Chapter 1: Hourglass
As he looks out over the crime ridden streets of Derse City, Dave can’t help but feel a little helpless. For ever break-in he stops and murderer he catches, a thousand more will one day pop up to take their place.
But cleaning up the streets wasn’t something he did because he expected results. It was something he did because he had no other option, because he had never been taught anything else, because it was the only way to deal with the loss of his brother.
Dave had never known his parents, his first memories were of his Bro’s underground lair, in the sewer system of Derse City. He remembers learning to walk unseen among the rats and filth of the city, learning to fight with his Bro as his coach and mentor, and learning the code of the vigilante, the importance of the promise to protect that which he could never be a part of.
Dave’s Bro had told him that he was a hero, that his powers were a blessing and a curse. He would be blessed with the ability to make a difference in the lives of the downtrodden, but cursed with the inability to ever really interact with them, to really know or befriend or love any of them.
Bro was the Heartbreaker, scourge of the underworld. Dave still remembers the first time he saw his Bro “break” someone, the noise they made when Bro manipulated their very soul, and the blankness of their eyes afterward. Bro swore that the effects were only temporary, that the benefits outweighed the costs, but Dave didn’t always see it that way.
But high minded debates aside, Dave understood the drive that his Bro experienced every day, the obsession that came with having powers you didn’t fully understand in a city that begged for redemption.
Spotting a potential mugging in progress, Dave leaps from the fire escape he was perched on down to the ground. As he gets closer to landing, he wills his body to fall slower, making the landing easy and comfortable. Dave knows full well the benefit of having powers of his own. As he dashes towards the scene of the crime, he can hear the protests of the victim. Dave winces. He knows that it’s the victims that fight that end up the worst. As he rounds a corner, he can finally see the crime in action: three bulky men dressed in all black assaulting a young woman. He thinks to himself that he doesn’t have much time, but then he laughs. He has all the time in the world. He makes another leap, this time towards the fray in front of him. When he’s landed, the scene before him is perfectly frozen in time, the muggers’ mouthes frozen mid-speech.
Dave can already feel the tug of the time stream, protesting at his minor intrusion. He carefully removes the guns in the hands of two of the criminals and the crowbar in the hand of the third. With each change the time stream tugs even harder, insisting that Dave return things to normal. Just before the time freeze expires, Dave manages to throw himself between the muggers and the young woman, with the intent to thwart them.
He can’t help but smile at the next part. Though he’s performed this routine at least a hundred times before, the responses of Dave’s unsuspecting victims are always the same. First they glance down at their now empty hand, making some noise of protest. Then comes the denial, the insistence that this sort of thing is impossible, that some sort of cosmic law is being violated. Next is the fear, the solitary moment when each victim realizes that there is something much larger than themselves at play here, something they do not understand. And then finally comes the anger, the white hot rage at the thought of being duped and bested by “some kid”.
Dave loves it when they call him “some kid”, it means his favorite part is coming up next. The part where they attack is always different, much to Dave’s delight. This particular group decides to attack Dave one at a time, the other two keeping their distance. Their mistake. Dave draws his katana from the sheath at his side and steps forward. As the first mugger attacks, Dave easily dodges his sloppy punch and cuts down the length of his arm for good measure, providing a painful but not at all lethal reminder of how dangerous Dave is. The first attacker draws back and the second one attacks, this one more careful, watching Dave’s movements. Dave takes the opportunity to attack first. Keeping low to the ground, Dave is about to maneuver just outside the reach of his adversary until he strikes, jabbing the sword into the leg of his attacker and drawing it out quickly. He’s careful not to wound him too bad. A deep wound could mean the attackers staying around longer, instead of running off, and could cause unnecessary attention. Left with wounds that should keep them off the streets for a couple months at least, the muggers retreat, leaving Dave along with the young woman.
The woman is stunned, typical in Dave’s line of work. She has questions. How did Dave do all that? Where did he come from? Why does he wear a mask? What does the gear on his chest mean? Who is he?
Dave always smiles at that last question. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t really know who he is, or maybe because it always gives him a chance to test out his superhero name.
“just call me hourglass”
And with that he’s gone again, to save some other innocent victim of the harsh streets of Derse City.
As he makes his way towards the shipping district, he remembers that he had heard that a large shipment of guns was being moved tonight, guns that would make his job even harder. He leaps to a final rooftop and looks out over the warehouse, catching sight of the culprits right away. Dave takes note of the guard positions before leaping down to street level. As he creeps through the maze of shipping containers, Dave can hear the mobsters rejoicing over their payload: hundreds of automatic weapons, enough to lock down the city for good.
