Ah, so it’s his old nemesis again.
Ike stared at his opponent with half horror and half determination. It was definitely days like these that he lamented no longer living with his parents.
Particularly, he regretted moving into this shitty rundown apartment on the first floor of a shitty and rundown building. Not that having his own apartment didn’t have its perks; the rent was cheap, and he finally had the independence he’d always dreamed of. So, usually it didn't bother him, but today it was definitely a toss-up as to whether he regretted growing up at all.
The squeak of his nemesis brought him back to the time at hand, and Ike jumped nearly a foot in the air when the critter scuttled to one side of his closet to hide behind a box.
The shoe he held felt too weak to battle it.
Where had all of his youthful strength gone? He was only twenty. He should be able to easily battle and defeat the creature of nightmares before him.
He never recalled fearing them as a child. He'd even eaten one on a particularly ill-conceived day in his past.
It was knowledge, he realized. The knowledge that one gains as an adult that lists all the dangerous diseases these critters are known to carry. Knowledge held within things, like that article he had read, about a person getting half eaten alive in their sleep by an overly zealous group of them.
As a child, he could face them without fear.
As an adult, he thought of how every bit of his independence would be ripped from him if his mother ever caught wind of a disease passed to him from some vermin.
And how was he going to smoosh the damn rat with his shoe if it persisted in hiding behind his, as of yet, unpacked goods? God, his room was a nightmare.
There could be dozens of them hidden in the clutter. He could be surrounded by a hundred tiny eyes. He shuddered.
He needed a hero.
The sliding glass door that led to his balcony opened.
If Ike had jumped a foot in the air in response to the squeaking menace of his nightmares, he jumped at least a yard while whirling to see who had broken into his apartment.
Oh god his apartment was getting broken into.
He was going to die, and it was all the rats fault somehow, he was pretty damn sure of that. And, oh god, he should have never agreed to live on the first floor. Why had he left the sliding glass door unlocked? What kind of idiot was he?!
"Please don't scream."
The voice was gravely, out of breath, and most importantly sounded as panicked as Ike felt. It oddly calmed him. Letting someone else be the panicked one was easy for him. That's how he handled his older brother all the time.
He held his shoe threateningly at the figure, voice far more level than he thought he'd manage, "Who are yo--"
He couldn't even finish the question.
The dude was decked out in a mask. With a cape. A cape . Oh man, shit, he had blood dripping from his exposed flesh too.
The guy smiled in an awkward and small way, trying to seem a far bit more harmless than he probably was. "Some bad men are after me. I can't let them catch me, not tonight. I know it's a lot to ask but could you please let me hide in here for just a short while?"
Ike measured his options. This guy was clearly trouble. This was a terrible idea. What if the bad people followed him here? Ike most certainly did not want to be involved in some wannabe superheroes bullshit.
On the other hand... his eyes lowered to the shoe still trapped his grip.
"On one condition."
The guy brightened. Clearly, he'd expected Ike to do the logical thing and kick him to the curb. "What is it?"
He handed the shoe over and the man accepted it with puzzlement. "There's a rat hiding in my closet. Get rid of it. I don't care how." he thought about the dozens of tiny eyes, "And clean my apartment."
"That's two conditions." Wonder Tights pointed out unhelpfully, Ike crossed his arms.
"Then we'll see how you fair knocking on my neighbor’s window. Friendly warning, she does not like... well, anyone."
"Alright! Jeez... you don't hold back at all, do you?"
Ike cocked his head up to look a part more arrogant than he truly was. Acting was half the battle, after all. "This coming from Captain Underpants?"
The man frowned but seemed to concede that yes, he wasn't in a position to talk.
He looked about ready to get to work but Ike shook his head and forced him to sit on the desk chair.
"We're not going to get very far cleaning if you're bleeding on everything. Sit there a minute, I'll find you a towel. Take a damn shower and bandage yourself up, dude."
It was a strange mixture of offense and gratefulness in the masked face, Ike shrugged it off.
"You're oddly professional about this."
Mysterion, as he'd introduced himself after showering and changing, had kept the mask but accepted the loaned clothes. He shrugged as he worked, "I used to work as a housekeeper."
"For real?" Ike remembered his parents hiring one at some point, it was an elderly lady with three children that loved to pinch his cheeks. Mysterion didn't really fit the bill.
"For real." Mysterion echoed with some humor in the tone.
