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Aerospace Accident

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It’s raining harder than Black Hat’s ever seen before; the creature shivers, unnerved by the unprecedented hurricane that’s begun to ravage the island he calls home. What’s causing this? In his experience, storms like this only occur when something quite monstrous is being summoned or born. Black Hat smiles at that, fangs bared as he stares out his office’s window, overlooking the suburbia surrounding his abode. Is this the work of one of his city’s residents? Are they summoning him? Pausing, Black Hat claps his hands to crack open a window, undeterred by the bellowing winds that immediately begin to wreck his office, too focused on scenting the air for information. However, Black Hat soon finds himself stiffening, something deep in bones despising the smell that greets him while simultaneously wishing to find the source and keep it forever. Needless to say, this makes Black Hat all kinds of uncomfortable, the demon swiftly shutting the window before leaving his office, determined to distract himself from the situation.

Surely someone in town is just fucking around with powers beyond their understanding… yes, come morning, Black Hat is certain that this will all blow over.

Three weeks later and Black Hat still has no idea what the fuck happened that night. The morning after the hurricane, he had meticulously searched each and every square inch of the island for summoning circles or demonic entities, but to no avail; anything he found had been there beforehand, and no one in the city has been willing to fess up to the crime. Fitfully, Black Hat has decided to let it go. After all, if it were really a threat to him, wouldn’t it have shown up by now? And for all the demon knows, it’s very likely that the summoning ritual backfired and took the inexperienced summoner hostage, therefore destroying all evidence of their existence. That excuse is enough to tide Black Hat over for the next three weeks, but unfortunately for the demented horror, he’s all too soon reminded of that night’s mystery, as while passing through the lobby of his manor, he hears someone knock on his front door. This, obviously, confuses Black Hat like nothing else; who in the name of god would have the audacity to visit Lord Black Hat unannounced!?

Well, only one way to find out! Opening the double doors with a snap of his fingers, Black Hat stops in his tracks upon seeing the scene in front of him. Huddled on his porch and soaked to the bone in rain water is an old accomplice of his; Glowghost, or Terra as she’s so often called, standing defiantly beside her husband. Terra looks much worse for wear, not that Black Hat is all that surprised. Her hair is a complete and utter mess, her husband offhandedly trying to fix it up for her, much to the demon’s annoyance; why must mortals act so affectionate with one another when mated!? It’s at this moment, while trying his damnedest to not look at the couple, that Black Hat notices a large, hooded basket, which has been placed between him and the heroic couple. Squinting, Black Hat tries to see what’s inside, but whatever it is, it’s covered by a large blanket. Against his own will, the villain gives a full body shiver; something about that basket… it feels unnaturally familiar, like coming home for the first time in years.

Shaking his head, Black Hat decides to finally speak to the weary couple. “Terra,” He addresses her in a harsh, unloving voice, keeping his tone tight and unimpressed, as if Terra isn’t worth his time. “So unfortunate to see you again… after you left so quickly, I imagined you would stay gone. Unfortunately, it seems I was wrong." He sneers at Terra's husband, unable to keep back a primal growl, but he holds his tongue for the time being.

Terra rolls her eyes, though her usual sarcasm is somewhat dampened- literally- by her situation, the woman’s expression annoyed and spiteful, her gaze occasionally lingering on the nearby basket, which Black Hat, quite suddenly, recognizes to be a small baby cradle, fit specifically for a newborn. “Yes yes, I see you’re as fucking horrible as usual, Vic,” She mutters, using Black Hat’s true name strangely enough. Okay, she must be mad at him, but what for? “But as I'm sure you can tell, I really don’t have time for that right now.”

Black Hat scoffs, remaining uninterested. “As if I care,” He says, giving Terra’s husband a stern glare, deciding to give up on leaving him be. “And why exactly are you here, brute? Here for some foolish duel to win your mate's affection?”

Terra’s husband- Harold, if Black Hat remembers correctly- looks downright furious, one hand pressed to the back of Terra’s neck, the other closed in a fist by his side, shaking with rage. “You know exactly why I’m here, Black Hat,” He growls, looking about ten seconds away from attacking the villain like a rabid animal. “I know you’ve been sleeping with my wife!”

Black Hat chuckles, shaking his head. “Oh please, I cut her off months ago! And besides, it was her idea,” He explains, not the least bit afraid of Harold. He finally spares the nearby basket another glance, sneering at the hidden object. “If you’re here to accuse me of being that thing’s father, I’m afraid that you’re wasting your time. I’ve slept with more partners than you can possibly imagine, and not a one has fallen pregnant! As you can tell, I’m ste-”

“-It’s your’s,” Terra deadpans, interrupting Black Hat. Swiftly, she tugs away the blanket covering the baby carrier, revealing a wriggling, brown haired baby. To Black Hat’s shock, the child’s eyes are glowing somewhat when they open, but don’t shine nearly as bright as Terra’s entire body can. It’s as if… as if a great darkness resides in the infant’s body, cancelling out the light. Finally, Terra makes eye contact with Black Hat again, her glare unforgiving. “It’s clearly yours, Victor… and I expect you to take credit for it.”

All at once, Black Hat is filled with a menagerie of uncomfortable emotions. For one thing, he’s somewhat relieved to finally know what caused the hurricane three weeks ago; only the spawn of pure evil could cause such a horrifying, unnatural disaster! However, the relief is short-lived, as a rage like no other fills Black Hat to the brim, making his lengthy frame shake with fury. How dare Terra not only conceive his offspring- something the demon has long thought impossible, as he's gone decades believing himself to be sterile due to a lack of these types of visits- but the bitch actually carried it to term!? Why the hell did she do something so completely and utterly foolish? Does she not understand how lucky she is to even be alive after such an ordeal!? In any case, Black Hat can’t deny that the infant presented to him is indeed his offspring; the little bastard has his eyes- he can just make out the emerald hue through the light- and the very aura surrounding him is quite volatile, yet familiar. Were Black Hat more loving and less evil, he would probably feel bad for the poor thing.

“Well?” Harold speaks up again, tone impatient. “Aren’t you going to pick it up? It’s your kid after all.”

“Excuse me!? I will do no such thing!” Black Hat shouts, unable to stifle a growl when the little bastard begins to wail in response to his yelling. “Oh, hush, you little mongrel!” He bites out, before turning his glare back on Terra and Harold. “I’ve no idea what caused you to not abort this… this mistake, but I will have no part of it! I want nothing to do with this little bastard, understand? It’s not my fault you’re too stupid to seek out an abortion.”

Terra snaps her head up from where she’d been staring at the porch, tears rolling down her face due to how angry she is. “I tried aborting it!” She screeches, her shouting causing the baby to cry harder, but everyone ignores it. “Goddammit, Victor, I tried! But when the nurse started the operation, she dropped dead of a heart attack; I tried two more times before finally giving up! Do you have any idea how much grief this has caused me and my family? Do you!?”

“Honey, please, it’s okay,” Harold hugs Terra against his chest, shushing her before kissing her cheek, though she continues to sob. “It’s okay, my love… I’ll take care of this,” Again, he tries to remain calm when addressing Black Hat, but it’s obvious that he’s still upset about his wife having cheated on him. “Look, you’re a reasonable man, and I don’t want this to be any worse than it has to be. The way I see it, we’ve got two options; either you take your daughter and raise her yourself, or we raise her while you pay child support. Like Terra said, this has done a real number on our family… everyone knows the baby isn’t mine, and Terra can hardly show her face in public anymore. Besides, don’t you want an heir? You can have her!”

Black Hat spares his child a glance, his chest feeling heavy and uncomfortable. Indeed, this is at least partially his fault. Over a year ago, when Glowghost started seeking Black Hat out for sex, he’d known she was a married woman- he knew what she was up to- but still, he had gone along with her advances, not really caring that what he was doing was inappropriate. After all, she had come to him claiming that she wanted to become a villain, but after only a few months, Black Hat understood that she was just in it for the sex, as well as to spy on him and his operation; of course he let her run away He had hoped that would be the end of it, but here he is, staring down at a child he undoubtedly helped to create. Some part of Black Hat is thrilled at the news- every good villain needs an heir to their empire, after all- but another part is too enraged by the child’s very existence to care. Hissing, Black Hat meets the couple’s gaze, his glare venomous and unloving despite his instincts begging him to claim the child.

“I will not take any credit for this monstrosity,” Black Hat deadpans, tempted to kick the baby carrier, but he just barely resists the urge; no need to turn this into a fistfight. “Now get off of my property, or I will be forced to throw you off myself. And I swear, if I ever see either of you again, I will not hesitate to destroy everything and everyone you ever dared to love!” With that, he slams the door shut.

