick.

“I have an idea. But- you’re- you’re not going to like this.”

“Well, what is it, spit it out?”

“I need to kill you.”

Translucent looks at him in disbelief, shaking his head as he steps away from him.

“Campbell, I have a son, I told you that. I- I haven’t seen him for two days, you can’t- I can’t-”

“I’m sorry,” Hughie breathes in, honest in his apology, as he starts tearing up. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Oh god, I’m so sorry. But we need to do this. You need to die so they can leave you alone.”

“Kid, listen to yourself, you’re probably having a psychotic breakdown.” He tries to calm him down, but Hughie closes his eyes, reaches for the remote-

And triggers it.

There’s blood everywhere.

Chapter Text

The moment they step down the basement, they find him in the corner of the room, hiding away like some kind of hamster.

Frenchie faces him with accusation before looking at the mess.

The kid had done it, he went up and killed a Supe.

Billy couldn’t believe this.

They walk carefully across the room, Frenchie slowly counting the bones on the floor and finding a lot of teeth sprawled about.

“Hey, Buttercup,” Billy calls out, the kid looks up, still shaking in his place. He might have not felt much guilt for him at the beginning, but the more Campbell stayed around them, the more it seemed to leave him regretful for dragging the kid around.

He originally wanted to recruit him into helping him bug the tower. He knew that he didn’t sign any NDAs and would have been helpful in that regard. He would have sent him to the tower so he can plant a bug in the building.

He instead finds him getting threatened by Translucent, and all the kid’s been through since was nothing short of hell.

“You’ve done good. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”

It’s like he wasn’t even there, he just blankly looks ahead.

“You should have never brought him into this operation.” Frenchie admonishes from behind as he drags in two cleaning buckets and mops from upstairs, Billy didn’t even notice him leaving in the first place. “Petite Hughie seemed to be of the delicate type, this is not the sort of job to bring him in for.”

“We need to drop him off to a hospital after this.”

“What if he talks about us.”

“I- I won’t.” This surprised them both, their attention goes back to the kid. “I won’t. Just, please- please let me go. I can’t handle this anymore. I won’t tell, so please.”

“Alright, alright,” He says, that would be a bit hard. They’d usually get rid of any witnesses if they were deemed a risk. The kid could be lying, and even if he didn’t, torture is an easy way to get lies out of you. “Told you that you’re a Buttercup. Come on, let’s get you cleaned up and out of these clothes.”

“Just- Just- leave me alone. Please.” His voice breaks, and as if that wasn’t enough, he closes himself off, hiding his head between his knees. “I’m sorry, just let me go. I just want my dad. All I wanted was an apology for Robin, but this- this-”

They start cleaning up, letting the man have his mental breakdown by the corner. Everytime either of them got close to him, they can hear him mumbling, cutting off a few times for a few shaky breaths.

“Blood. It’s blood. It’s everywhere. Please stop. No more blood.”

They’d probably send the kid to a mental asylum after this, no one will listen to his mad spiels.

Either way, he wasn’t going to go anywhere, not when he’s so deep in shock.

0o0o0

“Are you sure you don’t want us to drive-” Hughie startled when Frenchie tries to talk to him, the man frowns but nods anyway, he leaves him by and goes upstairs. “Billy will come by tomorrow to see if you’re gone. We left some clothes up, we found them in the lockers.”

Hughie nods, and waits.

He waits, and waits, and waits, until he was sure they’re gone before uncurling himself.

He felt delirious.

Everything is moving now.

Killing someone was not- is not- not helping. But they took away all the skin and cleaned off all the blood and body parts … all of it but on himself.

He picks out a tooth from the ruined coat that he’s been given a day ago and stares at it.

He killed Translucent.

Taking a shaky breath, he starts focusing. He stares at it for so long, but it was getting harder the more he does.

His head was swimming.

Sleep.

Sleep sounds good.

Snapping out of his drowsiness, he looks down at the molar and focused.

Willing, for the universe to listen, for this tooth to help reform what it was missing.

A nerve comes out of it from below, stretching and multiplying in a slow, but gruesome looking, rate.

He drops the thing when it starts to form a jaw with just the nerves, and it continues to grow into a complete nervous system. Then comes the veins, muscles, and organs, with bones.

A part of reality was meant to be empty, and he did not allow it to stay so.

Hughie couldn’t help it, he turns around and dry heaves, he noticed the blood mixed in his vomit and whimpered as he drops on a relatively clean tile. Those two tidied the place up and here he was ruining it like the ungrateful man that he is.

He felt his full body shudder when he hears the screams, there was nothing but complete agony coming from the mess of flesh behind him. He covers his ears in vain, still listening to the misery as it continues to slither, splashing on the floor, and making new cells in speeds that should tear him down from the inside instead of making him up.

Tearing up, unable to handle the cracks his will was creating anymore.

If he brought Robin back, she’d cry, she’d be in so much pain, and he couldn’t do this to her.

Treacherous whispers intruded his mind, however. He could have saved his mother, it tells him. she was still complete, whole. She wouldn’t have screamed as much, he could have saved her-

The screaming stops, only heavy breathing follows. He tries to crawl away, pushing himself with his legs, but it was pointless, it was like all his strength was gone.

He felt a hand on his shoulders.

“You know what, fuck you, Campbell.” Translucent said, his voice hoarse from all the screaming. “Fuck you, and your fucking stupid ideas. That was the craziest plan I’ve ever seen, but it worked.”

“You- You were here?”

“Yeah, you didn’t exactly let me go, did you? I was stuck here the whole time. Real great acting skills, by the way.” He says, jokingly. Hughie blinks his eyes open, he slowly stood up unsteadily on his feet. Hands wrapped around him, helping him up. Translucent seemed to have great upper strength, Hughie noted. Not that it was a surprise, the guy lifted up a hospital bed. “And, hey! No more bombs up my-”

Hughie coughs, splattering Translucent’s chest with blood. They fell into silence as he feverishly stares at it. Slowly, he looks up at Translucent, who also follows his gaze, eyes wide shock.

Hughie finally falls down, letting everything go.

His body can’t handle this anymore, he needs to shut down and sleep like he used to at the hospital, those warm duvets were everything and now he misses it.

He was trembling now, but who cares? He numbly realized that someone else was shaking him, but again, who cares?

“Kid? Shit. Kid, get up. You’re running a fever.”

“Leave me alone, I don’t want to get involved in any more of this.” It’s been one day. One long horrible day.

“You weren’t kidding about the blood. Hell, we can’t keep you here, it’s going to get worse. We need to get you to Vought-”

This wakes Hughie up.

Anything but Vought.

He doesn’t want to go there; it’ll make him feel more miserable.

But there was only one problem. Translucent is alive, and he knows everything, he’ll tell on him to them. There was the fact that Butcher and Frenchie think he’s dead as well, so they’ll come after him next if they find out about his state of being.

“Translucent, what’s your name?”

“What?”

“Name?” He asks, forcing himself off the floor, pushing away the man’s offered hand.

“Al, and that’s all you’re getting from me.”

“Well, Al, I want you to run away with your son. Disappear. Don’t get involved with Vought anymore unless you’re forced to. Live out the rest of your life like a normal father. Change your name for all I care, just hide and don’t mention us unless you need to.

What’s a few more blood drops for his safety?

Translucent’s – Al’s – demeanor changes. His eyes turning from whatever emotion he previously had into a muted dull acceptance of his command.

He gets up and starts walking away, slowly disappearing, leaving Hughie alone.

Hughie has a feeling that this isn’t the last time he sees Al.

He lies back on the tiles, grinning madly.

He’s free.

0o0o0

He strips off the hospital clothes completely before splashing himself in water. He’s been in those things for a day, maybe more, he doesn’t remember anymore. But he felt cleansed, felt that the heaviness of what he’d done is finally washing away.

He didn’t kill Translucent, but he did.

In the first floor, he finds the clothes that Frenchie mentioned.

It was a chef’s coat, with some striped pants. This was already better than the gown and coat. Instead of blood dripping down on the floor, it’s clear water droplets from his hair. He doesn’t have a towel, but watching the water is so soothing.

He doesn’t look away.

Hughie searches for the tip jar again and sighs in relief when he finds it. Pennies can get you somewhere, right?

Pennies can’t buy you a sandwich.

He grabs onto the crutch, like the lifelines that it is, and starts walking out of the restaurant.

The sun was shining again, it’s a new day. Smiling, he lets the warmth wash over him. It was so good.

But he moves, he needs to get … somewhere? Anywhere, as long as it’s not here.

Home?

Home.

Hughie doesn’t exactly know how long he walked, this wasn’t a part of the city he usually frequented, but subways are everywhere, so are bus stations.

Can he buy a ticket?

He doesn’t have his wallet.

To his luck, and complete relief, he finds a bus station, a station. Not a bus stop. He can probably look for a ticket that got dropped by accident or something.

There were already some people, and it’s easy to blend in, who cares about a guy wearing cook clothes? There were so many restaurants around here, so many pizzerias too, so what’s one more chef gonna do to grab their attention.

People … don’t care about you. They ignore hobos all the time, they ignore homeless children too, if they can. He was one of these horrible people. A penny to one more guy on the streets still means nothing. So, they were ignored, and he will be ignored.

He finds a ticket, and he felt a need to do a little jiggle with his feet but stopped himself. This ticket could get him to his neighborhood, with some more walking of course, but at least it's close.

Then he looks at the date and finds that its expired.

He sighs and lets it drop. Useless.

“Sir, you dropped this.” A guy said from behind him, leaning down and picking up the ticket. He turns around, about to tell him not to bother, only to receive a gasp from the man.

“It’s you!” The guy yells, grabbing other people’s attention.

“Who?” Hughie questioned, slowly stepping backward.

“You! You’re the guy in the news!”

“The news?” What news? Hughie frowns. “Why would I be on the news?”

“So, it’s true, the guy did have an episode and ran off. Look at him.”

“Shh, he might be in shock. I’m calling the ambulance.”

“Hey, man, can you sit down,” Someone asked, pulling him down to sit, only to yelp. “There's blood on him! Hurry up and call for help!”

There were so many sounds, so many people talking at the same time. He needed to step away a bit.

Maybe a bus station isn’t good.

“Bro, what happened to you?” Someone next to him asked, and Hughie steps away. He needs personal space.

“What do you mean, what happened to me?”

“You disappeared?” The says, shaking his head at him, not believing what he's hearing from Hughie. “like, it’s blowing up in the news, everyone’s looking for you.”

“Why?” He felt stressed. Why would so many people care? Why is it in the news?

“What do you mean why? They arrested A-Train for suspicion of killing you! But you’re not dead, that means he’s done nothing, and they’ll get him out of custody! So, what happened?” This was all news to him.

A-Train was arrested?

That’s- That’s wonderful.

But they’l bail him, or release him because Hughie's here, and not killed as they presumed.

“What happened?” That question again, why do they keep asking that question?!

“I don’t know. I just-” Hughie frowns, the man leans in closer to hear him. A spark of irritation fills him. “Please give me some distance.”

And slowly, ever so slowly, the man backs off. Like dominos, the others part, giving way for his movement. Hughie immediately rubs the blood off his nose, already getting used to this feeling. He can’t stay in the open. Too many people. Everyone will know who he is, everyone will stop him. They're calling the ambulance, then the cops.

He decides walking is a better option.

0o0o0

When Al returns home, it was to a petulant child, watching an interview that he had starred in a week ago.

Al couldn’t believe he was here. Not with his own two feet, standing in front of his child. He couldn’t show himself, not without any clothes on. Yet, somehow, his son turns a knowing eye at him, upwards, smiling widely.

“You’re finally back! You said you’d come yesterday.” He says accusingly. Al breathes in, trying his best to keep his tears at bay. His son’s bright smile slowly dims, frowning at his reaction. “Dad?”

“Maverick,” He starts, leaning down on his knees in front of him just so they could be on the same eye level. Maverick always did have a way to look at the world differently. He sees what others can’t. He wondered at times if that was part of his powers, or it was just him being super observant. “Do you remember when we talked about leaving?”

“Emergency?”

“Yes. Emergency. We need to leave.” He said, still staring at his son in marvel.

“What happened? I thought you only had a spying mission.” Maverick asked. Al's guts fill up with regret, he could have been gone, could have left his son alone with no idea of what could have gone. He didn't even update his will yet, how would they have known to leave everything to his son and not his ex? Worse yet, what if Vought never admitted to his death? They'd mask it, they wouldn't want teh invincible man to seem fallible after all. He had to think of a way to explain this without all the gory details. He was too young to understand politics and how rotten his business was, or how overpowered people can control you and your actions. He didn’t want to scar him this early in his life, if ever.

“Sometimes, spying missions go wrong. You get burned, and you need to save yourself without anyone’s help. I got burned.”

“But why?”

“Because I got involved with a bunch of idiots, three of them. Lunatics, I swear. But … but one of them saved my life. He told me to leave, and I agree with him.” Not completely, this wasn’t in his instincts, this wasn’t something he would have chosen. He would have gone back to Vought and reported Hughie Campbell, told them about a fucking powerhouse just sitting somewhere in the streets, his talents wasted away. How Madylen's hunch was correct, how Campbel was hiding something big, and how it could affect them.

The guy can bring the fucking dead back to life. If everything else were to be believed, the kid can do anything. The only reason he wasn't was because he's too fucking dumb and dependant on others to use his powers. He hopes deeply within his heart that nothing would make him snap, or else ...

He doesn't think the world would survive.

“He’s holding them off?”

“I … I hope so. He made sure I looked like I was gone, and told me to go. I don’t know how long it’ll work, I don’t know how long we’ll be gone.”

“Dad, you told me about this before, remember? Emergency.”

“Yeah, emergency. So, you know what to do?” He asked and received a nod.

After an hour, the apartment was completely trashed. Not a sign of anyone living there could be found, especially not of a man called Al with a son named Maverick.

0o0o0

When Hughie gets back to his apartment, he finds Frenchie standing at the front, looking unimpressed.

“We have a lot to talk about.” He says, showing him his phone.

Hughie stared at himself, on the screen, in a video.

Chapter Text

“Can we have this conversation at another time?” Hughie asks, not ready to face the gunman now. Frenchie doesn’t really seem to care as he follows him inside his house.

Hughie can’t exactly kick him out, not when he can feel some tensions around them.

“I had to steal this phone from someone who was about to post it online.”

“Thanks.” He mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck.

“It needed some work, I had to act friendly with them and chatted them up a bit. They told me about the A-Train situation. So, I called up a friend who works in the station to ask about it. Do you want to know why they arrested him?” Frenchie asked as he sat on the couch, lifting his leg to rest it on the coffee table.

“No. Not really, I’m just glad he got arrested.” Frenchie looked unimpressed by his lack of intrigue. “Why then?”

“The hospital room you were in, it was all bloodied up, non?”

“Yeah, my blood, Butcher’s blood, and I’m not sure if Translucent bled either, but pretty sure he didn’t.”

“Well, Butcher had the funny idea to mix up the blood in the whole room to try to throw off any … blood profiling.” Frenchie answered. Hughie glances at him for a moment before going to the kitchen and grabbing a glass. “It would work if there were more people in the room who spilled blood. As it is, the hospital already has your blood, so they can separate it and identify what each allele belonged to.”

“Oh … so … so Butcher’s in trouble?” He asked, freaking out a bit. Frenchie scoffs.

“He should have been. It was stupid to leave the scene in the first place that unsanitary. But unlike us two, Butcher has his blood in the forensic system, as in, he is also a forensic. The system would immediately redact his blood or any genetic identifiers. I cannot fathom how that works when there are only two blood in the crime scene, but this takes him off the hook.” Frenchie accepts the glass of water that he gives him.

“He’s listed as a forensic?” He asks as he sits down next to him, giving a glass of water.

“He works with cops as a freelancer and had a favor with someone.”

“Okay … so clearly neither of us are in trouble. That doesn’t really explain why A-Train was arrested?”

“No. My friend told me that he was arrested because one of the genes found in the blood work has the supergene strain in it. The only super-abled person to have a grudge against you is A-Train, so they brought him in for questioning.” Hughie’s freezes, eyes wide at the new information. “Butcher is not super-abled.”

“No …” Hughie agreed.

“Translucent’s skin cannot be cut and so, blood doesn’t fall,” Frenchie adds nonchalantly.

“No …”

“What other person in that room that could have bled and could have, somehow, have a supergene strain?”

“I don’t know.” Hughie knows for sure that he looked dumb at that moment, especially with the way Frenchie kept breathing in the smoke as he stared at him. “Who knew, maybe- maybe Translucent did bleed!”

“Either way. They will compare his blood soon, and they will say that he is not guilty. Some people from the bus stop will agree, maybe talk in social media. Then? Then you will have someone with a grudge on you.”

Hughie couldn’t look at him, he only looked at the flooring as he thought about this. A-Train probably didn’t know him before, probably didn’t even care, but after this? Ruining his public image? Making it look like that he was the one who caused all this chaos and mayhem?

A-Train will gun for him.

“If he ever catches you, they will eventually find out about Translucent.”

“What do you want with me?! Didn’t you guys already say you’ll let me leave?! You guys agreed! I thought I’d finally be free of all this- this craziness?!”

“You can’t disappear now because everyone will look for you, especially after this morning.”

“I can disappear,” Hughie said, adamant because he knew that he can. He could have done it a long time ago but didn’t. Why is that? Because-

Because he didn’t want to leave his dad.

And maybe … maybe because he didn’t to be alone.

“I can make people forget me or forget about looking for me.”

“Is that your power?”

“No! No, we are not having this talk. I don’t want to talk about this.”

“Petite Hughie,” Frenchie starts, and this time, he throws the half-finished cigarette inside the glass of water before leaning closer to him. “I am not Butcher. I do not care if you are super-abled. No one is paying me to hurt you.”

“And if they did?” Hughie asks, looking at Frenchie in the eye. “Would you? Try to hurt me, I mean? Or even kill me?”

“Non,” was the surprising answer. “You see, petite Hughie, you are lost. You are lost, but not in the same way the rest of us are. You try not to lose yourself; you try to find the best version of yourself. You stumble, but you do not fall. You could have gone to the police to report us. But did you?”

“No … but I was trying to keep myself safe, not because I didn’t want to get you two in trouble.”

“But you could have been safer if you did go?”

“Yeah …”

“This, petite Hughie, is what I call honor among thieves.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“It means that we are honest enough with each other to know that we will betray someone at some point. That we can both work on the assumption that they’ll need to leave and ready themselves for it. Friends? You don’t think they will betray you, so you never get ready for it.”

“I’m a thief now?”

Frenchie grins, before patting him on the shoulder and standing up.

“I will wait for you outside. Take what you need, we need to leave before the cops come back here, and after this morning, they will definitely come here.”

Hughie was about to say something, only for the door to their apartment to open, and at the door, stood none other his father. Dad didn’t even hesitate before running up at him and hugging him. Frenchie just skips away, disappearing from sight, leaving him alone with a very distressed man.

0o0o0

They sat on his bed in awkward silence, unable to say anything to the other.

When he finally tells his dad that he’ll leave, Hughie swore that he could see something breaking in his eyes.

His dad helped him pack some stuff, in fact, he was the one who handled all the superhero memorabilia to a box so he could hide it away. Now that the room was completely clear of any mentions of a Supe, and his drawer lacking in clothes with his bag by his feet, they sat down.

“I knew this would happen,” Dad said.

“What do you mean?”

“When I got the call from the hospital, telling me that you were in for shock. I arrived, and they told me what happened. How you were holding onto Robin’s arms. They had to take me to the side and show me some videos that were posted online. Those … sick people. To just post such a … a gruesome thing, as if they weren’t looking at the remains of a dead girl. It was horrifying.” His dad then takes a deep breath before resting his elbow on his knees, and covered his face with his palms, shaking his head.

It took a moment for him to collect himself before speaking again.

“You were on the ground, holding onto Robin’s hands. You were shaking, and you- you had that look in your eye. Hughie. That look. That way that you stare off to the distance.”

“The one Anthony makes fun off?”

“That one. The one that I knew you were trying your hardest to stop whatever instinct you had in you. You only started showing that look when you stopped using your powers, and I knew you were trying to repress yourself. When Robin’s ghost- when she came up and disappeared, I was glad that you didn’t follow with your powers.”

To his surprise, his dad starts sobbing, tears coming down his palms as if he were trying to hide it. Hughie hesitantly put a hand on his back, trying to pat him the same way he usually did for himself.

“It’s alright dad, you didn’t do anything wrong.” It stung to hear him say it though.

“But I did! I’m a horrible man. This whole time, I was happy that you were denying this part of you, this thing that you can’t really stop. Oh god, Hughie, you were hurting, and I was happy. I should have never felt that way, I should have encouraged you to use your powers. Maybe then- Maybe then Robin would be with us.”

“But you’re not wrong, my powers aren’t exactly … environmentally friendly.” A world where cracks were left behind after every step he took. Crevices that yearns to fall apart, craves to dismantle, to scrap their concept of what is and what isn’t.

Hughie stands in that void as a crowned king.

“Son, what happens when you keep a dam closed for so long? Without check up or repairs? Without letting out some water routinely?”

“It breaks.”

“Look at you now. Every time you use your powers, you get a nosebleed. And Hughie, your powers aren’t something a dam should hold, it’s too powerful, too … immense. You can bring back the dead. That is not a minor power, and now you’re paying for the negligence that I forced you in.”

“But I’m fine now, see, I’m walking! I’m talking! I’m not- I’m not damaged.”

“Don’t lie to yourself, son. We’re both damaged, and it’s entirely my fault.”

“But … I …” He didn’t know what to say, how to reply. They never acknowledged it, even during his therapy stint. They always ignored this, trying to act as if everything’s fine and that they weren’t dead inside.

To hear his dad finally confess the truth left him breathless.

“I saw that video, and I realized how much of an idiot I’ve been. You shouldn't be contained here, in this dinky old apartment with this old man. You should be out. You already used your powers, what’s stopping you from using it again? Me? Because I’m not stopping you anymore.”

Hughie still couldn’t speak, couldn’t reply, and that must have been a sign for his dad to finally let go of his face and look at him.

Dad looked miserable, but he smiles.

“I’m not stopping you anymore. You should go out to the world and do whatever you wanted to do. Out yourself, even.”

“That will put you in trouble.”

“Don’t,” His dad demands. “Don’t think about me, I already know you’ve done something to keep me safe. No paparazzi or lunatics following me around for a scoop since this thing started. I know I’m safe. Now, it’s time that you should go and do what you wanted.”

“What if I wanted to hurt someone?”

“I raised you to know that you can’t do that without feeling queasy.” His dad answers immediately before he starts chuckling. Hughie felt a twitch to his lips before he too starts chuckling, joining his dad as the sound gets louder, turning into a full-blown laugh.

When they finally calmed down enough, not so much that they stopped, just enough that his father was still struggling not to let out a laugh.

“Thanks, I’ll try to do right by you, so people don’t actually have reasons to question you.”

“Just tell me one thing, son. Is this a, uh, Stockholm syndrome situation?” His father asked, his worried tone in his voice ever-present. Hughie blinked in surprise.

He doesn’t honestly know.

0o0o0

Frenchie tells him that he had a nice dad compared to his own, who had bipolar and tried to kill him with a hello kitty duvet. He also spent the rest of the ride trying to figure out what his powers were, but Hughie only smiled, not answering anything. The man doesn’t give up easily, he has to give him props for that.

When they get to their destination, which was near a van that had probably seen better days, Frenchie stops him before they could get off the car.

“Do not worry, I will not speak of your affliction to Butcher.”

“I don’t have-”

“Your powers,” Frenchie said, winking before getting off the car. Hughie sighs before reaching for his bag and getting out. He honestly thought he was going to run somewhere far away from these lunatics, but here he was again. Now wondering if his dad might be right for questioning his mentality.

“What’s with the van?”

“How do you think we can move without anyone noticing us?” Frenchie says, looking at him like he’s dumb. Excuse him for not being knowledgeable with sketchy stuff, he thought sarcastically.

“I don’t even know why you’re dragging me? I’m pretty much compromised now. Everyone knows my face.”

“Yes, but we can take that into our advantage.” He answers, then knocks on the door in a certain pattern that he didn’t bother listening to. Hughie sighs tiredly when the door opens, showing Butcher’s face as he gives way to let him in. Hauling himself inside the van, he finds another guy already inside.

But the new guy’s expression turned from confused to disbelief.

“Holy shit. You’re that guy.” He whispers, Hughie nervously offers his hand for a handshake.

“I’m Hughie.”

“I know who you are! Your face is everywhere! Billy, you’re the guy who fucking kidnapped him?!” He demands, only to freeze at something behind him. Hughie turns around in confusion, wondering what could stop the guy’s outburst.

He sees Frenchie cursing behind him before he was shoved aside by someone, and by this point, it could be anyone.

There was yelling. Frenchie has a knife, because why not? And the new guy was too big to be stopped by a measly knife and ready to punch him. Butcher threw himself between them, stopping them from hurting each other.

He just silently watched.

His dad was right, he’s Stockholm syndromed into joining them back.

“Why are they fighting?” He asked, still trying to keep himself away from the fight despite the small space in the van.

“It’s water under the bridge,” Butcher says.

“You tell that to Mallory’s grandkids. Tell them it’s water under the bridge.” The new guy said, the two other's expression changed.

“That wasn’t my fault,” Frenchie said.

“Who’s Mallory?” He asks, completely lost in this conversation.

They all stop when they somehow end up getting Rick Rolled. He looks at the guy in incredulity when he pulls his phone out, cutting the song off, and walks to a corner to talk to his wife? Girlfriend? Listing food he’d buy for her.

Hughie turns to Butcher, asking him about what’s going on through looks alone, Butcher just rolled his eyes.

Then the guy makes kissing sound, and Frenchie drops on the floor, laughing his ass off.

“Listen, you two knobbers kiss and make up, yeah? We got a fucking job to do.” Butcher tries to control the situation, and Frenchie humors him all but for three seconds before making fun of the new guy, only to get shoved away by him.

That’s when the man turns to look at him.

“Is anyone going to explain why America’s latest abduction case standing inside this van?”

“I’m considered abducted?” Hughie mumbled to himself, people should really stop looking into him.

“He wasn’t exactly abducted, he was saved. From a Supe too. Not to mention, he dusted that very same Supe.” Butcher replies to him, the guy looks back at him in surprise. Hughie felt self-conscious enough to tug onto his bag. He doesn’t exactly know if he dusted him or not anymore.

“It was an accident.”

“Blew his entrails all over the wall.” Frenchie adds.

“I didn’t mean it.”

“Had a psychotic breakdown and ran in the city till Frenchie managed to catch him again.” Butcher joins in.

“To be fair, no one wants to stay with you two.”

“Great,” The guy moans. “You kidnap Stephen Hawkin and coerced him into killing a Supe.” Butcher seemed to ignore him as he turns to Hughie.

“Hughie, Mother's Milk. The best at what he does.”

Mother’s Milk?” This was getting ridiculous. “Why do you all have nicknames? Should I get a nickname too?”

“What on earth are you talking about?” Butcher asked, and Hughie just looks at him in frustration.

“Your name is Butcher, his name is Frenchie, and his name is Mother’s Milk?” He points out at each of them. It took a moment of silence before Frenchie starts laughing again, leaning on the wall this time to support himself. Butcher runs a hand down his face while Mother’s Milk gave an ‘are you serious look?’ at the two of them.

“My mom named me Mother’s Milk.” Milk said, sounding like all his energy was seeping out of him. “This French whore’s name really is Frenchie, and Butcher’s name is his last name. His name is Billy.”

Hughie sweeps a look at all three of them, trying to see if they’re pranking him, only to realize that they really weren’t. Frenchie was too amused, Mother’s Milk looked like he explained this far too many times in his life, and Butcher wasn’t exactly sending him any good vibes.

He, in turn, throws his bag on the ground and decides to sit down.

“Sure, why not? I thought they were codenames this whole time, but sure. I can’t really say anything. I’m Hugh Campbell the third, you call me Trey for all I care, because who cares about normal anymore?” The codenames weren’t even codenames. “Why am I even here?”

Frenchie’s laughs might have subdued a bit, but he kept chuckling as he moves away from the walls, patting him on the shoulders.

“Why else are you here? Because of your stunt this morning, they’ve released A-Train from custody.” Butcher explained, particularly shocking Hughie.

“What?”

“They had him arrested, but after news came out that you were in a bus stop and disappeared again while the man was in custody, they had to release him. I knew that fucker will probably look for you after this. So, it’s better to keep you here than to let the man kill you.” Butcher explained, Hughie looks away, still in shock.

Well, fuck.

Chapter Text

When he sees the gadgets that they brought with them, he clicks his tongue in disapproval.

“I can get video footage of the whole house if I had her IPv6 number. We need to get access to her computer. It’ll take me 5 minutes to get it.” He says, thanking his lucky stars for Anthony’s rants right now.

He was more of a hardware guy, not a software one.

But getting a job at Gary’s left him a bit behind, and Anthony had been teaching him what he needed until he was considered ‘competent’ by his standards.

If A-Train really is out there in the city, probably looking for him, he’ll need every possible evidence within his disposal to … he doesn’t know … blackmail him? Get him arrested again?

Translucent said something about Compound V when he talked to him privately, something he didn’t share with the others when he had a bomb up his ass. If he could get any footage of him getting high on that thing, maybe he’ll be able to stop him.

“Problem is, you’re a very famous person right now.” Milk reminds them, Hughie frowns, also realizing how much more difficult their task was right now.

He could just go up to her and make it so she doesn’t recognize him, hell, he could make it so no one will recognize him unless he wants to. These guys, however, were smart enough to notice how weird that is. Frenchie already figured it out, he doesn’t want Butcher to find out he was Super-Abled, and he doesn’t know Milk well enough to trust him with this information.

“Simple, we distract her,” Frenchie said, looking delighted with whatever plan he made up.

“That’s a face I like to see, what do you have in mind?” Butcher looked genuinely excited, this warned him that whatever plan was cooked up in Frenchie’s head will not be good.

He should have listened to his gut instinct.

Hughie hid by the corner as Milk and Frenchie stood closer to her apartment. He stays there, doing his breathing exercise, counting 4, holding for 7 seconds, letting it all out in 8. He closed his eyes when he started hearing them fighting and felt startled when a hand fell on his shoulder.

It was Milk, and he was holding his forehead.

“What did you guys even do?”

“Pretended we were drunk and fighting before she got close enough for Frenchie to drug her.”

“What?! That’s not stealthy at all! How did you even know if she’ll come close?” Not to mention, who gets drunk during the day? In this neighborhood none the less?

“She’s a former teenage kix member, they have to act heroically,” Frenchie whispered next to them, making them both jump in place. “Now, help me put her in bed and make it look like she fell asleep.”

“Alright. Kid, do your magic.” Milk told him as they went up to Popclaw and picked her up. Hughie ran past them, ignoring everything around him so he can go looking for the computer. To his relief, it was in the living room, then he drops himself on the chair, opening it.

He ignored Milk and Frenchie, who were moving Popclaw into her bed. Frenchie waves at him as he leaves the apartment to join Butcher back in the van. Milk joined him, instead. It seems that they’ve agreed to this arrangement without him listening in on them.

Hughie intended to start working but stopped once he saw the picture on the desktop.

It was none other than A-Train and Popclaw, hugging each other while he’s kissing her on the cheeks.

Something inside him, so deep in his soul, starts growling in anger. Hughie had to breathe again, counting his heartbeats weren’t going to work again, he doesn’t know think the 478 breathing would work either.

A-Train was out there in the world, free, and could be looking for him for revenge.

He killed Robin. He’s free. He has everything he wants in this world.

Why can’t he just … take it away? Hughie slowly peeks at to the bedroom, the door slightly cracked open to Popclaw, sleeping peacefully in her bed. He could see a phone strategically next to her hand as if she had fallen asleep while browsing.

What’s stopping Hughie from taking a knife to her neck?

The world turns an ashen tattered grey in the edges of his mind. There really wasn’t anything to stop him.

See how the blood seeps down to the floor, cluttering down on the wooden floor. Hughie could easily do it, all he’d need was a knife in hands, and to sneak on her, his hands would do the job.

Blood in his hands.

See how A-Train feels about that-

 

C̡͑̉̏̄ͫ͐ͥ͏̩̪̞l̅̎͏̛̛̞̜e͕̭͚̲͖ͥ̀̀͊̊̚̕a̯͉͕͇̥̪̼̦͚͌̾n̞̙ͧ̂̏ͦ ̜͐͐ͨ̐̂͐ͬͥţ̵̖̭̳͙͓̫̘͓͌͋́ͯ͊̌̅̋̚̕h̬̩͔̞͎̠̳̥ͬ͒̑̄̎ͦ̂ͦẽ̲̩͈̘̫̱͙͐̆͂ ̾͂̍ͮͣͫ͝͏̳̲͘w̨̩ͫ̈ö͇͍́ͦ͂̕r̮͖̲̮̜̻̈̉ͩͯl̵͙̤͙͇̺̐̃͝d̴̼̲͛̌̋ͨ̚-̷̳̜̓͆͋̅͂ͥ̍̍͟͢

 

Hughie gasped once he realized where his mind went. He looks away, back to the computer, and starts the Command Prompt. His fingers moving by its own as he ignores Milk, who was snooping around the living room.

Popclaw didn’t do anything. She doesn’t deserve that. Just because she was attached to a bastard, that doesn’t- He shouldn’t-

What was wrong with him?

Dad would be so disappointed … and so will Robin. What would Robin say to him?

He stops, finally opening up the link to the van. He gives the camera a look before putting the computer to sleep. Standing up, he tells Milk that they’re ready to leave.

They walk down the pavement while Hughie hugged himself, rethinking about what happened inside. He couldn’t help it, that lapse of judgment a few minutes ago had done nothing but haunt him. How he was so willing to go through with his plan. For a split second, he didn’t mind the images that he was now tortured with.

But he does mind.

He doesn’t want to see blood and he doesn’t want to be responsible for it!

“You know, I had some preservations when we met, but I think you’re a fine guy.”

“I didn’t really do anything. You guys could have done it without-” He stops talking completely. Milk looked at where he was looking, and they spot a guy in an eye-catching blue costume.

They both panic, especially Hughie.

He hears it again, head now fills with a ringing so loud that he had to physically stop himself from reacting and continue walking, holding onto himself even tighter as he does.

He looks down, counting, each beat a number. Deep breaths, then letting it out. Make it slow. Just make it FUCKING SLOW-

“He went into the building.” Milk said, snapping Hughie out of his slow descent into the panic zone. Only then did he notice the arms slung over his shoulders, pulling him away, forcing him to walk even after trapping himself in his own head.

He mutely nods before forcing himself to walk further to the van.

0o0o0

When they watch the cameras, Hughie had to hold himself, digging into his skin with nails just to stop him from lashing or screaming as A-Train enjoyed his night with his girlfriend.

It wasn’t fucking fair.

The more he looked, the deeper his nails sunk in, with arms shaking in rage and scorn.

He couldn’t hear anything, well, he could hear it, but couldn’t process it. Not the conversation happening behind him, nor the conversation on screen.

“You ran through a girl, baby,” Popclaw says, catching his attention completely. “That's not what I would call ‘control’. That shit's a slippery slope. Take it from me.”

“No, I need it.”

“Honey, I'll still love you even if you lose.”

“How is that supposed to help me right now?”

 “Uh-” Popclaw looked hurt but was trying her best not to show it. Hughie tilts his head, wondering if … maybe Popclaw was just another victim. A-Train seemed to hurt girls continuously without care, the bastard.

“After everything, I need this to boost up my popularity again. People are starting to believe some bullshit conspiracy theories about me kidnapping that dumb bitch,” Hughie scowled at the screen, he was not a dumb bitch. “And I need to do something to take their attention away from it. I have to win this thing, or I’ll become a washed-up B-squader.”

“Like me?”

“No, not like that,” He sighs, cutting himself off. “I got to go. Why don't you just tell me where the V is, please? I'll come back to see you tomorrow after the race.”

“What are you talking about?” This starts an argument, one he wasn’t interested in. He just watched, and somehow, in some pathetic way, enjoyed A-Train’s discomfort. Every little inconvenience to the man seemed to satisfy Hughie.

That vindictive feeling bloomed when she left him alone in the living room.

A-Train didn’t deserve to have someone who cared for him, not when he takes that someone from others, not when he takes them for granted and hurt them further.

Then she comes back and throws a bag on the table, still giving A-Train the silent treatment. The man shakes his head and pulls out a container filled with a blue liquid inside it.

“Compound V.” He said out loud.

“It seems like it is a performance enhancer.” Milk adds.

“So, Steroids for Supes. Frenchie, think you can test it to see if that’s true?”

“I can run some tests, but I won’t be 100% sure of what it does unless I tried it myself.”

“Amazing idea,” Hughie mumbled as he moved away from the screen, the shaking starts to lessen, and his skin doesn’t hurt as it did in the last hour. He looks back at the other three, waiting to see what they wanted to do.

“Well, looks like we’re going to get us some drugs.” Butcher decides. Frenchie gives a small grin, while Milk rolled his eyes.

Hughie, on the other hand? He turns back to the screen and decides to save the video.

He wants to hurt A-Train, but not by his powers. No, he realized that he liked to watch him suffer. Not by his own powers, but by taking away everything he liked.

His fame seemed to be everything he cares about.

And if the idea that using his powers might have scared him a bit from using it against people, with how it was slowly twisting his thoughts, he won’t admit it.

0o0o0

Frenchie was given the job to sneak through the vents. Hughie was glad because he was not ready to slither around inside metal boxes, and Frenchie was the only one small enough to do it compared to the rest of them.

Both Frenchie and Butcher left while Milk stayed behind.

“You’re watching the van.”

“What? But it’s hot.” Hughie complained. Who wants to stay inside a closed van when there’s an event going around?

“A lot of people are looking for you. And from what Butcher told me, you were already under Vought’s interest list, and this event will have a lot of heroes roaming around. Not to mention, reporters.

“I can hide really well in a crowd; I’ll just get a hat and sunglasses. Not a lot of people watch the news anyways.” Hughie tells him. Milk didn’t look convinced, but he sighs as he takes the communication devices and starts attaching it to him.

“So … Translucent, huh?” Milk starts, Hughie pressed his lips as he tries not to look at him, but at an empty area in the stadium. “How the fuck did you pull that off?”

“I didn’t like it.” He replies. “I hated it. There was blood everywhere, but he was walking away, and I remembered what Frenchie and Butcher said the whole time I was with them. Either he dies, or we die.” This earned a sigh from the man. Hughie sees a disappointed expression on him as he shook his head.

“You’ve spent too much time with those two.” He said, then finally let go of the mic, looking directly at him. “Fact is, it isn’t always like that. At that moment, it was. It won’t always be like that. There’s always a choice and killing isn’t the only one to consider.”

Hughie nods. He gives him a hesitant half-smile before dropping it.

“What if … What if what you’re considering is a lot worse than killing?”

“I don’t understand.” Milk frowns, Hughie looks back at some of the gadgets strewn about on the floor.

“You don’t want to kill; you want to hurt. You want them to hurt as much as you were hurt. To make them suffer the way you suffered.”

“… That’s a slippery slope you’re walking, Hughie. Some people will think you a saint for not killing who you’re gunning for. Fact is, Killing is a mercy for the tortured.”

“What if you don’t want to torture him physically?”

“Shit, I don’t know. Ask Butcher about that, he’s a manipulative son of a bitch, he’ll have some idea. I’m just saying, hurting, either by killing or not, will always turn out bad at the end. You’ll always pay the price of what you choose to do.”

Milk was saying this from experience, Hughie noted. He didn’t know what he lost, maybe it had something to do with the Mallory person and their grandkids. That was a high price to pay.

He then sighs. Milk has his family to worry about their safety, Hughie doesn’t. His dad is safe, and his dad knew exactly how to slip away when needed, this wouldn’t be the first time he picked everything and moved away from everyone’s safety. Hughie lost count how many times they did, every few months? Then it de-escalated into every few years. His dad can save himself, but Milks family won’t.

Milk wouldn’t understand his situation.

“I just don’t want to feel pain anymore.”

0o0o0

What were a few droplets of blood against freedom? He wonders as he wipes his nose from the nosebleed he was experiencing. It was significantly smaller than the last few days, and maybe that’s because he was getting used to the power …

Or because he was starting to feel apathetic to it.

Either way, it was worth it, to bleed just so he could walk freely through the crowds without getting recognized. All he needed was a wish, and he’s free.

“No one will connect my face to Hughie Campbell, the kidnapped man. Only my friends will recognize me.”

He was so stupid for not thinking about this earlier when he left the restaurant.

He tests his freedom by walking around the stadium, and no one noticed him, he wasn’t even spared a glance. Unless he himself wanted them to notice him.

The hat and glasses from the goodie shop helped too.

Hughie ends up where the reporters are, just standing in between them, marveling at how his powers worked. Reporters, usually known as vultures, and people who should have been his biggest concern for finding him, didn’t even lift an eye for him.

“How can you even move around in there?” He asked through the coms, but Frenchie bumps something, loudly, before replying.

“It is a charm.”

“Right, as if-”

“Alright, you two. Frenchie, check A-Train’s luggage, he won’t be coming in for a while. Hughie, watch out for any Supes coming in.”

“What will the kid do after that? Surrender himself?”

“No, he just needs to get their attention, and suddenly the event will turn into a ‘we-found-the-missing-man’ event. Vought would love that and use it to their advantage.”

“I feel like I’m only here to get exposed in a showcase,” Hughie muttered.

The reporters start getting excited, catching his attention. He sees the flashing light bulbs first, hurting his eyes for a second before refocusing again as Starlight, the newest hero of the seven, walked down the hallways. Hughie was a bit surprised with the new outfit, but then realized something important.

He knows her.

“Annie?” He called, almost running out to her. Then he noticed where she was going, and panicked, because Frenchie was there, and probably messing with a Supe’s sports bag, which will not bode well for him. “Annie!”

This does catch her attention; she turns around and sees him.

“Annie, you’re … uh … Starlight.”

“And you are …?” She was confused. Hughie remembered what he was doing right now before taking off his sunglasses.

“It’s me, Hughie.”

“Hughie … from the bench?” She let go of the doorknob, and he gives her a stressed smile.

“How did I not know who you are.” He said in reply, but he receives a grateful smile from her.

“I’m actually glad that you didn’t.”

“Fucking hell, Hughie. You know Starlight?” Butcher invades his conversation.

“Well, Hughie, it was really nice to see you, but I need to go and-” He couldn’t hear the rest because Butcher, once again, talks to him and tells him that they needed more time. He did not need to be reminded, not when Frenchie was behind the door.

“Can I, uh, buy you overpriced beer?” This seems to catch her attention, and she seemed to think about it before facing him, smiling a bit before replying.

“Maybe throw in some overpriced nachos?”

“Lead the way.”

0o0o0

“This is so weird, like, three days ago … three days ago?” He asked, time was flying by him way too fast for him to catch up, but she confirms it by nodding. “You just seemed like, I don’t know, normal. I didn’t think that you were …”

A Supe. A superhero none the less.

“That I’m a freak?” She replies. Hughie blinks in confusion. Why would she ever …

Her powers aren’t something that should be considered freaky, not like his own.

He subtly reaches for the comms and turns them off.

He is either going to regret this horribly or going to congratulate himself for this decision later. Because Annie didn’t seem the type to out him out, she would be safe to share this info with, she’s a Supe after all, why would she hate a fellow Supe for existing?

“I’d be a hypocrite if I called you that.” He says before taking off his hat and ruffling his hair a bit. “I meant that … I didn’t get any, uh, Beyoncé vibes from you.” This actually did make her smile.

“I was joking about it, but what did you mean by a hypocrite?” She asked.

“Well … Annie? Starlight?”

“Annie is fine.”

“Okay. Annie, when you were a kid, did your parents ever tell you not to show your powers to anyone?”

“Yes … Why would you ask that?”

“When I was a kid, my mom told me to never show use my powers. That was the last thing she ever told me before she died.” He tells her before taking a chip and dipping it in guacamole. The silence that followed through made him feel nervous, but he bites into his chip and continues talking. “She was right though. I should have never used my powers. It’s bad. Compare your powers to mine, yours are angelic. I’m the freak here.”

“You’re a Supe?” She asked in excitement, and Hughie shrugs. “What can you do? Why aren’t you in- I don’t know, any superhero team? I never saw you in Vought either.”

“I don’t work for Vought, and ot every Supe wants to work with them. You work for them. You probably have more reasons than I do for not working there.” He must have hit her in a sensitive subject because she winced and fell silent.

“It isn’t as … glamorous as it looks.” She agreed. “It’s like taking an Instagram picture. Sometimes, it's staged, most of the time, it’s filtered to look pretty. In all honesty, it feels like they only want me to look like a hero, and not do any hero work.”

“… yeah, sounds about right.” He eats another chip. “That day, in the park, when you said you hated your job, was it this job?” He asks her.

He received a silent and somber nod.

“Then … why not just walk away? You don’t really have anything to prove.” They didn’t speak for a while, Annie thinking over his words. She opens her mouth to say something, only to close it again, having a difficult time finding an answer.

“I should probably get back.” She says at the end. “You know, before they start a search party for me.”

“Yeah, totally … um … You wanna talk later?” He asked her. “In case you ever need someone with some experience around the city? I know some hangouts, and it’ll probably help to talk about, I don’t know, Supe problems.”

“Sure, I’ll give you my number … but you never even told me about your powers, so how should I know what sort of experience you have?”

Hughie gives her an empty smile.

“Let’s just say, I can probably walk in shadows.”

0o0o0

“How the hell do you even know her?” Butcher asked as he turns around on his seat, Hughie pursed his lips. Milk wasn’t in the van because he said he had a hunch and needed to check it, so he went back without them.