Not if Dave has anything to say about it. He finally gets within striking distance of the entrance guards undetected, and he decides it’s time to move in. This time he slows the flow of time, just enough to give him the advantage he wants. His movements are quick and deliberate and made all the more deadly by his temporal advantage. His stealth and combat expertise combine to easily dispatch the guards noiselessly, leaving them knocked out for the police to deal with later. Dave doesn’t waste a moment in moving into the warehouse. What he realizes immediately as he moves in is the monumental nature of the operation he’s disrupting. Along the catwalk of the warehouse are at least fifteen mobsters, each already equiped with automatic weapons. On the floor of the warehouse itself there are at least another six guards, along with the men actually moving the crates of weapons.
Dave knows he’s come too far to give up now, so he springs into action. Grabbing a nearby pipe, he shimmies up to the catwalk level of the warehouse and promptly begins to alter the timestream. He’s never frozen an area this large before, but he knows he has no choice. He sends his tendrils of power throughout the building, ensnaring everyone and everything in a field that freezes them in place. He knows he doesn’t have time to disarm them all, and in numbers like this, he’s fairly sure he would lose a fist fight anyway. Dave instead opts to destroy the catwalk, hoping the distraction caused will give him the advantage he needs. He begins the long walk around the warehouse, carefully placing timed explosives at structural weak points. As he weaves between frozen goons, he can feel the time stream protest, dragging him downward with every step. Dave manages to cover about half the warehouse’s catwalk before the temporal stress becomes unbearable. Every muscle screams out in pain as Dave forces his body one more step, but his attempts are futile, he simply cannot go on any longer. As he collapses to the ground, he can feel his power receding, restoring normal time flow to the warehouse area.
As he lies on the cool metal of the catwalk, surrounded by mobsters, Dave immediately regrets his plan. As the timers on the explosives trigger, the catwalk is wrenched apart, and Dave can feel it strain under its poorly supported weight.
But despite Dave’s best efforts, the warehouse remains mostly intact, with the catwalk still suspended above the mob’s operations. Though the explosion has successfully startled the inhabitants of the warehouse, Dave is too drained to do anything about it. For every moment he froze time, the time stream extracts a heavy price, extracting a hefty portion of his life force.
Suddenly, Dave hears the shatter of glass, and this time it’s not him causing it. Through the broken window flies a figure, fleet of foot and silent as the night. As Dave begins to lose consciousness from the stress of temporal manipulation, he hears the mobsters around him begin to drop their guns. A fist fight breaks out between the workers and the guards below, and the silent figure joins the frey. Just as Dave blacks out, he feels the curious feeling of serenity, as if he has just been totally convinced that everything was going to be okay.
When Dave awakes, he’s lying in a bed that is not his own. A masked figure stands over him, wearing a dark maroon that Dave immediately recognizes.
The figure speaks up.
“hey there!! pleasure to make your acquaintance, and i really appreciate what you did back there! that distraction was exactly what i n33ded to work my magic!”
She offers her hand to Dave, who takes it as he stands up. Though he doesn’t recognize his surroundings, they feel comfortable and familiar. The lair he is standing in is very similar to any one of a dozen safehouses Dave and his Bro had set up around the city, spartan yet comfortable.
Dave doesn’t speak quite yet, not because he can’t but because he has no interest in giving up his advantage just yet. He instead opts to simply stand by and observe.
The figure doesn’t seem phased by Dave’s non-participation in the conversation and continues speaking.
“well i suppose some sort of introduction is in order! i hope youll excuse me if the mask stays on i can only imagine you f33l the same way about yours anyway you can call me Heartnapper! ”
As the figure steps into the light, Dave is able to get a good look at her. Her costume covers most of her, from a mask that covers her whole head save for a pair of orange and yellow horns to a full body catsuit, complete with gloves. As she habitually flexes her hands, Dave can see a pair of blue claws slide in and out of the gloves.
It is at this moment that Dave recognizes the symbol pinned to the front of her costume: the incomplete heart, a heart with half shaded in and the other half left empty. His Bro had always told Dave that it represented the incomplete duty of a hero, and served as a reminder that his job would never be done.
But what was this punk doing wearing Bro’s colors and symbol, not to mention her obvious ripoff of his name? Dave couldn’t stand the offense to his Bro’s memory, and immediately lost his cool.
