Chapter 1: Prologue
When Joey Wheeler discovered he was a mutant, he had been younger than a teen; the age range that was theorized for when mutant powers surfaced. It had been after his parents divorced that things had begun to happen.
Like whenever he'd get angry the lights in school or at 'home' would flicker, or when he'd get frustrated and have trouble with his homework he would suddenly just know the answers.
It had started out like that with little things happening, but as he got older, his powers started acting up more depending on his mood. Lights would dim if he was sad or upset, they would get glaringly bright if he was happy-which rarely happened-and when he had entered high school, he had gotten into a fight and had gotten so mad that he was being suspended for two weeks that he made the entire school's powers generators go out-effectively letting the rest of the school be let out early. Why couldn't he have just been given in-school detention instead?
Being suspended wouldn't have bothered him if he was in another place and time, he was sure he would've welcomed it, but not in this time and place. He liked school; he was actually worth something here, or at least to the teachers, who would praise him on his work. He liked the praise, it felt nice to be acknowledged than be put down. It was sad for him to think that the person who acknowledged him the most was more of a father to him than his own father.
And on a more selfish note, being at school was really the only place where he could get away with spending hours at and away from his father.
It was also during his suspension that Joey discovered his most powerful ability yet.
And by his own account, his most terrifying.
Chapter 2: Vapor Trail
The blond ducked into his room through the window. The tree was directly beside his window in the apartment complex he and his father lived in. If he wanted to avoid his old man, then going in through the window was really the only option and avoiding using the front door at any cost was top priority.
He'd only go out of his room to get himself some food from the fridge, if there was any left, when he was sure his old man was passed out or too drunk to care. It was only when his old man was sober that he really had to worry; since it was when he was sober that his old man remembered that he actually had a son.
Very unfortunate for Joey indeed.
He couldn't tell his friends because honestly; who believe him? People tended to ignore things despite the evidence being right there in front of them. He tried to use his Know-It-All ability-as he called it-to try and figure out a solution that would make people believe him, but he always had to stop short of any definitive solutions he could come up with before he got sick.
His powers were cool, but had their drawbacks. Whenever he tried to know too much, he always get violently sick and throw up. So he had learned early on to keep himself from trying to know, well, everything. He didn't want to die after all.
But this particularly smarty-smart ability told him that his other power was tied directly to his emotions; hence why the lights would always act so bizarre-he was controlling them. Unknowingly of course, but still, it was so awesome!
Joey had been a rather precocious 13 year old when he had finally learned what he was. He had been testing out his Know-It-All power by asking himself if there was a term for people like him, people with powers that is, and the answer he got was the word 'mutant.'
He had heard the term thrown around in his classes; most of the stuff he bothered to listen to made him hate being human.
Joey had known that the Domino district of New York didn't get a lot of superhero action, but after learning he was a mutant, he had looked up anything he could on mutants via the Internet; he didn't want to stress his Know-It-All ability unless he absolutely had too. The information had been fascinating to him though, and he absorbed it like a sponge.
Joey had suspected that a side effect of his Know-It-All power was being able to have better understanding of things than most people, hence why he saw all the articles with malicious undertones to be bigoted and slanderous. He had to calm himself down before when the computer screen he was at in the library began to waver and flicker. He had been getting angry at the time and didn't want anyone to see or question what he was doing.
Even now as Joey put his backpack down and sat down on the edge of his bed he still couldn't understand why people hated mutants so much. Sure, he had read the Internet reports of rampant mutants, but did the actions of a few stereotype mutants as a whole? Then again, many countries he knew from his history class or social government class exhibited the same thing.
The actions of a few condemn the country as a whole.
Joey though supposed he should know the 'why' to his earlier thesis. People fear what they don't understand. It was simple as that; and Joey hated it. Yes, he knew that concept had been ingrained into human beings since they could understand the world around them. His fingers twitched and he took out his notebook, and simply wrote.
Joey took a sip from the class of soda as he observed his little 13 year old sister reading over his 'article.' They were both dressed in warmer wear because of the chilly November air and had met up in a diner near her house. Joey didn't mind the long walk, anything to get him out of the apartment; and really, his sister was the only person in his 'family' he'd be willing to walk a mile for.
Figuratively, but literally too if need be.
"So?" he prompted when he saw her eyes widened behind her glasses. A stab of guilt shot through him. His sister's growing blindness was another he hadn't seen coming, but he beat back the guilt. It'd be hypocritical of him to start blaming himself for something like this after giving his father-figure a speech that what had happened to…them hadn't been his fault. Joey's eyes darkened, but calmed himself before the lights could start flickering.
He was sure though if the opportunity to get revenge presented itself, he'd take it. And he was sure his father-figure would too.
"So?" Joey prompted again after taking another sip of his cola.
Serenity pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "This is good." She sounded awed. Joey felt mildly insulted…at least until she said her next words. "You're a very good writer. This article brings up some good points." Now she looked confused. "But why'd you want me to read it?"
"'Cause I want your school's newspaper editor to publish it. Me remaining anonymous of course." Joey replied casually.
"Don't you have a newspaper too though at your school, so why don't you give it to your editor?" Serenity questioned gently.
Joey didn't pause. "I can't. I got suspended for fightin' in school for sticking up for my friend."
"Why would they suspend you for sticking up for your friend?" Serenity asked confused.
Joey smiled coldly. "'Cause the principal wouldn't let me explain; and I learned a long time ago that people wouldn't believe the word of a punk." He said darkly.
Serenity frowned. "But you're not a punk, you're very smart; I've seen the report cards you show me." She replied. "Why would they think you're a punk?"
Joey took another sip of his cola before putting the glass down. "Ren, there's two things about human nature I'm sure of, one; people see what you want them to see. And two; they ignore things that they don't want to see."
Joey knew his sister was also smart and he could practically see the cogs working in her head to figure out what he meant.
"So," Serenity started off slowly, "you act like a punk for show, but you're not actually one?"
"And?" Joey added.
Serenity's brow furrowed up a little. "They can't accept it if you differentiate from what they expect of you."
Joey smiled again, this time it was warm; the kind of smile he reserved for his sister and…the kids he used to babysit. It faltered for a second, but wasn't noticeable. "You're right on the mark both times, Ren." He said sadly. "But I'm sure now you can see why I want you to give that to your editor." He paused before moving to stand. "Whatever reason you come up with will likely be right."
"If this gets published, do you want a copy?" Serenity questioned.
Joey gave it some thought. He hadn't written it to get attention (that was why he had asked his sister to say it was anonymous); he had written it to get some points across. And it was also the reason he hadn't tried to get it published in a 'real' newspaper. He knew it'd probably get crumpled up and tossed away, but if he could sway at least one person (Serenity didn't count unfortunately) to see how unfair people were to mutants, he'd be fine with it.
"No, I don't want an article." He finally answered as he paid their bill and walked his sister out of the diner.
Once they were away from any listening ears, Serenity asked, "Are you a mutant, Joey?"
Joey raised a brow in response. "If I say yes, will it change your opinion of me?"
Serenity shook her head. "No, I promise it won't. To me, you'll always be Joey."
Feeling better than he had in a while, Joey nodded. "Then I am."
It was two days before Joey's article ended up being published in the middle school newspaper. Serenity felt proud of her brother, but she had to keep her answers neutral if anyone asked her on her own opinion of the article.
She was fairly sure though that the reason all the newspapers had been 'sold out' was because everyone was reading that article or heard about it and needed for read it for themselves. She didn't blame them, her brother had made some very good points, and like he said; people see what you want them to see. She was curious though about what his power was. It had to be cool though, she'd be shocked though if his power wasn't.
Unbeknownst to her or her brother was the ripple effect that one particular article was going to have.
Chapter 3: Master Of Your Domain prt 1
Joey felt like throwing down the bow. Yes, bow. Not towel. His fingers ached and any shots he'd taken at the target board had all missed. Why had Clint talked him into this? His aim sucked!
While the 12 year old was no whiner, he couldn't keep in his complaints. "My fingers hurt, this bow is too heavy for me, and my aim sucks."
The older man stared at him with an unusually serious expression on his face. "I know, I know, and," he took one look at the target board and the arrows haphazardly strewn around it, "I know."
Joey stared up at him, looking scandalized. "Then why bother trying to teach me archery? I suck at it! I'm nothing but a worthless brat!"
Clint's face showed little reaction to Joey's statement aside from his features tightening. "Did your father tell you that?" Joey nodded. "Well forget it! He's the worthless one!"
Clint would have been lying if he said he hadn't felt like putting an arrow through the abusive drunk Joey was forced to live with. He'd nearly beaten the man within an inch of his life though when he'd gotten a call from the hospital telling him that his son had been admitted. Had he not seen all three of his children run by at that moment, he was sure he would have had a heart attack. But he had seen them, and asked the nurse what the boy's name was.
Once the name 'Joey' had been said, he'd abruptly cut off the nurse and told her he'd be right there.
The second he'd seen Joey's bruised up face and the sling his arm was in, he didn't buy it for a second that he had fallen down the stairs when the younger blond had tried to sell him that story. After getting a doctor's reassurance that Joey would be okay, he went off to commit assault.
For the most part, Clint had just seen red and barely remembered what he'd done, but the next thing he knew, he was being charged with assault and had a restraining order set against him from the bastard that said he couldn't go within a hundred feet of the man.
Luckily though, Joey hadn't been included in that agreement and the younger blond continued to come over to see him and his family.
Though he swore; first legal chance he got, he was getting Joey out of that place he was forced to call a home.
"Wake up, brat!" A grating voice shouted, banging on the door to Joey's room.
Joey groaned as he got out of bed, his blond hair as unruly as ever. "Yeah, 'em up." His New York accent was thick with grogginess as he rubbed the sleep out of his amber eyes.
Joey backtracked to look at the reflective surface of the lock on his door. The reflection wasn't good, but he definitely knew his eyes had never been that color before.
Joey though, just chalked it up to one of his powers affecting his eye color and decided to wear the dark sunglasses he'd bought once to hide the black eyes his father would give him from the kids at school and from both Clint and Laura.
Though only those two actually cared enough about to ask why he was wearing them. And while he had always made something up on the fly, he had known neither of them had ever bought it.
Though he knew he didn't have school due to his suspension, his father didn't know that since he'd usually let the answering machine get it and later on Joey had deleted the message from his school. He knew where he was going to spend his two weeks. Not in this apartment, that's for sure.
Joey put on a clean shirt and jeans, while putting on his green jacket over the white shirt. He opened the door after unlocking it and peeked out into the hall. His hearing picked up the sound of running water and he knew his father was in the bathroom.
"Goin' now!" he yelled before quickly shutting his door and locking it again. He made his way over to the window and carefully got onto the branch and climbed down the tree.
Once his feet hit the ground, he already had in mind where he was going. Sure, it may take him almost forty minutes to walk there, and it usually left his hands aching even when he did wear the specialized gloves, but he liked archery.
Which was a real improvement from when he first began to learn it.
Joey preened somewhat as another arrow hit the target board. When he first tried his hand at archery, he had sucked at it. His arrows either landed short of the board or missed all together. Though instead of giving up on him, Clint had taken him to a man he'd introduced as 'Buck,' and asked him to teach him how to shoot.
Joey had noted at the time that Buck hadn't looked too thrilled with the idea, but very reluctantly agreed. Too be honest though, Joey hadn't felt too thrilled with the idea when the guy kept on criticizing his stances until he got it right; and the worst came when his aim was mentioned.
Particularly when Buck said he couldn't hit the side of a barn door; and he had been right. That had been a rather embarrassing moment for Joey.
The 12 year old had persevered through it though, as his training in the long run left him with eerily accurate aim. While Buck though had pretty much been the trainer from hell to him, Joey had eventually found the man to be bearable, and it did help that Clint was there supervising; which in turn had made Joey work harder to impress his honorary dad.
Although, even in the present time Joey still wasn't immune to criticism.
"You're slouching, kid! Stand up straight!"
Joey's back automatically straightened and his grip on his bow and notched arrow tightened before firing and the arrow hit the board dead-on. He then turned to look at the older man in annoyance. "Aren't I good enough yet that you don't have to keep harping on me?" he questioned.
Buck stared at him like he was idiot. "If I don't, how are you gonna get any better?"
Joey frowned. "I bet Clint never got talked to like this." He grumbled.
"Oh really?" Buck looked rather amused. "And who do you think trained him?"
Joey blinked; then a look of dawning realization crossed his face. "You trained him? Seriously?"
"Better believe it, kid." Buck replied proudly. "I taught him everything he knows about archery, just like with you."
Joey grinned when he realized what this meant. It was just one more thing he had in common with his father-figure; only this time it was probably the only good thing they had in common.
Chapter 4: Master Of Your Domain prt 2
Joey was just putting the bow and arrows he'd been using back into their place in the shed; wincing from the cut he had accidently given himself from holding the string too tightly. He looked down at the cut. It was a long sliver down his palm. He conceded at that time to never go without wearing the gloves simply because they were 'difficult to get off.'
Joey was surprised that the cut wasn't bleeding out, despite the fact he'd been using both his hands to put the equipment away. He still needed to clean it and bandage it though. Joey knew that Buck kept some of the basic supplies for cuts and bandages because of the blonde's past incidents with getting cut on either the bow string or the arrows.
He left the shed and when he walked up to the house, Joey saw a black van in the driveway. He frowned; if Buck had been expecting someone he would've told Joey to beat it once the teen had shown up. Joey cautiously opened the door and walked in, he took a look around the entrance before making his way to the bathroom; that's usually where the supplies were kept.
As soon as he opened the cabinet, he took of his sunglasses and started cleaning up his cut. The peroxide stung like hell, but it had to get cleaned. He the wrapped a long strip of the white bandage around his palm and sealed it up with medical tape.
Joey couldn't explain it though, but the hairs on the back of his neck were standing on end, and once he closed the cabinet mirror; he froze. Beyond his reflection was the look into the living room; and on the floor behind the couch in the mirror was a crumpled form on the floor.
Joey turned back in alarm and he sprinted over to the fallen form. While he tried to wake Buck up, his mind was screaming at him that if there was still a van out in the driveway that whoever did this was still in the house.
Joey seemed to acknowledge this too little too late as his head snapped up; only to get punched in the jaw and he saw a flash of blond hair before he hit the floor. The last thing he saw before he blacked out was Buck being dragged out of sight by a blond man.
Joey awoke later on with a painfully stinging jaw. He staggered to his feet and searched for the phone. Why had someone kidnapped Buck though? That question was replied too with too many variables that Joey's Know-It-All ability came up with and he had to take a steadying breath to stop himself from throwing up.
Whether he was here or not, Joey knew Buck wouldn't have appreciated having a sick teenager in his house.
Once Joey reached the phone, he paused. He knew he should call the cops, but there was something stopping him from doing it. If it had been any other situation, calling the cops would have been priority number one, but at this moment…
Making up his mind, Joey dialed a number and waited for the other person to pick up.
"Clint, I didn't know what else to do, I didn't know if I should've called the cops first or-"
"Why would you have needed to call the cops?" Clint asked sharply from the other line. "What happened and where are you?"
"I'm at Buck's. I was putting away the arrows and bow I was using, but I cut my palm on the string, so I had to come inside to use the medical supplies." Joey relayed. "That's when I saw the black van in the driveway and went in thinking that someone had just come over, but after I finished cleaning my cut, I saw Buck lying on the floor in the mirror. I went to wake him up, but then someone punched me in the jaw pretty hard and I blacked out. When I woke up, Buck was gone."
There was a pause on other line. "The van, did you get enough of a look at it to know the make?"
"It was a black Chevy van I think. I was just coming into the house so I didn't see the license plate." Joey said.
"What about the person? Did you get a look at 'em before they knock you out?"
Joey grimaced as he rubbed his jaw. "Yeah, sorta. The guy had blond hair, but other than that I didn't get a good look at him." He replied. "So what should I do? Call the cops then?"
There was a pause. "Yes, do that, but," Clint added in a rather sharp tone, "I want you to do it anonymously. I don't want you anywhere near there when the cops show up, so you better be long gone. And don't leave any trace that you were there to begin with, got it?"
Joey was actually rather shocked to be hearing this. "What, why?"
"It's just something I don't want you to get involved in, please, just…stay out of it?"
If possible, this was even more shocking. Joey knew that his honorary father never begged, so he knew the severity of what he was asking. He swallowed audibly before he answered. "Sure, okay." There was a brief goodbye on both parties before Joey called the police tip hotline.
Joey felt confused. Confused and guilty. If he had been quicker on the dodge, he might have been able hold the blond guy off, but Joey was under no illusion that he could've done more than just give the guy a reason to kill him other than being an annoyance.
Joey was all too aware that the guy could've just killed him instead of knocking him out.
Then there was the confusion. Why had Clint told him how to evade the police? And more importantly, why did he want him to stay out of it? Then of course there was the obvious question of why someone would want Buck; as far as Joey knew, the guy was just a grouchy old man who had taught him and Clint to shoot.
The next day, most of his questions were answered when he peeked through his bed room door at the T.V and heard the news reporter giving report of yesterday; and what he heard made his eyes widen.
"...there is no clue as of yet to who might have kidnapped Buck Chisholm, the former mercenary and supervillain known as Trick Shot. The only detail police are confirming is the pair of sunglasses left in the bathroom belonging to an unknown male…"
'Oh. Shit.' Joey thought. 'Clint's gonna kill me he said not too-wait, Buck was a supervillain?'
This had to be the most surprisingly thing he's ever found out. Aside from him learning he was a mutant, but did this mean that Clint knew Buck had been a supervillain? Joey quietly closed the door and relocked the door.
No wonder Clint had told him to stay out of it.
But unbeknownst to Joey, at that exact moment, the national fingerprint database had come up with the name 'Joey Wheeler' from the fingerprints on the sunglasses.
Chapter 5: Pyromania
After hearing the news on Buck from the T.V, Joey had left the house through his window. He really couldn't believe that grumpy old man Buck had actually been a super villain once. What was next, Clint was really a superhero? The day that was true Joey would be a hero. That statement was so ironic though it probably would never happen.
Joey had used his ability for a brief moment to know that it was 3 now. The Know-It-All ability was useful for knowing what time it was if he didn't he have a clock handy and it was one of the few things he could know without there being any repercussions.
Joey walked toward his school to see his friends and attain his schoolwork. Hey, while he wasn`t allowed to be at school during the day, no one said anything about after school or getting any work he missed. Usually if he missed days he could always count on his Science teacher to attain the schoolwork he needed to finish.
Good thing most of the teachers he had were so flabbergasted by the fact that a student actually wanted the work they missed it was never questioned why his Science teacher collected the work in the first place.
Joey saw his friends walking out of the school and walked up to them. "Hey guys."
Téa looked at Joey with some surprise. "What are you doing here; aren't you supposed to be suspended?"
Joey looked back coolly, and had to force down the urge to snort every time he saw the ridiculous girl's uniform the school had. A giant bow and pink blouse? Seriously? Domino high could have at least upgraded into the 21st century and let the students dress the way they wanted. Or at least within a reasonable dress code.
"I am suspended." Joey replied indifferently. "There's nothing against the rules in being suspended that I can't come here after school."
Tristan snorted. "You want to come to school? What are you, a nerd?" he scoffed. "And what's up with your eyes, anyway?"
Joey had briefly forgotten about the fact his eyes were now a different color, though he now knew he didn't need sunglasses to hide them. "I decided to wear colored contacts. Don't my new eyes look cool though?" he added with an arrogant tone and a boisterous grin.
It was all for show, but he honestly couldn't put that much effort into the act knowing his grumpy old mentor was missing.
"There certainly…interesting." Yugi said uncertainly. "And it's great that you still want to get good grades."
Joey's smile became just a bit more real. While he was painfully aware he was taller than his friends, he was also aware that he was younger than them too, including Yugi. They were all 16 and he was 15; the fact he had skipped a grade kept carefully hidden from them.
Joey's attention turned to the paper in Téa's hands. His smile faltered as he saw that it was from the Midtown Middle School. "What is that?" he asked, though he very much knew what the answer was.
"Oh, this?" Tea held up the paper for emphasis. "It's the Midtown middle school newspaper. One of the girls in my other classes let me have it. She said she got it from her brother who's from the middle school where the papers from." She explained. "Wanna see?"
Joey curiously nodded as he looked at the page she was at and was shocked to see that it was his article she was reading.
Fear And Prejudice
I hear every day in my classes that mutants are destroying places, but never about any mutants who do any good. The answer I have concluded is quite sickening: People believe what they want to believe, and no matter how hard you may try, it's just never enough for them.
What is the difference between a mutant and a human, really? A quirk of evolution that gives you powers, that's all. Yet people are so insistent that mutants are sub-human or freaks, but that's really just a mask for what they really feel.
Humans fear what they do not understand. That is a concept that has been ingrained into humanity since the days of cavemen. They hide their fear behind hatred and slander because they fear the powers these unique humans have. They feel prone to lash out in anger and hate, or for those who wish they had these incredible gifts: jealously.
For any of you reading this and scoffs at the idea of being a mutant; let me ask you this: Was there ever a time when you wished you could fly like? Or have the power to lift buses or cars without any effort? Or have the power of your favorite comic book superhero?
Then one day, you hear about a mutant who could lift 10 times their weight or fly, and you think: I wish I could do that. What can't I have that power? It's not fair. And you begin to lash out at the mutant population simply because they can do things you will never be able too.
As I've said, I hear in my classes talking about the bad things mutants can and have done, but where's the good? What everyone seems to forget or ignore is that mutants are just regular people like you.
I've drawn parallels to this article by other events in history where people thought it was a good idea to class a bunch of people together and try to get rid of them or reject them because they were 'different.' I've heard the phrase: If you treat something like a monster, then that's exactly what you'll get.
As I end this note: If you were a mutant, would you tell people?
With all the prejudice around, I know I certainly wouldn't feel safe telling someone that I knew wouldn't accept me for just being me.
"Wow." Joey muttered, more so out of the fact his article had made its way into a high school than any actual surprise.
Téa though misinterpreted his mutter though for surprise. "I know, that's what I said when I first read it. It certainly is fascinating."
"It really is." Joey agreed half-heartedly before he excused himself. He shook his head as he headed down the hall to the science class for his year. It was strange to think that he really had written that article, but he was also glad he had written it anonymously. He opened the door and spotted the teachers long black hair pulled back in an elegant bun. "Hello Miss Drew." He chimed, causing her to look up.
Jessica smiled at him. "Hello, Joey. You here for your work?" she asked, her speech peppered with her English accent.
Joey nodded as he walked over to the desk while Jessica got the small pile out of her briefcase. While he was well aware that Miss Drew was a very attractive woman, he thought of her more like a cool big sis and actually paid attention in her class instead of just stared at her. That after all was the reason she said he was her favorite student.
Jessica handed him the pile and gave him a cordial smile, one that Joey returned. "Be sure to hand it back to the receptionist in the main office once you get done your suspension." She reminded him needlessly.
He still appreciated the gesture though; like with Clint it showed him that not all adults were totally worthless to him. Old people though he was fine with.
"Thanks." He said before departing.
Once he got back to the apartment complex, he knew that going in through the window probably wouldn't be a good idea because of the cop car in front of the complex. He looked at it like it was an ominous omen before taking the elevator in the building up to his old man's place. He fumbled with his key in his back pocket before unlocking the door and opening it slowly, hoping that he wouldn't see any cops in the apartment.
His hope was brutally crushed when he saw two cops in room and he saw his old man sitting on a chair. One of the cops was a woman and the other a man. "Hello; is there something wrong?" he asked cautiously.
"Son," Joey tried not to grimace as his old man called him that, "Officers Cater and DeWolfe have some questions they wanna ask you."
Taking this as an invitation, the woman asked, "When was the last time you saw Buck Chisholm?"
Joey bit his lip for a second before silently apologizing to Clint. "The day he went missing."
"And why were you there?" Officer Carter asked next.
"I go there to practice my archery." Joey answered. "He's been teaching me to shoot since I was 12." The officers exchanged a grim look as his old man sent him a glare. "Look, I didn't know that he was a super villain."
"Didn't you ever ask?" Officer DeWolfe questioned suspiciously.
Joey shook his head. "I never asked and he never told me. Far as I was concerned he was just a grouchy old man."
"What about the blood in the bathroom trashcan?" Officer Carter questioned.
"That's mine." Joey said and saw them exchange another look. "I cut myself on a bow string, okay?" he snapped. "I had to go into the house to clean my cut and bandage up my hand," he held up his hand to show the bandage wrapped around his palm for emphasis, "anything else you wanna ask?" he asked annoyed.
The officers didn't have any more questions for him and Joey's old man led them out of the apartment. The moment the door closed, Joey swore the temperature dropped. He knew what was coming next; he didn't need his Know-It-All ability to tell him that.
The blond looked up on reflex and the next second he was on the floor, the papers he had put on his lap scattered on the floor and his eye stung. He looked at his old man glaring down at him. "Get up brat." He growled.
Joey frowned as he did as he was told, only to get punched back down again. He knew if he tried to fight back it would only be worse, but he also knew this would be worse. "Look, like I said; I didn't know that Buck was a sup-"
A kick in the stomach interrupted him and Joey curled up, his hands wrapping around his torso. "I don't give a shit who you hang around with, but you brought the cops here, you worthless brat!"
Joey, who had his eyes closed from the pain, glared at the man, hatred starting to surface on his face. "I'm not the worthless one, you are! You alcoholic gambling bastard!" he snarled.
The older man stomped down on Joey's ankle this time, eliciting a yell from the blond. "That'll teach you to talk back to me!"
'Teach?' Joey thought angrily as his amber eyes glowed behind his closed eyelids. 'This bastard never taught me anything!' he felt his hate grow and a loud beeping sound suddenly started going off as the room began to get uncomfortably hot.
"What the hell!" The older man yelled. "Where'd this fire come from?"
'Fire?' Joey thought opening his eyes to see the flames engulfing the walls and a good portion of the living room. 'How did this start?' he wondered and he saw his old man look around once before the older man ran out the door. Joey just stared at the door in disbelief; he was obviously wrong to think that his old man would give a damn about him, and this just drove it home. 'I really shouldn't be all that surprised.' He thought before seeing his homework go up in flames.
'Homework can be replaced, I can't be though.' Joey thought as he tried to get to his feet, but once he got on his ankle, he let out a scream and dropped back to the floor. He noticed too late that the flames had gotten too close to his jacket sleeve and when he looked down; he saw that the cuff was burning.
'Damn it!' he thought panicking as he tried to put it out by blowing on it, but the flames burned up the cuff and he was very surprised to find that once the flame hit his skin, he couldn't feel it! He stared at the flame engulfing his hand and was morbidly fascinated to find that it wasn't a prolonged reaction; he really couldn't feel the fire!
A more horrifying thought came to him. 'I…I caused this, didn't I?' his answer from his smarty-smart power was a yes.
Though Joey was immune to the fire, he certainly wasn't immune to the smoke and began coughing as he inhaled some, effectively snapping him back to the reality that he was inside a burning room. He finally managed to put out the fire that was on his hand once look at the melted telephone told him that he couldn't call for the fire department, but he was sure that someone else in the apartment complex had called-
Joey started to choke up in a way that had nothing to do with the smoke. Oh no, since he had caused this fire, what were the chances it had quickly spread? What if people hadn't been able to get out? He immediately stopped trying to save himself. If people died because of this, then he was a murderer and deserved to die too.
Joey made no other effort to get up again or try to stop from inhaling the smoke. He was sure he'd die either way if he just held his breath. Ashe started choking on the smoke, his last thought before passing out was, 'I'm sorry.'
Chapter 6: In The Blood
His body ached, mostly his ribs though. Joey struggled to remember what had happened before there was a flash of fire and smoke in his mind and he remembered laying down in the burning apartment room waiting for the smoke to kill him since the flames couldn't burn his skin for some reason.
If the horrifying realization didn't come to him a moment later about why he had been so willing to give up and die came to him, he would have thought that being able to create fires would be cool.
…but knowing that people in the other apartments in the building might have died because of him, made him suddenly hate himself. Hate that he couldn't really control his emotions that were pretty much the catalyst for his powers. He could do these incredible things, but all he had to do to keep them under control was never feel anything ever again.
That made him see just how steep the price of having emotion-based powers was. Either he had to control his emotions, or just never feel again.
Tough call, but since his suicide attempt had failed he supposed that Option 1 was better than Option 2.
Joey opened his eyes and he stared up at the white ceiling, blinking several times and looked down at his right hand upon feeling the pressure of the I.V in his hand and his attention snapped to the door when it opened and a familiar auburn-haired girl came in, her face lighting up when she saw him awake.
Serenity rushed over to his side and was about to hug him when she thought better of it and instead just gave him a watery smile. "Big brother, you're finally awake!"
"Finally?" Joey echoed. "How long was I out for? The last thing I remember is passing out."
"You've been unconscious for almost two days!" Serenity's eyes blurred behind her glasses. "When I heard that you're apartment burned down, I made mom bring me here. I had to make sure you were alright."
Joey chuckled dryly; though it hurt to do anything other than just breath at the moment. "Bet she appreciated that." he muttered darkly. If it wasn't for his sister and Jessica, or Laura when she had been alive, then Joey would have bet his overall opinion of women wouldn't be very good with the fact his own mother had abandoned him when she took Serenity in the divorce and left him with the abusive drunk he had to live with.
Speaking of which…
"The fire; you know if the dead beat bit it?" he asked coldly, and for a malicious moment that echoed back to when he'd been put in the hospital for the first time and had heard from the police that Clint had nearly beaten his old man to death, he wished the answer was yes.
Serenity's expressing though turned dark. "No, he's still alive. Came here yesterday when mom dropped me off and wouldn't let me out of her sight while he was arguing with the doctors to take you off the machines because he didn't want to pay the bill when you got out of here." She explained. Joey scowled up at the ceiling." The doctors threatened to kick him out if he didn't leave quietly, the guy didn't even notice us as he left and I was allowed to see you, but I found someone else sitting by your bed. I think he said his name was," Serenity's eyes narrowed for a moment as she fought to think of the name, "Clint."
"Clint came to see me?" Joey asked surprised.
"Yeah, he told me that he knew you ever since you were 10, so I guess this was after mom and…him divorced that you met him." Serenity shrugged. "Did you tell him about, you know, how you're a…mutant?" her voice had dropped to a whisper as she looked around quickly.
Joey shook his head. "Nah, no reason for him to think I'm a freak."
"I don't think you're a freak."
Joey felt his insides freeze, a sharp contrast to the pain he felt, and Serenity jumped away, allowing Joey to see the older blond man standing in the doorway. "How much of that did you hear?" he asked nervously.
"Enough." Clint said shortly and looked at Serenity. "I'd like to talk to Joey alone, if you don't mind."
Serenity shrank in on herself as she nodded timidly and rushed out the door, closing it behind her.
Clint saw down on the chair beside Joey's bed and stared at the edge of the bed. "You could have died." He stated flatly.
Joey knew if it his ribs didn't hurt so much, he would have winced. "I…I wanted to die." Screw his pain, the sharp look Clint gave him made him wince. "It was my fault the fire started, I made it start." He explained hastily. "I was just so mad that the dead beat began punching and kicking me. I didn't call the police and tell them to come there, they just showed up."
"The police went to your apartment?" Clint asked, his eyes narrowing slightly. "You did what I asked you too, right?"
Joey bit his lip. "I…I forgot to take my sunglasses with me and…and…" he trailed off, feeling very flustered. "Why didn't you tell me though that Buck used to be a supervillain? I had to find that out from the news."
Now Clint avoided his gaze. "I didn't think it was necessary to tell you what he used to be." He replied. "And I didn't want you involved because I didn't want you to get hurt. You said you only saw the kidnapper's blond hair before they knocked you out, but whoever took Buck might not know that. And I assumed that if you told anyone else…"
"That I might be killed if I talked." Joey finished. "Is that what you thought when you came here? That the fire was an attempt on my life?"
"That's what I was thinking until I heard your sister call you a mutant." Clint replied. "I'm actually glad it was you that caused it rather than someone trying to kill you."
Joey stared at him, thinking he'd never heard the other man sound so callous about human life before. "But didn't people die in the fire?" he had been under the impression that his screw up had killed people. Not to mention leaving any one still alive homeless.
"No, no one died." Clint replied and he saw Joey's face relax a little. "I heard the fire department got there in time to evacuate the people and rescue anyone who was still inside. Including you."
'That's a relief.' Joey thought, but another thought came to him. "Where am I gonna live? I know for a fact my 'mom' won't take me in, she only wanted Serenity; and…" Joey noticed the look on Clint's face. "What?"
"If you think I'm gonna let you go back to that drunk you've got another thing coming." He said irritably. "I read the report that aside from smoke inhalation, it was a beating that nearly killed you." The scowl that crossed his face made Joey realize he knew exactly who had hurt him.
Then another realization came to him. "So, does this mean what I think it means?" he asked.
"That once you get out the hospital you're coming to live with me? Yes, yes it does." Clint replied nodding.