“At the park. We were just … sitting on the bench.”

“You got her number?”

“What?”

“I asked, did you get her number?”

“… Yeah.” He felt elated. He has a new friend, a relatively normal one, but also a Supe friend.

Chapter Text

All they see on the screen is Popclaw lifting a big amount of weight while screaming. They wouldn’t have found that out if it weren’t for Milk’s intuition.

Then, somehow, in some ridiculously way, she ends up getting roleplay sex out of her landlord, so she doesn’t have to pay the rent.

The things people do … he thought in resentment. He remembers as a child how his parents worked hard to have a stable enough income to stay in one place, and here someone was, drugged up to their eyeballs and having sex to keep her apartment.

He doesn’t know if he should get that record on file for the blackmail or not.

Then, Popclaw sits on the guy’s face. She sat on him for too long, that he was visibly choking.

“He can’t breathe.” He freaked out, running towards the door, only to be stopped by Butcher. Holding his arm and physically restraining him.

“No, come on, hold on.”

“What are you doing? If we don’t do anything she’s-” And before he could even finish, the sounds of choking stopped, accompanied by something getting squished.

Hughie had to hold his breath as what happened settles in his mind, his damned morbid curiosity didn’t let him relax, and he turned around to look at the screen just to check.

However, Butcher immediately pushed his head so that he’s facing the walls instead.

“This isn’t a scene for you, Buttercup.”

“You let him die,” Hughie said in horror once everything clicked in his mind. “He didn’t even do anything wrong. We could have done something!”

“He was dead already.”

“That's bullshit.” Hughie turns at him as he yells, only to spy a bit of the screen, seeing chunks of brains and blood on the floor. The feeling of nausea hit him. He immediately looks back at the walls, pressing a hand on his mouth.

“We-” He gasped. “We could have done something.”

“You can cross a street, run up four flights of stairs in ten seconds like some Supe, can you?” Butcher admonished, but in reality, Hughie could do all of that, and he didn’t. “And even if you would've got there, she would have clawed your fucking head off.”

Frenchie was now by his side, offering him a plastic bag to puke in. Hughie sends him a grateful nod at him, taking the bag, but not using it … yet.

“Now we got her right where we want her,” Butcher adds, his smirk as merciless as it usually is.

“What? What? What are you talking about?”

“You're a smart lad, but you still ain't twigged. The one weakness they all got?”

“Their reputations,” Hughie mumbled, realizing that Butcher’s going to blackmail her. The man chuckles, he was apparently satisfied with how fast he caught onto his plan.

“Come on, Frenchie,” Butcher said, getting out of the van. Frenchie was hesitant in leaving his side.

“We will have a talk after this,” Frenchie said before following Butcher out.

After a moment of silence, and some clicking later, Milk calls out to him. “There’ll always be a price.”

“You also said … you said that killing is a mercy to the tortured. But if the torturer themselves are the one to kill, is it really mercy?” He asked, finally controlling the queasy feeling enough to let go of the side of the van and turning back to Milk.

The screens were already closed, and Milk was looking at the phone instead. He must have done it to shelter him from the sight, which he will eternally be grateful for.

“Butcher told me about your, uh, fear of blood.”

“… Ironic, I get a nosebleed whenever I’m stressed.” He said, trying to get the man to laugh, but Milk gives him a don’t-try-and-take-me-for-a-fool-boy look. “I just … really hate it.”

“Got it, I’ll try to keep you out of the gory stuff then. Frenchie and Butcher got that handled. You’re more like a … techie, or a bait.”

“I don’t like being compared to chump, but I guess fish guts are better than human guts.”

They wait for a while, Hughie ended up blowing air – carbon dioxide really – and then releasing it a couple of times. Milk had to berate him, saying that he was acting like his own daughter and that he needed to concentrate on the conversation.

 Then, they finally hear Popclaw confess to them about where they were getting Compound V. After a while, Butcher comes in, looking straight at him.

“You might want to ditch the ride for a while, or sit at the front, Buttercup.”

“Why?”

“How do you think we’re getting rid of the body?”

“Really, Butcher. Can you be even more of an asshole than you already are?” Milk admonished. The man was already irritated when he was brought in, and honestly, Hughie understood him, deep within his soul. Butcher was a grade-A asshole.

“The kid has to get used to it at some point.”

“Wait! Wait- I’ll sit at the front.” He pleads, already getting off his place and running to the passenger seat.

“You’re still going to help Frenchie unload him later.”

Butcher is a grade-A asshole.

0o0o0

“Frenchie, can I have a moment with him?”

“Why?” Frenchie asked. He was right in the middle of stuffing the corpse in the back of the black van. Hughie’s eyes flickered to the side, to look at the white van where Butcher and Milk were waiting.

“Please?”

“Do you feel guilty?”

“No- Yes.”

“Don’t be. You at least tried to save him.” Frenchie said but agrees to the deal by putting the body completely in and climbing inside to the front. Hughie’s eyes flickered back to Butcher and Milk, and he gulped.

He doesn’t even know why he’s doing this?

“Mr. Aleksi? Are you okay with speaking to me?” He whispers, Frenchie sent him an incredulous look before deciding to completely ignore him.

Great, now the maniac of the group thinks that he’s more psychologically unbalanced.

He tries asking again and didn’t get a reply. He sighs, thinking that the man must have passed away-

Only to feel his limbs completely freeze when he does hear a reply.

“Why do you call me?”

“I- I was wondering if- if you want to come back? To life I mean.”

“Come back? After how I went away? No, thank you, that might be a nice offer to some, but not to me. I cannot go back after this.”

“What about … in another form?”

“… No. No, thank you, young man. Bless you, for bestowing kindness on this stranger, but I do not wish to be back.”

Hughie lets go of the feeling, knowing that the spirit is content in his passing. His limbs returning back to normal, and he exhales.

He suddenly crumples down on the ground, blood seeping down his cheeks.

“Hughie?!” Frenchie yelled. Hughie moved his head slightly, and he saw Frenchie looking out of the van and down on him. Not a few seconds later, Milk and Butcher appeared in his view as well, sun shining far too brightly behind the two.

“I’m your techie, I’m not your muscles.” He says as he stares them in the eyes before rubbing the blood away. It still didn’t stop him from passing out, but he might have sounded cool before that, and that’s enough for him.

0o0o0

He’s been in china town for about three days now. He couldn’t handle staying in the van any longer, it felt too much like the hospital stay. Annie’s text could do so much but couldn’t really stave off the claustrophobic feeling he’s starting to develop.

So, he decides that he needs to go out, with or without their permission.

Milk wasn’t exactly pleased by this decision, but he was understanding. Frenchie, on the other hand, throws his jacket on himself to follow him around.

Half a day went by before the man sighs and stops him from continuously browsing more stores.

“Is this your power?”

“What?” Hughie answers, turning back at him. Frenchie spreads his arms and turns in his place, blocking off some people from walking, which resulted into none too gentle glares and angry mutters getting sent their way.

“This. There are many people here. How does no one notice you?”

“Is … is that why you came with me?” Hughie asked, then he shook his head. Of course, why else would Frenchie be worried about him?

“You did not pick your hat or glasses, so I worried and tried to give it to you, but I noticed that no one even looked at you.”

“So, you just kept … watching me?”

“Oui.”

Frenchie did not look ashamed by his stalkerish behavior, so Hughie exhales a bit before shrugging. Agreeing to what he decided. Frenchie seemed overjoyed by this confirmation because he starts dragging to all the questionably legal places where he gets his batches.

Batches of what? Of anything.

Frenchie was a DIY monster. He will literally make anything out of anything.

By the end of it, Hughie has managed to learn where to buy the most explosive chemicals and the best ones to make acids. Where to find Mandarin speaking shops and Cantonese speaking ones, then where to find other Asian shops that aren’t just Chinese. He also met new people that apparently owe Frenchie favors from time to time.

Hughie noticed that aside for Milk, everyone liked Frenchie. He wouldn’t blame them, he also liked the guy, he’s a hell lot nicer than Butcher, despite being on the same level of crazy.

After that, he shows him a Speakeasy Casino, which Frenchie swore wasn’t an illegal place, but Hughie’s having his doubts in that but decides against saying anything.

Then he shows him the best dumpling place, because this isn’t a Chinatown trip without takeout.

It was a whirlwind all around.

When they finally get back, Hughie drops himself in the back of the van and deflates, face first on the couch. Frenchie only grinned as he opened his pack of food. Milk watched them for a moment.

“So, no incidents?”

“Petite Hughie is a stealth artist, I am surprised but happy. He can steal anything if he ever desires it.”

“I don’t want to steal.” He replies, his voice muffled by the seat.

“No one will ever suspect him, look at him. They’ll think whoever blames him are the real culprits.”

“I don’t know if I should be flattered or not.”

“We will make him a great assassin one day.”

Hughie choked on his own saliva.

0o0o0

Butcher usually joins them in the morning and then gets out by the afternoon to take care of business. Milk explained that Butcher has connections in a lot of government pies, so he usually goes out to them to get them involved.

Right now, he’s trying to get the CIA’s involvement, since they were investigating Supes.

This time, however, he comes here and tells him that they’ll be having a long talk after today. Frenchie gives him a grin, while Milk shook his head in disappointment.

Since nothing happened, they left by evening. They were out of Chinatown and were walking by town square. Butcher must have been studying him the whole way, just like how Frenchie did, because he comments on it.

“When Frenchie said you had a talent in escaping people’s notice, I said that it’s because you’re very unimpressive.” Hughie decides not to humor him on it. At least Frenchie made it sound like it was a normal skill and not a power.

He’d have to scream at him at some point, because what the fuck?! He trusted the guy, and here he is, spilling the beans!

“You see, the first time I came to your room, I wanted to help you, trying to gather evidence from the Seven to at least convict them of crimes they’ve committed. That went up to tits immediately.”

“You didn’t expect to find a Supe in my room, did you. Neither did I. He just, showed up, in all his … naked glory.” Hughie said, reaching to the back of his neck and rubbing it in discomfort. He wondered what Translucent was doing now with his newfound freedom. He was definitely with his son, but they wouldn’t be able to stay in New York for long.

“That cunt had what was coming to him. Every single bit of him.” Hughie had to force himself not to gag in that spot, the imagery of-

So much guts flying. Some hitting his face-

“Kid? Wake up, don’t go back to that. Listen, I realize that bringing you to that situation was not ideal, especially since you were already in the hospital for something else. We were planning on leaving you after that, get you to some help and that’s it.”

“So, why didn’t you?”

“Why? Look at yourself, kid. Your disappearance? It’s causing panic for everyone, and I mean everyone. Vought, the Supes, the public. People never really cared about whatever messed up shit the Supes were up to, not until-”

“I caused a scene.” Hughie continues. Thinking on it, yeah, he’d also be interested about what happens to a guy who was in his place. He’d be online, on Reddit, Tumblr, or 4chan just to follow people’s theories. He’d start searching about it, like every Superhero fan.

A guy Vought tries to come into terms with refuses their offers, only to have him disappear the next day with his room all but destroyed? Yeah, that’s interesting stuff.

“And what a bloody majestic scene it was. People are on to your case, and people are interested. They’re searching about it, and every one of them discovers something new. Just from you being gone, you’re planting a seed of doubt by the minute.”

“And I can’t do that if I’m found.”

“No, you can’t. So, we had to take you back again. Frenchie was adamant on not doing so, but after the bus stop situation, he decided maybe I was actually right all along.”

“You guys do realize that if I ever get found, that you all will be under investigation.”

“That’s easy enough to rectify, we’ll tell the truth. Hughie Campbell was being held down by Translucent. We had to run away.”

“… People will ask about Translucent …” Hughie says, not seeing the point in this.

“Have you noticed how Vought isn’t talking about him? They’ll try their best to hide the fact that the invincible bastard isn’t really invincible.” Hughie inhales a bit, regretting it when he takes in the bad smells of the area, before exhaling. Yeah, alright, he can see Butcher’s point. “That was at least the plan. You turned up to have your own talents, a techie, and you’re a smart lad. You can even keep up with what I’m thinking. I can’t say the same with Frenchie and Milk.”

“There’s a but in there …”

“In this business, you can’t survive on being a techie alone. Testing you out in the streets was the first phase. You, by the way, have a concerning tendency to walk where CCTVs exist. That’s how they get you.”

“I don’t … okay, sure, that’s a mistake.” He doesn’t correct him. Right now, no one will pick up on him unless he wants them to. Basically, only his friends … which made him a bit concerned that he’s already treating these guys as friends.

“Now that we know that normal people won’t notice you, how about we see if Supes do?”

“What?”

0o0o0

“You can’t just, push me in there!” He doesn’t know what he’ll do with himself there, his fuse is small, seeing A-Train and walking next to him almost set him off, now walking into a- a-

“Don’t worry about it, they won’t actually care if they found out about you. None of them are part of the seven.”

“They’re all still Supes! Don’t they have a sense of community or something?! They’ll tell someone about me-” At least, the ones on the dark webs do.

“The only Superhero team that cares about each other are the G-Men, and that care only stretches to their members only. They won’t bother helping a snob like A-Train. You’re safe.”

“But …” Butcher knocks on the door, the security guard sees them and lets them in after commenting how he’ll get hurt if anyone finds out.

Butcher leans into his ears and said, “Not even the security noticed you, I wonder how you do it.”

“I’m very forgettable.”

“What if you need to get recognized.”

“Then I’ll just- do something. I can get attention too.”

“I doubt it.”

“No, I can! I mean-” He should stop letting Butcher rile him up this easily. “I don’t really want to.” Especially not here. They walked through the club and he had to look at Butcher’s back just to ignore everything happening around him. He joked with Robin about how he’d be in a VIP lounge, and looking at this place, he decided that a Dennys is a hell lot better than this place.

His skin crawled a bit when he felt someone having sex right above his head.

“Fucking hell.”

“You said it.”

“I- I knew there were secret hangouts, I just thought that they’re there for- I don’t know, drinks? Not … not this …” He said before stopping completely when he sees something that shocked him. “Isn’t that … Ezekiel?”

The capes for Christ guy, smooching off a guy on the couch before another one comes in and joins. He looks away, in an effort not to be an unwilling witness to porn, only to end watching an ant-sized man jumping into a woman’s-

“Butcher, get me out of here.”

“Not bloody likely. I need to show you something important.” Butcher says, but he at least rectifies by putting an arm over his shoulder and pulls him away from any more depravity happening around him. “You’re too prude, didn’t you get it on with your girlfriend?”

“I’m sorry if I don’t exactly think about sex, two weeks after my girlfriend died a horrifying death in my arms. I’m not exactly in the mood.”

They finally reached the security room. The bodyguard, Harry, was already waiting for them while browsing the footage.

“I wanted to show you this the first night we met, but late is better than never.”

Chapter Text

Harry, the security guard, did not like Butcher. They had a ‘this is a favor’ vibe going around, which wasn’t a big surprise if Butcher was a concern.

“You’re lucky we kept this, we usually erase anything in a week,” Harry said.

“How did you explain that to your buddies then?”

“I told them that if they ever really get him through court, we could anonymously send this to the cops. We’ll just say some hackers got onto our system. The owner already docked some of our pay, so everyone’s angry at him and are willing to risk it. Some of the boys already have a collection of porno on their disk drive anyways.”

“If you get down, you’d bring the whole establishment down,” Butcher said in an appreciative tone.

“You said it.”

“This is why I like working with you, Harry.” It took so long, that Hughie thought of taking Harry’s place and look for whatever file Butch needs himself.

Then audio starts up, and he sees A-Train on screen.

He felt his heart stop.

“This was the same night Robin died,” Butcher explains, but Hughie was having trouble listening to him, his head was swimming in a fog surrounded with ringing, and he couldn’t breathe.

“I cannot believe you ran through a bitch.” It was the ant-sized guy, but he wasn’t ant-sized anymore, and he had a towel on his shoulders as he joins A-Train on his seat.

“You want to hear something crazy? I ran so fast through this bitch that I swallowed a molar. Like a bug on the freaking freeway.”

“Dude, that’s nasty.”

Then they laugh.

And they don’t stop.

Somehow, the room was getting bigger. It was so big, that Hughie was losing himself in it. They kept laughing. They laughed like it was a joke, like Robin was a joke.

He can’t count his heartbeats, nor breath with it. It was beating too fast, too fucking fast.

“I need- I need to go.” He said, stumbling out of the room. Butcher turns at him and swears under his breath.

“Harry, stop the video.” He orders before following him out. “Kid, are you-?”

“Just- Bathroom? I want a bathroom.” He begs, and Butcher ends up taking him to the place. He left him alone in the stalls to finish his panic attack.

But It won’t stop.

Not until he can marginally feel safe.

He fills a sink before dunking his face in the water, hoping to wake himself up, only to fail as he pulls himself out with shaky breaths.

His heartbeat was slowing, but it was still loud in his own ears. He was pretty sure anyone else could hear it if they were to stand next to him. It didn’t matter if he pressed a hand on his chest to try and calm it down in vain.

His heart is beating when Robin’s heart wasn’t, he thought to himself.

“Fuck,” He swore, pushing himself away from the sink and forcing himself to get into the stall, sitting on the toilet. Slumping down and resting his elbow on his feet while covering his face, he sobs. “I’m so fucking useless. Why the fuck do I keep getting these?!”

“Kid?” Butcher calls from the door. “You going to stay here for a while?”

“… Ye-yeah, I need some time.”

“I’ll be with Harry once you’re done.” He said, and Hughie makes a weak sound as a reply. The door closed with an audible click, Hughie exhales once more, taking his time to try and calm down.

He didn’t know how long he stayed there, but once he knew for a fact that his leg won’t jiggle and his hands stopped shaking, he gets off the toilet.

“It’s fine, Hughie, you’re fine.”

Then the door opens up.

Hughie, for some reason, just panics.

He slams the door to his stall immediately and goes back on the toilet, raising his leg off the floor and hugging them to himself.

He was not fine.

He had to cover his mouth to stop any sounds from coming out, the bathroom’s echo would make his breathing louder, but the open door would let in some of the music from the club, masking any sounds that could-

What is wrong with him?

People wouldn’t figure out who he was, he made sure of that! Why was he still panicking?!

He lets go of his mouth and stands up once more. The bathroom door closes, stopping any music from coming in. He opens the stall door and walks out to the sink to wash his hands.

It was Ezekiel who came in, and he was popping a pill. Hughie did not need to see any more falsehoods from his dad’s idol right now, so he decides to just skip over him and leave the bathroom.

“Whoa, dude, were you crying in there?” Ezekiel asked, stopping Hughie from continuing further. He turns around at him, nodding without speaking. “Not a good image to show out there, you’re new right? What’s your power?”

“I … don’t want to share.”

“We already have a bunch of super strengthers here, you don’t need to get ashamed with not being that unique.” The man said, grinning at him. Hughie gives him a nod of agreement, still trying to leave the room without looking awkward.

“Dude, I just told you not to get out like that.” He felt a hand on his shoulders, despite the only human around being too far away from him, and he was pulled back to the sinks. Though it wasn’t forceful, he did stagger a bit on his feet. “They’ll eat you alive, trust me, I’ve been through that. Here, tissues.”

As weird as it was to talk to Ezekiel, he didn’t actually know him well. He only knew him through his preaching, though that turned out to be hypocritical. The guy was just odd. Did he have internalized homophobia? Or was he just doing it all for the views?

“Thanks …” he accepts the tissues and blows on it.

“What happened to you anyways? It’s been a while since I’ve seen a newbie breakdown.”

“Just … just some guy talking shit,” he said. Ezekiel hums, the sound was too understanding.

“Word of advice, use your powers and show them up. That’s how they’ll figure out if you’re big-league material or a c-squader.”

“What if I didn’t want to use my powers?”

“Then … well, fuck, they’ll treat you like a groupie.”

“I don’t want to get treated like a groupie,” he mutters. He doesn’t want to get treated as anything by these guys, he just wants to be left alone. “Bro, missed a spot, like a tear spot. You’re like a baby, but like a big one.” Ezekiel said, reaching for another tissue, only to realize that there aren’t any left.

“It’s fine, I’ll just go get one from my friend.”

“Nah, man, just,” And for what could be the second time this month, someone had their fucking hands on his face. Flashbacks of Frenchie’s girlfriend comes back into his head and he had to physically stop himself from reacting as Ezekiel fills his view, trying to drunkenly wipe his face with his fingers. “You know … you actually look pretty adorable. Like- Like- a meadow, a fantasy world, like something ethereal touched you- or something, you know?”

“I- I don’t know, actually.” Hughie stammers, taking a step back, only for Ezekiel to step forward. “I’m actually pretty average looking. Really. Only good thing about me is my height.”

He ends up hitting the wall with his back, and he thinks, this is it, this is how he dies, in a secret Supes sex club.

“You know, you could join me, they’d stop bugging you if you did. Point me out who made you cry and I’ll have some words with them.”

“I really don’t- Can- Can you let go of my face, please, it’s weirding me out.”

Please,” the man chuckles. “Who even says that anymore? My god, you really are fucking cute. How about some foreplay? I’ll call you Babyboy, and you can-”

“You’re drunk,” Hughie says, grimacing, shoving the guy off of him this time. “And I’m not into-”

Hughie never finished, not when a tongue got shoved into his mouth.

The back of his head hits the wall, full-blown pain erupts in his head as stars filled his vision. He starts choking, feeling the tongue sliding down his throat, with hands holding down his own to the wall.

Terror.

Pure, unadulterated terror sweeps over his mind, and he does the first thing his instinct tells him to do.

He bites on the tongue, and the man pulls away and cries in agony.

Hughie doesn’t even stop, he pushes the guy, forcing him to let go. Ezekiel flies off of him, hitting the opposite wall with a loud thud.

But Ezekiel’s abilities made him into rubber. He only bounces on the wall then drops on the floor.

Hughie tries to run, but he slips on water, the sink was never closed and continued to spill on the tiles.

He cries when he sees a shadow falling on him, and was yanked to lay properly on his back, looking straight at Ezekiel. The bathroom light only made the shadows cover his face. Ezekiel moves closer to him.

“A twink with super-strength,” He whispers, a shiver ran through his body as fear starts to come back. “And one who likes to fight back, that’s like, super fucking hot. But that can’t be it, you’re too- too much. Like- something’s about you that I can’t-”

He then moves away, grinning loopily, “I just want it. I want you.”

“Stay away from me, you freak!” Hughie’s fist decides to punch the guy’s smug face, he then tries to claw himself away from the man. In an effort to stop him, Ezekiel’s grabbed onto his hair and slammed his head on the floor.

Something snaps.

“STAY AWAY FROM ME?!”

Hughie’s head suddenly felt lightheaded, and the hand let him go.

He felt someone pull him up and some screaming followed, but his ears weren’t working right, nor his eyes, not when the lights kept dancing behind them.

Someone was helping him sit straight.

Slowly, ever so slowly, his vision clears up, and he sees a very familiar silhouette.

“-Don’t accept this type of actions in our club!”

“Fuck that! kick the cunt out!”

“Butch …” He starts, the name drops a bit, his tongue too heavy to continue. The silhouette turns around, and to his immense relief, it was him. “Butch- B- Bill-”

“Don’t strain yourself, Buttercup.” Butcher was by his side in a second, whoever was holding onto him let go, and joined … joined Harry’s side. He could hear Butcher clicking his tongue. “You’re bleeding again.”

“Shit. Holy shit. What the fuck was wrong with me?!” Ezekiel was yelling, clawing into his head. “I just wanted- I just- look at him?! Can’t you see it?!”

And then he points at him. Hughie immediately latched onto Butcher, while Butcher growls at him.

“Don’t you people have eyes?! He’s-”

“What? Asking for it?” The other bouncer cuts him off, eyes sneering.

“Mr. Ezekiel, your manager told me to call him exactly for this sort of fucked-up situation, do you want me to call him now?” Harry spoke up, face neutral but promised retribution.

“He’s not looking fine, Harry. We’re leaving. Keep everything like usual,” Butcher said. Hughie gulped as he was pulled off the floor.

The world tilted on its axis.

His only salvation was Butcher’s holding onto him.

“I don’t- I want out.”

“We’re moving out, don’t worry.”

“I don’t- Don’t like this place.” He said.

“Wait!” Someone yelled out behind them, Butcher cursed under his breath, and they both turned around to see Ezekiel getting closer. Harry and his partner were already behind him, seeming to be ready for any problems, not like they could stop a Supe if they could. “Wait. Shit. I’m sorry. I wasn’t in control-”

“You call that out of control?! Look what you did to him?! What you were going to do to him!” Butcher snapped, scaring Hughie a bit, but he tried to keep his calm, knowing that none of that anger is pointed at him.

“Look, shit, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ll do anything, just-” Ezekiel was now looking straight at him as if searching for forgiveness. “I swear to fucking god, I don’t- I don’t do that fucked up shit. It’s the drugs, man, I swear to god, It’s- You just looked- you were-”

Hughie couldn’t handle it any longer.

He opens his mouth and let all the blood drip down his face, some directly straight on the floor.

“Shit. Fuck you, you piece of shit. Come any closer and I’ll have your bum chopped off.” Butcher threatens before kicking the man’s shin, splashing the white clothes with bloodied water.

0o0o0

Hughie curled into the passenger seat. Butcher had to clip the kid’s seat belt in before getting on the driver’s seat.

They stayed there for a long silent moment before he kicked something under his wheels. Hughie flinched, curling even more into himself.

Shit.” He cursed. “Hughie, are you hurt anywhere? Did he hurt you?” He asked, leaning closer to him to check on his head, but Hughie pushed his hands away before he could even touch him.

“I want my dad, or- or Anthony,” Hughie said in a muffled voice.

“You know we can’t do that.” He explained. “Your dad’s a civilian, he doesn’t need to get involved in this, and he’ll try. Whoever this Anthony guy is, I don’t trust him enough.”

“I trust him.” The kid replies, his fingers tightening. And wasn’t that the worst thing to hear right now? That he can’t bring him anyone he trusts, and that he wasn’t considered a trustworthy man.

Like Becca.

“Do you trust Frenchie? Or MM?” He swallows the memories down, this isn’t the time, he can’t breakdown when the kid is in this state.

“… Frenchie …”

“Then we’ll get to Frenchie, how about that? He’s going to take care of you, like the sap he is.” He tells him, waiting for a reply. He doesn’t get it until later, when Hughie nods, face still hidden into himself.

He starts the engine, taking the long way back to the van.

All Butcher could think of on the rest of the way was his wife, and how they could have lost the Hughie as he did her.

0o0o0

The TV was nothing but static.

Maverick doesn’t enjoy the stay in the motel. It always looked so mysterious on shows. He remembers watching some stuff with his mother.

Being in a state of emergency was not as exciting as he thought it would be either. He realized that maybe television is a liar and that he shouldn’t believe everything on it. Motels are creepy, being burned or on the run isn’t all spy stuff, you don’t steal a plane to escape the country, you have to meet up with some weird people for ‘business’.

Dad was seeing one of those people now, and Maverick is bored.

 He checks the place for cameras. Dad told him to try and not stay around where there are cameras.

Luckily for him, there really aren’t any cameras at all in this area, and he can disappear much better than dad can. He doesn’t need to get naked like he did, so he was good at it.

The motel’s pool did not look clean, but he wasn’t interested in diving in, he doesn’t have swimming trunks and his dad made it a point to try and not get dirty on the road, because laundry mats do have cameras.

So, he just sits on the edge with his legs in the pool, swinging it from time to time.

He misses streaming, or Wi-Fi, really.

Maverick immediately looks up once he heard a crash, followed by giggling. He blinks and immediately casts a wall around himself, forming a barrier of … meta-carbon. His dad called it meta-carbon. He frowns as he looks down on himself, looking at his arms which were completely visible.

But the people who came by the pool didn’t even look at him. They were two people, and they were kissing each other while moving. Maverick scrunched his nose at it and decides to get off the pool and stay away while these people were here.

He sits on the pool chair and watched them in curiosity. What was so interesting about kissing people anyways? They looked like they were sucking each other’s face, like fishes.

He gags.

Maverick once caught dad doing the same thing with someone he didn’t know. He never told him, he didn’t want to get in trouble.

He decides to have fun and waits on them to jump in the water.

Then he felt completely caught off guard once he sees the woman taking off her clothes, and she didn’t even keep her underwear. The guy also did the same. Maverick, covered his eyes, not expecting this at all.

They weren’t like dad, they couldn’t disappear, so why would they try to take their clothes off completely?

The woman giggles again, before grabbing onto the guy and jumping at him, which ended up with both of them falling into the water.

Maverick missed his shot for a prank and pouts.

Then an idea pops into his mind, and created a box-shaped barrier, he grins maniacally once he sees it form. He likes seeing it form, it looked fascinating. Dad can’t see it, he says it’s invisible, it’s more transparent than invisible.

He tilts his head and drew a rectangle in the air with his finger, finally making the shape perfect. He moves the box as carefully as he could, without disrupting the two, who were still kissing while swimming.

Finally, the box scoops out the water from the pool, and he moved it on top of the two with some difficulty. Once the box of water was perfectly above them, he stuck out his tongue at them, and deformed the box, letting the material disappear.

The two screamed, water sloshing above their heads, making dip down for a moment before coming up to pant heavily.

Maverick couldn’t help it, he starts laughing.

“You fucking pervert,” The man screamed, getting out of the pool. Maverick realized his mistake once he saw that the walls around him also disappear, and now there was an angry guy coming at him.

He gets off the chair and starts running.

“You think you’re funny?! Peeping like a perv then splashing us?!” The man yells, and grabs on something, throwing at him. Maverick’s eyes widen once he realized that it was the pool chair that he threw, and he immediately threw his hands in front of him, trying to create a wall.

He succeeds, a wall was created, and the chair hits it. But it hurt, it hurt his head so much, and he falls on his butt trying to grab onto his head to beg for the pounding to go away.

Chairs are heavy.

“Are you nuts! He’s a kid!” The woman said.

When he opened his eyes, he sees feet walking closer to him, and he looks up in fear when he realized that the man caught on to him.

“A little Supe? Here, in the middle of butt fuck nowhere?” The man then starts smiling.

Maverick met a lot of people who had weird smiles before.

Mr. Homelander had an empty smile, but his smile was pretty enough to trick anyone who looked at him. Mrs. Madelyn had a smile that said she knew something, that she knew better than whoever she smiled at. Queen Maeve’s smile was tired, just really tired. A-Train’s smile was fast, like how he was, just there at the moment before disappearing.

But this guy’s smile?

It scared him.

The man puts a hand on his shoulders, still smiling, still scary.

“I know a lot of people who’d like to get their hands on a Supe, I wonder how much you’re worth in the black market?”

“What the hell? We get it, you’re scary and shit, but stop acting and let the kid go, you’re scaring him.” The woman comes, she was at least has underwear now.

“Get off, you don’t know how much you’ll get off a kid like that? You saw his barrier thing.”

“Yeah, and that kid has family around here, I’m not risking it, come on, we’ll finish in the room.”

“Fuck that. Bring some ropes, we’ll take the kid.”

“What?!” Both he and the woman screamed. Maverick immediately tries to crawl away, but his legs were caught by the guy.

“Let go of him you psycho?!” The woman shouts, and he was temporarily let go. He gets up, and glimpsed at them, seeing her struggling with the guy. “I knew I shouldn’t have gone drinking with you!” The woman shouts.

Maverick hears a slap, it was so sudden, so loud, that it echoed everywhere in the pool.

The woman stopped talking.

Maverick sees the girl drop on the floor, with a really loud thud.

“Lena?” The man said quietly and then drops on his knees, touching the girl’s head. “Lena? Lena?! Oh god, no, not you, please Lena, please not you!”

Maverick takes a step back, then felt his whole body shudder in fear when a hand drops on his shoulder, but he looks at it and immediately recognized his dad’s hand.

“Ricky, go back to the room.”

“Dad?”

“Listen to what I say, Ricky,” He orders.

“You’ll help her? Right?”

“Yes, yes I will.” Then dad gives him a weird smile too. So, Maverick nods and runs away from the pool to the room before jumping into the bed and covering his head with the blankets.

He didn’t know how long he waited, how long he was alone in that room, but it must have been hours before dad came back. Dad gets into the bed and grabs him, hugging him. He couldn’t help but smell the faint scent of a hospital hallway.

“Ricky, what did I tell you about going somewhere alone?”

“Not to …”

“Then why did you do that? And why didn’t you leave when someone did come?”

“… I don’t know.” He tears up.

“What do you mean you don’t know? Didn’t I always tell you if you see something suspicious to come and get me?”

“Yeah, but they weren’t doing anything bad, were they? They were doing what you do.” Now he was completely crying, like a baby! He wasn’t a baby! He tries to get them off, but it doesn’t work because he was still crying.

“And how do you know what I do?”

“Because I saw you …” He answered, looking up, afraid to see any sort of disappointment on his dad’s face. That’s when he saw that look, that one that said dad didn’t know what to do anymore. And he couldn’t help, Maverick starts crying loudly. “You always- you always do weird stuff. I didn’t want to tell. I thought you’d leave me.”

“Why would you think that?”

“Because mommy left when she found out.” Dad doesn’t answer, he looks away for a moment, breathing heavily, before looking back at him.

“Ricky, baby boy, I won’t leave you, not like mommy did. But you should know that peeping on people is wrong.”

“It can’t be wrong if you do it.” His dad gulped, now looking away with something like guilt. “And you’re a hero, whatever you do isn’t wrong. You watch people all the time, even in bathrooms.”

“Baby, no. Daddy’s wrong. You shouldn’t do what daddy’s doing. I do it because- because I’m scum. I’m not a real hero, I’m a phony.”

“But-”

“Heroes don’t peep on people while they’re doing intimate stuff. I should have only done it during missions, not all the time. I should have realized what I did was wrong.”

“Does that mean you’ll stop?”

“I’ll … I’ll stop if you stop.”

“… But isn’t a spy supposed to be unseen, to look at everything?”

“Just for missions, baby. Not for … everything else.”

“Okay …” He finally calms down, and then let go of his face, wrapping his arms around him, now feeling heavy. “I’ll stop.”

“That’s good, I’m so proud, Ricky.” He says before leaning in and kissing him on the forehead. Maverick couldn’t keep his eyes open long enough to see him do that. “You’ll be a real hero in no time.”

Dad gives him a real smile.

Ricky smiles back, before frowning.

“What happened to Lena?”

“Lena? The girl?”

“Yeah, is she okay?” He asked, his dad’s smile turned weird again.

“Lena’s going to be alright.”

Maverick didn’t think about it any longer, everything was heavy now, and he felt so tired. As long as Lena was fine, and dad wasn’t angry anymore, then nothing’s wrong.

He falls asleep.

0o0o0

The next morning, he gave Maverick new glasses. The old ones were stylish, red, too eye-catching, and Al was trying really hard to evade any sort of attention. He then held his hands as they booked out of the motel and walked out the front.

They see Lena again, talking to cops, with her head wrapped in bandages.

He noticed how Maverick’s brightens up once he spots her, and he waves at her with his free hands. Her eyes land on them before widening completely, she then looked away, ignoring them.

Maverick’s spirit fell in that moment.

“Baby, don’t look that way.” He told him, forcing him to look at the front.

He was glad he did it at that moment, because the paramedics were now wheeling out a body bag, and he didn’t need Maverick to see that.

As they got into the car, he straps his son’s seatbelt before getting in and fixing the mirror. He turns the mirror at Maverick, who was now picking on the seats, curious.

“Where did you get the car, dad?”

“Lena was really helpful.” He tells him, then fixes the mirror again. He smiles. Her old boyfriend wouldn’t need it anymore.

Chapter Text

“Did something happen? Do you need help?”

“I can’t say anything.”

“Hughie, please, you haven’t replied in two days. I’m worried.”

“I’ll talk later.”

It had been a day since he last sent that. Nothing had happened since the club night, not when he didn’t even dare to step out of the van or motel since. Frenchie and Milk had been keeping an eye on him, and Butcher had been oddly present for the most part, coming in and out a lot more than he used to.

He didn’t exactly blame Butcher for what happened that day, he did ask him to leave him alone in the bathroom. It just-

He hasn’t been stable since.

He couldn’t even log onto any social media. His story was slowly dying out, which he was glad of, but it still gets mentioned from time to time, and he doesn’t like seeing any of it or the ridiculous stories and theories accompanied to it.

At least he knew some YouTube channels that don’t do news or discussions like that. He spent half of the day listening to Simon and Garfunkel while Frenchie came in from time to time, checking on his temperature.

He’d try to make him laugh from time to time, but Hughie didn’t exactly know how to react. He didn’t feel like laughing, he didn’t feel like anything at all. It was like a big part of him just numbed off.

Frenchie would look disappointed, but he didn’t push it. Then he’d go back to sit at the front with Milk.

They usually bantered, but not as much as before.

“Word of advice, use your powers and show them up. That’s how they’ll figure out if you’re big-league material or a c-squader.”

Ezekiel’s words kept repeating in his head.

“I should have never felt that way, I should have encouraged you to use your powers,” Dad said when he last saw him. “I’m not stopping you anymore. You should go out to the world and do whatever you wanted to do. Out yourself, even.”

“Then they’ll treat you like a groupie.” The sound of a man begging to breath followed, only to have his squashed in between popclaw’s thighs. He never saw the body, but he spoke to the man, and he was humiliated. Mr. Aleksi was still someone else’s friend or family.

“Like a bug on the freaking highway.”

“Come on, Frenchie. Why work so fucking hard if you don’t have somebody to go home to and sleep next to at night?”

“Well, I go sleep next to somebody different each night.”

“I don’t have anyone to sleep next to anymore, and by this point, I don’t think I want to either,” Hughie comments, ignoring the awkward mood he had created. “I’d like to hear where this conversation was going.”

“Frenchie’s an old lonely fucker, and he’s gonna die by himself.” Milk didn’t even hesitate, which he really appreciated, knowing how sensitive the man was.

“If you and Monique have such a pure relationship, why are you lying to her then? Hmm?” Silence followed, Frenchie must have hit a nerve.

“I’m not having this convo with you. Hughie, you called up your old man?” He asked him, and Hughie shrugged. “You should. Forget what Butcher said, I’ll punch him if he tries to do anything about it.”

“Oui. You at least have a good father, you should use him,” Frenchie agreed.

“That isn’t- That’s real messed up, man.” Milk said, huffing in disbelief. “Either way, I’d want my girl to come to me if anything ever happens to her, and I bet you that your dad is the same.”

“I guess, but I don’t want to stress him more than he currently is. His life is probably worse because of me, I don’t know how he’s getting treated, but how would you honestly treat a man whose son got kidnapped?”

“He knows you’re not kidnapped,” Frenchie reminds him.

“Yeah, but he’s supposed to act like I am. Suddenly turning up isn’t going to help anyone.”

“Well, if you want to talk it out to someone, I have some hotlines that can help.” Milk offered, and Hughie was suddenly reminded that this man was actually a counselor in Juvie. So, he probably knows a lot of people for these things. “I also know a good pizza place, you haven’t been eating-”

“Noodle guy, he’s packing.” Frenchie suddenly calls out, Hughie sits upwards to see what he meant and finds a guy carrying a noodle takeout bag.

“About time we see something.” Milk said, opening the door and getting off. Hughie follows him before he could close it. Milk’s eyes ran over him, probably to see if he was alright with coming along, but Hughie shrugged.

They kept following the guy through multiple streets and he wondered how they weren’t noticed yet.

They only stop in a grocery store, when the man goes through a room with metal locks.

“We have to go in there, don’t we?”

“Don’t worry, petite Hughie.”

“Can you stop calling me that? I’m like 6 feet tall.” Frenchie does give him an amused grin before they go to the door, evading the store owner’s attention.

Frenchie, for some reason, starts teaching him how to unlock doors at that moment. Milk was rolling his eyes while Hughie humored him, knowing full well that he can open doors if he wanted them to be opened. It still reminds him of that Chinatown trip they had, and how Frenchie liked showing and sharing his questionable knowledge.

They crack the door open and went inside, still managing to escape the shop owner’s notice.

They had to crouch down a bit because of the low ceilings. As they snuck around, they managed to reach a break room of sorts, where the dealers were eating lunch. Hughie looks at the guns and gulped before getting tapped on the shoulder.

A sudden burst of panic grips him tightly. He couldn’t move as he was reminded of the club, of someone pulling him back, even when he tried to leave.

Then Frenchie appears in his vision, and he points to the side, motioning for him to following them.

Hughie felt a jolt of shame as he mumbled an apology. If he knew it was Frenchie, he wouldn’t have reacted like that.

They kept searching, with Milk and Frenchie at the front having their guns ready, and Hughie in the back to warn them if someone came from behind.

In that underground maze, they find a room filled with boxes shelves.

“Let’s hurry up, let’s go.” Milk said, putting his gun away. “Frenchie, check that side, Hughie, there.”

Hughie followed his command and started searching.

He didn’t even finish his first box when he heard Milk berating Frenching.

“Frenchie, look for the V.” Milk said, and Hughie raised his head to see what Frenchie was doing. To his confusion, he finds the man standing in front of a cell, one with sounds coming from inside of it. He let’s go of the box and gets closer as well. “Hughie, not you too.”

Hughie ignored him, because, with every step he took, he starts to realize what has caught Frenchie’s attention.

He stood next to him and gaped.

“Are you two deaf?” Milk asked when he got behind them. He, also, stops in his place, looking at the inside. “Jesus.”

There was an old box television, showing some Korean song, a dirty looking girl underneath a table, some bottles atop of said table, and a couch.

“I think we should let her out,” Frenchie said.

“No, no, no, no, no. We’re here for the V. This isn’t a rescue mission.”

“You sound like Butcher,” Hughie said, frowning at Milk. The memory of a guy choking coming back to him.

“I sound like a motherfucker who wants to be breathing.” Hughie almost reprimanded him, only to pause when he hears a lock opening.

And between the three of them, only Frenchie knew how to unlock doors without keys.

“Goddamit, Frenchie, what the hell are you-” Milk starts, but the drug dealers come in, screaming at them and trying to say something that Hughie didn’t understand. Milk pushed him to hide behind a wall while hiding on the other side, Frenchie rolls on the ground and vanished from sight.

A body jumps out of the cell, only leaving behind a shadow to clue in its movements.

Hughie turns around for one second, following the shadow, and sees the prisoner squashing the eyes out of the man with her fingers.

“Oh my god,” He screamed as he tries to look away, but didn’t do it fast enough, for the girl jumped at another man and stab him repeatedly with her hands.

Just when he thought the slaughter has ended, he turns around to see a third man come in, ready with a gun in hand. The criminal froze where he stood, looking at the floor where his partners lay dead, and then points the gun at his own head.

He pulls the trigger, splattering the walls behind him with red.

“Hughie! Let’s go!” Milk screamed, running back at the cage, Frenchie following him. Hughie wasn’t fast enough, too shocked at what he just saw to listen to other’s orders.

When he starts running back to the cage, Frenchie was yelling by the door, stretching his arms at him to grab and pull himself inside. Milk’s own hands were on the door, ready to close it once he’s in.

The girl- killer- monster jumps at them, hands ready to claw at them, one hand directly at Frenchie, and one on him, getting closer even as he grabs onto Frenchie’s hands.

They weren’t going to make it.

Hughie can see it.

The world was slow, and he can see it.

A world where his back is cut in half from his neck downwards, with Frenchie’s chest raptured in. A reality that can become true if he doesn’t do anything.

A high screeching sound fills his head as the world slows down. Frenchie was screaming, hands tightly wrapped around his as he stumbles back to pull him in. Milk, face filled with dread, yet he stood still waiting for him.

“You should go out to the world and do whatever you wanted to do.” His dad said as his last advice to him.

Hughie snapped back to focus.

He pushed Frenchie in.

Used his momentum to grab the cell door and turn around to face the monster.

Raising his palms at her, he yells “STOP!”

The monster stops, dropping on the floor in a crouch, hands still poised sharply, ready to cut. The way she looked at him told him that he succeeded, that despite her wanting to hurt, to attack, she couldn’t.

There was a moment where time itself hanged on them, everyone looking at the girl in fear as she stares back with viciousness in her eyes.

She glanced to the side, then escapes.

“Petite Hughie …” Frenchie’s voice swam into his ears, he slowly turns around, just as Frenchie gets off the floor and rubbing his chest, right where he pushed him. “You …”

Saved his life? Probably.

“Shit.” Milk said, gawking at him and letting go of the bars. “Holy shit. You’re …”

“That is most impressive,” Frenchie cuts Milk off, smiling warmly and raising his arm as if offering a hug. “I knew you would use it sooner or later.”

“You knew!?” Milk snapped at him, and Frenchie makes a face back at him.

“Of course I knew, he doesn’t like using his powers but he is terrible at hiding them. See? He’s bleeding again.” He said, pulling out a pack of tissues and a napkin, one he was sure was exclusively used for children. “Petite Hughie needs someone to look after him.”

0o0o0

“Does Butcher know?”

“No, and it will stay that way, oui?” Frenchie challenges as he searched for the compound V in the cell.

Milk stared at them incredulously, Hughie stared at the ground, not ready and unable to see any disdain.

“Fuck. Fuck, Butcher will kill him if he finds out.” Milk said, surprising him. Milk’s feet appear, standing next to him. His head was then lightly pushed upwards, forcing him to look at the man. “Your eyes, uh, they flare up. Did you know that?”

“What?”

“Like, it’s glowing blue? Green? I don’t know, aqua? Does that usually happen?”

“I … don’t know? Sometimes?”

“So, every time you’re bleeding? You use your powers?”

“I guess. It was never like that. I don’t usually use my powers, I only started using them now, and only now did it start doing this … bleeding thing.”

“When was the last period you used it? Before now?”