The couple linger for awhile longer, Harold regressing to screaming at Black Hat through the door, while Terra just stares at the porch in shame, her gaze empty. Eventually Harold gives up, practically dragging Terra back to their car. He almost drives off, but after exchanging some words with his partner, he begrudgingly goes back for the baby, who has yet to stop bawling. Once the baby has been retrieved, Harold returns to his car and drives off. Black Hat breathes a sigh of relief at the sight, glad to have the angry couple gone. Satisfied, the villain readjusts his suit jacket, convinced that this won’t come back to bite him in the ass. No doubt they’ll just drop the bloody thing off at an orphanage, or better yet kill it, so he sees no need in worrying over the bastard's fate. After all, they obviously don’t want anything to do with it… surely they’ll just kill it.

It never once occurs to him that life has never been that easy, at least for a gentleman such as Black Hat.

For as long as Kenning can remember, he’s been different from the rest of his family.

He isn’t sure when he started to realize he didn’t quite fit in- maybe around seven or eight years old- but he understands that he’s nothing like his older brother and parents. For one thing, he doesn’t have the same powers as them. Aaron developed both his mother and father’s powers- those being glowing and flight- while Kenning can hardly even glow, much less fly. For awhile, Kenning’s mother assured him that his glow would brighten over time, but anytime he’d bring up flight, his mom would clam up and change the subject. This, among other things, has quickly clued Kenning in to the idea that he might be illegitimate. He has other pieces of evidence, such as his father’s obvious resentment towards him, his mother’s lack of care for him as a person, and his parents’ occasionally rampant marriage, but without a blood test to finalize his theory, Kenning is left feeling like a puzzle piece that just doesn’t fit with the rest of his family.

At the very least, Kenning has one reprieve from it all; his big brother.

Despite mom and dad having an obvious preference for Aaron, the older brother doesn’t take advantage of it. If anything, he’s used it to help Kenning on more than one occasion, usually convincing their parents to let Kenning do/get something; it’s something his little brother is unbelievably thankful for, so much so that, although his parents would never approve of it, he’s begun assisting Aaron in his superhero work. Of course, Kenning can’t physically go out and help- at least not yet- but he’s positioned himself to be his brother’s ‘tech guy’ when he’s out on missions, providing background information and warnings through an earpiece his brother wears while on the job. Aaron seems to appreciate it, as it gives him the chance to prepare instead of rushing headfirst into a situation. As for Kenning’s mother and father… well, let’s just say they don’t know yet, and he’s intent on keeping it that way.

“I don’t care how many times you ask, honey; you can’t be a superhero,” Terra says, not even looking at Kenning when she speaks, as she’s too busy cleaning the kitchen before dinner, begrudgingly allowed her youngest child to help. “Your superpowers aren’t nearly enough to give you any sort of an advantage. If anything, they’re a disadvantage!”

“So? Not every superhero has superpowers, mom! And you can only glow, too!” Kenning repeats for what he believes to be the millionth time; he hates having this argument with his mother, as neither of them can agree with the other's point of view.

“I can glow much brighter than you, not to mention my whole body glows. If you wanted to only be a rescue hero, I would understand that, but you keep insisting on working with your big brother, and that would never work out.” Terra explains, rolling her eyes at Kenning’s reasoning.

Kenning looks away, feeling embarrassed. “Why can’t I help? None of that changes the fact that there are still superheroes without superpowers! And, I mean, my power helps! If there was a blackout and a bomb needed to be defused, I could easily save people!”

Terra turns on Kenning, clearly irritated. “Kenning, I will tell you this one more time, and if I hear you bring it up again, you’re grounded; you are not going to become a superhero! Your brother is already carrying on the family name as Goldheart, so there’s no need for you to carry on like this! You should pursue a more realistic career; I know you draw a lot, so how about becoming an animator or a cartoonist? Maybe you an electrician?” She meets her son's eyes, softening just a fraction upon seeing the look on Kenning’s face… it’s as if she sees someone else. “Please, Kenny… just give it up; you’re not meant to be a superhero.”

Before Kenning can respond, the front door audibly unlocks, and less than a minute later, Aaron and Harold arrive home. Unsurprisingly, the both of them look absolutely exhausted, both having been out fighting crime. Kenning is quick to run into the living room, making a beeline for his father to look him over, only to let out a horrified gasp at the state his father is in. Harold is covered head to toe in blood, rubble, and mud, said substances beginning to stain the carpet beneath his feet. Terra gasps as well, shoving Kenning out of the way in her rush to sit Harold down on the couch to look him over for injuries. Kenning falls to the floor in the process, letting out a groan through grit teeth at the pain. However, before he can get to his feet by himself, Kenning sees a hand held out to him from out of the corner of his eye, and follows the arm up to see none other than his older brother standing over him. Smiling, Kenning takes Aaron’s offered hand, glad to see that at least one member of his family cares about his well-being.

“Kenning, stop fooling around and get the first aid kit!” Terra shouts, interrupting the tranquil moment.

Kenning just nods, escaping down the hallway to retrieve the family’s trusty first aid kit, though it’s more like a glorified mini-ambulance. Nonetheless, Kenning grabs the kit and hurries back to his mother, who bites out a quick ‘thanks’ before beginning to dress Harold’s wounds. Unsure of what else he can do, Kenning leaves the living room in order to give his parents some privacy, unsurprised when Aaron follows after him. The two brothers hide out in Aaron’s room, shutting the door behind them. Now alone, and away from his parents’ judgement, Kenning grabs Aaron’s arms, one after the other, and looks them over for any cuts or bruises. Not finding anything worth fretting over, he moves on to Aaron’s legs, forcing his older brother to sit down as he fusses over the older boy’s injuries, letting out a worried huff when he finds a sizeable gash running down Aaron’s calve, blood dripping to the floor once his tights have been pulled out of the way. Aaron, in the meantime, chuckles halfheartedly at Kenning’s fussing.

“God, you’re worse than ma,” Aaron points out, though he doesn’t push Kenning away, allowing the younger teen to check the wound. “Seriously, Kenny, I’m gonna be fine. If it weren’t for dad, it would’ve been ten times worse.”

“That doesn’t help,” Kenning mutters, pulling out the back-up first aid kit from under Aaron’s bed. He opens it up and begins pulling out disinfectant and bandages, getting to work without delay. He again pulls a face when he sees how deep the gash truly is, sparing his older brother a less than impressed look. “Jesus Christ, Aaron, how did you even do this!? What, you hiding knives under your skin now? That only works in the movies, ya know.”

“I got caught by a few of Dragon Lord’s minions; guess he was experimenting on them again, seeing as they had claws,” Aaron says, shrugging off Kenning’s worrying as if it’s nothing. “Don’t even worry about it, lil’ bro, I’m sure it’ll be fine! Me and pops got ‘im, so it’s not like Dragon Lord will hurt anyone else.”

Kenning rolls his eyes. “You're the only one I'm worried about, dude,” He deadpans, biting his lip at the hiss Aaron let’s out upon having disinfectant poured into his gash. “Sorry, sorry,” He mumbles, frantically dabbing off the excess disinfectant with a rag, before wrapping his brother’s calve in fresh gauze. “See? All better, bro.”

“I wasn’t worried,” Aaron assures, reaching down to ruffle Kenning’s hair, the younger boy still packing up the first aid kit. “Thanks for cleaning me up though, bro… after mom and dad go to bed tonight, how about we do a bro patrol? You can be my wingman again!”

“You’re not going anywhere tonight, son,” Harold announces. Both brothers look to the door, finding their parents standing in the doorway, arms crossed and not looking the least bit pleased. “And what’s this about being a ‘wingman’, hm? Kenning, is there something you’d like to explain to us?” He taps his foot impatiently, glaring down at his youngest son.

Kenning gulps, looking away. “Um, uh…” He can’t bring himself to continue, scared of how his parents will react.

Thankfully for him, Aaron steps in. “Dad, please don’t be mad at Kenny; it was all my idea, I swear,” He explains. When he only gets a curious head tilt, he sighs, before limping to his closet. Opening the closet door reveals a tiny desk surrounded by tech, looking to be rather advanced. “This is, um… this is Kenning’s workroom,” He says, averting his eyes as he elaborates. “Whenever I’m out on my own, Kenning talks to me through an earpiece and helps me… it’s been really useful.”