Joey grinned, knowing if it wouldn't hurt and he was a girl, he'd have hugged the man. "Thanks, but," his grin faded and a frown replaced it, "what about the legal stuff?"
"Leave that to me, but fortunately, if what you said is true, then your mother probably wouldn't put up much of a fight to keep you." Clint looked morose as his eyes glared at nothing.
Joey had on principle stopped caring about what his 'mother' thought a while back. "Nothing illegal, got it?" he asked only half-heartedly.
Clint smirked as him as he reached over and ruffled up Joey's hair. "Sure, I can do that. Get some sleep, kid." He advised before leaving the room.
Serenity came in a moment later and smiled at him. "I...I guess I'll see you later, huh?"
Joey smiled at her. "Yeah." Then his smile turned into a frown. "Serenity, what's today?"
"Thursday, why?" Serenity questioned.
"Because all my homework got burned up in the fire, so I was wondering if you could go to my school tomorrow and ask Miss Drew, my Science teacher, for copies." Joey explained.
Serenity stared at him with some incredulity before shaking her head slowly. "Only you would be worried about schoolwork just after waking up from being unconscious for two days." She said dryly. "But, I suppose I could get your homework tomorrow."
Joey's smile widened. "Thanks sis, you're the best."
Serenity smiled back at him. "I know."
After school had ended the next day, Serenity arrived at the Domino District High School. It hadn't been much of a hassle to get here as she thought it would be, but she wasn't about to question it.
Serenity walked into the school and was suddenly aware of one very important fact: she had no idea where Miss Drew's room was. 'Aw, man!' she groaned internally.
The auburn-haired girl looked around for any students that could help her and found a friendly-faced older girl with brown hair and blue eyes talking to a boy with a pinhead hairstyle and a younger-looking boy with a crazy hairstyle. "Um, excuse me?" she called to the girl.
The girl turned to look at her as her two friends quieted down. "Yes?"
"Could you tell my where Miss Drew's room is? My brother Joey needs to have copies." Serenity had deliberately added her brother's name because she if they knew him.
For a second though, Serenity swore she saw a dull yellow glow around the brown-haired girl, but since neither of her two companions seemed to notice, Serenity decided that she must have been seeing things.
"Joey? Joey Wheeler's your brother?" The girl asked cautiously.
Serenity nodded. "Yes, he asked me to come and get the copies. Do you know Joey?"
"We're his friends." The girl answered. "Why didn't Joey come and get them himself instead of sending his sister-that he didn't even tell us he had." That last bit was aimed at her other two friends with annoyance.
Serenity felt herself get irritated, not at Joey, she knew her brother always did or didn't do things and always provided a reason why; but she found that this girl didn't know his brother at all. And this was what he had for friends? "My brother's in the hospital." She said a bit more harshly than necessary.
The boy with the zany hairstyle looked genuinely concerned as he faintly glowed white for a second; but again, Serenity didn't say anything on it. "Is he alright?"
"He's…alright." The 13 year old said warily. "If you're his friends, then I guess he wouldn't mind you visiting him. Now, where's Miss Drew's room?"
The young-looking boy looked embarrassed for a moment before pointing off down the hall. "Room 104, just take a right at the end of the hall."
Serenity nodded at him as she passed. "Thank you." She said sincerely.
Serenity decided that perhaps Joey had chosen his friends for a specific reason. She could tell it was probably the zany-haired boy's compassion that made her brother hang around him, the other two she wasn't so sure of, but then again, her brother always did like to analyze certain things. And she supposed friends fell into that category.
The 13 year old found the door as instructed and poked her head in. There was an attractive dark-haired woman putting papers into a briefcase and Serenity cleared her throat. "Excuse me, are you Miss Drew?"
The woman looked up. "Yes." She replied in an English accent. "And who might you be?"
"Serenity Wheeler." The teen replied walking into the room. "My brother Joey wanted me to come and see if you could give me copies of his homework." She continued and briefly debated not telling the teacher why Joey wanted them, but thought better of it. "He's in the hospital, and his apartment building got burned up."
Miss Drew looked shocked. "Is he alright?" she asked with concern as she glowed faintly white, the same as Joey's short friend.
"Yes, though he was more worried about not getting his homework done." Serenity explained.
Miss Drew's face softened. "I'll go get some copies, you wait here." She said before leaving the room.
Serenity sat down on one of the chairs in the front row and began contemplating why she seemed to be the only one able to see the glows around people. It had happened previously, but she had thought at the time it was just a trick of the light, but now that it had happened three times in a row, she wasn't so sure.
Was she a mutant like her brother? And if so, what kind of power let her see colors around people? It seemed random for the most part, since she was exerting no actual effort in seeing the colors. But that left another question, why had that girl's color been dull yellow while the boy's and Miss Drew's been white? Did it mean something?
Serenity didn't know much about mutants or their powers, not like her brother seemed to know; so after she had dropped Joey's work off with him and went home, she use her computer to look for the facts. If she had to guess, it probably would've been something Joey would have done when he found out he was a mutant.
Serenity was only brought out of her thoughts 15 minutes later when Miss Drew came back into the room carrying a small pile of papers.
"Here you are, and tell Joey I hope he gets better soon." Miss Drew said handing Serenity the papers.
The teen nodded. "I will, and thank you, Miss Drew." She said before departing and catching a bus that stopped just a block from the hospital.
Joey had woken up later on to the sound of knocking and saw a nurse poke her head in. "Yes?"
"Sorry to disturb you, but there are some teenagers here to see you, they say they're your friends." The nurse said.
Joey waved his hand, ever since he'd been declared 'stable' after they'd taken the I.V out and now was just waiting for the damage to finish healing up before he could be released from the hospital. "Sure, let 'em in." he replied.
The nurse nodded and three familiar teenagers came in, each wearing varying expressions of relief and worry on their faces.
Yugi spoke up first. "Joey, are you really alright?"
Joey blinked at the 'really' part. "Yes, I'll be able to leave as soon as everything finishes healing up."
"Joey, why didn't you tell us you had a sister?" Tristan asked.
Joey growled. "You, stay away from my sister." He hissed. "Secondly, was I supposed to tell you?" he asked annoyed.
"But friends don't keep secrets from each other." Téa said.
Joey resisted snorting at her naïveté. 'Course we do. We all have secrets.' He thought sardonically. Then, just to prove how futile telling the truth would be, he said what he's been trying to say for 5 years. "You wanna know why I'm in the hospital? Yeah, so I got smoke inhalation, but what really almost killed me was that my old man beat me and left me in the burning apartment to die."
Joey watched their expressions and saw that none of them looked like they believed him. 'I knew it.'
"That's not funny Joey; blaming you father just isn't funny." Téa admonished sternly.
"Yeah man, are you sure you just didn't hit your head?" Tristan questioned.
Joey glared at them, the lights starting to flicker overhead. "No, I did not hit my head." He said coldly. They just didn't believe-
"What if Joey's telling the truth guys?" Yugi asked.
"Yugi, no father could ever do that to his kid." Téa rebuked.
Joey felt his lip curl in contempt. Téa just had no idea how the world really worked and it sickened him. "No, you're the one who's wrong. You just want to believe that everyone's good, but here's the truth: in some people, there's just no good in them."
The only girl in the room shook her head. "That can't be true, if you just give someone a chance…"
Joey remained unconvinced, and he had heard enough of this. "Leave."
They filed out just as Serenity made it into the room. "I got your homework, big brother." She said smiling, but it faltered when she saw his expression. "What's wrong?"
The lights stopped flickering over head as Joey let out a sigh. "Just Téa being naïve is all."
Serenity's brow furrowed in confusion. "One of you friends?" Joey nodded. "A girl?" Joey nodded again. "Oh, I met them at your school and I gotta ask, why are you friends with her anyway?"
"'M not really, she's more Yugi's friend than mine." Joey explained.
"Oh, that explains it." Serenity said and handed Joey the papers and a pen. "Miss Drew was really helpful."
"That's why she's my favorite teacher." Joey said absently. "So, anything new with you?"
Serenity flinched, but decided that it was better to tell him after she found out if she might be a mutant or not. "Not…really. I'm just gonna head home now." She said heading for the door.
"'Kay, see ya." Joey said offhandedly as he began to work on the first page of his homework.
Serenity looked back at him as she watched him work for a second and hoped she was a mutant, just so she could have something more familial in common with him.
Chapter 7: First Blood prt 1
Joey filled out the last question and had to be please with himself that he'd managed to finish his homework in two days. His friends had visited some more, but since Clint practically spent all the times he wasn't out working-the one thing Joey had never been able to get the man to tell him was what his job was-he was sitting in Joey's room talking to him.
From what he had gathered, there was still no word on where Buck might be.
That had depressed him, though Clint pointed out what Joey had already figured out, the man that took Buck could have easily just killed Joey to make sure there was no witness. However little of what Joey had actually seen of the man.
Just yesterday though, his friends had stopped by when Clint was still present, and he thought it could have gone better.
They had come in just as Joey had finished telling Clint about his mutant abilities and his noticeable lack of control over them.
"Choosing between feeling and never feeling again is a bit of a no brainer." Clint had said lightly.
Joey smiled ruefully. "That's what I thought too." He replied. "But where am I gonna learn to control them? No one knows where that mutant school is, and if they haven't learned about meh, then maybe I really am just a freak."
Clint had given a look, a look he gave Joey every time he bagged on himself. "You're not a freak. You're a kid. A kid with incredible powers and a killer aim." He added smiling.
Joey grinned. "Can't argue with that." There was a knock at the door. "Come in."
The door opened and his friends piled in, all in normal clothes as it was the weekend. "Hey Joey…" Tristan trailed off as he spotted the blond man sitting by the younger blonde's bed. "Who's he?"
Joey looked briefly at Clint before he spoke with total conviction. "This is my dad."
Clint didn't even blink.
The trio in the doorway did though.
Tristan looked especially confused. "But uh, I've seen your dad, and this guy's not him."
Joey glared at him. "Clint treats me like I'm his son, and he's been there for me while my so-called father never was." He said acidly, the lights starting to flicker overhead. "He's more of a dad than that drunk ever was."
While Tristan had backed off, having seen just how awful Joey's old man had been, he also saw just happy he looked when he called this Clint guy his dad.
Téa though didn't know how bad the guy was. "Joey, wouldn't it hurt you father's feelings if he heard you calling some other guy 'dad?'" she asked giving him a disapproving look.
Joey snorted. "No." he replied bluntly. "Haven't you listened to what I said before?"
"No buts." Joey hissed as the lights started to flicker more rapidly and outside the room the hallway lights were doing the same. "That man has only been here once, and that was to pull the plug on me."
Tristan and Yugi looked shocked, but Téa looked as though her world had just crashed around her. "He, he really wanted you to die?" she asked quietly.
Now Joey had to stop from rolling his eyes. Well, duh. "My sister told me she heard the doctors arguing with him and that they kicked him out. Like I said, that was the one time he even came here."
"Where are you gonna stay now though? I think I could convince my sis to let you crash at our place..." Tristan offered.
"That will not be necessary." Clint said. "Joey is coming to live with me when he's discharge from here."
"But what about your mom, Joey?" Yugi asked concerned. "Won't she be worried about you?"
Joey stared at him. "Yugi, you have a mother at home. I don't. And I can safely say she does not want me either." He said grimly, his previous anger fading away to nothing.
The lights stopped flickering all together, but no one took notice.
His friends had left after that, but Clint had said he was going over to his mother's house the next day to get her to give him permission to take Joey in. He tried to think his mother didn't bother protesting, it really would be the only good thing she's ever done for him.
He wanted to hate her, like he could hate his old man, but he couldn't really. Not that it didn't mean he felt contempt for the woman, but she stopped being his mother the day she took his sister from him and didn't take him with her, no matter how much he had begged her to.
No, the only thing that kept him from hating her was the fact she honestly cared about his sister the way she had never cared about him. The woman had never been abusive; she just didn't care about what happened to him.
Depressing thoughts aside, he checked his neatly done work and put it on the nightstand next to his bed. Tomorrow he'd be getting discharged from the hospital and he could go home. Or at least, he hoped he could.
Now, before almost everything in his life was shattered into a million pieces, Clint had never been one for patience. Ironic considering that his aim required that element, but after the incident, he'd learned to be more patient.
That and the fact Joey was still breathing helped.
He had been ready to fall apart after he had killed the people that had murdered his family, not because he felt guilty, but because he thought that, for a second, Joey would be dead too. He had never protested the younger blonde's presence, and it had taken him moment to realize that maybe because Joey hadn't been an actual-legally he meant-a part of his family that no one knew about him.
He had sneered thinking that it seemed like the drunk Joey lived with had been good for something after all. Being a place holder that is until he could get Joey out of there.
Which was why he was ringing the doorbell in civilian clothing instead of his Avenger costume-er, outfit.
The door opened after the second ring, and a brunette woman with brown eyes and short curled hair and starting to show signs of aging stood before him. Clint noted that this woman bore no resemblance to Joey what-so-ever, and if it wasn't the resemblance he saw with Joey's sister in this woman, he would have thought he'd gotten the wrong address.
"Hello, I'm Clint Barton; I'm here to talk to you about your son Joey?" he said.
There was a flash of something on the woman's face, but it was gone in a second. "Are you a police officer?" she asked dubiously.
"No, I'm not." Clint replied. "I'm from the hospital," A small lie, no harm done, "and came to tell you that your son will be discharged today and when you would be available to pick him up."
The woman still looked dubious though. "And a simple phone call would not suffice for that boy?" she asked caustically.
Clint surprised himself by how steady he kept his voice. "The reason for the visit was to ask for your permission as to where to place your son, as his father has yet to be reached."
Mrs. Wheeler pursed her lips. "That boy is no son of mine, the hospital can do what they want with him." She said before closing the door in Clint's face.
The blond stood there for a moment, dumbfounded, before he turned to go back to his car. He preferred his Skycycle, but using that mode of transportation would raise questions. And the fact he now had to work extra hard to keep anyone from knowing about Joey.
It wasn't that he didn't trust Joey; it was just that he didn't want him to get hurt because of him. The incident was proof enough that someone knew who he was, and he also knew that there were quite a few people who would jump at the chance to hurt him through Joey.
Still, he didn't like having to keep his job from him.
The door opened again and a sort of familiar voice called out quietly, "Wait."
Clint looked back and saw that it was Joey's sister Serenity he thought her name was. "Yeah?"
Serenity walked out and handed him a few pairs of shirt and pants. "Joey would sometimes come over here, secretly, and ask me to do his laundry because he couldn't. These are the only he has until you can get around to shopping for more."
Clint accepted the clothing, but looked at her strangely. "What makes you think I'd go shopping for him?" he asked carefully.
Serenity smiled, like she knew something he didn't. "You care about my brother, he told me all about you in the hospital and how you and…" she trailed off and didn't continue that train of thought. "Well, just saw how happy he looked, in fact I thought the lights were gonna blow out because they were so bright."
Clint had noticed the previous day that the lights flickered when Joey had gotten angry, and they had stopped when he had calmed down. Knowing they got brighter when he was happy was good to know for when training his powers started.
"It was nice to meet you again, Serenity." He said genuinely meaning it. Nice to know that there was still one other person who cared about Joey around.
Serenity smiled somewhat sadly. "My brother deserves some happiness in his life, and you being his father would make him immensely happy."
Though it wasn't said, Clint knew what she was implying. "Trust me, if I have anything to say about it, Joey's not going to be staying a Wheeler much longer."
The teen's smile widened. "Joey Barton has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"
The blond smiled back slightly. "Yes, yes it does."
Joey stared at Clint like he had never seen him before. "You mean, she really said I could go with you?" he asked quietly.
Clint nodded. "Not in so many words, but that's it, yeah." He didn't really think he could tell the kid that his own mother didn't even want him around.
Joey looked down at the clothes on his lap. "I'll get changed, be right out then."
"Fine." The older blond said before leaving and shutting the door behind him.
Joey knew that if he really let himself express his feelings, he was sure he'd probably make the entire building's power go out because he was so freaking happy! It may not have been adoption or even foster care, but it still meant he would be around someone he knew wouldn't hurt him.
Joey thought it would have been selfish to ask Clint to adopt him, so that's why he had reframed from asking or implying it. This though was still pretty much a dream come true.
A sudden depressing thought came to mind. What if this was a dream?
'Am I dreaming?' he asked himself and the answer he got back was 'no.'
Good enough for him.
Chapter 8: First Blood prt 2
"This place…hasn't changed much." Joey said uncomfortably.
"Are you trying not to sound awkward, because you were here just last week." Clint said dryly.
Joey flushed as he looked away. "So, where do I sleep?" he asked tentatively.
"Joey, you don't have to be careful around me. All I want you to do is settle in. Just stay out of the garage and basement is all." Clint replied, his voice turning wry at the end.
Joey looked at him and smiled. "'Kay, I can do that." He said and the light overheard glowed brighter than it was supposed to. "Whoops." He muttered and the light dimmed to its regular setting.
"Go on, pick your room." The older man said making a shooing gesture at him.
Joey nodded and walked down the hall. He could hear his heartbeat in his ears, and he felt incredible intrusive. Why did he? Because just not long ago these rooms belonged to kids he viewed as younger siblings, younger than Serenity even. He would watch them when their parents would go out, he was their 'big brother,' and he missed them.
Joey knew which room had belonged to whom, and even though the doors were shut, he was still scared to open any of them. He finally settled on the room near the end of the hall and with an uneasy breath, he opened the door.
The room was bare, besides a bed that is, but there was nothing else in there. He wasn't sure though if this made it better or worse. He knew that even if Clint had cleared out the rooms, he wouldn't have thrown their things away.
Now though he felt there was a reason for the 'don't go into the basement' condition. Was their stuff down there? He decided not to think on it as he put his clothing and homework on the bed and walked out of the room.
He made his way into the kitchen and found the older man drinking a battle of water at the table; he took the seat across from him. "I got suspended from school-but you already know that." He said wryly as Clint nodded. "My suspension ends tomorrow and I was wondering…"
"Yes, you can go." Clint finished. "But you feel like anything's wrong, you call and I'll come get you, got it?"
Joey nodded. "Anything I should know though?"
"Sometimes my…job can be very demanding, and I may get called away suddenly, so you may not see me a lot some days after school." Clint explained.
"What about living here with you? Did you really get my 'mom' to say I could stay?" Joey asked once again.
"Yes, Joey, you don't have to worry about going to her." Clint replied. "Nor am I going to let you go back to your 'father,' wherever he may have ended up."
"You didn't kill him did you?" Joey asked flatly. "Not that I particularly care, but, you know what happened the last time you got in trouble with the police."
"Trust me Joey, even if I did kill the guy, no one would ever find out." Clint said with a slight smirk.
"Good, I don't want you to get in trouble because of me again." Joey replied morosely as the fact Clint had a record was because of him.
"You didn't make me do anything I hadn't planned on doing." The older man rebuked.
"I guess." Joey said subdued as the lights dimmed before he realized what was happening and made his feelings blank.
"So, you've told me what powers you have so far, have you been using been trying to try and control them on your own?" Clint questioned.
Joey shook his head. "No, I couldn't do it before because I had no idea what my powers even were until I used my Know-It-All power to figure out what my tech power was connected to." He explained. "And what do you mean by 'so far'?"
Clint idly scratched his head. "Well, you're still young, and you could have more abilities you have yet to gain. Though you're pretty much breaking the rules by having a variety of unrelated powers."
"No, I don't think they're unrelated. Or rather, not really anyway." Joey replied. "You see, my tech powers are connected to my emotions, and my…pyrokinesis was triggered when I was feeling incredibly hateful towards…him. And then there's my Know-It-All power, which is completely mental based."
"So you think you're powers are all based on some mental or emotional properties?" Clint guessed and Joey nodded. "I can work with that." He said thoughtfully. "I know you've probably been telling yourself this, but you should try to reign in any feelings that could trigger something someone is bound to notice."
Joey snorted. "Clint, no one questioned the fact I once wore sunglasses in the snow to cover up my black eyes, what makes you think they're gonna notice anything else concerning me?"
Clint's jaw tightened at the mention of 'black eyes,' but kept his voice free of any anger. "You're right." He said wryly. "You're always right." He acknowledged. "But, humor me at least."
Joey smiled slightly. "Sure, I can do that."
Neither of them cared that the light overheard glowed too bright.
This was weird; he had never had a dream like this before. His ribs ached and his chest hurt. He looked down at where his hand rested against his ribs, only to see blood staining the shirt he was wearing. Why did he feel so crappy? What was going on?
The room was dark and windowless. It was too cold also. Why was it so cold?
The room was suddenly filled with light as the door to the room opened and a silhouette stood framed in the doorway, but the darkness contrasting with the light obscured any definite features, though he did feel overwhelming resentment toward this person.
"Come to finish me off?" he spat in a voice he recognized as Buck's.
Joey wondered what was going on indeed.
The figure in the doorway flashed an unpleasant grin. "No, you decrepit old man; you're going to be used to send a message. That you trained someone to take down your old student with his own level of skill."
"You may have his skill now, Barney, but you'll never have his heart! His or the kid's." Buck retorted.
Joey blinked, and if he was right, then even in his dream, which was feeling less and less like a dream, Buck had given him a rare compliment. It also meant that if this was to be taken seriously, then someone was after Clint!
The figure in the doorway scoffed. "That kid got off lucky. I was too surprised to realize you had taken on another student and took pity on him by knocking him out instead of killing him. Actually, I think it was the novelty that made me spare him, to see how much of a challenge he can put up before I eventually kill him."
That made Joey go cold, or was that Buck he was feeling go cold? It didn't matter really as if this was to be taken seriously, then he'd just heard that his life was at stake. The sharp retort was cut off by the man closing the door and the room went dark again.
'Gotta save him.' Joey thought, pushing the foremost thought to the front of his mind. 'Somehow.'
He was hit with a wave of surprise. 'Joey?'
That made it feel real. 'This is really happening.' Joey thought. 'I'm gonna get killed.'
'What are you doing in my head?'
Joey sent out a wave of nervousness. 'I didn't know I was in your head, I had thought I was just dreaming.' His panic rose. 'I'm gonna die.'
'Listen to me, you're not, gonna die. I know Clint won't let you.'
'Why are you not freaked out about this-about me being in your head?' Joey thought with the nervousness turning into confusion.
'Joey, in my life, you learn things that just take the surprise out of anything.'
'You called me by my name.' Joey thought surprised. 'You've always called me 'kid.''
'Because that's what you are…Goodbye kid.'
Joey blinked, then felt his presence being forced out. 'No, wait! Tell me where you are so you can be rescued! Nooo-
"-oooo!" Joey screamed as he shot out his hand and tried to grab at nothing as he woke up.
He felt hands grabbed his shoulders as he was put into a sitting position. He gasped as his eye snapped opened and he stared into a pair of concerned blue eyes. "Joey, what's wrong?"
"I…I think I know who took Buck." Joey replied coarsely.
Clint stared at him. "Wha…what? You serious about his?"
Joey nodded as he wiped a thin trail of sweat off his brow. "Yes, somehow, I was able to get inside his head in my dream. I think it may be due to the fact I've been stressing how I couldn't save him when I had the chance." He ignored the sharp look Clint gave him and continued. "Does the name…" he thought for a second, "Barney mean anything to you? That's what Buck called the guy that took him."
Joey had never once seen Clint look so pale. And the only time he'd ever seen anything close to such an abject look of disbelief and horror on his face was the mirrored expression he'd had when he had been told about the incident.
Whoever this person was, this was definitely not a good reaction.
"Did you really hear the name Barney being specifically said?" Clint asked after a long silence.
Joey nodded. "Yeah, why? Do you know who this guy is?"
"He's…" Clint paused, as if he was trying to skirt around telling him the actual truth, "dead, he's supposed to be dead."
Joey stared at him this time. He decided not to push since this was an obviously uncomfortable topic, so he just eventually nodded his head. "Okay." He said faintly and he absently used his Know-It-All ability to tell him what time it was.
5:30. Not bad, but not good either.
"If it's the same to you, I'm just gonna get up now. I don't think I could back to sleep after that." He added.
Clint looked ready to protest, but just nodded after a moment. "Fine, and I have to make a call." He said before practically running out of the room.
Joey cleaned himself up in the bathroom and changed into the spare uniform he'd given Serenity to wash. He grimaced slightly as he thought about all his books he'd lost in the fire. 'But better the books than my life.' He thought and went to the kitchen.
Not many knew it, but Joey enjoyed cooking. He didn't take cooking class for the hell of it. He had wanted to be doing something because he liked it. That, and cooking and baking were like science and math. Precise, and directive.
Not to mention you got to eat the stuff you made. That was a good incentive.
Joey decided to make something simple with what he could find, as the groceries looked like they needed to be stocked up. He put the frying pan on and cracked a few eggs on it, letting it cook while he put the bread in the toaster.
Joey flipped the eggs and when the first one was finished, he put it on the toast and took a plate out of the cupboard and finished making two more then repeated the action of putting the finished egg sandwiches on the plate. He picked up the plate and took the bottle of ketchup out of the fridge and set both plate and bottle on the table.
He sat down and squirted some ketchup on his sandwich and began to eat his breakfast.
Clint came in and grabbed one of the two remaining sandwiches. "Gotta go into work early. Don't know when I'll be back." He said in between mouthfuls of his sandwich.
"Wait a sec." Joey said before getting out of his seat and wrapping up the remaining sandwich in tin foil before handing it to the older man. "So you won't starve." He said and sat back down.
Clint smirked as he reached over the table and messed up Joey's hair. "Thanks kid, don't know what I'd ever do without you." He said before putting on his coat and going out the door. "Remember what I said yesterday!" Was the last thing said before the door was shut.
Joey finished off his own sandwich and got started on doing the dishes. Afterwards, he went into the living room and put the T.V on. He'd never been one for television as understandably his 'father' had always been in front of it, and he had wanted to stay as distant from him as possible.
Now though, he figured he had never missed much.
Joey stared at the blank screen for a moment after he'd shut the chatterbox off and went back to his new room and grabbed the small pile of homework he'd completed. He could spend the remaining time he had before he went to school to check over his work.
"Hey, Joey!" The blond felt a hearty slap on his back from his brown-haired friend. "Good to see you man!"
"Tristan, if this is some ploy to get me to introduce you to my sister, then you forget it." Joey growled.
Tristan played dumb. "What are you talking about, man?"
Joey rolled his eyes before he met up with his other two friends. "I miss anything while I was gone?"
"Nothing particularly interesting happened, unless you count the fact Alexis announced she was giving out invitations to her Sweet Sixteen party at lunch today from last week." Téa said bitterly, and she had made it known she didn't care for the popular blond girl.
"Téa, what makes you think I care about who a rich girl is inviting to a party we're not going to be invited too?" Joey asked rhetorically, and wisely enough, Téa didn't answer. "How you can put up with her and her followers is a mystery. I think I'd pull out my teeth if I had to share two classes with her, let alone one. Pulling teeth has got to be a lot less painful that's for sure." He remarked cynically.
"Well look whose back." A male voice said sarcastically. "The Mutt had returned to his pack of geeks."
Joey glared over his shoulder at the brown-haired male. "Kaiba." He said coldly. "Why don't you run along, Moneybags, I don't want my day to be ruined with your presence." He snapped.
"That's…kinda cold, Joey." Yugi said tentatively.
"Whatever." Joey said dismissively. "Catch you guys later." He said in a lukewarm way to his friends before he and Kaiba had a glaring contest as Joey walked past him.
That had not how he wanted his morning at school to start. Joey though realized the only real difference between him and Moneybags was that he allowed himself to have friends instead of just dismissing people. He had even noticed the rich boy brushed off the other snooty rich kids mixed in with the 'lower class' kids as they were called.
'Lower class' his ass, Joey thought derisively. Just because not everyone could have big parties whenever they felt like it and get away with metaphorical murder did not make the regular kids lower, it made them, well, regular.
Joey made it to his homeroom class and the smile on Jessica's face made him feel just a bit better. "Hi, Miss Drew."
"Welcome back, Joey." Miss Drew said warmly in her English accent. He smile dimmed just a bit though. "Principal Shepard told me to send you to his office when you arrived here." She said and held out her hands. "Give me the homework though and I'll make sure it gets sorted."
Joey handed her the work and grinned a little. "You rock Miss Drew." He said before departing from the room and went down the hallway towards the main office. He looked at the secretary as she looked up. "Miss Fontaine, I'm here to see Principal Shepard."
Miss Fontaine nodded. "Yes, go right on in." she said cordially.
Joey nodded back and opened the door, poking his head in to see the balding principal sitting at his desk. "You wanted to see me?"
"Yes, Mr. Wheeler, take a seat." Shepard said gesturing to the chairs in front of his desk. Joey closed the door and took a seat. "Now, as I understand, you have been through quite a lot in the last few days." Shepard stated. "And that is why I am saying that for your own good, you will be having sessions with Dr. Sofen after school."
"Sofen?" Joey repeated. "You mean the woman whose been trying to get me to take counselling since my freshman year?" He questioned dubiously.
"I know you are not overly fond of her, but she is a qualified psychiatrist that has helped students in the past." Shepard stated.
'You also forgot to mention that the woman's also suspected of causing the damage she claims to fix.' Joey thought sardonically. He had nothing against the principal; it was just that he failed to spot the obvious. Such as anyone else would have had the woman investigated. 'Might as well see what she wants with me then.' He thought.
"You're right, I'm not fond of her, but I do admit that I need someone to talk to, and Dr. Sofen is the right choice." Joey said and had to stop himself from gagging on his own words. "After school you say? Not a problem."
Shepard smiled. "That's the spirit, now I've kept you from your class long enough." He said gesturing to the door.
Joey smiled and nodded. His smile dropped the second he was back in the hall. "I am so not looking forward to after school." He muttered darkly.
"Joey, I've been wondering…why are your eyes…different?" Yugi asked nervously as he sat down at the lunch table with his tray.
Joey thought fast. "I'm wearing contacts." He lied, but it was a believable lie. Unlike his friends, he'd always opted to bring his lunch with him. He couldn't afford to spend money on school cafeteria food.
"Oh great, she's doing it now?" Téa grumbled as a pretty blond girl started going around the cafeteria handing out small envelopes. "Couldn't she do that when people are not eating?"
Joey rolled his eyes as he began to eat his turkey sandwich. It amazed him to some extent that Téa could be so hypocritical sometimes. Talking about friendship one minute and bashing some other girl, not that Joey liked the other girl either, but ability or not, he didn't think he'd ever understand girls.
"Joey, right?" A voice asked and Joey looked up at Alexis looked surprised.
"Yeah, that's right." Joey replied.
"Here." Alexis said holding out an envelope to him.
Joey blinked and looked at the purple envelope. "Hn, no thanks." He said trying to sound at least sincere.
Alexis looked at him in shock, the looks also mirrored on the faces of his friends. "What?" Then she looked angry. "Do you know how many of you people would kill to get an invitation to my party?"
Joey held back a sneer. He had other things to do than go to a party where there were only going to be snooty rich kids mocking him. Why even bother inviting him? Joey looked at the party date and it only cemented his decision not to go. He wanted to spend what little money he had for his sister's present, whose birthday was on the same day as Alexis'.
"Then go ask one of them, I'm not interested in going to your party." Joey retorted. "Now please," he made it sound sarcastic, "leave me alone, I'm trying to have lunch here."
Alexis glowered at him before she moved on, and Téa looked at him amazed. "That was probably the first time I've ever seen anyone turn down Alexis Rhodes."
"I'm just one nobody to her, so what does me being there even matter?" Joey retorted logically.
"At least it shows that you're noticed." Yugi pointed out.
Joey reframed from rolling his eyes. 'Yeah, 'noticed' probably being the laughing stock.' He thought sullenly. While some part of him, a part very deep and very small, was actually flattered, the colder, more calculative and logical part of him just couldn't help but question the sudden inclusion.
His attention was drawn to the puzzle around Yugi's neck and couldn't help but look at it strangely. Sure, he'd noticed that Yugi had been wearing it for a little while now, just before he'd gotten suspended actually. "Hey Yug', where'd you get your puzzle from anyway?"
"Oh, uh, my grandpa gave it to me. It took me eight years to put it together." Yugi said nervously.
Joey stared at him. Eight years? But as he looked at it… "Must have been one heck of a head scratcher then."
"Yeah, it was actually." Yugi said smiling bashfully; then his smile dimmed. "Though after you got suspended for sticking up for me, the guy got out into a coma. And…" his voice dropped, "I can't remember anything I did after school and woke up the next day."
There was a silence as Joey, Tristan, and Téa all looked at him with varying degrees of concern. "Um, make sure you don't mention this to anyone else." Joey said in concern. "Especially to someone that would recommend you go to see Dr. Sofen."
There was a collective shudder. They all knew that if you didn't have a problem before you went in to see Sofen, then there was a guarantee you'd come out with problems at best, and leave with a massive emotional breakdown at worst.
"Still can't believe you gotta go see her, let alone you agreed to it." Tristan said incredulously.