Ike wondered idly how pissed Kyle was going to be that the clothes he'd left here were going to have some blood stains. Some of the bandages had bled through a bit onto the fabric. Not enough to be exceptionally concerning, but enough to paint Philip's face red.
"So, superhero work is...?"
Mysterion looked almost thoughtful as he gathered a load of discarded dishes for scrubbing. "A hobby I guess?"
"Oh. So, what do you do for work then?"
Mysterion gave him a nonplussed look, "Secret identities are secret because people don't share shit like that."
Ike snorted, "I think it's pretty clear that I don't give a fuck who you are."
"Fair enough," Mysterion agreed, turning on the water, "I'm a kindergarten teacher."
Ike actually choked on his coffee, prepared earlier by the attentive superhero. "You're a what ?"
Mysterion laughed and seemed to have dropped a bit of the growl he'd been using to disguise his voice. Although, Ike still had a feeling he wasn't listening to the guys real voice. And Broflovski intuition was rarely wrong.
"Is it that surprising?"
"I should think. I can certainly say I would never have expected my kindergarten teacher to run around at night playing superhero and hiding from goons in stranger’s apartments."
"I'm not really playing superhero." Mysterion amended.
"Supervillain then?" Ike pressed.
Mysterion turned off the faucet, beginning to dry the dishes like a pro. Ike wondered if he'd also worked in the service industry.
"No. Just... sometimes shit happens and the law either can't or won't do jackshit about it. And clearly, I can't be showing my face to creeps that would beat me this bad," he gestured to the splots of red that decorated what had been Kyle’s favorite shirt. RIP. "So the costume seemed like the best bet. Besides, what did you think when you saw it?"
"...That you were an idiot who didn’t know how to put on his underwear?"
That earned him another laugh. "Exactly. Underestimation."
Mysterion was looking a little cooler in Ike's eyes but hell if he would ever admit to that. Guy was still way too ridiculous for words.
"So, you're a caped crusader by night and a kiddy teacher during the day? Anything else interesting?" Ike wouldn't ask so much, but partial curiosity and boredom had him inquiring. He didn't want to get lost watching Youtube videos while a stranger traipsed around his apartment but that left very little to do but socialize.
"Uhh... not really?" Mysterion was actually thinking about it, he seemed to have guessed the motivations. Ike thought perhaps the guy had a younger sibling, he gave off the universal 'older sibling' vibe that was super obnoxious. "Leading the boring bachelors life at the moment."
"Hmm..." The beginnings of an idea formed in Ike's head at the knowledge, "You're like, gay or bi or something, right?"
Mysterion almost dropped the plate he was drying as he turned to offer Ike a hard stare in response to the blunt statement. He found words momentarily, but not before giving Ike the disappointed look he probably gave his kindergartners and probable younger sibling. "Was it the tights? Did they give me away?"
"A little, yeah."
Mysterion shook his head in disbelief, "I mean, it's not a secret or anything, but geez, you're one blunt kid. I swear, I really can't predict what you're going to throw at me next."
Ike didn't smile, his face was a careful facade of cool and collected. Inwardly, he enjoyed that effect he had on people. Being the unreadable sort was an entertainment of its own.
"So, how about taking my brother out? He's gay, single, has a thing for teachers, and is currently being super annoying about his lack of action." It was clear where Ike's motivation was.
It was no small amount of joy Ike obtained as he watched the would-be hero actually drop the plate he was holding, as he tried to catch up with wherever the hell it was that Ike was taking this conversation. It had been well worth it. He liked watching the guy try and collect himself, more than once, before picking up the luckily unharmed plate and placing it back in the sink to rewash. Definitely service industry.
"I honestly can't tell if you're punking me or if you're serious. And... I'm actually not sure which option is scarier."
Ike did allow a smirk to crawl onto his face, "All of it should terrify you."
Yeah, this would-be superhero nut would make a great pair with his anal-retentive grandpa of a brother. Ike was partially--mostly--entirely motivated by how amusing it sounded, but he'd keep that to himself. He was pretty sure Mysterion had noticed that anyway.
"I am not going to go on a blind date with your brother." Mysterion returned to cleaning, "I did say I was enjoying the bachelor life, right?"
"No, you said it was boring." Winning an argument against Ike was usually a futile effort. He had an exceptional memory for what people had actually said, not what they thought they said. His voice was also quite convincing by nature, even when he was only spouting complete bullshit.