“I think I was … 8 years old?”

“See? He is harmless. He doesn’t like using his powers. It is also his powers that saved us today.”

“I get it, Frenchie. It’s just- Butcher will really kill him.”

“Then we keep it from him. Hughie, do not use your powers around Butcher.” Frenchie said nonchalantly. Hughie and Milk shared a look, they both knew that only Frenchie can straight up lie at Butcher’s face without fear of consequences, he was the only one who seemed to be able to lie without any telltales.

“You know what? Hughie, you say nothing.” Milk starts, pushing him further away from the bodies on the floor. “You just sit there, act pretty, and try to stop your nosebleed. We’ll keep searching for the V. When Butcher comes in, don’t say anything.”

“I’d be doing nothing?” He said, feeling left out. Milk raised a finger at him, or more specifically, at the tissues.

“Your blood, kid. The cops will be here, you want none of your blood smeared around. Just sit there and … I don’t know, figure out your eye flashing thing.”

“My eyes don’t flash.” Milk obviously didn’t believe him. He steps away and starts searching the room.

He lets them search. There wasn’t really any place where he could hide away from the bodies. The corpses were partially covered from his view at least. At some point, he managed to find a reflective surface. Sitting in front of it, he tries to force his eyes to, as Milk said, flash.

But willing it to flash doesn’t really work, it only gets lighter in color. After trying to change his intentions, he noticed his eyes changing from blue to green and back again.

He had given up once Butcher had arrived.

“What a mess,” Butcher said, sidestepping the bodies on the ground. “You all right?”

“I mean, in the last two weeks I’ve gone through hell and back, what’s a little more blood on the side?” Hughie answered sarcastically. Butcher grins at him, patting his shoulder in what the man might assume as a comforting gesture.

“It can get a lot bloodier than this.”

Hughie shook his head at him, what sort of reply is that? Any opportunity to voice his opinion was taken away when Milk called for Butcher to come check something out. He shows off a vial filled with blue liquid.

Hughie felt something light up in his eyes.

Oh.

Hughie blinked, looking away and trying to avoid Butcher’s sight. He blinks again and noticed the luminescent glow on the rails that he sat on.

He inhales a bit.

That’s what Milk meant by flaring.

“Why the hell were they dosing her?” Butcher inquired.

“Why don't we ask foie grass over here? He's the one that let her out.”

“She looked innocent,” Frenchie defended himself. Hughie shook his head, blinking again, willing for the glow to die out.

“Innocent? She's locked up in a cage, underground, with two armed guards?” Milk said, Hughie looks back at them, the glow finally subsiding. Frenchie was gazing back at him, thinking on what to say next.

“I had a feeling about her.” Milk sound doubtful, but he did notice where Frenchie was looking at, and figured out what the man meant.

He changed the subject. “Nah, Frenchie, you just didn't follow the plan. You never follow the plan.”

“You need to unclench your asshole,” Frenchie snaps back. Hughie groans, he did not need another banter to start in this moment, where there were dead bodies sprawled around him.

“You need to eat my clenched asshole, how 'bout that?”

“Why are you two carrying on like a bunch of fucking twats? We're sniffing down a shit sandwich the size of Watergate.” Butcher jumps in, ready to stop the argument like he usually is.

Hughie’s phone pings. He sees the notification and groaned once more. Annie was asking about him again. He didn’t know if he should feel happy or guilty about this. On one hand, at least there was someone who cared, right? On the other hand, he only got closer to her because of this whole …

Revenge scheme.

“Who's that, then, eh?” Butcher’s voice startles him.

“It's nobody.” He immediately answers, but Butcher raised a brow and gestured for him to give him the phone. He slumps but does as asked, giving up the phone.

"Annie? Starlight?”

“Yeah … She likes texting, but after the club … I just stopped, and she got worried, so she wouldn’t stop texting, I think I worried. But, I just- didn’t want to reply? Talking with dad would be enough, I didn’t need more people to worry.”

Butcher’s face had been gradually changing the more he talked. Intrigue, anger, exhaustion all came and went without any explanation. Hughie took it as a sign of him messing up even more. The man slowly turns around in his spot, viewing the room, before looking back at him.

“Call her, you’re going to have a night out.” He orders, Hughie gapes at him.

“As a rule, I don't usually go out after a gory massacre.”

“Listen, here’s the job, you’re going to go, hotwire her phone, then do whatever you want to do with her. We’ll be able to listen in on her calls afterward. Either way, you’re the techie here, you don’t mesh well with what the rest of us can do. Do your thing, and take the rest of the night off while we search for the female.”

Hughie was still gaping at him.

“What? You’re still doing something against those cunts.”

“She's not a- She's not a bad person,” He tells him. “She won’t have anything to do with this shit Vought’s been doing, I doubt she has any clue about V.”

“She's a Supe, Hughie,” Butcher growls under his breath, surprising Hughie and catching him completely off guard. “You’ve already met two assholes. They did something terrible to you, and you still think she might be good? Fact is, Buttercup, all Supes are the same, she’s just like the fucking rest of them.”

He then leaves him.

Slowly, ever so slowly, he starts to exhale, limbs shaking away the numbness that suddenly possessed his body.

Butcher thinks all Supes were the same, he thought in worry.

What if he found out about him? About his own powers? What would he say then?

Milk said he’d kill him.

Hughie never noticed the worried looks Frenchie and Milk shared with each other after the confrontation.

Chapter Text

He was sitting in the bowling alley, looking at people who were already playing with their friends. His legs kept bouncing in its place as he tapped on the table. He couldn’t calm down. Annie had scored badly again, and he’s starting to get a niggling feeling that she was trying to act normal.

Despite all the happy faces and light mood around him, he did not want to be out at this moment, not in the open.

Not when he saw three people die today, and almost got shanked by someone’s hand.

Annie must have felt it, whatever it was that had been bothering him. In hindsight, they should have never chosen a bowling alley of all places to hangout.

They take a walk instead; it was a nice day after all. Staying in a stuffy bowling alley for half a day wasn’t appealing anyways, at least, not today.

“You know, you should have never held yourself back. Aside from your light powers, you have super strength, right?”

“Along with Flight, yeah.” She tilted her head and hid her hands in her pockets.

“And you said your mom trained you your whole life in ballet and stuff. You’re supposed to be better at bowling than me.”

“Didn’t know I was hanging out with Sherlock Holmes,” She chuckled lightly, but it seemed that she was not proud with being found out. “Every guy I showed up always ditched me later.”

“… Man, those guys are dicks.” He tells her, making her chuckle for real this time.

“The first time someone asked me out, it was in prom. I accidentally showed him how much stronger I can get, and … he never asked me out again.” She said, her voice slowly drops in dismay. Hughie hummed, slightly understanding.

“You shouldn’t really let that affect you, your powers are great as it is, and you should be proud of it.”

“Says the guy who didn’t even share what he can do.” She said, shoving at his shoulder lightly. Hughie couldn’t help but smile at her, though he felt it strain the longer he held it.

“I guess … I guess I can show you some part of it. Just … don’t tell anyone about it.”

“You will!”

“Yeah, let me focus a bit, I only discovered this part recently.” He said. Closing his eyes, he focused on the energy he felt earlier that day, remembering the thrum of excitement he felt when he saw Milk holding the V needle. A rush flew through his eyes, and he opens it again. He grins at Annie’s reactions. “Just found out today, actually. Really cool, huh?”

“Oh my god, you weren’t lying.” She whispers, and Hughie’s eyes dimmed a bit, his grin dropping.

“You thought I was lying?”

“Sorry, it’s just … ever since I got into the seven, people have been doing everything to get close to me.”

“Yeah, like I can orchestrate our first meeting, running away from the hospital and stalling enough by buying a deli.”

“Who knows, you could be a genius supervillain.”

“Nah … just lucky, I guess.” They stayed silent for a moment, letting the breeze hit them as they walked by the stores.

Someone steps out of a shop and slams the door behind him. Hughie balked in his steps.

Annie must have noticed because she sent him a worried look.

“Just … it’s been a hard couple of days.”

“What happened? You just stopped talking, and I got worried about you.”

“I don’t- I don’t think you’d like to hear me talk about it.” He said, remembering Annie mentioning how religious she was, and how the root of his problem was … well … from the preacher.

“Hughie, I’ll just keep on worrying if you kept avoiding it.”

0o0o0

“So, your friend takes you to a bar to prove a point?”

“Yeah, I guess. It’s pretty exclusive, actually, only for Supes. Billy doesn’t know I’m a Supe, he thought he was showing me something new. He’s pals with the bouncers, and I guess the bouncers are cool, they got your back when you need it. I should actually send them something, I don’t know, like coupons.”

“Hughie,” Starlight calls, reminding him of what he was trying to say.

“Oh, right. Turns out … turns out most Supes are dicks.” Hughie said, slurping on his smoothie. Annie pressed her lips together, she completely understood him.

“That’s it? That’s what got you upset?”

“No … no, it’s a lot more serious than that. I just don’t feel … comfortable talking about it. I mean …” She was a nice person, but she wasn’t exactly someone he trusts completely, he only ever did meet her twice.

“I get it, it’s probably something underground that you don’t want a higher authority to get involved in.”

“Sorta, yeah. I mean, the guy was high and popping pills at the time, but no one would do anything against him, especially higher-ups.” He agrees, taking another slurp. He doesn’t notice the way the mood shifts, nor the way Annie bristled before she focused on him.

“Popping pills? Where?”

“Bathroom.”

“Did it happen in the bathroom?” She asks, gritting her teeth, and clutching onto her cup tightly. Hughie looks worriedly at her.

“You’ll pop that thing, relax.” He says, pointing at the plastic cup. “And, yeah, it was the bathroom.”

“Did he touch you?”

“… I don’t want to answer that.” Hughie answered, taking a long and agonizing slurp. Annie did not seem to relax at all, if anything, she seemed to get angrier. She had to breathe deeply just so her anger doesn’t actually start anything. “It didn’t get out of hand, he kissed me, and I … I …”

“Hughie, don’t say anymore if you’re not comfortable.” She sighs, offering her hands to hold onto. He blinks at her, but accepts the hand, and found it comforting.

Her hands were really soft.

And safe, he thinks absentmindedly. She feels safe.

“I know how you feel.”

“… You do?” That- That made him feel queasy.

“Some asshole bigshot trying to force you to do … stuff you don’t want to do.”

“Annie, are you hurt?” He asked, worried. He remembers the first time he meets her. “Oh, god. Do we, like, need to go to the cops?”

“What about you? Don’t you need to go to the cops?” Hughie gulped. He did want to, but …

“What kind of cop would arrest a Supe?” Not to mention the fact that he’s currently a missing person.

“Exactly.” She simpered, looking away, a sad glaze in her eyes. Hughie’s heart breaks.

The whole world is just a fucking mess, and despite doing everything he could, he still accomplished nothing and messed up even more. This just- This just proves that the people in Vought can’t be touched, doesn’t it? What’s the point of everything he’s doing?

He’s just going to fail because no one wants to go up against a Supe, not when Starlight herself didn’t.

“Hey, Hughie, shush, don’t cry,” Annie said, rubbing a hand on his back. Hughie could hear himself snuffling, and he rubs his face with the back of his palms. “Come on, it’s over, it happened, you’re safe-”

“Don’t lie.” Hughie sniffled, hating himself now. “I’m not safe now, are you even safe? How can you be safe when you’re still working with them after what happened? Is he- or- or she still bothering you? Are you okay?”

“Hughie!” She yells. He shuts up immediately. Her eyes widen before she sighs and wraps her hands around his. “Hughie … I threatened to kill him if he ever tried to do it again. I’m safe.”

“Are- Are you sure?”

“Yes. I’m sure.” She said, choking up a bit. “And you?”

“I don’t- I don’t know. I’m not going to see him ever again, so, I’m supposed to feel safe, right?”

“I don’t know how to answer that either.”

0o0o0

“A friend of mine was trying to get me to visit a therapist. I don’t think that’s really possible.” Hughie admits to her as they walked through the street. It was nighttime, they’ve spent the whole day just sitting around in silence. Yet, despite how odd it sounded, it was a lot more relaxing than staying in the van.

“Why not?”

“I’m a guy …”

“How does that even matter? What he did was wrong!”

“He also didn’t do anything past kissing me and, uh … well, he didn’t do much.”

“That’s still horrifying,” Annie said. “I go to my therapist. I didn’t really want to go at first, but Vought insisted, it’s part of the contract and stuff. But, my therapist is really chill, she’s actually been trying to help me sue him.”

“You will …?”

“I’ve been thinking about it, I’m not really sure if I should.”

“You should.”

“Really? That’s rich, coming from you. You should go to therapy.”

“I’ve gone to therapy before, I don’t want to go again.”

All of a sudden, police sirens erupt in the distance. Both Hughie and Annie look in the same direction. They were able to see the shining bright lights of a police cruiser illuminating a few blocks away.

“I need to go,” Annie said, leaving his side. Hughie looks at her back before looking at the flashing lights.

He couldn’t just let her go alone, could he?

But what can he do?

He’s just Hughie, he can’t do anything. He gets a nosebleed every time he does something, and it was getting frustrated the more it happens.

A loud screech cuts through the silence, the sound of tires and breaks working together to skid off the street, one can tell that it would leave tire marks behind. The lights all simultaneously stop moving, only flashing in one spot.

A dark thought hits him, “What if they hit Annie?”

He runs.

He runs, following whatever instinct took over him to follow her footsteps. She was one of the few nice people he’s met in the last month or so. The only person who understands. He can’t let her get hurt, can’t see her hurt.

He doesn’t want to lose more people.

H̲̞͚̲e͖̤̰ ͓̩̙̼͕c̨̗͔̳͖a̶̼̖̙̻̲̹n̵̟'͔̪̙t̶̳͔̗͙̰̮.̮͓̦̺

 

When his legs stopped running, he stood right next to Annie, who stood rigidly as she covered her mouth, watching over the scene. She was fine.

Police cars littered the street, all surrounding a van, yet the officers didn’t dare get any closer to the assailant. Not when the assailant was kneeling in front of a gory pile of guts, shocked and unable to react. Not when the assailant was, to Hughie’s complete confusion, The Deep.

“What on earth happened?”

“I don’t know, I just came in time to see a truck run over a dolphin,” Annie said, voice horrified. Hughie can understand the shock, this wasn’t the first gorefest he’s seen, it wasn’t even the first one he’d seen today.

Hughie looks around, and at the very confused officers, seemingly unable to come out and arrest the hero. Gulping, he takes a step towards him. Something tugs him back, when he checks, he finds Annie’s hands grasping his jacket.

“It’s alright.” He tells her. She was hesitant, but lets go. Giving her a strained smiled, he continues the walk towards the shell-shocked hero.

“Mr. Deep?” He asked. The man slowly looks at him, but he wasn’t exactly looking at him, no, he looked through him. “You’re going through shock right now; can you answer me if you understand?”

The man doesn’t react, he just looks back to the guts on the floor, the dolphin that Annie mentioned. Hughie had a hard time looking at it as well, averting his eyes from the sight if possible.

“I killed him.” The Deep said, he shucks in a breath before he hits the floor, he can hear cries and sobs coming from him. “I- I promised I’ll get him free, but I killed him.”

“Sir-”

“I killed him!”

“Hughie, come on, get back,” Annie said, pulling him a bit, but Hughie does the one thing he didn’t think he’d ever do today.

“I can bring him back.”

The sobs slow down, The Deep looking upwards at him, as if not believing what he said.

“What?”

“I can bring him back. But-”

“Bring him back? Back back? Back alive? Like a power?” Hughie nods hesitantly. The hero almost lurched from his spot and jumped at him. If it weren’t for Annie, he’d have his shirt crumpled by a shock fulled Deep. “Do it!”

“BUT.” He screamed, stopping the man from getting any closer. “ONLY if he says he wants to come back.”

“What? Of course he’ll want to come back, who doesn’t want to come back?”

“You can’t- can’t just force someone to come back. You can’t force anyone to do anything. They have to say yes or no to do it.”

“That’s bullshit, you’re just saying that so-”

“Are you listening to me!” Hughie snapped at the guy, not believing that this guy was in the Seven. “If they said no, they said no. If they don’t want to do something, they don’t want to do it, and you don’t force them to do it. That includes bringing them back to life. You always ask for consent, because it’s painful otherwise!

The air stilled around them. Hughie blinked a bit, realizing that he must have uncovered something out of himself. He noticed the blue glow on the Deep’s face, faint but still there, and how the man looked freaked out. Annie seemed to feel some sort of fear as well, her hands shaking too much. Unlike the Deep, however, Annie held her ground as she held onto his jacket.

“You ask for consent,” He says, calmly this time, blinking again, forcing the glow to disappear. “Because it’s painful. It’s especially painful if they don’t want it. They have to want it. If they don’t, you’re hurting them.”

“I …” Deep was stepping back, his eyes switching between him and Annie. He didn’t understand what was going on, but terror was slowly coming out of the Deep. “I …”

He kneels down, Annie follows along, still holding onto his arm as if trying to protect him. Just like how Frenchie and Milk did, exactly like them.

Hughie was in the middle of the road, where anything could come and crush him. Heck, Annie said this Dolphin died right here by a truck. If he knew that, and that nothing is stopping another truck from doing the same to him, then why was he doing this? But she could also stop a truck if she wanted, so he doesn’t think much of it.

He touches the blood.

Two severed arms in his own. The guts of an invincible man all over him. Drowning in blood, metallic in flavor. He can still see it, and if he can’t, he can feel it as it slaps him in the face.

Sharp, high, notes screeching in his mind. The ringing.

There was blood everywhere.

This was a body? Where was its soul?

“I want to ask a question.” He orders, Annie gasped as light slowly forms around the corpse, and a silhouette stood above it.

“Charlie?” The Deep asked, voice thick with emotions.

“Do you want to come back?” He asked, and the dolphin replies in whistles, or squeaks.

“What do you mean?” Deep questioned, devastated.

“You heard the dolphin, it wants to be back, but not with you. It wants to go back home.”

“I can take him home! I promised him! Charlie, I promised I’ll-” But Deep never finished, because the Dolphin starts speaking again, only more agitated than before. Hughie doesn’t exactly follow through the conversation; he doesn’t speak dolphin. He gets the general gist of it though, as odd as it sounded.

“You promised to keep him safe, and you failed. He doesn’t trust you anymore, he doesn’t feel safe anymore.”

“Charlie, I’m sorry-”

“He doesn’t feel safe, especially with you here. He’ll only come back if you promised not to touch him. So, back off.”

Annie shucks in a breath, and he sends her a confused look. She shook her head, obviously distraught by something, but she still kept a smile and gestured for him to continue.

“Come back,” He orders.

To Hughie’s surprise, as he never had done this around people, everyone who was present had to cover their ears, all unable to listen to the screeches, to the screams and yells of the world as the natural state of being changed.

Everyone but Hughie, who watched as the guts slowly reformed, blood vessels reconnecting, skin developing. Hughie’s looking at it all, and he wants to do nothing but puke at the side of the road.

He was a freak of nature.

When the screams subsided, a fully formed dolphin sat on the ground, alive and whole.

Hughie forced himself to stand up despite feeling a bit dizzy. He checked his nose. It was bloody but not as usual was, not as much as he’d lost this morning.

“Holy shit,” Deep said, looking at the dolphin that tried to slide down on its old blood before flickering his eyes at him. There was something in those eyes that could not be explained, could not be understood by words alone. Hughie felt something scratch at the back of his head. “Who are you?”

“You can bring the dead back to life,” Annie said, Hughie immediately jerks his hand away from her. “That’s why … That’s why you don’t like sharing your powers.” She said, horror slowly filling her voice.

“Please- Please don’t tell anyone about me.” He begged, stepping back. “I don’t want- Please-”

“Wait! you can’t just go,” Deep said, finally regaining his composure. “Not with powers like that?!”

“I can’t stay.” He shook his head. “Vought will kill me.”

“They won’t, I’ll-”

“What? Talk to them? Get them to like me? They don’t want me. I can’t- They’ll hurt me. Shit. They’ll hurt dad. Fuck.” Hughie was losing his cool, he could feel it again, the way the world would scream at him as it rings in his ears.

He blocked his ears, to no avail. They keep talking, whispers, sounds, ringing, the god awful ringing.

He looks at the Deep and orders, “Don’t talk about me.”

The man’s mouth clicked close, taken aback by the sudden unwillingness to do so. Hughie’s eyes trail back to Annie, and to his relief, she doesn't offer him to join them.

“Don’t worry, I won’t talk.”

He gives her a nod of gratitude, turns around on his feet, and runs away.

0o0o0

When he gets back to the van, it was to a tense atmosphere.

Frenchie wasn’t there, but Milk was, and so was Butcher. Milk tried to say something to him, tried warning him, but he couldn’t.

Butcher was giving him a look Hughie remembers very well, a look he’d seen in the hospital when they fought Translucent.

A look of someone wanting to kill.

“Mind explaining how this happened?” He said, gesturing to his side at the computer.

Hughie turns slightly to the monitor, and there he was. A video, taken with a shaky phone cam, and posted online. It didn’t pick up any of the sounds, nor his face since he faced the other way around. But to anyone who knew him, and knew his clothes, they’d instantly figure out who was in the video.

He made sure no one would connect his face to his identity, he didn’t make himself entirely invisible, just unassuming. That wish meant nothing when the unassuming person pulls something like this.

He reads the title and gulped.

[A new Supe that brings the dead back to life!]

His eyes glued on the screen, Charlie the Dolphin was brought to life, and the whole world starts screaming, so loud that even the cameras caught on it.

There was nothing but horror to be seen, and he was the cause.

Eyes flickering back to the duo, watching as the veins on Butcher’s head protruded.

“Any minute now,” The man demands. Hughie did what any reasonable person would do.

He bolts from his place and runs outside of the van. He could hear some crashing behind him and managed to peek Milk’s huge form as he held Butcher back. Hughie sent him a grateful look as jumps out of the vehicle.

Screaming was all he could hear behind him, they were insignificant. What was important were the streets, illuminating his way, taking him to safety.

Chapter Text

He doesn’t exactly know where he was sitting, not that he cared anymore. What’s the point of hiding when everyone just keeps finding out who you are?

It’s frustrating.

His dad told him to out himself if he wanted, but he didn’t want to do that. People still found out.

How can he hide when every step he takes leaves a mark for people to follow?

“Hey, buddy, you look down,” Someone said, waking Hughie out of his thoughts. He was confused for a second, looking at the abandoned area he was in. There shouldn’t be anyone around here. “You’re in for the rave?”

“Rave? People still do that?”

“Yeah, it’s still a thing, it’s not exactly old school where you go to a warehouse, it’s in a venue and there’s security. Want to experience it?”

He accepts.

When he does get there, it was madness all around. He wasn’t into the music, which kind of offset his mood even more, but he did like the atmosphere, how the people were super excited and dancing.

Not to mention, all the lights and smoke were entrancing.

“Bro, join in!” The man invites him, and somehow, Hughie ends up getting into the crowd, dancing. At some point during the show, he ends up with a glow in the dark sunglasses. Sunglasses, for a late-night rave party.

He doesn’t exactly remember what happened next.

The only thing that he would be able to remember of this night were red cups, people speaking another language, ping pong, standing close to stage, a large ball pit, cotton candy, and casino slot machine noises.

0o0o0

“He lied to us!?”

“He didn’t, you’re the only one who didn’t know about this.” Milk said, continuously typing on his phone to send to Hughie. The kid is going to get found any second because of the news. Their only saving grace, as horrible as it sounded, was the recent flight crash. That was the only reason people didn’t focus more on the kid, and they needed to find him soon before they start losing interest in that.

“Let me get this straight, you and Frenchie knew he’s a Supe, and you let him in?!”

“Get off your fucking high horse, Butcher. The kid’s a harmless bug. What can he do with his powers? He brings the dead back. How can that harm anyone?” Milk yells back at him before hitting send, finally looking up at him. He doesn’t mention how he found out about his powers, how he’d seen the kid stand up against the psycho check and ordered her to leave them alone. Mind Control is a possible power that he does not want to think about. “Either way, how would he have found out about his powers? Someone had to die, and that kid doesn't do killing.”

“He killed Translucent," Butcher reminds him. "And how did you two figure out his powers?”

“Don’t know about Frenchie, but the original video, the one online that people took when his girlfriend died? The reason anyone found out about him. Remember the part where the ghost of his former lover appeared, and then the kid just point-blank passes out when she disappeared, then everyone just assumed that the girl was the Supe.”

Butcher had that expression again, the one where he just can’t wait to wrap his hand around the neck of whoever pissed him off, but Milk wasn’t okay with any of that.

“Listen here, Butcher. You messed up. Fact is, he didn’t need to help us, but he stayed anyway. Vought would have taken him in if they found out about his powers, and they’d probably kick A-Train for bringing bad press to them, but he didn’t, and he stayed. Go get that kid and apologize to him.”

Butcher was about to say something in retaliation but stopped when his phone rang. He answers his phone.

“Butcher here.” From the way his face drops as he listens to the other side, Milk knew something horrible must have happened. “WHAT?!”

“What’s wrong?”

“He was in the club?!” He yells. “You have two jobs?! You know what, stay there, we’re coming.”

He closed the phone.

“Okay, will you now tell me what happened?”

“That was Trayvon, one of Harry’s men. Guess what the fucker did.”

0o0o0

Hughie sips on his coffee, looking at the news at seven in the morning. The world comes in and out, some ordering breakfast to eat in the diner while others have a cup to go.

Not him, not when he ran so tirelessly for the whole night. Not the guy from last night either, along with some other people. Everyone managed to get a hangover, and this diner seemed to be a designated meet-up point with how familiar the staff acted with them.

The guy, Sam, grins at him at some point, “We get discounts, but I don’t exactly take that offer. The people here are good and deserve all the tips.”

“Are raves always like that? That was crazy.” Hughie asked. It didn’t bode well that he doesn’t exactly remember anything after bumping into someone.

“Nah, yesterday was wild. Usually, I’d just sit and have a drink by the bar, but man, you sure know how to turn up a crowd.”

“Me? I didn’t do anything.” Hughie said, horrified.

“No way, did you forget that you stage dived.” Sam snorts once he sees Hughie’s horrified reaction. “Got nabbed by security too.”

“Oh, god.”

“Turns out you know the bouncer,” He added, and Hughie could only remember two bouncers he would know and groans even louder. “Said this is the second time he had to pull you up from something.”

So, it wasn’t Harry, it was the other guy that he still yet to figure his name out.

“You, by the way, have a drinking problem. You can’t hold alcohol or something?”

“I don’t usually drink. It's for the safety of not only myself but everyone around me.” He admits, and the man snorts once again.

“You can say that again, holy shit, talk about being a wild child. Drunk you should never be left unrestrained to the masses.”

“The wreckage or Trans-Oceanic Flight 37-”

The guy’s face scrunches up at the news coming from the hanged TV, the diner falls silent as they listen.

“Those poor people,” The waitress said as she fills his cup once more. Hughie didn’t object, he had the money to pay her … he doesn’t exactly know where the money came from. “I can’t ever imagine planning to fly, only to never come back home again.”

“This is why we do road trips, honey,” The cook said from the back, something sizzled in front of him, and it smelled good. “You can’t force me to pay for a plane ticket.”

“We actually met during a road trip back in the 80s, we wanted to get to a concert, but my car broke down.” She sighs, eyes glinting with the memory. “Me and the girls were all planning on jumping another car.”

“I ended up being the unfortunate car owner.” The cook said, simpering at the back as he picked up the pan. He did smile though, and he did look at the waitress with loving eyes that you can hear through their voice.

“That’s the weirdest ‘I-met-them-when’ but I like it,” Hughie tells them, taking another sip. “I don’t know how my parents met, to be honest.”

“Why don’t you ask your folks?”

“I tried …” Hughie tried his best, but dad always had that look, that one that said nothing but pain. Sometimes, he wondered if the mere idea of remembering mom hurt, and if maybe dad himself needed therapy and not just him.

“Mine met during a rave in the 80s too,” Sam said. Hughie was not surprised by this fact at all.

“Grandma! Look!” Someone rushed in the diner, banging the door and causing ruckus behind them, followed by the sound of the bell. It was a teenage girl, probably in 16 or 17, either way, she looked young. Hughie followed her as she ran behind the table while showing off her phone. He then looks down at his cup, looking at his own reflection.

“Beatrice, how many times did I tell you not to run inside unless you ran your shoes through the mat.”

Grandma, can we, like, have this conversation later? I wanted to show you something!” She said, pointing at the phone.

Hughie froze when sounds came from the phone, a familiar scream hitting his skull as memories rushed in. Looking upwards, he sees the reaction on the waitress as she gasps at the miracle on screen.

It was him and that cursed video that someone took of him from behind.

“My god …”

“Do you think he can bring dad back?”

“How is this even …”

“It’s everywhere! People are talking about it, no one knows who he is! He’s here in New York and no one knows him, and The Deep isn’t replying to anyone either!”

“What’s going on?”

“Grandpa, look!” The girl shrieks, turning around to shove the phone at her grandfather.

Hughie all but drains the cup and throws in the cash he owned before turning around. Before he stepped out of the diner, he heard an exclamation from the girl again.

“Wait, your back looks exactly like-” Hughie bolts.

The streets are filled with people. So many, in fact, that getting lost was easy. He wore his hoodie before hugging himself, staring at the ground as he thinks, trying not to let himself fall into panic.

0o0o0

“Must have been one hell of a party.”

“Oh, it was hell alright. Your ‘mate’,” Trayvon does the quote gesture. “Managed to blow it all up.”

Milk had to take the sight in, not believing a word Trayvon said. There was no way in hell would Hughie be able to do … this.

He follows the two as they got into the detention area.

“So, why does a fancy place like this have a detention area?” Butcher asked as they got closer to a room with … no doors. Just a room with some benches inside, but no door attached to close in the room.

“It’s more like a room to keep in the druggies or the people who get out of hand. We’re supposed to call cops on them, but sometimes we just let them sleep on it and let them go after a few hours.”

“And you brought Hughie in here?”

“Well, I wasn’t going to call the cops on him, I was just going to let him sleep it off. The guy must still be going through his trauma; you don’t exactly push what happened to him in the club in a few days after all. I met people like that, it’s actually pretty common.”

“That people are self-destructive? Who would have known.” Butcher snarks, but Milk punched his elbows, warning him to tone it down.

“What I never knew is that your friend is a Supe! Do you know how much that fucking freaked me out?!”

“What did he do?”

“Do you wanna know what he did? I literally sat him in, closed the doors, and the little shit said he wanted out. I didn’t let him. Then? THEN?! The fucker said he doesn’t like the door, and wanted it gone.”

“Hughie’s a twig, there’s no way he’d just crush the thing.” Milk said, looking at the hinges that were definitely not torn out.

“No, he didn’t crush it. The door disappeared?!” The man screams, throwing his hands above his head. Milk and Butcher share a look. That was not something they expected to hear today. “Then his pals all talked him into joining the after-party. And he made friends with the venue’s owner, Mr. Guevenne, too.”

“Where was the after-party?” Milk asked, trying not to imagine a drunk Hughie managing to make friends when he's usually a wallflower.

“Casino, down the road.”

“Casino right next to a music avenue, how did I not see that coming,” Butcher said sarcastically, but starts moving to the exit. “Trayvon, keep this a secret, the kid apparently doesn’t like sharing his powers.”

“Thank the lord then, cause I don’t know what would happen if the guy really lets loose.”

0o0o0

“Please pick up. I didn’t tell them anything, and The Deep couldn’t describe you to them.”

Of course, The Deep couldn’t describe him to them, Hughie still had the whole ‘shrouded-face’ thing going around and he ordered him not to.

They can’t connect him to Hughie, the missing person. As long as they don’t pick up the minuscule details.

He wondered how Annie never figured out who he was. She just seemed to accept him as Hughie. He attributed it to him thinking of her as a stranger, but she’s a friend now, and she could figure out who he was if she tried. But she had no idea who he is, and from the small amount of time hanging out with her, he realized that she wasn’t a news person. She also really hated her team, so she wouldn’t care about what bothered them.

It’s like Butcher said, the only superhero team who cared about anyone was the G-Men, and they only cared about their own members.

“I don’t honestly want them to talk to you, do they really hate you?”

“Yeah.”

It took a while for her to reply.

“The only time they won’t be watching me closely is during the Believe Expo. They’ll want me to parade around so I can show my face to the public, they can’t hang around me or that’ll destroy my image. Want to meet up there?”

Believe Expo would be in a few days, he couldn’t wait to go. It wasn't like he had anything else to do anymore.

That’s when Hughie noticed another icon with notification. He grimaced for a moment but smiled when he sees Milk’s name.

Milk was a nice guy.

0o0o0

“And he … turned the …”

“Ball pit into a bubble pit, yeah.” The girl said, nodding at the play area behind her. Her head almost drops down, a sure sign that she was still drunk and not hangover. “Honestly, that was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll vote for him in America’s got talent if I see him there.”

Milk felt exasperated, still eying the bubbly ball pit. When Butcher joins him, he shook his head.

“Front desk said he won the jackpot, he demanded the whole thing as cash.” Milk puts a warning sign in his head for this Casino. He wouldn’t want to come back if they’re willing to give up information on their customers.

“So, we’re looking for a 6 feet twig with a briefcase or two.”

“That wasn’t the end of it. They gave him a check, and the odd bits of money were about 10K and the kid … puts all the stack of money in his pockets, like a scrap of paper. Just puts it in and his pocket still looked flat. That was the only reason the lady even remembered him.”

“How on …” Milk looks at the ball pit and shook his head. He wasn’t questioning this. He thought his powers were mind control at first but trying to trail him down had him doubt this theory strongly. “Whatever you thought you’re going to do to him once you find him, I don’t think you’ll pull it off.”

“The kid apparently likes making things disappear just from thought and flatten items into nothingness. I’m not a dumbass, I know when to hold back,” Butcher grumbled.

“You know, I hate working with Frenchie, you don’t see me trying to kill him.”

“He pulled a gun on you.”

“He wasn’t pulling the trigger. You’re very close to pulling it, though. I mean, look at this place, it looks more like a wonderland theme park than total annihilation. Butcher, I know what bad things Supes can do. Trust me, I know. But Hughie isn’t like that. Hell, you’ve spent time with him, you know that better than anyone.”

“He still compromised us.”

“Well, see it from his perspective. You keep talking about killing Supes every time they’re mentioned. Maybe if you made it more obvious that you’re after superheroes and not Supes, then he’d have told you. You didn’t, and he didn’t trust you with the truth. Own up to it, apologize.”

“I’m not apologizing.”

Milk was this ready to punch him, this close to just push the guy into the bubble ball pit and leave him there, but the sound of his phone caught his attention, and he sees Hughie’s name in the notification.

“He replied!”

0o0o0

Butcher growls under his breath as Hughie sat down next to him in the bar. Milk was sitting by the side in case they started fighting again, which Hughie appreciates immensely. “How long have you been laughing at me, pretending to be one of us.”

“I am one of you, at least, I think I was.” He answered, not looking at the man as the bartender comes and he orders a drink. He doesn’t want to be sober for this. “I don’t exactly trust you.”

“After everything we went through?”

“Cut the bullshit, Butcher. Do you wanna know what we went through from my perspective? One, I got kidnapped,” He starts, raising a finger as he starts to count. “Two, had a fever because I was suddenly off anti-biotics, which I only found out after talking with my dad because the doctors were worried about that. Three, ended up being one of the most well-known names in the country, which should have ended weeks ago, but life likes to laugh, and it’s laughing at me. Four, I killed someone.”

“That man would have snitched on us.”

Five,” he emphasized, almost shoving his palm at Butcher’s face. “I saw someone getting killed, and you didn’t let me try saving them. Six, you made me go to a Supe bar, against my wishes, and I ended up getting deep throated by Ezekiel of all people. His tongue stretched.”

“Get off it, like you couldn’t get out of that mess on your own.” Butcher scoffs, and Hughie gulps, memories of that night flashed in his mind once more.

Butcher must have realized what he said because he tries to apologize.

“Fuck, I’m sorr-”

“Shut up.” Hughie snarled. “Shut up! I don’t want to hear about that. Do you know how hard it is to forget that?! He was a Supe, Butcher. A Supe! He had me down, and do you know what he said to me? Twinks are fucking hot.” He screamed, feeling his body shake in rage.

“Hughie, mate-”

“I am 25! I am fucking 25! Do I look like a Twink to you?! Because I looked like one to a Supe who was ready to fuck me over. Do you know what my options were? Use my powers? I HATE using my powers.”

He could feel himself panting.

The bartender had come back at some point, looking at them nervously as he puts the beer down. Hughie didn’t hesitate, he reached for the thing and gulped its contents down before slamming it back on the table.

“Another one,” He asked, pulling cash from his wallet.

Where was the money coming from again?

“Hughie-” Butcher starts, but Hughie points at him with the money and growled.

“His tongue tasted vile,” It tasted like expensive alcohol, actually. But he didn’t want to know that either.

“Okay, buddy, settle down now. We know you’re stressed, we’re all under stress here,” Milk started as he got closer, putting a calming hand over his shoulders. “Now, put the money down, I don’t know what you can do with it, and I’m starting to think that maybe you actually can do something with it, so …”

Hughie ignores him.

“Seven, you made me go on a date after witnessing a slaughter. But you know what? I’m glad you did, because that’s how I found out how real friends actually treat each other after such a traumatic experience. Because Annie, yeah, the Supe that you said was just like the others. She talked to me about what happened, tried to make me feel safe, unlike you!”

Milk lightly pushes his arm down and the money was now on the table.

“The only reason I’m here now is because of Frenchie and Milk. Not because of you, Billy Butcher. You, sir, are an asshole.”

The bartender had run at some point and was cautiously walking back to them, putting another glass on the table.

Hughie stared at the guy before groaning and slamming his head on the table.

“Maybe you’re right,” He felt miserable. “Maybe Supes really are just horrible and shouldn’t be let out in the world. I mean, if this is how people react when I’m angry, maybe I really am dangerous.”

“Hughie, that isn’t what we’re saying,” Milk tried to reassure him, but Butcher scuffed.

“You’re finally accepting the truth after that hissy fit?”

“Butcher, shut up. I honestly trust Hughie with my life more than I trust you.” Milk snaps at Butcher before putting a hand on his back. “Buddy, listen. You’re not like the rest of them. I know real assholes, and you aren’t them, alright?”

“…”

“Come on, drink up your beer. We have a lot to catch you up with.” He coaxes, and Hughie sighs bitterly, forcing himself to get up and grab the glass.

Milk turns around to Butcher, and from the way their expressions kept changing, even without any words being said, he could tell that they were having a conversation about him. Milk was losing but was insistent on his argument, that is, until Butcher raised his hands up, grumpy in his reply.

“Fine, I’ll tolerate the cunt.”

“No, you got it wrong, it’s me who’s tolerating you,” Hughie replies scathingly.

“Yeah? What can you do about it?”

“Okay, you’re honestly starting this? Aren’t you the one who’s always hanging on us when I fight with Frenchie?” Milk didn’t look amused, but Hughie didn’t care as he kept glaring at the wall while drinking.

“Frenchie at least didn’t keep away information that could compromise us.”

“When did Hughie compromise us?”

“He didn’t plant the bug in Starlight’s phone, and I bet with every nickel we ever owned that he already told her about his powers.”

Hughie sips. He was not going to give Butcher the satisfaction of being right.

“I saved a Dolphin’s life and found out that The Deep is into bestiality. That’s the blackmail material that you wanted.” He said, remembering Charlie the Dolphin and the conversation that he had with The Deep, that was not something he wanted to learn.

“Like that’s going to help us find where those drugs are coming from.”

“We agreed that it’s from the charity, remember?” Milk told in a lecturing tone, which confused Hughie because he hasn’t heard that one before.

“What?”

“Yeah, from- um, you know, charity,” Milk said, now turning flustered.

“Milk, come on, was there more stuff you guys didn’t fill me in?”

“Ezekiel’s capes for Christ charity boxes,” Butcher answered in his place. “That’s where the dope’s coming from, so we need to question him. That’s what Milk didn’t want to tell you.”

“Oh …” Hughie said, wide-eyed. He slowly turns back to the bartender, looks him straight in the eyes as he pulls a 100 dollar bill, and slams it on the table. “Don’t bring me anything, just let me hide behind your counter, yeah?”

The guy blinked in surprise before accepting the request, taking the bill for himself. Hughie stood up, ignored the rest of the bar – only them and a handful of people too far away to listen in – and strode behind the counter before dropping himself on the ground wrapping his arms around his knees.

“Hughie, man, come on. He's hosting the Believe Expo. So, we were going on our own, we weren’t going to ask you to join-”

“I got access to the Believe Expo,” He blurts out.

Chapter Text

Maverick had been by the vending machine getting some water and juice while dad was inside getting food. He was then shoved out of the way by a bunch of other kids.

“Get lost, four eyes.” One of them yelled while the rest laughed, leaving him to feel frustrated. He almost raised his hands, almost tried to trip them, but was stopped by another hand clamping onto his arm.

“Maverick, what on earth do you think you’re doing?” His dad demands. Maverick immediately dropped his arms, smiling at him and pretending that he was doing nothing. But dad always knew everything, and he eyed his scuffed pants. “I told you, no powers.”

“But that’s so lame, why can’t I just use my powers?” It was unfair, he never used his powers back home and now he can’t even use it while they’re traveling.

“You know why. Now come on, let’s go and eat, then we’ll start moving again.”

“Are we going to sleep in another motel?” He asks, feeling tired of all the constant moving. Dad winced, then gave him a tight smile. “We just left one this morning.”

“Do you want to sleep in the car then? I can keep driving if you want, we’ll reach … err …”

“Missouri.”

“Yeah, Missouri … But we can stay! We can see the pier, and the lights when its sundown, you like taking pictures, right?”

“I like posting them too, but I can’t anymore.” He says scathingly, feeling guilty a moment later when he saw his dad’s reaction.

“Then, how about you take pictures so you can show your mom later?”

“I can show mom later?” He’s surprised, he didn’t know he’d even see mom anymore.

“Of course, we are driving all the way to her house, right?”

“… Yeah …” Maverick agreed dejectedly. What was the point of visiting her anyways? It’s not like she’d welcome him there anymore. She has another family, she has another child, a daughter, and it wasn’t him. She clearly didn’t like him, because he reminded her too much of his dad.

Not to mention the fact that she yelled at him when he said that she was his sister that one time. He never told dad though, he only said he had a fun time that summer.

“Don’t get all down on me, Ricky. Now, come on, I’ve already ordered a Chicago deep dish. You never tried it before, but you’ll love it.” He says, ruffling his hair. Maverick smiled before pretending to hate it and push it away.

The pier looked nice, actually. It wasn’t Staten island, but it was less touristy, and that’s always a bonus for him.

Suddenly, people start screaming.

Dad immediately turns around, Maverick tries to see what was going on, and finds a bunch of people all at the edge of the pier, looking down while someone held a woman back.

“Fuck.” His dad cursed, he looked like he wanted to run to them, but kept switching his sight between him and the people.

“Dad? Shouldn’t you go help?” He asked, knowing that his dad did want to, but for some reason, he didn’t. The woman screamed even louder, yelling someone’s name at the waters. “Dad?”

“We’re leaving.”

“What? But-”

“No buts, we’re leaving, I can’t go and save them.”

“No! You can’t just do that! You’re a hero!” He tried, and his dad shook his head.

“It’s either saving them or keeping you safe. I’m not risking your life.” He said, now picking him off the floor. Maverick gapes at him as complete shock settles in his mind. But people were drowning! And they needed help! How can dad just leave-

Maverick looks back, the woman was now on her knees, sobbing as someone jumped into the water.

Maverick raised his hands and closed his eyes, focusing on the tugging, trying to poke at the sea.

He finds whatever it was that fell in and he pulls with as much power as he could.

Yells of shocks and disbelief rings aloud as two bodies come out of the waters, slowly drifting back to the pier. The woman was now crying in tears of relief instead of agony, and she reached for the victim.

It was the same boy that shoved him earlier today.

Maverick immediately lets them drop on the ground before looking back at his dad. He didn’t look happy, but he didn’t look angry.

Instead of receiving the usual rants he’d get whenever he showed off his powers, his dad grabs the back of his head and pulls him into a hug, tears falling down and staining his jacket.

“Maverick, you’re a better person than I’ll ever be.”

0o0o0

After a few hours wasted away with contemplation, he figures that he’s just really good at sneaking people around, or being sneaky himself, for as long as he focused on it.

He didn’t need to sneak himself into the festival, so much as sneak about with his identity, while somehow managing to get the other two in for free. Frenchie couldn’t come, not when he was watching over the female.

Honestly, he was feeling bitter that they’re using nicknames now, not when he honestly thought that their names were codenames.

“I’m surprised you actually came.”

“I seem to remember you inviting me.” He said, making her laugh as she looks away.

“No, I’m glad that you’re here. It’s just, after everything that’s happened, I never thought you’d actually risk your privacy to hang out with me.”

“Well, friends got to stick together,” He tells her, making sure to watch as the telltale signs of a smile appear on her lips. “For some time, you’re actually the nicest person I met, I’ll risk getting exposed to hang out with you.”

“You really mean that? Even in a religious convention?”

“It may not look like it, but I served some time in Sunday school. It’s also easier to hide in a crowd.”

“I’m surprised no one noticed you yet.”

“Part of my powers.” He starts chewing on the chicken tender.

“I thought your powers are reviving the dead.” She said, raising a brow at him. Hughie coughed, almost choking on his food, before giving her a tight smile once he cleared his throat.

“It goes with the walking-in-the-shadows theme that I have around me, that’s honestly the best way I can explain it.”

Without giving away the whole truth, that is.