Joey sighed. "I know, I know."
"Ugh, I hate that woman." Joey muttered as he took the spare key out from the top of the door. He had been muttering curses and deprecating Dr. Karla Sofen all the way home. He honestly had never hated someone so much, though Kaiba and his old man were all cutting it close.
She had spent the entire hour session trying to get him to talk about his feelings. It didn't sound so bad at first, but then it started to get weird, like her asking if the time he spent around his science teacher made him feel anything.
Yes, he hated her a lot.
Joey went into the house and was about to close the door when he heard the screeching of tires and looked back just to see the same van from before speed by and the door slid open quick enough and a battered form was tossed out before it sped away.
Joey raced out to the form and saw the van turn the corner, and he managed to see the licence plate before he looked down at the form of Buck Chisholm. "Old man? Are you alright?"
"Kid, I've been…forced to train some uppity bastard, beaten within an inch of my life…how the hell do you think I feel?" Buck wheezed out, still managing to make Joey feel like an idiot for his question.
"Uh, yeah, sorry." Joey replied. He tried to find any wounds, but there were too many to try and stop. "Come on, let's get you inside, then I'll call an ambulance." He said trying to lift him up.
Buck grabbed Joey's arm as he stopped him. "No, Joey. It's too late for that." He wheezed out. "Tell Clint that I'm sorry for shooting him in the arm…"
"What?" Joey questioned; then the bigger impact of what was happening hit him. "No, you can't die old man. Let me help you damn it!"
Buck though ignored this as he continued on. "And Joey, you're not so bad after all…." His grip lessened on Joey's arm and fell to the ground.
Joey felt his eyes sting as he looked down at the paling body. "Buck? Old man?" he asked aloud nudging the body with his hand.
His vision blurred and even though he knew he was crying, he honestly didn't care. There were some people worth crying over, and his earliest teacher was one of them.
Chapter 9: Balance Of Power
Joey stared down at the lowered casket and felt empty. Second funeral he's been too for a person he cared about. Sucked to be him. Then again, it wasn't just him, was it?
"Joey, you alright?" his sister asked as she stood beside him.
"Yeah, just fine." Joey lied as he looked at her. "Look, you didn't have ta come here you know…"
"I know." Serenity cut him off. "But I also know that you cared about him and I didn't want you to be alone."
"Wasn't alone, Clint's here too." Joey replied, looking to his other side, only to see the older man had left. "Well, he was here." He said dryly.
"Um, Joey, I know this may be a bad time, but I was wondering if you could come to my birthday party?" Serenity asked tentatively. "Mom even said she'd let you in the house for that day."
Joey smiled darkly. "Yeah, I'll come. Though you were right about this not being the best of times to ask." He said before looking back down.
Serenity saw the dark purple glow he was giving off and knew that even without seeing the color that he was incredibly upset. When she had looked at Clint, she saw the same dark purple glow Joey had, though it often fluxed between this color and dark red as well.
There was a horn honk and Serenity grimaced. "That'd be mom right now coming to pick me up."
"Though the face she's avoiding me is proof she doesn't want me around." Joey retorted. "But don't worry though; I'm still coming to your party."
Serenity hugged Joey. "Thanks bro." she said before departing.
Joey sent one more look at the new grave before he walked over to where he knew Clint would be. "This sucks." He said when he arrived at the four graves lined up and felt the ache in his heart pang again.
"Life sucks, I know that, and you know that." Clint retorted dourly.
"I was right there, I should have just ignored what the old man said and gotten the phone." Joey growled. With all the power he seemed to have, he couldn't do a thing to change anything. "It's my fault he's-"
"Don't. Finish. That. Sentence." Clint said sharply. "It wasn't your fault. This was probably all planned from the get-go."
"Not from what I saw in Buck's head." Joey mumbled. When Clint finally looked at him, he elaborated. "The guy I told you about, said he was coming after you-" There was no visible change in Clint's expression, much like he expected to hear nothing else-"and then he said he was gonna come after me to see how much of a fight I'd put up and…kill me."
"Like hell I'm letting that happen." Clint said scowling.
Joey smiled ruefully. "Buck said the exact same thing you said, only worded somewhat differently. He also told me that before he died that, he was said he was sorry for shooting you in the arm…?" he trailed off looking at Clint in confusion.
The older man's scowl faded as his mouth pressed into a hard line. "Nothing, just, nothing."
Any further talk was cut off when a woman in a gray suit walked up to them, her black hair in a bun and she looked at both of them, looking somewhat confused before settling her gaze on the older looking of the two. "Clint Barton?"
"Yeah?" The blond asked raising a brow.
"I'm Jennifer Walters, I was Mr. Chisholm's lawyer, and he stated in his will that there were things left to you and a 'Joey Wheeler.'" She said casting a glance at the teenager.
"Buck had a will?" Both Clint and Joey asked in surprise.
The fact that they found the will strange and not that she was a lawyer was rather amusing.
"Well, this is depressing." Joey commented after the will had stated what he and Clint had been left.
"That you have to do some cleaning or that you have to sign off the papers as the new owner of Buck's property from the police?" Clint questioned.
"Bit of both." Joey admitted shrugging. "Can't believe the old man gave me his property though and left you all the money and things he stole."
"Even in death Buck has managed to get one over on me." Clint retorted dryly. "Still, I believe some people may be glad to have their stuff back-if they're still alive that is."
"You're not gonna keep it?" Joey asked mildly.
Clint rolled his eyes. "Think about it, Joey; all that stuff is stolen."
Joey mulled it over before agreeing with his pseudo-guardian. "Yeah, I get it; you could get into a lot of trouble if you keep it."
"And that Joey, is the joke." Clint replied sardonically. "When do you want to go over to the station and sign your name off on the property?"
"Well, since the newspapers have declared this now a murder investigation, seizing the property right now might not be the best idea; it's still a crime scene after all." Joey explained.
"How sensible of you, but I also…read that Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D have taken over the investigation, and I don't think they'll need the crime scene anymore." Clint said with an enigmatic smile on his face.
"How do you know that for sure?" Joey asked furrowing his brow, before another question popped into his head. "Do you work for S.H.I.E.L.D? Is that why you won't tell me what your job is?"
"No, I can say for certain that I'm not a S.H.I.E.L.D agent." Clint answered chuckling. "As for what I do for a living, well, that's a secret for reasons I can't discus."
Joey rolled his eyes, knowing that despite the fact they had just come back from a funeral that had reopened wounds they were still trying to get over, distractions certainly helped in dulling the sting. "How about we try and work on controlling my powers now?"
"Sure, well start off with your pyro kinesis first, since I'm sure you don't want to burn the house down by accident." Clint answered.
Joey winced at the reminder, but was glad that no one had gotten hurt the only other time he'd used his fire power. "Fine, what should I start off with first?"
Clint went into the kitchen and came back with a packet of matches. "Try lighting a match up, and since matches are already made to light up with a spark, you'll know you're doing it right-even if all you're able to produce is a spark."
Joey nodded and picked up one match. He stared at it in concentration, much like how he tried to use his Know-It-All ability. Nothing happened though. He then remembered the sheer hatred he had felt when he'd set the apartment complex on fire.
He thought of Kaiba's sneers and insults, then of Sofen and her too personal questions.
The match in Joey's hand blew up like a firecracker and while Joey flinched in surprise to see that it had literally combusted and blown up, Clint seemed more concerned with the fact there was no burns on Joey's hand as he checked it over.
The smell of smoke in the air made him uneasy, but remembered that he was learning to control his powers so another accident wouldn't happen. "I saw my hand get set on fire in the apartment, I put it out to see that it wasn't burned." Joey shrugged. "Guess I'm immune to this power."
"So you are." Clint agreed as he sat back down. "Though why don't you try and make the spark a little less strong." He suggested.
Now that Joey knew what triggered his pyro kinesis, he figured it was what would help him keep it check. Hatred was just an emotion, a very strong negative emotion, but an emotion nonetheless; and there was a very thin line between emotional and mental powers capacities.
If he treated his powers as all mental-by-default, then he could his mind could make it work, like when he had been a 'guest' in Buck's head. Sure, he had been asleep at the time, but he had been feeling guilty. Another emotion that manifested through his mind.
It was all theory, but progress was all trial and error really.
Joey stared at the second match he'd taken out of the pack and stared at it. He focused on the feeling of hatred and tried to lessen it to being a purely mental move. He smirked when the match lit up, but frowned when it only lasted a few seconds before it blew up.
"Well, that's a start." Clint commented idly.
Joey glared at him. "Don't you have stolen items to return?"
"I can do that tomorrow." Clint said waving his hand dismissively. "I wanna watch the light show."
Joey rolled his eyes before picking up another match.
'I can't believe I went through an entire pack of matches and a package of chicken strips before I got some semblance of control over my pyro kinesis yesterday; and that's just lighting stuff up.' Joey thought as he ate his turkey sandwich.
Still, he supposed he should be glad Clint had been so nonchalant about how Joey had burned what was supposed to have been their dinner to a crisp. Luckily take-out had been the older man's specialty, though there was a promise of him scrounging up electronics that were out of date or obsolete to help Joey work on his technological power from his work place.
Joey had noticed the man seemed highly amused to note that there was always techie junk lying around that was never used or otherwise broken. That made Joey wonder again where Clint worked exactly.
Of course though he never got his answer, and using his power to find out would be an invasion of trust that he just couldn't afford to lose.
"Joey, you feeling okay?" Yugi asked in concern.
"Hmm, oh, yeah I'm fine, just a little…" Joey trailed off and wondered if it would be a good idea to tell his friends about what had happened. So he tried another route. "You guys hear anything about the guy that got kidnapped and killed in the news?" he questioned carefully as he tried to distance himself from the inquiry.
"Yeah, heard the guy's funeral was yesterday, but nobody knew where it was being held." Téa answered. "Think anybody went?"
"Guy was a supervillain, I sure wouldn't wanna go to that type of funeral." Tristan said.
"I also heard that the Avengers were investigating the man's murder." Yugi said thoughtfully. "Why did you wanna know Joey?"
Joey looked at each other their faces and realized something: none of them cared. Logically he knew that by default they weren't going to care about a supervillain, but this was different. None of them knew the person, but he did and despite the rocky start they had he had still cared about the man.
The old man was like a grouchy uncle you originally put up with because of your parents-or in this case Clint-then you found you actually liked them despite their vitriolic temperament.
"Just curious is all." Joey finally answered, knowing his reasoning and sympathy would go unacknowledged.
In the Avengers' mansion, Hawkeye was finishing up with the list of stolen items he had 'inherited' and any missing pieces. Some he had recognized and did not look forward to returning some of them, considering he knew how…'temperamental' some of them could be.
Then he had private laugh when he saw that one of the pieces missing was something that belonged to Stark. His laughter abruptly stopped when he realized that he would have to return the piece taken.
Luckily though, the money was all accounted for and found the banks it had been taken from relatively easy. What was not going to be easy was the length of the list. Buck had certainly seemed to have been a better thief than a mercenary.
Hawkeye finished copying the lists and printed it out just as the door opened and a red-haired woman came in wearing a black suit. "Hey 'Tasha." He said closing the tabs on the computer and picked up the list.
"Clint." Natasha returned in her Russian accent. "What is it that you are in here?"
"Oh, just looking for some stuff." Hawkeye replied nonchalantly. "Have you seen any of Stark's toys that he's going to throw away?"
Natasha smirked. "Didn't see you a scavenger."
Hawkeye shrugged. "Eh, Stark's trash is another man's treasure."
"So, how do feel about your parent's divorce?" Dr. Sofen questioned.
Joey internally glowered at the blond woman. He really didn't like her. "What's it matter? My old man's in the wind-'Or dead'-"and my mom doesn't want me."
"Then where have you been staying all this time?" Sofen asked tilting her head.
Joey tried not to glare. "With someone who cares about me." He said simply.
"With Miss Drew?" Sofen guessed with an insufferably smirk.
Joey's emotions were starting to get the better of him, but he refused to satisfy this woman with a reaction. "No, I'm not staying with her."
"Well that's good." Sofen said leaning forward as she placed her elbows on her knees. "It would be considered highly inappropriate for a student to be staying with a teacher of the opposite gender, not to mention a minor." She 'tsked.'
This time, Joey smirked. "Like how inappropriate it is for a school psychiatrist eyeing a minor like a piece of meat, or how said psychiatrist sends kids to asylums for diagnosing problems they never had before until they had met said person." He retorted.
Sofen leaned back, looking unperturbed by Joey's accusations. "You're a bright boy, Joey, and I really do think it would be a shame to see such promise to meet an unfortunate end."
Joey stared at the woman incredulously. "Did you just threaten me?"
"I did no such thing; I merely pointed out how such accusations could have disastrous results for someone so full of promise." Sofen replied casually, though her eyes betrayed her tone as she stared shrewdly at him.
"That sounded even more like one!" Joey said angrily.
"Oh, our time is up." Sofen said abruptly, and gestured for him to leave. Joey did so, only for the woman to dig her manicured nails into his shoulder as he was out of the room and leaned in close enough to him that her hair brushed against his cheek. "You really should watch what you say; I wouldn't want something to happen to you." She hissed.
Joey felt her move away and heard the door close. He glared at the door as the hall lights flickered rapidly. 'I really, really hate her.'
Chapter 10: Caught In A Snare
"Wow, where'd you get this stuff?" Joey asked staring at the box of electronics on the dining table.
"Work." Clint replied simply.
"You didn't steal this stuff, did you?" Joey asked bluntly as he stared at his pseudo-guardian with some small amount of suspicion.
Clint raised a brow. "You think I'd really steal this junk? Besides, St-someone said it was gonna get thrown out anyway."
"Well, alright." Joey said as he stared back at the box and didn't appear to notice the man's slip up. "Think though, if I can control my powers properly, no one will have to suffer for my mistakes again."
"I know." Joey held up a hand. "The apartment going up in flames was an accident since it was done in self-defence, but people were still left without a home because of me. That fire could also have been easily been an electrical fire just the same." He said sighing.
To get out of the depressing line of conversation, Clint picked out a digital clock that had been broken with some wires missing. "Now, since your techno ability is able to affect things around you, you should by default be able to make it so tech also works around you; so I want you to concentrate on making this clock work."
"But it's already scrapped." Joey pointed out.
"Even so, you should be able to work around that and make it work." Clint explained as he set the clock on the table. "Even if it's just a blink of the numbers, it'll be a start."
Joey stared dubiously at Clint for a second before relenting. "Oh alright." He said and stared down at the clock, focusing on controlling his emotions. He tried to siphon through his feelings about what might be appropriate to try, then the unbidden memory of Sofen threatening him appeared in his mind and he glared.
The clock then had spontaneously burst into flames.
As Joey's eye twitched, Clint calmly got the fire extinguisher and put the fire out. "Well, that wasn't exactly the power we were working on." He deadpanned.
Joey slumped in his chair. "Sorry, it's just…" he trailed off and wondered if he should tell him what went on earlier in the day. Then he remembered that Clint was one of the adults that actually gave a damn about him. "It's the school counsellor, I've been told to take sessions with her from the principal to talk about my feelings." He explained.
"Is there something wrong?" The older man asked.
"All the students know and worry about going to see Dr. Sofen, as a lot of kids have gone in okay, but come out with breakdowns that send them to a hospital." Joey replied seriously. "I only agreed to go because I thought I could see what she was up to; and today when she asked how I felt about my parent's divorce, she asked if I was staying with a teacher with this look on her face." he continued. "Then when I said no she said how inappropriate it would be if I was staying with a teacher; I lost it then and called her out on how she's been sending kids out with breakdowns and how she looks at me-"
"Wait, what?" Clint interrupted sharply and sat up in his chair. "This woman…she hasn't done anything to you, has she?"
Recognizing the question for what Clint was really asking, Joey shook his head. "She hasn't done anything like...that to me." He replied. "She threatened me though, three times, the last being just as I was leaving."
"What the hell kind of school system does your school have to turn a blind eye to someone who's supposed to help kids only to screw with their heads without an investigation?" Clint asked angrily.
"That's what I always thought." Joey replied. "Though I never acted on this because I figured no one would ever believe me."
"Well I believe you, and these threats stop here." Clint replied as he got out of his seat and went to retrieve his coat.
"You're not gonna kill are you?" Joey asked, thinking that it was starting to sound strange for that question to become almost automatic.
"No." Clint said as he put on the coat and went to get his keys from his room. When he came back, he took a twenty out of his pocket and put it on the table. "Here's money for pizza, I'll be back late, so lock the door and keep working on your control." He instructed before going out the door.
Joey stared at the door, before looking back at the box and rummaging through it. He found an old cell phone in it and a more materialistic thought came over him. If he could get this phone to work, then he wouldn't have to endure teasing from his classmates about not having one.
His more practical side made him more aware of the fact that if he had a phone he could use it for any emergencies now. He looked through the box again for any other stuff that he could use.
Not bothering to switch into his costume, Clint flashed his Avengers card at the gate and after the scan was done, the gate opened up and he drove his car in. The thought that someone could be so cruel as to create problems for kids truly sickened him; and the fact this woman had threatened Joey only made him angrier.
Once he found substantial enough evidence, that woman was going down.
Clint logged onto the main computer, as Stark's tech was the fastest and he'd be able to gather the evidence needed to make the police start an investigation. He types in 'Dr. Sofen' as he recalled what Joey had called the woman and 'Domino High.'
Pay dirt! He read through the information offered about how several students each year got sent to asylums because they would break down after seeing Dr. Sofen. Several of the parents tried to make the school check her background, but nothing ever came of it.
Printing out the number of students that either suffered from breakdowns or mental problems that were not ever noticed before he then looked up more on the woman and found even more articles about how she had been fired from various mental clinics because patients she worked with began developing severe depression and committed suicide.
Clint gathered up his research and headed off to change into his spare costume. Seeing this would probably be more useful coming from a sanctioned superhero than just a concerned parent. Or, parental substitute in this case.
People tended to work more on things if they believed the government would swoop in. And after having been undermined once, he was sure they'd take the opportunity to put away a psycho.
Captain Stacy was looking through another case file when the window to his office opened up and a man in a purple outfit jumped in, a bow and arrow quiver on his back. "There is a door." He said dryly.
"Yes, I know, but I'm sure your people aren't too pleased with the Avengers taking over Chisholm's murder." Hawkeye replied casually.
"You'd by right." George replied and looked over at the man. "Now why are you here?"
Hawkeye walked over and dropped a folder on the man's desk. "There's a woman, Dr. Karla Sofen. There's reason to believe that she is a serious threat to the mental health of the Domino High students. Three emotional breakdowns reported just this month."
George looked through the file at the papers. "Why bring this to me? Why not do your own investigation."
"Because I can't let this be connected to me, too many questions will be asked." Hawkeye replied solemnly.
Captain Stacy raised a brow at the uncharacteristically serious expression. "'Too many questions?'" he repeated. "Then I take it the rest of your team doesn't know about this?"
"No, I'd prefer it that way if they didn't." Hawkeye confirmed.
"May I ask the reason why you want this woman to be arrested? Other than the fact you believe she's a serious threat to children." George questioned.
Hawkeye stared at the man, and then sighed. "You have a kid, right?" When the captain nodded, he continued. "And you'd do anything to keep them safe, right?"
A look of dawning comprehension passed over Captain Stacy's face. "You have a child that goes to Domino?"
"My son." Hawkeye replied bluntly. 'Well, he's practically my son anyway.' He thought. "He alluded that Sofen has acted rather…inappropriately around him and that she threatened him." He explained. "Now, I want the police to handle this, because I don't think I could stop myself from killing her if I handled it."
"I see your point." There was a pause. "As much as I'm sure you wanna hear that'll this will be priority number one, there's still other cases."
"Just make it a priority." Hawkeye said keeping his voice carefully neutral. "Though I do swear that if this is handled very soon, I'll handle it myself."
"Hey guys, check it out!" Joey boasted as he showed his friends his new-old-cellphone. It had taken him about an hour to get it to work and another two hours to get it too stay working. But now his hard work had paid off and he had a cell.
"So you finally got a phone huh?" Tristan asked in amusement.
"Did your…" Téa trailed off uncomfortably. "Um, how'd you come across it?" she asked instead.
"Clint got it for me." Joey answered bluntly, as it wasn't really a lie. The man had gotten it for him, Joey though just left out the part where he made it work.
"Uh oh, some kid's getting picked on by Alexis and her posse." Téa said sympathetically.
Joey looked over his shoulder and saw the blond and her friends harassing a girl he recognized from his science class. He detested it when others thought they could bully people just because they felt entitled to it. He walked over to the red-haired girl and made a point of ignoring Alexis and her friends. "Hey, Andrea right?"
The girl looked at him. "Yes."
"I'm Joey; I'm in your Science class." Joey replied genially as he put his hand out and smiled at her. "How about I walk you to class?"
Andrea stared at his hand before tentatively touching it, her expression turning to astonishment as she grasped it and smiled back. "That would be wonderful, Joey."
They both walked away from the three girls and up the stairs of the school. Andrea kept her hand firmly held in Joey's even when the blond tried to pry his hand free gently. He decided to just let her have the comfort as he often saw the girl sitting alone and being picked on by other girls.
When they reached class, some of the students were already there, but made no notice of Joey or Andrea. Jessica looked up though and smiled. "Mr. Wheeler, I need to speak with you, outside please."
The students snickered and Joey scowled at them before Andrea released his hand. "Sure teach." He said and they both stepped out of the classroom. "What is it?"
Jessica's smile widened. "I have been asked by a colleague from Empire State University's science center if I anyone who might be interested in an internship there, and while I know you may be a bit younger…I recommended you."
Joey stared at her; then gave a real grin. "You serious? Me?"
Jessica nodded. "You're very intelligent, and this will help give you a variety of options to think about."
Joey's smile dimmed somewhat. "But you didn't answer my other question? Why me? Why not," he grimaced, "Kaiba or even Bastion?"
"Because neither of them have any use for it." Jessica replied. "And before you start thinking you're second best, neither of them has the flair for Science that you have. That's why I chose you, because I know you'll work hard at it and not just be there thinking it's a waste of time."
"Thanks Miss Drew." Joey said gratefully. "Would it be okay if I go call my dad-er, my guardian?"
Jessica gave him an odd look, but smiled again. "Class starts in 5 minutes, make it quick. Oh, and the internship starts tomorrow at 3:30 and ends at 6:00." She explained before going back into the class room.
Joey took out his new-old cell and dialed the number Clint had given him. The phone on the other line rang a few times before the other line was acknowledged.
"Hey, Clint, it's me, Joey." The younger blond replied.
"What are you calling at this hour?" There was an underlining of surprise in Clint's voice. "Shouldn't you be at…you know?"
Joey's brow furrowed at the change of tone, before remembering that Clint was probably at work right now and was being careful to make it sound like he was not talking to a kid. "I'm here. I was just calling from the cell I found in the box of stuff you gave me to work."
"You managed to get it to work?" Clint asked. "Anything else?"
"Sorta; I'm almost done fixing up a laptop and just need to get a PDA working." Joey answered.
"Thanks Clint." Joey preened, even though the man couldn't see it. "I called to tell you that I got to be an intern at ESU that starts tomorrow after school."
"Terrific." There was a cough in the background and Joey had the feeling he'd probably just interrupted a meeting.
"Sorry for disturbing your meeting." He said remorsefully.
"You didn't interrupt anything, just an egghead talking, that's all."
"Hey, I'm an egghead too you know." Joey retorted.
"I know you are, but you're not insufferable and I can stand you." There was a beat of silence. "Got to go, see you later."
"Bye." Joey replied and the other line hung up. He put his cell in his pocket and headed back into the classroom just as the bell rung.
He hoped his call hadn't interrupted anything important.
Hawkeye just put his cell away when he noticed the look Stark was still giving him. "What?"
"Insufferable egghead?" he repeated crossing his arms.
"Well that's what you are." Hawkeye retorted cheekily, though he was glad to get any distraction from this boring meeting, even if they were still trying to track leads. He though had his own leads to who might have killed his old trainer.
What Joey had told him had unsettled him greatly. The dead ends he had to his brother being alive even more so.
Before there was any more talk, the hologram in the center of the table lit up and Phil Coulson appeared. "Hello everyone." He said flatly.
"Hi Phil!" Hawkeye replied cheekily and waved mockingly at him. The only thing missing was Joey laughing at the gesture.
Phil stared at him distastefully, probably reminded of the two hundred or so teenagers he had to help manage as a vice principal for a cover job. Apparently the mutant rate in schools had increased and he had been sent to several schools to keep tabs on certain individuals to assess their threat level before the X-Men tried to recruit them, or at the worst the Brotherhood.
"I have recently been transferred to Domino High and I have already detected very high class and powerful mutant-or what is believed to be a mutant, with the detector I was given." Phil continued.
Hawkeye looked up sharply, his expression turning grave, though his visage wasn't singled out since everyone else looked worried too. Powerful mutants were more of a risk because they were more likely to have trouble controlling their powers, but he had another reason to be worried.
'Don't say Joey Wheeler, don't say Joey Wheeler, don't say-'
"The mutant boy's name is Joey Wheeler."
"I have seen the videos of the lights flickering and then computers acting strange whenever he shows emotion, and while he has a high intelligence, that doesn't appear to be a mutant ability." Phil explained.
"Wait, you said 'maybe' a mutant, is there reason to believe he maybe something else?" Pym questioned, and Hawkeye straightened up.
"Yes, the detector I have has given off strange readings that do not indicate mutant activity for the most part, and I have speculated that the boy has several abilities he may not be aware of or are dormant; thus cancelling out the normalcy of the mutant gene." Agent Coulson explained.
'I have found it strange that Joey seems to have more powers than the normal one or two.' Hawkeye thought frowning in thought. Joey seemed to be a mutant, but he was something else?
The interest in Joey was getting too high now, he had to make his move to adopt him soon, or even try and he didn't think his pseudo-guardianship was going to hold up much. It had to be more official than just it being word of mouth.
Coulson looked off to the side for a moment and his eyes narrowed. "There's has just been activity moments ago picked up from Stark's cell phone."
Hawkeye sunk into his seat. 'Oh no.'
"What? But I've got my cell, unless someone got their hands on one of my old ones…" Stark trailed off and gave the archer a look. "You took the box of old gadgets and equipment I was going to throw away home, one of which was a cell phone I hadn't bothered to cancel the plan on," he said somewhat flatly, "now how did you get the phone to work?"
"I didn't." Hawkeye replied shortly as he tried no to feel unsettled by their stares.
"Who were you talking to on the phone just now?" Natasha asked him.
Hawkeye was very reluctant to answer the question, but he knew they would pester him until he gave the name up. "It was Joey."
"As in the mutant boy?" Janet asked in disbelief.
Hawkeye glared at her. "Don't call him that."
"And why exactly are you in communication with him?" Phil questioned going into agent mode.
"Because I'm his guardian." Hawkeye retorted. "Sort of guardian anyway, nothing official as of yet." He didn't know why he was saying this, it was just going to put a nail in his plans to keep Joey away from all this. It was like…it was like…The man's eyes narrowed slightly. If was rather strange he was saying things suddenly that he had no intention of telling the rest of the team, so why was he saying it now?
At least no one knew about the side ordeal he had instigated.
"I will have to check the rules about you being able to remain the boy's guardian." Phil said sternly.
"What? He's a lot happier with me than he's been with his so-called parents! There's no way you're sending him back to either of them!" Hawkeye shouted glaring at the hologram.
"There's still legal issues, Hawkeye." Coulson retorted calmly. "If you want to be the boy's parent I suggest you hurry up about it."
Chapter 11: Casting A Shadow
Joey walked morosely down the hall to the counselling office. He really did not want to go there, but as he neared, more thoughts ran through his head. If Clint was taking care of it, why should he go? That thought stopped him as he mulled it over.
Yeah, Clint had taken care of it, and he-hopefully-would never have to see Sofen ever again.
Joey turned on his heel as he walked away, deciding that today he'd might as well go check out his 'new property.'
The blond paused for a moment as he looked back at the red-haired girl. "Hi Andrea."
The girl walked over to him. "You doing anything?"
Joey raised a brow at the straightforwardness. "As a matter of fact, I am."
Andrea looked slightly disappointed. "Oh, I see." Then she smiled. "Well, I'll see you class tomorrow then."
"Yeah, see ya." Joey replied walking away. He took the bus halfway and walked the rest. The walk was gratifying for some reason, though he figured it helped release the stress he'd been feeling and had been smart enough to keep from spilling to Sofen.
All the things he'd told that woman were not of real consequence and twist it as she might; he knew that she knew it too.
Joey saw that the yellow tape had been taken off and walked up the to the door, feeling around the top of the door frame for the spare key before remembering that the police might not have bothered to lock it. He turned the knob and opened the door, looking around as he walked in.
Just like with his 'new room,' being in the house felt weird, pinpricks of guilt stabbing into him. They were dead, and he was alive. In both instances, he should have died too, yet he was still alive. And including all the incidents with his old man that had landed him in the hospital, he should have been dead a long time ago.
So why he was he still breathing? Not surprisingly, he could never come up with a concrete answer, as it was always constantly changing from one thing to the next.
He'd always ended up getting sick before he got his answer.
Joey walked around the structure absent-mindedly and found himself in the old man's room. His eyes caught sight of a book on the night stand and he furrowed his brows. He opened it up, the slight guilt being replaced with surprise as he found it was full of names, some he recognized as high status people in New York. Others he didn't know.
Joey wondered briefly why on earth Buck would have left something so important out. He knew this book was important, he just didn't know why yet. The more he read though, it told him this book was blackmail material, as some of the things written by names and dates were some pretty incriminating or incredibly humiliating things that he was sure no one wanted anyone to see.
Joey solidified his thoughts that the old guy had probably gotten dirt on everyone who mattered in Manhattan. When he turned to the next page, his eyes zeroed in on one particular name and had anyone been around, they would have laughed at his almost comically shocked expression.
"What the hell!"
By the time 4 o'clock rolled around, Karla's cool mask was about ready to crack. Wheeler had skipped out on their session. Either he was getting smart or he just thought he didn't need sessions.
While most of the snot-nosed brats thought she was a quack, she really did have a degree in psychology and she could see how damaged Joey was. Ever since she'd first seen him back in freshman year, he'd always looked so miserable. Every time he'd smile, it'd never reach his eyes.
She also knew Wheeler was exceptionally smart. This was why she was sure he always evaded ever having to take sessions with her, and the only reason he was doing it now was because of his own choice, and not because the principal had made him go.
He was trying to find out what her game was.
Karla was sure she'd just found a very enjoyable challenge. It would be taxing and half the time she really did feel like killing him, it would all be worth it to finally break him into a million pieces. 'How' she broke him varied in ideas though.
Not a minute after she'd returned home was there a knock at the door and she answered it to only see the police captain himself standing there. Though her thoughts were anything but pleasant, Karla put on a polite smile. "Captain Stacy, to what do I owe this visit too?"
The Captain's face was carefully blank. "Miss Sofen, I'm going to ask you to step outside please."
Sofen's thoughts all centered around the conversation she'd had with Wheeler the previous day and what she was going to do to him when she got a hold of the blond for 'tattling.'
When Clint returned home, the smell of cooking meat his nose and he grinned slightly. "So kiddo, what's for dinner tonight?"
Joey looked up from the pan he was watching and gave him a rather frosty look. "I already ate, but here's yours." He said moving away and handed him a plate of pancakes. "Breakfast for dinner, enjoy." He snarked before pulling out another plate and putting what looked like a steak on it, and turned off the stove.
"You mean this is it? No bacon or anything?" Clint asked incredulously. "And you get that?"
Joey rolled his eyes. "Did you not hear me? I said I already ate, this is for Cheshire."
Clint blinked. "Who?"
Joey let out a high whistle and the sound of feet came pounding in and a small-ish brown dog came running in, tailing wagging before it growled at the other blond. "Yeah, he's been growlin' at everyone on the way home and baring his teeth, so I call him Cheshire." Joey explained chuckling as he set the plate down in front of the dog. "I think he likes me for some reason, since I'm the only person he never growled at."
"Steak, the dog gets steak?" Clint questioned blankly. "Why do I get this?"
Joey gave him another look as he pulled the black book from the counter top and opened it to a page he'd marked and pointed at the name on it. "This is why."
Clint stared at the name and grew steadily paler. "Where did you get this?" he asked, barely managing to keep his voice even.
"I found it on Buck's nightstand when I went to the house, and there's more than just you're name in here, Hawkeye." Joey said icily, and then his face grew morose. "I'm not mad at you, well, not specifically anyway since I'm trying to convey my emotions without actually showing any-but that's not the point. The point is that you didn't trust me enough to tell me this."
"I could say the same about you." Clint snapped.
"That was a low blow." Joey muttered. "I had a reason not to tell you about the abuse, I was scared you'd never believe me-just like everybody else I tried to tell." He spat. "But it's not like I needed to tell you anyway, figured it out pretty quickly on your own."
