giants think the world is theirs (superhero au part one)
He didn’t regret any of his decisions either in being a hero or a father, but he sometimes wished the world had been a little different, so that his children could grow up enjoying their powers instead of hiding and stifling them.
18 years earlier –
“We can’t keep doing this any longer.”
“It’s just not fair to keep uprooting our lives like this. We haven’t even been married a year, Benj, and we’ve moved twice since then to protect our identities.”
“This Heroes In Hiding Act really isn’t doing us any favors, is it? Who’s going to protect people if we’re not around?”
“Just because your brother’s a cop doesn’t mean you have to have blind faith in him.”
“I don’t, he’s a super too, remember?”
“Besides, maybe this is a good thing. Maybe this’ll give us a chance to settle down.”
“Are we really the settling down type? I’ve gotten so used to doing this that I’m not sure I can stop. I don’t know who I am if I’m not a vigilante, Tatty, or a superhero –“
“You could try being a father instead.”
“Yeah, but,” sigh, “That’ll take some time –“
“Benj, I’m pregnant.”
Present Day –
Clara catches her best friend’s eye and smirks. “Oh, you like him.”
“Shut up.” Nadine’s face is red and her French accent is thicker than ever. “I do not.”
Clara chews slowly on a chip as she stares at the girl, waiting for her to blush even further. “You realize I know that you’re lying, right?”
Nadine lets out a sound somewhere between a huff and a groan and claps her hands over her temples. “Stop it!”
“I’m not really doing it on purpose,” replies Clara, “it just comes to me. And take your hands off of your head, you look ridiculous. I can hear what you’re thinking through your skull, you think a few more layers of muscles and blood and bone is going to stop me?”
She’s given a venomous green look as the girl lowers her hands. “Fine,” hisses Nadine, “but if you even mention this to Ant, I’ll –“
“You’ll what? Rob me blind?” Clara bats her eyes innocently, “I’ll know it was you.”
Nadine scowls, and suddenly she’s gone and back in a flash. If Clara didn’t know any better, she’d just have guessed that she’d blinked, but the truth is that she does know what Nadine Renault is capable of. The eighteen year old is back in a second beside her with a crumpled sheet of paper in her hands.
“You’re one to talk. Hearts, really?” She rolls her eyes. “Mrs. –“
Clara snatches back the paper. “This is Belle’s,” she explains. “Where’d you pull this from, my backpack?” She peers under her desk. “Hang on, this is Belle’s too. We must have switched this morning accidentally.”
“You sure that you don’t want to be Mrs. Baudelaire?” asks Nadine with a smirk, reading the writing on the page.
“I do,” says Eos, plopping down beside them and looping a hand over Clara’s shoulders, effectively stopping her from getting up to return her sister’s backpack to her classroom. “What are we talking about, then? Which one of you is crushing on a Baudelaire?”
“Neither of us – but Nadine’s got it bad for Ant,” Clara says before Nadine can speak.
Eos absently swipes one of her chips from her lunch tray and chews on it meditatively. “I heard him talking about you in the loo, Nadine. Maybe you should actually make a move. I think he’s got an eye on someone else, too. Appleby?”
“I can move fast,” argues Nadine, “Besides, you told me about this, so I’ll get a quick start.”
“And a quick finish,” Clara and Eos say simultaneously, and then grin at each other as if sharing in a conspiracy.
Nadine mockingly rolls her eyes at them and stalks off, and Eos reaches forward to take the uneaten half of her sandwich. “Bon’s in detention again,” he says through a mouthful of ham and lettuce.
“Mrs. Swifte found out that Jack’s been cheating off of her homework and wrote both of them up.” Eos swallows and then reaches for the apple on Nadine’s tray. “They’re missing taco day. Do you think we can liberate them?”
“If you’re insinuating –“
“I’m not insinuating anything, I’m just pointing out that she’s usually sitting in her desk near the door during detention and I saw those two looking out the window. It’s not like Mrs. Swifte will notice if I sneak up and undo the window latch.”
“Yes, but they’ll see.”
“They’re our best friends, does it really matter?”
Clara lowers her voice in annoyance, “You can’t get all snippy with me just for following the rules this once. There’s the Act, remember? That’s the whole reason we took you in. You can’t get caught for using your gifts like your parents did.”
“Really? I thought it was for my sparkling personality,” deadpans Eos. “Oh come on, what’s the use in being able to fly,” he lowers his voice as well, “if I can’t even use it?”
“What’s the use of having an ability if you’re locked up for using it? The Act exists for a reason, Eos,” Clara reminds him.