Harold scoffs, shaking his head in response. “Useful? Seems more like a distraction to me, son,” He again glares at Kenning, arms crossed in frustration. “This is your fault, I just know it. What in the world were you thinking, bothering your brother with this… this nonsense!?” He makes a vague gesture towards the closet, tisking under his breath in utter disappointment. “How many times must I remind you that you’re not going to be a superhero, Ken? How many times?”

Kenning remains looking away, swallowing as he resists the urge to tear up. “I don’t know, sir.” He mutters, feeling sick to his stomach.

“I can’t believe you would do something so reckless, son,” Terra says, joining in on the scolding. “You’re grounded; if I find out you’re doing something this stupid again, I’m going to take away your computer.”

“For good measure, this nonsense is going in the garbage,” Harold adds, walking to the closet. He immediately begins yanking out cables and wires haphazardly, not really knowing how any of it works. “Jesus Christ, what even is all of this shit!? Lucky it didn't start a fire.”

“Dad, stop!” Kenning warns, running to stop his father. “You’re going to shock yourself!”

In a flash, Harold backhands Kenning, sending the teenager to the floor. “You do not raise your voice at me, missy!” He shouts, glaring hatefully at the boy.

Aaron steps in, getting in-between Kenning and Harold. “Dad, that’s enough… Kenning didn’t mean to upset you, okay? He just wanted to help get it all unplugged properly, that’s all.”

Harold immediately softens, much to Kenning’s silent fury. “Oh, Aaron… I know this isn’t your fault; you shouldn’t feel the need to defend Ken’s misbehavior.”

“But, dad, it was my idea!” Aaron repeats, all while he helps Kenning to his feet, offhandedly holding a hand over Kenning’s slapped cheek to shield it from another hit.

“We both know that isn’t true,” Terra says, though she does appear concerned after witnessing the slap. She actually gives Harold a scowl, unimpressed by his anger. “Hun, we’ll take care of this later, okay? You’re still pretty banged up after work… how about we order a pizza? We can have a quiet night in.”

Harold huffs, sparing Kenning another glare. “… Fine, but no dinner for the kid tonight; he needs to learn his lesson.” He orders, standing up and leaving the room.

Terra lingers, giving Kenning the briefest of apologetic looks. “… Don’t ever do that again.” Is all she says, before following after her husband.

It’s only after the door has closed, and the sound of footsteps have quieted, that Kenning finally breaks down, turning around in his brother’s embrace as he begins to sob. Aaron frowns deeply at the sight, unsure what to do at first. After a few seconds, he uses one arm to hold his brother, the other busy as he unlocks his bedroom window. Once it’s unlocked, the hero flies out with Kenning in tow, lying down on the roof with him in order to get some more privacy. Although he can’t articulate his thankfulness properly, as he’s still crying pretty hard, Kenning appreciates the gesture, it reminding him of when he and Aaron were younger. Back then, life was easier; sure, dad still hated his guts, but at least Aaron wasn’t a superhero yet, so they got to hang out together more… Kenning misses that, specifically missing when they’d sneak out on summer nights and look at the constellations, Aaron pointing out planes whenever they’d go by so Kenning wouldn’t miss them.

“… Thanks for trying to help, Ari,” It takes a few minutes, but eventually Kenning gathers the strength to thank his older brother, still unabashedly clinging to him for support. “I’m sorry I almost got you in trouble… again.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, bro,” Aaron assures, smiling at the use of his childhood nickname. “I’m the one who should be sorry; I shouldn’t have showed them your office… I thought that if I showed them, they’d know you were helping me.”

“I appreciate what you were trying to do, but… it doesn’t matter what my intentions were, ‘cus mom and dad are never gonna think I’m helpful,” Kenning explains, averting his eyes as he speaks. “I could take a freaking bullet for you, and they’d still find a way to yell at me for it… sometimes I think they’d be happier if I was just gone.”

“Don’t say stuff like that, Kenny,” Aaron begs, distraught at Kenning’s admission. “I know they’re really hard on you, but mom and dad love you so much! You’re their son for crying out loud!”

Kenning wants to smile, but he can’t bring himself to fake it, not even for Aaron. “… Thanks, Aaron,” He repeats, standing up and stretching his back. “I should get to my room, ‘fore dad finds out I was outside; I am grounded after all.”

Aaron jumps up, attempting to grab Kenning. “Kenny, wait-”

Kenning dodges him, giving his older brother an irritated, tired glare. “-Please, Aaron, I just… I just really wanna be alone right now, okay?”

Aaron looks unbelievably distraught, but he nonetheless nods, giving his little brother his silent permission to leave. Offering the smallest of smiles, Kenning nods back, before very carefully sneaking off the roof and back into his bedroom. He gets there easily enough, as Kenning has done this more times than he’d care to admit, but he still damn near busts his ass climbing inside, something he narrowly avoids by landing on his bed. Kenning bounces on it due to the impact, the bed frame squeaking louder than he'd like. The boy lies still, terrified to move; if dad heard him, he’s toast. A few minutes pass before Kenning believes himself to be in the clear, the teenager sighing as he sits up on the bed, running a shaky hand through his hair. Once certain that he’s safe, Kenning walks to his desk, taking a seat in his desk chair. To his disappointment, his laptop is gone; looks like one of his parents took it away as an additional punishment.

Sighing under his breath, Kenning turns to art, pulling out a few sheets of paper, his colored pencils, and his favorite mechanical pencil. At first, all he can manage to draw are animals, that heavy sickness from earlier still bothering him, making his hand shake and his drawings look sloppy. Offhandedly, Kenning rubs at his face, fingers tracing over where his father hit him. This isn’t the first time he’s been slapped or backhanded, but he certainly wishes it would be the last. Unfortunately, Kenning knows it isn't… and he doubts it ever will be. Biting back a sob, the boy finally decides to draw what he really wants to draw; a superhero. But not just any superhero; himself as a superhero! Sure, Kenning has long since accepted that his powers aren’t impressive enough to make him into a hero- at least his glowing eyes let him draw without turning the lights on- but he hopes his intelligence will.

Sparing a smile to no one, Kenning’s scribbling intensifies, only pausing to grab colored pencils to finish the artpiece. Proudly, he holds up the picture to himself. Given enough time, and some access to tech, he thinks he can pull this off… but only if he has secrecy on his side. As much as Kenning adores and admires his older brother, Aaron has proven time and time again that he can’t keep a secret; he accidentally outed Kenning to their parents before he was ready to come out as trans, he always spills the beans when his little brother sneaks out, hell, it’s his fault that Kenning’s now grounded! Fighting down a huff, the teenager mentally swears that he won’t tell Aaron what he’s up to, because if mom and dad were mad about Kenning being an operator for Goldheart, they sure as hell are going to lose their shit if they find out that their youngest son is going to become a superhero.

With this in mind, Kenning hides his drawing in his desk, stuffing it underneath a bunch of other sketches… no one can ever know. Hopefully someday his parents will grow to respect the hero he’s going to become, and through that hero grow to care for their son, but for now, Kenning plans on keeping this a secret for as long as he physically can.

Over the next several years, Black Hat goes about life as usual, occasionally forgetting at times that he even had a child. Glowghost retired almost right after having the bastard, much to the villain’s surprise, but again, he doesn’t pay her or her family much mind, especially since she and her husband make a point out of avoiding him at all costs. The only thing regarding her that Black Hat does pay attention to is the fact that her oldest child has followed in his mother and father’s footsteps, and has become a superhero as well. The brat is, by all accounts, a major thorn in Black Hat’s side, as the little cretin seems incredibly intent on trying to start a fight with the demonic villain, though he’s stopped each and every time by his own father, Warmheart, who obviously doesn’t want his son discovering the truth about his younger sibling. Either way, Black Hat can’t bring himself to care much… after all, it’s not like he’s very involved in superhero versus supervillain fights anymore.

The eldritch horror does his best to stay busy nowadays, as he’s been retired for a little over ten years now. It’s hard, not having much to do, but Black Hat has been trying to enjoy his retirement so far, taking some time to himself for a change… which, unfortunately, grows unbelievably boring within about two weeks. So this is what’s brought Black Hat to start binging TV shows and other such novelties in his spare time, and although he finds most television networks to be dreadfully boring and dissatisfying, he does get a kick out of the local news. More often than not, the world is in some state of chaos- even with Black Hat minding his own business, there’s still a cavalcade of criminals out there making everyone bloody miserable- which provides the demon with a seemingly endless amount of entertainment. Sighing, Black Hat lounges in his armchair, watching TV with mild interest.