“We’re the total opposite, I’m starlight, and you’re … Do you have a Supe name? Or should I go and find out what Vought’s been calling you?”

“They gave me a name? I thought that’s a hero thing.”

“It’s a Supe thing, Hughie. I know you don’t like hanging with the rest of us, but you shouldn’t be that ignorant.”

“Annie, you guys chose your own names, in your own hero teams. Teenage kix or whatever, but the rest of us underground don’t really need one, if we ever get one, it’s an infamous title.”

“Give me an infamous title then, someone who’s well known in your ‘underground’ world.”

“Well, there’s Mad Wilson. He’s connected to the G-Men, somehow. No one honestly knows.” Hughie gives away. She still looked at him, waiting for him to continue as if expecting that he’d share more. Unfortunately, he was willing to share. “Guy’s immortal. Turns out to be one of the first human experiments on Supes to figure out how we tick. The military tried to kill him a few times, but they didn’t succeed. He’s now living somewhere between Arizona and California. Whenever you need to run away from the government, you go to him.”

“There’s no way that’s real.”

“You’re shitting me, another Supes faction? Really? And an immortal too.” Billy complained through their comms, but Hughie ignores it.

“I thought about going to him, actually. Everyone who did go to him ended up in other countries, and that’s it. They stopped posting after that. I’m assuming that they needed to detach from their previous life, but people like to say that Mad Wilson killed them and used their accounts to post their last messages to hide his tracks.”

“Okay … I’m kind of concerned now.”

“You don’t need to be concerned; the guy’s infamous, not famous. You won’t end up in a situation where you need to meet him.”

“Why didn’t you end up infamous then? A power like yours …”

“Nah, never used my powers since I was, like, nine. At some point, I suddenly got free time, and went through the dark web to look for others like me.” Free time received from leaving therapy, that is. “They know someone’s lurking; they don’t know it’s me. So, no titles.”

“Well, ready yourself for a name, because Vought already chose one for you.”

“That’s a given. I did bring a creature back to life.”

“Everyone went nuts, they wanted to find out who you were. I think they were willing to recruit you.”

“Ironic, once they realize it’s actually me they’ll want nothing of me.”

“Why do you think that?”

“I might have yelled at the CEO in the past … but that’s a story for another day. So, you didn’t tell them anything about me?”

“Yeah. They already went through the Deep, so they figured whatever you did to him, you did to me. But I had to admit that I knew you.”

“That sucks,” She was about to say more, but then a man greets starlight as he passes them, carrying boxes. “You know, like, 99.9% of these people.”

She explained how she kept visiting conventions as a child. He was so entranced by her story, that he never noticed another person walking up to them.

“Oh, mom! Look, this is my friend, the one I was talking about.” She said, presenting him with widespread arms.

“You must be Hughie,” smiling kindly at him. “It’s nice to know my daughter has another Supe friend. She’s always been lonely till she joined the-” Her mom said, Hughie had tilted his head as he readied himself for one of those stories that old people like to reminisce, But Starlight didn’t let it happen.

“Mom, no, please don’t talk about that, I was a teen.”

“Well, it’s better to have relatively normal friends, it’s very humbling.” Annie winced, even while her mother kept her smile up for him. Hughie nods to show his agreement, not understanding what was going on with the two.

Then he spots a familiar brunette walking to them as she calls for Annie in her hero name.

PA lady.

Hughie turns around with a swift motion, heart beating loudly at the idea of almost getting recognized. He then remembered his powers and slapped himself in the forehead.

“You wanna join the teen roundtable?” Annie asked as the PA and her mom left, Hughie gives her a strained smile, shaking his head.

“Not exactly a teen. You go do your thing and we’ll catch up later?”

“Sure, later.” She grins before running up to her mom, waving at him. He waves back.

0o0o0

Hughie stood as far away from the stage as possible, watching Ezekiel spits out his speech. He kept his arms wrapped tightly around himself the moment the man stretched his arms, claiming that it can do so to accept people in his embrace.

Hughie was going to barf.

“So, how are you going to get to him? Or even get him to talk?” He asked when the segment finished, and people started spreading about. Milk hands him over the brochure with the private meet up that Ezekiel was planning, and it cost 15,000 dollars. “… Isn’t there an easier and cheaper way to get it?”

“Yes, but Milk will most probably kill me if I shared my idea.”

“Depends, what do you have in mind?” Milk questioned. Butcher stared at Milk, it was uncomfortable, and it was cluing Hughie in what the mad man was thinking. “Hell no. He ain’t getting any closer that man!”

“Well, Ezekiel promised he’ll do anything to make up for what he did that night. Went up to Harry and asked for you and everything.” Hughie took a step back shaking his head as fear starts clutching his heart, twisting it tightly. “And if he denies it, we have a video for it.”

Then Butcher pulls up his phone and shows a very familiar bathroom.

Hughie blanks out. He turns around and crouches down on his feet, holding onto his mouth to stop any bile from coming out as Milk starts screaming at Butcher.

When did he even have the time to get- to get- that video? That moment?

“Why did you even keep that video?!” Milk shouts.

“As evidence, obviously. Ain’t no cunt going to be attacking my mate without me fucking them over. This was going to end up as evidence once we finished our investigation.”

“And you couldn’t have asked my permission?” Hughie snapped, letting go of his mouth as he stood straight, turning seething eyes at Butcher. “That maybe I didn’t want anyone to know about this?”

“That’s your choice, but we still need this video to get Ezekiel to fess up.” He tells him but does close the phone before any more could be seen from it. “And it has to be you doing it.”

“Is this revenge? For not telling you about my powers?”

“What? No, I’d never,” He said it so nonchalantly, that even Milk raised his fist at Butcher but had to hold himself back with his other hand.

“That’s a low blow, Butcher.” Milk spits out at the end. Hughie stares at the man, shaking his head. To think he even started liking the man. He pressed his lips and looks away, still shaking his head. Milk continued to berate the man and tries to make another plan to get to Ezekiel.

Billy Butcher is a sociopath.

He slowly looks back at the brochure again with trembling hands, looking at the amount of money and then slowly looking down at the picture.

At the false preacher.

“You just want info about the V?” He asked, catching their attention. They both nod. He hums a bit as he thought about it. Butcher has evidence for … for that night. Hughie could use that … for his advantage. He also could do more.

He could … get revenge.

“I’ll get that info. I can force people to tell the truth. It’s why … A-Train admitted to the accident on live television,” He admits. Milk deserved to know that much at least.

“And how are you going to get in that tent, filled with security and cameras outside, without raising any alarms?” Butcher asked, raising a brow.

“Well, how else? I’ll just walk in like one of his donators.” Hughie smiled blankly at them. “After all, nobody really sees me when I walk around. Also, I noticed for some time that I can pull any amount of money I needed when I needed it.”

Milk and Butcher shared a look, obviously having a conversation.

“You actually know where that money’s coming from?” Butcher asks.

“Nope. I noticed when I kept giving that bartender, Martin? Yeah, that guy, the hundred dollar note. I never carry that amount of money. So, I’ve been testing it out for some time.”

“Hughie, man, you have to explain what your powers are, because now I’m counting three completely different abilities that have no relation with each other, and now you’re saying you’re hiding money in your wallet like it’s the motherlode cheat.” Milk said, raising three fingers up for him to see.

“Kaching,” Hughie says, giving him a shrug as he smiled lightly.

Frenchie and Milk did see him order around the female, bring back the dead, and walk around with no one figuring out who he was. For Milk, a critical and logical mind who probably process information faster than the rest of them put together, this must have made no sense.

“Homelander flies, has super strength, and shoots laser from his eyes, no one’s questioning that.”

“They say he’s an alien,” Butcher said, rolling his eyes before sending him the videos, the one of the bathroom, and another one where Ezekiel was already sucking face with two other people. “I’m starting to wonder if you are one too. Go, do your … thing, and tell us what you find later. Oh …”

Butcher sucks in a breath before leaning down close to him and whispers, “It won’t really matter what happens to the preacher. If something were to happen to him, say you did your techie thing and deleted his soul from existence, you can always call us up to hide the body.”

He then pulls away before leaving them.

That was … as good of an apology as he’ll ever get from Butcher.

0o0o0

Hughie was in the line of donation, and miraculously enough, he does pull enough money from his pocket to give them … but as a check.

He had been shaking his head at this, he doesn’t exactly remember when he willed this for himself, to always have enough money to carry around when he needs it, but he supposed that it was a consequence of losing a whole night from his memory. Really, he only started coming back to himself when he was ordering breakfast, so he had no idea what he’d been doing.

For all Hughie knew, he could have reenacted the hangover movie.

He looks at blank space where he should write his name, and scrunched his nose, deciding on wither he should write his real name or not. What other names would he write anyway? It’ll feel like an insult to his dad and grandfather if he decides to write a fake name. Not that he even met his grandfather before.

Sighing, ignoring the brief moment of decisiveness, he writes his real name down.

That’s when he sees Annie and her mom talking as they walked down the tent.

“Hey, ah, you two. How’s it going?” He said, catching their attention. They seemed to have been in a serious discussion that Annie was losing, it reminded him fondly of his own dad and how he couldn’t get the man to change his stance on many things during his childhood.

“Mom, we’ll catch up later,” Annie said, and her mom didn’t notice the way her daughter was trying to escape her. But she happily agreed to leave. Annie sighs in relief. “You do not know how- whoa, you’re going in the VIP tent?”

“Huh?” He noticed the papers on hand and tries to cover his name. Not that it mattered, she wouldn’t recognize his full name anyway. Annie never watched the news. It seemed that she wanted to disconnect herself from all hero news that dominated social media. It could have been detrimental in any other situations, but Hughie was glad that she didn’t because she had no clue she was hanging out with a guy who’s wanted for two different cases by now. “Um, yeah! Yeah. I needed … some … Yeah.”

“Can you even pay for that?”

“Surprisingly, yes, I can. If you ever want to get a penthouse in Manhattan, I can hook you up.” He answered, snapping his fingers and finger gunning her.

She scoffs before shoving his arm.

“As if. Seriously though, I didn’t expect you to be one of those people who’d …” She says as he gives the form to the man, and they stood, waiting for the ticket.

“Throw away money? I’m not. I just wanted to … talk to … Ezekiel, I guess. I need some answers, and only he has them.” The booth guy gave him the ticket and they start walking away from the crowd.

“What kind of question is it that you’ll throw away 15k for it?”

“If it's okay to drink and forget all the sins you committed?” He said, letting his mouth run with his words and regretting it immediately. “Anyways, what was that with your mom? You looked like you needed someone to save you, and you’re the hero here, not me.”

“Just having a talk about morality.” She grimaced as they stepped away from the more crowded part of the convention. “About lying and being an example.”

“… I didn’t exactly understand, so you might want to explain that.”

“Would you rather lie to everyone just so you can look like a pedestal for them to aim at?”

“Not really, no. I only lie to protect myself, and the people I love. Even then, I don’t exactly lie. But in your situation, that’s kind of hard.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s just, well, imagine a girl goes up to you and asks what to do if someone said that she needs to be a pretty princess because she’s a girl, what will you do then?”

“Tell her that she doesn’t need to listen to whoever said that.”

“Okay, but then … then she listens to you, and then, the girl dies because she didn’t listen to her dad. She was in an abusive household.” This didn’t bode well for her, her face changing as she thought more on the scenario. Hughie had felt guilty enough to duck his head down a bit as they walked closer to the VIP tent. “That was bad. But … life’s like that. You don’t know what the other person is facing for you to just give away advice without consideration. It’s like Spider-man’s quote-”

“Whoa, you read old comics too? The only time I ever heard of Spider-man is from my aunt.” Starlight said, and Hughie pressed his lips into a straight line,

“For your information, Spider-man is still a thing. You just have to order it online cause you can’t find it in stores anymore. Vought comics are everywhere. But it’s cool. Okay.”

“Okay, okay, what did Spider-man say?” She chuckled, and he couldn’t keep his angry expression up for long.

“With great power, comes great responsibility,” He tells her. “Fact is, you have more power when it comes to what you say, and in your position, you can’t just be honest, you have to be firm, powerful. You have to show the world why they should listen to you and what you say, and not just that they should humor you.”

“That’s … wow. Why don’t you do public speeches?”

“Aside from the fact that I bring up subjects awkwardly, I don’t like being the center of attention.” He grins at her as they stood in front of the VIP tent. Hughie breathes in, readying himself for what he will face inside.

“Thanks, Hughie. I think you gave me the answer I was looking for.” She then bumps his shoulder again, but this time, with her own shoulder instead of a fist. “I hope you get your own answers.”

“I’m not leaving until I do.” He muttered under his breath as they pull the curtain away.

Hughie freezes in his spot.

He sees Ezekiel in that very second, and the man spots him back, his eyes widening that moment in recognition. Hughie drops a hand on Annie’s shoulder in a desperate grip.

“On second thought, maybe I need some time.” He mumbled as he turns around, letting go of her.

0o0o0

He comes back again after Annie convinced him to go back, he must have left an impression, because security kept an eye on him as he entered, along with some guests. After a while, the guests just deemed him uninteresting and looked away.

Ezekiel spots him again, watching him as he tries to find a comfortable spot to stand at.

A waitress passed him, Hughie decides that following her is a good idea, because the staff has an exit point that’s always out of sight. It also helped him think about other things other than Ezekiel’s eyes on him.

However, like the world itself conspiring against him, his luck gives out, and he stops as a man calls his name.

A very familiar man.

Hughie turns around to meet Homelander face to face. The man stood there, giving him a smile so fake, that it almost made Hughie gag. It reminded him far too much of Stillwell’s smile, just as fake, but not as venomous. Homelander had picked a flute and offers it to him.

“Hughie, right? Starlight’s friend.”

“Y-Yeah, how’d you know?” He stutters as he accepts the glass, not willing to drink it. He had enough for a week and didn’t need more to fuel his drunkard escapades.

“She asked me to watch after you. From what I heard; you had an interesting entry.”

“Sorry, nerves, you know.”

“I really don’t.” The man chuckles, voice empty.

Of course, why would Homelander ever feel nerves, he thought.

“In the time she has been with us, she hasn’t been as protective as I’ve seen her with you. I’d like to think it’s because everyone in the Seven are Supes who can take care of themselves. Then color me surprised when I finally recognized you.”

Hughie felt something inside screech to a stop, telling him to be cautious of what to come next, that he won’t like this.

“I don’t know what you mean, we never met before.”

“No, but I’ve seen you, a few days ago, on TV. Along with Kevin and Annie.”

Who the hell is Kevin?

“Kevin, as in The Deep. You revived his friend Dolphin.”

“Oh …” Hughie gulped as he looked at Homelander, the glint of intrigue in the man’s eyes.

“In fact, I’d really like to talk with you after this, if you don’t mind.” He said as if he were asking, but they both knew that there were no questions here, only orders to follow. Hughie’s lip twitched into a brief smile, as he nods, then he starts draining his flute in one go.

There is one thing that Hughie is completely sure of, tonight, he might die.

Chapter Text

There’s something wrong with Starlight’s friend. A sort of wrong that a person can’t exactly put their fingers on.

When he lands here, he wasn’t expecting Starlight to greet him in the tent, waiting for him specifically. He was sure that Ashley would have wrangled her away to do makeup like she liked to do to the rest when they had a speech scheduled.

But starlight had been beyond distressed and had asked him to watch over her friend while she was gone.

“He’s been going through hard times, and I don’t like leaving him alone.”

“Is that why you put him in the event?” A roundabout solution, he might say, but it was effective in keeping an eye on someone.

“No, Hughie signed up for the event himself, he didn’t even tell me till the last moment.” Starlight shook her head at him as if she thought him a fool for thinking so. “It’s just- He’s what people would call … fragile.”

“Fragile how?” Fragile in the same concept that normal humans are fragile, was the most likely answer. Easily breakable. John has to always watch himself when he gives a handshake and carry another child above ground to let them experience flight during any meetup. It only ever takes one slip for them to pass away. Having another human considered fragile was not a new concept to him.

“He got out of the hospital recently.”

“Why was he in?”

“Um … I think …” Starlight strains in thought, as if something was physically stopping her from remembering, which was interesting. She didn’t seem to be the forgettable type, only Kevin has memory issues. He was also the only forgettable one in the Seven, he thought in humor. “Nerve? Nerve damage?”

“Are you not sure?”

“No. I mean, yes, I’m sure. Nerve disease.” Then she whispers to herself, “He never actually said it though.”

“You’re worried that he’ll hurt himself if he’s alone?”

“He has this knack of disappearing. Honestly, the first time I met him, he ran away from the hospital and was eating a sandwich in the park.” She said, laughing to herself.

But John didn’t feel that same humor. The only ‘friends’ he ever gathered in his life were planned out by the labs and Vought. He saw everyone as acquaintances more than ‘pals’. However, despite his own experiences, he knew for sure that this isn’t a normal way to meet someone.

Something clicks in his mind in that very moment.

“What did you say his name was?”

“Hughie.” She answers in delight as if he already agreed to her request.

A man named Hughie with a nerve problem who ran away from the hospital.

Like another man that Madelyn had left Translucent to watch over. Only for them to end up losing both the man and Translucent. Translucent never came back alive, only as skin that had been swimming at the bottom of the seafloor. Yet, this man walks free, causing them mayhem and PR nightmares.

Somehow, managing to drag A-Train into the fiasco.

Now, he finds out that Starlight is also involved.

This man … is dangerous.

“I’ll gladly watch over him.” He tells her. He receives a grateful look from her.

She’d lose it after a while like everyone else does. She’ll end up looking at him as if he were a monster, and act otherwise to keep herself alive, like how the rest of the Seven are doing.

The only person who never exactly cared about angering was now dead. Even if he didn’t enjoy Translucent’s company, he did at least had some semblance of conversations with that man.

“Cool. That’s cool. He’s, uh, tall and looks like he’ll fall if someone pushed him. So, don’t … push him, I mean,” She said. He liked that, someone who actually can speak up, but he didn’t like that it was against him.

0o0o0

True to his previous prediction, Ashley does find Starlight, and she does drag her away for makeup.

He waits, watching the entryway for the elusive man that somehow kept slipping away from them. This Hughie, Starlight’s friend, could be the enemy he’s been looking for, the one who has been causing them far too much trouble than one man should be able to against a whole corporation.

When a man walks in, looking as nervous as Starlight described, he felt nothing but complete elation.

A feeling close to revelation crosses his thoughts.

Even if he wasn’t the man he has been thinking about, though he was disappointed, especially with how sure he was a few moments ago, this was still Starlight’s friend.

The very same friend who can revive the dead and have promptly disappeared on them.

Kevin couldn’t even describe him even after hours of questioning, and Starlight only confirmed that he was a friend, and nothing else.

A complete enigma.

How could such a useful man be hidden from their sights for so long, is what he would like to ask. The man probably wasn’t going to answer, not when he has an abnormally high heartbeat that could only translate as panic and fear.

Starlight had nailed her description of her friend perfectly.

He felt amused, pushing the man towards the pool when Ezekiel called them. Hughie had been shaking the whole time, and he had to take away his glass before he accidentally knocked it over on the ground and break it.

Starlight’s voice repeating Nerve disease in his mind. As to what his disease pertains, remains a mystery. But Seizures are well-known symptoms of nerve problems, and handing someone with a severe problem something breakable might have been amusing at first, he was not interested in cleaning up the mess later.

Hughie’s blood pressure spiked the moment he stepped into the pool, the water enforcing John’s sense, sounds traveling faster than it did through air. To his interest, it only spikes further whenever Ezekiel spoke.

John offers him his hand, and the man hesitantly accepts, grabbing them as he tries to act normal.

“Something wrong, Hughie?”

“No- No, I’m totally comfortable. Why would you ask that?” The man lies. John only smiles at him as he tries to calm him down, patting his shoulders, only to receive a higher spike of fear from him.

“Your blood pressure is 150/90, that’s a bit high.”

“Yeah, I’m just-” The man stuttered trying to figure out what to say, his eyes flickering to the side for one split second. Eyes on Ezekiel once more, and this time, Ezekiel looked back. “I’m afraid of water.”

This man keeps lying for reasons unknown, but he can keep his secrets for now.

“Don’t panic,” He said, crossing Hughie’s arms and holding onto the back of his neck. The man stares ahead, a look that could only be expressed as pure dread overtook him. The last time he saw someone that terrified was on the plane before crashing it.

And like the plane, John dips him into the water-

And he felt the world change.

No more was he holding onto a nervous wreck that didn’t know how to speak nor hold a conversation.

No more was he holding onto a mere human, or even a mere Supe.

John had dipped a man into the pool and had seen through the waters the truth.

Something both unexplainable and unattainable was in his arms.

Starlight’s friend, Hughie, holding his breath in pure panic as the world simply decimates. It starts from the bottom of the pool, and slowly reaches out to everyone else, none the wiser.

There was a ringing so loud it could split the mind, a screeching so horrible it could tear down your soul, and a voice so soothing that it would leave anyone crying for eternity. Like stars exploding, and seas raging, but dew rains falling, watering the earth.

He was sure no one could breathe from the pure pressure of this spectacle. He wasn’t even sure if anyone is breathing, for there was no movement that his ears could pick up.

No passage of time but from this very man, who was slowly drowning.

The world does nothing but crack around Hughie. Spirals and little spider web patterns trying to escape him, all there yet not there. The void envelopes him, yet he was in the center of all the colors of the world.

And when he looks this man in the eyes, he sees power.

John was sure that he will regret not saving him.

So, John pulls him out, and Hughie took a breath-

Then reality breathed alongside him.

Nothing is amiss anymore.

He holds onto the man’s wrist as he coughs out more breaths, far too unsteady on his feet.

John had been struck, never had he ever met someone with such power coursing through them, such unfeasible amounts of nothing and everything just standing there. The world only returns to a semblance of the ordain, as if that crack in reality had never occurred.

He had to pat him on the back to stop him from coughing even more, and he looks at Ezekiel. The preacher gives him a knowing look, one that spoke of experience.

“You’ve seen it too, didn’t you?” Ezekiel’s voice trembled, and that was all the clarification John needed.

Hughie, the man who revives the dead, can do so much more than anyone can explain. All that power, hidden in a meek body, as if trying to trick the world with a disguise. He was a dangerous man indeed, and it was better to humor him than to antagonize him.

0o0o0

Hughie now has something new to hate, and it’s basically the only thing keeping him alive by this point, so he feels like his hate is justified.

Who knew someone can get scared of water? He didn’t, and now look at him.

Homelander kept looking at him as if he’d done something horrible.

Maybe Hughie did. For all anyone knew, the man can read minds and have gone through his head when he was drowning him. He didn’t know how to escape his sight, but it seems that the hero decided that messing around with him wasn’t as fun as it initially was and left him alone with Ezekiel, who had been waiting for everyone to leave.

“I … never caught your name,” Ezekiel said first, Hughie had to take in a breath, had to calm himself before he could even talk.

It was his time, he needed to control himself, and control the situation.

“You never asked.”

“I’m sorry,” Ezekiel said. “I’m so sorry-”

“How many times did you do it? To other people?”

“What? Do you think I’m some kind of sicko?! I’m a preacher, man. I’m a man who follows god’s teachings.”

“So, you’re somehow more of a saint than the rest of the catholic church?”

“No, listen- fuck. FUCK. Listen. I don’t- I always ask for permission; I don’t know what happened to me that day. I swear. I just saw you and I-” The man gulps, looking at him, but not at him. Hughie hugged the towel tighter. That look just kept bringing him back to that night. “I saw a beautiful world. I wanted you, I wanted to know how the world tasted like, and felt like, and I- shit- I couldn’t help it. You’re too beautiful.”

“We were in a sex club bathroom, how can anything look beautiful there?” Hughie grits his teeth. “Forgive me if I don’t believe you, when you yourself like to pray the gay away.”

“Look, man, I … I’ll do anything for your forgiveness. Anything.

“Why?”

“Why?” Ezekiel asked, distraught.

“Why do you want my forgiveness that badly?” He asked. Ezekiel’s face twisted into something akin to suffering. He took a step forward, and Hughie panicked at that moment, taking a step back. “Stay there.” He demands.

Ezekiel does, his expression crumbling completely.

“I’m sorry …”

“… You never had sex with anyone against their consent before?”

“If I did, I’ll kill myself. I’m not a rapist.”

“Then why did you when I was involved?”

“I … don’t know. I swear to god, I don’t know. I just- It’s you.”

“Me?”

“It’s you. I don’t even know you, but you have this … this energy about you, it just pulls, man. It just pulls. You came out of the stall, and I saw you crying, and I just wanted to make sure you’re not, but it got worse, I just wanted … wanted to be there, and it escalated, and I couldn’t control myself. And I saw …

“That’s still not an excuse.” Hughie replies, clenching his fests tighter the more he heard him talk. “That’s not an excuse.”

“It isn’t.” Ezekiel agreed, his voice solemn as he looks downward.

“You’re not entitled to someone just because of how they looked.” Hughie continues, feeling sick to the pits. This was a fucking grown man. Grown men shouldn’t need to have this explained to them. It’s fucking common decency and morals.

“I don’t know how to apologize. The only thing I got is money.”

“I don’t want money. I want revenge.” Ezekiel showed pure panic when he said that, Hughie had to reevaluate his whole moral system since he found himself enjoying the fear he was watching. “But … I have a better idea. I want information.”

“Information? Why on earth-”

“Didn’t you say you’ll do anything for me? Anything for my forgiveness?” Hughie reminds him. Ezekiel stares at him for a second before nodding. “Anything to ease up your guilt?”

“Y-Yeah.”

“Then, what can you tell me about Compound V?”

“How do you even know about that?” Ezekiel questioned, but Hughie only stared at him, waiting for the answer. “Right … Right. Shit. They’ll kill me if they found out I told anyone about it.”

What if he killed him instead?

A treacherous thought eludes him, but he pushes it away.

Ezekiel takes a ragged breath, holding onto his hair.

“Is that it, I’ll tell you about compound V and you’ll forgive me?”

“No. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive you. I’ll acknowledge your apology, I won’t accept it,” He said. “I also want you to stop being a fucking hypocrite. How can you even stand on that stage telling people lies then go out in a club to smooch off a guy’s face?”

“Right,” Ezekiel said. “That- That’s the best I can get.”

“And you don’t ever touch anyone else like how you tried to touch me …” Here, Hughie did something he had been practicing for a long time. He flashed his eyes at Ezekiel, like a soft hum, they glow a low luminescent blue.

This has caused an instant reaction of horror, making the man stumble back.

“I won’t! I won’t! I swear to god I won’t!”

“What if you’re lying?”

“I swear.” The man pleads, trembling in his place.

Hughie felt his lips betray him as he starts grinning.

“Ezekiel has sworn, and he shall keep his promise.”

0o0o0

He felt delirious.

He can’t believe he’d done it.

He kept his hands clean.

And he didn’t even use Butcher’s videos as Blackmail.

Forcing him on his promise left him feeling better, more lighthearted, knowing that no one else would fall for him unless they give their complete agreement to his advances.

He found Milk through the crowd somehow, but why does it matter anymore? Milk was a safe person, and that’s all that matters.

“Do you have any tissues?” He asked, freaking the man out.

“Hughie, man, what the hell?” He asked once he calms down, he then pulls a pack of tissue, the same brand that Frenchie had.

“I got baptized, long story. I do not recommend.”

“Are you feeling okay?” He asks, worried, like a father would. Hughie missed his dad. He should call him soon.

“That man won’t hurt anyone ever again.” He says in excitement, before sobering up. “It still freaks me out whenever I think about it though.”

“That’s understandable.” Milk agrees with him.

“It was hell. The whole time, Homelander and the security just kept watching me, do you know how freaky that is? I spent the last month walking around invisible and suddenly everyone’s looking at you like- like- like I’m a freak show.”

“Hughie, man, I know you have a lot to say, but this isn’t the place or time.” He said, staring ahead at some cameras and security guards. Hughie sobers up and nods. “Did you get anything from him?”

“Yeah, okay, the mission. So, Samaritan's Embrace, his charity?”

“Right.”

“All right. So, what they do is they take boxes full of that V stuff and they ship it to hospitals all across the country, and the latest one is going to the NICU at Mercer Hospital.” He then tries to remember more of the place. “It's, uh, it's midtown, I think.”

“You are a natural, kid.” Milk said, grinning at him as he claps him over the back. “You're like the fucking Rain Man of fucking people over.”

Hughie laughs stupidly, “Not a compliment.”

“I’ll call Butcher, you joining?”

“No, not really. I think I’ll freak my dad out if I ever went to a NICU ever again.”

“What?” Milk was stunned for some reason, as if the gears of his mind was currently collecting something and trying to process it. Hughie was pretty sure that it was actually doing that.

“Yeah, he told me that mom had me too early, so I was in NICU for like a year.”

Milk does that thing again, where he thinks so hard that he could probably burn steel with how intense he was thinking, and spoke up.

“Compound V goes to NICU. We found the needle in polio vaccine boxes, who needs vaccines the most? Babies. They’re feeding this to babies.” Milk said, Hughie watched in complete fascinations as he … theorized was the best way to call it. “The V gives the Supes their powers!”

“How did you figure that out?”

“How else? You already said you stayed in one for a year!”

“So?”

“How many powers do you have?”

“One power. I don’t have multiple powers.” He answered, but Milk shook his head before picking up the phone to call Butcher.

0o0o0

Hughie stood in the crowd as Annie had an emotional breakdown on stage.

He felt a sort of guilt swirling in his guts. It took this long for him to realize that despite her saying that she was safe, she really wasn’t. She wasn’t safe from herself or her own mind, and she must have felt alone.

Hughie was the worst friend in existence.

“I mean, if you have sex before marriage, that's- that's not immoral, that's human. What's immoral is the guy who shoved his dick in my face.” The crowd gasps, and Hughie wrapped his arms around himself.

Whoever did that to her was still roaming around.

This whole time he was thinking about himself without thinking about her.

“Here's the truth,” She says after exhaling. “Anyone who tells you they know the answers is lying. And I know, I know, I'm supposed to be this hero-idol-symbol-whatever, but I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I'm just as scared and confused as the rest of you. I'm done pretending, and I'm done taking any more shit.”

She looked at the crowd, giving everyone a determined look.

“Thank you,” She says before running off the stage.

Despite the silence that they were in, Hughie let go of himself and starts clapping, even if he did receive a few glares. He only clapped louder once he noticed them. He then leaves the crowd once Ezekiel took the stage, trying to follow wherever she might have gone.

When he does find her, standing alone, far away from the stage and the expo itself, she was alone. Her only company were the stars above, and like her namesake, she was out of Hughie’s reach.

“Annie?” He asked, and she turns around, showing him her tear-stained face. He shook his head, trying to show her how much grief he was feeling for her. “I guess … you’re done letting the world trample you, and ready to show it that you’re in business.”

She chuckles, despite her sobbing, and she tries to rub them away with her hands. Hughie walked up to her, offering her the pack of tissues he got from Milk earlier, and she accepts them.

“You asked me why I didn’t do public speeches, but here you were with a Billy Joel-esque speech-” He tries to say excitedly

“I’m glad you enjoyed it,” She bites, her voice laced with scathed betrayal. “How was your day? Found any answers?”

It hit home how much she was suffering alone.

He should have never left her alone.

“I asked Ezekiel … aside from me, how many other people he touched.” Annie’s gasp was audible. He felt a bit regretful for making her question her faith even more. “He told me I looked beautiful. I told him that I didn’t believe him.”

Then he stops, trying to process what happened, but was unable to do so. The day had been going fast, too fast for him to understand.

“He made me suffer, I always freaked out whenever … whenever … well, whenever I remembered that night. And that’s just from him kissing me and dropping me on the floor. But what happened to you Annie, that’s horrible, and I don’t know …”

He breathes in, trying to figure out what to say exactly without mucking it even more than he already did.

“I don’t know how to be a good friend. I want to be a good friend. I want to be the friend that makes you feel safe just by standing next to them, like how I feel safe when I’m standing next to you. I don’t like the idea that you’re suffering and that I can’t help. It hurts. Because, now I know for sure that you’re not okay, not mentally.”

“Hughie … you already make me feel happy. All we do is talk, but, when we talk, I feel like I can forget everything else. You’re already that person, the one who makes me feel safe when I’m standing next to them.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Then … do you want a hug? To feel even better?” He asked, spreading his arms in an offering. Annie sniffs before nodding, then she walks up to him and pulls him into a hug. Hughie reacts immediately, wrapping her in a tight hold as she starts crying again.

Then he starts singing.

It was because he was an idiot and he didn’t know how to comfort people but he knew singing always comforted him, so maybe it will work on Annie?

“When you're down … and troubled, and you need a helping hand … and nothing, nothing is going right …” He said, eyes straying up to the night sky. “Close your eyes and think of me … and soon I will be there, to brighten even your darkest night.”

The world is messed up.

Chapter Text

They found them at midnight when the expo already finished. It was her mom and the rest of the Vought crew members, along with Homelander, surprisingly enough.

Annie had still been crying, cursing the hell out of The Deep. Hughie’s long list of people he hates had gotten longer after this night.

When they did come and find them, her mom had hugged her, giving apologies for never listening to her. Hughie took this as a chance to leave, he wasn’t welcome anymore, and she was with her family now, which reminded him of his own family.

He would have succeeded in getting away, if Homelander wasn’t following him.

Just floating slightly behind him.

“Did you make her say all that on stage?”

“Believe it or not,” He said, applauding himself mentally for the pun. “Annie is her own person. I think she hinted it at to me, but I’m apparently too dense to realize it.”

The man hums as he finally lands on the ground, slowly walking closer to him.

“We haven’t had our talk.”

“You disappeared, I thought maybe you didn’t want to talk.” He wished that were the truth, but the man was here now. There wasn’t anyone around to stop him from getting killed, or worse, abducted for the second time this year, then brought to Vought. “I don’t think you’ll gain anything important from this anyway.”

“You are mistaken. I wanted to learn more about you. Most importantly, why you are hiding?”

“huh?” He asked dumbly.

“Don’t play coy, Hughie. It’s very hard to focus on you, no one can describe you well enough, and the ones that can won’t speak. It took that moment during the baptism to break any sort of spell you had on the rest of the world, and I must say, I am completely impressed.”

“Again, what?” Hughie said, sweating slightly in panic. Breaking a spell?

“You’ve been playing the whole world like a fiddle.”

“Okay, so maybe … yeah.”

“Why?”

“I … don’t like attention.” He said meekly, but Homelander gives him a side look before looking forward, heaving a tired sigh. “I’m honest about that. I don’t like attention. Showing the world my powers would cause … too much attention, too many eyes on me, and my dad. I can’t do that to him.”

“Family,” Homelander said, voice holding a sort of hidden anger in them. Hughie nods, not seeing what the problem was. “It always comes down to family. You and Al are both the same. Tell me, did you know that Translucent has a son?”

Hughie doesn’t answer, he only looks ahead.

“A child who disappeared. I would have blamed you for taking his father away from him, but the child disappeared somehow. It was very efficient. It looked far too messy and seemed as if a boy was having a temper tantrum. Translucent is very efficient like that, making everything look realistic. That clued me in on the fact that he might not be as dead as I originally thought.”

“Why are you talking about Translucent?”

“Why else? He was with you when you were kidnapped, Hughie Campbell.” Hughie’s eyes widened, fear striking him down in his spot. He looks at Homelander in complete disbelief.

How? How did he even-

“What- What are you talking about?”

“Like I said, Hughie, the baptism broke something, maybe your control of the situation, or your control on whatever spell you used to shadow yourself in. But for that moment in the water, I saw … I saw you, and a terrific world.” Homelander stops, his torturous smile turned genuine as he turns to him. “A beautifully tragic one, filled with nothing but the void and the colors of the world. When you stopped breathing, reality stopped breathing along, and when you took one gasp, the world took one with you.”

Hughie stopped breathing. He wanted to cover his ears, as warning sounds went off his head, but not in front of Homelander, not when the man can see it as a weakness.

He saw the world.

His world.

His mindsight.

How he saw reality.

The man continued, “Despite all the shrieking, the singing, and the ringing, you stood. Amidst it all, you stood, a crowne-.”

“STOP. Stop! What?! You can read minds now?!” He demands. To his surprise, Homelander took a step back. Hughie gasped, realizing he was slipping. His grasp of reality was slipping. He himself stumbled back, looking down at his hands, a slight glow of blue fell on it before dissipating.

“I don’t read minds, there’s another Supe with that power. No. You showed it to me, Hughie.”

“I never did.”

“You didn’t want to, true, but you couldn’t control it. And we can help with that.”

“You can’t.”

“We can, Vought helped me, and they can help you.” The man said, offering him a gloved hand. Hughie blinks at it, frowning as he thinks over the man’s words. It seemed that Homelander took this as a sign of refusal and sighed as he drops his hands.

“Thank you for the offer, but I already rejected it twice, I’m not going to accept it now. Especially when you keep protecting that scum.” He didn’t need to point out who he was talking about.

“Hughie, if you aren’t with us, you are against us.” Homelander says as if he was reminding a child of a very simple fact. Hughie only blinked.

“Against Vought? The seven? Please.” Hughie, not understanding where this confidence was coming from. “Honestly, Mr. Homelander, you might be the only one who cares about Vought. You guys aren’t even a team, you guys all have your own self-interest. No, you guys honestly feel like a ticking time bomb. Going against one of you doesn’t mean I’m going against all of you.”

“I still consider my team my responsibility.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Homelander. I’m not taking anyone away,” Hughie said, letting a small smile take over his face. “I’m just going to hurt him, and only him. So, if you stay out of the way, I’ll be very happy, and your team will be very safe.”

“Despite all the power you hold, you haven’t done anything during your time hidden away, I don’t expect you to do anything by this time.”

“I wasn’t using my powers; I don’t want to use my powers. It’s going to be too easy if I did. All I could do is,” Hughie stares at Homelander, feeling his smile turn into a demented smirk. He couldn’t control himself. He didn’t understand what was moving him, but it was such a strong feeling, such a strong emotion that had been buried too deep for him to swat away anymore. He raised his arms, and thought for a moment on what to do, before snapping his fingers. “Snap, and you don’t have your powers anymore.”

“Excuse me?” Homelander looked shaken, as if unable to believe what he heard.

“You heard me. I can take it away. I can take all of your powers away, every single Supe in this country. Snap. And they’re not so super anymore.”

“You wouldn’t dare-”

“Try me. TRY ME. I told you. I want him, and I’m not using my powers because I want him to s͔̺̲̗̥̖̗̄̿̔̅̿͌u̱͕̞̱̯̜͉̙̿͌̓ͯ͆̈ͩḟ̙̳̗͖̅ͨ̈f̪̟͓̤̹́͐͂͛e̮̝̙̐ͩr͚̖̉̍̋ͨͣ͆ͫ̂, like how I suffered.”

Homelander took another step back, such a minuscule thing that made Hughie feel delighted. He, abnormally normal and boring Hughie Campbell, can make Homelander step back in fear.

That’s when he noticed it.

The silence.

Hughie shifts in his place, checking his sides, confused.

Not a sound, not ringing, nor a scream.

Nothing buzzed and the world wasn’t vibrating in its place.

It was too calm.

He felt confused, and admittingly, very scared. His warning sign wasn’t working right now, and he’s too afraid to think anymore, too afraid to daydream in his own mind, where the line that stopped him stood. If the ringing isn’t there anymore, what’s stopping him?

He starts breathing heavily, covering his ears then uncovered them, hoping to hear the sounds again, but it still wasn’t there.

“Your blood pressure is getting higher,” Homelander comments, the small amount of fear he had now dissipating.

“I don’t- It’s not-” Working. Is it because … because he was willing to do what he just promised? Taking people’s powers away from them? He felt his throat dry up, realizing how crazy he just sounded, and started shaking his head, grabbing onto his hair. “I shouldn’t- I can’t-”

He choked on his own voice.

He doesn’t want to take it away. Powers were- they were-

A part of a person … powers were a part of a person.

He lived for almost two decades without his own powers, and it was torture. He doesn’t want that to happen to other people. He didn’t want to be a source of pain, he just wants to stop feeling pain himself, he doesn’t want to hurt everyone.

He has too much power.

“I see, I’ll try to stay out of your way, as a courtesy. But kill anyone, and I’ll make sure you won’t have as much freedom as you are currently experiencing. We are thinking about getting rid of A-Train, so whatever you offer can be considered.” He then sighs. “It’s a shame, really. You could be someone important with us, not hiding and scuttling away.”

Then he zooms away, leaving dust to flutter about, mostly hitting Hughie in the dirt.

“It’s fine, as long as you don’t stop me,” He mumbled.

0o0o0

Hughie remembers a day where he stood by the bay, watching the sea, just like he was doing right now.

Unlike now, he was with someone he loved back then.

It was the first time he realized he was in love.

Back then, he was running away with Robin after the cops decided to come and arrest the people in the party. They were both raging drunk, they had no idea how they even escaped.

But that didn’t matter. What mattered was how they ended up by the bay, laughing like the crazed idiots that they were. The stars weren’t visible, not in a city as bright as theirs. The moon was there though, full and waxing and mocking them all the same at their foolery.

They didn’t care.

Robin had leaned on the rails and started talking about music, how the ones at the party were bad.

“Yeah …” He said, actually relieved that someone else thought the same as he did and that it was his best friend.

“I mean, really? Skrillex was so yesterday.”

“What’s wrong with yesterday's stuff?” He asked, affronted.

“Nothing. But I like old stuff that actually has meaning. That everyone can agree that it’s good. You can’t just put a DJ that’s arguably likable.”

“By that definition, we should have played jazz music.”

“Would it be that bad, Hughie?” Robin asked, letting go of the rail and stood in front of him with a stagger, a wide smile on her face. Then she starts tap dancing. Swinging her hands widely, uncoordinated, and a little bit off. Her hair flailing, the dyed red tips of some of her strands catching his attention, even as she turns around.

Her hands end up grabbing his, ever so soft compared to his own, and then she’d pull him lightly, like a whisper enticing him to do all sorts of bad things.

Hughie tries to mimic her, but she shook her head.

“Nah, Hughie. When you’re swinging, you have to feel it.”

“I didn’t even know you liked … swinging?”

“Well, someone has to have an interesting hobby around here.” She said, shaking her head, before doing a smooth slip to her right, only to trip. She almost fell down, but Hughie still held her arm, and tries to pull her back-

He was too drunk to even do that, no, he ends up falling on the ground right next to her.

But she laughed, eyes filled with happy tears as she holds onto her stomach.

“Oh, god. You should have seen your own expression. You have this ‘NOOOOOO’ face, you dork.”

“I’m heavy.”

“Sure you are, Hughie,” She said as she turns to look at him, letting her cheeks rest on the floor, only to end up jerking her face to the side as she starts roaring once more. “Don’t look so glum just because you can’t dance.”

“You can’t either.”

“But at least I’m trying, you shouldn’t give up just because you’re bad at something.” She said, calming now as she stares up to the skies. “If everyone gave up, then what’s the point?”

Hughie had stared at her as she looked up to the sky, how her brown hair fell messily around her. How her face just exuded excitement and wonderment. Hughie would never understand how they became friends, Anthony said that she tripped on him once in that party sophomore year, and she made sure he ended up in the hospital and stayed with him when it was supposed to be her that was admitted.

No one seems to remember that time at the pet store, not even Robin. She always said that Dennis was the place they met, but Hughie will always remember that laughing eyes staring at him as he hid behind a mix bag.

He’ll treasure the memory forever.

“So, what’s your kind of music? Aside from all the things your dad listens to.”

“Hey, those are great! Just because their old doesn’t mean they’re bad-”

“Pfft,” She chuckles, covering her mouth again. “Slow down you crazy child.”

Hughie blinked.

He opened his mouth then closed it again, then opened it up again, and left it hanging. Robin saw it and grinned before reaching her hands to his chin and tapping it closed.

“That’s Billy Joel.”

“Sure is,” Robin said, only to notice his astonishment. “What? You only ever praise him like 3 times a week.”

“I didn’t know you’d go and listen to his stuff.”

“Hughie, when you get excited about something, you get so passionate, that it’s really cute to watch you go off about it. I had to see what makes you so happy.” Hughie’s mouth twitched from one side before turning into a full smile. His stomach felt weak, and it was a mercy that he was on the floor to begin with, or else, he would have fallen a long time ago at her admission. “I like Frank Sinatra, by the way.”

“Well, if you like swing, I’m not surprised.” He replied, but kept smiling, feeling his face flushing as he realized that the falling feeling in his stomach could ever mean one thing.

He was undoubtedly, absolutely, and unquestionably falling in love with one Robin Ward.

Hughie had that realization two years ago, at least, he thought so. It’s been so long, his time had been stretching and shortening wildly for the past few years, and it was all her fault.

Now, with her gone, the world is still, slow, and very agonizing.

He starts singing quietly to himself.

Robin liked Frank Sinatra, but she liked a lot of things. Many, many things. He can’t ever imagine going through everything she ever liked without breaking down right at the top of the list.

The waves idly passed him, ignoring his plight.

He promised revenge, but he should stop fooling himself by this point. Would Robin ever want him to go through all of this? Was this really only for her, and not also for himself?

Everything hurt, both emotionally and physically.

Everything he did ends up turning in a bigger mess, ever since he joined Butcher and the others, he’d been spiraling down further into this mad plan.

The only person who’s making any sense right now is Annie, but he can’t lean on her, not when she needed support herself.

A raw feeling of regret slowly overcame him, trying to claw its way up his throat.

He has lousy friends, as crazy as it was to admit that Butcher, Frenchie, and Milk were friends. But he was also a bad friend.

Then, water splashed into his face, confusing him even further because what the hell?

Blinking and running his hand through his face, he looks back at the sea and gapes at the sight.

It was Charlie, the dolphin.