"Then the same thing could be said for that book telling you who I am." Clint said nodding at said object. "Though hear me out at least; I never told you because I was trying to protect you, and I guess you could say that I wasn't using my head when I made the decision. I just didn't want you to have to worry about me, since well, it's my job to do the worrying."
Joey smirked a little. "I guess I have no right to be angry at you for this, you were just doing what you thought was right. I thought it was wrong though, mind you." He added.
"Yeah." Clint jerked his head in the dog's direction. "Now what about that. Where did you find it?" The dog growled. "Grr yourself." He retorted.
Joey's smirk widened. "Well, here's what happened…"
Joey walked home, or, 'home' as in the place he wanted to be, and the book he'd took felt heavy in his pocket. He tried to project his irritation without having to actually feel it. It would have been too inconvenient if everything 'blew up' all the times he got upset.
So faking his emotions would have to be the next best thing until he could fully control his real emotions.
Joey stopped as he heard yipping from behind the bush he was walking by and looked over it to see a small-ish dog lying on the ground and its feet tangled up in thin rope. He walked over to it and the dog looked up at him, looking like it wanted to bark, but didn't.
Joey stared back before he carefully knelt down in front of it and began gently taking the rope off its feet and tossed the rope into a garbage bin nearby and the dog yipped again, tail wagging. He couldn't help smiling as he picked up the dog and it began licking his face.
"Yuck, dog germs stop that!" he laughed and scratched the dog behind the ears.
Like it could understand him, the dog did stop.
Joey's smile widened as he put the dog back down and began walking away. He could hear the patter of small paws trailing after him and he looked down to see the dog following him. "Shoo, go home." The dog tilted its head as if confused, but continued on following Joey, baring its teeth at anyone who got too close to him.
Finally, Joey exasperatedly, yet feeling endeared by the dog, picked it back up. "Fine. You can come home with me, but if someone tries to claim you, you're going home with them, got it?" The dog licked his face again. Joey rolled his eyes. "Now, what should I call you…" he trailed off and thought about the people the dog at growled at. "I know, I'll call you 'Cheshire' because you seem to like baring you're teeth a lot."
The dog yipped again.
"…and that's what happened." Joey finished calmly.
"And that's what happened." Clint echoed in disbelief and when he looked over at the dog eating the steak, steak, it growled at him briefly before going back to its meal. "You are going to give it back to its owners when they claim it, right?"
"Yeah." Joey replied. "And it's 'if' not 'when.'" He pointed out.
"I know what I said." Clint retorted and began eating his dinner, feeling silly that he was envious of a dog getting a better meal than him. "And while we're being honest with each other, I should probably tell you whose threatened to hunt you down-not that I'm going to let that happen."
"You mean that 'Barney' guy?" Joey asked.
"Yeah, he's…he's my big brother." Clint replied.
Joey stared at the older man. "Your brother is going to kill us?" he shook his head.
"To be fair, I did say I thought the guy was supposed to be dead." Clint retorted. "I've been trying to track him down, but so far I got nothing."
"I could give it a try." Joey offered. "Don't know how well my Know-It-All power would be at tracking, or my other power that lets me be in someone's head."
"You mean telepathy?" Clint asked in amusement.
Joey shook his head. "I know what telepathy is, it's the thoughts you send out and you get, this wasn't telepathy. Well, it's like a cross between it and…something else. When I went into Buck's head, I felt everything he was feeling and thinking like it was happening to me." He shuddered. "He only noticed me when I started to think too, so if I try and find your brother like that maybe…"
"No." Clint said firmly. "If you have any leads I could follow, it would be terrific. But I don't want you to go inside his head, if he finds out you can go inside his head I don't want to think about what he may show you or what you'll see."
Joey sighed. "Fine, I won't go inside his head." He swore. "But how am I going to practice this "oneness" ability of mine then? I doubt you'd like me sniffing around in your head."
"You could try the dog." Clint suggested sardonically.
Cheshire growled at him again.
Serenity looked through the box in the attic with an expression of mild boredom on her face. While she had been allowed to let Joey come to her party, she had never told her brother how she managed it. She had to clean up the attic and throw away anything that was old or broken.
Still, this was worth it if Joey could come into the house without being glared at.
Her eyes caught sight of two papers and saw her name on one and Joey's on the other. She blinked at how their first and middle names went well with each other, but frowned at the fact the mother entry on Joey's birth certificate was blank, and how the father entry on hers was blank.
A terrible thought entered her mind, but it would likely explain why her mom seemed to hate Joey so much.
Her mom wasn't Joey's mom or their dad wasn't his dad. Either way, something was up.
Chapter 12: Valor
Serenity walked into the living room and saw her mom watching her show. "Mom?"
The older woman looked up. "Yes Serenity?"
"Why is the mother spot on Joey's birth certificate blank?" Serenity asked bluntly.
Her mother looked at her, the glowing outline around her appearing in a yellow-green color. "You are not allowed to go back into the attic, do you understand?"
"Yes mom." Serenity replied and just looking at the aura color with a growing sense of nausea and was about to go back to her room when the doorbell rang. "I'll get it." She muttered and went over to the door.
The door opened to reveal a bald man in a wheel chair, a red-haired woman, a blond woman, and a brown-haired man wearing red shaded sunglasses. She noticed the blond woman was standing a bit away from the other three. "Um, yes?" she asked confused.
"Hello miss, we would like to speak with you and your parents." The bald man replied. "May we come in?"
"Who are you though?" Serenity questioned politely and felt he looked familiar.
"All will be explained in just a moment." The bald man replied.
Serenity paused and nodded. "Fine, come in." she said moving out of the way as the three came in, the red-haired woman pushing the bald man in. "Mom, um…" she trailed off and looked over at the four people. "I don't know you're names." She said as they came into the living room.
"My apologies, I am Charles Xavier." The bald man said and the name suddenly struck a cord in Serenity's memory. "My associates, Jean Grey, Scott Summers, and…Emma Frost."
Serenity blinked. "You're the X-Men!" she said suddenly. "Um, most of you." She said and gave a slight glance to the blond woman.
"You mean the mutant group?" Her mother questioned as she turned the television off. "What brings you here?"
Serenity was all too aware of the fact that her mother had two main emotional settings. The disinterested and angry disposition she had toward her brother and the polite disposition she had towards everyone else. She knew her mom was a nice enough person; she just didn't like her ex-husband or her 'son' very much.
"Mrs. Wheeler, we are under the impression that your daughter is a mutant." Xavier said calmly.
The brunette woman frowned slightly. "But, how can that be possible? My Serenity can't be a mutant, she would have showed some powers by now if she was, wouldn't she?"
"Actually, he's right." Serenity admitted bashfully. "I do have powers; I can…see the emotions people have…somehow. They appear in colors around the person." She explained. She had read up on the emotional coloring and had deduced that the colors were the emotions the people were seeing.
And seeing the dark purple that symbolised the gloom Joey felt made her feel uncomfortable; especially since the purple glow was always surrounded him, him and Clint, who had perpetual shades of dark red mixed in.
"Oh. I see." Her mother said, her face going blank for a second. "This is…uh…shocking?" It came out more of a confused question than a statement.
Serenity cringed a little. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but I didn't know how you'd react, and with, uh…" 'About Joey being a mutant too.'
"You are aware of another mutant's identity?" The blond said in a calm British lit.
Serenity looked at her in surprise. "You can read my mind?" she sounded more mystified than shocked.
"Yes, I am a very powerful telepath." A small amount of pride made its way into Emma's voice.
"As I am." Xavier added. "Please, forgive me for prying, but elaborate who this 'Joey' is."
Serenity watched the lines around her mother's face tighten. "He's a mutant too? How can the both of you be mutants, you're not-" she broke off and looked away.
'Related.' Serenity finished the sentence with some resignation. "Joey's my older brother-" 'Or at least my step-brother apparently'-"and he told me that he found out he was a mutant. He never told me when he got his powers though."
"I see." Xavier said thoughtfully, and the fact he had not detected any mutant activity in the last few or so years was perplexing. Was this boy able to avoid being detected, or was it something else? "Do you by any chance happen to have his address?"
The mother's face tightened. "No, I don't know where he lives." She said in a strained voice, like she was trying to force herself to care. "But Serenity is not joining your institution."
"Mom!" Serenity exclaimed. "I have no idea about how I could control my power or what it could turn into, I need help." She suddenly looked anxious. "But, would it be possible to postpone my move and let me think it over first?" she questioned and looked over at the calendar. "At least until after the 20th?"
Her mother sighed. "I suppose there's no changing your mind about this, very well." She said in a placating tone and looked over at the bald man. "What is this school of yours like?"
Was the cell really necessary? She was already in cuffs. Couldn't the police be a bit more courteous and let her sit in a room. Better that than this dingy, grimy cell anyway. Not that it mattered much either way though, she thought fingering the stone impeded in her ring, she was getting out of here one way or the other.
Then she'd get her revenge on that uppity little brat that couldn't keep his mouth shut.
The blond blinked as he rubbed his forehead. "Yeah?"
"What happened? You just sorta spaced out there." Clint replied.
"'M fine." Joey reassured him. "Just…uh, had a 'flash' of something." He frowned in thought. "It was like last time, I felt like I was actually there, in someone else's head, even if it was just for a second."
"I thought you said it only happened the last time because you were thinking about…" Clint frowned as well. "Who were you thinking about?"
The teen bit his lip. "I was thinking about…if you got the Sofen situation taken care of." He confessed. "I don't know since I never went to her 'session' earlier."
"What did you see?" Clint asked and wondered if he should have just handled the situation instead.
"I saw her in jail, but, she was thinking about how she was gonna get revenge on me for not keeping my mouth shut." Joey shuddered.
"She could have been thinking about someone else; after all, it's not like you're the only one who would probably draw attention to this." Clint replied logically. "And how could she know it was you anyway?"
"I…supposed you're right." Joey relented reluctantly and shook his head again. "I…I need to take a walk and clear my head."
"Take that dog with you, I don't want it making a mess on my floor." Clint said as said dog growled at him. "Oh, and that drop this book off at the bank, I want you to put it in my security deposit box." He said taking out his bank card and a key. "And you can shop for some new clothes, go over a hundred and fifty and I'll know." He warned.
For a brief moment, Joey smiled, if only slightly. "Sure, come on boy." He said as he stood, walked over to the closet by the door and put on his coat, the dog yipping as he sprinted over. "I'll be back in a little while." He added as they both left the house, Joey closing the door behind him.
They walked down the street and just walked down to the bank. It was a forty minute walk, but seeing as how he'd walked farther distance, forty minutes was nothing. Cheshire also seemed to be holding up just fine, despite the dog's small stature.
They arrived at the bank, but the security guard stopped him and said that there were no dogs allowed. Joey took Cheshire back out and looked sternly at the dog, hoping it really was intelligent enough o understand him. "Stay." He said warningly. The dog's ear flatted back and whined, but sat down on its haunches. "Good boy, and don't worry, I'll be right out." He said before heading back into the bank and got in line behind a man and saw at the front of the line was an old lady.
Joey's eyes drifted around the building and he thought about the strange fact he'd never stepped foot into a bank before. He just never had any reason to come into one and if there was one thing his old man had safe guarded, it was his money, well, whatever money he had. It was also the reason Joey had kept the money he had made from babysitting at Clint's house to avoid having it taken away.
He was broken out of his thoughts as the line had moved on without him noticing and he was called up by the woman teller behind the counter. "Hello, I'd like to drop something off in a security deposit box please." He said handing the woman the bank card and showed her the key.
The card was scanned and the woman nodded. "Very well, follow me." She said and gestured for him to come behind the counter.
Joey walked over and was lead into the back where all the deposit boxes were and the teller took one out. "Thank you." He said graciously and unlocked it. He took the book out of his coat pocket and opened up the box to put it in, ignoring everything else that was in the box. He closed the box, locked it, and put it back into the slot it was in, when he heard noise out in the main lobby and someone shout, "Everyone down on the ground!" Followed by two blasting sounds, though Joey noted that they didn't sound like gunshots.
Joey cautiously walked over to the end of the deposit room and looked out into the lobby to see a man wearing a rather ridiculous brown and yellow quilt patterned outfit and mask, two gauntlets on his wrists. He saw the two security guards lying on the ground, though they seemed to still be breathing.
Joey saw that the man looked more preoccupied with stealing the money out of the vault than noticing him, so he took the advantage from his spot to take his cell out of his pocket and dialed 911, moving away from the exit.
He noted the static it had and realized that something must be jamming it before concentrating on just making it go through the static and heard the ringing on the other line.
"911 what's your emergency?" The person on the other end of the line asked.
"Yeah, I'm in the middle of a bank robbery by some costumed guy at the First Bank Of New York in the Domino District." Joey relayed.
"Dispatch is en route." The person said.
"Good." Joey said in relief.
"Oh really?" Joey flinched as he was grabbed from behind and the phone was taken from him. The masked man made an annoyed sound. "And here I thought this jamming device was supposed to block all transmissions." He muttered and threw the phone at the wall, the device breaking on impact.
"Was that really necessary?" Joey hissed, thinking about how long it took him to get the cell to work in the first place.
He felt the arm tighten around his neck. "Quiet you." There were faint sirens in the distance and the masked man let out a growl. "Damn it." He hissed and let go of Joey before he picked up the bags of money and headed for the door. He got sent flying back in through the doors and landed on his back. "Not you again!"
There was a light, feminine laugh sounding in the air before a relatively short figure swung into the bank and placed one red leg, blue detailed on the foot like a ballet slipper, on the masked man's chest. "Yup, me again." The clearly female superhero said as she stuck her hand out and grinned. "You didn't learn your lesson from the last time, did you? Or did you just wanna see me again, Shocky." Her grin widened.
"Bite me!" 'Shocky' snapped before raising his gauntlets and fired, sending the woman flying back and landed on the floor.
Joey saw the woman shake her head of messy hair, ending at her shoulder blades, before rising to her feet, her grin long gone and set into a grim line. The rest of her costume was rather showy; one sleeve was blue and one was red, both detailed in black web lines racing down the arms to the thumb, and both sleeves ended on the middle of all her fingers.
Her shoulders were bare, and at the center of her chest was a spider design, spanning from the logo were black web lines and in each spots were blue and red alternating patterns, going horizontally across were three more black web lines. Her mask just covered her eyes and stretched around her head, two blank, large jack o'lantern eyes looking out and the rest of the mask was red, detailed in black spider crack lines. And around her neck was the same red and blue alternation in a diamond pattern.
Joey was not a pervert, nor did he ogle women, mostly because he was pretty sure there was something wrong with him in the 'how to act around girls' department, but he did appreciate women, and his admiration for this masked woman was no different. Only his face felt hot as he looked at her and he wondered briefly if he might be ill or running a fever.
As 'Shocky' was about to blast the woman, Joey concentrated on the gauntlets and willed them to not-work and they sparked as they were fired, going up in smoke. 'Okay, not exactly what I'd wanted, but it'll do.' He thought and the masked spider-themed girl punched 'Shocky' and sent him flying back before she jumped at him and webbed him up with goo that came from…her fingertips? 'The hell?' Joey thought amazed and watched the girl let webbing fly from her fingers and swung off. 'Wow.'
"Are you sure you're okay to go to school today?" Clint questioned as Joey put on his school uniform jacket and then his winter coat.
Joey felt a sense of joy at the concern his pseudo-guardian was giving him, but mostly he felt annoyed. "Yes Clint, I don't like missing school, and I my internship starts today." He said and knelt down to Cheshire's height. "Sorry boy, but you gotta stay here." The dog whined. "Now listen, be good for Clint and don't growl when he feeds you-you can go back to that later when I get back." The dog yipped as if agreeing and unnoticed to Joey, Clint's eye ticked in annoyance.
"Anyone call to claim that dog yet?" he asked with some irritation.
Joey chuckled as he stood back up as the dog growled at Clint. "No, not yet." He replied with a slight smile. He headed toward the door but stopped when Clint called to him. "Yeah?"
"Did you buy the clothes yesterday?" he asked.
Joey paused at this and knew Clint was aware of the extra time Joey had spent out. "Yes, I bought clothing." He said meaningfully. "Have you not noticed my new…maroon shirt?" he asked pointing at his white shirt. "It's underneath." He elaborated and left the house, slinging his pack over his shoulder.
At the moment, Joey broke out of his reverie as he stared at his friend Yugi. "Hey buddy, you okay?"
Yugi frowned and shook his head. "It's…it's just that, my memory of yesterday's gone again." He whispered.
Joey stared down at his friend and so did the other two. "Again? Do you have any idea about what's causing it?" he asked in a concern that was reserved for family-or rather; close family or family-like ties-and friends. His friend shook his head. "Well, just be glad Sofen's gone, that woman gave all the students the creeps."
"Yeah, it really didn't matter that she was hot if she was crazy." Tristan added.
Joey looked at his oldest friend in surprise. "You thought she was good-looking? Are you damaged?" The irony of that statement being uttered by him of all people is not lost on him, though he is honestly surprised that anyone could find that horrible woman attractive.
"What?" Tristan questioned innocently. "Hey, I mean sure she was crazy, but she was still good-looking." He said defensively.
"Well you've only seen her at a distance." Joey retorted. "If you were in the same room with her for a whole hour you'd be changing your tune."
Tristan stared at him. "Geez Joey, when you'd get so…smart all of a sudden?"
Joey froze minutely before grinning dumbly. "I have no idea what you mean, I've never been 'smart' as you say." He said with a thickening accent for emphasis.
"Clearly, Wheeler." A voice said snidely.
Joey tried not to growl and add more fuel to give Kaiba, so he huffed instead. "Whatever Kaiba, why don't you go back to your table and gossip with the other rich idiots with nothing better to do." It was at that moment he realized that Kaiba was to him, what Alexis was to Téa; and that is a pain in the backside.
"It's a miracle; you can do more than bark after all it seems." Kaiba sneered.
Joey had to stop himself from punching the older teen out, but the lights still flickered overhead. "Why don't you shut up?" he hissed.
"Joey, he's not worth it." Téa said reasonably as she tried to calm him down.
"Yes, listen to the rest of the pack, Wheeler." Kaiba retorted.
Joey went eerily still before he gathered up his garbage and the bell rung. He stood up and looked up slightly. "I hate you." He said bluntly. "But as much as I do despise you, you're nothing compared to the other two I hate more than you. I don't know why you despise me so much, but I don't care, because you're only third on my black list, and you've wasted enough of my time as it is." He said in a tranquil voice that barely restrained the rage he was feeling and he walked out of the cafeteria, tossing out the garbage in the process.
Joey paused, feeling oddly cathartic, before he kept walking on to his next class.
"Wow, this place is huge." Joey commented to himself as he stared at the large building in front of him.
"You know, talking to yourself is a sign of mental instability." A feminine voice said lightly.
Joey looked behind him to see a girl walking up the steps, her long brown hair pulled into a ponytail ending at her neck and two locks of hair framing her face. She wore a gray hoodie with black patches at the shoulders and wrists and light blue pants with brown hiking boots. "Oh really? You telling me you wouldn't be able to say something when you saw this building?"
"No, honestly, because I thought it instead." The girl retorted smirking.
Joey huffed as he walked in and held the door open. "You coming in or what?" he asked and the girl walked in as well. "So you a student or something?"
"Or something." The girl replied chuckling. "I'm a science intern, just starting out as a matter of fact." She looked very proud of this.
Joey raised a brow. "Really? Me too, I go to Domino, you?"
"I got to Midtown." The girl replied.
"Hmm, my sister goes to the middle school there." Joey said thoughtfully. "Seeing as we're gonna be working together," he held out his hand, "hi, I'm Joey Wheeler."
The girl shook his hand and looked at him dumbly. "Perenna Parker." She replied and bit her lip. "You said you're last name was Wheeler? Do you happen to know a Serenity Wheeler?"
Joey blinked before tilting his head. "Yeah, she's my sister, how do you know her?"
"She's my friend." Perenna answered shyly. "We met on Shadow Day at my school and hung out last weekend." She looked a little down at that for some reason, but Joey decided not to ask about it and instead focused on another angle.
"My sister went to your school for Shadow huh?" Joey questioned and since his school's Shadow Day was on Monday, he figured his sister probably wasn't gonna go to his school next fall to start high school. "Well…I really have nothing to say to that." He added awkwardly.
Perenna smiled at that. "Your funny." She joked rolling her eyes.
They arrived in the lab to meet a blond man with a missing arm and a redheaded woman by him. "Oh, you must be the interns." The blond man said.
"Are we the only ones our schools recommended?" Joey questioned in some amazement.
"As a matter of fact…eh, yes." The blond man said lamely.
"And that makes this opportunity all the better then." Joey replied smirking.
"Glad you see it that way." The redhead said smiling.
Joey didn't really know who these people were, and the only information he did have was that one of them was Miss Drew's colleagues. So he decided to ambiguously put the notion out there. "It's nice to meet you; Miss Drew talked about you in my science class."
Perenna took the 'bait' as it were instead. "Yes, it's such an honor to meet you, Dr. Connors." She added and held out her hand to the blond man.
Joey saw this though as an opportunity to finally be able to just be himself. Nobody here knew him, and so they wouldn't be aware of how he acted. This was why when he and Perenna were asked if they knew what 'gene splicing' was, Joey launched right into his explanation.
It had earned him several stares, all astonished. Joey shrugged his shoulders as he sheepishly scratched the back of his head. "I like Science."
"Clearly." Dr. Connors said in a daze of sorts before breaking out it and cleared his throats. "Alright then, here's what I want you two to do today…"
Blair Flannigan opened the door when she heard the doorbell and saw her friend Serenity standing there. "Hi Ren, what's up?"
"Hi Blair, uh, can I talk to you?" The auburn-haired girl asked.
"Um, sure. What is it?" Blair questioned as Serenity walked inside and she shut the door.
"Um, did you ever have to make a choice, which tore between one thing you wanted, and one thing you needed?" Serenity asked as she sat down on the couch.
Blair considered her answer carefully. She could honestly say she didn't need anything-yet. Though, she did want one thing and another, but there was absolutely no way it was ever gonna happen. If everything she'd seen on the news was any indication, but yearly checks she and her mom received still made her hold out hope. "No, I can say that I never had to make that type of decision."
"Oh." Serenity replied quietly. "Metaphorically then, what would you do?"
Blair paused in thought and answered the question she had asked herself once before. "I would do what was best for me." She said bluntly. "I'm not saying this because I'm being selfish, I'm saying this because it's my choice, and what's best for me. Everyone else can say that something else is better for me, but it will always be my decision that matters." She said earnestly. 'And what I chose is a stable environment and a loving mother.' She added silently.
Serenity stared at the dark-haired girl for a moment in silent awe. "It almost sounded like you were speaking from experience."
Blair scratched the back of her head nervously. "Uh, right, but you wanted my metaphorical opinion." She said shrugging.
"Hmm, I suppose so." Serenity replied nodding. "So, uh thank you for your input."
"Mind if I ask what you wanted my opinion on?" Blair questioned curiously.
"Er, it was about my schooling, and since mom won't let me go see Joey, I…decided to take a third option." Serenity replied smiling sheepishly.
Blair nodded slowly. "Hope that works out for you, I really do mean that."
"You are an insufferable know it all."
Joey had to keep the grin from creeping over his lips as the 'I know I am, but what are you' come back seemed too childish, even though it was true. Just drop the insufferable part anyway. Instead he settled for, "I know."
Perenna huffed lightly as they walked down the steps of the university. "Are you like a walking encyclopedia or something?" she questioned. "Since you knew things even I didn't and I'm the smartest kid in my school." She added with a pout.
Joey chuckled and he found it felt nice to finally let loose and be himself around people. Even if those places were home and now the university. "I just wanted to make a good impression, that's all. To show that I earned this spot because of , you know…" he said tugging on a lock of his blond hair for emphasis.
Perenna nodded. "I don't really but into that whole 'blondes are dumb' stereotype, I mean, look at Dr. Connors; he's blond and he's a scientist. And well, then there's you." She said with a smirk at the end.
For a brief moment, Joey felt optimistic. "You know what? I think we're gonna get along just fine."
Chapter 13: Whispers In The Dark
Joey laid on his stomach on his bed, having grown comfortable enough to call it his own and had the laptop in front of him on the bed, and just finished watching the latest web review of Obscurus Lupa and browsed through another episode when there was a knock at his door. "Yeah?"
"Joey, we're leaving." Clint's unusually solemn voice came through the door.
Joey closed the laptop and got off the bed and opened the door. "What do you mean by that?" he asked uncertainly.
"I mean we have to go to the Avenger's Mansion." Clint replied, his face twisting up at that.
Joey's own face wore a grimace. "You mean I have to come with you to your workplace?" he didn't know why, or at least get an answer, but he felt uneasy at the idea; not that it didn't mean knowing his pseudo-guardian is a superhero wasn't the coolest thing ever. "Why?" he saw that there wasn't a reason why this group of heroes wanted to see him.
Clint looked torn between whether or not to tell Joey about the agent in his school before he decided to hell with it. "There's an agent in your school to scout out mutants to see whether or not they'll become a threat before the X-Men find them."
Joey saw where this was going. "So I guess I got found out, huh?"
"Yeah, you did." Clint agreed glibly. "And you should know that I don't want to force you to go, but…"
"I understand." Joey said holding up his hand. "Really, I do understand." He said and walked out of the room. "Let's go then, I have always wanted to see what the place you work in is like."
"And some of the members live in." Clint added and Joey looked at him in surprise. "I don't stay there because I have a life." He added with a smirk.
Joey rolled his eyes and continued walking, Cheshire eventually running up to him, yipping. "Hey boy." He said reaching down and scratching it behind the ears. "Sorry, but you gotta stay here." The dog whined as it's ears flattened against its head. "Don't worry; I'll give you a big breakfast." The dog perked back up as Joey and Clint went by, giving a customary growl at the latter.
"Maybe someone will pick the dog up soon." The older man grumbled.
"Clint, if no one's claimed Cheshire yet, no one's probably going to." Joey tried not to sound too gleeful about this.
"It's only been two days, there's still hope." Clint retorted dryly.
After getting to the car and arrived at the mansion, Joey had looked up at the place with some form of awe. He was actually going into the Mansion where the other Avengers (well, some of them anyway) lived.
They left the car and walked into the mansion, and Joey looked around before he remembered something. "Hey Clint, how's your list of returning things going?"
Clint rolled his eyes. "Don't remind me about that. I've only gotten around to returning a few things what with tracking down leads on Barney."
"How hard can it be to find a dead…guy." Joey trailed off and realized how that sounded. "Huh, I can see how hard it would be to accomplish."
"I still curse Buck's name every time I look at that list." Clint grumbled. "Though I suppose the redeeming thing was the blackmail book."
Joey gave Clint a strange look. "You actually approve of him writing down every dirty secret he could find out about his employers?"
"Hey, at least we now have proof they have dirty little secrets." Clint retorted smugly.
Joey rolled his eyes. 'He does realize that the book outs him as Hawkeye, right?' he thought to himself, but the answer he got was 'yes' anyway. He moved onto a more pressing question. "Is it true that the house has an animatronic that Tony Stark made controlling everything?"
"Yes, it's called JARVIS." Clint replied. "But how do you know that?"
Joey shrugged. "I read; though I hope you will be pleased to note that you're superhero persona is also my favourite."
The older blond raised a brow. "Really now?"
Joey chuckled. "Yeah, guess I got lucky that my favourite superhero and pseudo-guardian is the same person, huh?"
"Well, I'm working on trying to get the 'pseudo' part dropped." Clint said smirking.
Joey's eyes brightened and while he tried to restrain himself, the lights above them started glowing. "Heheh, whoops." He grinned sheepishly as he scratched his head. "Sorry."
"Don't be." Clint replied and smirked. "Besides, if the lights shorted out it won't cost us a thing."
The younger blond rolled his eyes. "Now what about this whole thing apparently regarding me, do you know what's going on?"
"From what I gathered, you're either a very powerful mutant or something else entirely." Clint said dryly.
Had Joey not lived in a world that was filled with superheroes, villains, mutants, and magic, he would have found the idea disturbing. "I've lived with thinking that I was a mutant and you're saying that I'm actually something else…possibly?" he questioned.
"I just said that didn't I?" Clint retorted.
"Hey, I'm working on owning snark so don't get used to using it." Joey warned smirking.
Clint chuckled and the two walked down the hall and while he was following orders, he did not enjoy bringing Joey here. It wasn't because he didn't think Joey deserved to know where he worked, only that the reason he had to bring the younger blond here left him uneasy. His teammates had seemed too interested in Joey's powers and his relation to Clint.
Joey looked around the room and looked ahead in surprise when they came across a pretty redheaded woman in a black suit and strange yellow braces on her wrists. He recognized her as Black Widow.
"Hey Natasha." Clint said casually.
The name caused a jolt of recognition to go through Joey's mind as he remembered how Callum told him about 'Aunt 'Tasha.' He wondered if this was the woman the child had been referring too. He had never met the woman, and he doubted she knew about him if the way she looked at him was any indication.
"So you are this 'Joey' Clint is going to adopt huh?" she asked with a hint of a Russian accent.
Joey beamed and the lights began glowing again, the redheaded woman giving the lights a cursory glance before brushing it off. "Yup."
"That is going rather unfortunate." The redhead commented. "As I have just come back from a meeting with the others and General Fury is adamant that you not be adopted."
"What?" Clint shouted incredulously. He had been so damn close to getting the paperwork and now this happens? "Oh I'm giving ol' one eye a piece of my mind about this. Joey, go wait in the kitchen, I'll be back soon." He said before storming off.
"So you're 'Aunt 'Tasha' I presume?" Joey questioned after a beat of silence.
The woman stiffened. "What I find startling is that in my years of working with Clint he never mentioned you once." She said offhandedly.
Joey felt a nagging feeling that something was off about this woman, but he couldn't figure out what. He hoped it wasn't that she liked his pseudo-guardian like that. His guardian deserved to be happy, sure, but he doubted the man would want a relationship that would pale to the one he'd already had.
"Oh, well, I'm sure he had his reasons." He said shrugging and walked past the woman to the kitchen, using his Know-It-All ability to lead him there.
He never noticed the woman's eyes narrow as she watched him walk away.
"What right do you have to say who I can and can't adopt!"
That was the first thing the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D heard as his visage appeared in the main room of the Avenger's Mansion, void of everyone save one. "I take it you've heard about my decision regarding the Wheeler boy?" he questioned.
"You're damn right I heard!" Clint snarled. "Give me one damn reason why I can't adopt Joey! One damn reason!"
"The boy still has parents for one." Fury shot back. "And don't think S.H.I.E.L.D doesn't know about the assault on the boy's father that was nearly changed to a murder charge."
"Unfortunately he lived." Clint muttered underneath his breath. "That man hasn't been found yet and his mother made it clear she didn't want him around, so really, there's no place to put him and he should just be allowed to stay with me." 'He already practically lived at my house anyway.' He thought and mentally patted himself on the back for poking logical holes in the argument.
Fury's expression didn't change. "He will stay here, where he can be monitored as letting that boy left unsupervised with how much power he has is gonna make others uneasy."
"I'm teaching him how to control his powers." Clint retorted. "He doesn't need to stay here. And I'm sure that the others here won't like knowing they have to play babysitter."
"My decision is final Barton; the Wheeler boy will remain here, whether you will be allowed to adopt the boy will be decided when we are sure you are not going to flee." Fury said before cutting the transmission.
Clint slammed his fist down on the console. He derisively thought that if S.H.I.E.L.D had such up to date intelligence that why didn't they know about the abuse Joey suffered the second he was discovered to be a mutant. But then again, it honestly wouldn't surprise him if they did know and were willing to just turn a blind eye to it.
He was suddenly starting to think he should have just screwed the rules and taken Joey with him after his-their-family was murdered. And now he had to go tell his almost son that the best home life he'd had for several days was being cut short.
"What?" Joey questioned as he stared at the older blond from the seat he was sitting at from the island in the kitchen.
Clint kept his face carefully blank. "You have been ordered to stay here." He replied. "The Director said you are too powerful to be left unmonitored."
"Screw what he says!" Joey retorted sharply. "I want to go home. Isn't there something you can do?"
The mask faded just enough to allow the older man to look truly regretful. "There isn't. And believe me, as much as I want to take you back home, the backlash will be much worse and at least if you stay here, we can still see each other every day."
Joey paused at that, a smirk starting to form on his face. "Yeah, I guess that's true." His face twisted up though into a scowl. "But don't expect me to like staying here."
"I don't expect you too."
Joey stared up at the ceiling of his new, new room. And while it didn't hold a painful reminder of one of his younger 'brothers,' this one felt more like a furnished prison cell. His eyes turned to glance out at the setting sun out the window and while he had been told he could leave, he was sure no one trusted him to go anywhere but to school.
And with what Clint told him about a S.H.I.E.L.D agent being undercover in his school made him think trying to leave the school was also a bad idea, but the fact going to the university was his only 'safe zone' seemed a little sad. His home was supposed to be his safe zone and considering the fact his first two homes he stayed in with his old man had been rather horrible, his second one had been terrific…until the incident had happened.