He holds her gaze for a moment, then turns and takes a bite out of the apple. “Fine. But I’m going to complain about it anyway.”
“I can’t believe she took my backpack again,” moans Isabelle as she flops her head forward in biology class. Her blonde curls miss the frog on the dissection tray in front of her by only an inch before Charlie Harris, looking faintly green, pushes it away.
“Just go get it. You wouldn’t be the first to leave during a dissection, and this isn’t even really an excuse if you say that you just want to hand in your homework,” he says as he picks up a scalpel, hesitates, and then takes the forceps instead.
Belle lifts her head up. “It’s not that, it’s that I don’t want her to see what I’ve got in my backpack! It’s bad enough that she already knows what I’m thinking, if she actually sees all the proof in my notebooks –“
“What proof?” asks Clover, sliding in across from them.
Belle sits straight up and grabs the forceps from Charlie. “Nothing. No proof. Would you hand me the scalpel?”
Clover stares at her and then shrugs before he does so. Belle avoids his gaze, avoids Charlie peering down at her as well, and turns right to the frog and begins slicing. The boys simultaneously let out groans and turn.
“I don’t know how you can do this,” says Clover, covering his eyes, “you’re cutting it open. It used to be alive!”
“So were those chicken nuggets you ate half an hour ago, and you didn’t seem particularly bothered,” counters Isabelle. She does hesitate for just a second to look to the sky, sending her love and best wishes to the frog’s soul, before she turns and began to peel back the skin.
“What if you were cutting into a dog?” whispers Charlie, dropping his voice reverently at the last word.
“I’ll need to get used to it, Charlie, I want to be a doctor. Like Mum.” She hesitates. “I’ll never be as good as her, though.”
Clover leans forward, gingerly avoiding the frog, “That’s hardly your fault, is it?” His voice is low and his eyes are steady on hers as he leans in. “She’s got a bit of an unfair advantage.”
Belle quirks a grin. “I guess so. And if I have to hear the story of me being born one more time and how astonished all the nurses were when my Mum was able to walk out twenty minutes later, perfectly fine, I swear that –“
Charlie sneezes suddenly, and sparks fly out. He claps a hand over his mouth and widens his eyes. The other two both turn in surprise.
“What’s going on?” asks Belle.
Charlie lowers his hands slightly. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I just can’t control it lately,” he says in barely a whisper.
“You have to, bro,” urges Clover, “we could all get found out, and then the entire community goes under.”
“I know, I know,” moans Charlie. “I’m trying my best.”
“We’ll help,” offers Belle at once. Her powers largely help herself, but she has always wanted to do more with them than just turn invisible. She, however, is much too smart to use them in public. There’s too much at stake here for her.
Charlie offers her a grateful smile that’s interrupted when the teacher appears at their shoulders. “Isabelle Gray, where is your essay?”
Belle wants so badly to disappear from sight, but she doesn’t.
“Will you stop making puppy-dog eyes at her?” Cecilia complains to her brother.
Amory nearly trips over the flat sidewalk. “I’m not,” he defends quickly, running a hand through his dark curls before he changes his mind and crosses them over his chest. “She dumped me, remember?”
“I remember you crying in your room for two days.”
Amory narrows his blue eyes at his sister and tugs his backpack up a little higher. “I’m going to make you walk home by yourself if you don’t stop it.”
“As if,” replies Cecilia flippantly, “you’re only walking with me so Sophie can’t corner you.”
“That’s not true,” protests Amory, but then his youngest sister gives him a look and he sighs. “Alright, I’m pretty sure that she can’t read minds but she seems to always know when I’m about to do something dumb, like distract her from a serious question about her fancying me to talk about [i]homework[/i] and – why am I telling you this?” he huffs after a moment.
They round a corner, and Cece glances around and then smirks. “You can practice what you’ll say on me if you’d like,” she says. A moment later, it’s Sophie Milford grinning impishly at him.
Amory reaches out and shakes her by the shoulders. Cece turns back into herself and scowls. “What? No one was even looking,” she complains petulantly.
“You’re not following the rules,” grumbles Amory, “No powers in public, remember?”
“Like anyone will notice,” she says flippantly, but she looks around once more. “See, no one is even around!”
“They could be anywhere. In the sky, hiding behind curtains – what’s that?” Amory points.
Cece barely glances down. “That’s a sewage drain, if someone is hiding in there and spying on us, I think we have bigger problems.” She looks back up again, “Speaking of bigger problems…”
Joanna Renault follows them and gives Amory a slow smile as she drapes an arm around his shoulders. “You’ll never guess what I saw in my teacup today.”