“What on earth …” It squeaked at him, or, whatever the way dolphins talked was called. He might as well call it trilling. “Charlie? You’re in the sea? Shouldn’t you be back in the aquarium?”

Charlie whistled.

“Oh, really? Well, I’m happy for you. I never thought that … err … I brought you differently. Sorry about that, you’re the second person I brought back by the way, so I don’t know how to do it exactly.”

More whistling.

“Yeah, I know, it’s just- part of your body was on that truck that killed you, so I had to replace it. Sorry about that, those might be what made you … err … Super-Abled? God, a Super-Abled dolphin, I really do mess everything up.” He mumbled the last part.

How did he end up giving a Dolphin the ability to teleport … in water? Like swimming wasn’t enough.

But Charlie looked happy, so he really shouldn’t be complaining.

“So, I was wondering, are you and the Deep … you know? Did you guys actually do it?”

Then Charlie laughs before diving into the water, never answering his question. One cursory look down the waves told him that there wasn’t a dolphin in sight. He pushed himself off the rails and stared ahead, questioning how his life ended up with him having a chat with a sea animal of all things.

0o0o0

When he gets back, he returns to chaos.

Frenchie was yelling.

Milk was yelling.

Butcher was between them, trying to stop them.

And the girl they’ve been chasing for ages who almost tore them down the first time they met had been sitting on the couch with new clothes and eating out of a tub of ice cream, watching everyone with keen interest.

“I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who had a bad day.” He announced, bringing a stop to the chaos … and also frightening the girl, making her throw the tube of ice cream as a result, hitting him right on his forehead.

He cursed as he fell down on the floor.

“I just came back! What did I do!”

Chapter Text

Hugh Campbell frowns as he picks his mail. He was glad that he was early for once. There had been a new tenant he was sure would go through his mailbox since they started living here. He didn’t want to think negatively about people, but he’s starting to doubt that maybe the new tenant was one of the crazy ones who he’s sure he should avoid.

The envelope was thick, and it didn’t have any stamps on it, which concerned him for a bit.

But he decides to go against all reason and just opens it instead of checking.

Inside the envelope were a letter and a stack of one hundred dollar notes.

Hugh immediately checked around him to see if this was some sort of joke, or if someone was watching him.

He didn’t find anyone.

So, he takes the letter and starts reading it, feeling all the dread that had built up in those few seconds leave him the moment he saw the sender’s name.

“Hey dad,”

Hugh takes a deep sigh. His friends are going to get a kick out of this.

0o0o0

Understandably, they didn’t want him to stay in the hideout for long.

Apparently, the girl still remembers Hughie as the one who stopped her from doing what she wanted, never mind what she wanted was to rip their chest apart.

It was a struggle, trying to get her used to his presence for a whole week. The only saving grace was the fact that Annie had been spending time with her mom, saying that her mom felt too guilty after hearing what she said on stage and wanted to keep her close for a while.

He can understand that. Dad would have done the same, or maybe even moved them into a new place altogether.

So, they had all the time they needed to get the girl used to him. The best they could do was keep him seated by the corner in the room while letting her roam as much as she wants.

She only trusted Frenchie, barely at that.

Still, she was possessive, and she’d cut off any conversation he was having with him. Frenchie would send him apologies whenever that happens, but Hughie understood.

“Need someone to change the bandages?” Milk asked behind his computer, Hughie looks at him with appreciation as he nods. Who knew ice cream could be dangerous? To be fair, anything can be deadly in the hands of a Supe nowadays.

Still, the fact that she threw hard enough that they needed to wrap his head was just plain ridiculous.

“The bruise is almost gone, and there isn’t a scar either, maybe I should just take it off?”

“Let me see,” Milk said, and as Hughie got closer, he only received a grimace. “Yeah, not happening. I’m changing it.”

“How do you even-”

“I’ve worked in Juvie, and have a kid of my own, I know this shit.” He said as he starts working on the bandage. “So, whatever power set you have can help you heal too?”

“If I want, I only really just stop the pain most of the time. I mean, it’s bad enough just thinking about it and experiencing placebo, you get me?”

“Yeah, I get you,” Milk said and finished tying up the bandage. “Man, I can’t get any read on either of you. That woman can just fuck people up, and you just … fuck the world around you.”

Hughie experienced a brief moment of panic at how close Milk was in his assumption.

“Yeah, it’s all weird when you try to make sense of it. So, I really don’t try to make sense of anything.” Milk finished wrapping the bandages then shook his head at him.

“I’m always marveling about how we have two powerhouses under this roof, and we can’t let either of you out alone.”

“Why?”

“You’re asking why?” Milk gives him a blank face. He points at the girl as she jumped on the couch before letting herself fall on it, only to bounce off the mattress and drop on the ground. She lands in a crouch, like a cat. “And after the stint you did in Brooklyn, no one’s leaving you out of sight.”

“Brooklyn? I haven’t been to Brooklyn for ages.”

“You’re kidding, don’t you remember the … how did you get to Martin’s bar?”

“Don’t know, just let myself follow my instincts.” He shrugged. Milk gives him one slow nod, expression saying that he could not believe what he’s hearing anymore.

“Come on, help me search some data packs I just got. I am not going to be the only one on this gig,” Milk said. Hughie groans but does join him by the computer as he starts reading up some papers in files that had been piling up in Milk’s desk. “So … how’s it been with you and Butcher?”

“It’s … fine.”

“Fine?”

“He isn’t actively trying to kill me, but I can tell that he wants to punch me sometimes,” Hughie said.

“Ignore him when he gets like that, I’m actually impressed he didn’t try to do anything more drastic.”

0o0o0

Maverick knew he missed up back in Chicago. They hadn’t stopped anywhere since then. Only staying for one night in motels and stopping to eat or buy more food for the road. He’s starting to get sick of it all.

And the whole time, he’d been feeling sick too.

Everything was either too hot or too cold, sometimes it was both, and it all sucked. Opening the windows didn’t help, and the music was just making him feel annoyed the more he listened to it.

“Alright, I know we’ve been at this for a while, but we’re finally here.”

“This isn’t mom’s home …” He noticed, looking at the forest.

“We had to change some plans up, I needed to meet up with some of my old buddies who’ll help us.”

“Help us with what?”

“… My friend is a Supe, who’s also a doctor.”

“A Supe?” Maverick asked, suddenly excited. He never ever talked to other people with powers aside from his dad’s friends from work. But they weren’t exactly friends, they were … more like classmates. People you were forced to stay with.

Dad didn’t like him interacting with them either.

“He’s not exactly normal, even by our standards. So, please don’t annoy him.”

The cabin house looked empty, and far too scary for a healer to live in it. It did, however, fit that a healer lived in the forest.

When dad knocks, a lady answers, and she stares at him for a second before sighing and closing the door. Maverick could hear some locks opening from behind the door before she opens it completely.

“I told you to leave us out of your shenanigans. Emmanuel doesn’t need you ruining his life more than you already did.” She said, sounding so very angry, that Maverick was sure for a second that she’d kick them out.

“I’m not here from Vought. I swear. I’m here because I need his help. Look,” Dad said, pointing at him. Maverick frowns at him, wondering why he brought him here. “He’s sick, not normal sick, but … Superpower sick.”

“How did you figure that out?”

“I know a guy who got sick the same way. People who don’t use their powers for too long and when they suddenly do, they-”

“Have an intense reaction, I know.” The lady sighs again, before stepping out of the door’s way and lets them in. “Why’d you force your kid not to use his powers?”

“We can’t afford using it when people are around.”

Maverick doesn’t listen to what they say next, he doesn’t remember what happened either, he only saw a couch and decides that it looked comfier than the back seat of the car.

Later, when he wakes up, he sees a man with tired eyes and a sweater sitting next to him. It was at that moment that Maverick realized that they were in the car, not the house, and that the odd man who was with them was the doctor.

The healer had splatters of blood on his face, and a look of complete sorrow adding to the bag under his eyes.

They stop by a motel, and the man glares at his dad as he steps out of the car.

“Daphne’s gone because of you,” He growled under his breath.

“I swear I didn’t know-”

“She’s gone. Do you get it? GONE. You said you weren’t with them, and I fucking trusted you, again!” The man screamed, the blood on his face only made him scarier. His dad shook his head, trying to explain to himself, but the man raised his fist, ready to punch him.

The doctor stops once he sees him, awake and watching everything. He sighs deeply and turns around.

“Wilson’s last seen in LA. But, you better be careful, he’s been hanging out with the Brute.”

“Bruce? The man isn’t as menacing as everyone likes to think he is.”

“You’ve been out of the loop from the rest of us, weren’t you? You’ll see him and change your mind. The man’s going through grief. Wilson said that his cousin’s kid is in trouble and he can’t do shit about it, so all he can do is stew there. Word of advice, stick by your kid, and he’ll behave, cause he apparently has a soft spot for them.”

“The Brute cares for kids, who would have known.”

“You’ll find them in a church, during choir practice or something like that.”

“What? Why?”

“His kid was in the choir, that’s the closest way he can grieve, or so Wilson thinks.” That was a lot of information, and for it to come from a man who obviously didn’t like his dad, it meant that he trusted him enough for it. Either that, or he wanted to get rid of them faster.

“… Thanks ‘Manuel, I’m sorry about-”

“Just go!” The man snaps. Dad immediately steps on the paddle, causing dust to fly behind them. When Maverick looks back, the man was gone, as if he never stood there in the first place.

0o0o0

“Hughie, what?” Annie asked when she does come back as they met up in the bar. He gives her a small smile.

“Yeah, I know, really deep bags. I’ve been reading some old papers for a while and-”

“No, that!” She cuts him off, pointing at her own head, and Hughie blinked before realizing that she meant the big bruise on the side of his forehead. He shrugs. “I leave you for like two weeks, and you turn up like this? Don’t tell me you had another accident?”

“I didn’t, don’t worry. No more accidents. You wouldn’t be seeing me here today if I was in one. Someone, uh, threw an ice cream tub at me.”

“That hard?”

“She’s a Supe, so I’m surprised that I didn’t get decapitated.”

“Hughie, what type of people do you hang out with?”

“A lot of weird of people. The one normal person I know, aside from you, is called Marvin, but that isn’t even his legal name.”

“What’s his legal name?”

“You don’t want to know,” And Milk wouldn’t like anyone to know either.

It was trivia night, his favorite day to spend in this place. He’d usually get most of the answers right and would sometimes win coupons for higher brand grocery stores. On rare occasions, he’d win tickets to events from around the city, small events, but interesting none the less.

When the news starts, it was all about Annie and her speech. Annie sighs, aggravated by the sound of the newscaster as she tries to write down her answers before turning around and glaring at the TV.

“That’s all they’ve been talking about for two weeks.” She complained, and honestly, Hughie understood. “Of everything I said, that’s what they focus on.”

Hughie stares at the television, looking at the hashtag, #Starlightisaslut. He pressed his lips together, frowning. Remembering his own tags.

#Justice4Hughie

#CampbellFaker

And worst of all was #ATrainisinnocent

“It’s a sexual assault scandal in the usually glamorous life of a Supe,” He said, trying to forget the reception he received online. “People will always focus on those things, because … how else will you bring down someone who is supposedly powerful?”

“Sometimes, you switch into that fancy way of talking for one whole sentence, then you’ll mumble for the rest of the day,” She noted, trying to ignore what he just said.

“I do not.”

“Oh, you do too. You’re already starting.”

“What? I don’t- I don’t do that.”

“It’s like an evolved form of stuttering, but understandable, and it’s honestly cute.”

“Don’t say that,” Hughie cuts in, voice suddenly sharp before sagging a bit on his seat. “Don’t call me cute.”

“Sorry,” Annie looks taken aback by his reaction. An awkward moment passed before he gives her a shaky grin.

“The answer is Lamplighter, by the way. You weren’t focusing, and we need that Panera gift card.”

“What would a Panera gift card get you? Bread. Why do you need bread?”

“To teleport, duh.”

“Why on earth- Oh. I see. What’s your main?”

“Medic. You?” He asked, genuinely surprised that Annie even knew what he was talking about. She looked more like an Overwatch person than a Team Fortress one.

“Ms. Pauling.”

“You don’t main Ms. Pauling.”

“But I can still stan?”

“Oh my god,” He huffed a laugh. Can’t argue with that. “Do you stan anyone else?”

“Hughie?” Someone cuts them off. Hughie’s voice also cuts off, words screeching to a halt as he recognized the owner of the voice. Turning around, wide-eyed and quite obviously scared, he sees him.

Anthony.

His childhood friend.

His childhood friend who he hasn’t contacted since this whole fiasco started a month ago.

His childhood friend who looks very much ready to carry him off into neverland so he can question him then promptly never let him out of sight like some demented version of Peter Pan.

“Hey, Anthony.” He smiles, and Anthony does as expected.

He walks straight at him, puts a hand on his shoulder, gently pulls him away while smiling kindly at Annie, “Sorry, but I need to talk to him for a moment.”

Then he gets kidnapped, for the second time this year.

It really wasn’t. Anthony just dragged him outside of the bar and sat him down on the curb while crossing his arms at him, tapping his feet.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call.”

“Or text, or left a message, or a tweet, or maybe even reblogged some shitty headcanon or fanart for your Tumblr, or update your fanfics, or even-”

“I’m sorry …”

“Or, hell, maybe even tell your dad to tell me? Cause I had to find out through twitter that my best friend is a fucking Supe, the same guy I knew since we were in fourth grade. Yeah, real messed up.”

“I stopped using my powers before meeting you.”

“That’s still- fuck. Hughie. Holy fuck.” Anthony uncrossed his arms and sat right next to him, grabbing onto his hair as he looked at the ground. “You were in the hospital, man. I was there before you woke up.”

Hughie gulped, now also looking down at the ground, feeling his cheeks heat up at the thought.

“You had wires all over you. There was a blood drip thing. Then, they stopped us from visiting you, some bullshit about privacy.”

“You know I would have never said that to you,” He amends.

“Yeah, exactly why I started freaking out.” Anthony agreed, making Hughie close further into himself, feeling his face now burning with shame. “Then? They told us you were kidnapped!”

“Yeah, that actually really happened.”

“Oh my god,” Anthony muttered under his breath.

“I tried running away, but it got worse, and now I’m involved in some shit, and I couldn’t really come back after that.”

“Apparently, bringing back the dead, then running around Brooklyn drunk off your ass playing piano man on violin is the worst way to come back.”

“I did what?” Hughie asked, horrified. What the hell happened that night! Sam never mentioned any of this, he only said he … Shouldn’t be released to the masses. “I don’t even know how to play the violin.”

“Well, drunk you pretty much can.”

“How did you even find drunk me?”

“You kidding me?” Anthony asked, affronted. “Drunk white boy plays Billy Joel’s Piano Man on violin.”

Hughie just stares, horrified. He felt like his breath was coming faster the more he listens to this, and he was slowly going back on his breathing practice. In and out, along with the heartbeats, in and out.

“Oh, hell. Hughie, buddy, look at me.” Anthony said, and slowly forced him to look up at him. Anthony moved his hands inwards to himself, taking a breath. “Do it with me, like we practiced.”

“I don’t want be drunk anymore.”

“Well, you’re doing a good job right now. Just keep up drinking in moderation, that’s a great way of avoiding … violins. You know, let’s forget about that. Your hangover movie’s audition is done, and now it’s self-care time. Yeah?”

“Self-care time?”

“You know how to do it, 478, remember? Do it with me,” He says, breathing in for 4 seconds. Hughie watched Anthony’s hands as he moved it closer to himself and stopped breathing in when the hands stopped. He only starts breathing out once the hands moved away. “You’re doing good, repeat.”

It took a while, but Hughie managed to calm down enough to not get on a verge of a panic attack. The heat in his face and the buzz in his head slowly dissipating.

“I’m sorry I didn’t say anything to you …” He mumbled at last, Anthony at least deserved this.

“… Sorry I wasn’t around.”

“It wasn’t your fault. I feel like a jerk right now.”

“Don’t be. We all suck here, but no one’s at fault.” Anthony said, grinning as he pulls him in a shoulder hug. “So … powers? What can you do exactly, I can’t figure it out from those videos alone.”

“I don’t like sharing,” He said. Anthony snorts. He did hide it from him, and they’ve known each other for ages. So, he can definitely understand how hung up he was on the secret. “But … I can bring back the dead.”

“Everyone already knows that.”

“Great, so, I’ll have trouble when I get back with the crew?”

“No, not really. Weirdly enough, no one can see what I see. I knew it was you, in every video, every news broadcast. I can see you. But everyone else just starts talking as if you were a stranger.” That wasn’t a surprise to him. Anthony had always been his closest friend. The fact that he bypassed his condition for getting noticed only meant that Hughie trusted him immensely, compared to everyone else.

“Yeah, that’s also a part of my powers,” He admits.

“I knew it! You’re a wizard.”

“Close enough, I guess.”

“That is so cool, we need to test out the rest of your skills.”

“Tony … I don’t want to.” Hughie curled into himself, Tony’s demeanor suddenly changed, and whatever excitement he felt just siphons away.

“Alright.”

Hughie felt his lips slowly stumble into a smile. Anthony always knew when he felt uncomfortable.

0o0o0

“So, what was that about?” Annie asked when they went back in. Anthony just twirled his hand around his head.

“This guy ditched me with his boss, and Gary’s angry that he didn’t come back.” Hughie translates this as Gary-is-looking-for-a-new-hire-because-you-are-missing. “And he didn’t reply because he was too afraid of confrontation.”

“Do you want to confront a guy called Gary who wears grey?” Hughie asked her, and she shook her head. “She understands.”

“Don’t take his side, err, what’s your name?”

“Annie.”

“Don’t take his side, Annie. He looks like Bambi, but he’s a weasel.”

“I take offense to that,” Hughie huffed as they sat down.

“You guys missed out on a lot, I won a Panera gift card.” Annie showed off the coupon.

“Panera is overrated,” Anthony said.

“Says the guy who’s into Ihop,” Hughie retorts.

“Says a guy who eats at Dennis when he’s drunk.”

“You guys are weak,” Annie butts in, grinning massively. “I go to Cookout.”

“… what?” Anthony asked, incredulous, before turning around at Hughie for clarification.

“Annie’s not from around here.”

“Err- yeah. Okay, I just realized that I didn’t see a Cookout anywhere here.”

“Well, not-from-around-here-Annie, I’ll show you the best place to get blazed.” He offers, giving his charming smile. Hughie rolled his eyes, but Annie smiles back at him.

Anthony didn’t end up showing her the best place to blaze using his phone, he ends up showing her the best drinks to blaze on. He watches incredulously as they both sat there, a bit tipsy, while sharing embarrassing stories about him. Hughie only sips on his drink, giving them betrayed looks.

“Hughie gives her this Clint Eastwood stare, like,” And he hrumphs, squinting. Annie laughed loudly, but Hughie glares at him. “And then he runs, like Forrest Gump runs.”

Hughie distinctly remembers that day as the day he spent hiding behind a bag for four hours. He also distinctly remember the anxiety that he had the next week whenever he thought he’d go back to school every morning.

He didn’t find that story as amusing as those two do.

“I’ll be back.” He goes to fill up a glass, he needs to get drunk. He doesn’t care anymore. But he was stopped not a few minutes later when Anthony grabbed his hands and pulled them back.

“I thought you said you don’t want to be drunk anymore?”

“Yeah, but like, who cares?”

“Hughie, you’ll crash tomorrow and start crying again. Man, Robin would have kicked your ass if she saw you like this again.”

“Yeah …” Hughie agreed, letting go of the glass.

“She’d also be worried if you ever cut off all communications.”

“Yeah,” He winced. “I’m sorry, man, I just … needed a break. I … she’s gone now. I asked her to come back and she said that she couldn’t, I’ve been trying to understand why. Wouldn’t you want to come back to life if you died?”

“Depends, but if I said I don’t want to come back, you’d have to respect that. Robin was her own woman, and she was hella smart. If she said no, that means you should listen to her.”

“… but what if-”

“Hughie. She said no, that means a no.”

“Okay.”

“And call, you asshole.”

“Fine.”

“Also, maybe stop friendzoning other girls?”

“What? I’m not-” Anthony gives him a look, before turning at Annie who was across the room. “Tony, there is no such thing as a friendzone.”

“You friendzoned Robin so hard, for years, might I add. Now this poor girl, who can probably have anyone she wants, is getting friendzoned too.”

“We just met, man. And Robin …”

“Probably’s giving you her blessing. She’d land one eye on Annie and she’d call dibs.”

“You’re making me self-conscious. Are you insulting my wooing game?”

“First of all, your wooing game needs to update its slang database from the last century before you can even do anything.”

“Remind me again which one of us studied literature and which one us went into electronics?”

“You got an impressive bachelor, but where are you working at?” Anthony breathes in through his teeth, making it sound as if he were disappointed. Hughie shoves him by his elbows. “You work at Gary’s, man. Go get a real job.”

“Retail is a real job.”

“It’s cursed.”

“At least I’m not waitering, like someone I know.”

“That is also cursed, but I get tips, what do you get?”

“Just so you know, I don’t need to work at Gary's anymore. I got a new job.”

“You got a job during the time you were supposedly kidnapped? Aren’t you the one who’s always saying not to do drugs?”

“I am not selling drugs. I’m actually looking for them.” Hughie is slowly realizing that he was slowly becoming what he loathed the most in this world, a Butcher who lies about his job.

“Hughie, man, no. That isn’t the answer I was looking for, and it isn’t the answer you should be using.”

“Not for me! Oh my god, Tony. I’m, like, busting deals. Cracking on them, looking then getting rid of them. But I’m doing the techie stuff, not the actual busting.”

“So, you a cop now? Show me your badge.”

“Your call out is useless.”

“You don’t have a badge.”

“I’m a civilian, I’m not allowed to carry a gun.”

“Gretchen was a civilian.” Tony pushed himself off the bar, grabbing the extra drink that Hughie had already filled out beforehand and starts walking to the table.

“Leave her out of this, she was a whole other side of crazy that I’m not ready to get in to.”

“Why don’t you bust her out? Get some revenge.”

“Tony, that is not how- can we, like, change this conversation?”

“What are you guys talking about?” Annie questioned as she accepts the new drink.

“Hughie’s new job as a drug bust civilian officer.”

“I’m just doing tech,” Hughie says, grinning widely. Anthony gives him a suspicious stare, already figuring out that Hughie’s hiding something, but he wasn’t going to snitch on him. “We’re, uh, cracking on a company.”

“I hope we end up working together then,” She said. “Drug busting together sounds fun.”

Hughie chokes on his new drink.

Chapter Text

“Samaritan's Embrace, led by Ezekiel but bankrolled by Vought, has been shipping Compound V to 53 hospitals across the country since 1971 and gift wrapping it-” The girl comes in, cutting Milk off from his monologue, ignoring everyone as she went straight to the coloring pens.

“As polio vaccine.” Milk points at the American map, each state has a pin or two on them, showing the exact place where the Compound V was distributed.

The girl comes back in again, staring at the map for a moment before ignoring it entirely in favor of the files that were on the desk.

“Are you telling me God's not reaching up the twats of American girls and blessing babies?” Butcher asks, grinning at Milk.

“Can you leave God out of this?”

“H-Hold on, hold on.” Hughie stops them, he was already reaching to this conclusion, but Milk had spelled this out to him two weeks ago and he still couldn’t understand it then. “So, no hero was born? None of them? We’re all just kids dosed with the blue shit. I mean, even-”

“Even you, Buttercup.”

Hughie eyes Butcher for a while, before looking away, staring at his hands. He remembered the IV line when he was in the hospital, and how cold the liquid was. How did that drug feel for a baby? Wasn’t it cold? Didn’t they cry?

Did he cry?

Did his parents even know what was going on? Didn’t they ever visit the NICU rooms to see him?

“I thought I was born fucked up.”

“Petite Hughie, you are never a fuck up.”

“He’s a fucking pain in the arse, that’s what he is.”

“In fact, you are doing us all a favor by making Butcher very uncomfortable,” Frenchie said, sending Butcher a glare. Hughie sighs, running a hand through his hair.

“My parents allowed this,” Was all Hughie could really say.

“What about Homelander?” Butcher asked, deciding that his crisis wasn’t worth addressing.

“Homelander's a black hole. Never had any public records and never will. However, every single other Supe is drugged.” The girl comes in again, and this time, she reaches out for the files and managed to drop a stack.

“My God. I'm trying to give a tremendous fucking TED Talk here, and this-” Milk looks at her, and the girl just stares back, not a lick of regret or guilt was present on her face. “Frenchie, can you control her, please?”

She leaves before Frenchie could talk.

“I do not control her.” The man scoffed.

“Do you see what I'm dealing with?” Milk said, reaching for the files that fell.

“Well, spot-on, MM. We got Vought for child endangerment, drug trafficking, and possibly the largest fraud in American fucking history. Raynor's gonna love it.”

Raynor, as far as Hughie understood, was the CIA lady that they were working with. He still questioned if they were a legitimate investigation team or not. Seeing who the members were, Hughie would wager that they really weren’t.

“Hughie, you said you were born in Queens?”

“Y-Yeah, yeah, I was.”

“I didn’t find your name on that list.”

“What?” How can that even be possible?

“I crosschecked all the hospitals in Queens that were connected to Samaritan’s Embrace during your birth year, and nothing. Your name wasn’t anywhere. You never received anything from the charity.”

This doesn’t make any sense. How on earth-

“A-Train’s from New York, he got the V, right?”

“Yeah, he’s also older than you by three years, when the charity actually delivered at that year.”

“Then how the hell do I have powers if I wasn’t given that shit when I was a kid?!”

“What about our petite Lazarus here? She's not an infant either, and she was injected in a basement, not a hospital. And there is the small matter of that she rose from the dead!”

“Well, your feral pixie dream girl ain't exactly dictating her fucking memoirs, is she, Frenchie?” Butcher says.

“I'm feeling she's trying to communicate. I mean, she's been doing this for-” They all turn to look at her, scribbling the logo thing again next to the other circular logos, but in a different color. “Maybe that means something, huh?”

“Yeah, maybe they're just fucking chicken scratches.”

“Let's find out,” Frenchie says.

“Nah, you've been burned. It's not safe out there for you.” Milk reminds him, his tone somber.

“MM's right. You got to fucking stay put, son.”

“Fantastique,” Frenchie all but throws his hands and turns around to join the girl in the room. It was the more mature choice, if he stayed, he would have started fighting with Milk once again.

“I'm off,” Butcher said after watching Frenchie sit down on the couch with a sulk.

“Okay. I'll just, uh, look something up while you’re all busy.” Hughie says, crossing his arms as he looks down on the floor. He knew that if he looked at anyone, they’d realize that he was planning something.

It didn’t matter, because Butcher still noticed that he was planning on something.

“You aren’t going back to your Starlight girl, are you?”

“What? No. I have other things to do,” He mumbled. Okay, so he might have planned on meeting her up at some point, but not now. He was planning on asking Anthony for help, since he was – ironically – better than him with programming languages, maybe he’d help him search up his own fucking name in some hospitals.

Hospitals use old Windows 7 anyways, there’s bound to be bugs that they can exploit to get into their databases.

“All right. You're with me.”

“Hell no, you two are not going anywhere alone.” Milk immediately objects.

“I am? What, to the CIA lady?”

“No. We're gonna go on a little detour. You'll love it.”

“Butcher, I swear to god, if you do-”

“Come on,” Butcher, as per the usual, drags him away.

0o0o0

“It took me a while, to accept it,” Butcher said as they walked down the street. Hughie didn’t say anything only looked down as he stayed by his side to listen. He was just done with this guy, even if he attempted to apologize, it was still a poor attempt. “But after talking it out – you know how MM is – I’m starting to see it in your way.”

“What did you see?” Hughie asked, rolling his eyes.

“You know I did a security check on you.”

“Yeah.”

“You had no red flags, none. It’s why I thought you weren’t going to compromise us. Then, I find out that you’re one of those fuckers out there causing havoc. But the thing is, you’re still causing Havoc, but with us.”

“Great, all I’m getting from this speech is that I’m useful.”

“You’re causing Havoc because you’re a victim. You obviously didn’t know anything about Compound V, and that face you made when MM talked about it, that can’t be faked.”

“What face?” Hughie asked, suddenly self-conscious of how he acted back there in the house.

“That betrayed look, that someone played you. A baby can’t say no to a drug, and Vought did that to you. But you, unlike the other arseholes out there, aren’t hurting anybody for shits and giggles.”

“I mean … we’re all human beings, the fact that other Supes, the famous ones, are just doing it because they can is ...”

“And this is why you’re a good cunt.”

“Okay, are you British or Australian cause I only know Australians use cunt in a friendly way.”

“You can too, if you look for someone other than Starlight to play friendly with.”

“I walked into that,” Hughie mumbled under his breath. They stop in front of an old looking building, with color stained windows and brick walls. Yet, despite how magnificent it should look, it was dimmed and hollowed.

“Here we are,” Butcher announces. Hughie looks at the sign, and sees the words on top of the gates, and frowns.

“Church?” This was one run-down church. He walked Annie to her Sunday sermons ever since he met her, and the churches she went to, albeit old, was well taken care of and obviously well commuted to. This place felt like it wasn’t as active.

“Seek and ye shall find me son,” Butcher says as he leaned in, giving him that dubious smile that alerted Hughie of future chaos. Whatever’s inside here, it’s going to mess him up.

They went up some stairs, and he watched Butcher as he chose his turns without thinking it through, as if he came here multiple times before. Then, he opens a door and walks in, and Hughie could hear a voice from inside talking.

Stepping in, the first thing that greets him was a sign.

“A.C.D.S. Association of Collateral Damage Survivors.”

Hughie sucks in a breath.

He sees Butcher carrying a chair to join in between the support group, and he pats on the chair for him to sit on. Hughie does.

“Some days are harder than others, obviously. You know, the other day, I-I wanted to talk to my friend about all this, but I couldn't. That's why this group is-is so great. It's so important. I know it's wrong to feel angry. After all … Tek-Knight saved me. I-I just wish he'd been a-a little more gentle with my spine.” A woman in a wheelchair said. Hughie’s eyes roamed around the circle, looking at every person here. Every single one was…

Collateral damage.

Just like Robin.

Just like him.

Some had visible scars, the girl who just spoke sat in a wheelchair. There was a guy with a mechanical leg that didn’t look like any prosthetics you would find in the market, a person with crutches and another with a seeing cane. The girl who sat next to him didn’t have anything, but she was fidgety, and she kept moving her hands between her handbag and her pockets as if needing to hold on to something.

“It's about acceptance, isn't it? Letting go.” The therapist spoke, and Hughie immediately wrapped his hands around himself. He’s back in therapy again. “Moving on, Seth, you're up.”

Seth, another guy with no visible problems, stood up and took the stick.

“Hey- Hey, everybody.”

“Hey, Seth,” Aside from Butcher and himself, everyone greets back.

“Uh, so I'm kind of a writer. I- I work in marketing. There's this one hero, who shall remain nameless, but has ice powers-”

“Ice Princess,” Butcher cuts in. Hughie sends him a look, one that he learned to imitate after many hours of watching Milk lecturing them whenever they caused any sort of mess.

“I'm not allowed to say,” Seth nervously said. “Anyway, she, uh, took a liking to me. It was heady, man. Intoxicating. No one wants to fuck the writer. Needless to say, I fell for her, big-time.”

“What kind of Nobber falls for a Supe?” Butcher whispers, loudly.

“Robin isn’t a Nobber,” Hughie hisses, as quietly as possible.

“Anyway,” Seth said, looking flustered for getting interrupted once more. “We were, uh, you know, being intimate, when she climaxed and accidentally turned into ice … Just for a second, but I was … still in there, at negative 346 degrees. Same temperature as liquid nitrogen. As you can imagine-"

Seth gulped.

“It snapped off.”

Everyone winced. Hughie looked at the floor for a split second, wide-eyed, with noise almost escaping him, but he stops it and looks back up.

“The crazy thing is, I still miss her. It's like, that's the cost of a mortal like me for being with a person like her.”

“If a Supe done that when she was happy, imagine what one would do if she found out you'd been lying to her from the get-go?” Hughie stares at him, knowing full well that this was a jab towards his relationship with Annie. He might have been a ‘good cunt’ but her being a Vought hero irks the man.

“Excuse me. Do you have something you'd like to share?” The therapist asked.

“No, no. Apologies. Please do, uh, continue the Ice Capades.”

“We don't make jokes or judgments here. Why don't you take the talking stick and tell us your story?” She offers, raising her hand in what she might have thought a placating way.

“Nah, I'm good,” She was, unfortunately, working with Butcher.

“You know, I've seen guys like you before.”

“Oh, I seriously doubt that.” Butcher retorts, and Hughie slowly nods in agreement, what kind of hell place was she in to meet another Butcher.

“The smirk, the jokes, it's all a defense mechanism. You don't have to do that here, this is a safe space.”

“I said I'm good. Time to move on.”

“Go ahead, Seth.” The lady said, ignoring everything that Butcher said. “Give him the stick.”

Seth, the unfortunate guy, stood up and tries to give him the talking stick-

Only for Butcher to get off his seat, dropping the thing after it screeched loudly against the floor, and grabbing the stick in a way that suggests he’ll use it as a weapon.

“You, back off, or I'll shove this stick where your dick used to be.” Seth listens to him without fail. It was obvious that he was used to this kind of behavior. Hughie knew he shouldn’t let this happen, and he gets up, trying to grab him by his shoulders only to receive a glare. Hughie raised his hands in defeat, stepping back, more like stumbling a bit backward.

Hughie sees it again.

That little flash of pure animalistic rage that screams at him to get away.

Billy Butcher will kill someone if he wants to, and Hughie should never, ever, forget that.

“You're a bunch of pathetic Supe-worshipping cunts. I bet you'd thank a Supe if they shit on your mum's best china. Did it ever occur to you that they split your spine or broke your dick just for a laugh?”

“Billy, stop,” Hughie says. This is a fucking therapy group. You don’t just go screaming at people with stuff like that.

“Where's your fucking rage?! Your self-respect?! Sitting here in your little share circle. Having a little whine and a moan. Fuck letting go. You should be out there with a fucking chain saw, going after 'em! Just a bunch of scared fucking rabbits.”

“Billy!”

“And you’re like the fucking rest of them!” Billy turns around, pointing the stick at his chest. “Supes are all the same, every fucking one of 'em.”

Hughie opens his mouth, wanting to say something, anything. Nothing comes out.

He felt … betrayed.

Butcher must have realized what he said, and tried to back out, but Hughie felt an echo in his chest that told him that, maybe, just maybe, don’t listen to this guy?

“Fuck, mate, I-”

“You’re just like always. You’re all angry inside, I get it. But you think you’re the only one who’s angry?!” Hughie yells back, snatching the stick and turning it around on Butcher, tapping the tip on his chest. “Whatever fucking problem you have with Supes, it isn’t universal. What’s universal is that everyone here is hurt by one, and everyone processes grief differently. Can’t you fucking see that everyone here is having problems! Do you think any of them can do anything about it?! They’re fucking hurt, and they fucking want people who fucking understand.”

“Sir, please,” The therapist was now standing, but she didn’t dare to step any closer to them.

“Seth was in love, man, light up over it. Me and Annie aren’t even going out, we just fucking talk. We’re friends. Do you think I’m fucking ready to go on a date after my girlfriend died literally last month by a Supe?! You think that I don’t hate myself every fucking single day for that, because I'm just like him?!

He throws the stick on the floor, and to the amazement of everyone in the room, it shatters into tiny little parts, so small, that the thing had turned into dust.

Hughie stared, horrified at what he just did before looking back at his trembling arm.

He sucks in a breath, remembering how he doesn’t hear the sounds anymore, that nothing’s stopping him from using his powers.

There were no silver linings.

He was free to do anything he wants.

To-

The ones who could step away from their chair and away from him, did so, while the ones who couldn’t only try to sit as far away from him as possible, sticking onto the chair. He stares around him, looking at all their reactions and at the fear in their eyes.

They fear him.

He can do anything to them, and nothing they’ll do can stop him.

He huffs a laugh, his brain finding this whole scenario difficult to process.

“You’re right,” He mumbled. “Supes are all the same, I’m just like the rest of them.”

“Mate, the rage got me, you’re not like the rest of them.”

“You don’t have to act all nice all of a sudden. Let’s just face the truth, I’m like the rest of them, I'm a fucking monster,” He declared. He then turns around on his feet to leave.

Hughie paused, remembering something he forgot, and looks behind him, crouching down on the floor to touch the sand scattered about, watching it in fascination as he still felt the wood, supple and strong and still whole, before willing it to reform back together.

The sand dances, moving slowly before deciding it was safe to continue, wrapping and running and forming into what it used to be before separating itself. The final result was the same stick that it was a few minutes ago.

He stood, the heavy thing didn’t look like it disassembled at all, as good as new … except for the little tiny drop of blood that fell on it.

He consciously reached for his nose, trying to stop the blood flow. Then he hands it over to the therapist

“Sorry, about the ... everything.” He mumbled before running out.

Chapter Text

“You know, I get that some people just like the aesthetics of hanging around here, but you have to buy that if you’re going to keep staring at it for more than 20 minutes.” The store worker told him as he passed him with a box filled CDs.

Or Vinyls.

“That’s a classic, we have an offer for that to go with a record player if you want?”

“I’m not into this kind of rock,” Hughie tells him, but the man laughs. He snatched a CD from his one of the stands and points at the cover, a very aggressive looking dog was jumping at whoever looked at the art, and there was a target sign on it.

“Apollo 440,” the clerk employee said.

The man then goes up to one of his radios and puts the CD in. Bass starts to play what could be an optimistic yet rebellious tune, and like many other rock songs, the guitar starts along with a robotic voice singing. Old synth instruments start playing, along with some of those instruments that no one actually knows how its made.

“Stop the rock? Can’t stop the rock.”

The guy starts headbanging as he carries his box once more, moving to the other side of the room.

“You had that ready, didn’t you?” Hughie asked. He felt pretty impressed, actually.

“Duh, you try to stay here from evening till midnight hearing people say that rock is overrated?”

“You show me this, but I raise you a 2 PM till 10 PM job where you tell an old man that no, your browser is not your internet modern, you need to buy a different service for that.”

“I already do that with my nana for free, and you’re getting paid?”

“Sucks, doesn’t it.”

“Man, get out, I don’t need to get shown up by an IT service.”    

“This is bad customer service, at least show me where some Billy Joel is?”

“Billy Joel? I haven’t got an order like that for a while, give me some other bands you like, maybe I can find you something with the same style.”

“Um … James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel.”

“My God, it’s like hearing my mom talk … but you know, I got a song for you.” The guy grins and starts running over a stand as he starts muttering under his breath.

A man enters the store. To Hughie's complete concern, the man had himself covered completely from head to toe. A hat with sunglasses and a face mask along with a scarf and a large oversized jean jacket. If it weren’t for the piano keyboard he carried, he would have thought that he was a robber.

The guy silently comes up to the store employee and waits patiently for him to finish.

“Hey, buddy. Again?” The worker asked once he spots some feet right next to him, looking upwards. The customer nods and shows him the keyboard, where there were missing keys or ones that were punched in too hard.

Hughie winced.

The store worker clicks his tongue.

“Man, you’ll either have to wait two days for the repairman or buy a new one, I can’t fix that.” The guy catches Hughie in complete surprise by chucking the keyboard behind him, letting it shatter on the floor. “No, man, we talked about this. Just because you’re getting a new one doesn’t mean you can just thrash the old one.”

“Does this happen a lot?” Hughie asked worryingly, grabbing the attention of the two. The new guy freezes at his sight, before walking up closer to him. The store clerk suddenly freaks out and jumps in between them.

“Hey, come on, pal. We talked about this too.”

The man didn’t seem to listen but only stare straight at Hughie. Despite having a completely blacked out sunglasses on, Hughie can still feel his eyes on him, burning him.

After a tense moment, the man reached him and poked his cheeks, before turning around and walking towards the pianos that were on display in the corner. The store worker sighs in relief.

“Sorry about him, he’s been a regular for ages. He’s a Supe who can’t control his strength, and has been breaking his piano stuff for ages.”

“How did you even find that out?”

“My boss said that the guy’s been coming here since he was a kid, with a therapist or something, and then he just started coming alone. I only worked here for two years, and the guy’s honestly a gentle giant unless you, uh, make a comment about his appearance and lack of finesse.”

Hughie looks at the man as he sheepishly pressed some keys on different keyboards. He felt a bit of sympathy for him, honestly. Having super strength that you can’t control must have been hell as a child. He can’t imagine his parents always trying to fix up everything he destroyed, he was just lucky that his outbursts were random, small, and inconsistent.

He goes to the shattered keyboards on the ground and crouches down to grab one of the broken pieces.

“Hey! No! I’ll clean that up, don’t get hurt.” The employee yelled, catching the attention of the mysterious Supe. Hughie didn’t listen to him, standing on his tiptoes while crouched down and staring at the metallic glint.

He remembers piano notes playing long ago, and a smile filling his view. Soft, and warm. Hughie loved the owners of such a smile so much, and he remembers how much she loved playing, and how it soothed her. Seeing a piano crushed like this pained him, and so, he wanted it fixed.

He missed whatever reaction the other had on their faces as he willed the thing to fix itself, but he does hear a gasp.

Once finished, he had a full piano with newly fixed keys on the ground. He grabs it, and almost fell with hos surprisingly heavy the thing was.

The other Supe just stares at him, his body language doesn’t convey anything, neither was there any expression to be seen on the covered face. But the man walks up closer, and reaches for his piano, hugging it to himself and stroking it with gloved hands. The Supe then puts a hand on Hughie’s head, ruffling his hair before giving him a thumbs-up. Hughie gives him an awkward smile as he shows him a thumbs-up as well.

“I tried to reinforce it, just so it doesn’t break as much before. So, uh, keep practicing! I’m still trying to learn about my powers too, so I know how hard it is.”

The Supe had stared at him for a moment, before catching Hughie off guard with a one-armed side-hug. The man then let go and starts skipping to the door outside.

When Hughie turns around at the man, who had been looking at him with awe, Hughie gives him an awkward smile before deciding to leave the store. His phone starts ringing when he was far away from the store. Hughie looks at the screen and felt a dash of concern, and answers it.

“Milk?” The man reserves his calls to his family only, he always lets Frenchie call them when they were needed.

“Hey, buddy. You can bring the dead back to life, right?”

“Who the hell did you kill this time?” He whispered yelled at his phone, feeling a jolt of horror.

“We haven’t killed anyone! I was going to ask about how you don’t need the body itself to reconstruct, yeah?”

“Yeah, I can remake body parts if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Can remake a bone or mend them?”

“I guess- What? Whose bone did you break?”

“Hughie, we just need a medic right now, can you come or …?”

“Yeah,” Hughie shook his head in disbelief. Of fucking course, he’ll come. “Yeah, I’ll do, just don’t- don’t break someone else, please.”

“Can you keep this a secret from Butcher?”

“Okay, I am very concerned now.”

“I’m sending our location to your phone now,” Milk said before cutting off the call.

0o0o0

When he gets to the house that was on the map, he was surprised to see how disgruntled Milk was. Stepping inside, he immediately understood why. Butcher was there.

He gives Milk a look, and the man shrugs.

“He tagged us.”

“For a genius, you’re really dumb,” Hughie tells him before going in the living room.

He finds a guy on the couch. He was chubby and overweight, but not dangerously so. The guy, despite having a full beard, had such a strong babyface, that he felt sorry for him. No one would take him seriously if he tried to take up some sort of leadership.

He was a very well-known Supe, and he also had his arm in a makeshift splint.

“What the hell?” He mutters as he walks up to him and sits. The guy was eying him warily, expecting him to be like whoever broke his arm. “Um … Mesmer?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m a fan,” He said numbly, offering his hands. “I actually always wanted to meet you. I’d like for you to, um, not to look at my memories or feelings.”

“I can’t stop it if you’re projecting.”

“I’ll try then. So, I’m Hughie, I can … reconstruct bodies? Heal them, I guess. I can do a hell lot more, honestly, but don’t worry, healing is a thing I can do for sure.”

“Sure …” The man says warily and tentatively accepts his hand.

-

Piano notes filled the air. Hughie watched, entranced as his mom continues pressing each key. The movements were too fast for him to memorize, but it still made him feel happy. He looks up for a moment, and he sees his mom smiling, swaying her head the more she plays.

She looks down, and opens her mouth, singing one of her favorite songs.

“Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near? Just like me, they long to be, close to you.”

Hughie immediately sings along with her, grinning massively for getting the lyrics right. His mom looks back on the piano, each key coloring his world, swirling gently.

“On the day that you were born, the angels got together, and decided to make a dream come true.”

-

“Fucking snap out of it?!” Butcher yells right in front of his face while shaking his shoulders.

Hughie gasps, letting go of Mesmer as echoes of the songs continue to play in his head. Every key playing exactly when it should. He noticed that the girl was now sitting next to him, but staring out, her face pressed on the window with what could be interesting. Hughie slowly joins her, and he sees …

Birds.

So many birds.

“Shit.”

“You summon birds too?! Man, what is the deal with your powers?” Milk said in agony, any time now, he might pull a notebook to write down his new observations.

“It was an accident! I didn’t mean it!”

“It’s- It’s my fault,” Mesmer said, grabbing everyone’s attention. The man’s eyes were wide as he stared at him before slowly looking back down on his own arm, completely and fully healed. “I’m sorry. You were- you were projecting a memory, and I thought pulling a happy memory would make you feel relaxed.”

“How does happy memories translate into birds?” Frenchie asked as he joined the girl by her other side, looking outside in interest.

“He’s obviously thinking of birds, like a certain-” Butcher almost spoke, but Hughie’s glare shut him up immediately. “How about we get rid of the birds before grabbing any attention, and since you brought them, why not go and shoo them.”