Currently, there’s been a bank robbery in Aterno, which automatically has Black Hat’s full attention; after all, he considers Aterno to be his territory, and he’s curious to see what breed of idiots would dare step on his territory without his express permission. “Hello, ladies, gentlemen, and those of us that know better!” The news reporter greets, their smile cheery despite the dangerous situation they’re reporting on. “I’m Jordan Graves with Aterno City news, reporting from just outside of Aterno City’s First National Bank! From what we can tell, it appears that a robbery is in progress just inside the bank!”

“No fucking shit it’s being robbed,” Black Hat mutters to himself, offhandedly shoving a handful of poison-soaked popcorn into his mouth. “Come on now, get to the shooting already!” He orders, as if the reporter can actually hear him and control what happens.

Just as Jordan opens their mouth to continue the program, an overwhelmingly loud explosion sounds off in the background, causing the cameraman and them to fall over while Black Hat grins with anticipation. After all, what’s better than shootings? Explosions, that's what! Suddenly, from the camera’s spot on the pavement with the camera lens pointed towards the sky, Black Hat catches sight of a brown, messy blur flying by. Much to the demon’s disappointment, it’s gone just as soon as it appeared, disappearing into the bank. The next few minutes are complete and utter pandemonium, with citizens and the news crew panicking as they struggle to decide between going in for a closer look and getting the hell outta dodge. To Black Hat’s glee, Jordan decides on the former, picking up the camera themselves and swiftly, yet carefully, running towards the bank, entering into the building through a hole in the bank’s wall.

“Everyone at home, I hope you’re seeing this, because it seems we’re watching history unfold before our very eyes!” Although Jordan is the one working the camera and can’t make it into the shot, their mouth is close enough to the mic that they can still be heard and understood pretty clearly. “As we speak, it seems a new superhero has entered Aterno’s playing field; let’s try and get a closer look!”

Black Hat resists the urge to roll his eyes. Seriously? Another hotshot trying to make a name for themselves? The villain smirks, silently hoping that this hero’s death will be recorded on live television. Soon enough, Jordan makes their way further into the bank, hiding behind a sizeable chunk of concrete rubble for safety, keeping the camera raised up for a clear, perfect view of the battlefield. Littered across the bank’s floor are several unnamed victims, looking to have either been blown apart by the bombs or shot dead. Black Hat chuckles at the sight, filled with sadistic glee at getting to witness such a horrifying amount of carnage, and all for free! Meanwhile, the perpetrators are scattered somewhat, but they all seem to be pointing at the same target. There, in the middle of the room, hovering a few feet off the floor, is the new superhero in question. They can’t be any older than sixteen, if even that, appearing lanky and small despite wearing several layers of clothing, the most prominent article being an oversized, dark brown bomber jacket, which sports an array of patches and stitches.

The superhero is decked out with a very apparent pilot theme in mind, wearing a brown aviator’s cap, thick as all hell goggles, and greyish white bandages that cover their mouth; they clearly don’t want to be recognized, which is a rarity among superheroes these days. The hero appears to be hovering thanks to a large, dark grey jetpack strapped to their back, which resembles an airplane with the wings and all. Without a second thought, Black Hat breaks down laughing at the teenager’s attire; they look absolutely fucking ridiculous! By the time the demon has calmed down enough to see through his tears, the fight has begun, with the hero knocking down one of the robbers by slamming into them with their puny, propelled body. Black Hat rolls his eyes, scoffing at the sight. What a rookie move! Soon enough, the teenager’s amateur status is made even more obvious, as before long they’re completely surrounded by the bank robbers, the lot of them kicking the teen out of anger and sadism.

Before Black Hat can even blink, an ear-splitting scream escapes the hero’s mouth, though the villain can’t quite make them out from the mass of robbers on top of them. No matter, as within a few seconds, the criminals all fall to the floor dead, as thick, slimy black tentacles cut through their bodies like paper. Black Hat feels his heart stop, his body quivering. No… no, it can’t be. Slowly, the teenager emerges from the pile of bodies, their tentacles and extra limbs retracting before they even know what happened, leaving them quite obviously frightened and tired. The hero dusts themselves off, before taking note of the camera that’s been recording them the entire time. Even with the thick ass goggles and bandages partially obscuring the teenager’s expression, their panicking is apparent, as they quickly jet out of the bank. Jordan follows in hot pursuit, finding the short superhero standing right outside, their jetpack out of fuel; all too convenient for a nosey reporter.

The poor kid tries to run, but Jordan catches them by the wrist before they can get away. “Wait, please don’t go yet!” Jordan shouts, tugging the teenager to stand beside them in front of the camera. “I’m Jordan Grave with Aterno City news, and I have just got to get an interview with you! What’s your superhero name? How old are you? You seem quite young to be all by yourself, ya know.”

The hero hesitates, looking this way and that for assistance, but the police and other such law enforcement are too busy dealing with the bodies and rubble to care about some vigilante being questioned. Visibly sighing, the hero holds up a sloppily made business card; it looks like they made it using construction paper and a marker.

Name: Flugmaður

Pronouns: He/Him

Age: None of your business

“Flagm… Flugmad… Flugmas… Flugmadu?” Jordan struggles profusely in pronouncing Flugmaður’s name, before they hand the camera back to their cameraman, grinning at the camera lens with a forced smile. “What a funny, creative name! Everyone at home, meet Flug!” They say, as if that’s the kid’s full name.

Flugmaður deflates, annoyed by not only the continued mispronunciations of his hero name, but by the reporter’s attitude in general. Stifling a sigh, the boy simply flashes a peace sign at the camera, before his jetpack’s tank finally refuels itself, allowing him to take off without a word. While Jordan shouts to Flugmaður to come back and talk to them, Black Hat sits as straight as a rod, body quivering with emotions he can’t even begin to get ahold of. By the time the villain is done getting his breathing back under control, the TV is lying on the floor as a mess of cables and hardware, completely and utterly destroyed by whatever Black Hat did to it while he had his eyes closed. The demon can’t even really bring himself to care much, still too overwhelmed and horrified by what he just witnessed. Black Hat’s illegitimate bastard- the child he so happily abandoned to be raised by superheroes- actually followed in his adoptive parents’ footsteps!? Despite having powers he can’t even control!?

Snarling like a rabid dog, Black Hat slams a tentacle into the already decimated pile of technology on his floor, overwhelmed by both anger and… what is this feeling? He pauses, his rage momentarily softened by confusion, as the demonic entity now finds himself feeling… worried? What in the world is going on!? In all his years of knowing his child was out there, living a life without his father present, Black Hat had rarely ever wondered how he was doing. Yes, he occasionally pondered over how/when the kid’s powers would develop, but it never amounted to anything more than that; morbid curiosity. Now, witnessing his bastard child viciously and unwillingly slaughter a group of petty criminals without even realizing he did so… Black Hat feels a chuckle coming on, the irony not lost on him. Here his son is, having been raised by some of the most famous and experienced superheroes known to man, and yet he’s just as much of a sadistic, rabid monster as his father! How completely and utterly hilarious!

But that unsightly panicking… the villain huffs, unimpressed by his son's apparent anxiety. Were Black Hat to be involved, he’d see to it that his offspring would act less jumpy, and perhaps even make the demon look good in the process. That thought, among others, has Black Hat freezing in place, horrified by his own daydream. Does he… does he really want to have a relationship with his son? After all this time? Could he even have one? No doubt the bastard’s so-called parents would have Black Hat’s hide if he tried anything, however… the boy is clearly doing his hero work in secret, something the villain believes is likely the parents’ fault in one way or another. Therefore, if Black Hat was very careful about when and where he’d ‘meet’ his young son, he could very easily begin playing a major role in the teenager’s development, and by extension help influence his son to behave the way he wants him to.

Grinning, Black Hat turns away from the remains of his television, mind already racing with ideas… soon enough, he’ll make sure his ‘heroic’ son worship the ground he walks on.


Kenning has to bite back a yelp, nearly losing his balance. He quickly rights himself by grabbing hold of a convenient metal pillar, standing on shaky legs atop the garbage heap. The teen sighs under his breath, frustrated as he continues his desperate search; most people would say that dumpster diving when you’re not homeless or poor is incredibly insensitive, but Kenning doesn’t think he has much of a choice at this point. After all, his jetpack has proven itself to be inadequate, not to mention a hindrance to his work, so he’s trying to find some scrap in order to repair it. In the past, Kenning’s mother has helped him with his inventions a few times, but considering the fact that she and dad have been pissed at him ever since the operator incident, Kenning has determined that he’s on his own. Shaking his head, the hero returns to digging through the garbage heap, unable to keep down a disgusted cough as he finds a decaying possum. He’s so disgusted in fact that he loses his balance again, this time sending him tumbling down from the garbage heap, landing flat on his back with an audible crack.