“listen girl i dont know where you got that symbol or that color
or what you think youre doing fucking around in my turf
but youll step off if you know whats best for you
the names hourglass
but you better hope you dont have the occasion to use it”
Before the figure can respond, Dave bolts for the door and finds himself at the entrance to the safehouse: a small hole in an old non-functional air conditioning unit on the top of one of Derse City’s many abandoned apartment buildings. Examining the nearby buildings, Dave is able to pinpoint his position. As he leaps away, towards the direction of his closest safehouse, he doesn’t even bother to look back. If he ever sees “Heartnapper” again, it’ll be too soon.
Chapter 2: Heartnapper
Dave crouches in the bushes outside the metropolitan museum, where an alarm has just been triggered. He notes the smashed windows and subdued guards at the front, and comes to the conclusion that this was not some desperate attack by a couple of street thugs, this was a full scale job.
Dave creeps into the museum, careful to avoid any security cameras or additional alarms. When he reaches the gem exhibit, he sees a familiar figure at the center of the room, holding a diamond the size of Dave’s fist. Without thinking, Dave leaps into action. In a matter of seconds, he has the figure’s arms wrapped behind her back.
“i dont know what the hell you think youre doing but get ready to be unable to do it for a long time”
The figure releases a quiet squeak and after a moment to compose herself speaks up.
“oh hey hourglass! no no you have it all mixed up! i was stopping this robbery! look around, the guys i knocked out are all tied up over by the dinosaur exhibit, and you can tell theyre not museum employ33s!”
Something in Dave wants to believe her, for whatever reason. But he can’t take any chances. He releases his power for an instant, wrapping it around the figure and keeping her frozen in time. He then quickly runs to the dinosaurs to check her story. Just as she said, the thugs are tied up and knocked out, and are obviously not museum employees. There are too many of them, and they are certainly not dressed or equipped for the part.
As Dave walks back into the room, he can feel his power over her fading away. When she returns to the normal timestream, she jumps up in surprise at Dave’s sudden disappearance and her sudden freedom.
“so i assume my story checks out then? wow that was a pretty neat trick you did back there! do you think maybe we could work together now?”
Dave turns away from her and whispers back:
“not in a thousand years and certainly not while you parade around wearing my Bros shit”
He hears her protest, but he doesn’t bother to listen.
“you dont understand, im trying to honor him...”
The next few days are quiet. Dave notices that crime was down to an all time low. He feels conflicted. He is glad the city is cleaning up its act, but he feels anxious, and a little bit frustrated that Heartnapper is apparently doing his job.
Then, one night, Dave decides to tail her. Though he tries to justify it a thousand different ways, he knows deep down that he was just curious. Who was she? What did she want?
So he follows her through the dark Derse City nights, watching her take on mobsters and petty criminals alike. She moves with an elegance matched only by his own, and a speed that he finds himself envying. Her weapons of choice are the now familiar blades attached to her gloves, weapons of a close range fighter who knows she cannot be bested and fears no counterattack. When she uses her powers, he can feel a familiar tug on his soul, a reminder of his Bro. For all their differences, Dave realizes, there is something that connects this girl to him and his Bro.
She’s confident, but Dave notes that sometimes she isn't careful enough. He watches her take he knows he could have avoided, or saved her from. He keeps himself from interfering but just barely.
After a week of trailing her, Dave feels he knows her better than he’s know anyone before, save for his Bro. He learns her patterns, her habits, and even her fighting techniques. Then one fateful night, as she walks through the lower wards of Derse, Dave watches her run into the one thing he fears, the one villain that has haunted his dreams for two years now: Noir. He tries to call out to her, to warn her of what’s coming, but he’s too afraid. She tries to stop him from stabbing a family coming out of the opera, but he turns on her. Dave watches in horror as his worst nightmares are enacted before his eyes. Noir draws his jet black sword and quickly stabs Heartnapper three times in the chest, followed up by a kick to the ground. Turning towards the stunned civilians, Noir quickly decapitates them before taking flight. Dave shutters to himself and slowly climbs down. When he gets to Heartnapper’s bloody body, he brushes his hand across her mask, looking at her closed eyes. It is at that moment that he hears a gasp coming from her. She’s still alive! Dave does the first thing that comes to his mind: he freezes her. He then picks her up, bearing her fragile weight across his shoulders as her strange green blood drips onto his bright red costume.