“You’re just kicking me out?”

“Well, you’ve already done your job, you don’t exactly do anything else.”

“What sort of fight did you two have this time?” Milk questioned, noticing the escalating mood. Hughie just glares at Butcher before standing up. “We left you guys alone for half a day. Now, you’re worse off than you were yesterday.”

“I don’t know, maybe ask Butcher. He’s the one who just keeps telling people how much he likes them before he starts flipping on them.”

Then Hughie flips him off.

“I’ll join the birds. Good luck surviving these idiots, Mesmer.” He says before stomping his way out.

There wasn’t a simple way to get rid of birds. Usually, they just flew away the moment you appeared in their sight. Unlike normal birds, these are birds that Hughie somehow summoned through memory alone. Just like the song, the birds only flocked towards him.

He sighs, aggravated by his situation.

Waving his arms at them doesn’t work, they just flap their wings along, mimicking him.

“Can’t you guys, I don’t know, go look for food somewhere? Get an old lady who likes throwing bread.”

“Trey,” Milk calls him, surprising Hughie a bit. He never, ever, heard anyone actually call him that. Maybe if his grandfather was present, he’d be called that. “We got a situation.”

Hughie, who was holding a white pigeon by that point, just throws it away with no care and decides to re-join them in the living room.

Frenchie raised a brow at him, and he flaps his hands then points at his shoulders. Hughie looks at his own shoulders and finds the bird.

“Oh my god, I told you to leave already,” He begged. The bird coos. “The others left, why aren’t you? I don’t have food.”

The bird picks on his ears.

“Let’s write that he can talk to animals on the list,” Butcher mutters under his breath.

“Okay, whatever. What’s the situation?”

“The female’s a terrorist, and we need you to restrain her if she ever gets wild.” Butcher answers, uncrossing his arms as he points back into the living room. Hughie opens his mouth before closing it, not knowing how to reply to that. He looks inside and sees her drawing that circle again, with the claw shapes inside.

“She can't be a terrorist,” Frenchie insists. Then, he turns at him. “You agree, don’t you? She is not.”

“I mean, the first time we met her she killed three people and almost clawed your heart out.” He said, wincing a bit at the betrayal that he can see on Frenchie’s face.

“Okay, so they smuggle in a top-shelf extremist recruit and pump her up with Compound V,” Milk tries to theorize.

“Then, when she's good and ready, they cut her loose to wreak havoc,” Butcher continues. Frenchie immediately objects.

“She wouldn't!”

“Wait. Why would Vought give Compound V to terrorists?” He questions. Milk answers.

“Cause the only thing more dangerous than a terrorist is a Supe terrorist, and the only way to fight it is-”

“With Sergeant Fucking Homelander. Got to let the cunts in the army now.” Butcher says, reminding everyone of the army bill they’ve been trying to pass for some time. “Those fuckers are creating supervillains. Maybe there's more of 'em, God knows how many.”

Holy shit.

Hughie turns around, holding onto his head.

This was not something they can handle on their own. They’re going to need real professional help.

“Okay, this is a clusterfuck, even for us,” Milk says out loud what everyone else had been thinking.

“No, listen to me, okay? Maybe that's what they want her to be. But that's not who she is. That's not what she wants!” Frenchie yells, attracting the girl’s attention. She looked on with concern at him, as if deciding whether she should jump in between Frenchie and Butcher or not.

“And you know this cause she bends your fucking ear off?”

“She saved my life! She's not bad. She just wants to go home.”

“Wait, when did she save your life?” Hughie asked, but he was promptly ignored.

“She's a fucking Supe, just like the rest,” Butcher yells. Hughie bristled in his spot. “How many times do I have to fucking say it?”

“You’re a fucking asshole, Butcher. Look at Hughie, he isn’t even close to those people, you think he’d ever fly over children and turn them into corpses like Lamp Lantern did?”

“He did what?” Hughie asked, horrified at this. He remembers Mallory, a name they kept mentioning, and how that person was a previous member. He remembers them saying that something happened to their grandkids. “Lamp Lantern burned down kids?”

Holy shit.

He looks helplessly around at everyone, no one was willing to look at him after such a revelation. The idea that his family was in danger was slowly catching up to him, images of his own dad burning down on the ground dances in his mind-

Dad was safe.

Dad is safe.

He’s alive.

“Mon Coeur,” Frenchie breathes in, turning to the girl. He must have felt remorse, after all, Milk blamed him on what happened to those kids. The memories must be choking him now. “I know you understand me. Please, Please, tell them who you are. Tell them what I see.”

Frenchie was now pleading with her. Frenchie, pleading.

The girl stares, although expressionless, there’s a flicker of something in her eyes when she looks at him.

She stands up, Frenchie straightens up as well, surprised that she reacted.

Then she walks up to Butcher with her face showing contempt, as if already pegging him as the reason Frenchie was in such distress. Butcher only shows her that demented smile of his, the same one he gets when he’s ready to fight someone.

But she shoves him out of the way and gently sidesteps both him and Milk, going straight at Mesmer.

“No,” Frenchie yells but stops when she only pulls him back to the living room.

She forces Mesmer to sit, then she sits down, holding onto the man’s hand with both of her arms, frowning so hard that her brows could touch.

Mesmer must have understood because he starts focusing his powers, “The drawings are, uh, palm trees in front of the moon … It's where she grew up … They- They killed her parents. They kidnapped her and her brother.”

Tears start to spill down her face, the memories tormenting her. Frenchie starts worrying for her, his expression showing grief.

“They forced them to be soldiers … She just wants to go back and get her brother out of there … Her name's Kimiko.” Mesmer finished, and pulls his hands away, clutching it to himself as if afraid that she’ll crush it again. He then stands and bolts out from between them, standing at the edge of his living room, right next to Hughie.

The girl, Kimiko, opened her eyes, and she still cried. Hughie knew then that if she could, she would be sobbing and yelling.

“Kimiko,” Frenchie said, now sitting in front of her and grabbing her hands gently. “Bonjour, Kimiko.”

Milk turns, looking Butcher with a look that was so re-approaching, that if Butcher had any ability to feel a shred of guilt, he’d crash down on the floor. But Butcher didn’t, so Hughie intervenes.

“All Supes are the same,” He says bitingly. Butcher, this time, closed his eyes for a split second before opening them. “We’re just sub-humans by this point. People just want to use us for their own ends.”

“All right,” Butcher cuts him off and goes to grab his jacket. “Take her back to the safe house.”

“Where you headed?” Milk asked.

“I'm gonna go see Raynor. We've got more than enough to get the Feds on board now,” He answers. As he stood by the door, he glances at Mesmer. “You tell anyone what you saw or heard here today, and I'll cut your hands off and shove 'em so far up your ass, your fingers will give us a little wave out your throat, yeah?”

Mesmer still held onto his hand, but frowns for a second and offers his hands to set the deal.

Bad move.

“Fuck off, wanker.”

Mesmer looked dejected but drops his hand. It was the act of someone who too used to this treatment. Hughie grimaced, before going up to him by his side.

“Hey, listen, I’m sorry about your …” He look away, trying to figure out what to say to make the guy feel better. He knew what it was like getting sucked into Butcher’s or the rest of the guys’ schemes. Then, his eyes land on the grass outside. “About your lawn. Couldn’t get rid of the birds fast enough.”

Mesmer huffs a laugh before turning around and points at his shoulder.

“You still have one on your shoulders.”

“Oh …” Hughie looks at the bird, who now looked like it was sleeping with its eyes closed, not making a sound. “I forgot?”

“Man, what are you even doing with these people? They are psychos. You should be out there with some team. I mean, you have healing powers. That’s big leagues material.”

“I thought you already went through my head,” Hughie answers blandly. Mesmer actually looked remorseful for that.

“I really only wanted you to not be as stressed as you look. I already had my arm splintered, don’t need anything worse.”

“Well, you got bird shit on your lawn for the effort, but it worked, I guess. I honestly forgot my mom used to play piano … she mainly played the organ.” Hughie scratched the back of his head, feeling suddenly irritated. He can’t even trust his own memory.

“Hughie, we’re leaving.” Milk calls from the door, Frenchie already had an arm around Kimiko as he pulls her out. Hughie pressed his lips.

“You guys leave without me, I need to go somewhere.”

“Where?”

“Uh … a bar?” Milk and Frenchie froze in their spot, sharing looks with each other. Frenchie does what he might have thought to be a discrete throat-slitting gesture at Milk.

“Right, uh, Mesmer. You got Tina’s phone, right? Call her to check on the scheduling. I’ll take Hughie off your hands now,” He said.

When they were outside, and Frenchie was faraway with Kimiko, Milk sighs.

“Hughie, we got rules for a reason. What was yours?”

“Don’t go get smashed.”

“Then why are you planning to get smashed?”

“I’m not! I was going to just meet up with … Anthony! He can watch over me while we drink.” Hughie lies.

Hughie is a bad liar.

And Milk is a good detective. He gives him a very disappointed look, which broke Hughie’s consciousness instantly.

“Look, I just … Babies are getting shot with Compound V. Kimiko,” they both look forward at Frenchie and Kimiko, who both stopped in front of a dandelion, with Kimiko trying to pick it up. “She was getting pumped with it in a cellar. Apparently, Supes aren’t born with powers.”

“Yeah, we went over that already.”

“But you said it started in 1971, there were Supes before that.”

“You’re one of those people who believe in the whole Nazi experimentation thing, are you?”

“I mean, how else do you explain me?” He asked, waving at himself. “I don’t have a record of getting pumped with this thing, I’m a few years late for that. So, why am I like this?”

“So, you think you were experimented by the Nazis?” Milk looked at him with doubt, but Hughie shook his head.

“Okay, maybe not Nazis. Maybe its some other crime organization. Kimiko was part of a terrorist group that hired child soldiers. Doesn’t that just mean that every other Supe is the same? With slight difference? I mean, ever heard of Mad Wilson?”

“That immortal Canadian American who the army tried to kill and is currently living somewhere in Arizona, yeah, I looked him up after you mentioned him.”

“Okay, that was the Canadians trying to make a Supe, but they mucked it up, and he turned mad. Aren’t there other examples of failed experiments going around? What if I’m one?”

“Let’s think about this thoroughly. Do you have an army member in your family?”

“No.”

 “Someone who worked in the hospital that could have been exposed to Compound V?”

“… No.”

“Government affiliated member?”

“My dad … My dad is a paper pusher for city hall.”

“There you have it.”

“My dad did this to me?” He asks, now taking the bird off his shoulders and passing it to him and feeling incredulous. “My dad can't be the reason that I summon birds … and revive the dead, and heal people ...”

“Make things disappear. Transfigure objects. Make things re-appear. You yourself disappear or do a notice-me-not spell on yourself. And the deadliest power yet, you can mind control people.”

“I don't- I don't intentionally do that.”

“Okay. Case in point, Hughie, is that your powers are whack. You might be right on the whole someone experimenting on you, but the only person who could possibly know the answer … is your dad.”

Hughie gapes at him, before thinking it through and realizing that Milk was absolutely right.

Chapter Text

He was at the same bar again, looking at the Kraken Spiced Rum sign. He always wondered why he liked sitting here when that sign get’s annoying after a few drinks in. The light was, whenever he was too far out of consciousness, too strong.

His musings stopped once Anna appeared by the table, joining him by his side.

“That face does not bode well,” She winced, and Hughie gives her a tired grin.

“I just found out that my dad might have been hiding something from me.”

“Might have? Did you even ask him?” She questioned, and Hughie shook his head, taking a sip from his drink. “Then you should go and do exactly that. There’s no point if you’re just going to brood about it in a bar.”

“It’s sensitive … super sensitive. It … involves my birth, I guess. But that would remind dad of mom, and he’s always devastated when that happens.”

“Oh … I guess I can see how difficult that can be.”

“Yeah, and like, he gets really worried really fast. He starts jittering when he’s anxious. I don’t want to stress him out, but at the same time, I want to know.”

“Know what, exactly?”

“Know about- Well, umm … You’re the first Supe in your family, right?”

“Yeah,” Annie answers in confusion.

“Okay, you’re the first. Do you know Maverick? He’s Translucent’s kid.”

“How come you know about Maverick?”

“Err- Al and I know each other, he saved me, I saved him.”

“Translucent’s name is Al? What is it short for?”

“Aren’t you the one working with him?” Hughie asked, now freaking out, he thought that the Seven at least shared names with each other. “He doesn’t like saying. I honestly think he likes just saying Al so he can- I don’t know, maybe mess around with people. Alex, Alejandro, Albus, Alfred, Alexa, Alaska, so many names to choose from.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I can totally see him do that. I’m still surprised you know him. He’s been on a mission for a while.”

“What? I thought he was in Cali … fornia … right now,” Hughie snapped his mouth shut. He realized that Vought might have lied about Translucent’s whereabouts. But he remembers Homelander distinctly mentioning the fact that he knew the invisible man wasn’t dead.

“Anyways! So, Maverick, he’s not the first. In fact, from what Al told me-” Or from what Hughie gleaned off from spying on them from far away. Al may not be able to see him, but he can sure feel it when someone’s watching him. The man got paranoid the more he watched. Stopping was a mercy by this point.

Super Spy instincts, who knew it existed?

“Maverick is a lot stronger than him. His powers are more versatile too. So, I got this theory that the more you go down the line, the stronger the power is. But, if we follow this theory, then … it’s probably that my parents lied to me about my parentage, that at least someone has to be a Supe. If not that, then how can you explain my powers?”

“And you think your dad might know the answer?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Maybe it’s just that, Hughie. God gave you your power, and that’s all the answer you really need.” Annie said, slightly disappointing Hughie. She didn’t know about Compound V, that’s pretty obvious, but she could at least be a bit more curious.

“Annie, that didn’t stop scientists from studying to figure out how the world works. I want to figure out how our powers work.”

“Right, I can see why you need a drink,” She said. “I’m not stopping you. It’s admirable that you want to learn, but people don’t usually ask why this person is more talented than this one.”

“You see powers as talent?”

“We were born with it, so yeah. Mom told me that when I was born, and the doctor held me, I lit up the whole room. So, I had my powers from the start. It wasn’t a skill I had to learn it from someone else, sure, but it was one I had to develop with years of training.”

“Your Superpower awakening sounds a lot more awesome than mine.”

“What happened when you awakened yours?” She asked. The memory, though a bit hazy, made him huff a laugh.

“Dad said that when I was five, I jumped off the couch and yelled cannonball. Apparently, I dropped on the floor and broke it, weighing as heavy as a cannonball.”

“No way,” Annie says, her eyes shine with mirth. “That is hilarious.”

“Laugh it up,” Hughie groans, already feeling like he’ll regret admitting. “We had to pay for the damages and move our apartments cause our downstairs neighbors weren’t that impressed.”

“That can’t be your only accident.”

“Don’t act like a saint, you probably had accidents too!”

“I mean, what can I do, I make lights go crazy, you broke through an apartment.”

“I was five!”

“Hughie?” Someone called, making him freeze completely. Of all the voices he expected to hear tonight, it wasn’t this. Turning around, he gave him a weak wave of hello. “I thought that was you.”

It was Billy Butcher, and he had that demonic smile in place. The one that only spells trouble.

“Oh, I apologize.” He said to Annie, and by god, Butcher needs to learn how to act like he can tolerate someone because that smile was not tricking anyone, and by Annie’s slight frown, neither was it tricking her. “Didn’t mean to interrupt your conversation.”

“No, no you haven’t. I’m Annie,” She saved that awkward encounter by smiling genuinely and offering her hand to shake, which Butcher took.

“Billy, old mate of Hughie’s.”

“Billy? You’re-”

“Yeah, yeah he’s the same guy.” Hughie cuts her off, looking elsewhere aside from Butcher.

“Oh, wow. You have a lot of friends who show up here.” She noted, which Hughie answered with a shrug.

“Hughie talked about me? I’m interested, what did nasty little things did he say?” He asked, joining them by the table.

Annie scoffs, shaking her head.

“Nope. He said you’re a cool guy, you had his back when he needed you.”

Hughie gave her an awkward smile. This was back when Ezekiel almost-

The memory still made him clamp up.

It was back then, when Billy actually cared about his wellbeing, and when he didn’t know that Hughie was a Supe. It doesn’t work like that anymore, the man’s out for blood and he barely accepts his presence. Hell, he barely accepts Kimiko’s presence, and only tolerates now because she was a child soldier.

“Well, I’m surprised. Hughie called me an asshole straight to my face.”

“You were acting like an asshole.”

“It was justified,” He tells him before eying Annie a bit in contemplation. “Now that I got a closer look, ain’t you that new girl from the Seven?”

“Uh- Guilty as charged.”

“If I’m perfectly honest, Translucent’s been my favorite. What’s he been up to?” He asks, trying to dig a jab at him. Annie sends him a look, and he tries to communicate to her to hide what she knew.

“He’s on a mission. You know what,” She said, getting up. “I’ll go get us a pitcher. Billy, you like … let me guess, Guinness?”

“I like what you like,” He says charmingly. Annie, unfortunately, fell for that trap as she left with a smile on her face.

Once she was faraway, Hughie instantly sent him a distraught look.

“Why do you keep tormenting me like this?”

“I wasn’t doing anything of that sort. I just came to see what was so interesting about your pretty friend. I can see it now, she completes you somehow, in that nice bonding way that little kids do when they make a friend for the first time in kindergarten. Shame she’s part of the enemies.”

“Billy, she is not an enemy. She’s a friend. She’s my friend.”

“She’s nothing but trouble, Buttercup.”

“That’s honestly fucking rich coming from you,” Hughie snapped. “Who exactly started this whole mess?”

“Translucent was going to sucker punch you to your second life. I saved you that night. And, I’m helping you to pick off the rest of her team.” Butcher said, pushing himself off the table and fixed his jacket before giving him a look. “How do you think she’ll feel if she finds out that you killed Translucent?”

“… When she finds out …” Hughie whispers.

Because he couldn’t kid himself. He knew that at some point, he has to tell her the truth. He wasn’t actually friends with Al, he basically killed him. Made him explode, and let his entrails fly and cover a room completely.

He was also planning on hurting another member of her team.

If she found out that the only reason he ever befriended her was to let this operation continue in peace …

Billy gives him that damned smile and walks away.

0o0o0

When Annie comes back after giving her orders, Hughie was sitting alone, his friend gone.

But something went wrong, because Hughie had his face hidden behind his hands with his elbows on the table. He looked too stressed for a guy who was going ham on a theory a few minutes ago and accidentally bumped on someone he knew.

“Where did your friend go?”

“Billy’s just … doing stuff.” Hughie says, letting go of his face and gave her a very tired smile. “Do you ever think about going somewhere and lose yourself?”

“Like, forget about society and let your feet carry you wherever type of losing yourself?” She asked.

Hughie nods.

“Well, I’ve been planning to go to a place,” She said, tilting her head a bit as she looks to the side, feeling a smile taking over her face. “It’s in the Bahamas, a beach, but get this, the sand is pink. It may not be exactly what you’re looking for. But floating in the water and not caring where the waves carry you, is basically trusting nature to carry you.”

“That sounds cool … do you want to go there now?”

“Now?” She asked, surprised, but Hughie nods once more.

“Now. I can just,” He snaps his finger. “Pop us there.”

“Okay, you have to explain to me how your powers work. But yeah, totally. I can’t believe it. I thought I’d have to go and book some flight and then wait in a compressed air shuttle for 4 hours.”

“As fun as it sounds, we can’t really stay there for long because we didn’t go through costumes, so they’ll think we snuck into their country. Still, four hours there with nothing to stop us is much better than a dinky old bar in New York, yeah?”

“Totally.”

“I’ll pay for the drinks, then we can just pop up there.”

“Hughie, as fun and grateful as I feel about this, I want to know why you’re doing this?”

“What do you mean? It’s a fun trip, everyone likes fun trips.” Hughie said, his expression weary. That honestly hurt, he was obviously hiding something, and it was something that had to do with Billy. She couldn’t press it though. “We might need sunscreen …”

“Hughie, the Bahamas are in the same time zone as us.”

“Oh … Oh … Maybe tomorrow then?”

“No, I kind of like the idea of having tiki drinks, with fire lamp decorations, on a pink beach at night.”

“Yeah, that actually sounds cool now that you said it.”

“From the pictures that I’ve seen, there wasn’t any bars next to it-”

“We’ll pop off into a bar and get what we want then pop by the beach, it’s easy.” Not a second later, he ends up by the bartender and hands him a note without even looking at it.

Annie frowns at his behavior.

From what she can tell, Hughie wasn’t a rich guy, even if he did say that he can afford any expensive place if he wanted to. He didn’t act like a rich guy at all, and she knew rich guys, her high school had the typical stereotypes roaming around. The only thing that ever clued her into Hughie’s financial situation was how he pays people.

“Overly expensive beer?”

Rich people wouldn’t care about that unless they got their money recently. Not to mention, this was a relatively cheap bar compared to other places around here.

“Want to get anywhere before we teleport?”

“Nothing, we’re just there for the night … maybe I should get some extra clothes from my apartment first-”

“I can dry us off easily,” Hughie said nonchalantly.

“You really have to explain your powers.”

“It’s actually pretty easy to figure out if you think about it, but where’s the fun in that?” He grins, offering his arm, which she grabbed.

And like that night, when sirens were blaring and he was there standing on top of a corpse, she felt like falling.

It wasn’t the type of fall she experienced as a child, before learning how to fly properly and losing any hold on gravity.

Whenever Hughie used his powers and depending on how much effort was put in it, she slowly fell down through clouds. It was soft, it was slow, and it was dreamlike. She still fell, still had no control over herself and her landing.

Like floating in the water.

The loss of momentum didn’t last long. When she opened her eyes, realizing that she had closed them, she found herself in front of a very active bar.

People were talking in another language, but there were some other tourists present who were obviously English speakers, and the bartender was talking to them with ease. Hughie plasters a grin and walks up to him.

“What’s your best seller?”

“Pina colada in a pineapple cup,” The man answers with no hesitation. Hughie turns around at her, waiting for her opinion, and she frowns.

“Pina colada on the beach, sounds …” The image of Hughie drinking straight from a pineapple made her giggle a bit. “On second thought, pineapple special please.”

“You heard the lady, two! I don’t know if you take American dollars or that I have to pay through card-”

“We take American dollars,” The man answered blandly, it was obvious that he received a lot of American tourists from his reactions alone. Hughie mumbled ‘cool’ under his breath as he pulls out another hundred dollar bill and puts it on the desk.

“Why do you carry so much money around?”

“It’s a … I don’t know,” He says in a worryingly confused tone. “But at least I’m sure it’s mine, unlike the sunglasses.”

“What sunglasses?”

“It’s a glow in the dark sunglasses, which is really pointless since it’s obviously for a night party. No wait, I think I have it,” Then Hughie blatantly pulls out sunglasses from his previously flat pocket. Annie raised her brow. For a guy who didn’t like flaunting his powers, he sure does it a lot.

He puts it on, and it really does glow in the dark.

“The shades are tinted so hard, that it’s impossible to wear them at night. I just woke up in a diner one night with them and a bunch of party ravers, so I probably got it from them. I read online that I should give them some beads as thanks? I don’t know, but as long as it's handmade, they’ll take it as a compliment, so I thought, maybe? I’ll have to ask Sam about it.”

“Another one of your friends?”

“Sam is an avenue owner who likes to act like a normal customer to sneak in his own establishments and sees if they're up to his standards. He’s also a bad influence. I don’t know how many avenues he owns, but I’m pretty sure he owns a winery.”

“You have a lot of crazy stories.”

At that moment, the drinks were set on the table, with tiny little umbrellas on the side and long twirly striped straws. Hughie grins as he grabs them and turns on his feet to face her.

She takes the drink from his hand and then grabs onto his arm once he offers it to her.

“Okay, so I know teleporting the normal way is kind of not good, so I’m going to experiment, bear with me a second,” He said as they walk towards the door.

“And what are you going to do now?” She asked, but Hughie only grins as they stepped outside, and continued walking forward without pause. Annie looks straight ahead. She had to restrain herself from making a surprised noise.

All she could see in front of her was pink sand and a moonlit beach.

“Oh my god,” She whispers. “I didn’t even feel a thing!” She yelled, turning back at him, only to recoil at the sight.

Hughie now had a hand on his nose, trying to cover blood.

“Don’t worry, this happens a lot,” He mumbled before pulling out tissues and dabbing his face with them. He gives her a slightly pained grin. “Sorry about that, like I said, I was experimenting. Ah … new things don’t go well with me.”

“Maybe we should sit down, and you shouldn’t drink up-”

“Nah, no way. We came to have fun, and this is nothing, honest. I just used my powers a lot today.”

“If you say so,” Annie said. She was still worried.

“I know so. Come on. If we want to sit, we need to make chairs … out of pink sand!”

0o0o0

Annie never expected to see the sun across from a beach. From a lake, yes. She knew, that she could go to the pier and some spots in NY to see it, but she never had the chance to, not when she was busy saving the city, or … misleadingly act as if she were saving it.

Sunrise and sunset were such a small portion of the day, she could fly above the skies to watch it happen, but she wanted to be by the waters to do so.

And here she was, spending a getaway night far away from any civilization, watching it happen from behind a shabbily designed sandcastle that they spent the whole night trying to make. Hughie had a very hard concentrating face, then admitted to the fact that he wanted to use his powers to build it, but thought it would be lame.

“It’s like cheating on a game, what’s the point if I did that?”

Four half-built walls were at least something, and they both laid in it to see the sun as it starts crawling up from behind the sea line, casting light on everything, and showing exactly how bad they did on the design.

She loved it.

None of this would have happened if it weren’t for Hughie, she thought idly as she tries to sneak a peek at him.

She stops, and stares at him, unashamed by her acts. Hughie had his face on the sand, drooling.

Nights of vigilante fighting gave her insomnia, but it at least made her immune to any drowsiness that accompanied it. Hughie didn’t do vigilante stuff, he didn’t have the immunity she had.

When she was out using her powers to protect people, he used his powers for silly little things that are pointless but quite impressive-

Until he raised the dead.

Annie looks back at the sun, and thought, If she ever found her dad and it turned out that he was dead, would Hughie revive him if she asked?

Chapter Text

“Sorry that I couldn’t get you closer,” He apologized as they landed stepped out of the door from the bar that they hung at yesterday. Annie didn’t seem to care, she had the umbrella behind her ears and fluffed her hair a bit, sand falling. He winced. “There’s still sand in your hair.”

“Hughie, it’s fine. I don’t want you getting another nosebleed.”

“Still …”

“You’re just stalling. Go to your dad already, make some breakfast and talk about your problem. I’m fine, I want to walk anyways.”

Then she left.

Hughie would have listened to her, he would have honestly gone back to his dad’s place, hold him off from his work, and have a conversation about the origin of his powers and its sketchiness.

But Hughie decided on something else entirely, because he was a coward, but at least he was facing another demon.

When he gets to the old ratty building and looks at the dirty windows, he breathes in the morning air and walks inside.

0o0o0

When Annie checks her phone, there a text from Homelander.

She was weirded out at first because she never gave her number away. It could be because it’s his team that she’s a part of and he needs to have all contacts with the team. She just expected that at some point, Ashley would have come and thrown a pager at her – or even a walkie talkie – for communication purposes.

No, they used their phones to text.

It still felt creepy getting a message from Homelander of all people. She never got his number, and it was already saved on her phone with his name. It wasn’t even a personal name.

Even now, she wasn’t even sure if ‘John’ was his real name.

So, she wore her uniform and joined them in the meeting room, still feeling off-kilter. She noted how Translucent’s seat was still empty, still on his mission. Deep’s seat was also blissfully empty. She didn’t know if she could handle another meeting just sitting across him with the seating arrangement as it was.

Queen Maeve was there, she looked as nonchalant as she ever did, not caring about anything. Annie felt let down whenever she looked at her. She had been her idol her whole life. Reality, however, is disappointing.

Never meet your heroes, they always say.

Black Noir didn’t seem to react to anything, only at her entry. He sits rigid and straight, staring ahead. Sometimes, she doubted if he was even awake through these meetings. From time to time, however, she’d notice how he’d tilt his head just slightly, listening to whatever was happening outside with his sharp hearing.

Then he moved his whole head to look directly at the door, her only sign of someone coming in, and A-Train barges in.

“What's going on?” He asked, looking at them all while being out of breath.

“I missed you guys,” came the sudden answer from Homelander as he claps A-Train’s back. Annie blinked, not even seeing him step into the room. It was similar to how Hughie usually appears from wherever, but the way he did it made it feel like he was always there while Homelander obviously came from somewhere else. “I just wanted to see your smiling faces. Take a seat, buddy.”

A-Train went stiff for a moment, another odd thing she noticed about everyone in the team. Even if they try to hide it, they obviously fear their leader for a reason unknown to her. A-Train listens to the command and goes to his seat right next to her.

When he sits, it showed the contrast of the table with one side filled while the other was almost empty.

“And, truth be known, I felt like we were overdue a little heart-to-heart. A rap session, maybe a little tough love.” Homelander said as he walked to the front of the table, his hands clasped behind his back.

“What's that supposed to mean?” Maeve asked, already sounding like she’s done with whatever bullshit she thought they were going to talk about. Homelander puffed his chest before letting the air out and started walking behind them.

“It means that lately, some of you have been a little out of sorts. Erratic.” He commented as he passed behind her, an obvious jibe to her and her current vendetta against the company.

“Unreliable,” He said when he reached A-Train, the memory of the incident where he killed a girl for no reason came back to her, making her feel as if bugs crawled up her skin. He tried lying about it and failed horribly.

“Downright sloppy.” That was aimed at Maeve, but he stops and looks at Black Noir.

“Not you, Noir. You've been great. But the rest of you,” He clicks his tongue in disappointment. “It is fair to say that I am disappointed. The enemies are storming the gates. I mean, we're not even the Seven anymore, we're down to five.”

Annie frowns and looks at the empty seats again.

“We're dropping like fucking flies, but at least now I know why,” He then grabs the remote on the table and pressed a button, opening one of the screens in the meeting room.

Right there, on the display, was the picture of none other than Hughie.

To her pure horror, it was a photo that was obviously taken while he was unconscious. He was in a bed, wearing a hospital gown, with wires connected to his arms and an IV line running through along with a bloodline.

“I didn’t know it was called that, I just called it the plastic IV needle thing.” She remembers him saying after pulling his sleeves up to show her his Saline Lock under his jacket.

“Uh-” Queen Maeve sounded before getting cut off by A-Train.

“It’s him?!” He bursts out.

“I’m glad you remember him, A-Train, because you are the exact reason why we’re all in this mess,” Homelander applauds, clapping his hands mockingly.

“Is this a joke?” Annie demanded. “Why is Hughie up there? I don't understand. When was this picture even taken?”

This was a violation of his privacy, for god’s sake!

“Yeah, I find it hard to believe that the most famous recent abduction case is the reason for any problems we’re facing,” Maeve comments, and Annie looks at her in complete confusion.

“What? I literally just talked to Hughie this morning.”

“What- Where?!” A-Train hissed as he turns at her in demand, hands tightly holding onto the rims of the table, making her push her chair a bit further away from him, just a bit. The only person acting normally in the room now was Black Noir, and saying that was damning.

“Whoa, you’re telling me you know where Hugh Campbell is? And you aren’t bringing him in?” Queen Maeve asks.

“What are you guys talking about? He isn’t missing. You aren’t making any sense-”

“Now, now, we shouldn’t be hard on Starlight. She’s a victim of this as much as the rest of us, and most especially, Mr. Campbell.” Annie startled from Homelander’s interruption, grabbing everyone’s attention to himself. “As for your question, Starlight, this is a picture taken by Translucent. This is also Translucent’s last known location, with this picture being the last transmission we received from him.”

Something slowly falls down in Annie’s mind, as a feeling of dread slowly bubbles up.

“You see, Madelyn had Translucent spy on him after meeting him. You remember that day, A-Train, don’t you? After killing Mr. Campbell’s girlfriend?” Homelander revealed.

Annie felt her whole world still.

She didn’t even know Hughie had a girlfriend, and if what Homelander said was true …

Annie glances to the side at A-Train before feeling something coiling around her heart. A-Train killed a girl right after she joined the team. They tried to swipe the rug, and she wasn’t really focusing on what they were doing because they had her swamped with paper works and PR events to show her off to the world.

Once she was settled, she went online, and she felt sick.

A-Train killed a girl, and he didn’t care about it.

However, now knowing that the girl was Hughie’s girlfriend made her question everything.

Was Hughie-

Was Hughie using her to get closer to A-Train?

“Of course, she had Translucent spy on him not because he refused the NDA, like what you would have thought. She sensed that our friend here is special, and I bet Annie could tell you how special he is, can’t you? He has that uncanny ability to disapear from people's minds.” He asked her, giving her a fake grin.

“Y-Yeah,” She answered weakly.

“To clarify to everyone else, Campbell is also a Supe.”

“Never heard of him,” Maeve said.

“That fucking Bitch can’t be a Supe-”

“Now, now. You’re still on thin ice, buddy, remember? Anymore irreparable action can get you kicked off. Attacking Campbell is one of them.” He warns A-Train before he could continue his tirade. “To also clarify, Hughie Campbell is one of the many undocumented cases. He isn’t the first, he won’t be the last, but he is the most unfortunate.” Homelander sighs, pressing the remote again to show a bunch of other pictures, they were all different people she hasn’t seen before.

Except for one.

She can definitely recognize Billy, Hughie’s friend from the pub.

“Unfortunately, as we all know, Hugh Campbell was kidnapped, and no one had heard from him since. Not a trace of him could be found. These are the people most suspected of his kidnapping … and brainwashing.”

What?!” Annie demanded.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be sugarcoating, right? You’re going for the whole complete-goddamn-honest-truth image now. Let me re-phrase so you can accept it. These people, most likely an anti-Supe organization aiming to kill off Supes, kidnapped Hughie. Seeing as Hughie wasn’t exhibiting powers beforehand-”

“Powers either come in your childhood or after trauma,” Maeve said, looking to the side as she thought deeply on the issue. “Like Mad Wilson who was tortured by the government and had his powers activate by force, or Bruce the Brute, who went on a rampage after someone supposedly shot him.”

“Yes, this is the same exact situation. If not that, then why would a Supe be joining an organization specifically made to kill him? It's only after they got him that he showed his powers. Can you figure out what happened to him next?”

“They tortured him?” Annie felt her jaws slightly trembling, but she had to hold on. “That can’t be … he doesn’t have any scars or-”

“Starlight, please, you said it yourself. He has a nerve problem. All they need to do is trigger it, and one of the triggers that were cited in his medical files is stress.”

“But-”

“Doesn’t he always act scared?” He cuts her off. “Always jittery? Nervous? and most likely would fall if someone pushed him?” Homelander says, throwing her own words that she gave him in the expo back at her.

She gulped, shaking her head in denial.

This explained a lot …

Why he’s always confused.

Why he always looked so guilty when he thought she didn’t see him.

The way he froze when Billy appeared yesterday.

The sudden need to run away, ending up in bizarre situations. Diners, bars, the beach and the believe expo.

The amount of money he spent as if it wasn’t his money. He didn’t feel guilty spending it, but happier that he did.

The bruise.

“He’s, unfortunately, being manipulated into working with them, and with his help, they managed to get Translucent killed, or so they think. As well as blackmailing Mesmer, Ezekiel, Popclaw - and God knows who else.”

“Popclaw?” A-Train sounded shocked.

“No, no, no. That’s not possible. He just said that Translucent was somewhere in California,” Annie intervened.

“Correct,” Homelander applauds, giving her a smile that a grade-school teacher would give a slightly below-average student. “Translucent is in California, some people in logistics found him in Arizona and we sent a few men to try and contact him. Unfortunately, there were some loses and he’s still roaming around freely without reporting back to us. Black Noir would be dispatched soon if he continues to evade our men any longer.”

Homelander then sighs deeply, heaving his chest and shaking his head in regret.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t mean that Translucent wasn’t killed, we have his skin as proof if you want to see it?”

Then he points at the corner of the room, in a slightly shaded and out of sight area, where a briefcase lay.

From their leader’s implications, no one wanted to see it, but Black Noir stood and walked to the thing without faltering in his steps. Crouching down when he reached it, he clicked the thing open.

After staring at what was inside the briefcase for a while, hiding its contents from everyone else, he looks at them and gives them a thumbs up.

“That- that is insane,” A-Train mumbled.

“Now, how is it possible to kill someone, scrap their indestructible skin off and still have the dead man walking around on the other side of the country?” Homelander asked, looking straight at Annie.

“Hughie brings back the dead,” Annie answers trying not to let the horror of this situation take over her thoughts.

“New mission,” Homelander announced, smiling at her declaration. “Act like the fucking heroes we’re supposed to be and save Hughie Campbell from his abductors. The media will eat it up, and it will clear up your name, A-Train.”

But A-Train snarled as he looked at the table as if the choice was a difficult one. Annie stares at him in shock. As if he even needed a reason to contemplate saving Hughie. Not only that, but he was contemplating saving him with something else, and with how he acted whenever he spoke about Hughie, she feared for what it was.

She can’t let A-Trian hurt him.

Hughie was already hurting.

The idea that Hughie befriended her the first time around just to get back at A-Train hurts, but if he was forced to do it at first, then she knew she had to save him.

Even if it was fake at the beginning, he still kept up his friendship, still tried his best to stay by her side. He never even asked her for any secrets, if she thought about it. He asked about simple stuff, her likes, dislikes, music, friends, and hobbies.

Hughie can’t hurt anyone, but it seems that everyone hurts him.

“Then she listens to you, and then, the girl dies because she didn’t listen to her dad. She was in an abusive household.” Hughie told her once when he gave her a hypothetical situation during the expo. “That was bad. But … life’s like that. You don’t know what the other person is facing for you to just give away advice without consideration. It’s like Spider-man’s quote-”

“Why do you look so down, Starlight. I thought you’d be the first one out of this room to get to him,” Homelander wondered. He rested his sides on the table, crossing his arms. Annie looks at him and opened her mouth, but words couldn’t come out.

How can she explain that she just found out that her best friend was possibly held down as a hostage and that she was having a moment trying to remember every waking moment they had together to figure out if he ever tried to ask her for help?

Because, why else would a villain stay by the hero’s side once their mission ended?

“I’ll get that fucker,” A-Train said, standing up. “But I won’t promise that he won’t come back broken.”

“Just bring him back alive, Madelyn did want him to be a part of Vought, after all. We’ll blame it all on his kidnappers,” Homelander said, grinning as A-Train ran out of the room, leaving nothing but a gust of wind behind.

Annie looked at him with shock.

“You can’t just hurt him! I thought we’re trying to save him!” She yelled, standing up as well, but Homelander glared at her, his eyes showing a glint of red. She froze in spot and realized that the lights in the room had been acting up, meaning that she was also acting up, and her hold on her powers were slipping.

“Lay off her, Homelander. She’s just a dumb idiot trying to chase after her crush. She didn’t learn to separate her love life with her job yet,” Queen Maeve said blandly. “She’s young.”

“You never gave that excuse about the Deep or A-Train before,” Homelander’s eyes start to slowly recede in its glow. He looks at Queen Maeve, and Annie does as well. Maeve didn’t seem to be backing down on her words any time soon.

After a while, Homelander looks away, nodding slowly to himself.

“I’m impressed. The way you attract people to yourself is impressive, Starlight. You should train that skill, if you got Maeve of all people to care for you and go against me, you must mean something.”

“It’s like watching a puppy, it doesn’t mean anything,” Queen Maeve says snidely, but it’s obvious from the way her eyes shifted to her in slight worry that she didn’t mean it. She really was worried for her.

Homelander looks away, heaving a sigh, as if contemplating whether what he’s going to do was worth the hassle. He then walks up to Maeve and whispers something into her ears. Maeve’s mouth pressed into a straight line. Otherwise, she didn’t show any emotion as he stepped back.

“All right. Maeve’s your caretaker now. I hope you don’t disappoint, Starlight, for both your sakes.” He told her, walking away to leave the room and giving a thumbs up to Noir, who still sat behind the briefcase as if entranced by its contents.  “Oh, and please bring Campbell here before anything drastic happens. I know for a fact that A-Train will fail.”

Homelander stops, showing them his back as he clasped his arms behind him. There was no doubt in their minds that he had a cold unreadable expression on his face.

Annie finally understood the fear everyone harbored for this man.

“I’ve seen very little of Campbell’s powers. From that glimpse alone, I would rather have him become a part of Vought than have him go against us. He doesn’t seem to have a strong personality, and that is why he’s being manipulated into his current situation. But he confides in you, doesn’t he?”

“How do you know that?”

“You should be more cautious; you don’t know who’s watching.”

He then left the room.

“I feel like I made a deal with the devil,” Maeve sighs as she stood up. “Get up, we’re getting a drink till A-Wreck gets back.”

0o0o0

When Hughie gets back into their hideout, the first thing he sees is Frenchie and Kimiko baking. Kimiko seemed to lose whatever fear she had harbored for him from the last few weeks and gave him a smile before turning back to Frenchie and tilting her head at him.

Frenchie, unsurprisingly, understood her.

“She wants to know where you were?” He translates. It was oddly nice of her to care for his whereabouts.

“That’s a compelling fucking question,” Butcher said, cutting the meat on his plate before biting into it. Hughie thought that it was now or never, so he walked up to Butcher.

“Hey, can we talk?”

“That's what we're doing, innit?”

“No, I mean-”

“There ain't no secrets here, son.” Butcher waved his arm around. Hughie looks at Milk, Frenchie, and Kimiko, and felt the guilt spurning inside him. “Spit it out.”

“Stop being an asshole, just talk to the guy,” Milk berates him from where he sat on the couch while doing whoever knows on his computer.

“Hughie doesn't mind. Do you, Hughie?”

“Okay, fine. I don't think I can do this anymore.” This certainly caused a reaction. Everyone paused from what they were doing to stare at him. Butcher had an incomprehensible expression on his face before he stood up and started pacing.

“Do what?” He demands once he stopped.

“This. I mean, Vought, whatever it is with Kimiko, it's-it's awful, and you got to stop it. But I can't- I also have things I need to do and-”

“Right. You just want to kick back, drink a few Mai Tais, and let us do all the work, is that it?”

“You know, I managed to go my whole life with only seeing one person die horribly, and now I'm up to about a half dozen, I think I'm good.”

“Please, you're a fucking killer, Hughie, just like the rest of us.” He said, reminding Hughie of that little tidbit, his hand trembles for a bit. “Now, why don't you stop pissing around and tell everybody what this is really all about? Yeah?”

How does Hughie tell everyone that he maybe … not really, okay, definitely doesn’t want to kill more people?

“Unlike all of you, except for you Kimiko, I know none of this is your choice,” He told her for a sec before returning back to Butcher. “I didn’t choose to be in any of this. Butcher, you literally kidnapped me. And yes, I know I could have walked away in the beginning, but fucking hell, what the fucking hell?! Every day I spend with you is just crazier than the day before. It’s like watching a horrible crash just as it’s about to happen. You don’t want to see it, but you can’t look away! I only realized how fucked up my whole situation is after spending time with Annie.”

Butcher raised his arms as if praising the lord. Milk looks away, facepalming. Frenchie didn’t seem to disagree at all, he was always the one to see the whole situation as it were from a normal perspective, despite him being the odd one out of all of them in terms of interest and skills.

“Fucking finally. Tell us exactly what she’s been filling your empty head with, then. Give us that impressionable speech that converted you.”

“She didn’t say anything!” Hughie snapped. “It’s me, I talked about my experiences, and I realized that the more I talked about what happened recently, the more I kept censoring myself, the more I kept lying! That isn’t normal, Butcher. Then, when I saw Anthony again, I couldn’t tell him anything!

He brings a hand over to his forehead, rubbing his temples as if trying to crease the stress out.

His arms still shake.

“I used to tell him everything. Now, I can’t even say what I’ve done yesterday.”

His phone rings, stopping everything. Hughie pulls it out, not knowing why he had the sudden urge to answer, but once he sees the ID caller, he huffed with relief.

“Hey, Dad,” He answers.

Butcher rolled his eyes and turns around, pointing at him as if showcasing some example of what failure looked like to Frenchie and Kimiko.

“Hey, Hughie. Long time no talk, not like we were allowed to talk to each other.”

Who on-

“Who's this?”

This wasn’t dad-

“I thought you would recognize my voice,” The man sounded disappointed. “You spend so much time obsessing about me, am I right? And you sure kept my attention for a really long time.”

Like lightning striking on the ground, a pole of nothing but fear and anxiety hits him as realization struck.

“Say hi to your baby boy, Dad.” The caller said on the other sideline, not at him. There was rustling for a brief moment and a familiar and terrified voice answers.

“Hey- Hey, Hughie.” Dad’s voice quivered, the rustling continued, probably from how much his dad was shaking. “Why is he here? He says you're in some kind of trouble.”

“Dad?” He choked; this can’t be happening-

He made sure that he’s fine.

That he’s safe.

He can’t breathe.

“He's fine. Remington Steele's almost on,” That one was obviously pointed at his dad.

“A-Train, listen to me,” He begged. Everyone around him freaked out in an instant, especially Milk, who ran towards his computer. “He's on Medicaid, he's harmless. Please, let him go.”

The rest of the guys were all confirming if they were burned or not, but Hughie didn’t focus on them. Of course, they were obviously burned, how else would they find out about him or his dad?!

“Get your ass over here in 20 minutes, or I'm gonna burst through him like I did your girlfriend, understand?”

“Y-Yeah.”

“Come alone.” The phone clicked off.

All that was left in the room was utter chaos.

“All my bank accounts are frozen and flagged,” Butcher yelled.