“My my… quite the scrapper, aren’t you?”

Kenning visibly flinches, opening his eyes to find a man looming over him. The man, by all intents and purposes, is dressed to the nines in what Kenning can only assume is Victorian era clothing, not a hint of dirt or grime on his pristine outfit despite being in a garbage dump. Upon closer inspection, Kenning begins to wonder why this character is even here. After all, the dump doesn’t seem like any sort of place someone like this man would visit in his spare time. Sitting up, Kenning looks the stranger over, taking note of the gentleman’s slicked up raven hair, piercing emerald green eyes (he can only assume both are green, as the other is covered by a monocle of all things), and… sharpened teeth? The teen blinks a few times, amazed by the man’s shark-like canines. Is this man a metahuman as well? That would explain why he seems so comfortable approaching Kenning; he is still in uniform, after all. Brushing his thoughts aside, the boy finally notices that the stranger is holding his hand out to him.

“Well, my boy?” The man’s accent is clearly eurpoean; british if Kenning had to guess. “Go on, I won’t bite. That was quite the fall, if I do say so myself; a young man such as yourself could have gotten hurt.”

Kenning hesitates for a moment longer, before accepting the gentleman’s hand, allowing himself to be pulled upright. Even once he’s on his own two feet again, the man keeps a hold on his hand, giving it a firm shake. “Um… thank you for the help, sir,” He manages after a few seconds of tense silence, feeling somewhat unnerved. He'd usually go for the silent treatment, but seeing as he doesn't know sign language yet, he'll settle for only speaking when there are no cameras around. “I hope I didn’t mess up your suit on my way down.” He adds, worried that he could've hurt this man by accident.

The gentleman chuckles, shaking his head. “I’m fine, my boy. Not a scratch on me!” He flashes Kenning another award winning smile, amused by the teenager’s anxiousness. He then looks him up and down, as if examining the young hero. “Say, aren’t you that superhero from the telly last night? Flugmaður, wasn’t it?”

Kenning can’t keep from grinning, momentarily wishing he had kept his bandages on. “Y-Yes I am, sir!” He says, secretly happy that someone has finally managed to pronounce his name correctly.

The gentleman laughs a little in response to Kenning's enthusiasm. “How lovely! This city could use more heroes like yourself; not enough know basic manners around here!” Suddenly, he glances around, before an idea seems to come to mind. “How about I treat you to lunch, my good sir? You seem rather down on your luck, and it would be rude of me not to offer you a proper meal after you saved the city!”

Kenning freezes, unsure of what to do. He’s heard Aaron and his parents talk about citizens treating them to lunch and dinner before, so it’s not like it would be entirely unacceptable… still, it seems rather dangerous to go somewhere with a guy he only just met. “I, um… I’m very sorry, sir, but I don’t know if I can. I need to, uh, get home soon?” He’s so bad at lying, he feels silly even trying.

Thankfully, the gentleman doesn’t seem to take offense to this, though he doesn’t fall for it either. “Really now? Seems like you weren’t in any hurry a moment ago. And besides, it doesn’t look like you’ve found whatever it is you’re looking for yet. You lose something in there?” He gives the garbage heap Kenning had been on a raised eyebrow, likely assuming the hero isn’t dumpster diving.

Kenning shakes his head. “Not quite,” He says, giving the garbage heap a thoughtful look as well. Should he really tell a total stranger about this? It can’t hurt, right? There’s no way this guy can be any worse than his folks. “I’m actually looking for tech… hoping to upgrade my gadgets to make them more reliable.”

The gentleman brightens up immediately, much to Kenning’s surprise. “Is that all? Well, my boy, it seems we were destined to meet! You see, I own a fairly large computer company, and we have plenty of leftover scrap! Why, if you’d like, I would be more than happy to let you have as much scrap as you’d like!”

Kenning grins like a bobcat, overjoyed by the news. “Really? Gosh, sir, thank you! That means a lot to me!”

Again, the gentleman just smiles and nods. “I suppose I just enjoy helping superheroes, especially ones as young as you… though, I must admit that I have one small, tiny request.”

“Whatever you want, sir, I’d be happy to help you with it!” Kenning says, not really imagining this deal going south in any way. One might call him naive for acting so trusting, but really, this can be blamed on a lack of affection back home; of course he’s going to trust the first person who’s nice and isn’t related to him, as he imagines they’re doing it selflessly! After all, no adult would be nice to a kid that wasn't their own unless they were a good person.

“Wonderful!” The gentleman nods, shaking Kenning’s hand again. “All I ask is that you visit me a few times a week… doesn’t have to be overly consistent, but you see, I’m dreadfully lonely, as I live in seclusion, but with such a bright young man roaming my abode, I’m certain that my mood would improve!”

That actually pulls at Kenning’s heartstrings a little; no wonder this man is being so kind to him! He nods enthusiastically, happy to help this friendly stranger. “Of course I’ll visit you, sir! It’s the least I can do!”

“Very good, my boy… though I suppose I should introduce myself first,” The gentleman gives a short, somewhat exaggerated bow. “My name is Victor Hattington!”

“Oh, I’m, uh…” Kenning hesitates, trying to come up with a fake name. “I’m, uh… I’m Flugmaður Slys.”

“A lovely name, truly,” To Kenning’s thankfulness, Victor isn’t upset about being given a fake name; if anything, he seems amused. “Though, Flugmaður is a tad bit of a mouthful… would you mind if I called you Flug?”

As much as Kenning hated it earlier, he can’t bring himself to be angry with Victor for calling him Flug, so he shrugs nonchalantly. “That’s fine, sir. Thank you again for being so kind to me! I really, really appreciate it!”

Victor just grins, before throwing an arm around Kenning’s shoulders. “Of course, my boy, of course… now come along. There’s so much I’d like to show you!”

The weeks pass by faster than Black Hat takes note of, too busy reveling in his victory. As expected, his young son is eager for attention from his father- though he doesn’t realize that this is the case- and has pushed any sort of caution completely aside, too laser focused on his new acquaintance’s affection to be paranoid. Black Hat takes full advantage of this, though he knows better than to rush, as he can’t do anything too concerning in front of the teen. If he wants to become an important influence in his son’s life, he has to kiss up to Flug, offering the teenager his supposed affection, support, and interest, no matter how annoying it is to dish out. Even if it’s all a facade, Flug falls for it without question, just happy to have someone who’s seemingly interested in his inventions and ideas. It's this enthusiastic need for attention that's been sending Flug to Black Hat's house nearly every day, visiting before and after his heroic adventures, even coming over sometimes on his days off.

It’s mid July that Flug comes knocking, as he so often does, when Black Hat notices a strange difference in his son’s behavior and attire. The superhero outfit he always wears is quite damaged- his goggles cracked, his bandages ripped, his jetpack missing- and his breathing is labored, as if he just carried the earth on his shoulders. Black Hat, of course, plays up the role of a concerned mentor figure, ushering the teenager into the den. While walking behind Flug to make sure he doesn’t collapse, the demon takes note of the fact that Flug’s bomber jacket has been completely ripped open in the back, shredding his T-shirt as well… it's only thanks to shared DNA and experience that Black Hat knows what happened to his child. Slowly, and with a surplus of pain in his movements, Flug takes a seat on the nearest couch to the doorway, nearly passing out the minute he sits, but he miraculously stays conscious. Black Hat, in the meantime, retrieves the first aid kit.

“Seems you got into quite the tussle,” Black Hat observes, keeping up his pompous accent for the sake of his disguise. Very carefully, as to not harm the young hero, the villain begins disinfecting the wound, ignoring Flug’s pained yelp. “Easy, my boy… just a little medicine.”

Flug softens a fraction, but remains quiet. Black Hat lets the teen keep to himself, figuring it’s not important to know the circumstances that got Flug to this point. For now, he settles for dressing his son’s wounds, focusing primarily on his shredded back. If Black Hat were to guess- and this is an educated guess that comes from centuries of being a monster- he’d say that Flug got cornered again, and this time his body’s reaction was far more… intense. Although he’s not one to feel empathy very often, the demon still gives a full body shiver, remembering the early days after his deal with the demon who gave him his immortality and powers; those were definitely the worst days of his life, but well worth it in the long run. Shaking the memory away, Black Hat finally finishes with his first aid, stepping back to admire his work. There’s probably more injuries on the kid's body, but with the worst of them dealt with, he feels now is a suitable time to find out what exactly happened out there.