Then crushing despair had gotten to him. He was still trying to deal with it, but he didn't dare claim he was more torn up about the incident than Clint was. They were the man's family first after all.
The blond heard Cheshire snort in his sleep as the dog lay curled up to Joey's side. He'd noticed that the dog looked a bit wary about being in the building, but it had made him think that Cheshire also didn't like being in this place.
"I have been informed from the main chef that dinner is now being served in the dining hall." The computerized voice of JARVIS said.
Joey's eyes narrowed, and even though he did feel hungry, he was not going to face everyone else that lived in the mansion. "No thanks, I'm not hungry."
"My scanners indicate that you are in need of sustenance." JARVIS replied.
Joey grimaced. "I'll just eat later; right now I want to be alone."
Joey frowned before sitting up and logging back onto his laptop and was about to search through more of his favorite internet web show episodes when he felt a nagging at the back of his mind and he heard Cheshire whine in his sleep. He absently petted the dog's head and as Cheshire calmed down, the nagging in his mind faded.
His vision also started to fade as his eyes slowly closed; images and feelings that were not his own were starting to synchronize into his own mind.
He felt a little strange.
That was the first feeling that came to mind as he tried to figure out what was going on and why everything suddenly seemed larger. He was outside and he was moving; those were clues at least. He felt a lingering stinging around his neck and briefly wondered why that was before he tripped on the rope around his feet…paws?
When Clint had said to try his 'oneness' ability on the dog he'd assumed the man had been kidding. He didn't know it would actually work!
Before he could see the scene where he finally came in, he felt another presence begin pushing him out.
Joey blinked as he sat up and rubbed his forehead, looking back down at the now awake Cheshire, who almost seemed to be scowling at him. "Hey, don't look at me like that; it's not like I can control whose mind I can go into."
The dog barked and nudged his side.
Joey patted the dog on the head before using his Know-It-All ability to find out the time and was surprised to learn he'd been asleep for little over two hours. It was only strange since he couldn't remember the other hours of just sleeping; either that or he'd been inside Cheshire's head longer than he thought.
The blond got off the bed and headed toward the door. "Come one boy, time to go eat."
The dog yipped and scampered after him as they made their way down to the kitchen area, deserted of all other people. He reached into the freezer and pulled out a pallet of pork chops and after letting it defrost in the microwave, he set up the stove and got the pan out.
While he didn't like this place, he'd admit that it certainly did have nice kitchen.
Karla walked down the driveway to the house, a passive expression on her face. She'd broken out of the jail cell she'd been put in and now it was time to get her revenge on a certain brat. She knew this wasn't Joey's actual address, but it was his sister's and from what she had gotten out of the boy spoke volumes about just how much he cared about her.
She had never been forced before to use the powers she was given by the stone in her ring, but revenge seemed like an optimal choice. While she thought herself to be too far above petty revenge in most cases, this was different. Maybe it was because it was just…something about the boy that got under her skin; the fact he had talked stood out most in her mind.
Well, after she got done with him, he'd never be talking ever again.
Chapter 14: Greater Need Then Mine
Joey walked out of the Mansion gates and down the street to the bus stop. Yet another to dislike about the prison he was in was that he now had to waste his money to get to school. He would have walked if he didn't know that it would make him late. He'd kept Cheshire in his 'room' and made sure to make enough food for him so that he didn't starve until he got back.
He wasn't so stupid to believe that no one would try and stop him if he tried to leave, despite the assurance that he wasn't a prisoner. He didn't like that place on principle since he just viewed it as another obstacle, just like the 'home' he'd had with his 'father.'
Joey leaned back in his seat as he took out the cell phone he'd fixed up from it being broken on the floor from the botched bank robbery and checked the time. 8:35 a.m. In just another 15 minutes and he'd be at the school. He also remembered that he needed to go to the store and pick up the locket he'd ordered to be put on layaway while he scrunched up enough money from any odd jobs he'd taken in the last year to pay for it.
His sister's birthday party was in just a few days, and she was worth it. It brought a sense of sadness to mind though that he didn't have enough to pay for the operation that could let her keep her sight; sure, it had a fifty-fifty chance of working, but his sister was worth it.
Joey narrowed his eyes in thought as he went over ideas in his mind about what jobs were open to teenagers this late in the year. All the summer jobs were over since it was the winter, but since it was winter, it also opened up another set of jobs that could pay well. Well enough considering it'd probably be minimum wage after all.
When he got off the bus, he walked the rest of the way, luckily it only being just a block away from the school. He sprinted to save time and dodged several people. He cut through and alley and almost ran out when he felt something hit him in the back of the head and he went down. He groaned and rubbed his head, his vision blurring from disorientation and felt something was off as he didn't feel any swelling or blood from the hit.
He heard footsteps and stood wobbly to his feet when he looked behind him to see someone he hoped he'd never have to see again. "Sofen!" he spat as he glared at her.
"Hello Joey." Sofen said giving him a smile that chilled Joey's blood.
"What are you doing here?" Joey questioned as he tried to subtly back away, but Sofen noticed.
"I wouldn't think of running if I were you." She said and held up a cell phone. She opened it to show him a picture of…
"You better not have hurt her!" Joey snarled as he looked at the picture of his bound and unconscious sister, his 'mother' and who he presumed was his sister's friend.
"I have not done anything except send them all to dreamland." Sofen replied icily. "What happens next though depends entirely on you."
Joey felt a sinking feeling in his stomach form. "What do you want?" he asked warily.
"What do you think? You opened you mouth and ruined the best opportunity I had to test my psychiatric limits." Sofen shrugged. "So what if a few brats get sent to the nuthouse for it." She glared at him. "But you, you had to make his all more difficult than it had to be." She growled before smiling again in that eerie way. "You're a smart boy, I'm sure you can guess what I want."
Joey did guess what she wanted. "Revenge." He said hoarsely.
"Bingo." Sofen chimed in. "Now you can come along quietly, and I'll even let your family go," he expression darkened, "or you can make this is even more difficult on you and they can take your punishment."
Joey flinched back. Sure, he didn't care one way or another about what happened to his mother, but Serenity still needed her, and he was sure that her friend was just an innocent bystander that got caught up in this. He didn't have to think twice about his reply. "I'll come quietly."
Jessica stared at the clock, a feeling of trepidation going through her. Joey hadn't showed up for class, and unless something was wrong, he always showed up, even when he was sick. Especially if he knows he shouldn't. She'd had her reserves about teaching after all she'd done in her life most of which she was not proud of, but Joey had quickly become her favorite student.
There was just a jaded look in his eyes that reminded her too much of herself and it worried her to see that look in someone so young. She'd been impressed though when he revealed to her that he was actually almost 13 when he'd started high school, all his friends just being coincidentally older than him.
And while the boy had acted like the typical high schoolers, she'd started to notice slowly that he also didn't act like the typical high schooler on paper. His demeanour was that of a stereotypical 'dumb blond' type around others, but one the tests and homework, he'd gotten every answer right.
Jessica had naturally assumed that someone who acted like he led her to believe had cheated, so she'd asked him to take a make-up test to see if he still past. He did.
It was then that her perception of him began to change. She started noticing that he looked at her, not at her body when she was giving a lesson, but for whatever reason, he still played dumb when she called on him to answer a question. She knew he was smart, all the teachers he had that she talked too agreed on that, but they were just as confused as her with why Joey kept his intelligence a secret.
But in a way, it was similar to how she acted when she put on her mask. She was the cool, sisterly teacher, and then became the collected, level-headed Spider-Woman. But she'd always been distant and had those traits drilled into her when she worked for HYDRA.
So it worried her about which parts of Joey was the 'real' person. The blond delinquent or the diligent student?
Either way, she would wait out and try and ask one of his other teachers if they'd seen him before jumping to any conclusions.
Joey didn't speak for the duration of the 'trip' nor could he see past the blindfold that Sofen had made him put on before tying his hands behind his back and shoving him into some sort of vehicle. Though by the fact he felt a rather comfortable material at his back and his feet were settled on the ground that he was in a car. One with tinted windows probably if no one was seeing him blindfolded in the backseat.
Or, the more cynical part of him protested, no one cared enough to try and help him.
Joey had known better than to try and escape since he took the threat against his sister very seriously and he wouldn't risk her getting hurt because Sofen hated him. He was prepared to take whatever she threw at him, and again the darker part of him pointed out that Sofen more than likely was going to kill him.
The blond teen was also counting on his absence from school to be noted and there being a team sent out to 'retrieve' him, probably going to Clint first thinking that he'd let Joey back into his home, and if Joey was right, his pseudo-guardian would cause just enough of a ruckus to be allowed to search for him as well.
This was of course the reason he'd been keeping quiet instead of being panicky. His plan was all based on chance, but at best his sister would be safe, and at worst he would be dead.
In his disturbing morbid thoughts, he wondered if him being dead would be such a bad thing before remembering the few people he'd let past his shell that actually cared about him.
He mentally revised his plan so that the worst outcome was that he would end up being severely injured instead of dead. At least if he was severely injured there would be time to say goodbye.
Andrea looked around the hall way with a frown. Joey hadn't been to class, and she'd really wanted to talk to him. She noticed one of his friends, Yugi something and decided to see if he knew where Joey was. So approaching slowly, she asked, "Have you seen Joey?"
His friend looked up at her in surprise. "No, I haven't see him." he said shaking his head. "Why, wasn't he in class?"
Andrea shook her own head. "No."
Yugi frowned. "That's odd; he never misses class unless something comes up."
"I know." Andrea replied absently and froze minutely, but it seemed like Yugi didn't notice her slip as he nodded along with an also absent-minded look on his face.
"Something isn't right, last time he didn't show up he…" Yugi trailed off and his frown deepened, before shaking his head of whatever thoughts had entered his mind. "Anyway," he said with a too bright smile, "nice meeting yo-ow!" he flinched when he tried to shake her hand, only to pull back when his hand burned upon touching hers.
Andrea gained a nervous expression on her face before saying a quick 'You too' before walking briskly to her next class.
Joey felt the car slow to a stop and heard the front car door open before shutting and felt the breeze hit him in the face as Sofen opened the door to the backseat and dragged him out with surprising ease. He made sure not to resist. There was an odd opening sound, like the one from a garage door, and it told him that they were probably at a warehouse of some sort.
The door was pulled down after him and he felt the blindfold being ripped off and it took his vision a moment to adjust to the darkened room and immediately tried to look for any hair of sister. "Where is my sister?"
"Right down here." Sofen replied with an unsettling smile and again dragged him further into the building.
Joey continued to keep a look out and he eventually caught sight of his wide-awake sister, while her friend was actually still unconscious, and his mother was also awake, and glaring at him. "Serenity, are you okay?"
His sister looked physically fine, but one could never be too careful. After all, he'd managed to fool people for four years and counting with nothing but sunglasses and sick note excuses. "S-sure." She said shakily, but his mother just glared harder at him.
"You, you're the cause of this." She spat.
"Nice to see you too, mom." Joey said sarcastically.
"Don't call me that." His mother muttered and Serenity cringed.
Joey looked at Sofen, his eyes glaring into hers. "I came, now let them go, Sofen."
Sofen smiled darkly. "No, I don't think I will, you see, I can't have them bringing the police here." She explained and began dragging Joey further into the base.
Joey tried to use his feet to put up some friction so he wouldn't go so easy and he struggled with his binds. "You said you would!" he snapped.
Sofen's smile widened. "I lied."
Joey felt the rage and hate in him build up and he focused that to burn up the bindings on his wrists. He pulled them in front of him and let of a burst of fire right in front of Sofen's face, causing the woman to scream and grab at her face. Joey kicked her back into a room and closed the door, while grabbing a plank of wood to keep the door jammed. He ran back to where his sister and the others were and pretended to untie them while carefully burning the rope off his sister's hands.
"Are you sure you're alright?" he asked and his sister nodded again, even though she still looked somewhat shaky.
Joey turned to her friend and gave her a reassuring smile. "You're safe now, okay?"
The dark-haired girl stared at him and a red flush came over her face and Joey briefly checked her temperature before burning the ropes off and then turned to his mother. He didn't say a word to the woman and she didn't lessen her glare at all.
"Go." He said and helped his sister up before her friend grabbed a hold of her hand to steady her. He heard the door being hit and ushered them more urgently. "Go."
The door flew off its hinges just as Serenity, her mother, and her friend all got out, but Joey felt something collide with his side and he swore he heard something crack. He lay on his side as he saw Sofen stalking toward him, her face burning red and scowling at him.
Outside, Serenity took out her cell phone, having been unable to use it before as her hands were tied. She quickly dialed 911. "Hello, police, you have to get to the warehouse district, my mother and I, and my friend Blair were kidnapped." She rushed out. "Our brother is still inside with the kidnapper." She paused and answered the question asked next. "He was the one she wanted, and the only thing he called her was 'Sofen.''
There was a tense moment before Serenity let out a sigh and said a polite thank you. "The police are coming." She said to her mother and Blair before looking worriedly. 'Joey, please come out.'
Back inside, Joey felt himself get picked up by his shirt and thrown into the wall. He bit back a scream as his ribs ached painfully and he was sure that if nothing was broken before, then they were now. He let out a scream as one of his arms was stomped on and he heard another crack.
Joey channeled his hate again and he felt his eyes glow as he set fire to Sofen's trench coat to give him enough time to stand and putting some pressure on his ribs, he wobbled over to the exit, only to get shot down to the floor when he felt something his him in the back. He looked up to see the blond woman's hand glowing and he grimaced. "The hell?"
Sofen smiled darkly again. "Don't you want to know how I got out of jail?" she asked chillingly as she planted a foot onto his back. "My ring is very special and thanks to you I've found a certain use for these powers."
"'Powers'?" Joey repeated weakly.
"Well, it's not like you'll be alive for much longer, but yes, the stone in my ring enhanced my speed, strength and stamina. It also lets me shoot lasers and turn intangible."
"So that's how you got out." Joey muttered and grimaced as Sofen dug her foot deeper into his back.
"Yes." She confirmed before she lifted her foot and knelt down, lowering one de-powered hand to cup his face. "You're such a pretty boy." She murmured before lowering her face closer to his.
Joey turned his head away and while he had already suspected this about her, and that she was trying to kiss him disturbed him to no end. He saw in the corner of his eye that the hand resting on his cheek also had the power stone on it. One of his hands was pinned under his body and if he tried to take the stone, she'd seen it, and if he tried to set her fire again, she'd break something else.
There really was only one way to distract her. Feeling a wave of self-disgust settle inside him, Joey turned his head back to her, where her face was now inches from his. He resisted the urge to gag as the woman closed the distance and his hand quickly wrapped around the ring before she lashed out and kicked him in the side.
Joey felt something in his mouth and to his horror he saw that he spat out blood. His horror changed to triumph as he saw the ring clutched in his palm and he smirked over his shoulder at her.
Sofen looked at her finger and her surprise turned to rage as her hands went right for his throat and Joey spat the building in his mouth at her and she recoiled in disgust, wiping the blood away just as Joey sat straight up and head butted her with enough for to send her onto her back. Joey lifted himself off the floor and his legs wobbled as he tried to walk to the exit.
Joey's vision began to blur and his head was started to feel funny. And his chest was also starting to constrict; he felt the blood on his forehead run down the bridge of his nose and the blood leaking out of his mouth. He coughed up more of the red liquid before falling to his knees and his vision went completely dark as his head hit the pavement.
Serenity stared at the door to where Joey was being operated on, from what she'd heard snippets of was that her brother-even if they weren't related he was still her brother-was lucky to even be alive still. Her mother was waiting impatiently to leave, not once sparing a glance to the door where Joey was being treated.
Blair was sitting with an older woman who looked very little like Blair, but she still had the dark hair. It would have been awkward had Blair not told her that the woman was her aunt, but the woman adopted her because her real mother couldn't take care of her. Blair had refused to tell her who her father was though. The dark-haired girl was leaning against her mom's side as the older woman soothing petted her hair.
"I think it's time we go." Serenity looked at her mother in disbelief.
"What, but what about Joey?" she asked.
"He's like a cold, you can try, but you can't rid of him very easily." Her mother said dismissively.
"I wonder if you'd be nicer to him if he was your son." Serenity muttered, but her mother still heard her.
"We will have words, young lady, now say goodbye to your friend. We're leaving." Her mother said crisply and walked over to the sliding doors and crossed her arms.
Serenity walked over to Blair and gave her a tight hug. "See you." She murmured.
"See you." Blair returned the hug before her friend left with her mother and she looked up at her own mom. "Is dad coming?"
"Who do you think insisted that you stay for observation to make sure you were fine?" Claire Flannigan questioned wryly.
Blair grimaced as she leaned back against her maternal aunt's side. "I'm fine. It's Serenity I'm worried about." She murmured. "I don't think she'll be fine until she sees that her brother is fine after that nut job kidnapped us."
"Well you know how your father is, and he really is making more of an effort to be your father than he did before." Claire pointed out.
Blair nodded slightly, but she was frowning. "That only started to happen after his accident. At least with mom she called at least once a week from jail or wherever she is."
"And knowing my sister, I can be expecting a very angry phone call from her after she sees the news, wherever she is." Claire added absently.
Blair also nodded absently as she wondered if her mother had again broken out of one of the prisons for supervillains or if she was on the run again. Since there was nothing containing her in the news, she was going with the former.
She sent a look toward the operating room just as she heard the door open and looked up to see her father walking toward them. "Hi dad."
"I'm going to kill that bitch." Was the first thing Clint said as Joey was moved from the hospital to the medical wing in the Avenger's mansion. He'd think the last time he saw Joey lying half-dead could have lessened seeing him wrapped in bandages around his ribs, around his forehead, and his arm set in a cast. It was too much like seeing him the last time after he set his apartment building on fire.
The fact Joey had yet to wake up yet also made his anger rise. Oh, he wasn't angry at Joey, not at all, he was angry at…her. I warned the cops that if they didn't handle this then I would.' Clint thought darkly.
"You shouldn't be in here." One of the medical staff said sternly.
Clint glared, but the personnel refused to cow. "Alright, alright, but he better be taken care of." He warned and turned to leave when he saw his teammate Black Widow standing there. "How long have you been listening?"
"Long enough." Natasha replied.
"Don't try and stop me." Clint retorted as he left, but before he could go far, Natasha stepped in front of him.
"You can't go out and kill this woman." She said.
"Why not, we've both been killing people for S.H.I.E.L.D long before being placed on this team." Clint retorted crossing his arms. "And I clearly told the pol…" he trailed off as he realized what he was about to say, but managed to stop himself. "This woman hurt Joey and nearly ended up killing him. She has to be dealt with." He said coldly.
"She is being dealt with." Natasha returned coolly. "She is currently serving out a prison sentence in the Vault for kidnapping and attempted murder." She smirked sardonically. "Stark was rather insisted with Fury that Sofen be put there."
Clint narrowed his eyes and after thinking it over for a moment, realized that Joey waking up was more important to him than Sofen dying. At the moment, anyway. He nodded after a beat of silence. "Fine, I won't kill her." He grumbled and his teammate let him pass and he headed back to Joey's room.
He opened the door and Cheshire barked happily before it turned into a growl as the dog saw it was not Joey coming into the room. "Yeah, yeah, I know you don't like me, or anyone but Joey really." He shrugged nonchalantly. "Joey's going to be out of commission for a bit, as he's currently lying in a bed unconscious."
Cheshire seemed to understand him as the dog froze and ran out of the room between Clint's legs and down the hall to where the medical ward was. The dog was almost there when he was scooped back up and growled up at the older blond and tried to bite him, only to get flicked on the nose.
"Hey, behave or I lock you in Joey's room and I won't let you see him." Clint felt rather stupid for talking to a dog like it could understand him, but the responses the dog had made him either believe that Cheshire was very well-trained, or…
Cheshire barked impatiently and Clint rolled his eyes before walking closer to the room and let the dog look in to see the unconscious Joey lying on a bed with an I.V in one arm and a breathing mask over his nose and mouth, and a blanket covering him up to the chest, the monitor that he was connected to beeping slowly to match his heartbeat.
The dog let out a low moaning sound and Clint realized with a start that it sounded sad. He would assume he was going crazy, if he wasn't already there to begin with, but then again, weirder things have happened. An eerily intelligent dog just got added to the list; that was all.
Speaking of which… 'Why has no one come to collect this dog yet?' Clint thought before walking away.
Cheshire growled at him again, but he was unfazed. "Listen you; we can't do anything right but wait for Joey to get better." Clint said dryly. "So I guess we're stuck with each other until he does."
The dog's growl turned into a yowl that made the blond feel vaguely offended.
Jessica Drew looked out at the empty classroom and she was feeling increasing worried about Joey, but her thoughts were interrupted by a knock to the door and Serenity walked in. "Hello."
The girl smiled. "Hello, um, I've come for Joey's homework, if that's alright."
Jessica nodded. "Where's is Joey?"
Serenity grimaced. "He got hurt very badly, he's going to be out of school for a while he recovers." She explained vaguely.
While it didn't alleviate all of Jessica's worries, it did alleviate some of them; specifically on if Joey was still alive. "Wait right here for a minute then." She said leaving the room and the girl sat down on the chair of one of the front row desk like the first time she'd arrived at the school.
Her thoughts went back to her brother as after hearing from Clint, the man told her that Joey had already been transferred to the Avenger's mansion, her brother's current residence. She'd wanted to ask why he was staying there, but she didn't really want to know the answer.
It also helped her decide what to do about her own situation. If she had a better understanding of her abilities, then maybe she could have stopped that woman from kidnapping them, or at least gave them time to escape.
Yes, she had thought about this for a while and had finally come to a decision. She was going to the mutant school.
A/N: The scene between Joey and Sofen was as disturbing as it seemed, and I'm sure you can see that Joey has now effectively been turned into the 'Chew Toy' as his life gets more and more screwed up, and him by extension.
I know treating him like this is harsh, but this is to make him stand apart from Spider-Girl and Superwoman, even though there all damaged in some way, this is also the reason it's taking him so long to make his 'official' debut.
Chapter 15: Changing Paces
Joey awoke with a headache and wondered why his head hurt before the memory of what had happened came rushing to the forefront of his mind. He groaned as he gingerly touched his ribs and was surprised and pleased to find that they only ached a little bit, and his arm that was encased in a cast.
Well, that sucked. He hadn't gotten his arm broken since he was 12, and even then it was a pain to deal with.
He found that his free arm had an I.V in it and thought that it was the reason for him barely feeling anything but aches, it was the morphine in his system that was taking the pain away.
Joey felt the breathing mask on his face keep breathing for him and he tried in vain to pull it off his mouth and nose. He let it casted arm fall gently to his side before thinking about how to alert someone that he was awake when he thought of how Clint must have reacted to him getting hurt.
'I'm sorry, Clint.'
Down in the dining room for lunch, Clint was morosely eating his meal when he froze. "Did…did anybody hear something?" he questioned looking around as the sentence echoed in his mind.
Janet looked around too. "No, what did you hear?"
"I thought I heard…" Clint trailed off before shaking his head. 'It was probably nothing.'
Back upstairs, Joey's eyes widened in surprise as he found his mind was now mixed in with Clint's thoughts and found the man was eating lunch. 'You're not hearing things Clint; it's really me, Joey. I'm awake.'
'Joey?' Was the disbelieving response.
'Yeah, now before you come running upstairs, bring me that leftover sandwich on your plate, I'm starving.' Joey thought cheekily as he stopped thinking about his pseudo-guardian and found himself alone in his own thought again. 'Hmm, this power never worked like this before.' He thought to himself about how he had to concentrate rather than just think about a person to be 'in sync' with them and see their thoughts and feel their feelings.
He heard the rushing footsteps and soon he saw Clint running into the room, his hand surprising empty of a sandwich. "You…you're awake." He said disbelievingly.
Joey rolled his eyes and nodded. "I already told you that." He said. "Now get this mask off me, and where's my sandwich?"
That seemed to snap Clint out of whatever daze he'd been in and rushed to Joey's side, sliding the breathing mask off the teen's face. "No sandwich, you just woke up. The doctors said that if you ever woke up you had to eat 'soft items' only to help get you used to food."
"Wait, 'if?'" Joey questioned frowning.
"I told them that you'd wake up, but they said it was better to assume that 'if' was the best option to keep it distant." Clint replied dourly.
Joey's frown deepened. "How long have I been out?"
Now Clint looked a little apprehensive. "A little over a week"
The lights in the room exploded as did the ones in the hallway, and the monitoring machine that Joey was hooked up to short-circuited.
Clint looked at the glass that fell just short of the bed and the glass littering the floor of the hall. "That's never happened before." He observed, worry creeping into his voice.
Joey also looked out worriedly at the mess he'd caused. "Yeah, usually the lights just flicker or something. And at worst before they'd only cause the power to go out, not explode." He explained.
Clint walked around the mess. "I'll get someone to clean that up, so until you're allowed to move around, I'll go get your homework." He said before leaving.
Despite how most kids felt about homework, Joey welcomed it as it gave him something to do.
It didn't take long for the glass to get cleaned up, but the doctors were puzzled about his sudden lack of control over his powers when Joey revealed to them, but a theory was offered that since Joey had head butted Sofen hard enough to draw blood that any control he gained was shot to hell.
Joey found this irritating, but tried really hard not to let it show, even though the lights were already gone. When he'd asked about being able to clean up, there had been surprisingly little protest to this with the only condition that Joey walked off the morphine before attempting to take a shower. He'd agreed, since it knew that his legs were gonna be practically jelly and after getting the I.V out of his hand, and bandaged up, he got up off the bed and felt his legs wobble before using the wall to help steady himself.
Joey grabbed the stack of papers that was his homework and held them under his casted arm; he used his free hand to carefully make his way out of the room and down the hall to the elevator since he aware that any attempts to use the stair would be disastrous.
The process of moving took longer than he cared to admit, as did the tests the medical personnel put him through.
Joey felt his ribs ache in protest as he lifted his free arm to punch in what he thought was the ground floor to get himself some pudding, and if Clint knew him at all, the man would have bought chocolate pudding cups for his 'stay' here, though now it looked like he was going to be here longer than he cared for.
When the elevator stopped, Joey walked out of it, his expression suddenly turning to confusion as he looked around the darkly glowing green hall way and walked down along it before the door in front of him slid open to reveal a well lit room and felt his ingrained anger at being forced to stay in this place fade somewhat as he looked around the pristine lab in awe.
'This place has even better equipment than ESU.' At the thought of his internship, Joey winced and hoped that being in a week long coma let it slid about why he wasn't around. He kept looking around as he steadily wobbled into the room, using the surface of a table for balance.
Joey sat down in a chair as he found the ring that Sofen said had given the woman her powers in a jar under a microscope. He looked in through the microscope and looked at the stone and frowned at the fact it seemed to be emitting some kind of its own dim light and wondered if that was how the powers it gave off were accessible.
The door slid open, so Joey didn't jump when someone said, "How did you get down here?"
Joey looked up from the microscope and he had to beat down his surprise at who he saw. "You're Henry Pym, creator of Pym Particles." He said as a grudging sort of awe creeped into his voice as he saw the uniform the man was wearing with the lab coat on top. "And apparently you're Giant/Ant-Man." He added blankly before rolling his eyes upward. "What's next, Tony Stark is Iron Man?"
Had he not turned away, he would have seen Pym look at him strangely before shaking his head. "What are you doing down here?" he repeated.
"Well, when I pressed 'ground floor' on the elevator I had assumed that I would have been the ground floor of the mansion, not ground as in underground." Joey explained before pointing at the stone under the microscope. "This is the stone Sofen was using." It wasn't a statement so much as a fact.
"That is correct; I've been examining it after the medical personnel pulled the ring out of your hand when they were cleaning you up." Pym replied and Joey grimaced. "I've been trying to find out how it was able to work and what it could do…"
"You don't have to worry about that." Joey replied. "Sofen was rather confident that she was going to kill me that she told me what it did." He explained. "She said she could go intangible, shoot lasers, and her strength, stamina, and speed were all increased." He listed off dryly. "I'm just never gonna know I guess if it turned her into a pedo or if she was already like that." He muttered.
Pym looked at Joey sharply, but glanced down at the stone under the microscope with a new sense of wariness. "Shouldn't you be still resting?"
Joey shook himself out of his depressing mood as he looked down into the reflective surface of the table, his expression growing melancholic. "Nah, I just woke up and…" he trailed off and he never noticed that instead of the lighting reacting to his mood that a canister began to levitate off the table. "Well, my legs need to solidify from their wobbly state anyway." He added more strongly as he looked away from the surface of the table and the canister fell back against the table. Joey looked down at it strangely. "Uh, did you want that?"
"What?" Pym shook his head. "Oh, no, it's just…you just…" he trailed off in confusion. "Is one of your powers telekinesis?"
Joey furrowed his brow. "Not that I'm aware of, but since any control I've had over my powers has been shot to hell, then this really shouldn't be surprising."
"Right." Pym replied faintly as he looked from the canister and back to Joey. "Though since technology reacts to your mood; I'd recommend trying to keep your emotions in check."
"You and about everyone else has told me that." Joey retorted dryly, the offence he would have felt having long since faded.
Now though it would seem that he had to really be careful around technology.
Joey ate the pudding cup and continued working on his homework after having left the underground lab after talking more sciency stuff with Pym and made his way (rightfully this time) to the kitchen. He was sort of glad that it was his right hand that got broken instead of his writing hand, but as he paused and stared into the shiny reflection of himself in the wooden surface of the table, he wished he could go on his computer to do some cross-checking for the research his History teacher had assigned for him.
Joey noticed something floating into the room and was surprised to see that it was his laptop and it landed gently down on the table. 'Did I do that?' he thought and the answer he got was 'yes.' He furrowed his brow and thought about the canister that had floated without him even thinking about it, but then he also remembered staring at his reflection in the table.
He needed to talk to someone about this, and while this could help him learn more about his own powers, he also needed to relearn how to control them. He stared morosely down at his cast arm, hoping that this wouldn't affect his aim. He didn't take pride in a lot of things, but he did take pride in being an excellent shot.
He carefully opened up the laptop with both hands and turned the device on, and he took the time to evaluate his physical status; his forehead was wrapped up, his arm was in a cast, his ribs were-he lifted up his shirt to see the bandages-covered up, and he touched his throat, a grimace forming in his face, there were still some bruising from Sofen trying to strangle him.
In all honesty he was wondering how he could have survived since he was pretty sure he the internal bleeding should have killed him, if not bleeding out from his wounds.
'How did I survive?' he thought and the answer he got was 'resilience.' 'Well that doesn't really help.' He added as the computer finished booting up and he immediately began to look up the track of music he'd bought and put on a singer that was a guilty pleasure. He nodded lightly to the music as he continued to work on his Math homework sheets.
He didn't hear the steps or see his pseudo-guardian come into the room and stare at him, then at the computer. "Is that Ke$ha?"
Joey flinched, and he winced as his ribs protested the sudden movement and pressed the pause button. "Uh, so…" he saw the disheveled state his almost-guardian was in. "What the heck happened to you?"
Clint shrugged, wincing slightly as he rubbed his shoulder. "Oh, nothing really." He answered lightly before muttering, "For a guy that just woke up he sure can move."
Joey stared at him strangely before turning back to his homework. "I think there's some ice in the freezer you can use."
Clint nodded as he took the package out and put it on his shoulder, shivering at the contact before sighing. "That's better." He said and after letting the ice rest on his shoulder for a few moments, he put it back in the freezer. "What? It's not like I opened it." He said seeing Joey's disapproving stare.
The younger blond rolled his eyes as he looked back down at the equation and write in an answer. "Where's Cheshire?"
"The dog's in your room, and don't worry, I've been feeding the animal regularly." Clint replied. "Don't know why since it keeps trying to bite me half the time when I wouldn't let it see you." He huffed.
Joey chuckled and cringed as he felt his throat ache. "I guess I should be lucky that this all that happened to me." He muttered.
The older blond looked at him. "Do you…wanna talk about it?"
Joey knew Clint wasn't the type to talk about things, but he was the exception to that. The fact was though; he really didn't feel like talking about it, he'd talk when he felt ready, as the fight was still fresh in his mind. But there was one thing he wasn't adverse to talking about. "Clint, my internship at ESU, no one here knows about that, right?"
Clint nodded. "Yeah, but don't worry; I called up and explained that you had been in an 'accident' and wasn't able to go in, and I told the school the same thing."
Joey felt relieved, but also terrified. "Serenity's party, I missed it." He muttered.
"I think she'd forgive you because of what happened." Clint said surely.
Joey shook his head. "No, you don't understand, I saved up all the money I had for a gift for her; and now it's probably gone." He said as he ran his left hand through his hair and the lights shut down in the room.
Clint looked around to see that the rest of the mansion still had power before putting a hand on Joey shoulder. "Don't worry, there's still Christmas, right?"
Joey felt his lips curve into a smile as the lights came back on. "Yeah, you're right, there's still Christmas."
"And," Clint looked uneasy now, "things happen that are out of our control, and we shouldn't blame ourselves for it."