“Monique, listen-” Hughie watched it all as he felt his world crash down in front of him. Butcher starts yelling at him, but nothing processed into his mind. The words came in one ear and left the other. Then Milk cuts in about something, while Hughie had to walk towards a wall or anything to lean onto.

He grabs the kitchen counter.

“You fucking idiots had to go to Mesmer.”

“He said-” Hughie finally spoke, lips trembling. “He said he’ll run through him like he ran through Robin.”

“Hughie, buddy, we need you to calm down because now isn’t the time to panic. Frenchie, go with him and grab his dad-”

“Kimiko is a better option, he is against a Supe. Your family is a more delicate situation that needs a discrete hand. I will be going with you.”

“He’ll run through him like he ran through Robin. Like it’s nothing.”

“Hughie,” Milk sounded worried. Hughie doesn't pay any attention to him anymore. He felt the cold go through his body before the searing heat of anger starts. There was a boiling point in his head that’s whistling high, screaming at him. The world was getting bigger, and he was getting smaller, but he would be damned if he let that get him. He’ll be damned if he let a single hair get taken off his father’s head.

He wants to grab onto A-Train for even fucking daring to get close to his dad.

He wants to hold onto his neck and squeezed so tightly that the air doesn’t come in anymore.

He wants him to beg for mercy.

He wants to dangle that possibility of freedom and pull the rug from under his feet.

He doesn’t want to kill him, he wants to-

The whistling sound in his head stopped. Silence came down on him as a sign of peace, and the heat his brain was forced to go through was slowly ebbing away. His mind wasn’t burning up, because Hughie finally understood something, he figured out what he wants.

Hughie Campbell is going to hurt someone, and he’s going to enjoy it.

Chapter Text

Kimiko had been grabbing onto his sleeves as they walked to his dad’s place. She didn’t have much of an expression on her face. She wasn’t exactly blank, she just looked at everything in a sort of confusion, but was rather too stubborn to ask for an explanation, or she didn’t know how to ask for one. So, she kept looking at everything blankly.

But she does know how to express joy when she felt like it.

Hughie remembers the smile she had when she held her unbaked goods.

“Don’t come out unless I ask, let me try to solve the problem first. If I need help, I’ll probably scream like a little girl.”

She stares at him before nodding. A slight flicker of relief could be seen in her eyes, but it was too fast for Hughie to confirm.

“You’ll probably like my dad, he likes cooking, but he likes cooking frozen stuff instead of baking it from scratch like Frenchie does.” She doesn’t answer, only tilting her head in thought before nodding to herself. It seems like she’s already learning English well enough. It could be that she already knew some phrases but didn’t have a complete grasp on the language, but it was still pretty impressive to learn it as fast as she did. “Kimiko, I know that you can tell how weird my powers are, and you already met A-Train, do you honestly think that he’ll take me down?”

But A-Train already held something over his head, so there’s a chance that he could. He’s not risking it though.

Once he stood in front of the old door, he sees Kimiko climbing into a vent at the end of the hallway.

Then, he pulls out his keys. He always carried it, knowing that he will come back home. He had hoped that it would have been for a happy occasion, instead, he returned to decide on how to go on dragging a menace from out of the house.

He puts the key in and turns it around. The door slowly opens, and in between the slits, he can already see his father. He didn’t look as bad as he thought he would be, he just sat there looking worriedly at the television, despite it being off, with his hands clasped under his chin.

When he steps in, he must have sensed his presence, and he stood up, his face splitting into a wide smile.

“Hughie.”

“Dad?” He asked, walking up to him, ready to check on him. To his immense relief, his dad didn’t look hurt at all. He was in three layers of clothes, one of them being his old grey wool jacket. He didn’t look like he shaved, but that was how he normally went through his days even before this whole mess started.

Hughie did notice how sunken his eyes were, the way he looked at him made Hughie feel a sort of guilt that he never expected to feel.

Hughie has left his dad alone for too long.

“He’s acting strangely,” Dad said, doing his calming hand gestures as if trying to calm him when he himself needed the gesture. “You know, really jumpy.”

“Where is he?” He asked, his shrugs helplessly, pointing at the back where their bedrooms are.

“He just walked there and-”

Then a loud gust of air hits them. His dad flinches, his body going through a full-body shiver. For that very second, Hughie felt rage filling his thoughts.

How dare A-Train scare his dad like this?!

It was bad enough that Hughie gets flashbacks whenever it was windy. It got so bad that he’d freeze in his place when a car passes him by in unimaginable speeds, that all his mind would do was attack him with memories of blood splattering his sides and the streets below.

But now his dad is scared.

Hughie didn’t even feel himself as he stood in front of his dad, trying to partially block him from sight.

“Right here sport,” The man said, holding onto something, laughing in a manic frenzy. He held an action figurine that he remembered getting a long time ago, back when he was naïve and believed in heroes. “Look what I got. A special 2016 Comic-Con edition? What, did they make, like, a few hundred of these?”

Then he clicks on the figurine.

“Watch out, A-Train's coming.”

“You were a fan!” He said, now hysteric. Laughing as he continued speaking. Hughie couldn’t hear his words.

Not when A-Train was right in front of him. Mocking him. Making jokes about his old self who adored him.

A few months ago, Hughie was a pitiful little fool.

As a child, his mom and dad would take him out to conventions all the time whenever he asked. They’d go in the crowded building and he’d ask for the heroes to sign after waiting for so long behind many other children and adults alike.

At home, they’d play Hero.

He’d tie a towel around his neck and act like Homelander, the all American man, who’s confusingly not from Earth.

His mom rarely ever played the hostage-

It’s always dad who’s the hostage, even back then he was a bit of a nervous wreck.

Mom would play the villain-

But was it so bad playing the villain, if this was the hero?

No.

It was worth playing the villain if it meant getting rid of people like this. People like A-Train didn’t deserve their spot, not when there were other people who deserved it more, like Annie, who earned her hero title before even joining the Seven. But A-Train?

“What- What is this about?” Dad asked.

“Shut the fuck up,” A-Train orders.

His world screamed at him, ringing, whistling, and raging.

“No. You shut the fuck up.” He demands, and A-Train’s mouth suddenly clamps shut. His hands instantly grabbing onto his neck, reacting to his inability of speaking. “In fact, why don’t you flop down and start hitting the ground with your head?

This wasn’t a question, with some worryingly sadistic delight in his part, he watches A-Train as he tries to disobey him. The world wasn’t willing to let him go, Hughie thought, it wanted him to kneel just as much as he wanted him to.

Thus, A-Train falls on the floor, unable to speak and forced to injure himself.

“This isn’t as satisfactory as I thought it’d be, but maybe something more personal would do? Something more … permanent? Let’s say, your legs? You take pride in them, don’t you?” Hughie wondered aloud, walking over the couch as he temporarily stopped A-Train from hurting himself.

The man’s eyes said it all.

Hughie found himself liking the hapless and helpless way A-Train looked, and how his eyes yearned for him not to go through his plans.

Hughie was turning into a monster.

“Not your leg? What about something even more personal? Let’s say … your powers?”

A-Train tries to speak, but only a sound close to whining escaped him. He shook his head instead, pleading. Hughie smiled. Why didn’t he ever just use his powers? This was so much easier.

Just a snap of his fingers and he can ruin this whole man’s career.

Running, being the fastest man alive, what a pathetic thing to look up to.

But it’s this wretched ideals and wishes that gave way for Compound V’s existence, which resulted in Robin’s death, Kimiko getting tortured inside a basement, Frenchie and also Milk’s family getting burned, the people in the ACDS huddling around in a circle retelling sob stories, and who knew how many other things were done for this drug.

All this to run faster.

He raised his arm, aiming it at A-Train, ready to take it away-

Only to be stopped by trembling hands clasping around his own.

Dad stood beside him, looking worried as he held tightly onto his arm.

“Hughie, this isn’t you … I raised you better than this.”

“I …”

“Please, stop this. You might think that this is what he deserves, and I agree. He is a monster. But don’t lower yourself into his standards. What would Robin think? What would your mother think?”

His vision blurs for a moment, and he noticed tear filling up his eyes, not yet dropping. His dad let go of his arm and instantly wrapped him in a tight hug. Hughie returns it with a hug of his own, now feeling the tears fall.

“It’s alright son, we’re all scared here. You’re just doing what you think is right.”

“I’m sorry,” He whispered, dripping his head onto his shoulders, trying to hide away his shame. “Oh god, I’m sorry.”

“There, there, Hughie.” His dad rubbed his back, speaking calmly for once. “Will you let A-Train stand? Although, I’m not opposed to the idea of him unable to use his power inside the house.”

“No.”

“Hughie …” Dad said sternly, and Hughie squeezed his old man just a bit before loosening his hold.

A-Train, sit on the chair and don’t move unless asked so.

He still had his head hidden om his dad’s shoulder, so he didn’t see him move, but he heard him do so. He kept listening until he was sure A-Train sat down on the table, unable to do anything against them.

“Can I have pizza rolls?”

“Of course,” His dad laughed, and the sound itself soothed his soul. “You’re staying for dinner?”

“Dad … we need to move you out. If A-Train knows where you live, then the rest also do.”

“They’ve always known, whoever they are. They just left me alone until now. Come on, go sit.” He pats him on the back and let go. Hughie reluctantly let go as well, rubbing his eyes with the back of his palms. That’s when he remembers something important.

“We also have a guest, so …”

“Oh, um, where are they?”

“Kimiko, you can come down now,” He calls. Despite knowing her plan from the start, it still surprised him when she opened the vent, and lets herself hang upside down from it, her arms falling beside her head … holding onto a pipe.

She tilts her head and narrowed her eyes at A-Train’s direction.

“He’s not hurting anyone, come on.” He tries, and she listens, letting herself slip from the vent and drop on the ground in a crouch. She stood up, raising her pipe still wanting to fight. It seemed that Kimiko held grudges. He needs to tell Frenchie about this, he’ll be very proud.

“No! No, not now.”

“Not now?” Dad asked, his face twisting into worry.

“I mean, I’m not stopping Kimiko if she wants to fuck someone up.”

“I did not teach you to use that language, young man. And you, young lady, err-” He stares at the steel pipe before raising a finger at her in an obvious disapproving gesture. “No weapons on the table, we’re having lunch.”

Then he goes to the kitchen, trying to pretend as if everything was normal, but he knew from how stiff his dad’s posture is that he was really only trying to ignore it.

Kimiko narrowed her eyes at him, and for a second, Hughie feared of what would happen to him, but Kimiko drops the pipe on the ground and walks to the table. She sits right next to A-Train, still glaring at him.

He tentatively joins them.

And for one split second, Kimiko gives him a smug grin before dropping it.

All three Supes felt awkward as they sat silently, facing each other. Kimiko intentionally setting this mood off as she kept staring at A-Train. The hero himself kept flitting his eyes between everyone, expression changing depending on each person. He’d look at Kimiko with the same sort of rage that she held for him. He’d look at him with a complicated expression, one filled with fear, awe, and fury. Then, he’d only look at his dad with astonishment as he continued to cook. He must have thought of his father as a saint to handle all of this tension without losing his cool.

Hughie knew better, he was just like that, when the trouble gets tough, ignore it for a while.

Dad was actually really good at it, now that he thinks about it.

When he finished, he sits right next to him after setting the table with pizza rolls. “Lunch is served, eat as much as you’d like.”

That was a lot of pizza rolls.

“I didn’t fill up with condiments, so I only have ketchup and mustard now,” he mumbled. Hughie made a face.

“That’s gross,” A-Train said, but still grabbed a plate for himself and ate it up. Kimiko pokes at it, before watching A-Train eat it, trying to decide if it was safe to do the same. When she looks back at them, with his dad slightly rolling his own food and Hughie taking slow bites, she follows suit.

Hughie was suddenly glad that he had such a small family. If this was what awkward family dinners were like, he’d sooner die from embarrassment and discomfort.

“Can anyone explain to me what is going on?” Dad asked, opening the discussion.

Hughie sighs, but he pulled out a syringe, one filled with a luminescent blue liquid, and puts it in the middle of the table.

A-Train’s expression immediately changed, a deep want entering them. Kimiko’s demeanor also changed, as she growls, flipping her plate, ready to stab the syringe with the round object.

But what surprised Hughie the most was how his dad reacted.

He gasped, loudly, obviously recognizing the thing.

Hughie closed his eyes, feeling the agony come back as he realized that dad knew what it was.

“This drug enhances a Supe’s powers, dad. A-Train was fucking high when he killed Robin.”

“No …” Dad whispered in horror, his eyes slowly turning at him with the same worry he always expressed. The same way he always went about, blaming himself for all the misfortune that fell on Hughie.

“It’s also a drug that gives powers. Kimiko was an underground experiment. But, the most common way to get powers is through injecting them into newly born babies …”

He turns around to face his dad, asking him for the truth.

Dad opened his mouth, then clicked it shut, shame and remorse crossing his face.

“But the thing is, dad, my name wasn’t on the register for kids who received a dosage of it. So, where could I have gotten any of it at all?”

“Hughie, you have to understand-”

“Did you let someone drug me?”

“No! No, dear God, no! Hughie, I would have never-”

“Then explain this?!” He said, waving his arms at himself from head to below. “Explain why I’m like this? Why I’m such a freak-”

“You are not a freak! I will not have you call yourself that. We already had this talk. Hughie, your powers are a part of you. You can’t stop it, so you shouldn’t. Don’t be ashamed of it because I was, you should be proud.”

“But I’m still a freak, even by a Supe’s standard. I mean, look at them,” He waves his arm at both A-Train and Kimiko. “Two of the scariest Supes in existence, aside from Homelander, and they’re scared of me. Me!? And I’m not supposed to have powers! Where the hell did I get it?!”

His dad took a worryingly deep breath, and Hughie instantly shuts up. He looks at the table, appalled by his actions. He came here to save his dad, not force him into such an uncomfortable position.

“I’m a paper-pusher,” Dad starts, and Hughie nods. “How do you think it’s possible for us to move so many times without anyone following us?”

“I don’t know, we just packed and left.”

“Son,” His dad laughed, but the sound was off, it was dark, nothing he would ever associate with his dad. “We left no paper trails, and we had new ones on the ready.”

“… you … faked papers for us? And destroyed older ones?” Now that Hughie thought about it, how were they able to move multiple times without the schools asking him increasingly worrisome questions. The idea that dad would fake papers for them never ever crossed his mind.

“Do you remember when you were in the choir?”

“Yeah.”

“Your mom was the organ player. You got a solo part for the first time in a Christmas carol. We were excited. Do you remember the people who congratulated you right after your performance?”

“Y-Yeah,” He vaguely remembers them. He only thought of them as churchgoers whom mom was friends with. They sometimes came to watch him perform or practice, and they’d congratulate his mom for his performance, which always bugged him because it was him who sang and not mom. But he still felt proud that someone else saw how talented she was on the organ.

“When your grandfather came to America, he didn’t have a good enough job to sustain a happy life. So, he ended up working as a bookmaker.”

“A book- you’re kidding …” Hughie said. Dad shook his head. “That- What? How- Why didn’t you tell me before?”

A bookmaker. A racketeering master? Or someone who collects bets, For an organized crime. That’s unreasonable! It can't be possible, no way in hell-

His dad gave him a tired chuckle.

“It all started when...”

0o0o0

Hugh Campbell Junior started working with his father at the age of 20.

Unlike his father, however, he didn’t find any sort of joy in Bookkeeping. Taking bets in sports left him feeling restless, especially when a fight broke out whenever it was discovered that someone cheated. If you were lucky, it would end in a fistfight, if you weren’t, you’ll hear gunshots.

Back then, if someone was killed in the establishment, you clean up the place then go drink to forget.

Junior, being the youngest and latest member to join the place, always ended up with cleaning duty. Never mind that it happened outside, and not inside. As long as it’s all gone by the next few hours, the police officers wouldn’t need to do an inspection of the place.

Hugh Junior hated it, especially the smell of blood.

It left him reeling the first time he’d done it. His father had come, showed him how to clean everything up and with which products, got rid of all evidence, and then brought him to a pub to let him take in the whole thing.

Thank god that it was the mobsters themselves who took care of the bodies, and not them.

Luckily, fights didn’t happen that much. Cheaters get their due, and everyone found their lives too precious for them to try and cheat.

Junior found himself hating the environment all the same and decided at the end, maybe he needs to work somewhere else.

When he brought his worries to one of the mobsters, the man agreed. He said, “You’re not built for places like these, but you’ve already seen too much.”

And that was how Hugh Junior ended up working in an office with the help of one man called Bryce.

His father was disappointed, but knowing what Junior needed to do to repay for being moved somewhere else, decided to keep his opinions to himself. Junior worked in the city council as nothing but a paper pusher.

That was where he learned how to fake papers.

Bryce decided that this was a good thing. Junior ended up being part of a team. Whenever they needed to transport stuff in secret, he’d make the papers that would allow it. When someone needed to move discreetly, Junior would make up papers for them.

No one questioned him about any mislabeled files ... if they even noticed it at all.

That’s how the mob works. You don’t do things directly, you use a middleman, and if there was any problem, the middleman gets blamed. Junior was the perfect middleman, one who went completely unnoticed, and was so insignificant to others that he can get away with doing the things they needed without fail.

By the time he turned 22, Junior lost his father in a shootout that took care of the rest of the rackets in their part of the city.

“They’re on to you,” Bryce said. So, Junior, who was now known as Hugh, needed to lay low. His dad was in a well-known bookkeeping establishment, one of its prominent workers, and now people are eying him for his relations. “Just don’t do anything rash, live your life. We’ll call you up when we need something important. If you need any help, call us.”

Because a mob is a family, and the team he was in was his only family now.

But that life is getting harder nowadays, getting their stints knocked off their feet, and the cops are all around the corner with new laws that makes it harder for them to do their jobs. Some people just stopped entirely, just acting as a legitimate business for so long that they forgot what they originally did.

Hugh almost forgot, until one day, Bryce comes in at his home with the old team, and a woman he had never seen before.

She acted as if she belonged.

“She’s my cousin, and her family got killed off back home.”

“Because of …?”

Of her relations?

“No, it’s because of the bombings.”

“They attacked a sermon,” She says, voice filled with scathing and livid anger, her hands in fists. “Those monsters.

Bryce would look at her with something that looked like tired resignation.

Hugh, on the other hand, saw the most devastatingly beautiful woman he has ever seen and felt a need to help relieve that pain.

“We’re dying out, Bryce. We can’t keep doing what you keep on doing.” Danny would usually say, but he didn’t this time around, not when Bryce’s family was involved.

So, they get back in the game, or more specifically, Hugh does.

He needs to fake accounts, needs to sneak in some documents, faking checks, make it all legal in a sense. He’d done it as efficiently as he did a decade ago. He still had that odd skill set; it was top notch. Hugh felt a sort of self-revolt. When the rest were dying out, he still stood, the unnoticed middleman. He was outsourced from time to time, there were a lot of people in need of these skills, not just the mob.

But it kept him alive long enough to meet Sophie, though unfortunate the circumstances might be.

And suddenly, the years of suffering under corrupt men had come to fruition, as church bells rang and people cheered while they shared a kiss.

He promised that he’s ended that part of his life now. No more crimes, he thought, as he watched Sophie running her hand over the piano, before letting it rest on her bump.

No more crimes.

No more missions.

No more cleaning blood off old pubs.

No more hearing about the old business.

Bryce would be damned to bring his cousin into this business. The only reason he even gave his blessings to marry her was for Hugh's ability to disappear and keep her away from harm. He can go through a building ignored, finish his errand, and disappear from people’s minds, after all.

She would be safe, and so will their child.

0o0o0

“But something went wrong,” Hughie cuts in. His dad gave him a watery smile.

“You were born prematurely,” He answered, proving Hughie’s hunch. “Your lungs didn’t develop. It barely functioned.”

“I was in the NICU for a year.”

“They called you a hopeless case. They told us to say our goodbyes in case you'd die, even with every machine trying to keep you alive, they didn’t even give you a month. They said you’d die within the week.”

Hughie gulped.

He never heard about this before, his dad only ever said that he was in NICU for a year. The idea that he was supposed to be dead left him feeling unsettled. Never mind the fact that his dad was also part of the mob from before Hughie was born, that was too much for him to think about for now.

“This doesn’t explain my- my powers.” He said, looking at his dad for a clarification.

Dad shook his head.

“It explains everything. Danny came one day and told us about a job he’s done with another Supe. The Supe lost his arm and would have died from blood loss if it weren’t for one thing,” His dad reached for the syringe, picking it up and staring at it with dimmed eyes.

0o0o0

“It regenerated his whole arm.” He yells at them, waving his hands up and down. “Right there in front of my eyes!”

Bryce and Sophie shared a look. Jack had been by the window, tapping his fingers on the sills, only stopping once before continuing as a sign that he was paying attention. while Hugh stood by the incubator, staring down at his infant.

His barely breathing baby.

His son, who has collapsed lungs, but weakly hanging on to life.

“Boys, we have a new mission,” Bryce announced once he forces himself to look away from his cousin. “We’re stealing some miracle drugs.”

Chapter Text

The Supe said that he stole the drug from a church.

And wasn’t that a shock to Bryce and Sophie, the most religious of the gang. To think that they were holding onto something like a miracle drug that can heal the sick and wounded.

All because of corruption.

Now that? That wasn’t a new thing for the gang. The boys knew how to go down on corruption. It starts with one person opening the gates, and usually, it was Jack.

Jack was a getaway driver, most of the time. At other times, his real skills were in taking someone off the streets to have an impromptu meeting with them. It was too easy for Jack to find the organ player and kidnap them.

Sophie then acted as the substitute for the party. She’d play, and on a slight break, she’d open a door in the back for the others to sneak in.

That’s how Bryce, Danny, and Hugh entered. Hugh as a waiter while Bryce and Danny snuck in the storage rooms.

Bryce and Danny stole everything in the storage rooms, while Hugh made sure that no one would get close to the storage room. It was as much of a nerve wrecking mission as his first job was.

But Bryce catches their attention as he gets out, gesturing for them that the scheme had been successful.

They came back to the sight of Jack and Danny going through familiar looking boxes.

Samaritans Embrace hid the drugs in polio vaccine packages.

When it came to injecting the medicine, they had to pull their child out, and they had to disappear. Pulling their very ill baby could be considered child neglect. While some hospitals didn’t bother to care about such actions, especially after hearing that the couple won’t be able to pay anymore hospital stay, some do.

Both Sophie and Hugh sat there signing everything for the discharge. Bryce had brought in a doctor that usually worked with them and had recently helped Bryce after his ordeal. they’d make sure that Hughie was getting a dose of the medicine.

Danny steals all the equipment they needed.

Jack drives the getaway car.

That’s how an old washed up gang stole the biggest secret Vought had tried to hide from the public without a lick of knowledge of what they’ve done.

0o0o0

Hughie stares at his dad, and unable to form words to express his shock.

“We didn’t know what it was then, all we knew is that it can heal you.”

“And you just- injected me with it?!”

“It worked, Hughie. We tested it on your uncle Bryce first.”

“How?”

0o0o0

Hugh screamed as Danny held him back while Jack shot Bryce in the guts. Blood spilling on the floor, adding to the dust and dirt of the abandoned factory building. Bryce had been gasping in pain, holding onto his abdomen as he gestured for the needle.

“Hugh, stop screaming, we need to make sure-”

0o0o0

“I had to insert it. The other two held him down because he started convulsing. We couldn’t hold him for long, he ran out that night and- and- he destroyed a whole city bloc-”

“Fuck. The brute?! You’re talking about the Brute?!” A-Train cuts in, Hughie hitched a breath, realizing who they were talking about.

But to his confusion, he knew of Bruce the Brute. Another infamous man known underground for his first appearance. The other Supes at that time had tried to stop him and mildly succeeded, but all they could get on him was that the Brute was shot, and he was angry. He was not, however, called Bryce, so how is it that-

“Yes. But that didn’t matter, because Bryce came back the next day, completely whole and well. At least, physically well. It just proved that the drug worked. So, we injected it in you.”

Hughie was still speechless, staring at his dad helplessly.

“Bryce and Jack are still around, Danny died a long time ago, before your mom did.”

“I … How much did you inject me with?”

“All of it. We injected you with it all, it took a year to go through it. But it paid off-”

“You just kept injecting me with untested drugs?! For a year?!”

“You still couldn’t breath on your own! What did you expect us to do? We had to make sure that you’re completely healthy before pulling it out, and we were lucky enough that we didn’t need to steal more.”

“But I … all of it? All of it?” Hughie mumbled, horrified as he wrapped his arms around himself, realizing what this meant.

Billy and Milk went into the NICU, and each child had an IV. Compound V was a valuable resource, not a lot could be given. Each child had one injection.

But Hughie didn’t.

Hughie had a large amount of it running through his veins.

Then, his eyes fell on Kimiko and realized that they were the exact same. The difference between them is that Kimiko’s circumstances were done in malice and for profit gain, while his survival and injection were from mislead good intentions.

“Hughie,” His dad puts a hand on his shoulder, trying to get his attention. “We had a doctor look after you, we kept testing you. You were fine.”

“A mob doctor!”

“It was worth it, Hughie. It was worth it, because the moment you started breathing, we knew- we knew you were a miracle. You were supposed to die a few weeks after your birth, but you’re not. You’re here, you’re alive. And you gave us all the push to stop what we did. Bryce didn’t have a choice, either way, he was wanted for other reasons by now. Jack and Danny stopped, Danny even had a family. Your mom and I, we had you, and that’s all that matters.”

His dad clutched his hand a bit before loosening it.

“You should have seen how everyone reacted when they found out that you were part of the choir,” His dad laughed, now tears falling down his face. “Not a couple of years ago, you couldn’t even breath on your own. They had to see you sing, and they came for every performance. You left us old fools with something to look up to in our miserable life. You have a beautiful voice, Hughie. Your mother couldn’t have been any prouder.”

“I don’t even know them … And they went out of their way to save my life.”

“That’s the difference between real heroes and the one we see on TV nowadays. They didn’t care about fame or recognition. They cared about people’s lives.” His dad’s mood suddenly flips as he turns around at A-Train, who still watched with a sort of manic energy.

“A-Train, you will never be a hero, not really. You could have been when you started out, but now? It doesn’t matter how fast you run when you don’t leave anyone behind. Your speed is pointless. Who you called the Brute was more of a hero than you could ever be.”

His dad stood up, tugging onto his sweater as he hummed at the empty plates.

“I’ll pack, we can’t stay here anymore. Hughie, come and help me pack your stuff as well.” He steals a glance at A-Train again. “It seems that I can’t use my skills again to run away, can I?”

“No, you can do whatever you want, dad. He won’t talk.

Something pained enters his dad’s eye before calming a bit and nodding before leaving them.

“You know, all this gushy talk about morals and old heroes still means nothing when you’ve done horrible things yourself,” A-Train growls back. “Your dad’s just turning senile and ignoring how much of a monster you are. He and his buddies acted like Frankenstein, and you’re the monster. The difference? He accepts you for the monster that you are.”

He glared at him.

“You hear me, Hughie? You’re a fucking monster?!”

“You know what, I think you look better in fuchsia, blue is so overrated,” He said. A-Train blinked for a second before looking down at his outfit. The color scheme changed completely from blue to a dark mix of purple and red.

It seemed that Kimiko approved, clapping her hands. She points at her hair before pointing at his clothes.

“You want your hair in that color?” He asked. She nods in reply, and Hughie felt immensely better at the fact that he can mildly understand her now. “Well, I think it looks great on you, but honestly, I’m too used to your black hair.”

Kimiko stares at him before realizing what he meant and tugged at her hair, the strands showing off a vibrant rosy color. She opens her mouth in a gasp, but no sound came out of her as she stood and ran to the mirror to examine herself, possibly preening at the sight.

“I changed my mind, fuchsia doesn’t suit you. It’s too close to red, you know, like the amount of blood that you drenched yourself in. I wonder how many ghosts hang around you, I’d like to ask them to show themselves.

Hughie was having the time of his life, the sight multiple ghosts and all obviously dying from different situations, appearing in the apartment all to look glumly at the hero, appeased him a bit.

Hughie grins as the ghost got closer to A-Train, hands reaching to him as if trying to get ahold of him. Revenge was the most likely reason for their actions. A-Train couldn’t move, not when he was ordered that he can’t unless specifically asked to.

His sight was blocked by a pipe. Kimiko appeared, pointing at the pipe before pointing at her hair. She then continues to elevate the thing next to her head.

“Grey hair? Or … silver?” He wondered but went for the second option anyway. Kimiko smiles brightly at her new color, twirling the strands between her fingers.

“Hughie, I asked for- Oh dear, what on earth is happening?” His dad said as he steps into the living room, Hughie’s attention immediately snaps back and he forced the ghosts to disappear from sight, leaving only a very horrified A-Train in his chair. His dad noted the new uniform but didn’t say anything against it.

“Lovely color, my dear. It suits you very much ... is that- is that permanent?” He tells Kimiko, still confused but was willing to roll with it. Hughie didn’t know the answer to that.

Before they left the apartment, he turns around to look at Kimiko, and she stared at him intently, trying to convey something. He understood what she wanted and insisted that his dad left first, that they’ll catch up to him. Hughie turns at her and nods.

Kimiko doesn’t even hesitate, hands gripped onto the steel pipe and landing down on A-Train’s leg. Hughie might have found some peace, but Kimiko deserved one of her own.

The sight of blood and bones with screams, however, triggers a fear that he has forgotten. Hughie turns around, holding onto his mouth with one hand and his stomach with the other arm.

He hears a sharp tang hitting the floor and felt someone tugging at his sleeve. Glancing at his sides, trying to ignore the sight of blood and screams filling the apartment, Kimiko stood. She looked pleased, and tugged his sleeve again, cluing him on the fact that she wants to leave now.

The tiny little devil on his shoulders whispered to him, telling him to enjoy this spectacle, the angel on the other side tells him that his father would be disappointed if he did so.

But dad did approve of one thing.

Let’s see how it feels like to lose your powers for a week, yeah? Just as a bit of warning not to fuck with us again.” Kimiko’s face splits into a grin once she understood what he said, and Hughie ignored the howl of pain that sounded off behind him as they left the apartment.

He still had the videos to fall back onto if this won’t work.

0o0o0

“I’m actually glad that you can stand up for yourself, and that you have friends who’ll stand behind you as well. I always needed my friends to help me about. I never could have stood up for myself.” Dad said right after Frenchie greeted him inside and the slipped away, answering a phone call.

Frenchie completely paused once he sees Kimiko’s hair, his expression showing complete confusion, but he starts complimenting her.

There was a lady sitting on the couch, and she had her arms crossed, looking pissed off. Milk had his arm wrapped around a little girl.

Hughie had been carrying two duffle bags. It wasn’t surprising, dad always had two duffle bags when they moved, while Hughie only carried one bag pack, and sometimes a toy. He learned today that he filled one bag with clothes, and the other with actual necessities. He also had the family album, Hughie was glad they never needed to leave it behind and had decided to digitize a few years back in case they do end up losing the book.

“Hello, I’m Hugh.” His dad introduced himself to Milk, offering his hands. Milk takes it, polite as ever and giving him a calm smile. “I’d like to thank you for taking care of my son when I wasn’t around.”

“No probs, sir. Hughie’s a friend.”

“Milk and Frenchie saved me more times than I can really remember.”

“Yes, I remember that fellow now, he was waiting for you outside of the apartment that time, wasn’t he?”

“Yeah.”

Then, dad does something surprising, he pulls a polaroid camera and snaps a picture of the family. The girl blinked, surprised. Milk and his wife, Monique, look incredulously at them. The picture comes out, and dad starts blowing at it before waving it. He ends up giving the picture to the girl.

“I find that having pictures of loved ones helpful.”

“Dad, they have a phone,” Hughie sighs tiredly. His dad then turns and takes a picture of him, chuckling at Hughie’s own annoyance.

“You can’t write notes behind a digital picture, or really on the phone. It feels different when you write it down.”

“They also leave behind evidence,” Hughie points out, but he still grins.

The girl eyes him for a moment, before tugging on her mom’s sleeves, and then climbed the chair to whisper something in her ears. Monique listens, her eyes widening at the end before gaping at him. She turns at Milk to start arguing.

“You kidnapped someone?!”

“It wasn’t me! It was Butcher!” Hughie rubs the back of his head and sends Milk an apology before turning around and leaving him alone in that situation.

His dad follows suit, leaving them to walk towards another couch. Kimiko, after following Frenchie, who didn’t have time to actually engage her in any conversation, decides to join his dad by the couch and sits down to watch him up close.

Hughie, after watching Frenchie for a moment, wonders if he can call Annie.

If A-Train knew about his place, and everyone else’s houses were broken into and searched, she must have an idea of what’s going around. He wondered where Butcher was, for him to leave them in this critical moment.

Dad noticed that Kimiko’s watching him, and he turned confused eyes at him.

“I just realized that she didn’t say a thing since we met.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Does the oriental girl not talk?”

“Uh, Asian,” Hughie corrects him, dying inside a bit. In hindsight, the fact that his dad was in the mob – and wasn’t that a fucking shock – explained his offensive way of talking. It didn’t excuse it though, but his dad did try to not to be as insulting as he sometimes sounded.

“You’re right, Asian,” Dad nods to himself. Hughie also wondered how no one called him out for using slurs yet. “Did you like the pizza rolls? It’s Hughie’s favorite.”

Kimiko didn’t react, probably not realizing that the question was aimed at her. Hughie pats his back in reassurance.

“Jings, this really reminds of the old days. Rundown hideouts, everyone panicking. A few victims and runaways from time to time. I never expected to see you in my place before, I wish you didn’t end up here though.”

“It’s fine dad, I guess we’re cursed?”

“Probably.”

Suddenly, Butcher arrives. He takes a sweeping look of the room before going straight up to his dad. Hughie’s fight and flight reaction kick up, ready to block the way between them, but the man only calls for dad’s name.

“Mr. Campbell?” He calls, his dad tilts his head in complete confusion but stood up.

“Ooh, yeah?” Dad sounded unsure.

“Pleasure to meet you. Billy Butcher.”

“Hugh Campbell. Haven’t we met before? I think it was … Mallory’s grandkids?” Frenchie and Milk snapped their necks in their direction, confusion settling on their faces. Hughie raised his brow. “Sorry, sorry. It’s just- It’s very unfortunate to meet in dire circumstances once more.”

“Yes. How did you know Mallory?”

“Hmm,” His dad tilts his head, in that way that was obviously fake. After watching everyone lose interest a bit, Hughie realized it might not have been as obvious as he initially thought. He knew his dad because, well, he was his dad. He’d knew if he was ignoring something or lying, simply because he doesn’t usually do so. When he does, he’d look unsettled. “I worked in city hall. I’d see her from time to time.”

That essentially defused any tension that hung in the air. Hughie watched, amazed that his dad could do anything like that without having any sorts of powers.

“Right. Right … I just wanted to say that you got a hell of a lad here.”

“Well, yeah,” His dad beamed, turning at Hughie. “I’ve raised him.”

Butcher lets go and walks towards Milk and his family. Dad sits down and rubs the front of his forehead.

“My God, it’s like seeing Bryce all over again, only it’s more intense. Bryce at least looked genuine when he talked to others. Your friend looked like he was ready to punch me.”

“Oh, yeah. I don’t know how many times I had a fight with Billy.” A loud slapping resounded the room. They both turn to see that Monique had her hands raised while Butcher’s face was turned to the side. “See?”

0o0o0

Frenchie groans as he drops on the couch, taking his old place as he himself paced the room.

“No one wants to work with a burned man.”

Hughie felt bad for him, his dad must have also sympathized as he starts speaking with him.

“We’ve been burned many times during Hughie’s childhood. I can help you in that regard, that is, if you’ll take advice from an old man like me?” It seemed to get Frenchie’s attention, even making him converse. Keeping one ear on Frenchie to make sure he wouldn’t scar his dad more than his dad already is – an unfair assumption since its Frenchie but he does sometimes blurt out ridiculously grotesque stories – and one ear on his phone, waiting for Annie to reply.

When he turns around, he sees his dad now writing a few numbers in a slip of paper, it wasn’t even a phone number, just random numbers, and squares, with arrows. Frenchie nods along, contemplating on the diagram as he takes the paper off of him.

His dad noticed him watching and decided then to write two phone numbers before giving it to him.

“In case I can’t do anything to help, call them. Tell them your name, they will immediately know you.”

“Dad, what on earth- I am not going to the mob for help,” Hughie huffed. “Do they even exist anymore?”

“They do. They’re not like it used to be, but they always return a favor that they owe. Not that you’ll need it with these two.” Hughie spies the name Jack D and Bryce Burton, written down next to the numbers.

Bryce or Bruce the Brute. The government blamed the destruction of the city block that he caused on a gas leak, and as old propaganda usually went, the excuse was believed by the public. It didn’t stop the Supes from back then to spread the real truth.

Whenever someone talked about the Brute, they always described a deranged man, howling at the night as he splattered blood everywhere.

That was the only time the Brute every used his powers on civilians. The most popular theory is that he was one of the few Supes who lived their lives without powers until something broke that off, someone shot him, evident by his bullet wound.

Everyone unanimously decided not to piss him off ever again, and he never went on a rampage on civilians again.

Jack D, on the other hand, is a name that Hughie never heard of. It was weird that his dad didn’t even write the full name. When he brought this to his dad’s attention, he waves his hands.

“Oh, Jack never shared his full name with anyone, even I don’t know it. He liked to joke that his name was Jacked, or something entirely inappropriate.”

There’s always that one weirdo in every group, Jack D was that weirdo. To Hughie’s dismay, between everyone who is currently in this room, he doesn’t know which one's the weirdo.

His attention snapped at the door the moment he heard screeching breaks running on asphalt. Frenchie ran to the window in a second, glimpsing outside, then cursed loudly as he immediately went for the gun, throwing at Milk. Milk caught it, pulling another one, while Kimiko crawls on the table, facing the door, sensing the danger.

“Fucking hell, calm down,” Butcher said as he drops his newspaper and goes out to face the hoard alone.

Hughie’s eyes flit between the windows and his dad as he grabs onto Milk’s family and tries to help them run into another room to hide.

In that split second, Hughie looks at the cars before yelling, “I want those cars to disappear.

To the astonishment of everyone, the cars blinked out of existence. Not only that, but the people who were in the car did not disappear along with it.

“Merde,” Frenchie cursed.

“I’m sorry, I panicked,” He apologized immediately, wanting to hit himself in the head for such a stupid mistake.

“That’s Raynor,” Milk announced, aiming the gun down in disbelief.

“Putain d'enfer.”

Chapter Text

Hughie sat down on the couch as the agents came in and to escort Milk’s family. He didn’t look up, didn’t dare to show any of them his face. His dad sits next to him, patting him on the back. He can tell that he was just as nervous as he was.

The next thing he heard were clacking steps, unfamiliar and assertive. This person meant to speak to him, and it could only be one person, the leader …

The CIA’s Deputy Director Raynor.

He can already feel the tension brimming up.

“He didn’t reply to any questions,” Was the sharp tone that greeted Hughie as he focused back to reality.

Whoops.

So, he might have slipped out just to daydream, sue him.

“Please understand, Hughie has panic attacks sometimes, he needs time to recollect his thoughts,” Dad said, his hand was now laid down on his back. Shit. He must have been talking with her for a while.

“I’m okay, I was just, uh, reconfiguring.” He raised his head and was met with confused stares from everyone but Milk. “What was the question?”

“Hugh Campbell, messing for about two months now, and surprisingly a Supe.” She says, voice turning sharper the more she spoke. For fuck’s sake, why is everyone around him so scary. “You can make things disappear and reappear at will. As shown by your interest in our cars.”

Oh, the stern tone definitely showed him how much she appreciates that.

“Tell me, did you intentionally fake your kidnapping?”

“No! I didn’t want to even get involved in this!” Hughie said, feeling offended by the accusation. His eyes slightly turned to the side to land on Butcher and looked away immediately. Despite their disagreement, he wasn’t going to sell him out to the CIA of all people.

It didn’t matter, because the deputy director nods, humming, before turning an angry glare at Butcher. The very same glare that people only develop if they worked with him long enough.

The idea that Butcher really was a CIA operative in the past, however, gave him a shiver.

“Why the hell did you kidnap him.”

“Suzan, I’m hurt, to accuse me of such-”

“Cut the crap, Butcher. Who else would do this? Frenchie? Mother’s Milk? A child soldier experiment?” Then something must have thrown her off of her groove because she looks back at Hughie with something akin to horror. It didn’t last long before she calmed down and asked, “Were you experimented by the people who kidnaped you, and this group of idiots save you?”

His eyes slightly slipped to the corner of his visions, almost landing on his dad before remembering that, no, you do not want to clue in a CIA agent that your dad was involved in the Irish mob when he was younger, or that he might still have some contact with some living members. He looks really harmless, he is really harmless, forgetting about the fact that he invertedly created the worst Supe tragedy in the past two decades and made him turn into ... this monstrosity of a Supe.

Dad ... unintentionally made the new horrors of the world, Hughie realized at that moment, and he was none the wiser. A horrible accidental ode to Lovecraftian literature.

“I mean, no? I don’t even know anymore. My head hurts.” He complained, hiding his face behind his hands. Suddenly, a pop in his head alerted him to something very wrong that might happen.

“Once you start pretending-” She stops when Hughie looks at her blandly, letting the blood from his nose fall freely down his face. He kind of expected it, he did use his powers a lot today, the timing couldn’t have been more perfectly convenient, though.

Poor dad and his panicky self, however, did not expect it.

“Oh dear, oh no. Not again, oh god.” He recoils, and then searched his pockets for tissues. Frenchie sighs before he pulled some from his own pockets and threw it at them. Dad caught it, almost dropping the thing, then sent a grateful smile at Frenchie before turning back to him. “You need the hospital. How long has this been going on?”

“Every time I use my powers.”

Every time! Hughie! This isn’t healthy!”

“I mean, I don’t use it a lot. It’s just little things, it’s not as bad as it is today. It’s just bad because of … uh … Kimiko’s hair. I changed her hair.” And brought the spirits of the dead to torment A-Train, and changed his outfit’s color. And, oh yeah, he took away the man’s powers for a week.

Not to mention the fact that he accidentally took away government tax paid cars from the CIA.

So, maybe his dad was right, and he should cut off on using more of his abilities in the near future.

“On that note, can you change it back? Silver hair catches a lot of attention.” Milk asked before getting his shoulder punched by Frenchie.

“You cannot decide on her hair color, she herself needs to decide on her hair color!”

“Sure, if she’s okay with it, Kimiko?” Hughie asks, only to be thumped on his forehead by his dad.

“Are you daft?! You’re bleeding because of her hair and you’re going to bleed even more! And is that a bruise on your forehead? Why do you have a bruise that big?”

“It’s just hair, dad. It’s nothing and the bruise is almost faded too.”

“You should tell that to Frenchie's girl-” Milk retorts.

“Oh, like that is any closer to what you have said-” Frenchie looked like he was ready to jump at him if it weren’t for everyone’s presence.

“Faded? You don’t even bruise easily, Hughie that must have been a hard hit, and it’s right in the head-” His dad was slowly hyperventilating.

“I’d say he’s always been wrong in the head, found him in the hospital, I did,” Butcher comments sarcastically in the background.

“Excuse me, let me make this clear, you actually did kidnap my son?!”

“He was getting attacked by a Supe, either he stayed behind to get attacked by more or I take him along.

“Will everyone shut up!” Raynor snapped, resulting into a hush falling over them. Raynor turns at Butcher. “Explain.”

“Translucent had his arms around his head when I came to visit him. His nose was a bloody mess too.” He said, pointing at Hughie. Hughie noticed his dad’s horrified glance as he checks on him again.

“Let me get this straight,” Raynor said, voice dangerously low. “You’re telling me that the mess that was left in the hospital was the result of you, what? Fighting Translucent?”

“It wasn’t so much of a fight if one has indestructible skin, we were getting plummeted. Hughie, tell her what you remember.”

“Translucent flashed his penis at my face,” He instantly replies before grimacing. “I mean- That’s- sorry, it was really graphic, right up my face. I tried to look away, but then he grabbed my head and pulled me so …”

Raynors cuts him mid-sentence. Probably for the best, he didn't know where he was going with that line of thought.

“Right, so the espionage specialist with the ability to hide by shedding his clothes had been spying on you and decides to suddenly show himself to you. What did he want?”

“He was …” He looks back at his dad, and silently, as if sensing what he wanted, offers him his hand to hold onto. Hughie accepts it, and tightly held onto him. “Powers. He wanted to know about my powers. Said that mine was unique, he was really close, I think I remember what he ate for lunch that day from his breath alone.”

Milk wraps a hand over his forehead, shaking his head. Frenchie raised a brow before chuckling a bit into his fist while Butcher raised his arms in a silent prayer.

“We don’t want that sort of detail, buttercup. Did he always do that?” The question was sent to his dad.

“Only when he doesn’t take his meds.”

“I stopped taking my meds years ago.”

“You’re still written up for anxiety pills.”

“I don’t need anxiety pills!”

No one believed him. In fact, dad gave him that same expression he usually gave when he humored him, where he gives a small smile and slowly nods with eyes looking at him with both pity and fondness.

Urgh-

“In his exact words, he said,” Hughie turns back to the detective, changing his voice to mimic Translucent’s. “How did you slip from our eyes, Hughie? …”

He stops, trying to recall more, but in reality, all he remembers from that day was talking to Robin, thinking for a moment that he killed someone, stealing someone’s crutches, and running away from the hospital. But the way Translucent had said those words made him shake in terror

“… Why would Vought think I slipped away from their eyes?” He asked aloud, eyes wide open in the realization of how they can get Vought legally. “Why would they have any information about my abilities? They shouldn’t have any sort of knowledge that we didn’t give any consent to. They’re a private corporation, after all, not the government, not the hospital, or welfare.”