With a gentleness he's been finding easier and easier to fake, Black Hat sits beside his young son, tilting his head to get a better look at the boy’s face. In the time that Black Hat was dressing his wounds, Flug has removed his  goggles. It takes much self control for Black Hat not to look away and hiss, unnerved by the glowing beacons that are his bastard son’s eyes, the light nearly blinding. To the villain’s thankfulness, Flug takes note of his mentor’s pain and quickly blinks, his eyes now dimmer after the mental effort used to make them stop glowing so brightly. Still, even with his ‘lights off’ per say, Flug continues to avoid eye contact, shame radiating off of his very being. Needless to say, the teen must finally be aware that he has more superpowers than he thought, but judging just off of his reaction, he probably wishes he’d stayed as an over glorified nightlight. After another few minutes, Flug finally looks at Black Hat, and now the villain can see tears streaming down his son’s dirty face, his chin wobbling beneath the bandages.

“S-Something, uh,” Flug sounds even less steady than usual once he finally breaks the silence, his shoulders shaking more than the demon's ever witnessed. “S-Something… happened. Something really bad.” He averts his eyes again, letting out a hoarse, broken sob.

“Easy, my boy…” Black Hat would much rather be pressing the boy to show him an example of what he can do, but he knows better than to blow his cover; have to stay as the kind, loving mentor awhile longer. “It will be alright… I know you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“B-But I did!” Flug insists, audibly sobbing as he begins to recount the tale. “I-I-I was, just t-trying to help, but… but I f-fucked up!” He cries for a few seconds, struggling to speak. “The b-bad guy, h-he wouldn’t… he wouldn’t put his gun down, and I… I… I don’t know, it was s-so fast, and my body hurt s-so freaking bad! The n-next thing I knew, the guy was on the… on the f-floor, and th-there was a lot of blood. And even w-worse, there was this… this b-big tentacle thing c-coming out of my back!”

Black Hat let’s out a concerned hum, resisting the urge to congratulate Flug on his first successful kill, as he knows that encouraging him to murder at this stage would be too soon for him. “You didn’t mean to, Flug,” He assures, giving his child a halfhearted smile. “Although it came about in an unorthodox, and perhaps rather dire way, at least you now know you have other abilities, yes? I recall you mentioning once that you were dissatisfied with only having the ability to glow, and now you can do something that sounds quite incredible, at least once you have learned to control it!"

Flug sighs, shaking his head in defeat; at least he’s not bawling anymore. “I don’t even kn-know how it w-works, much less where it c-came from! How do I… I mean, uh…” He hesitates, looking deeply into his mentor’s eyes. “Can I, um… c-can I ask you a p-purely, totally h-hypothetical question, Mr. Hattington?”

Black Hat nods, having to physically restrain himself from doing so too enthusiastically. “Of course, Flug, of course; you know you can ask me anything.”

Flug takes a few deep breaths, giving a firm nod. “I… I know,” He says, before beginning to rattle off again. “Say, um… say you came from a really important family. And let’s say, maybe, that you didn’t know if your dad was… was really your dad, because you look nothing like him, and you can’t do the things he can. Let’s also say he, uh, hates you, and always yells at you, even when you haven’t done anything wrong… let’s say he calls you useless sometimes, and loves your sibling way more than you… what would you do? How would you prove it? Would you even want to prove it? Would it be worth it, when it could tear your whole family apart?"

Black Hat feigns contemplation, biting his lip to keep from smirking, which only goes to improve his acting, as it makes him look deep in thought. Finally, he pats Flug on the shoulder, giving his bastard child another kind smile. “If I were, hypothetically, in that situation… I would distance myself from them; clearly they don't want me around, if they treat me so poorly, and I wouldn't want to subject myself to their presence. Then, once I had gotten away from them, I would seek out my biological father at all costs. I can’t imagine not knowing who he was, especially after a life riddled with such abuse.”

Flug’s eyes widen considerably, shocked by Black Hat’s answer. “Really? You would?” He asks, surprised and more than a little anxious. “But what if it would make the people in your life upset? Wouldn’t it be better to just… stay quiet? To not ruin your family’s reputation? And what if you actually had a pretty good bond with your siblings? Shouldn't you at least stick around for their sake?”

Black Hat scoffs outright. “And what has this hypothetical family ever done for me? Did you not just say the hypothetical father was abusing me?” After earning a small nod, the demon softens, slinging an arm over his son’s shoulders. “Flug… I know you gave me this scenario because you’re going through something similar at home. I may not know who exactly you are outside of costume, but I know that no matter who you are, you don’t deserve to be treated so poorly. And if you really, truly believe you’re illegitimate, and you fear that your step-father may hurt you, I am more than happy to let you stay with me.”

Flug audibly gasps, eyes sparkling with happy tears. “R-Really?” He asks. Upon earning a nod, he grins like a child that just got their first bicycle. “Wow, Mr. Hattington… thank you. You’ve always been so nice to me, I wish there was a way I could do for you in return! I don’t think I can actually stay here, though… my mom would be so mad.”

Black Hat just smiles, the maliciousness of it lost on Flug. “You’re already such a joy to have around… it would be uncouth of me to ask for anything more than your company, as that's payment enough. As for you not staying here, I completely understand,” He stands, giving the teen a quick once-over. “Now, do you have anymore injuries that you need to have tended to?”

Flug shakes his head no, offhandedly rubbing away his last few tears with the sleeve of his jacket, embarrassed by his crying yet overjoyed to be wanted. “N-No, sir… I’m okay.” He assures.

“Good,” Black Hat gives a quick nod, before holding his hand out to Flug, expectant. “Well? Come along, Flug, you must be starving after such an ordeal. How about some stew?” He goes for distracting the kid with food; after all, he remembers the early days of having his powers, and how very draining it was at first.

“That sounds…” Flug smiles, hope filling his insides. Anything sounds good if it makes Mr. Hattington happy! “That sounds wonderful, sir.” He says, accepting the extended hand.

"That's my boy." Black Hat murmurs, and whether or not he really means it yet, even he isn't sure, but he knows that one way or another, he is going to win this teenager's favor, and by extension, build up the heir he wants.

“Happy birthday, Kenning!”

Kenning does his best not to flinch at the loud chorus that greets him when he gets home, nearly falling backwards out the front door. Thankfully for him, Aaron catches him by the elbow, steadying the teenager before he can topple over. “Thanks, bro.” Kenning whispers, face flushed red with embarrassment.

“Hahaha, always so jumpy!” Harold teases, coming to stand on the other side of Kenning. He reaches out to help as well, but upon seeing his son’s anxiousness, he backs off. “In any case, it’s about time you showed up; happy birthday, kid.”

“Here I was worried you wouldn’t even show up… where have you been all day?” Terra comes stepping out of the small gathering of heroes in civilian clothing, sounding just a bit irritated, but she’s definitely worried above all else. “Did you forget that it’s your birthday or something?”

Kenning gives a halfhearted shrug, sticking close to Aaron’s side. “Sorry, mom,” He says, ducking his head at all the eyes on him. “Didn’t realize this was gonna be such a big… deal.” He gives the airplane themed balloons tied up around the living room a meaningful look, unsure why so many people have shown up for his birthday of all things; usually it’s Aaron getting the special attention from extended family and his parents' friends.

“Aw, come on, kidlet,” One of Harold’s friends- Keith, if Kenning remembers correctly- walks over and ruffles his hair, as if Kenning is still a young kid. “Why so quiet? It’s your sweet sixteen, right? Chin up, buckaroo!”

“I’m, uh… I’m fourteen, I think,” Kenning points out, beyond humiliated, especially when everyone bursts into uproarious laughter. “Wh-What is it? What’d I say!?”

“You think? Ha!” Keith loses it, patting Kenning just a little too harder on the shoulder, which wouldn’t be so bad if Keith didn’t have superhuman strength as one of his powers. “Aw, kid… you’re such an oddball! Gotta love having civvies and kids around!”

Aaron subtly moves between Kenning and Keith, aware of how uncomfortable his younger brother is. “Hey, uh, Uncle Keith, how ‘bout I show you all the new mods my dad put on his old car out back? He’s done a lot of improvements on it since you last visited!”