Joey knew how much it must have hurt to say that, so he just kept smiling. "I know, but…it still sucks."
"That it does, kid." Clint agreed nodding. "But, you should really try and take it easy; this homework will still be here."
Joey sighed. "But this is how I cope with things, I work. You should know that." It was a cheap shot, and he knew it.
The hand tightened on his shoulder just a bit, but loosened the next. "I…I do know that, and I also know just how consuming it is to fill that void with work instead of dealing with it."
Joey thought about it, and acknowledged that the man was right. "Alright, I'll take a break, but only if you promise to when you get off work."
Clint nodded. "Maybe we can watch a movie or something."
For the first time, Joey felt content to just hear that. "I'd like that."
The lights above them were glaringly bright now, and even though they both had to squint to see each other, neither of them minded it.
Chapter 16: Catharsis
"I don't know about this…" Clint said as his expression unusually nervous.
"I'll be fine, really." Joey assured the man as he waved his free arm, the bruising on his neck nothing but faint yellow marks and the broken ribs reportedly healed enough that Joey's in no danger of re-breaking them unless he does something stupid. The cast is the only real indication that anything's still wrong with him, well, that and the bandage covering his head under the floppy cap he's currently wearing.
Clint's expression hardened as he looked over at Janet. "You'd better not make him do anything strenuous, the doctors were clear on that." He warned her.
The socialite waved it off, not knowing that the older blond man could be so protective. "He'll be fine, we're gonna have so much fun though. It's not every day that a guy will willingly go out shopping."
Joey's breezy expression became somewhat fixed at that. He was still trying to avoid calling it that and rather keep the outing as a 'need more clothes' only thing. But Janet had volunteered to go with him as the woman apparently liked making clothes as much as she liked buying them. "And if that's not enough," he whistled and Cheshire came scampering into the room, tailing wagging as he stopped at Joey's feet, "Cheshire here is going to come with us."
"I feel so assured." Clint deadpanned as he looked skeptically down at the dog, who growled up at him, the creature having gone back to its habit of growling at him now that Joey was up and about.
Joey chuckled as he picked up the dog with one hand and held him against his chest. "You should." He said reassuringly.
"Aw, he's so cute-" Janet cooed, only to draw back in surprise as Cheshire growled at her this time. "And…defensive."
"Don't take it personally, he does that to everyone." Joey replied.
"But not you?" Janet asked as she furrowed her brow.
Joey smirked as the light glowed overhead. "Of course not." Both Avengers froze and looked like they'd seen a ghost, causing Joey to frown and the lights to go back to their normal setting. "Is…something wrong?"
Clint snapped out of it first and he shook his head. "No, nothing's wrong. Just…be careful."
"Aren't I always?" Joey quipped.
Clint stared him dryly. "If you were, you wouldn't be in this mess."
Joey huffed as he and Janet headed out to the waiting limo, the chauffeur holding the door open, Cheshire giving an almost mandatory growl, though unlike with most, the man actually freezes. "Don't worry man, he's like that with everyone." He said before getting in.
He looked around the limo and felt oddly out of place and once again wondered if it was because this was simply another thing to keep track of him on. He knew he couldn't leave the premise alone, and while most of the staff and personnel had argued it was for medical reasons, he suspected that only Clint's objections had been of genuine concern for his well-being.
Joey shook his head as he looked down at the dog licking his face. "Stop that." He admonished and the dog stopped like it was told.
Janet watched, at the other end as she didn't want to get bitten or snapped at. "He's so cute, where'd you get him?"
"Actually, I found him tied in some rope," Joey answered, "Clint said I could keep him if no one claimed him." he smiled without any emotion put into it as he didn't want the car to spontaneously stop at the middle of the street and risk a car accident happening. "And no one's come knocking yet."
Joey say slumped in his seat at a table from the excursion at the second men's store he and Janet had gone too. They were taking a break as Joey used his still recovering injuries as an excuse to stop the shopping nightmare he regretted coming on.
But he needed knew clothes, and he closed his eyes and heard Cheshire yip and opened them just as a man wearing the casual waiter uniform stopped in front of them and put the milkshake he'd ordered down in front of him, the barista having even gotten the extra form he liked added on top of the ice cream. Clint would have killed him if he'd ever caught him drinking coffee, not that he ever intended to drink the stuff. It just didn't agree with him.
The man was about to leave when he looked down at the dog. "What a charming dog you have there." He said petting the dog on the head.
Joey smiled, but made sure to keep any pride out of it as to not blow anything up. With how his powers were acting since his control became practically non-existence, he wasn't taking any chances. "Thanks, his name's Cheshire."
The man raised a brow in amusement as he looked at him before looking back down at Cheshire. "Is that so?" he asked as the dog seemed to almost…embarrassedly lower its head.
Joey furrowed his brow before brushing it off. "Yup, but I found him, so I don't know what his real name is." He said shrugging.
The man nodded as he looked over the boy's cast and his eye lingered on his forehead before he walked away. Joey looked down to see Cheshire curl around at his feet as Janet walked over with a latte in one hand…and a milkshake in the other? Joey blinked as he looked down at the one sitting in front of him.
"Sorry, but they didn't have strawberry, but I hope you like chocolate…instead." she trailed off as she saw down and saw the milkshake as well. "Where did you get that? They said they were out of that flavor."
Joey shrugged as he looked around for the waiter man, but couldn't find him. He frowned to himself; well that was strange. "The waiter came left it here, I had assumed that this was mine." He replied before shrugging a moment later. "Eh, free milkshake, sweet."
"No, don't touch that." Janet warned smacking his hand away and Joey looked at her sharply. "Some man who's obvious not a waiter leaves you a drink? Even I don't need to be as smart as Henry when I saw that this is suspicious. We leave it here and tell someone." She reasoned.
Joey stared down at the strawberry milkshake and felt some semblance of sadness and the lights dimmed slightly, something Janet noticed as she sighed.
"Fine drink your current one and we'll test that one back at the mansion to make sure there's nothing wrong with it. No accepting things from strangers anymore, even I know that one." She said.
The lights went back to normal as Joey smiled, but it didn't once occur to him that Cheshire hadn't growled once at the not-waiter guy.
Clint stared at the blond telepath warily, even though she had agreed that she wouldn't read their minds, but he wasn't taking any chances. Especially since this woman was the one Professor X recommended teaching Joey to control his own 'telepathic' ability.
He was already uneasy with how Joey was starting to lose some of his hostility towards being in the mansion. If only for the lab in the underground and he seemed to be willing to tolerate being around what the younger blond considered nothing more than glorified baby-sitters.
He himself was still multi-tasking with several things at once. Finding Barney was still the first priority though; the second was getting the paperwork to gain legal standing as Joey's father.
"Why did they send you?" he asked suspiciously.
The woman seemed not to take offense to his rude tone, or if she did, she hid it rather well behind her posh British lit. "The Professor is helping a new student get catch up on the curriculum. A Miss Serenity Wheeler if I'm not mistaken."
Clint straightened up. Joey' sister was a mutant? Uh, who knew? "Well I'm sure he'll be thrilled to know that he's not the only mutant in his family."
Here Frost smiled somewhat sardonically. "Oh, I guess he doesn't know then."
Clint frowned. "Know what?"
The woman crossed her legs as she stared haughtily at him. "While it's not my place to say, I did hear Miss Wheeler confess that Joey might not have gotten his abilities because of a familial relation."
Clint's frown deepened and his eyes narrowed. What was this woman implying exactly? But then he remembered Mrs. Wheeler's words about how Joey was 'no son of mine' and wondered if she meant that literally. If she did, it certainly would explain a few things.
"I see." He said cautiously. "You've already been given the weekends to help Joey with his mental ability, why did you want to see me?"
Frost smirked at him. "I think we both know that you're the real one I had to have the approval from. You are the boy's father, blood or not." She said logically.
Clint rolled his eyes. "Fine, you have my approval, but I'm watching you, Frost."
Blair watched her aunt/mom wince back from the phone, her biological mother having called to make sure she was alright and to yell at her sister for letting her get captured. She watched her mom put down the phone and sit down on the couch beside her. "How angry was she?"
"Very angry." Claire sighed. "But overall she was just happy that it wasn't one of your father's enemies that got a hold of you for revenge."
Blair snorted. "No one knows that I'm his kid. He didn't exactly broadcast it before and he's definitely not going to now." she said. "And besides, if he did it would ruin the quiet life I have with my mom." She said smiling at the older woman.
Claire smiled back at the girl, and even though she saw more of her sister in the teen, she was glad to see none of the faults her father had. It took him a while to actually start wanting to be at least a part of the girl's life, but if Claire was being perfectly honest, she really didn't mind all that much.
Giving her Blair had been the best thing her sister had ever done for her. She even named the girl after her, albeit in was a morphine induced drugged state of mind after the birth, and because she thought the names sounded cute as they had rhymed.
"When can I go back to school?" Joey questioned in boredom as he looked around the hospital room and rubbed his arm and glared over at the woman across his seat, who was staring back impassively at him. A marginal change from how she usually reacted to his presence anywhere; or maybe she was only agreeing to the blood test and acting nice because Serenity had called her up…or maybe it was the fact Clint was doing some glaring of his own.
The doctor handed the two vials off to an assistant and looked at Clint. "The results will be ready tomorrow."
Clint nodded before gesturing for Joey to follow him. "You can go back to school tomorrow if you'd like, as your more serious injuries are already healed up."
Joey nodded his head and frowned at the woman he'd called mom for most of his life as she walked over to him. "What do you want?" he asked bluntly.
The woman frowned also at him. "This was unnecessary." She said coldly.
"And would you have told me that I wasn't your kid?" Joey snorted. "This was the only way to make sure what Clint said was the truth."
The woman sent Clint a withering glare before looking back at Joey. "Neither you nor Serenity were born under the greatest of pretences." She muttered, but she sounded as though she'd been waiting a long time to say this. "Your father cheated on me because I wanted to have children and he…didn't, so when he dumped a baby in my arms nine months later, I was angry." She explained and both blonds kept quiet. "I didn't care for you because you weren't mine, so when I got my own chance for revenge, I took it."
"By cheating on him back, and then you had Serenity." Joey finished, and for the first time truly understood why this woman had never wanted anything to do with him. That still didn't mean he forgave her though. "Who's my real mom and her real dad then?"
"I don't know who your mother is, but I'm saying who Serenity's father is." The brunette woman said drily before walking past them and out the door.
"Illegitimate," Joey sighed heavily as the lights dimmed to his mood, "of course." He said morosely.
"Well, would you want her to be your mother?" Clint questioned before the lights went back to normal.
"Yeah, you're right." Joey said before scowling, but the lights stayed the same. "But then that means that my old man really is my old man." He growled. "And the worst part is there's a reason for it. I would have been better off not knowing that the only reason he treated me so badly was because I was born." His voice stopped being angry and became incredibly depressed.
Clint looked cautiously at the lights before steering Joey toward the door. He didn't know how much longer Joey could fake his feelings before they became real. "Come on, time to go back to the Mansion, I'll even let you 'play' in Pym's lab."
Joey brightened back up significantly and nodded. "Seeing the labs fun and all, but I really want to get back to my bow; don't want to get rusty."
Clint smirked and ruffled Joey's hair, making sure not to steer his hand near the boy's forehead. "You really are my kid."
Joey felt his muscles relax with that easy statement and smiled. He secretly hoped it wouldn't be long before he really could call this man his dad.
"So how goes the returning the stuff that Buck had stolen?" Joey asked as Clint drove him to school instead of making him take the bus, or at least make sure that Joey actually got to school and avoided another incident like Sofen happening soon.
"Great, already got half the list down, I sent them anonymously because there is no way I'm letting someone know that I had to return half that stuff." Clint replied.
Joey nodded absently. "What about the little black book in your safety deposit box, no one besides the two of us knows it exists, right?"
"Right, I'd be all for releasing it to the media to let the people know who's corrupted, but unfortunately since me and my teammates names are also in it…" Clint trailed off.
"I get it, but why not just rip the pages out?" Joey asked tilting his head.
"Not a good idea, what if someone noticed that there was some of the pages missing? They'd question if the information was reliable or not." Clint replied.
"Maybe not everyone; after all, people are very gullible in this city. Sometimes too gullible." Joey muttered darkly.
Clint looked down at the boy and gently squeezed his shoulder before returning his hand to the wheel. "You're right; people are more likely to believe what they want instead of questioning it." He agreed softly. "But I hope you're able to stay caught up."
Joey grinned, but it felt hollow as he knew he couldn't put any feeling into it. But then again he'd always been good at faking his emotions. "Don't worry; I'm sure I will be. And if not, then I'll be in the class I'm 'supposed' to be in." he said rolling his eyes. "'Sides, long as I can still go into the lab whenever I want, I'll be content in my prison."
"It's not a prison." Clint retorted flatly.
"I'm monitored everywhere I go, even at school, and probably at ESU now, it's a prison." Joey returned frostily.
"Well, you did admit your starting to like the place." Clint pointed out.
"Like Stockholm." Joey said blandly and was pleased to hear the sound of silence at his statement.
"…I'll work on getting you out of there faster." Clint finally said.
Joey nodded and opened up the door when the car arrived at school. "See ya after school." He said closing the door behind him and adjusted the flopped cap on his head to better cover the new bandage wrapped around his forehead, his stack of completed homework under his casted arm. His eyes caught sight of his friends, but before he could call out, a redhead stepped in front of him with a smile.
"It's nice to see you back." Andrea said sincerely.
Joey blinked a few times before nodding. "Certain aspects of the school aside, it's good to be back. I think I would have gone stir crazy if I had to remain out of school much longer."
"One must wonder how you manage to get through the summer." Andrea said dryly.
Joey smiled at that, but his thoughts were anything but happy. He hadn't liked school in the beginning, but he'd seen it as a haven where he didn't have to see his old man for 6 hours every day, and in the summer, well, he'd generally go to summer school until he'd trusted Laura and Clint enough for him to come over for some days of the summer.
"I…manage well enough." Joey said finally.
Andrea just kept smiling as she grabbed a hold of Joey's free hand, her smiling growing brighter. "Well, can I walk with you to class?"
Joey shrugged, seeing nothing wrong with an innocent request like that. "Sure." He said letting himself be led away to the class, but as he cast his chatting friends a look, he'd resolved to catch up with them at lunch time. He wasn't looking forward to buying his lunch though.
When they entered the science classroom, he pulled his hand from Andrea's and went over to Miss Drew. "Here's all the work, dated and completed."
Jessica smiled at the blond as she looked at the small stack. "Well I'm happy to see your up and about," he expression turning a touch more serious, "how are you feeling?"
"Can't complain." Joey replied, though that was more of a lie than not. He did complain about his current residence, mostly to Clint though. He was pretty sure if he ever met the person who'd made him stay in the Avengers Mansion, he was going to pop them in the nose for it.
"Well, I'm just glad you're okay." Jessica replied and Joey smiled back at her before he walked over to his desk at the front of the class. He noticed other students staring at him, but he didn't acknowledge them as when the bell rung, he paid diligent attention to the teacher and her lesson.
It felt good to be back in school.
Chapter 17: Playing With Fire
Joey awkwardly carried the lunch tray in his good hand while using his casted hand to support it as he walked over to the table where his friends were at. He sat down as his saw their inquisitive looks. "What?"
"What's with the hat, and the cast?" Tristan questioned.
Joey pointedly rolled his eyes. "You think I'm wearing these for decoration?"
"It wouldn't be all that surprising Mutt." Another voice said and Joey glared up at Kaiba from under his hat.
"And why don't you go sit in your corner and leave me alone?" he snapped and for a split second the lights flickered, but he controlled his anger. "Or are you still sore about being humiliated in front of the whole cafeteria?" he snarked.
Kaiba matched his glare. "You should learn to know your place like the dog you are."
Joey's face twisted up into a frown. "I happen to have a dog and he acts like more intelligent than you." He retorted before gathering up only the sandwich and drink in his hands. "'Scuse me guys, I can't eat in here with the stench of Moneybags contaminating the air." He said coldly before brushing past the brunet and walked out of the door.
Andrea, who was sitting by the door, saw the blond go walking out and after a moment of hesitation, got up and followed him out, Alexis glaring at her back when she left and looked down at her lunch. The redhead found Joey outside and sitting on the fountain side. "Um, can I sit with you?" she asked shyly.
Joey looked up briefly. "Sure, why not?" he said going back to eating his sandwich.
Andrea blushed and sat down next to him and put her lunch bag on her lap and took out an apple, that started to singe and she frowned before taking a bite out of the apple before discreetly tossing it away. She looked down at Joey's arm and cautiously touched the skin, no other reaction did the blond have than to look at her strangely and she brought her arm back.
"Um, how are you?" she asked awkwardly.
The other teen looked at her before he shrugged minutely. "I was…out of it a lot." He replied vaguely, but as he thought it over, it was sort of true. If being in a coma counted as being 'out of it' that is. "But like I said earlier, I'm fine."
"Oh." Andrea replied and fell into silence as she gave Joey another side glance and wondered again why she couldn't burn him when she touched him.
After school, Joey met up with his friends as they walked out of the building. "Sorry I've been a little distant, it's just that…"
"It's okay Joey." Yugi said holding up a hand. "You don't need to explain things, you were hurt, and you need time to readjust."
Joey blinked at the thoughtfulness of the statement and he found himself smiling slightly. "Thanks Yug'."
"Hey, Joey, ain't that your dad?" Téa said pointing over at a blond man driving up to the school in a beat up car.
Joey squinted his eyes to see the man better and recognized him as such, though he'd always wondered why Clint kept such a junker. He'd said it held sentimental value and he wasn't about to mock him for a car that obviously meant a lot to him.
"What a piece of junk!" Another rich kid by the name of Chazz Princeton shouted derisively and some of the other kids jeered in agreement.
Joey felt a sense of rage start to rise in his chest, but he forced it down as he tried his hardest to remain calm. "Yes, that's him." he said softly before proceeding to walk over to the car and got inside. "Hey Clint."
"Joey." The man replied before putting the car into drive and steering towards the road and back towards the Mansion.
"So…how was your first day back?" Clint began somewhat awkwardly.
"It was…okay." Joey shrugged. "It was sort of irritating to put up with people asking how I was feeling." He said before adding an explanation. "Not that I don't appreciate their concern, but with how I've interacted with people in the past, I can't be exactly sure if it's genuine. I mean, I didn't even believe you in the beginning when you saw my black eye and asked if something was wrong."
"And yet you did believe me later on." Clint pointed out. "It took a while, but you can trust people and not get hurt by them. Trust me on that when I say that I know exactly what it feels like."
Joey glanced at the other blond before resting his head gently on the window. "I know." He answered faintly. He really did know as Clint once spoke to him about his own abusive past in order to have a connection with him. It was one of the reason's he'd trusted Clint so much now. "What about getting my powers back under control?"
"We'll be working on your pyro kinesis in the training room." Clint replied.
"Hmm, you mean to say that I'm going to be allowed into a room where I can start essentially blowing stuff up with my mind and no one can say anything about it?" Joey asked as a smirk started to cross his face, but there was no emotion behind it.
Clint smirked back. "That's right."
"Okay, I can't show it without this car stopping in the middle of the road, but I'm excited." Joey deadpanned.
Blair walked into the Avenger's Mansion and looked around the empty lobby. She was very familiar with the levels of the Mansion as she came here to get the check her dad made out to her mom. He'd always insisted on Blair coming to get the checks herself as this is the closest thing they had to 'father-daughter' time.
She's always known about her mother being a super villain, but she'd never been proud of being related to her father. She'd always known he was her dad, but he'd never known about her until her mother came to actually see her one time, despite knowing she'd sent back to prison.
That was another thing, with the exception of her mom, all the people on her mother's side were super villains, as her aunt had rejected the crime legacy and opted to live a normal life.
And despite her mother being a super villain who was in hiding most of the time or alternatively in jail, Blair liked her mother more for just one simple reason. During her mother's one visit, she'd taken the time to explain that she wanted Blair to have a normal life as well and said she loved her before fleeing.
The explanation had taken off some of Blair's resentment towards her parents, but it was still better than compared to how she felt about her father. She and her mom were doing fine before he found out about her, but she cynically believed he only gave her mom the checks to ease his own guilt about never being there.
Still, it hadn't taken off much of her resentment. She couldn't tell anyone who her biological parents were without being ridiculed for being related to either, and by extension her mom told her how her people reacted when she revealed who her sister and father were.
Blair hadn't even told Serenity because she didn't want her only real friend to be scared off by the fact her mother is Whitney Frost and her father is Tony Stark.
"Greetings Miss Blair, how are you?"
Blair looked up at the walls briefly. "Hello JARVIS," she replied politely, "where's my dad?"
"He is in the upper levels, Miss Blair." JARVIS replied.
"Thank you JARVIS." Blair said before going over to the elevator and pressed the up button and heard the low humming of the elevator before it lurched to a stop and she walked out of it. She moved along the side before her attention was taken by glancing down into the training room and stopped at the window.
Down below were two blonds, one that Blair recognized as Serenity's older brother, the one who saved them. He was talking to another blond that, from the looks of things, was probably his dad or at the least his older brother. Then again, Serenity never mentioned having any brother other than Joey, so she'd go with dad.
Blair saw the older blond gesture to the training dummy in the room and Joey nodded once before looking at it and soon an angry hateful expression crossed his face, his eyes aglow and there was a burst of fire in the middle of the room. Joey jumped back and fell to his backside once the fire appeared and the older blond helped him back to his feet as the fire died down.
Blair stared in confusion at where the fire ball had been. Was Joey a mutant? Or got his powers by some accident? She did now that he was meant to hit the dummy, so he must just be learning how to control his power.
Blair barely glanced back, only to grab the check in his hands. "Dad." She said. "I take it you know that he's the one who saved me, the blond with his dad?"
Stark looked out into the training room. "Clint's not his dad." He said.
"Just like Aunt Claire isn't my mom?" Blair shot back looking at her father. "You could have fooled me if those two weren't father and son." She said jerking her head in the direction of the training room. "They certainly act like it."
"Well, Barton did say he was trying to adopt him, but Fury made it pretty clear that the kid had to stay here." Stark admitted.
Blair felt some sympathy for the blond as she didn't know how she'd take it if she couldn't stay with her mom, but she did know how she'd react if she was taken away from her now. "You might not have known about me," she began darkly as she glared up at her father, "but if you ever try to take me away from my mom, I will make your life a living hell."
"You know, your mother said that exact same thing to my about you." Stark replied. "And watch your language."
Blair snorted at that before glancing back out at the training room. "Still, I know it must be hard for you, but imagine how he must feel, knowing that he can't go home with his dad."
"Barton's not his dad." Stark repeated. "I'm just amazed at how long he'd been able to keep the kid a secret."
"People would do anything to keep the ones they care about safe." Blair replied softly. "Clint must have kept Joey from all of you for the same reason that my mother kept me from you; they wanted us to be safe."
"This is a shot at me, isn't it?" Stark questioned. "Look, I know I'm not Father of the Year, but I do care about you, Blair."
"You're right…" Blair began and Stark looked at her, "you're not Father of the Year, and from my vantage point it looks more like Clint should get that title, because he's down there, helping his son."
"Blair, just what are you getting at?" Stark asked suspiciously.
"Joey saved me, and unlike you I know how to repay gratitude." Blair retorted. "You might be a good boss and all to work for, but can't you see just how happy those two are?" she questioned as she gestured to the two blonds in the training room.
"The situation isn't as simple as that." Stark replied. "Joey can't control his powers, and everyone knows about the assault charge Clint has now."
Blair looked back down into the room for a moment. "Did you ask him what it was about?"
"I said; did you ask him what it was about?" Blair repeated. "Because I have no problems with trying to help them on my own; it is after the least I can do."
"Wow, this place is huge." Joey said looking around the training room and saw the dummy rising up from the floor. "So what now?"
"No, you lite that sucker on fire." Clint said gesturing to the dummy with a smirk.
Joey stared at him for a moment before nodding as he looked over at the dummy. His thoughts went down into that dark place where all his hate was and thought about his 'father' and all the abuse he went through. His expression twisted up in hatred and his eyes started to glow before there was a burst of flames right in the middle of the room and the surprise sent Joey onto his backside.
Clint watched the flames die out before helping Joey back to his feet. "That was a good start, but try and set the dummy on fire next time; we don't wanna get blamed for burning this room down, do we?"
"But I thought I could cause destruction in here?" Joey asked frowning.
"You can't, just don't destroy anything that can't be replaced." Clint replied. "Now try again."
Joey nodded before looking through a memory that would cause less of such a violent reaction in his fire power. He thought of Kaiba and all his cutting remarks. Joey's eyes started glowing again and while the dummy was still not set aflame, the burst of fire in the room was noticeably less volatile than the previous one.
"Hmm, not bad, you proved you can start fires, but try pretending the dummy is someone you hate." Clint said.
"You mean just like how it was with my archery training?" Joey questioned and the older man nodded. When Buck had still been alive, he'd tell him to pretend that the target board was someone you hated. At the time he hadn't found the idea so strange as he wasn't actually killing people, but it also made him think later on that Buck must have made Clint think the same thing when the man was training him.
"Yes, just like the training." Clint nodded.
Joey nodded back once before looking at the dummy, his eyes narrowing as instead of a piece of equipment, he saw his 'father' and the dummy lit up like a Christmas tree. "Yes." He said calmly as he knew that he couldn't cheer without the lights blowing up.
But that still didn't mean he couldn't smile, even if it was a hollow feeling behind it.
"So what now?" Joey questioned.
"Now, you take a break." Clint said as the fire extinguishers put the flames out. "And tomorrow you have your lesson with Frost."
"Who?" Joey questioned.
"Hmm? Oh right, telepath, gonna help you control your "oneness" ability since it's pretty much an advanced form of telepathy." Clint replied shrugging.
Joey frowned once more as he and the older man left the room. "Clint, has anyone come up with a reason that I have such a variety of powers? First my tech and Know-It-All ability manifest earlier than they should, then my eyes changed when my pyro kinesis activated, and now I can not only go into other people's head, but I can levitate stuff when I look at myself; what is going on with me?"
Clint also frowned at this. "The only thing anyone seems to come up with is the fact all your powers are mental based, as emotions also form in the brain. But we already knew that, didn't we?" he asked jokingly and resisted the urge to elbow Joey gently in the ribs like he usually would.
"Yeah, but I'm just…worried." Joey admitted. "What if I can't control all these powers and do something stupid?"
"Don't say that, you can control them, not the other way around." Clint replied putting a hand on the younger blonde's shoulder. "I know you can do it."
Joey smiled, and he didn't care that the entire hallway lights lit up.
Clint watched Joey leave with Cheshire curled in his arms as he went back upstairs, the dog having given him its customary growl and he'd merely rolled his eyes at it. The blond was about to go to the elevator when he heard Stark call his name.
The blond contemplated just ignoring him, but didn't want to botch any chance of getting to adopt Joey, so he forced himself to look at the man. "What?"
"We need to talk, it's about Joey." Stark replied.
Clint frowned. "What about him? Is there something wrong?"
"No, it's about the assault charge you have for attacking his father." Stark explained.
The blond scowled at him. "Do not call that pathetic excuse for a human being his father, he doesn't deserve it." He said before turning away.
"And you do?" Stark questioned and Clint paused before looking back at him with a glare and felt something snap.
"Fine, you wanna know about the charge? I only attacked that man because he broke Joey's arm and put him in the hospital when he was twelve. I'll admit that I went there because I wanted to kill him, and I almost did because I thought Joey was better off without him." Clint spat heatedly. "I'm the only one here who even gives a damn about him, not what use he has, but him. And you wanna know something else? Joey was in the hospital because his so called father tried to kill him and when he was on life support I heard that he tried to get the doctors to take Joey off the machine because he wouldn't pay for it! Well guess what, Stark, that man hasn't been seen since, and Joey has been doing better! So don't you dare imply that Joey should ever have to suffer through that anymore!" he knew he was shouting, but he didn't care. "Joey is my son; the only thing stopping that from being official is that damn piece of paper I need to get sent into the system." He hissed before storming away from the shell-shocked looking Stark.
He needed to go blow off some steam of his own right now.
Chapter 18: Just Like You
Joey frowned to himself as he gently petted Cheshire on the head as he thought about his upcoming session with this 'Frost' woman who was supposed to help him. He wondered how his power was supposed to be controlled anyway. He knew better not to think about someone as he at least knew that it was trigger and he's end up in their head.
Joey asked himself if it was time to go downstairs and he got a 'yes.' The blond set Cheshire down onto the floor and got off his bed before walking toward the door. He paused at the reflective door and saw that there wasn't a scar on his forehead from the injury and had taken the bandage off.
'Another few days and I'll be able to take the cast off too.' He thought before walking downstairs and heard Cheshire padding along with him and gave a mandatory growl at the blond woman sitting on the sofa chair with one leg folded over the other. "Uh, you must be Frost." He said and she raised a brow. "Okay, so your name might not be that, but I don't know your first name," he paused, "what is your name?"
"Emma." The woman replied in a posh British tone.
"Oh, that's a nice name." Joey said with some sincerity in his voice. "So what's first Miss Frost?" he asked and was about to sit down on the sofa when Frost raised a hand.
"Don't bother sitting down, Joseph." She said and Joey reframed from pointing out how he liked being called Joey, but he didn't want to make things difficult. "We are going out, practical work always seems to work best, and what better way to help your control than to go into the thoughts of others?"
"Are we allowed to do that?" Joey asked with a slight frown.
"My dear boy, I was only hired to teach you, and how can I help you if you don't know how to control being able to go into someone else's thoughts in the first place?" Frost questioned as she stood.
Joey thought it over briefly before finding that the words reminded him of his own words from yesterday. "I see." He said thoughtfully. "It does make sense. Granted, we can't tell anyone that this was part of my learning curve."
Frost smirked sardonically. "I couldn't agree more." She chimed in as she led Joey out of the Mansion and Cheshire kept padding alongside Joey.
"No, go back inside." He admonished, but Frost waved it off.
"He can come, it doesn't matter." She said and after pausing momentarily, Joey nodded and picked Cheshire up in his arms before catching up with her as they walked down the sidewalk. She stopped when they were behind a group of people at the crosswalk. "First lesson, try to enter their minds."
"That's easy enough." Joey replied neutrally as all he had to do was think about the people. He concentrated and eventually his eyes narrowed in disbelief. "I don't get it, I was able to go into Clint's and Cheshire's heads by just thinking their names."
"Ah, but you don't know these people's names, do you?" Frost pointed out.
Joey blinked at this. "Oh." He muttered before thinking about this specific group right in front of him. 'What are these people thinking?' he thought and felt his vision start to split, one still being him, and the other being in multiple heads. "Whoa, I didn't know I could use this on a group, I only thought it worked on one person at a time."
"Focus, Joseph." Frost chastised.
"Oh, right." Joey replied and respected the privacy of the people to just skim the thoughts they were currently thinking instead of going deeper into their minds. "Well, some of them are thinking about what to have for their lunch, and that lady in the hat is thinking about where to shop," he shuddered minutely, "and that man in the trench coat is thinking about-"
"What man?" Frost questioned as she furrowed her brow and could not see the person Joey was speaking of.
Joey glanced up at the woman as Cheshire jumped out of his arms and padded along the concrete to the group of people. "He's in the back…he's petting Cheshire on the head, you really can't see him?"
"Joseph, I'm going to look inside your mind to make sure you're not…imagining things." Frost said and though Joey frowned, he nodded anyway and the woman's eyes narrowed in concentration before she grabbed her temples and shut her eyes tightly. "Miss Frost, are you alright?"
"Fine, simply splendid." Frost replied before opening her eyes. "Joseph, remove your presence from their minds, we are leaving." She added with a twinge of worry that Joey failed to notice.
The other blond blinked before shrugging and simply stopped thinking about being in the people's minds and his vision went back to just him and he whistled to get Cheshire's attention. "Come one Cheshire, we're going back inside the house." He called crouching down. The dog's ears flattened for a moment as he glanced up at the man before padding along back to Joey and the blond scooped him up and the three of them went back to the Mansion.
Frost glanced back at the group as she still wasn't able to see anyone, but she did know that someone was there, or, had been there anyway.
Serenity sat at her desk in her new, well, it shouldn't be new to her now, room. One bed was one side of the room, while another was on the other side of the room, two desks also in the room for her and her roommate to study on. She had been nervous the first day she'd gotten here, despite how nice Jean had been to show her around.
"And here's your room, I hope you don't mind that you'll have to share it with someone." The redheaded woman said.
Serenity shook her head as she looked into the room for the first time. "No, it's alright." She replied and reframed from pointing out it would be nice to have a roommate, as it meant she wouldn't have to constantly think about when Joey would be okay. "I think the change of scenery will do me some good."
"Remember; don't be scared to ask questions." The redhead said and Serenity nodded before going into the room with her bags.
The girl looked at the side of the room that wasn't covered with some posters and walked over to the other bed and placed her bags on it before sitting down and felt a knot starting to form in her stomach. She'd never been away from her mother before, but it hurt.