“Tea?” Amory says weakly.
The eye rolls from Cecilia and Joanna are almost simultaneous. They would make a great pair if they actually got along, but instead they choose to remain at opposite ends of the spectrum, similar but so far apart.
“In my tea leaves,” says Joanna significantly.
Amory clears his throat and drops his voice. “I, er, thought you didn’t need those to tell the future.” Someone passes by, and he adds more loudly, “because you do palm reading, am I right?”
Joanna waits until they pass to roll her eyes again. “Sure. Anyway, what I saw involved you and me and a nice long walk down the lane… what do you say?” Her lips curve up. “Oh, wait, don’t answer. I already saw your answer, too.”
“Did you really?” Amory is dumbstruck.
Cecilia takes this opportunity to tug her brother’s arm with a huff. “No, she didn’t. She’s just messing with your head so you’ll take her back.”
“She dumped me –“
“Oh, there you two are!” Tatiana calls, stepping out of the house and waving to her children from the top step. “I was about to send out a search party. You know you two were meant to help me make dinner, right, since Eos is at his job until late tonight?”
Joanna lets out a sigh and narrows her eyes at the Gray woman. “Anyway, later, Amory.” She lets her hand slide over his shoulder, her fingers resting briefly on his cheek before she turns away.
Amory turns red at once.
“Pathetic,” sighs Cecilia as she pushes open the front gate and heads into her house.
“Weren’t your report cards meant to come back today?” Tatiana asks as she spoons a generous amount of broccoli onto Cecilia’s plate. When her youngest daughter glares, she only shrugs and adds some more before setting the plate back down and motioning for Belle to hand her hers.
Belle sits to her mother’s right and hands the woman at the head of the table her plate as she studies the floorboards and stays silent. Across from her mother sits Benjamin Gray, with his face buried in a newspaper beside his plate at the table, clearly not taking part in the dinnertime conversation.
Clara pushes food around her plate without noticing her sister’s discomfort. “Yeah, I left mine on the fridge.”
“Me too,” Amory adds hurriedly, eating a bite of his broccoli before his mother can yell at him. Belle nods in agreement as well, but Cecilia is silent.
“Er, my packet’s a bit thicker than usual this time,” she says, poking with her fork at a piece of broccoli. Cece brushes her dark fringe in front of her eyes before she goes on, “there may be a note from the principal?”
“A note from the principal?” Tatiana’s voice rises in disbelief. “Now what?”
“I may have tried to get out of trouble,” Cece defends quickly, “It worked. Mostly! Someone ratted me out for trying to impersonate a teacher, and I would have gotten away with it too if I’d been using my whole body and not just my voice.”
Tatiana frowns. “How many times have I told you not to use your powers, especially at school? That’s already your second strike with getting into trouble at school, Cecilia Arwen. What are we going to do if you reach three and we have to find you another school? Benj?”
“Your youngest daughter’s gotten into trouble again.”
“Oh, good for her.”
“What?” Tatiana turns her frown to her husband. “No, did you hear me? She has a personal note from the principal about her behavior, that is not good.”
“Oh,” Benj lowers his newspaper, blue eyes taking in the youngest of the Grays.
“The tape wasn’t even that convincing,” mutters Cece darkly as she spears another piece of broccoli.
“They got you on tape and you still almost got away with it?” Benj lets out a whistle that drops quickly in pitch when his wife glares at him. “Oh, er, right. Don’t do that again.” He turns his attention back to the paper.
Tatiana decides to turn her glare to a more receiving audience if her husband won’t even notice it behind a layer of paper. “Why aren’t you eating?” She asks, nodding a head at Clara. “It’s mostly leftovers tonight. You want some spaghetti? More carrots? I think there’s even some veggie-loaf in the plate near your brother.”
“I’m not hungry for any type of loaf,” says Clara, poking around at her meal as she recalls her earlier argument with Eos.
“What’s on your mind?”
Clara doesn’t answer, but Amory says under his breath, “Richard Moran-Jameson.” Clara catches him and glares.
“What are you hungry for?” Tatiana asks, completely missing this exchange.
Amory makes a face and repeats what he’s just said.
Clara points her fork at him menacingly, “Shut up, Amory!”
“Don’t tell your brother to shut up,” says Tatiana automatically.
“Listen to your mother,” adds Benj absently as he flicks a page without looking up. Tatiana’s frown at him goes unnoticed.
Amory, smug at not being shouted at, picks up his cup. “She’d eat if we were having Ricky-loaf,” he says quietly into the glass of water.