That catches Keith’s interest, the hero immediately ignoring Kenning in favor of his friend's more interesting child. “Really now? Sounds interesting, junior!”

Aaron flashes Kenning a sorry look, patting him on the head as he begins leading Keith and most of the other grown men into the backyard. “Sorry, Kenny… don’t worry, I’ll be back inside in time for presents!” He promises, but he’s soon lost to the crowd of burly men. Kenning feels sick watching his older brother leave him alone, wishing the man would stick around to provide moral support, but he supposes this will be better than being surrounded by his dad’s friends all night.

Unfortunately, with all husbands and male adults outside, the wives and female adults rush Kenning like a pack of wildebeest, fussing over him like a doll or something of that nature. “Aww, just look at how much she’s grown!” Aunt Mary coos, holding Kenning by the chin to better look at his face. “Oh, Terra, she looks so much like you, nearly all grown up!”

Kenning huffs, trying to avert his eyes, but it’s hard with someone holding his chin. “I’m… I-I’m a boy, Auntie Mary.” He mutters under his breath, feeling like a little kid all over again.

Mary looks annoyed by the reminder, but the scowl Terra is sending her way keeps the woman from saying anything too negative. “Well… I suppose you are, at least until you get through this phase of yours,” She says, obviously not believing that she has a second nephew for one second. “Maybe soon you’ll get a nice boyfriend, and you’ll stop acting so boyish!”

“He is a boy, sis,” Terra reminds her sister, continuing to scowl at Aunt Mary and the other women surrounding Kenning. “Anyone want hot chocolate? I made my homemade recipe a bit before everyone showed up.”

Everyone brightens up at that news, even Kenning. “Really?” Aunt Jane asks, giving Terra an excited grin. “Oh, how lovely! You make the most delectable sweets, lil' sis!”

The gathered women quickly scuttle into the kitchen, leaving Kenning to straighten out his clothes and squirm in discomfort. Terra lets them all charge past her, before making her way over to Kenning. Delicately, with a tenderness only a mother can have, she straightens Kenning’s shirt for him, offering him a smile when he meets her eyes. “Sorry about all the fussing, honey… you know how your aunts can be, once they see a kid,” She chuckles then, shaking her head. “Though, I suppose you won’t be a kid for much longer… you really have grown so much since you were born, you're already taller than me!”

“I mean, I’d hope I would’ve grown,” Kenning has no problem playfully teasing his mother, having a much less volatile relationship with her than he does with his father. “Can I, uh, ask why you and dad threw me a surprise party? Usually it’s Aaron having these kinda big events.”

Terra looks away, her expression almost mournful. “Well… I guess we felt bad, for not having more exciting parties when you were little. Aaron suggested it, actually.”

Kenning wants to scowl, but refrains from doing so. “Of course he did,” He mutters, giving the staircase a longing look. “Is anyone upstairs? I really wanna change out of these clothes… was kind of a long walk home.”

Terra shakes her head, stepping aside so Kenning can run upstairs. “Nope, not that I know of. Go ahead, I’ll keep the girls distracted,” She laughs again, ruffling Kenning’s hair. “Must feel so manly, getting swarmed by all the ladies.”

Kenning rolls his eyes at his mother’s teasing. “Oh yeah, mom. ‘Cus I just love getting my cheeks pinched by Aunt Deneese the minute I get home.” He jogs past her to get upstairs, racing towards his room.

To Kenning’s immense gratefulness, there’s no little kids screwing around in his room, which is an honest to god blessing; he’s experienced too many family/hero gatherings that resulted in everyone dumping their kids in his bedroom. Shutting and locking the door behind him, Kenning undoes his bandana and throws it onto the nearest chair, following suit with his sweatshirt. He hesitates, considering his options. Usually, Kenning ditches his binder once he gets home, as after ten hours it can get pretty exhausting to wear… but he really doesn’t want any of his extended family members seeing his chest bulge at all, especially when almost all of them still don’t think he’s a real man. As a result, Kenning leaves his binder on, throwing on a worn out T-shirt and one of his favorite hoodies; he’s going to need all the warmth he can get, as Harold likes leaving the AC on, especially this late into summer. It also doesn’t help that people are definitely going to be walking in and out of the backyard during the party, wanting to check out Harold’s toolshed and equipment.

His upper torso dressed, Kenning kicks off his sweatpants, replacing them with jeans. Again, he’d usually where something else, like shorts or something, but he wants to keep up his appearance with visitors over. Feeling much more comfortable, Kenning let’s out a sigh of relief, trying to hype himself up before he goes back outside. He absolutely despises these sorts of events, no matter how often they happen at his house, but there’s no getting out of this. Kenning would much rather ditch and visit Mr. Hattington or something, but again, he doesn’t want to embarrass his parents… especially Harold. Shivering, he shakes his head. It’s going to be okay; it’s his birthday for crying out loud! Kenning manages a smile at that, excited at the prospect of what he might get. He hopes Aaron pulled through, and managed to convince his parents to get him some more video games!

Biting back his desire to crawl under the bed and disappear from existence, Kenning finally exits his bedroom, only to run right into Harold, which sends Kenning falling backwards to the floor from the impact. “Oof! Watch where you’re going, Ken,” The father scolds, helping Kenning to his feet a moment later. He scowls somewhat at his son, clearly irritated. “Come on, kid, you know we’ve got people over; knock before you open any damn doors!”

“Yes, sir. I’m very sorry, it won't happen again.” Kenning says, eyes downcast. To his thankfulness, no one else is upstairs, so no one has to see him getting in trouble.

Harold huffs, tempted to say something more, but he’s more careful than that. Sighing, he ruffles Kenning’s wild hair, which catches the teenager off-guard. “It’s fine, kid… head on downstairs, we’re gonna do presents soon.”

Kenning nods, hurrying back downstairs. Unfortunately for him, he gets spooked a third time in one day- his doctor might need to increase his anti-anxiety dosage soon- as he nearly slams into Aaron. Aaron stops just short of tackling his brother, the tall blond smiling sheepishly at his younger brother as he steps back a few paces. “Sorry, Kenny,” He apologizes, stepping aside so Kenning and him can continue down the staircase side by side. “Ma told me to come get you; we’re doing presents now!”

Kenning offers a nervous smile, internally praying it doesn’t make him look creepy or anything. “Awesome.” He mutters, not nearly as enthusiastic as Aaron.

“Aw, chin up, lil’ bro!” Aaron suggests, patting Kenning on the shoulder a few times. “This is gonna be your best birthday ever, I promise!”

Kenning continues to merely smile, giving a weak nod as he allows Aaron to lead him into the kitchen, where all of his relatives and his parents' friends have gathered. Most of them appear bored, obviously only here to either please or just to hang out with Terra and Harold. “Happy birthday, kid! You excited to finally be fourteen? Only four more years and you’ll be eighteen!” Uncle Freddy shouts, trying to hype up the crowd a bit, as the mood is rather somber despite the uplifting decorations.

Uncle Kyle joins in. “Hell yeah! And then only three more years after that and you’ll be gettin’ drunk with the rest of us!” He adds, which earns a chorus of excited cheers from the other men.

Aunt Mary rolls her eyes at the men’s shouting. “Hush now, boys. I swear, it’s your bolstering that’s making her think she’s-”

“-Mary, we’ve talked about this,” Terra snaps, cutting in before Aunt Mary can make things worse. Terra smiles at Kenning, tilting her head as she lays a gentle hand on his cheek, looking deeply into the boy’s glowing eyes… Kenning shivers, unnerved. “You have such beautiful eyes, son… you’re going to grow into a fine young man, I just know it.”

“Think we oughta just get to the gifts already, hun,” Harold suggests, arms crossed as he stares Kenning down; he always hates it when his youngest son gets complimented on his eyes, something that’s always puzzled Kenning, but again, the boy chalks it up to Harold just not liking him. “Come on and have a seat, son. Which one you wanna open first?”

Kenning takes a seat at the kitchen table, biting back a huff when Aaron slaps a pointed, rainbow party hat onto his head. He looks over the contents of the kitchen table, finding a large sum of birthday presents that would put Dudley Dursley’s birthday haul to shame; just one of the perks of being raised by superheroes, he supposes. Although, Kenning internally sighs, aware that a majority of these things are going to be stuff he doesn’t want or doesn’t really have an interest in. Catching onto how bored everyone else is, Kenning finally picks up one of the boxes- a box wrapped all blue with a bright green bow- before reading the label to see who it’s from. As expected, it’s from one of his uncles. Careful not to seem too hyper or childish, Kenning carefully unwraps the present, pushing aside the paper wrapping before opening the box. Inside, he finds a copy of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ alongside a movie adaptation of the novel.