Because even though her mother didn't bother to tell her that her brother wasn't her brother, she still loved the woman.
Another girl came into the room, this one having short blond hair. "So you must be the newbie."
Serenity blinked. "Uh, I guess so." She said shyly. "What's your name? I'm Serenity Wheeler."
"Tabitha, but I'm also called Boom-Boom." The blond girl said.
"Boom-Boom? Why are you called that?" Serenity questioned.
Tabitha grinned as a small glowing orange orb appeared in her hand and she tossed it into the air, the ball exploding with a small burst. "That's why."
"Cool!" Serenity said in awe.
"So what's your power?" Tabitha questioned sitting on the edge of her own bed.
Serenity frowned, as she had asked what her power was. And honestly, while she was glad her powers weren't flashy like Joey's, she was a little disappointed that they weren't exactly useful. As since she couldn't even help her brother as she looked at his mood before and only felt helpless with how sad he always was.
"I can see the emotions people give off and their relationships to other people." She replied at last. "I know there probably lame, but I'm more about being under the radar."
"Well your powers are perfect for that then." Tabitha said sarcastically, but the red-haired girl wasn't offended. "Still, you'd have a great poker face if you ever decided to gamble." She said with less sarcasm.
"Er, thank you?" Serenity questioned more than stated.
Serenity had taken a day or so to get used to Tabitha's abrasive personality and the blond leaving her school things lying around the room. But she did learn that the girl was also nice as she'd help her sometimes with her homework, and once grew brave enough to ask her and some of the other girls wanted to go to her birthday party with her.
"You're inviting us to your birthday?" Kitty Pryde, a girl with long brown hair asked furrowing her brows in surprise.
Serenity nodded shyly as she looked down at her feet as she gathered the girls in her and Tabitha's room. "Yeah, it's okay if you don't wanna come though"
"Do your parents know that, uh, you're a mutant?" Jubilation Lee aka Jubilee asked uncertainly.
Serenity nodded. "My mom actually took it pretty well; she was just more concerned with the fact I was going to be leaving and wondered how I'd be."
"What about your dad?" Tabitha asked bluntly.
"I don't have a dad." Serenity said somewhat coldly and the other girl's blinked in surprise at the girl's normally shy and polite tone. "My step-father though hasn't been seen in a while so I wouldn't know."
"Oh, then who's this cutie?" Tabitha asked taking the picture of a blond teenager off Serenity's night stand that she hadn't seen before.
"My brother." Serenity replied softly.
"Is he going to be at the party?" Kitty asked with a smile as she looked at the picture over the blonde's shoulder.
Serenity frowned as she clenched her fists. "He won't be as he's in a coma."
The smile was wiped off Kitty's face as Tabitha's expression went blank and put the photo down gently. "What happened, if you don't mind me asking?" Kitty asked nervously.
"I don't mind, not really; the sting is almost gone." Serenity answered absently. "The gist of it is though he saved me, my mom, and my friend when we were kidnapped by some psycho lady."
"You mean that Karla Sofen who was on the news?" Jubilee asked as her eyes widened.
Serenity had heard about the news report, but she didn't want to watch it as all the 'could haves' her mind came up with almost made her sick. She only heard though that the victim's names hadn't been released, and Joey had been taken to the hospital before anyone could find out about him.
"Yeah, she kidnapped us because she wanted my brother." Serenity replied.
Kitty's face suddenly twisted up in a mix of horror and disgust. "You don't mean she 'wanted him', right?"
Serenity shuddered as Tabitha gave Kitty a dirty look. "I don't know, but I don't want to think about what she could have done to him."
The girls had agreed to go with her to her party, and even took her out shopping to cheer her up from seeing how depressed her mood seemed to have gotten from thinking about one of her 'could have beens' from that day. While she appreciated the gesture, she had still gone to bed thinking about her brother being in the coma.
The door to the room was knocked and Serenity looked up from her homework. "Come in."
The door opened and the Frost lady was standing there. "Hello Serenity."
"Hello Miss Frost." Serenity replied politely.
"I have something very interesting to tell you." Frost replied.
Serenity furrowed her brows. "What is it?"
"So, how was your lesson?" Clint asked as he and Joey sat on the younger blonde's bed and both were eating pizza topped with extra cheese and mushrooms for their dinner while everyone else was downstairs.
"Hmm, I'll tell if you tell me why you're up here instead of down there with your teammates." Joey replied. "Not that I'm complaining of course, it's just curiosity talking here."
"I may not be able to bring you home with me, but that doesn't mean I can't eat with you up here, especially since JARVIS told me that you weren't eating like you're supposed to." Clint replied.
"Huh?" Joey blinked and looked up at the walls. "I don't get it, why tell Clint?" he asked curiously.
"Master Clint is your primary caregiver; therefor it was only logically to report to him that you were not eating properly." JARVIS replied.
"Even JARVIS knows that you're practically my dad, why can't anyone else see that?" Joey grumbled. "I bet if I were a female victim of abuse people would see it." He hissed and Cheshire jumped onto his bed and leaned against his side.
"Don't say that." Clint shot back, and while he didn't raise his voice, there was still a steel-like quality in it. "You do matter, you matter to me." He said firmly.
Joey paused before nodding. "Thanks." He said before smirking lightly, though the lights stayed the same so it was an indicator that there wasn't any feeling to it. "And is it true you chewed out Iron Man?" he questioned.
"Where'd you hear about that?" Clint asked raising a brow.
"Around." Joey shrugged, but the look on the older blonde's face made him deflate. "Okay, I skimmed over the thoughts of some of the staff during my lesson with Miss Frost."
"Joey, while I don't really mean, I have to say it; you have respect other people's privacy." Clint droned.
"I did." Joey retorted. "I only looked at their surface thoughts and not deeper." He explained and the other blond shrugged. "Though it did get weird during our lesson when we went outside and she first had me try it on a group. Get this; I can look through the eyes of several people at once." He said and had to control himself from getting excited. "There was this one point though where I saw the thoughts of someone that Miss Frost apparently couldn't see; even though he was standing there in the back of the group."
Clint frowned in concern. "Oh? Are you sure you saw someone there?"
Joey nodded. "He was standing there with a trench coat on and he had dark hair, Cheshire even let the guy pet his head." He said and frowned himself. "In fact, he didn't even growl at the man, the same with the other man at the café where he gave me that milkshake he seemed to have, even though the place didn't have strawberry, and they got the drink right."
"Even the extra cream at the top?" Clint asked as his frown deepened and Joey nodded. "And you also say that your dog didn't even growl at him?" he asked and Joey nodded again. "Was it the same person?"
Joey's own frown deepened as he thought back to it, but the memory seemed to have gotten fuzzy when he tried to think of what the man looked like. "I…don't know." He replied sounding confused. "I couldn't see him today and even more, Miss Frost seemed to get nervous after she asked to make sure I wasn't seeing things and she grabbed her head like she was in pain."
Clint furrowed his brow in thought. "What were his thoughts were about?"
"He was thinking…" Joey trailed off as he tried to grasp what the thought had been. "I don't know." He whispered. "It's like when I tried to remember what he looked like I couldn't see his face, and when I try to think about what he thought it's like it's just out of my reach." He replied frowning. "What's happening to me?"
Cheshire let out a groan and nudged Joey in the side, the blond feeling the niggling at the back of his mind and he absently started to pet the dog on the head.
Clint couldn't think of any other response to that other than a reassurance. "There's nothing wrong with you." He said and his gaze locked onto the dog's for a moment, who almost seemed to be agreeing with him.
"Frost should be here now." Clint drawled the next morning as Joey followed after him into the living room. "Though, why don't you wait out here for her?"
"You don't like this woman, do you?" Joey asked raising a brow.
"Whatever gave you that idea?" Clint asked smirking.
There was the sound of soft chuckling as Frost came out of the living room. "Clint, Joseph." She said and gave the dog a nod.
"Joseph?" Clint asked raising a brow.
"Yes, or do you not know the name of your own son?" Frost shot back coolly.
Clint's face turned a light red. "Of course I know his name, I just never heard anyone call him that."
"Clearly." Frost retorted and the man rolled his eyes before the woman looked down at Joey. "And I think you'll happen to like our lesson today as I brought a volunteer with me."
Joey tilted his head. "Who?"
The blonde woman moved out of the way to let Joey see the girl sitting on the couch and she smiled softly. "Hi Joey."
The blond boy felt his breath hitch. "Serenity." He replied and made a move to step forward before the girl shot up and raced over to hug him. He wrapped his arms around her and put his chin on her head, ignoring the phantom aches in his ribs as he wasn't about to let it ruin this moment.
"I missed you." The girl said as her voice was shaky.
"I missed you too." Joey replied and shot a glare at Cheshire when he growled before reluctantly pulling away from Serenity and put his arm around her shoulder and looked down at the dog.
"Aw, what a cute dog." She said.
"Cheshire, this is Serenity, the best sister I could ever ask for." Joey said proudly and Serenity smiled and blushed at the praise.
Cheshire's reaction surprised them all as the dog immediately snarled at the girl and tried to bite at the girl, but Joey moved in front of her and gritted his teeth as the dog's fangs sunk into his leg instead. As if realizing that he wasn't biting the person he wanted, he let go of Joey's leg and whimpered as his ears flattened against his head as he moved back.
Joey lifted up his pant leg after seeing the blood starting to stain his pant leg and his leg was bleeding. He grimaced at the sensation. "Clint, take Cheshire back up to my room please while I go clean this." He said moving up the stairs and Clint picked the dog up, who didn't even snap at his fingers and followed Joey upstairs.
The blond teenager went into the medical ward and started cleaning his wound with the disinfectant and wrapped a bandage around his leg. The wound didn't look that bad, but what concerned him was how Cheshire reacted to Serenity. Joey walked out of the room and went back into his own room where Cheshire was sitting in the corner, with Clint sitting on his bed.
"Did you put him in the corner?" Joey asked.
"No, as soon as I sat him down, he went straight over there." Clint replied. "How's your leg?"
"It wasn't anything bad." Joey replied shrugging and walked over to the dog. "Cheshire, what made you try to attack her, you've only ever growled at people." The dog made no sound or moved. "She's my sister." The dog growled at the mention of the word and Joey frowned to himself. "She's the only sister I have." He said and again the dog growled. "She's the only little sister I have." He said and the dog made no sound this time.
The older blond frowned. "Maybe getting Frost to bring Serenity here was a bad idea."
"No," Joey said turning around, "I really did miss her, and I still want to be with her today." He said and looked down at the dog sternly. "And the next time you see her, you will not attack my sister, do you understand?"
The dog, growled at the mention of 'sister' but made a movement that looked a lot like a nod.
Chapter 19: Crisscross
Joey walked down to the living room and found his teacher and sister both in the room and sitting on the couches. "Hey, you alright?" he asked looking at his sister.
Serenity cringed. "I should be asking you that question; you got hurt because your dog doesn't like me."
"Cheshire doesn't like anyone." Joey replied, though he found the memories of yesterday starting to grow fuzzy as again. "Miss Frost, did you happen to do anything to my mind when you were in it?"
"No, I did not." Frost replied. "Would you like me to help you recover it after our session?" she questioned and Joey nodded. "Right, take a seat beside your sister; she has volunteered to let you go inside her mind."
Joey took a seat next to Serenity and looked at her worriedly. "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Serenity nodded. "Yes, I'm sure. I wanna help you."
"Uh, alright then." Joey replied.
"Now, Joseph, concentrate on Serenity's memories, and Serenity, I want you to try and block him out." Frost instructed.
Joey and Serenity both closed their eyes and did as they were told. The redhead didn't feel anything, but assumed that was how Joey's power worked. The blond was in her head, but as he searched around, he found a wall and mentally tapped on it a few times, and being not only in his sister's head, but her body as well, he felt her jerk her shoulder and felt her eyes open.
Joey paused momentarily in trying to get past the wall as he saw himself through her eyes and noticed the faint white line on his forehead that he didn't notice before from his head injury. "I have a scar?" he yelled, but the voice was not his own but his sister's as it imitated his Brooklyn accent and he felt the body blink. "Serenity, you still in here?" he asked worriedly.
"Yes, I'm just as surprised as you are about this is this how your power is supposed to work too?" He felt the mouth move, but he knew that it was his sister speaking as by the more polished tone of her voice.
"I really don't know since I never had any time to explore what my powers could do." Joey replied and felt the mouth frown. "Miss Frost, do you have any clue?"
"Hmm, this is certainly an interesting development." Frost said sounding genuinely fascinated. "I do though believe since Serenity is doing something as passive as making a shield, that your conscience was the more dominant one in place so the body is reacting to your presence." She explained. "Serenity, I want you to stop blocking Joseph from seeing your mind." She instructed and Joey saw the mental walls lower. "Now, can you say anything Joseph?"
Joey tried to speak, but found that he couldn't, so he spoke through his own body. "No, I couldn't."
"Fascinating." Frost said rubbing her chin with one hand. "It appears that you can only take control of someone if there doing something else and leave you being the most active one in their mind." She explained. "Is it possible to do the reverse and let someone in your mind?"
"That's not a good idea." Joey said opening his eyes and saw this action through Serenity's eyes as he went back to being merely an observer in her head. 'You shouldn't have to see what I've gone through.' He thought and Serenity grabbed his hand.
"I understand, but what about Clint? Would he help you with this?" Serenity asked answering the mental reply in her mind.
"Well, maybe, but I already said no since I don't want to know what's in his head." Joey replied as he mentally showed Serenity and him talking to Clint about this. "Nor do I think he'd want to also see what's in my head."
"If you don't test the boundaries of what you can do with this, you won't know the full extent of what you are capable of." Frost pointed out. "You may not have telepathy, but you have something else; a power that can let you be on the most trusting level with someone. You never have to be hurt if you can control this."
Joey frowned thoughtfully and felt Serenity squeeze his hand. "Alright, I get it." He replied. "So we continue on with our session?"
"Yes, while this is most interesting, we still have a lesson to finish." Frost said and Joey nodded before he started looking deeper into Serenity's mind and found the girl's birthday party.
'I don't know about this one, I couldn't even be awake to see this day.' He thought.
'It's okay, even though it's only a memory, you can still feel like you were there.' Serenity thought back and Joey nodded before he let the memory play out.
Joey looked around the room and saw all the middle school kids that he didn't recognize, but from Serenity's memory these are her class mates.
He saw his sister talking to his new brunette friend named Perenna, who was looking sympathetically at her. "Have you gotten any word on how your brother is doing?"
Serenity shook her head. "His dad called, but he said that there was no change and he was still in a coma." She whispered.
Joey frowned as he felt the stabbings of guilt, but seeing as this was a memory, there really was nothing he could do now.
The dark-haired girl from the warehouse came over and handed the girl a box. "Hello Ren and Ren."
Perenna looked dryly at the girl. "At least call me Perry, Ren is Serenity's nickname."
The dark-haired girl grinned unrepentantly. "Whatever you say, Perry." She said cheerily and the brunette rolled her eyes.
Serenity's dour expression lightened up and Joey felt his own mood lighten and watched the rest of the memory with interest.
When Joey stopped seeing the memory, he blinked and retracted himself from his sister's mind and she blinked as well. "It seemed you had a nice party." He said and Serenity nodded shyly.
"Well, if you two are done, we're out of time." Frost said breaking the mood.
"Oh, right." Joey replied and sat forward and closed his eyes again and Frost's own narrowed in concentration.
"Think about the day you have trouble remembering." She instructed and Joey thought back to the day at the café and when the not-waiter had come over to his table and put the milkshake down in front of him.
As Joey started to look up, the features were again starting to grow fuzzy, but thanks to Frost's assistance, his mind became less hazy and the blurriness of the memory faded a little by little until he was able to fully remember what he looked like. Though unlike the actual day it happened, Joey saw the eyes shift and back in reality Frost jerked back against the chair she was sitting on and her eyes widened in an unusual display of losing her cool.
"I remember!" Joey shouted triumphantly. "Thanks Miss Frost…what's wrong?" he asked as he triumph and the brighter than normal lights went back to normal as the feeling faded to worry. "Are you alright?"
"Yes Joseph, I am fine." Frost replied coolly as she regained her composure. "I was just…startled."
Joey furrowed his brow. "Miss Frost, do you know who that was?" he asked.
"You could say that." Frost replied vaguely. "But I think it would be most prudent for Serenity and I to return to the school."
"What school?" Joey asked tilting his head.
"Oh, she's right, time for us to go!" Serenity said hurriedly as she practically ran for the door.
Joey stared after his sister oddly before shaking his head. "I wonder if I could try how far the distance for this power is and if I could find out who this person is." He mused aloud and didn't notice Frost tensing.
"No, I think it'd be best if you just stick to training your control over it, as next week I will be evaluating how much you've been doing, understood?" Frost questioned and Joey reluctantly nodded.
'I can still ask Clint if he might know, a long shot, but worth a shot.' He thought as the blonde woman followed suit after his sister toward the door. 'Now, where is Clint?' he asked himself and got 'kitchen' as the reply and he walked toward the kitchen, peering into the room and found only Clint in there. "Hi Clint."
"Joey." Clint replied only briefly glancing up from the pile of mail on the table. "How's your leg?"
"Well, considering my dog tried to bite my sister for no reason…pretty good actually." Joey replied and sat down on a chair at the table. "So what's all this?"
"Our fan mail." Clint deadpanned and Joey started choking on the air before patting himself on the chest with his good hand.
"You're kidding right?" Joey questioned as he wheezed it out, but got no reply. "Oh, you're serious then." He said and picked up a lone mail envelope that was addressed to Clint. "Hey, it's my DNA test results." He paused briefly before opening it. "I know that my mother isn't my mother, but I still want to see what it says."
"Are you talking to me or yourself?" Clint asked raising a brow.
Joey rolled his eyes before shrugging. "Little of both really." He said looking over the test sheet. "Mother, no match." He gave a glance in Clint's direction. "Couldn't see that coming." He said sarcastically before his attention was drawn back to the sheet and he furrowed his brow. "The hell?"
"What is it?" Clint asked curiously.
"According this sheet I have no mother." Joey replied frowning.
Clint furrowed his brow and took the sheet out of his hand. "Let me see that." He said looking the sheet over. "The hell?" he parroted.
"I know." Joey said nodding. "How did I get born then, or did I really just spring out of nowhere?"
"Well, that would make an interesting theory, but since your step-mother said your "father" cheated on her, it's obvious you came from…somewhere." Clint replied looking at the sheet before turning to Joey.
The blond teenager put his elbow on the table before putting his chin in his good hand and frowned in thought. "Unless of course my real mother has that rare thing where their DNA comes up genetically the opposite gender of their own."
"Wait, that's a real thing?" Clint asked surprised.
Joey nodded. "Yeah, read it somewhere I think." He replied before pausing. "Speaking of thinking, Miss Frost helped me clear up my memory of that not-waiter guy, and I can now remember what he looks like. Though she did seem kinda…freaked after she cleared it up. But it's not like a memory can kick you out, right?" he chuckled but Clint frowned.
"And, what exactly did this man look like?" he asked.
Joey paused once more as he thought back to the day, only to blink in surprise as his mind went back to when both Janet and Clint had frozen upon seeing him smirk. "Who do you think I look like?" he asked evasively and narrowed his eyes.
Clint frowned at him and looked for a moment like he wasn't going to answer before an uneasy smile crossed his face. "Well, at least you don't look like your "father" aside from how your eyes looked before, right?"
"Right." Joey retorted bluntly. "So it stands to reason I'd resemble my mother…whoever she is." He added offhandedly before deliberately finishing with, "Though I wonder if I think about who it could be…"
"No!" Clint shouted, and almost like a knee-jerk reaction, Joey flinched at the yell. "I mean," He said in a much more calm voice, "it wouldn't be a very good idea to try that."
"That's what Miss Frost said too." Joey admitted grudgingly, but he at least got his answer. "She seemed to know who it was in my memory, yet you're freaking out and I haven't even told you; would it be so bad to tell me your suspicion?"
"Yes," Clint replied, "it would be. Please, just trust me; you're better off not knowing; especially if I'm right."
Joey stared at him for a moment and during the years he had known the man, he'd never once withheld anything from him unless he had a damn good reason, like not telling him he was a superhero because he honestly thought the younger blond was better off not knowing.
"Okay, I'll stop asking."
"What is it I'm looking at?" Natasha questioned looking over a sheet in one hand with a mug of coffee in the other, her having come over to Clint's home as he needed to talk with someone, and who better than his best friend?
"That's Joey's maternity test sheet." Clint replied. "We got him and his step-mother tested to see if they matched, and they didn't."
"So what is the problem? Shouldn't you both be happy about this?" Natasha questioned again as she raised a brow.
"I am, and I know he is." Clint replied nodding. "It's what's on the rest of the sheet. Officially, the sheet dictates that Joey doesn't have a mother, as neither strand of DNA cells in the columns is female. Unofficially on the other hand…" he trailed off.
"And does Joey know this?" Natasha asked.
"Yeah, as he saw the sheet first, but I managed to convince him that he did not in fact spring up from out of nowhere." Clint said chuckling as he looked back on it. "And I got him to not go asking who it was."
"And, who do you think it could be?" Natasha asked deliberately as she put her hand over his, only to have him move it away from her as he looked at her with a serious look in his eyes.
"I think we all could tell who it is from this." He replied.
"And, if it is him, do you really think keeping this from your…son is the best course of action?" The woman questioned.
"Joey's better off not knowing." Clint parroted his earlier words. "And, thanks for listening 'Tasha."
The redheaded woman gracefully stood from her seat and made a move to the door before looking over her shoulder at him. "I'm still surprised that you'd want to stay in a place that must give you such a bad memory."
Clint's shoulders tensed up, but his expression was cavalier, even if a bit strained. "I manage." He replied. "I just keep telling myself that as bad as that day was… it could have been a lot worse."
Chapter 20: Perfect Poison
"You know, it's strange, but I think I'm actually spending more time with you than any of my other friends." Joey mused aloud as he and Perenna walked out of ESU. It was good to be back, and even though he was getting the cast taken off his arm, his friends and Miss Drew had been nice enough to sign it, and when he'd gotten to the building, Perenna had even signed it.
"Really, why is that?" Perenna questioned as she tilted her head.
"Because I've never spent more than 10 minutes with any of them since I've been back in school." Joey replied. "I can't eat in there without being ridiculed by Kaiba."
"Kaiba?" Perenna repeated as she furrowed her brow. "As in Seto Kaiba, the CEO of KaibaCorp?"
Joey paused before shrugging. "I'll take your word for it, but I guess so." He really didn't care that the other was a CEO as he was still a jerk and really pushed his buttons. He'd never been able to let someone else rile him up like Kaiba always could. "Say, you wanna come over to where I'm staying for dinner?"
Perenna blinked at him. "Dinner? Won't I be intruding?"
Joey shrugged. "Nah, I'll just call my…guardian up and tell him that you'll be coming over."
Perenna nodded absently as the blond took out his cell and she decided to do the same. "I'll call mine and tell her that I'm eating at your house then."
Joey didn't have time to correct as the other line was picked up. "Hey, Clint, I'm bringing a friend, is that okay?"
"Sure, just be sure to keep your bedroom door open." Clint replied.
Joey frowned in confusion. "Why would I shut it in the first place?"
"Eh? Never mind then." Clint replied nonchalantly and Joey decided to do just that and forget what he said.
"Thanks though." He said and ended the call just in time to hear Perenna bid a goodbye to someone on her cell. "He said you could come over."
"My aunt said I could go too, but I have to be back home by 8." Perenna replied.
Joey shrugged. "Okay, got enough bus fare to make the trip?" he asked smirking and the brunette smirked back at him.
"Of course I do." She replied and they both walked over to the bus stop.
"Wow, you live here?"
Joey tried not to frown at the awe in Perenna's voice. "I take it you know what this place is?"
"How could anyone not know that this is the Avenger's base?" Perenna questioned. "And you live here."
"Trust me; I don't want to be here." Joey muttered and the brunette looked at him with wide eyes.
"How can you say that?" she questioned softly. "Don't you like this place?"
"If it was my choice I might, and the lab is pretty cool I guess." Joey replied grudgingly as they walked toward the building.
"So does your guardian work here?" Perenna questioned as she deduced that this might be the only way for Joey to be able to live in this place.
"You could say that." Joey answered slowly and evasively as they came into the room and headed for the stairs.
"Wait, aren't we eating with the Avengers?" Perenna actually looked disappointed at this.
"No, I avoid being around them whenever I can." Joey replied shrugging. "Clint is probably gonna bring our meals to us." He added and Perenna looked in the direction of the dining room and sighed when she followed Joey upstairs. The blond noticed this and decided to take pity on her. "Do you wanna know a secret, but you have to promise not to say anything."
"What is it?" Perenna questioned tilting her head.
"Clint is Hawkeye." Joey replied bluntly.
Perenna stopped on the second step and stared at him with a slack jaw. "He is?"
"Shh!" Joey hissed and Perenna cringed back. "Not so loud."
"Sorry." She whispered. "But you having a superhero as a guardian must be awesome, especially since he's the only really human ones on the team, even if he can't hold a candle to Elektra."
Joey paused, the need to defend his guardian rearing its head in his mind. "Elektra? My guardian can pull of impossible shots, she can throw knives."
"Yeah, but she's also the most deadly woman in the world." Perenna whispered back heatedly.
"Okay, I'll give you that." Joey admitted before walking up the stairs and Perenna continued on following him and when he came into the room, Cheshire almost timidly walked up to him and Joey pet the dog in the head and the dog licked his hand and Joey chuckled.
"Aw, what a cute dog." Perenna cooed, but cringed back when Cheshire growled at her. "Um, nice doggie?" she asked nervously as she walked around it.
"Don't worry, Cheshire does that to everyone." Joey replied and felt the ache in his ankle as a reminder that no, he didn't do that to everyone as he remembered how Cheshire had tried to attack his sister and how he never growled at the man, but tried not to think about that fact as he promised to stop asking about that.
"Well, good to know then." Perenna said, but she still looked nervous as she sat down on Joey's bed and pulled her feet up.
"Hey Joey, how was school?" Clint asked coming into the room with two trays and set them on the bed.
"It was fine, we had a test, but I think I passed." Joey replied shrugging nonchalantly.
Clint noticed the brunette staring at him with wide eyes. "Uh, are you okay?"
Joey noticed the expression as well and elbowed the girl in the ribs, causing her to snap out of her daze and she blushed. "Oh, yes, I'm okay." She said shyly before looking down at her lap.
Clint raised a brow before shaking his head and headed for the door, but Joey's voice stopped him. "You're not staying?"
"Sorry, I got more…another lead to follow." He said evasively before slipping out of the room.
Perenna glanced in the direction of the open door before looking at Joey. "He's so young." She said quietly and Joey nodded absently as he started to eat the fried rice, an odd taste in the dressing, but thought nothing of it. "And…hot."
Joey almost nodded before he paused and slowly looked at Perenna with a deadpan expression on his face. "Perenna, Clint is practically my dad; don't gross me out when I'm eating."
Perenna pouted as she started to swish the rice around a bread ball. "But he is." She insisted and the blond grimaced. "Oh alright, I'll stop talking about it." She said before taking a bite of the bread and stopped for a moment before shrugging and continuing to eat.
Cheshire jumped onto the bed and sniffed at the food from Joey's side and growled before trying to push Joey's hand away from the bread on the plate. "Not now, Cheshire." The blond said and momentarily put the dog onto the floor. "You have your own food, go eat that."
Cheshire made a whining sound before doing as he was told and went back over to his bowl, but gave Joey another look and the seemed to be glaring at the plates they were eating from.
Perenna noticed this too and looked at Joey with a raised brow. "Where did you get him?"
"I found him and Clint said if no one claimed I could keep him; and since no one has..." Joey replied as he trailed off and went back to eating.
Perenna seemed satisfied with this answer and also went back to eating. Though she couldn't help but wonder what type of seasoning was in this sauce.
Joey felt his head ache and his stomach started churning, causing him to wake up and he wiped his burning forehead and felt the sweat drip from it. He squinted into the dark room and wondered what was wrong with him. He felt his breathing become laboured and felt his stomach, only to feel the bile rise in his throat and he quickly got out of bed and ran right out of the room toward the bathroom, closing the door and barely managed to make it to the toilet.
The blond grabbed the side of his knees and his breathing came out heavily and his head started to hurt even more. He felt hot, cold, and tired all at once. He flushed the toilet and dragged himself to the sink before washing the sweat off his face and the bile out of his mouth.
The blond heard knocking at the door, and he squinted his eyes again before sluggishly opened it and saw a red-haired woman there. "Yeah?" he wheezed out.
"Are you okay, Joey?" Natasha questioned coolly.
Joey was too far gone to notice the somewhat icy demeanour. "I'm…" he trailed off and felt his legs give out beneath him and he felt himself fall face first into the carpet.
His last thought was; what is wrong with me this time?
"Poisoned? What do you mean he's poisoned?" Clint shouted at the doctor in front of him. He'd been woken up in the middle of the night and had been annoyed, until he'd been told Joey was in the hospital again. And now the younger blond gets poisoned? Why did these things keep happening to Joey? What did he ever do to deserve this?
"Calm down Mr. Barton…" The doctor tried to say, but the blond would have none of that.
"No, I will not be calm, you tell me he's been poisoned and you expect me to calm?" he yelled angrily. "How did this happen anyway?"
"Clint," The blond felt a hand land on his shoulder and he looked down at his redheaded best friend, "let the doctors do their job; your…son will be alright."
The man still felt the rage at how this could have happened. Wasn't Joey supposed to be safe where he was? Stark should really get a better security system. He let Natasha lead him to the waiting room as another gurney came rushing into the emergency room, but his mind was too wrapped up in how this happened to notice.
The blond felt his friend's arms wrap around his waist and he awkwardly hugged her back. It felt odd to hug a woman, who was not Laura, but this was his friend, and he didn't want to offend her by refusing to let her hug him. He did love 'Tasha, but more like a sister as no one could replace his wife.
"Thanks." He muttered before pulling back and sitting down in one of the chairs, the redhead following suit. "What kind of poisoning is this? He shouldn't have to go through all this shit anymore after all he's been through." He said to himself.
"Perhaps you should go back home, to get some more rest." Natasha suggested.
Clint shook his head. "I'm not going anywhere until I hear he's gonna be okay." He said firmly and saw the doctor walking over to them. "Well?"
"He's stable, but was there anything you can think of that could have caused this?"
Clint shook his head. "No, I can't. He seemed fine when I saw him. How long will it be before you can find out what kind of poison he's got?"
"We just sent the stomach contents to the lab and we should know in the morning." The doctor replied and Clint nodded before running a hand through his hair.
"Can I at least go see him?" he asked.
"He's not conscious though, he won't be until tomorrow with the anesthesia we have him on to dull the pain he's in." The doctor replied.
Clint tried not to deflate as he nodded once more. "I see, but I'm still not leaving until I can see him."
"Right, but there are two police officers that are here to see you." The doctor replied.
Clint furrowed his brow. "Why are they here?"
"Mr. Barton, your charge has been poisoned; this is a serious crime against a minor." The doctor replied and Clint nodded.
"Alright, where are they?" He asked and after being told they were in the lobby, he made a move to stand when Natasha grabbed his shoulder and he looked at her. "Yeah?"
"How…how old is Joey?" she asked frowning.
Clint shrugged as he didn't see what she was worried about. "He's 15." He replied before walking away down the hall and met with two police officers.
"Officers Gonzales and Danvers, we'd like to ask you some questions about your charge, Mr. Barton." Gonzales said.
"Sure, what is it?" Clint asked frowning.
"Arrest that man!" A voice yelled from the entrance and Clint felt his rage return anew as he recognized it and looked over to the blond middle-aged man and he almost looked the part of an enraged "father" and Clint would have fallen for it if he didn't know what the man was really like. "He kidnapped my son!"
"What?" Clint shouted in disbelief. "I didn't kidnap Joey, his step-mother said I could take him with me because she didn't want him and you weren't around!" he snarled.
"Calm down, calm down," Danvers said calmly, "now, what seems to be the problem?"
"Didn't you hear me, he kidnapped my son." The older blond man spat glaring at Clint. "Check his record; he has an assault charge filed against him."
The younger blond man felt his rage grow. "Yes, because you-"
"See, he even admits he's violent." The other man said smugly and Clint reframed from attacking this man here and now.
"Now listen you-" Clint was going to say until he stopped as a small bag full of white sprinkled power fell from his belt onto the floor and he felt his rage turn to disbelief as his insides froze.
Gonzales picked up the baggie and frowned at the man. "Sir, maybe we should finish this discussion down at the station."
Clint couldn't even for the words to protest as he pulled from the hospital, though he shot a hateful glare at the other blond man following them out, whom only smirked in reply.
Doctor Reyes looked over the test results and tsked at the fact a parent could poison a child and put the clipboard back onto the foot of the bed where the blond boy was sleeping with an I.V in his arm. She felt some sympathy for him as it got back to the doctors working on him that his 'guardian' had been taken to the police station under suspicion of the poisoning.