“Oh, you’re dead.” Clara slams down her fork and lunges across the table, knocking over her brother and his chair in the process. Isabelle, who’d been sitting at Clara’s side, stands in shock, but Cece continues eating calmly as her sister tries to claw at her brother like a cat beside her.
“Stop that, both of you!” Tatiana shouts, rising suddenly.
“Okay but before all I could pick up from you was anger, I did feel a bit of you blushing,” Amory says, raising his hands in mock surrender. Clara growls and punches at his face, but he rolls away and her fist hits the ground instead.
“Yeah, and I can hear you thinking that you wish you hadn’t brought it up in the first place,” replies Clara, lunging for him again.
“Hey Clara,” calls Cece, and when her older sister turns, the younger morphs her features to resemble a blonde boy and Clara groans at her long enough for Isabelle, who has gone invisible, to slip between her warring siblings.
“Would you two take some deep breaths? This isn’t worth ruining your zen over. I suggest we all do some yoga poses – or, wait, you’re meant to do them before dinner,” Belle says, holding up her two hands defensively as she wedges between her siblings.
“What have I said about using your powers at the table?! Benjamin,” Tatiana whirls on her husband, “Will you intervene already?”
Benj tosses down his newspaper and blinks, seemingly oblivious to everything going on until now. “Now?” He holds up a hand, still distracted, and then the lights go out.
“This is not the time to be messing with the light switch.”
“Fuse box, darling. And sorry.”
The doorbell rings, but it’s only for courtesy. Seth Allen walks in a moment later and stops suddenly. “What happened to the lights?”
“I happened.” Benj presumably flexes his fingers, and the lights return to normal. Clara glares at her brother and returns to her seat, murmuring a greeting to her parents’ friend as she sits back down. Belle follows a foot behind uncertainly, and Amory only sits when it’s clear that his sister won’t attack him again.
“Hey, Tatty,” Seth nods at the woman, who nods distractedly and brushes her dark hair from her face as she takes a seat at the table. “You ready, Benj?”
“Where are you going?” asks Tatty in confusion as Benj stands and gets his jacket.
“It’s Tuesday, remember? Bowling night?” replies Benj as he puts his jacket on.
“Right,” Tatiana nods at forgetting this crucial detail, then waves a hand at the two of them. “Say hello to Nate for me!”
“Will do. Seth, let’s go.” Benj leads them out and closes the door.
Her kids continue eating in silence.
“Don’t think that we’re done talking about this. Cecilia, we’re discussing your behavior later. Clara, we’re… discussing this boy. Amory and Belle, we’re –“
“How was your day at the hospital, Mum?” Belle interrupts sweetly.
Tatiana’s countenance changes. “Oh, you wouldn’t believe it! There was a little boy with a broken arm who asked specifically for a cast that was…”
Tatiana continues talking about her day and all the people that she’s healed in glee, and the siblings exchange hidden smiles at distracting her, however briefly.
“I feel a bit bad about lying to her,” Benj confesses. The radio stops playing, and he flicks his hand at it without looking. The dials turn and something inside it changes until it continues playing the police reports again. “Maybe we should actually go bowling one of these days.”
“You know we don’t have that option.” Seth pulls the newspaper from his pocket, the same one that Benj was reading at dinner. “Have you seen this?”
“I was reading it just before we left. Tatty wanted me to intervene with the kids so I got interrupted, but I saw the report about Nate.” Benj lowers his voice. “You really think that he went rogue and tried to blast away a whole building with his laser vision?”
“I’m sure that he’s capable of it, but you know Nate. The guy wouldn’t hurt a fly.” Seth folds his newspaper back up and shoves it into his pocket. “Something fishy is going on here.”
The radio suddenly flares with the sound of a new report; it’s a minor one, not a major case that would have Benj and Seth on the edge of their seat, but it gives them a chance to tail the police anyway. If not to relive the glory days, then to at least feel as if they’re doing something worthwhile.
Benj is sure that he’d be satisfied at his government desk job if he hadn’t had a taste of the superhero life before it. Settling down hadn’t quite been a part of the plan, but with the Act going into effect after a series of failed rescue attempts by superheroes, and then his wife’s pregnancy, it had made sense. He didn’t regret any of his decisions either in being a hero or a father, but he sometimes wished the world had been a little different, so that his children could grow up enjoying their powers instead of hiding and stifling them.
“I love my wife, I love my kids,” Benj said, staring at the radio, “And you’re sure that something weird is going on, aren’t you? I wouldn’t get into this if it wasn’t to try and stop whatever’s going on from happening to them, too. And Nate.” His throat constricted in memory of his old friend, now locked up.