“That’s a real good one!” Uncle Kyle promises, ruffling Kenning’s hair. “Don’t know if schools are still making you kids read it, but any young man oughta give it a read! Trust me, junior, you’ll love it!”

Kenning smiles at his uncle, not having the heart to point out that he’s already read the book and watched the movie. “Thanks, Uncle Kyle, I really appreciate it! I'll make sure to start reading it as soon as I can."

Uncle Kyle nods, before getting elbowed out of the way by an eager Aunt Mary. “Here, open this one next!” She urges, her phone at the ready to record Kenning’s reaction. “Go on, sweetie! Open it up!”

Kenning hesitates, aware of how transphobic his aunt has been acting all day… he has a bad feeling about this. “Um… thank you, Aunt Mary.” He mumbles, quickly opening the present so he can get this over with.

Immediately, the contents have Kenning recoiling, finding an admittedly very cute dress inside, alongside a make-up case. “Isn’t it the cutest little thing? Why not try it on, love? I made sure to get it in your favorite color; baby blue!” Aunt Mary says, and although she doesn’t sound malicious, it’s obvious that she’s doing this more for herself than for Kenning.

“Maybe later, Mary,” Harold offers, forcing Aunt Mary to step aside so she’ll stop crowding his youngest son. Once she’s out of earshot, the father whispers some reassurance to a clearly uncomfortable Kenning. “It’ll be alright, champ… we’ll throw it out once she leaves, okay? You don't even gotta try it on."

Kenning just nods, gulping as he sets the dress aside. The next couple of presents are as boring or predictable as expected, most of the adults either getting Kenning books that he’s already read/that they enjoy, or feminine clothing. By the end of the gift session, Kenning feels drained, and admittedly a bit disappointed. Just as everyone is about to leave the room, Aaron hands the last two gifts to his brother. “Here ya go, bro! Last two!” He cheers, sounding excited in particular about one of them.

Kenning legitimately smiles this time, eyeing the first one handed to him, seeing that it’s from his parents and brother. He shreds it open, no longer caring about the eyes on him, and he grins excitedly as he pulls out a handful of video games. “Thanks, mom! Thanks, dad!” He says, mindful to give Aaron a quick hug as well. “And thank you too, dude!”

“No problem, little man! Happy birthday!” Aaron is just as excited as Kenning, if not more, but to Kenning’s confusion, he keeps giving the last unopened present a cautious look. “Um, about that last one… that’s not from anyone here. No return address either.”

The room goes deathly quiet. Everyone here is involved in superhero business in some way- either marrying or being born into it- so to receive an unidentified package… Harold takes the box off the table, setting it on the kitchen floor. A few of the other heroes step up, examining the box very careful. One woman in particular- Aunt Wanda- uses her x-ray vision to look into the box. Whatever it is shocks her, the woman quite clearly confused. “Huh… seems safe.” She says, careful to not give away what’s inside.

“Well? What is it, Wanda?” Terra asks, having positioned herself to stand in front of Kenning, just in case there’s a bomb in the box.

“It’s still a surprise, Terra,” Aunt Wanda points out, giving Kenning a mischievous grin. “Go on, honey… open your last birthday present. Looks like you’ve got a fan.”

Kenning hesitates, but knows better than to disobey an adult’s order. He takes a seat on the kitchen floor, sitting cross legged in front of the gift. Again, he’s unsure, but with a nod from everyone else in the room, he picks up the birthday card that’s been left on top of the box. It’s very simple, just an average ‘Happy 14th Birthday!’ in comic sans, with a cartoon snake wearing a party hat wiggling beneath the letters. Opening the card doesn’t offer many clues, Kenning finding about three-hundred dollars in cash, with a messy, nearly illegible signature in cursive at the bottom corner of the card. Well, no point in stalling. Setting the card aside, Kenning finally addresses the mysterious present in question, finding the gift to be a large box, wrapped in purely black gift wrap, oddly enough, and with a bright red bow on top. Out of the corner of his eye, Kenning can see Terra and Harold standing closer together, Harold appearing completely dumbfounded while Terra… she looks like she knows exactly who it’s from, and she isn’t happy about it.

With a fearful gulp, Kenning rips off the bow and wrapping paper, opening the box to find… huh? He pulls a face, completely and utterly confused by the surplus of packing peanuts. Is this a joke? He digs around through the packing peanuts, before finally unearthing… another box. This gets a nervous chuckle out of the crowd, no one sure what to do. Who the hell sent this? A sadist? A distant cousin? Both!? Kenning has lost his patience at this point, not bothering to be slow as he opens the smaller box, but instead of more packing peanuts, he’s finally rewarded for his efforts. His eyes widen to the size of saucers, a huge grin on his face. With Kenning holding the newly acquired gift to his chest, no one can tell what he got. A few of the adults try peeking over his shoulder, or crouching down to his level, but no one can get a good enough angle to see whatever it is that Kenning's got. This mysteriousness, alongside Kenning now beginning to giggle, has everyone justifiably confused, the gathered heroes unsure what the joke is here.

“So, Kenny? What’d you get?” Aaron asks, aware that he’s the most likely candidate for Kenning to tell.

Kenning laughs a little harder, holding up… a SNAKE!?

Immediately, Aunt Mary faints, falling onto Aunt Deneese, who falls down as well under her sister-in-law’s weight. There’s a small panic, as everyone begins bombarding each other with questions. Who the fuck got him a snake? How’d it not suffocate? Who’s idea was this!? At the very least, Kenning seems pleased, smiling like an excited little kid as his newfound snake slithers up his arm, coiling up into a neat little pile on the boy’s shoulder. Aaron is also excited, having a great love for animals of all kinds, so he makes kissy noises at the small reptile, only for the snake to try and bite him. The older brother recoils at once, eyes wide, before he laughs at the snake’s fussiness, finding it amusing. Terra and Harold, in the meantime, are reacting very differently. Harold looks just plain confused, unsure of how to react, while Terra glares wholeheartedly at the small snake, not the least bit happy about it being here.

“She’s so cute, Kenny,” Aaron exclaims, and again, he tries to reach out to pet the animal, but the snake just tries biting him again, almost… snarling? “Oh, geez! Hahaha, looks like she only likes you, bro!”

“Yeah… they’re so cool!” Kenning agrees, holding up his other hand to the snake. To his amazement, the snake crawls right into his open palm, nuzzling his thumb lovingly. “This is so freaking awesome! I’ve always wanted a snake, too!” He looks around, smiling at everyone. “Thank you to whoever got them for me; I love them!”

“Um… did you get him that? Because I don’t remember agreeing to this,” Harold whispers to his wife, still baffled by all that’s occurred. Suddenly, he pales, aware of a possibility. “Do you think it’s from-”

“-Yep,” Terra pops the word out, tone irritated. “My question is, why would you-know-who get him something now? You’d think it would be on a more memorable birthday, like his thirteenth or sixteenth, and that's considering the possibility that he even cares…”

“No kidding,” Harold agrees, sticking his hands in his pockets. “So… what should we do? Much as I hate the idea of him getting anything from his da- you-know-who, it seems a tad cruel to take it away when Kenning already likes it so much… damn, he's good! Must've known it would go down like this.”

Terra nods, tilting her head in thought. She locks eyes with the little snake, eyes widening when it seems to… wink at her? She huffs, scowling at the little monster. “Honestly, I don’t know… we’ll keep an eye on it, make sure it doesn’t hurt him. For now, we shouldn’t let anyone know who it’s from… follow my lead,” Putting on an award winning smile, she crouches on the other side of Kenning, careful to make sure the snake can’t crawl onto her, not that it seems interested in anyone but her son. “Do you like her, Kenny? Me and your father know you’ve been wanting a pet, and we thought a snake would be a good fit for you, considering your busy schedule with school… what’re you gonna name her, son?”

Kenning grins, looking touched that his parents have finally gotten him a pet; he and Aaron have been begging to have a pet for years, so to finally get one is a huge surprise! “I love her so much, mom! Thank you,” He goes to hug his mother, but as the snake is still in his hands, he settles for giving her a kiss on the cheek instead. “Gosh, she’s so cool… I think I’ve got the perfect name for her, too!”

“Oh yeah? What’s her name, champ?” Uncle Kyle, thankfully, is taking this all pretty well, offering his nephew a wide and excited smile.

“I think I’ll call her… Lil’ Jack!”