She felt sleep start to come over her and knew her shift was almost over, needing to just check on the next patient sleeping on the other side of the curtain in the room.
She was about to go over to the next patient when she noticed a man come into the room with a doctor's coat on and a clipboard in his hands. "It's okay; I've already got this room covered."
The man tilted his head. "Oh really? Then what's his status?" he asked nodding in the blond boy's direction.
Reyes blinked to try and keep the sleep out of her eyes. "Poisoned, but he's been stabilized and now that we know what the toxin in his body is we can flush it out." She heard a snapping sound and looked back over at the man to see he'd broken the board in his hands.
"Oh and just how could this have happened?" he asked like he didn't just break the board.
Reyes shook her head sadly. "His guardian, a Mr. Barton is under suspicion after some of the staff saw him drop a bag of rat poison on the ground." she said and thought nothing of the fact she shouldn't be saying this. "We only pieced this together after seeing that the same poison was in this young man's stomach contents."
Reyes blinked again as she felt her head ache for a moment and when she grabbed her forehead and opened her eyes, she looked around in confusion as she wondered why she wasn't checking on her next patient.
When Reyes was on her way out of the room though, she thought of informing the cleaning staff that they had missed a pile of wooden splinters that were scattered on the floor.
When Joey opened his eyes and saw the white ceiling of the hospital, he let out a groan. 'Oh right, I threw up last night.' He thought and recalled blacking out. He cringed as he felt his stiff back move in protest as he sat up against the pillow. "Man, I feel like shit." He said to himself.
"Hey now, no swearing." A nurse said as she came into the room. "You seem to be doing better than you were last night, but you'll still have to stay for another night to make sure you're alright."
Joey frowned as he furrowed his brow. "Why, what happened? I thought I was just sick?"
The nurse sighed as she walked over to him and checked the I.V drip. "You were poisoned." She said somewhat bluntly, but Joey' eyes just widened. "Your stomach was pumped and the contents revealed the poison had been ingested when you ate your last mean beforehand."
Joey thought back to the previous day and had wondered at the strange taste the sauce had before he paled at whom it had been that had given him the food. "No." he whispered shaking his head. "You have to have made a mistake, I couldn't have gotten poisoned when I was eating dinner, where's Clint Barton?"
The nurse seemed to grow nervous. "Your guardian has been taken to the police station under suspicion of the poisoning."
"That can't be true; I know he wouldn't hurt me." Joey protested as he tried really hard to keep his emotions under control.
"The man had the poison on him." The nurse replied.
Joey froze as his insides felt numb. "He…he couldn't have…" he trailed off weakly and the growing signs of a panic attack started coming on, but before he could start to scream and yell, he suddenly felt sleepy again as he was given a new drip bag.
His amber eyes grew droopy, but his thought remained the same; Clint wouldn't do this to me.
Clint frowned as he stared at the opposite side of the cell as he thought back to the fact he was being charged with kidnapping and poisoning Joey. He couldn't understand the ridiculousness of this all as he'd specifically stated he was going to adopt Joey, so what reason did he have to kill him.
Clint would have laughed at them for even suggesting such a thing, but in the current situation, that wouldn't have helped his case. He definitely knew that he didn't poison Joey, so how had that bag gotten onto his belt?
He knew he was being framed, but who could have done this? Oh how he wanted to say it was that bastard of Joey's "father" but he was forced to admit the man couldn't have snuck up on him to do it. He thought back to when he was about to take the meals up to Joey and his friend, but he'd had to go to the washroom and when he'd gotten back the food looked fine.
He knew that in that time frame someone, someone inside the house must have poisoned the food. But why? He could understand that some people would want to hurt him, but to attack him through Joey was low.
Clint was pulled from his thoughts as the concrete by his head exploded and he jumped to his feet. He looked at the man inside the cell and tried to yell "You!", but no sound came from his mouth and he clutched at his throat.
"I'm sure you're wondering why I'm here." The man said calmly and Clint tensed up, but the man waved his hand and Clint was thrown back into the wall with enough force to leave a crack in the concrete. The blond tried to stand up and used the wall for support. "But for your unasked question, no, no one can hear this out there."
Clint was again slammed into the wall and slid to the ground as he felt his back ache and was sure there were cuts on it now. 'What do you want?' he mouthed as he very well couldn't say it, but he really couldn't understand why he was here.
"What do I want?" he repeated and scowled before again slamming Clint into the concrete. "You to suffer."
'Why?' Clint mouthed.
"Why? Because I went to the hospital Joey was at, and you want to know what I heard?" he questioned and Clint knew what was coming next. "You poisoned my son!" he said as his green eyes glinted in hate and Clint grabbed his head as it felt like it was going to explode. "But now the real suffering begins."
Chapter 21: A Shared Suffering
When Joey finally came around, he his thoughts were still centered around Clint and the absurdity of the man actually being the one responsible for poisoning him.
…Wait, his eyes opened wide when he remembered that someone else had also been eating with him and that what if the culprit hadn't known which plate was meant for him and just doused them both? That meant…
"Hey, glad to see you're awake."
Joey looked over at the other occupant in the room and tried to fight off the guilty expression on his face. "You got put in here because of being poisoned, didn't you?" he asked, but they both knew what the answer would be.
"Yeah, my aunt is kinda protective of me and was really upset when she came to see me when you were out." Perenna replied and smiled ruefully. "What are the odds that we'd both be put in the same room?"
"You can really joke at a time like this?" Joey questioned darkly. "You've got a better outlook than I do then." He said after a pause and the door opened to reveal a dark-haired woman. "Miss Drew, what are you doing here?" he asked sounding genuinely surprised to see her.
Perenna looked between the two and grabbed the curtain with the hand that was closest to it. "I'll let you two be." She said pulling the curtain back.
Joey raised a brow at the curtain, but turned his attention to the woman as she sat down at his bedside. "Seriously, how did you know I was here?"
Jessica smiled grimly. "You weren't in school today, so I asked myself, where is Joey when he's not in school?"
Joey grimaced at that. "Yeah, I have been spending a lot of time in the hospital, too much time to be healthy for me certainly." He added. "Though, why come to see me?"
"Because, I never came to see you before as I thought it would be unprofessional of me." Jessica replied. "But I realized that you were more than just a student, you were like an attentive little brother, only less annoying." She confessed.
Joey looked at her with wide eyes and felt a smile come over his face, but unfortunately while he was truly touched she thought so much of him, he couldn't do more than just give a shallow smile in return. "That means so much."
It really did, as no one other than his almost-adoptive siblings and Serenity had seen him as a brotherly figure before.
"Well, I supposed I should be getting back to school since I'm only on break," Jessica started and Joey felt a slight frown cross his face, "but I'll be sure to collect your homework for you this time."
Joey smiled again even as the woman stood. "Thank you." He said and the woman nodded before walking out of the room and gently closed the door.
The blond heard light snoring from the other side of the curtain and presumed Perenna was sleeping and decided to get some more rest himself, though he wondered how Clint was doing…
Joey felt his own vision darken when he closed his eyes, but felt his mind connect with another and all too soon a new sensation of pain overcame him in his back. His vision in Clint's eyes was also dark, but he assumed it was only because the man was closing his eyes and he heard other voices in the mind, voices that were all eerily familiar.
I wish I'd never met you!
Why couldn't you save us?
You weren't there to save us, Daddy.
We'd still be here if you'd been faster.
I hate you!
…His own voice.
Joey felt his own mind freeze up in agony as he heard these untrue things being spoken by phantoms of the people that Clint cared about. The older man was in pain, emotional pain; this was just cruel to make him hear these things.
The teen gathered up enough of his own resolve to push past these voices to remind himself they weren't true. 'ENOUGH!' he shouted into the man's mind and felt the voices dim to a murmur as he figured the only reason he was able to tone the voices down was because Clint was trying to escape the sound himself. 'None of these are true Clint, you are strong and what happened wasn't your fault; remember you made them pay.' Joey thought to the man.
'Joey? Is that really you?' Clint's thoughts sounded so amazed.
'Yes, it's me, and I don't hate you, I could never hate you…you're my dad.' Joey thought sincerely. 'What on earth caused you to think all those things?'
'Who, Joey.' Clint corrected him.
'Okay then, who's doing this to you?' Joey rephrased and sent worry through his mind, but was met with apprehension and he realized that the one responsible was inside the cell. 'Clint, open your eyes and let me see.'
'I...can't. Then you really will hate me.' Clint replied.
'No, I won't.' Joey replied and slowly the older man began opening his eyes, giving Joey a look at the one responsible for this. 'I…I don't believe this; it's the guy who I saw in the café and at the group, the one who Miss Frost seemed nervous about.' He thought incredulously. 'But…who is he? Seriously, I have no idea who this is.'
Joey felt Clint's apprehension grow before there was a resolve to it. 'It's Loki."
Joey felt like blinking. 'As in the super villain, are you serious?'
'Joey, I wouldn't lie to you about something like this.' Clint thought to him and Joey had to concede to that point.
'Then why is he doing this? Aside from the fact you're an Avenger of course.' Joey thought with an evident frown in his mental voice.
'He…he found out you were poisoned somehow.' Clint replied.
Joey sent out waves of confusion. 'Why the hell would he care what happens to me?' he thought before feeling a sense of disbelief as he dug deeper down into Clint's mind, long enough to find what he was looking for. He found the information and couldn't believe what he'd heard. 'But…huh…how is this even possible? Let me ask him myself.' He thought and before Clint could stop him, Joey felt the mouth on his guardian's body open. 'How can you have a kid?' he felt he eyes blink as there was no sound, and yet the man's face twisted up in fury.
"You should still be in agony right now, Avenger." He hissed.
'I'm not an Avenger, I'm…' Joey paused before saying it, 'Joey. I'm inside his mind right now.'
'Maybe you didn't think this whole thing through, and since when can you possess people?' Clint thought in disbelief.
'Since…that's a good point actually.' Joey thought as he saw the man's face again twist up and Joey felt his mind get pushed out of Clint's, leaving him back inside his body and he snapped his eyes open. 'Clint, Clint!' he shouted mentally as he thought about getting back into his pseudo-guardian's mind, only to get blocked out.
'Oh this cannot be happening.' Joey thought before getting out of bed, his back aching and his stomach as well. He paused as a wave of vertigo came over him and he had to steady himself with one hand on the bed side. He grabbed the hospital robe and put it on over his gown and walked over to the door somewhat awkwardly and leaned against the wall as he made his way to the public phone on the wall.
When the blond reached the phone, he dialed the number for the police station. "Yes, could I please speak with Clint Barton?" he asked and when he received protest this he was in holding, his temper flared. "Just do it!" he hissed and there was the sound of lights exploding, but he paid no heed to it.
The blond felt relieved to hear his guardian's voice. "Oh good you're still alive, I thought something had happened to you when I couldn't get back into your head."
"Yeah, I know…wait, why you on the phone? And what do you mean you couldn't get into my head?" Clint asked in confusion and Joey felt his insides grow cold.
"You don't remember?" The blond teen questioned quietly. "The super villain, the voices, the emotional pain, you don't remember any of it? It happened just a few seconds ago!"
"What…what are you talking about?" Clint asked sounding worried. "I can safely I have no idea what you're saying."
Joey frowned and stared down at the phone. "O-oh, I'm just glad you're okay, that's all." He replied shakily. "And I just wanted you to know that I don't think you would have poisoned me."
"So far you're the only person who does think that." Clint said darkly.
"Oh I feel so special." Joey said sarcastically before worry again laced his voice. "Seriously, you can't remember anything?"
"I don't understand what you're asking me to remember." Clint replied and Joey felt his shoulders slumped.
"Well, I'm glad you're okay is all." He replied and hung up the phone, his brow furrowing as he morosely walked back to his and Perenna's room, guilt creasing his features as he realized that she was here in the first place because of him.
The blond heard the snoring of his roommate and knew Perenna was still asleep, so he tried to get back onto the bed quietly. When he put the blanket back over him, he saw the nurse from before come in and she looked at him, smiling slightly and Joey smiled back.
"And how are you?" she asked conversationally as she looked over Joey's start.
"Don't you mean 'how are you now'?" Joey asked frowning as the woman had come in to see him earlier.
The nurse nodding absently as she put the chart back and pinched the fabric of the robe he was wearing. "And why do you have this on, you've already got a blanket."
Joey shrugged as he tried to look disarming. "It was a little chilly in here, so I put it on."
"Really now? Are you sure it wasn't from calling your guardian?"
Joey froze as while woman's voice hadn't changed from its rather pleasant lit, the hand gripped his arm and he looked at her, his insides growing cold when he saw that the woman's eyes weren't gray anymore. "I…I have no idea what you're talking about."
"'I'm Joey. I'm in his mind right now'," The woman recited and Joey felt his eyes widen minutely, "cut the act, how much did you hear?"
"Enough to know who you are." Joey shot back and was surprised at his own gall; that or his stupidity at forgetting that the person in front of him was not the nurse from earlier or trying to be smart was the best idea in this situation. The hand tightened on his arm and he quickly made way to revise his statement. "I mean, I know that you're my…" he paused and it felt strange to finish that particular sentence.
"Clint is my dad." Joey said automatically and the hand tightened more. "Uh, what I mean is, I already have a biological father."
The grip on his arm lessened a fraction. "Well obviously you couldn't have sprung up from thin air." She said derisively and Joey reframed from thinking of the fact Clint had told him the same thing when he'd suggested it.
"Okay then," Joey said tentatively as he'd witnessed Clint's emotional suffering and amnesia just minutes ago and didn't want that to happen to him, "but you're a dude."
The woman raised a brow at him. "I know for a fact that none of my children are stupid, so use that brain of yours for a second."
Joey felt like snapping back that he wasn't an idiot, but gritted his teeth and thought over the current situation and the answer came to him. "You're a girl now…then that means…" he trailed off and his eyes widened. "So I really do have a mother…"
"You sound surprised." The woman drawled and Joey noticed that there was a touch of scorn in her voice.
"How can I not be?" The blond asked frowning.
The sound of the door clicking as it opened and Joey glanced over at the door and when Doctor Reyes came into the room, and the blond looked back at the side of his bed, but there was no one there. Joey blinked, but he guessed he shouldn't be surprised by this and looked back at the doctor.
"How are you feeling, Mr. Wheeler?" she asked as she began to check over his vitals.
"I'm…fine, all things considered." Joey muttered mutinously as the woman began looking over his cast before checking his temperature.
"Keep this in your mouth; I'm going to check on your roommate now." Doctor Reyes said before walking over to the other side of the curtain.
Joey looked down at his lap and thought over how much things had happened in such a short time. And despite the revelations, his biggest worry was still if Clint was going to really be okay.
Chapter 22: Far From Home
Clint strummed his fingers along the bars of his cell. "Hey, what about my one phone call?"
"You already got your phone call." An officer shot back.
Clint rolled his eyes. "No, someone called me. Not the other way around." He retorted, a frowning crossing his face as he thought about the gap in his memory and the way Joey sounded on the phone, which only led him to believe that whatever he forgot couldn't be good.
The sound of his cell opening made him look up to see another officer escorting a redheaded man wearing dark sunglasses in. "Your lawyer, Barton."
The blond narrowed his eyes. "My lawyer?" he repeated and knew for a fact that anyone was likely to just let him be thrown under the bus as the thing he was being charged with was serious and no one wanted to be within a three foot radius of him.
"Guess you got friends in high places." The officer said before closing the cell.
The red-haired man pulled out a whit retractable stick and when it came into contact with Clint's boot, he steadily made his way over to the bench and sat down. "You understand the serious nature of the crime you are being charged with, Mr. Barton?"
Clint gritted his teeth. "I did not try to kill Joey." He snapped.
Though the sunglasses obscured most of Murdock's expression, his voice lost some of its frostiness. "And then pray tell who would want to frame you?"
"I can think of a few." Clint muttered. "And when I get my hands on them…"
"Easy Mr. Barton, let's clear you of this crime first."
Clint grudgingly reigned in his more murderous side as he put his plans for revenge on hold.
"Who would want to kill me?"
Joey overheard the offhand remark from the brunette beside him and it made him feel guilty for the girl was just collateral damage in this whole mess. "I don't think you were a part of this, the dinner was me and Clint's time, he's the one who…was supposed to have been with me…" he trailed off as he realized exactly what this meant.
"And who would want to kill you two?" Perenna questioned.
"I can th-" Joey paused. "I don't know." He lied and while the brunette didn't look like she believed him, she didn't push it.
In truth, Clint was probably more likely to get targeted as the unfortunate incident had only been to hurt him. And when he'd been inside the man's head he saw that he was still tormented by his 'failure.'
The blond looked up from his lap as he saw a redhead enter the room. "Oh, hi Andrea." He said trying to smile, but it came out more of a grimace. With all that was going on in his mind, he really wasn't in the mood for visitors and speaking o which… "How did you find out where I was?"
Andrea glanced at the brunette and blushed lightly. "I…uh, wanted to see you-to uh, make sure you're okay." She said before taking her hands out from behind her back and showed a bouquet of white flowers, her blush reddening. "I'd actually hoped neither of you would be awake when I came in to give you this."
Joey blinked, suddenly feeling that their budding friendship had taken a suddenly turn down a different route, and he wasn't comfortable at all with it. It was mostly the idea of a relationship he had a problem with seeing how his parent's marriage fell apart, but then again they had already had their problems. But the damage made him wary, though Laura and Clint's relationship had given him some hope of having a stable relationship.
And he wasn't even going to touch upon his conception as he was still trying to wrap his head around where he got all his powers from.
"Uh, thank you, but…" Joey trailed off as he felt another presence prickling at the back of his mind, the stabbing fear from his sister being almost palpable as she tried to contact him. 'What's wrong?'
"Isn't this amazing?" Serenity questioned as her friend looked around the lab of Stark Industries in boredom.
"Eh." Blair shrugged nonchalantly.
"How can you not be amazed?" Serenity asked.
Blair crossed her arms as she looked down at the floor with a scowl. "Well I'm not."
"Oh, I take it you're not a fan then?" Serenity asked logically as the reason for Blair's distain for Stark.
The dark-haired girl's scowl deepened. "Why couldn't we have just taken this stupid field trip to the zoo instead?"
'Guess not.' Serenity thought flatly before the class moved on towards the test area, the lighter-haired girl noticing Blair's steadily angrier look at every word spoken. "You know, if you keep scowling like that your face will stay that way." She pointed out lightly.
Blair's expression turned into a minor glare as she just looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there.
"Hey, I've got a question; who gets Mr. Starks's stuff?" Syrus asked innocently, but unnoticed, Blair froze in place.
The tour guide seemed confused by this. "Why, Mr. Star is leaving everything to his successor, whoever that may be."
Blair's fist tightened around her arm, the nails digging into her skin and she winced when she pulled her hand back to show the blood on her fingertips.
Serenity saw the scratches and sighed before pulling her friend towards the washroom. "Do you really hate this place that much to hurt yourself?" she chastised as she washed away the blood and when she reached out for a paper towel from the dispenser, her finger was nicked on it. "Ouch!" she exclaimed and sucked on the small wound when they heard screaming from outside the washroom.
Blair peered out of the room and she saw the lab under an attack by large robots decorated with green and silver parts. Most of them were scanning the items, and one of them noticed Blair and the girl ducked back into the room. The girl grabbed Serenity by the arm and pulled her into a stall for safety.
Blair clamped a hand down on Serenity's mouth to stop her from finishing her question. "Shhh!" she hissed and heard the washroom door get blasted off its hinges and they remained quiet after Blair removed her hand.
There was a low humming as the robot looked around the room before it's sensors indicated that there were two adolescent organic females behind the stall and it ripped the door away, eliciting a scream from both girls. It zeroed in on the blood that welled up on Serenity's cut and its sensors found a match, the chances of such a discovery being so very slim that this must be tested further and reached out for the girl.
"I don't think so metal head!" Blair said ducking both her and Serenity out from the stall and they slid under it and ran for the door.
The robot paused and merely shot out a net that caught both girls, the second being inconsequential, but the first girl seemed to be fond of her so she would remain alive and it activated its jets and flew out of the roof.
A woman sat, the television on the news station, showing the scene of Stark's lab industry having been attacked by Doombots, and while she really wouldn't care, she did though care when it was reported that two girls were missing, one of which being her daughter.
Oh it was times like these she wanted to just lock her daughter in a tower or some other form of confinement so she wouldn't be subjected to the world, but then she wouldn't know how the world worked should she chose to accept the 'family' business.'
Her sister had never been much of a disappointment in their family as Claire graciously and gladly became Blair's adoptive mother. She kept the updated pictures of her daughter every year she grew that Claire would send her and she would marvel at how much Blair was starting to look more like how she herself had used to look; the only difference in her daughter's overall appearance had been the brown eyes she'd inherited from her father, and the intelligence she possessed.
The woman moved from her seat and headed over to the cockpit of the privet jet. "Set course for Latveria, it is time to retrieve something that belongs to me."
Serenity held her head and she sat up, groaning and rubbed her arm, her eyes narrowing at the bandage on her arm. What had happened? Oh yeah, she and Blair had gotten kidnapped by a robot and didn't know where they were. She saw Blair lying beside her, who seemed to have been placed on the bed haphazardly, unlike Serenity who had been placed down neatly.
The girl shook Blair's shoulder as she got off the bed and looked around the room and over to the window, overseeing a beautiful garden and a stone wall. She wondered again where she and her friend were. She grudgingly admitted that it was a nice place, though the beauty of it was downtrodden by the fact she had been kidnapped.
"Hmm, where are we?" Blair asked sitting up and rubbing her eyes.
"I have no idea." Serenity admitted and looked away from the window, missing the plan that landed outside. She concentrated and wondered if she could contact Joey from this far away. 'Joey?'
… 'What's wrong?'
'Don't freak, but promise you won't turn on the news.' Serenity thought and quickly continued before he could do just that. 'I promise we'll be okay, it's just that we ran into a little problem.'
'That always seems to be the reason.' Joey shot back.
'Says the one who's in the hospital more times than is healthy.' Serenity snapped, but instantly regretted thinking it once she realized how this would sound. 'Oh, I…I didn't mean it like that, it's just that…'
'Don't worry, I get it, I really do; even I think it's not healthy for me to be spending so much time in this place.' Joey replied. 'I just hope you make it out okay, seeing as I'm in no position to come save you this time.'
'Well hopefully I won't need saving.' Serenity thought before the door opened and a robot came in.
"You're presence is required." It said in a clipped tone.
"Why?" Blair questioned.
"Doom's word is law." The robot shot back.
Blair and Serenity exchanged startled looks and realized the severity of the situation they had gotten into. Both awkwardly followed the robot out of the room and down the hall before stopping at the dining hall and saw an imposing figure sitting at the table.
"Sit." He said and both girls looked at each other before walking over to the table. "Not you." He said suddenly as Blair was about to take a seat. "Your mother has come to retrieve you, now go."
Blair saw the door open at the side, leading out into the courtyard, but she wavered as she looked down at Serenity, looking like she wanted to leave, but too terrified to leave her friend behind for an uncertain fate. "Er…"
"Go." Serenity said quietly and Blair froze up slightly. "Really, go." The girl paused a moment longer and though it looked more like she really didn't want to leave, she seemed to scared to really want to stay and managed to walk calmly out of the room, the door closing with a thud, leaving the room in silence.
Serenity twiddled her thumbs in the awkward silence, and wanted to ask why she was still here before the man spoke.
"What do you know about your father?"
Serenity furrowed her brow. What an odd question to ask. "I'm not sure I understand what you're asking me to elaborate on."
"Your real father."
"I don't know who he is." Serenity replied. "His name was blank on my birth certificate, though I understand that my conception wasn't under the best of intentions as my mother only wanted to get back at my step-father for…" she carefully trailed off and decided not to say anything else on the subject, too wary to actually ask why he wanted to know this.
"Yes, and it presented the perfect opportunity for me to conceive an heir."
Serenity was starting to see where this was going, and her questioned came out more like a resigned statement than a question. "What are you saying?"
The man set a paper on the table and it slid along the table over to the girl on its own and she stared down at the results, knowing now what her blood had been for. It didn't surprise her that even this man would have a paternity test done to make sure, as you couldn't be too careful about these things and wondered if Joey would ever have to have a maternity test done.
"I am your father."
Chapter 23: Caged
Joey pulled the blanket off him and got off the bed before walking over to the door and frowned when the door wouldn't budge. 'Oh no.' he thought darkly.
"Hey, are you allowed out of bed?" Perenna asked frowning.
Joey remembered that Perenna had been asleep earlier and played it to his advantage. "Yes, we're allowed out, but apparently not out of the room." Perenna raised a brow, but he just shrugged at her and made his way toward the window.
The door opened a moment later and Doctor Reyes walked in, Perenna sending a smirk over at Joey. "So much for it being stuck huh?"
Joey scowled at her before looking back over at the doctor. "So, gonna lecture me about not walking around?" he asked sarcastically.
The doctor shook her head. "No, you are being discharged."
"Lucky." Perenna muttered, her aunt having wanted the girl to stay another night for observation. Joey was certain though that the girl hated the hospital more than him, and that was saying something.
"Really?" Joey asked and tried not to be excited. "Who am I going with?"
"Get dressed and follow me." Doctor Reyes said handing him a clean shirt and pants.
"Okay." Joey replied and went into the a jointed washroom and came back out 7minutes later and followed the woman out of the room as he saluted a disgruntled looking brunette. "So who's picking me up?" he repeated.
"Your father." Reyes replied.
Joey smiled, thinking that this meant Clint had somehow been cleared as he'd had Clint listed as his father. "Great, where is it?"
"Just up ahead." Doctor Reyes said nodding at the blond man with his back to them at the entrance.
Joey's smile slowly fell as he realized something was very wrong when he still couldn't hear Clint's thoughts and his steps stopped altogether when he saw the graying streaks in the hair and his eyes narrowed as the man turned around. "You." He hissed, fear long ago having been replaced by searing hate.
A funny expression crossed Reyes' face and Joey noticed what color her eyes were. He felt his brow furrow and was about to quickly speak up when his old man beat him to it.
"He's just happy to see me." He said smiling in a way that Joey gritted his teeth at. "But then again what do you expect when he's been with that kidnapper all this time?"
Joey felt alarm's going off in his head and it mixed with anger he struggled to control it. "He's not-"
"Let's go son." The old man said grabbing Joey's arm and the younger man started trying to pull his arm away, but the man was physically stronger than him and every time he tried to speak up, the hand on his arm would tighten painfully, forcing him to stop each time.
Joey glared venomously at the older blond and as soon as he was shoved into the car, he tried to get out, only to find that the door had a child lock on it and it could only be opened from the outside. "Damn you." He hissed under his breath, contemplating if bleeding out from trying to smash in the window would be worth it.
"Is that any way to talk to your father." The older man smirked and Joey lashed his fist out, his knuckle connecting solidly with the man's eye. "You little bastard." He snarled.
Joey smirked briefly. "Payback's a bitch ain't it?" he growled before having his hair tugged and his face slammed into the window, the glass not actually feeling like glass as his face bounced off it and his plans of escape were dwindling significantly.
"No pesky guardian here to save you now."
"You better hope Clint never finds you, because he will kill you." Joey growled again. "And I hope he succeeds this time." He hissed. "And if he doesn't, I will."
This might have gotten his head smashed down on the dashboard, but he didn't stop smirking as a fire began burning in his eyes.
"How slim are the chances of being that I was framed?" Clint tried as he scuffed his boot on the cement floor.
"Unless you can prove it, then very slim." Murdock replied.
"I don't even know how that packet got into my belt; I didn't even do much except go home after I let that girl eat my dinner with Joey." Clint replied frowning.
"You were supposed to have eaten the second plate?" Murdock questioned, his bros knitted together in thought.
"Yeah, and earlier at the hospital I was sitting in the waiting room with my friend Nat…" Clint trailed off as he remembered the woman's arms going around him and his eyes widened. "No, it can't be, she wouldn't…" he cut himself off as he noticed that everything outside the cell slowed door and the redhead beside him was as still as a statue. The blond frowned again before he was slammed against the wall behind him and was pinned there by his neck.
"I should kill you now and be done with it."
Clint felt something in his mind stir, like a foggy memory before it was suppressed again and he gasped as was let go and slumped down on the bench. "Then why don't you?" he snapped, though he knew that probably wasn't the best thing to say.
"You know my son."
Clint frowned as he rubbed his throat, his face slightly pale. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Damn it. "Yeah, so? I'm already in jail for something I didn't do, so what's that got to do with this?" Clint snapped angrily and froze when the man's eyes flashed. "And besides, he's your son; shouldn't you know what's been going on?"
"He was acting…funny at the hospital when his father picked him up." Loki replied as he ignored what Clint said.
The blond narrowed his eyes in incredulity. "You let him leave with that man?" he spat before furrowing his brow. "You…you really don't know what happened do you?" he asked quietly.
"Well he's alive." The man snapped. "That's all that matters."
Clint grimaced as he tried to figure out how to word what he was going to say next; he really didn't want to end up dead right now. "Joey's been abused…by his father." He said quietly. "He's been since he was 10, and I know for a fact that kid wouldn't go with that man without putting up a fight."
The man narrowed his eyes. "That…cannot be. He told me you were…"
"You've been had." Clint said without thinking and shut his eyes, waiting for the pain before frowning and opening his eyes and looked over at Murdock. "I think I know who framed me, but she…" he rubbed his forehead as if a foggy haze had been put over his yes and he felt like there was another gape in his memory like before. He wondered what he'd spaced out on this time.
"Clint, if you don't want to go down for this, you need to say it." Murdock advised him.
Clint paused as he thought about all the times he'd spent with his best friend, all the times he'd let her into his home and interact with his family. This felt like the biggest sucker punch he'd ever gotten since he was arrested for assaulting Joey's 'father.' "Her name is Natasha Romanoff."
Joey pounded on the door he was thrown in and had tried several times to set it on fire, the hate being there but he was too angry to properly control it. He looked around the room, not spotting a single window or any other opening he could use to escape. His old man had tossed him into this room and he had no idea where he was.
The teen put his ear to the door and while he could still use his powers, he didn't know who they were out there and couldn't put any specifics on which one it was he wanted to possess out there. At least with the group he had something to focus on other than a name.
And with what Serenity had told him, she was currently out of the country so he couldn't 'call' her, nor could he contact Clint as the connection was still being blocked.
He only regretted not grabbing his cell before he'd been hauled off to the hospital. He was still adamant that Clint wouldn't poison him, and suspected that it had been somebody in the Mansion as everyone knew that Clint ate his dinner with Joey as the teen still refused to stay around the other Avengers longer than it was necessary, if at all.
And they couldn't have possibly known he'd bring someone back with him and Clint's dinner would end up being Perenna's. No wonder Cheshire had gotten so weird, the dog was trying to stop him from eating.
Joey narrowed his eyes as he strained his ears to hear more clearly and could make out one voice as his old man's
"So, now that you have the little bastard, about that payment…"
Payment? Joey had been taken here as some sort of debt?
The blond felt something inside him snap.
"Well this is an interesting little development."
Clint looked up from his cell, Murdock having left earlier to follow up on the possible suspect, which he was still trying to believe himself. The woman had been his best friend, why would she try to kill them? And failing that, frame him for this?
"What are you doing here, Frost?" The blond asked.
"Like I said, interesting." Frost replied crossing her arms.
"What, you came here to accuse me of attempted murder too?" Clint asked bitterly.
"No, and I think that this is completely unfathomable; you wouldn't harm one hair on that boy's head after what happened to your family." Frost explained.
Clint's head snapped up and he glared at her. "You went into my head, didn't you?" he asked accusingly and Frost shrugged. "You're lucky that you're on the other side of these bars right now."
Frost didn't look concerned at the threat. "With your current…confinement, I came to question you if Joseph stopped by; he wasn't at the hospital when I went there for his lesson."
"You were gonna make him learn while he was in the damn hospital?" Clint asked incredulously.
Frost rolled her eyes. "Of course." She said like it should have been obvious. "And when I looked around I got found out that he was released into the custody of his father."
Clint furrowed his brow before his disbelief turned to rage. "They let him go with that bastard?" he hissed.
"It would appear so." Frost replied coolly.
"First the Natasha thing now this?" Clint asked rubbing his forehead as he felt a migraine coming on. "That kid just can't catch a break."
Frost looked at the bars in amusement. "Considering where you are Clinton, I think it would be wise to revise what you just said."
Clint made a face. "Don't call me that, I don't even let my teammates call me that, and speaking of them, where the hell are they?"
"So you haven't heard, they're all on some mission or another involving helping the Fantastic Four with Dr. Doom." Frost replied.
Clint looked only mildly interested. "Oh, what happened this time?"
"Apparently his Doombots kidnapped two middle school children, one of them being Miss Wheeler and the other being her little human friend." Frost replied.
Clint briefly amended that the kid really couldn't catch a break with anything and hoped that Serenity and her friend were okay.