By the time Dave reaches the closest safehouse, he’s utterly decimated by the stress of maintaining a time freeze this long. He just barely is able to remain standing when he rests her on the couch of the safehouse. With a final burst of energy, he is able to wrap her deep wound closed. He doesn’t remove her mask, he figures alive or dead he owes her the same respect she granted him. Still standing over her body, Dave collects his power for something he has never tried before: time reversal. As he reaches out his hands, he wills her wounds to return to a healed state, to remember what it was like before she was stabbed. Dave can feel the time stream scream out in agony, its claws lodged deep in his mind. Dave himself begins to bleed, the stress of maintaining the field is so great that he begins to bleed from his eyes and nose.
Dave hears another gasp and the start of regular breathing, and then nothing else. His own vision fades to black as he collapses to the ground with a smile on his face.
Chapter 3: History
Dave is woken by a strange purring and the very comfortable feeling of a body wrapped around his. He immediately throws his hand to his mask, which is still protecting his face. As he looks to his side, he sees the source of the warmth: Heartnapper is very much alive. He sees her eyes flick open at the feeling of his shifted weight. Even under her mask he can see a smile spread across her face.
“youre alive, and so am i!”
Never before had six words sounded so good to Dave. He watches her tear off her mask, revealing a grey face with big yellow eyes and a grinning toothy mouth. He looks at her hair, which is jet black and extremely long, and wild like a lion’s mane. Dave notes that the horns are apparently real, and not a part of her costume.
She doesn’t remove his mask, but instead opts to plant a kiss on his masked cheek. Though now Dave is completely euphoric (she’s alive! she’s cute! she likes me!), he restrains himself. He has to get more information.
Dropping the smile, Dave lowers his voice to an extremely serious tone.
“i want information and i can only imagine youre curious too
i propose an arrangement
ill answer a question for you for every one you answer me”
Dave watches as she nods in agreement.
who the fuck are you
i mean really”
Her smile turns to a frown and she looks down for a minute, a look of concern on her face.
“for as long as ive lived, ive never belonged
as strange as it sounds, it s33ms that i was born an orphan
i dont know what species i am, but im pretty sure im not human, at least not human like everyone else is
i was raised on the kindness of strangers who were willing to put up with my appearance for a while
and when i was young enough to live on my own i did
i remember being called nepeta for a while and wouldn’t mind terribly if you called me that”
As she said that she smiled.
“now my turn
why do you do it ”
“i suppose im bound to answer honestly
i do it for my bro
i do it for the people in the world who need it
i do it because i cant not do it
where did your powers come from”
Nepeta shakes her head.
“now you know thats a dumb question! i dont know where my powers came from any more than you know where yours come from
the more interesting question is when they came from me which ill answer for you now
two years ago i was scrounging for food not too far from here when a dark man with a sword came from me
a man wearing the same maroon im wearing challenged him with his blade
which saved me long enough for me to run away
your bro saved me hourglass
the next day i found i could do things to people, i could control them and convince them to stop fighting, or fight each other
i started to wear your bros symbol in honor of him”
Dave can’t hold back from crying any longer. As his tears soak his mask, he feels Nepeta’s arms wrap themselves around him. Though Dave hates physical contact, he doesn't mind it just this once. The next few hours pass quickly, with neither party breaking the silence.
Dave finally clears his throat and speaks to her.
“its your turn you know”
Nepeta looks into Dave’s eyes.
“do you really want me to call you hourglass?”
Dave can’t help but laugh.
“certainly wouldnt mind it
think its a pretty fucking awesome name myself
but you can call me dave if you like”
With that Dave tears off his mask, revealing his short blonde hair. Nepeta removes her gloves, revealing small grey hands which quickly find themselves mussing Dave’s hair. Dave wraps his arms around her muscular back and hugs her. When he finally pulls back, he finds a smile on her face.
“i think i like dave better”
With that she kisses him, her small mouth fitting perfectly on his. His hands move up her back, rubbing it in the process. As they continue to kiss, her hands move deftly through his hair, making their way over his ears. Dave’s hands move to her knotted mess of hair, and finally end up at her horns, which he gingerly feels.
She immediately recoils, blushing the same green she bled. Dave apologizes but she smiles again.
“no dont apologize
that felt nice!”
Dave throws himself at her again, shocked by how muscular she is for her size. Though he knows that soon he will have to turn his attention to the scum of Derse City, he figures he has a few more hours of vacation time built up.