“Of course.” Seth turns the key in the car. He left his own girlfriend, a girl named Eva who had no superpowers, back when the Act had first been introduced; though he no longer had any family of his own, he counted himself as a Gray. “They’re investigating a building fire. It sounds like an old woman just left the oven on, but with some supers sneezing sparks, I’m suspicious.”
Benj hesitates, then nods, and Seth takes this as his cue to start following the directions of the police scanner.
Belle is trying to understand geometry when there’s a tap at her window. She turns and pushes it open, pleased but not surprised to see the person perched on her tree branch outside.
“Thought you might need some of these.” Clover opens his palm and daffodils blossom in his hand in a small bouquet that Belle takes with a small, bashful smile. “Your Mum’s pretty mad, isn’t she? Did she see your report card?”
“It wasn’t even about that,” Belle shakes her head. “She found out Cece got into trouble, and then Amory and Clara got into a fight with each other. Oh, and my Dad blew the fuse.”
“I thought I heard yelling from down the street,” Clover says meditatively. He sneezes, and sparks fly out again.
“You sure that you shouldn’t get that checked out?” asks Belle in concern, reaching out for him, but Clover shakes a head and leans back on the tree branch.
“No, it’s probably nothing. Lydia’s sick, and I was with her yesterday, so I just got a cold too.” Clover shrugs like it’s nothing, but it doesn’t hide the pang of annoyance in Belle’s heart. Not only is the boy she has a crush on with someone else, but it’s someone with the same name as her godmother, so she couldn’t dislike her even if she tried, even if Isabelle Branwen Gray never tried to dislike someone. She wouldn’t succeed, anyway.
She pushes a smile onto her lips. “Well, if you don’t want me to get my Mum, then take orders from the daughter of a doctor instead – go home and get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Clover grins at her, and begins to climb down the tree. “Oh, by the way,” he calls up at her, “Eos just got home. You might want to inform him that there isn’t a robber at your window, I think I spooked him a bit. Either that, or he thinks that I look like Spider-man.”
Belle giggles at the memory of the superhero from her comic books. His life is just about as glamorous as hers, she thinks, though better in one respect – he has to hide his powers too, but at least he gets to use them to be heroic. Belle’s powers are hardly hero-worthy, and she doesn’t think that hiding from her mother telling her to do chores counts as superhero material.
Nevertheless, she smiles. “You’re more dashing than Spider-man. Good night, Clove.”
Eos slumps into Amory’s room and throws himself across the bottom bunk bed. He quickly moves a second later. “Sorry.”
“No problem,” answers Amory. “I forgot, was it your turn for the bottom bunk this week?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Eos says as he begins to climb the ladder and flops into the top bunk. “I should have been able to tell by your dinosaur sheets.”
“How was work?”
Eos shrugs, remembers Amory can’t see him, and then tucks himself under his blanket. “It was fine. I stacked inventory for ages. How many tubs of ice cream do you think one ice cream store can have? I counted at least three million. Lots of chocolate, though, so we’re well-stocked for your Mum when she shows up.”
“It’s only a few more months until college,” Amory says reassuringly from the bottom bunk. “Then you can quit and study whatever you want and not spend hours stacking ice cream. How’s your back?”
“Not too bad. I just wish it was safe to use my powers and get things done a million times faster.” Eos adjusts his sheets. “The free sundae every shift is worth it, though. Night, Am.”
“Can I help you?” Tatiana blinks sleepy hazel eyes at the cop at the door. She’s normally a morning person, but it’s too early, and Benj came in late last night, smelling vaguely of fire. He explains that he just went out for a smoke after bowling, and she knows that she should be mad that he’s still smoking, but she’s more worried that he’s lying to her. Either way, her eyes are drooping, and she fights to stay awake.
“I’m here for your son, Ma’am,” the officer explains.
She stifles a yawn. “Amory? But he’s done nothing wrong. He was at school all day and then home all night. Are you sure you don’t mean to go down the street for that Moran-Jameson boy?”
The officer shakes his head. “No, the address is right. I’m here for your other son, Ma’am. Eos Rutherford. He’s under arrest.”
“What?” Tatiana’s eyes widen. “What could he possibly do? If you’re arresting him for stealing ice cream, the policy at the store he works at is that he gets a free sundae every four hour shift so –“
The officer cuts her off. “It has nothing to do with ice cream, Mrs. Gray. He’s being arrested for violating the Act and showing his powers in public, thereby putting the public in danger. I’m going to need him to come with me.”