Butcher immediately caught on to it like a rabid dog would catch the scent of meat.

“Tagging babies, or maybe even spying on them. Like some little badge only they can access without the little tykes even knowing. Grooming them into herodom. Highly illegal, I might say, like a certain world war 2 regime might have done.”

“Alright,” Raynor sighs deeply, not admitting that this was actually a very helpful step to putting an end to this whole fiasco. “Yeah, drugging babies, and emulating Nazis by badging kids, calling it God’s will, and guiding children unknowingly into a dangerous business for their profits. This will bring the country into chaos.”

“And it’s going to be glorious,” Butcher couldn’t help but add, a maniacal smile on his face.

Raynor shook her head, but she does send Milk a grateful smile.

“Don’t worry, Mother’s Milk, your family will be safe,” She then turns at him and his dad, giving them a slight frown. “You’re a tricky situation, Mr. Campbell. People are already assuming the worst.”

“Why?”

“Your neighbor heard screams, and they found blood in your apartment floor.”

“Blood? What on earth are you- Hughie! You didn’t!”

“I didn’t do anything!”

“Either way,” Raynor cuts in. “Hiding you will take a lot more work than Milk’s family.”

“Don’t worry, not anyone can find him unless he wants to. Trust me on that, so take him to a safe house.” Hughie tells her, Raynor paused for a second before nodding and pointing at the door with her thumbs.

“I just need a few minutes with my son, then I’ll join you, sorry to bother you,” Dad told her. Once she left, his dad immediately turns around and thumps him in the head once more. “You’ve done it again! After what I just told you!”

“How on earth can I keep you safe?”

“Hughie, I know I said I’m not opposed to you using your powers, but I’m opposed to you hurting yourself. Please, please, be more mindful of your health, or I’ll worry for the rest of my life.”

Hughie stares at him, before slightly nodding, looking downwards in shame.

He was surprised by the hug. He shouldn’t be. Dad is an affectionate man, and he never was stingy in showing how much he cared about him. But this honestly felt like the last time Hughie will receive a hug from him, and he didn’t want that.

He wraps his arms around him, giving a slight squeeze.

Once he let go, Dad gave him a forlorn look, Hughie felt himself freeze by his next words.

“Your mother is looking down from above, smiling at you. She must be so proud of how far you've come, despite all the odds against you.”

Then he stood up, grabbing the only bag left for him to carry and walked outside.

His dad was truly gone now.

Safe, but out of reach.

Milk sat down next to him, the same agonized silence coiling him as he also thinks of his own family. Frenchie stood awkwardly in front of them before deciding swiftly turn on his feet and sit in the other room, Kimiko following him. Butcher, on the other hand, rubs the back of his neck before muttering about checking his gun and leaving them.

“Janine had a spelling bee contest next week,” Milk said. Hughie gulped, tugging on his jacket sleeves, not knowing what to say next. Milk ran a hand through his hair. “Now, I probably won’t ever see her again.”

“I’m sorry …”

“She’s my baby, and now I won’t see her no more.” Watching a grown man cry, Milk of all people, left all his senses reeling. He felt guilty for not experiencing the same loss, but he’s been away from his dad for a few months now, they had a trial run.

Milk had been going back to his family every single day, this was too sudden for him.

After a while, and after Milk lost all the tears in him, Hughie’s phone rang, he looks down.

He silently stood up, walked out of the hideout, and answered.

0o0o0

Annie was looking straight ahead, eyes flaming in determination.

Hughie now knew that he’s fucked up.

So, with tired steps, he drags himself to the bench, the very same bench they’ve met on, and sat down next to her.

She turns to face him.

“Why didn’t you tell me straight away? I thought we agreed to talk to each other about everything.

“I just thought that … you’ll hate me.”

“Hate you? You’re a hostage, Hughie.”

“Whoa, wait. What are you talking about? I’m not a hostage-”

“Hughie Campbell, 25 years old, store clerk and technician, kidnapped from his hospital room 21st of-”

“How did you- How did you figure it out?” Hughie horrified, knowing full well that this was supposed to be hidden. Annie never checked the news- But he shouldn’t have put all his hopes on that, she would have checked at some point.

“Homelander told me,” She answers. “That you’re forced to work with a radical group, doing things against your well.”

“I’m not- you got it wrong. I’m not forced.

“Translucent was supposed to be dead, but he’s not. He’s alive, and we have his skin back in Vought HQ. I remember you bringing Charlie back to life without using all of his guts, Hughie. Who else could do that?”

“Only me,” He resigned, all of his secrets are out, it seems.

“Every other person you work with have done something, you haven’t.

“That’s not right, Annie. You’ve got the information wrong, they’re good people. As good as they can be, anyways. We’re doing good, we’re trying to fix things-”

“Did you agree to do anything with them?”

“No.” And wasn’t that a punch to the gut. He slowly wrapped his arms around his abdomen, shaking his head. He wanted out, to be honest. “But I can’t get out now, dad was in danger. If I go back, he’ll stay in danger.”

“Hughie, Vought has a protection program for families. My mom is in it, Translucent’s son was in it. A-Train's brother is in it. Your dad can be in it.” She reasons with him.

“It doesn’t fucking work against one of the seven now does it?!” Hughie snapped, before wincing at his mistake and letting go of his stomach. “A-Train was there! He threatened to run through my dad like he ran through Robin! Do you know how fucking scary that was?! What would you have done if he was there, threatening to kill your mom?!”

Annie was speechless, Hughie was taking rough gasps of breath before pressing his palms against his eyes, trying to at least make the pressure take away the fog filling his head.

God, his head was hurting so much now.

“My dad’s gone now. I can’t see him again, not unless I decide to reappear in society and sue A-Train. But who can win a case against a Supe? One of the Seven, none the less? Dad’s gone, and I’m alone with a trigger happy asshole, a child soldier, a gun dealer with a dangerous penchant for engineering, and a Juvie consultant who also just lost his family. And this is all because of fucking A-Train!?”

“It isn’t- They were gangsters, and mobsters, that’s why Vought went after them.”

“Then, if I were a victim, why did they go after me too?!”

“Homelander ordered to save you, A-Train was just a- a dick. And you were the victim, along with your dad and that family…” Annie admits, swallowing a bit in reprehension. She stood up, grabbing his elbow and pulling him off the bench. “But you don’t need to run away anymore. You don’t need to hide, come with me, I’ll protect you.”

“Why? So Vought can experiment on me? Try to find out why I have powers when I shouldn’t?”

“What are you talking about?” Annie asked.

Hughie almost forgot that she didn’t know anything about Compound V.

He stares down, eyes fixed on the slightly swaying grass. A slow breeze hit them, trying to fill the silence that had them surrounded. Children laughing further away, and a dog barking and huffing happily beside them. Fingers trembled on his arms, demanding answers, demanding to make sense of everything, anything. The energy running through Annie as she stared at him, her eyes burning, even without any powers activating.

“I asked my dad about my powers, and he told me that he drugged me as a child.” Annie’s eyes widen with shock. She opens her mouth, an obvious question on the tip of her tongue.

Hughie gives her a mournful grin.

“The drug is called Compound V, and it gives the Supes their powers. Vought goes through a selection process, so they have the name and location of most Supes for the future, think of them as investments. But accidents happen, like other corporations, governments, and organized crimes wanting to have their own Superpowered individuals. So, other Supes appear. My dad stole drugs from Vought and injected it to me, giving me my powers.”

“N-No …. No. What- What? Hughie, what are you talking about? We’re born like this.”

Annie sounded betrayed, looked like it too.

But she knew that he was telling the truth. She didn’t want to believe it, but she knew that a lie has not been uttered. She had been struggling with her faith for some time now and Hughie wasn't helping her. 

He shook his head. He's making a mess like he always does with everything else, she doesn't deserve this.

“I’m so sorry.”

It’s all he’s been doing today.

So many sorrys.

She kept staring at him, waiting for him to say he was kidding.

That’s when he sees it.

A red laser point stopping right in the middle of Annie’s torso.

Despite the sun shining down on his face, it only felt like a streetlight beaming down on him in the darkness.

Hughie was a little boy, hiding his head in between his mom’s neck and shoulders as she walked, unknowing of the danger behind her.

He saw a man pointing a gun at him … and the criminal missed.

Before Hughie knew it, Annie was on the ground, horrified eyes looking at him. Screams that didn’t belong to him assault his mind.

People ran all around them. Away from them.

He wasn’t alone in the streets.

His mom didn’t drop on the floor, shot, bleeding, and dying.

Annie was whole and unharmed. So, why was she scared?”

He still fell down on his knees, like that scared little boy in his memories. Grass stains replaced scraped skin. The ground squelched, but there weren’t any red puddles around him.

Why was the ground wet?

Annie wasn’t bleeding. Instead, blood gushed out of his palm, a hole right in the middle.

 

 

H͕̻̬̗̹̭̘̱̜̖̋͒͌̐͂ͪ̇̒̚ͅỉ͎͎̦̹̫̰͓͉͈͔̞͈̝ͨ̒ͫ̇͑͂̔̒̓̈́̌ͧͮ͋̚s͔͇̫͖͎ͤ̎͛ͪ̏̌ ͇̳͕̣̞͈̟̟͍̯̘̰͖͇̓ͩͦ̀̉̈́͒ͯ́̂͂̐̔̽͒̚ḧ͔̩͓̗̮̭͈̳̖̲̝̘̱̥͚͈͚͌͒̒ͬ́̿̋̑ͪ͊a̟̖͇̰̻͈͉̥̱̻̹̬͈̬̻̤̝͛ͬͫ̔̇̒̓ͦ͗͋̓͊̿̊ͪ͐͛̏n̦͚̬̙̜̞͍͈̪̣͍̗͇̈ͯ̑̈͌̂̿͒ͭͫ͂̉̊ͪ̂ͣ̾̋d̘̝͔̟̦̮̙̩ͮ̇̈́ͣ͌̄͋͐̾͋͋̄͌̒́̔ͭ͆ ͙̘̤̻͕͍̮̺̲̘̭̘͂͐ͫ̎̐̈͂ị̫̮͈̫̘̪̝̼͓̲̓ͬ̍́ͨͩ̄ͮ̀ͩͯ̎͂s͙̱̺̗͖͔̭̥͕͔̘͈̻ͥͫͬ̓ ̥̙̞͈͚̟͔̯̜̟̦̲͛ͨ͆ͧ̔ͤs͈̣̬̝͇̗̠̐̔̈ͫ͌̏ͧ̚t̲̭̰͚̮̗̫̳̝̞̦̲̬̞̮̱̫͖̆̓́̌ͦ͊̐ͬ̐̈́͗̇̐̊͒ã̺̙͔͉̫͍̮̗̜͚̖͎͉͌͆͐̈́ͬ͆̈̾̎ͤ̏̽͒̆ͥ̔i̲͍̲ͮ̐̊ͣͥ͑ͦ̀ͯͧ̿̂͛̉ͩ̚n̳͇̦̞̳̪̝̰̺͙̠̪̲̪̮̭̔̓̃̍ͩ̂ͧ̅͆̔̓̽̒̔́ͅë͇̱̭͚̺ͮ͊̃͊d͚̝͚̟͇̼̥̖̥̠̍́̌͒ͦ̄̋̏ ̣͍̮͍̺̘̣͉͓̫̓ͧ̌̃ͩ̂͒̔̐̆̀̋̈́͂w̬͚̩̜̦̪̣̝̄ͪͧͬ̍̏ͯ̀ͥͮͭ̚i̤̺͔̳̓̈́͒̈́ͨ̉ͪͯ̏̇͌̄̌̌̉̒̂̚ṯ̯͙͙͈̼͚̊̈́̃͌̌̎͗̓ͯͬ̎ͫͤ̓͊ͩͩ͂h͖̳̻̲̝̙͖͕͙̻̞̱͇̪̥̳̉̋ͩ̿ͥͤͣͪͣ͛̐ͯͪ̎ͪ̂̾́̚ ̖̪̼̝̩̦͙̥̗͇̞̭̲͕͖͉ͭ̄̐̐ͪ̆ͅb̗̗̰̱̟͎̻̖̱̤͔̞̋̅̀ͥͥ͗ͯ̓̿͐͌ͯl̖͎̣̻͖̐̇ͯͦ̚ǒ̠̻̮̭̝̩̘͓̻̰̹̪̣͉̻̰͕͔̤̾͆̒̄ͭͥ̓ͫͬͫ̂̅̚o̥̟̖͉̠͌̾̔̆͗͛̾͆͒̌͆̏d̦̯̝̫̪̰̹͍͉̼̦̈̓͗̿̓ͧ̾ͅͅ.̗̦̜̲͇͓̫̗̳͙̻͔̫̱͇̗ͪͨ̒̉ͬ̈́

 

 “Hughie, oh my god, Hughie!” Annie yelled as she pushed herself off the ground, but stopped when the sound of a clicking gun was heard, barely audible against all the ringing chaos in his mind.

Annie hissed at whoever stood behind him.

“Stay in your fucking place.”

Hughie’s head swam as he tries to quell the bleeding.

He gives up, now resting his hands on the ground.

Grass poked from out of his palm, ignoring any possibility that flesh had existed there not a few seconds ago.

Just like how the world forgot about Robin’s existence.

And like then, only Hughie held onto bleeding hands, because Hughie’s the only one who will remember.

He’ll always remember the blood on his face.

Guts sliding down-

Help me,” He begged, choking on his words. “I’m drowning. I can’t b͍̻̦͕ͫ͛̾͆͂͂r͔̘̱̐ͫ̓̿e͎̘̥̫̟ͫ͘å̵̗̠͓̝̝ͤ̓͊͗̇̈t͎̠̗̠͔̝̏ͮͫͧ̐̚ḩ̮͑̐̂̓̊ěͯ̓̿͏͓͓̰̱̤͓͚.”

He felt a hand on his shoulders, shrugging him. Words drift in the air, and Hughie stopped breathing.

More gunshots drum his ears.

“Get up, Buttercup.” Someone ordered. It was Billy. Only Billy calls him that. Hughie found himself hanging onto that voice. It was familiar in this whirlwind of nothingbutredandheavyairwithdeadeyes-

“Let him go!” The voice yelled in pain, hacking coughs follows.

Dad isn’t here anymore. You’re all alone, Hughie.

‘You Have Us, We’ll Always Protect You.’

TheWorldWillListenToYourWishes.

All the colors that you can hear and sounds that you can see are-

‘Your Subjects Cry Upon The Blood That You Spill-’

“Breath with me, mate. You need to breath, come on, follow me. We can’t have you pass out.”

Familiar voices, Billy’s voice. The fog slightly lefts, and he can vaguely see cars passing them by through glass, with Billy holding onto the wheels with one hand and the other one on his shoulders, shaking him.

He was saying something, but Hughie doesn’t follow, it’s just more ringing, fading from time and getting louder next.

He tiredly looks down at his hand and sees that it wasn’t torn open like it was an eternity ago. There was no hole. It was complete, unmarred with any scars, yet still stained with his own blood.

He still wants to scream.

Despite not having the energy to physically do so, he stares at the birds, flying above the skies, and begged for forgiveness as he starts to wish.

He wished for the world to scream.

0o0o0

“Authority had confirmed the sight of-”

The newscast changed.

“There are no statements coming from vault concerning A-Train's broken leg-”

Another click, changing the channels.

“I didn’t hear anything, but people were all covering their ears in pain. So, I took off my headphones and suddenly, I heard it. Everything was screaming. I don’t know how. The trees, the wind, the garbage for god’s sake.”

“How can that just be in Manhattan? It didn’t happen anywhere else? No way. Everything was screaming!”

“Goes to show how tone-deaf us humans can be, I felt like my heart tried to jump out of my chest the whole time.”

The channel was changed, static showed for a few seconds before it was changed again.

“Right after the gunshots, witnesses claimed that the grass started secreting blood every time they stepped on it. The claims have come back positive after an investigation team has been sent. No one was permitted back into the park, and authorities claimed that the grass bled for two hours before stopping. Forensics results show a surprisingly high level of rust in the samples collected from the scene, mixing in with the water to give it the image of-”

He couldn’t hear the rest as another channel came up.

“Witnesses say that the shooter had a rifle-”

The channel changed, for the last time. There was a music video on. The girl sitting in front of the TV throws the remote down on the floor. It luckily didn’t break. The kaleidoscope of colors illuminated the room, sending Hughie’s head into a tizzy drop.

It was in another language. He doesn’t bother figuring out which language it is, but it’s probably Kimiko’s language with how entranced she was in it.

Hughie understood it.

He could probably speak it too if he tried.

Butcher and Milk had been on their phones since they got into the room, and it was dawn now.

Frenchie was on the laptop. From time to time, he’d sneak a look at him, checking on his condition. Aside from that, the only signs of movements coming from him were when he once scratched the back of his head.

Hughie couldn’t exactly help anyone right now.

Not when he lost a fuck-ton of blood after the stunt he pulled. He was glad he was even conscious. They’ve been forcing liquid in him since they got here, and they’ve been checking on his temperature to make sure he didn’t get a fever.

Did people even get fevers from blood loss? He knows for a fact that they did when they puked a lot, but blood loss?

“You will become anemic if you continue on doing this, petite Hughie.”

Hughie groans as a reply but forced himself to turn a bit to fully immerse himself in whatever other music video has started.

“Kimiko, your eyes will turn bad if you continue sitting close to the screen,” Frenchie warns, but Kimiko doesn’t listen, she only continues watching. Frenchie sighs. “Typical Supes, always thinking they are above laws and advice.” He knew Frenchie was saying it in humor, but Hughie tiredly glares at him. “We are running out of fluid, I will go and get some drinks. Does anyone need anything?” Frenchie asked as he got up. Kimiko turns around, acting if she were drinking from a long straw. “Litchi, alright.”

“H-How?” How does he even know what she likes, Hughie wanted to ask, but his voice was too hacked up for Frenchie to pick up on it as he heard Milk yell what he wanted and Butcher waving him away.

Hughie decides that closing his eyes for a moment could help the blur and headache behind his eyes.

0o0o0

Milk wakes him up and shook a bottle of water in front of his face, which Hughie gratefully takes and uncaps to drink. The sun had already risen, it was still morning, so he must have slept for an hour or two. He ran his hand over his face, trying to rub the sleep away. Then, he glares at the dirty windows for doing a bad job filtering in the light.

You either let it all in or block it off completely, he felt like whining.

“Where’s Kimiko?”

“Frenchie got her some nail polish, from a dollar store,” He said loudly, and Frenchie flips him off from behind the laptop, a plastic bag by his side. “Which is unsanitary. I should know, I used to buy some nail polish for my baby girl.” This time, it was aimed at Butcher, who also flips him off while he talked on the phone.

Hughie stares at the door for a moment, before deciding to cup his hand and fill it with water before splashing his face. He was not going to try to get Kimiko out of the bathroom.

“How are you feeling, Hughie?”

“I feel fantastic, actually,” Hughie said, surprising himself with his honesty. It felt like all he needed was sleep, even if it was cut off every two hours. He was about to say more when they stopped as they heard Butcher getting angrier.

“Susan, come on. There must be something we can do here, yeah?”

“Hello? This isn't a day spa. Other people got to use the facilities.” Milk called in the background, but Kimiko still didn’t open the door. Honestly, from Milk’s attitude alone, and from what he’s seen yesterday, Butcher arguing with the Deputy Director is a norm.

“Look, I gave you the V. I gave you everything you asked for and more. I trusted you, and this is the fucking thanks I get?” Raynor said something that didn’t please him at all. “Yeah, and keep your bleeding career even safer. Well, what about me and the Boys, then, eh? You cut bait and run for our lives.”

Hughie closed his eyes, breathing in, then flops back on the bed. Great, just what they needed, more bad news.

“All right, then, love.” He didn’t even know if that was sarcastic. Butcher puts his hands on his hips and looks down in disappointment, shaking his head. He turns around at them. “Well, that's all under control, isn't it?”

“We need to split up,” Frenchie didn’t even think twice before spoking. Milk hums in agreement and went for the bags.

“Oi, what the fuck are you doing? We ain't, done yet.”

“The hell we ain't. We got Vought, the Supes, and the Feds on our asses.” Milk reminds him.

“I'm going to Montreal,” Frenchie adds.

“Yeah, and how you gonna get your crazy-ass girlfriend over the border?”

“She has a name. It's Kimiko, okay? Ki-Mi-Ko.”

“Oi, listen. Shut your fucking traps. We're on the verge of nailing these cunts, and you want to cut bait and run before we've played our final card?”

“Okay, where’s your bait?” Milk demands. “What are you going to nail them with?”

“Give us a couple of hours. Hughie, you're with me. Come on, son.”

“Like hell you are! Look at the kid, he looks like he's one day away from dropping dead.”

“I wish,” Hughie moaned. “I just keep suffering. Why do you even need me?” He turns at Butcher. Who needs a guy who has his face on TV, with his two identities revealed on the national broadcast? To think he waited for so long for the world to forget about him too. “The moment people see my face and they’ll call the cops on you.”

“Do your shadow lord mojo on yourself, we’ll need your powers.”

That … was unexpected. Butcher, needing his powers? He raised his brows but stood up, grabbing his jacket. He nods at the door, waiting for him to lead the way.

Butcher’s asking a Supe to use their powers, this was not something he was going to miss.

Chapter Text

He most definitely slept through the whole ride. Shaken awake by rough hands, Hughie peeked an eye open, all he could glimpse from outside of the window were trees for miles.

When he steps out of the car, stumbling a bit on his feet, his head heavy and nearly falling, he sees a modernish house. It had cameras that were unsubtly equipped on its roof, and windows that make it easy to look inside. Even an amateur would know how to spy on whoever lived in here.

When they go to what could be considered the backyard, a woman stood by the edge, a small cliff was in front of her. She watched the world through scopes. Butcher walks up to her without pause.

“William,” She said, without even looking behind her.

“What are you looking at out there?”

“Eastern meadowlarks. It was either bird-watching or alcoholism, so … birds.” She then puts down her binoculars and faced Butcher. “I thought we agreed that you were never going to come out here.”

“Yeah, well, you taught me a thing or two about broken promises. Didn't you?” There was a grudge under Butcher’s voice. No one addressed it. He turns around and waves at Hughie to get closer, which he did, carefully.

Butcher pressed a hand on his back as he introduced him.

“This is Hugh Campbell. We're working with MM and Frenchie. I got the Boys back together.”

The woman looks at him, surprised, then sighed.

“You know, Hughie Campbell, your father taught me a thing or two about cleaning up a crime scene,” She said. Hughie felt his eyes widen at her claim. Butcher went stiff for a moment before relaxing. “I was saddened to find out that you went missing. Your father called in for a favor, but your trace went completely blank, I should have known that William was involved.”

“Yeah, well, if I knew the shit we were going to face, I wouldn’t have bothered.” But Butcher pats his back lightly, harsh words dulled a bit by his voice going soft. The woman stares at them for a moment before speaking.

“Grace Mallory. I'm the founder of your little club. So, let me hear it.”

“I need your help.”

“Sorry, I can't.” She steps away, walking towards the house. “I'm hoping to photograph a snowy owl in the dunes.”

“Look I didn't want to come here, but I need your help. And you're going to fucking help.”

“Why's that?”

“Hughie,” Butcher answered, surprising him a bit. What did he have to do with anything?

“What about Campbell?” She asked, and Butcher turns around at him.

“Drop your power for her.”

“What?”

“Your powers, that hiding shit. Drop it. Your face is already on TV, there’s no point in using it anymore.”

Hughie gives him a bitter smile. Wasn’t that the goddamn truth now? After Billy’s stunt with his rifle, Vought decided that enough is enough, and that they should use their ultimate weapon ... the public’s adoration and obsession over them.

Vought found out what happened to Hughie Campbell and urged the public to be on the lookout for him and to either tweet or call them. All Hughie picked up from the broadcast was how snide the anchor sounded.

He looks at the woman, Grace Mallory, and decided that this old lady wouldn’t cause him any more problems.

No.

It wasn’t just her. Who would go on and face him now? A-Train? That was a laugh if he ever heard one. He made Homelander step back in fear, why should he fear anyone else now?

Why was he hiding?

Hughie drops it completely, and he watches in fascination as Mallory’s face changed slightly, information running through her head trying to understand whatever she witnessed.

“He’s- He’s the one who-”

“Yes,” Butcher cuts her off and pats his shoulders gruffly. “He can bring your grandchildren back to life.”

0o0o0

He watched the falling leaves slowly drift away with the wind, leaving its tree to explore the world, or to fall on the ground only to get crushed by someone’s foot. This was nothing but a numb echo in his mind that tells him the tale of the passing seasons.

Amidst the trees, he sat on the ground, and he held onto his head as he kept searching and searching for three dead children.

Hughie marveled a bit. He never brought children back before, so he never actually knew if he can even find them in the afterlife. What even happens to dead children after death?

Robin once told him that some religions have the belief that children turn into Doves that fly over heaven. Although that sounded nice, he doesn’t think that trying to communicate to birds would be easy.

But even widening his searching pool didn’t help, there were no traces of Mallory’s grandchildren ... as if they never reached the other side in the first place.

“Hughie?” Butcher called, snapping him out of his daze. Hughie noticed tears falling from his eyes, and he rubs them away. “Having difficulty?”

“No, no- It’s just- I’m so sorry, Mallory. I can’t-” He felt like choking up.

Mallory closed her eyes, resignation settling in her bones.

“Are you- Are you sure they’re dead?”

“Of course I’m fucking sure. Lamp Lantern burned them so much that not even teeth were left behind.” She snaps back, teeth grinding at the gall of his question.

“I can’t find them, they’re not there. They’re not on the other side!”

“Don’t tell me your powers are failing you now?”

“It’s not failing! I can even see a dead person behind you, I’m- I’m not sure who that is, I’m not actually looking at him, but I know he’s there! My powers aren’t failing.”

“Then how can you not find them?” Mallory asked. Something in her voice just screamed with desperation, but she looked too proud to show it.

“The only honest answer I have is that they’re not dead, or that children don’t have ghosts. I …”

Not even teeth were left behind.

Hughie blinks.

He can’t find them, as if they didn’t exist in the first place, but that wasn’t possible, because they did exist … they existed in the past. He turns around at her, a mad plan forming in his mind, and reaches out for her hands.

She hesitantly offers them, and he holds onto it, trying to see behind her, anywhere near him, or even the house. There weren’t any tiny ghosts playing around.

“There was nothing left?”

“Yes.”

“I know this is going to be painful, but can you imagine the place they were in before it burned down?”

“Are you out of your-” She stops, takes a calming breath, before nodding. She then closed her eyes, and Hughie gulps as he tries to remember how it felt when Mesmer did it to him. He remembers suddenly losing himself in that memory, but that was how he himself felt, and not Mesmer.

It didn’t hurt to try.

That was a lie, it’s hurting Mallory, but he’s trying to help her.

“I want to know that place like Mallory does.”

Not a few seconds later, flashes of burning debris with smoke filling the air hit him. A scream echoed, and someone was pulling him back- Pulling Mallory back-

My grandchildren are in there, they’re innocent. They had no say in this. Their only fault is that they are related to him- her. They were too young-

He pulls away.

Mallory stood in her place. No signs of distress were visible in her face, and that was honestly the most badass thing Hughie has ever witnessed because going through that amount of pain left him reeling, and he wasn’t even involved in this.

“I got it, just ready a few beds.”

“A few what?”

“Ready a few beds, they’re three kids, right? Ready a few beds.”

He then lies down completely on the ground, ignoring the questions that both Mallory and Butcher were sending him, and wills himself back to that moment.

0o0o0

“That’s Lamp Lantern!” Jamie yelled in excitement. Mary had looked up and frowned, remembering her dad’s words about how they should be wary when getting approached by heroes. Jamie didn’t understand, but it was most likely that Jamie’s own parents didn’t have the talk with him, not before disappearing.

“I think we should go back inside.”

“What? But don’t you want to talk to him?”

“Jamie, Granma put me in charge, and I say we go in. Or I’m telling.”

“I just wanted to say hi.” Jamie huffed in anger but followed her inside. Once they’ve locked the doors and went to the living room, Mary chose a channel for them to watch. She tries to ignore the niggling feeling in the back of her mind. Something was telling her that she should ignore Grandma’s warning and get out, escape, not to look back. She needed to grab Arty and pull Jamie to the backyard.

But she ignored it.

Grandma said that they should stay inside and go to bed by eight if she didn’t come back yet. That there was some food in the kitchen that Mary could reheat, and that she was old enough to know what is wrong and right to keep her cousins safe.

After some time, she’d notice how lightheaded she felt.

Then smoke slowly filled in the room.

When Mary realized that this wasn’t normal, it was too late.

The house was burning.

Jamie and Arty weren’t responding. No matter how many times she shook them. Arty didn’t even move anymore.

It had gotten hot, so hot, that even her tears boiled. She glimpsed outside of the windows, trying to think of a way to break them, and that’s when she sees him.

Lamp Lantern.

She ran to the windows, pounding, yelling as loud as she could, but Lamp Lantern didn’t even hear her, he only flew away.

He ignored her pleas.

Mary ran back to her cousins, carries Arty off the ground, and tried her best to pull Jamie to the windows.

The fires were getting bigger, it engulfed everything, and she could barely breathe anything but the smoke.

Her limbs were getting heavier, and the pain of pounding on glass finally caught up to her.

Mary slides down on the floor, watching as the flames slowly eat up the floor, slowly crawling up to them. She hugged Arty and Jamie, realizing that she’d failed. She should have never been in charge. She should have realized that something was wrong. Should have called Granma.

Her shoes caught on fire, and she couldn’t roll around on the floor. The ceiling was eaten up by the blaze, the fan stopped working, and nothing can stop the heat as it tries to eat her, as it tries to eat her baby cousins.

The fire was painful.

And she cried.

She didn’t want to go.

Just when she thought that it was over, an arm wrapped around her.

There shouldn’t be any arms around her, there shouldn’t be anyone but her and her cousins around.

She can barely hear the screams coming from outside, and she looks upwards, only to find a man she’s never met before.

Yet, it felt like a balm on her skin, the heat was ebbing away. The man pulls them away and drags them into the window.

In the blink of an eye, she fell, and landed on leaves, reddish, brownish and yellowing leaves. There was no fire, they weren’t in a building, there was no glass behind her, and the sun wasn’t down yet.

She coughs for a few seconds but finally managed to stop herself to look at the man who just saved them from the fires.

“M-Mary?” She heard, and Mary turns around.

It’s her grandma, she looked different, older, more tired, but it was Grandma. She starts tearing up.

“Grandma! Grandma, it was awful! The house was burning and I couldn’t open the windows and Lamp Lantern flew away and he didn’t even come to try and save us he just left and I thought we were-” She stood up, slightly wobbling.

But Grandma runs up to her, wraps her into a hug, and started crying, babbling apologies and promises that Mary didn’t understand.

All that mattered is that they’re safe now.

0o0o0

“Mary, oh my god, I’m so sorry-”

Hughie then pulls onto the other children who seemed unconscious now.

The world was-

He fucking time traveled. Oh god. He time traveled, is this even- what sort of time travel can he even do? What’s the paradox that he’s following? Is this a Doctor Who time travel? Back to the Future time travel?

It all lined up, meaning that everything happened, that no matter what he did, it’ll lead to it working out together. But, there’s a niggling feeling in the back of his mind that said that no, he can do whatever he wants, this isn’t his limit.

Was time linear, or did it all happen all at the same time-

Hughie felt like someone had pulled him upwards. Butcher stood next to him, offering a pack of tissues.

He accepts them.

Then, he felt the world tilt.

“Shit,” He cursed as he flailed a bit, trying to grab anything to stop his descent. Luckily, Butcher was already there, and he was willing to help. Hughie didn’t know what came over him, it must have been the stress.

He grabbed onto Butcher, his grip unrelenting.

Butcher tensed, before slowly relaxing, patting him on the back.

“What’s got you all riled up? You always bring the dead back,” He asked dully.

“Lamp Lantern was- he- a monster. He’s a monster. I saw him fly over them like it was nothing.”

“Hughie?” There was some concern now, and Hughie felt himself sagging even more. What was wrong with him today? “You didn’t make a lick of sense.”

Butcher sounds alarmed, Hughie frowned but decides to ignore it. Butcher? Alarmed? Like hell.

To his dismay, they lay him down on the porch while Mallory went inside the house for something. Mary was by his side, looking at him with big wide eyes. The other two children were gone without him even noticing.

“Now, listen, Buttercup. Can you smile for me?” Butcher asked, it was ridiculous, Hughie was starting to feel offended with how they’re all acting.

He glares.

“I think he’s angry,” Mary said.

Mallory comes back, shaking her head.

“I called an old doctor friend of mine, I can’t exactly bring dead people to the hospital. But you need to get him to one,” She tells Butcher.

“Like hell we’re taking him there. They’d sooner have him under observation, and Vought will be all over him.”

“William, for all we know, he’s having a stroke!”

What?

“Whoa, what the fuck are you talking about?” He said, raising his hand to catch their attention while trying to push himself off the ground. He slips and felt the painful harsh wood under his chin. Hughie decides to give up right then and there. Sleeping on a wooden porch in a modern home in the middle of the forest really sounded nice, why was he denying himself that when he could just enjoy it while he can.

“I think he said a bad word,” Mary mumbled, still looking at him with wide confused eyes.

“I didn’t hear anything. He isn’t making any sense.”

The trees sounded nice too. They have a beautiful voice, and with the winds, they’re making this majestic melody that defeated the pain he's feeling. Hughie found that listening to these things is much better than the bickering of humans.

Humans?

What-

What was he thinking now?

“I didn’t even get him to bring Becca back.”

“Who the hell is Becca?” He questioned.

“So you decided to test his powers on my grandchildren!?

“He brought them back, didn’t he?”

“William, you focus so much on revenge that you start to forget what really matters. Would your wife ever have wanted you to sacrifice your friend’s wellbeing?”

“Well, she ain’t here to say it, now is she?” He answers.

Mallory pointedly stares at him before ordering Mary to go inside. Once the girl was gone, she sighs.

“I’m calling an ambulance.”

“Now, hold up-”

“For Christ's sake, William, how old is he? If I remember well, he’s in his twenties. You’re going to let him die just for the sake of your revenge! He’s bleeding. Everything that comes out of his mouth is incoherent. He can barely stand on his own. That man was sleeping in the hospital for a reason. I may not know what it is, but he needs to go back.”

They fell into silence.

Hughie groaned, wanting to catch their attention, but realized that catching it now would send all their intense emotions directly at him.

“Fine, I’ll take him. Just tell me what you know about Homelander.”

0o0o0

“We’re going back to Frenchie, he’ll know a bunch of doctors that can help. We can’t exactly take you to a normal hospital.” Billy told him, but Hughie only mumbled something before sitting on the chair and slowly curl in on himself.

Shit, fucking shit. Mallory was right. They can’t keep lugging the kid around like this.

“Come on, hold on, you’ve been holding on up till now, a day or two shouldn’t end you.”

“Is Becca your Robin?” Hughie slurred; the question caught him off guard. Billy felt himself gulping at the question.

He planned on telling the kid about this a while ago, but never found the time.

He’s not going into this now.

“I can under- understand wanting to hurt Supes if she is. Robin told me not to, she said- told me to live my life. But it hurt, forgetting about her hurts. I can’t let go. Whenever I see A-Train, it made me feel powerless, so I- I took away his powers. That’s probably it. Why my head’s all fucked up now. It isn’t easy taking something like that away.”

Billy felt his breath stop.

Fucking hell.

They had the answer this whole time, and this fucking idiot didn’t even share this information beforehand?!

“You can take away powers?”

To his surprise, Hughie snorts, and then he starts to divulge into chuckles, before it completely turned into laughter, complete unadulterated laughter.

“Can I take away powers?” He’s becoming incoherent again.

“Hughie, you git, answer the fucking question or I’ll force whatever drug Frenchie has on him in you.”

“It’s alright, dad, I don’t need pills anymore. It’s not anxiety, this is how millenniums function nowadays, because everyone’s depressed.” He sounded like he was already fucking high.

“That’s fucking pathetic.”

“You know what’s pathetic?” He asked, the last word slowly dropping. “I can bring the dead, but I haven’t asked my mom if she wants to come back yet, in fact, I haven’t even seen her. I guess- I guess that’s also why you never asked me to- to-”

Hughie paused in his speech, his expression crumpling.

“You don’t want to face your mistakes.”

“Shut up,” he growls.

“You could have done more, but didn’t. That’s why you don’t want to see her-”

“Shut the fuck up. You know shit of what you're talking about.” He screamed at him, but Hughie wasn’t looking at him, his expression still downcast. Billy felt his emotions flare at that moment, and he reached for his shirt, pulling him close by his collar.

Hughie’s face still didn’t change, his eyes didn’t seem to be focusing at anything. No, he was looking too far away for him to be grounded in reality at all.

And Billy’s breath hitched as he realized what the kid was doing.

“Fuck you, Campbell!” He snaps, roughly shaking the kid now. “I swear to fucking god that if you even bother her in the afterlife, I’ll wring your little twig of a neck-”

“She’s not-” Hughie flinched, trying to push himself away, but failed, staring at Billy with horror. “She’s- I’m- I’m so sorry …”

“Stop apologizing.”

“Billy, she didn’t-”

“Didn’t what? Kill herself?! I’ve looked everywhere. The cops looked everywhere; her family looked everywhere. She’s dead, and it’s all because of fucking Homelander!” He yells at him.

Hughie shook his head. He opened his mouth, about to say something that would most likely demean him and his feelings, like every fucking therapy group he went to.

Suddenly, the kid groans, his hand clutching onto his head. Whatever he wanted to say now lost.

Billy scoffs before shoving him back into his seat.

“No-No! Billy, you have to understand- she’s-”

“Mention Becca one more time, and I’m colliding this car on the side you’re sitting in.” Mesmer already tried that trick on him, he thought in silent rage. Claiming that he could find her.

What's the point of looking for a corpse.

The car fell into an uncomfortable silence, only broken by Hughie shuffling in his seat from time to time. At some point, Billy swore he heard sniffling.

“I know,” Hughie suddenly said. Billy glanced at him, but Hughie was staring out at the window.

He can’t wait to throw this wanker at Frenchie. He doesn’t even know how he can handle one problematic Supe, let alone two. If it meant that Billy had fewer interactions with this lying sack of shit, he’d let Frenchie’s fascination in them slide.

When they got closer to the motel, he slows down just a tad bit, ready to swerve his car to scare the kid out of his trance. That failed as Hughie came out of his mind, as if some reminder was set up in his head to warn him when he’s getting to home base.

He huffed in disappointment and decided to enter normally. He took one glance of the motel-

And decided, not fucking likely, before stepping on the paddle and continuing on straight ahead.

“You missed it,” the little smart ass said as he starts to turn around.

“Eyes front,” he tells him, but the kid frowned as he looked back. “Eyes fucking front, Hughie.”

This time, the kid flinched and looks straight ahead, pretending as if nothing happened. He did it too robotically for any possible stalker to be convinced, luckily for them, they weren’t noticed yet.

“Boys are gone.”

“What?”

“Someone's grabbed them,” he tells him. Hughie gave him a worried looked mixed with disbelief and worry. Holy shit. After meeting Hugh senior, he can suddenly understand where the kid got that shriveled balls of his from. They got the same expressions tagged on their faces.

“How do you know that?”

“The window's new, the front path is scrubbed, and there's a black van with flowers on it, probably full of cunts waiting to jump us.”

“…”

The kid looks at the front, eyes now wide in fear.

“We’re going to get kidnapped. I don’t want to get kidnapped again. I can’t handle this anymore.”

“If it’s any consolation, it’s probably the feds, not Vought.”

“Does it fucking matter who does it?!” He starting to hyperventilate.

“None of that now, we’re getting to a safe point, don’t freak on me now,” He hissed. Thank his lucky stars when the kid covers his mouth and tried to hold it in.

0o0o0

“How are we gonna get them back?” He asked as he watched Butcher open his trunk, taking a screwdriver out.

“We're on our own. We've got to get to Stillwell before the walls close in.”

“Who gives a fuck about Stillwell!? We have to go back for them.”

“You don't get it, Hughie. We got about a couple of hours before they find us, and that's if we're lucky. We got to hit back and hit back now.”

Hughie shook his head at him, feeling revolt slowly overtaking him.

“So, what? You're abandoning them. I mean, they all they risked their-” He stops, remembering Milk’s breakdown. “Mother's Milk has a daughter.”

“They'd want us to finish the job.”

“Your job!” He yells, not believing what he’s hearing. “Your job, not theirs. They all came as a favor, and you uprooted their whole lives?! No one wants this job, Butcher!”

Butcher hits the plate with the screw and takes in a ragged breath, looking away from him.

“… What would you tell Becca when you see her again?”

“Don’t you fucking dare-”

“Why not? You tried the same tactic on me. I may be gullible, but I’m not stupid. Now, let’s do this again, what would Becca say when you see her again?”

“Don’t you start with your impassioned speeches.”

“Don’t run away then,” Hughie said firmly. He needs to impress this in Butcher’s head. Hughie knew the truth, having spent the whole time in the car trying to look for her in the afterlife, and like the children, he couldn't find her. But he also knew that Butcher would sooner put a bullet in him before believing him. “What will she say once she sees you again? I may not know her, but I know that she married someone she cared about.”

Butcher was growling now, Hughie has to hurry up.

“She married someone who cares, right? Someone who she loved. Are you, as you are right now, the same person she married then? If not, are you someone she’s still going to be proud of when you see her again? Are you really going to tell her that you abandoned all your friends to avenger her? Make her feel guilty?”

“What about Robin, huh? Will you look her in the eyes and tell her you didn’t do shit?!”

“Oh, no, it doesn’t matter what I do, because I already asked her. She said to stop doing things just because I want to avenge her and to go live my life,” he says bluntly, glaring heavily at Butcher. The fucker tried to use her memory against him. “And you would have gotten an answer yourself if you asked for me to help the one way I can!”

“You think that this is a fucking game?! Bringing the spirits of the dead as you please? Thinking their souls are nothing but toys for you to play with?”

“What- No! Never! I always ask for permission! But guess what, sometimes they’re too afraid to come back when their killer is still alive, like Mesmer!”

“He got what was coming for him.”

“He has a girl!”

“Who doesn’t give two cents about him. Get off your high horse, Campbell. Not everyone has as close of a relationship as you did with your dad. Not everyone has an understanding girlfriend who can say what Robin said to you, and not everyone is happy with standing by like you’re doing. But at least you got one thing right in your pathetic little life, that you’re not using your powers. Looks like being a coward does work out at the end, doesn’t it?”

Hughie gapes at him. The more Billy talked, the angrier he became, and the closer he got. With every step, the words stung even more, leaving a mark inside him.

He knew he was privileged, in a way. White in America, male, Super-abled, maybe not rich but he had the ability to become rich if he wanted, a family that loved him and a lover that did as well.

But …

His powers are killing him. He doesn’t even know if he meant it figuratively or literally, but he knew it was.

He lived in poverty in his life because of circumstances. You can’t hide from government or rival gangs or mobsters if they had any sort of money to attract their attention.

His mom died right in front of him and he couldn’t do a thing, even with all his powers.

Robin died … and she didn’t want to come. He can use his powers now, he can protect her, but she doesn’t want to come back …

Dad was gone, he doesn’t even know where to, the CIA just took him away.

And now, Annie probably hates him after Billy shot her.

He didn’t even call Anthony as he promised.

What was Hughie’s worth? When his only worth came from his love from and for others? He was nothing.

He’s useless.

But-

He still has Frenchie, Milk, and Kimiko. They’re all he has left in this world. They’re the only people left who care about him, they’re his only friends now. So was Billy, as insane as it sounds. Billy was just too into his revenge to notice anything else around him.

“One day, you’ll stop, look around yourself, and realize how much you messed everything up.” He grabs Billy’s face, an easy job seeing as he was still standing close. He made sure Billy won’t be able to look away from him. “I care about you, Billy. I really do. But you’re not in the right mind to be reasoned with, I don’t have the time to help you realize how destructive you’re being. And to be honest, your words hurt. So, just …”

For a moment, he lost any words to say anything.

This was Billy.

He’s an asshole, a certified looney bin actor material, a guy who Hughie’s pretty sure might be a sociopath.

But he’s still Billy.

The same guy who immediately came to his rescue when he thought he was getting attacked by Translucent. The same guy who, while kidnapped him from the hospital, thought he was saving him in the process. He tried sticking around with him, included him in this crazy adventure in the first place even when he thought he was an invalid. Sent Frenchie after him when he thought A-Train was going to try and get him after the bus station fiasco. Didn’t kick him out when he knew Hughie didn’t hack into Annie’s phone, or even called him out for it.

He came running down that bathroom the moment he saw what Ezekiel was doing through the security cam.

Hell, he offered to bury him if Hughie ever decided to kill him.

And he tries. He really did. Trying to open up to him, trying to apologize, trying to get him involved.

Ultimately, that didn’t matter anymore, not when he’s willing to abandon everyone else. They weren’t useful anymore. This only made him doubt even more if Billy really has sociopathy or not.

Hughie felt like a hypocrite. Wasn’t he willing to leave a few days ago?

“Goodbye, Billy. Stay safe.

He lets go.

He tries to ignore the disgusted shift in the other's face.

“Take that charm off, I don’t need it,” He yells, Hughie tries to speed up his pace. “I know you tagged something on me! Take it off you freak!”

Hughie looked straight ahead. Trying to ignore the words.

Why does it matter if it stung hearing them? All that matters is that everyone’s safe, then he’ll be the happiest man in the world.