"Well, I meant to say I'm also single by choice . I could have any chick or dude I desire, I just don't want anyone right now."
Ike gave him a long and upsetting once over, "Sure." He said plainly.
Well, he’d finally managed to drag out the man’s true voice in the horror-filled gasp that followed, Ike was positive. " Excuse you , I don't need some pint-sized brat’s opinion. I will have you know that among my age group I'm quite a catch, thank you ."
"I might hate you. No, scratch that, I definitely hate you." Mysterion's voice was broken as he swept the floor. Ike marveled at how the guy could keep arguing about this supposed hatred while continuing to clean the apartment without complaint. It had probably been long enough for him to have made a clean escape, but instead he earnestly and honestly kept at the job.
For the first time, Ike wondered if the guy might actually be a good fit for his brother. Huh, maybe he was actually being helpful. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
"And what is your age group?" If Mysterion was smart, he wouldn't answer that.
"Twenty-five--" Like fish in a barrel. Sometimes it was easy being Ike.
"Same age as my brother then! Since you're such a catch, you're sure to charm him." It was a talent to be able to say exclamation marks in monotone.
Mysterion's gaze was aged by a few more years. Ike did that to people. He took joy in doing so. It was a talent. He sipped his coffee loudly.
"Yeah. I don't want you for a brother in-law. Period."
While there was probably no one on this earth that did, Ike still felt prickles of joy at the statement. It was such a beautiful opening. He couldn't have set it better himself.
"Already looking towards marriage? Wow, I didn't know you were already so invested in my brother."
The groan that escaped Mysterion probably took some of his soul with it.
The bell jingled signaling a customer’s entrance. Karen barely looked up from what she was doing to see the familiar head of red making his way inside.
"Kyle! It's so good to see you, have a seat over there and I'll be right with you."
It wasn’t more than a few seconds before she'd finished the cursory cleanup of equipment and utilities. After she was done she bustled over to the boy who sat patiently in the waiting chairs.
"What can I do for you today? The usual or are we going to try something exciting?"
Kyle feigned hurt, "Are you saying my normal hair is boring?"
Her eyes twinkled as she guided him to the waiting chairs, "Not at all, you know that my philosophy is that everything can be more exciting."
He chuckled in response and she eased at the sound, it was sometimes a toss-up whether this customer was taking actual offense at her teases or just playing into it. She ought to be more careful with her words, but it just wasn't in her character.
The chuckle was sincere though and she began prepping for his normal treatments to manage the fiery curls that ruled his head. It was a slow day and she didn't have anyone else lined up so she could take her time.
She liked to take her time with Kyle. He was a real nice guy. The type of guy she wished Kenny would date instead of the string of one-night stands and unfortunate human beings.
"So, anything new I should know about?" Karen asked conversationally as she gathered the products and scissors.
Kyle's sigh was a tad older than she wanted him to sound, she debated ways to pep him up even before he'd described the problem, "My little brother is trying to set me up with some guy I've never met. He won't even tell me a name just 'trust me, you'll like him'. I'm honest to god not sure if he's actually trying to set me up on a date or mess with me."
Karen frowned, unable to restrain herself, "No fair!"
There was a layer of confusion over her client, "No fair?" he questioned.
"I wanted to set you up with my older bro." Karen bemoaned. It was never a skill of hers to keep her thoughts to herself, "You're such a catch and you two would be such a cute couple!"
Kyle was caught halfway between laughing and blushing, she recalled that he was bad with compliments and the diabolical part of her mind plotted.
"What the hell is with everyone trying to set me up...?" he finally managed.
"Well, I can't speak for your brother," her smile was probably more mischievous than she should allow it but holding a poker face just wasn't her thing. She fussed with his hair to distract him, "But I just think it's unfortunate that a guy as amazing as yourself is on the market. I know that's probably your choice and all, but you totally deserve a dashing guy to make everything a bit more exciting, don’cha think?"
She could totally play on his ego.
He was a shade significantly redder than he’d been when he'd entered the establishment.
"It wouldn't hurt..." He agreed weakly. Oh, she totally had him, take that Kyle's brother. Clearly, he was new to the matchmaker game. She was going to own that brat.
Karen was a little competitive.
"Great! When are you available?"
"When are you available? For a date, silly!"
Kyle realized too late that he'd more or less inadvertently agreed to the date when he'd went and agreed to his worthiness of happiness. Karen knew that her sweet looking face would do the rest.
People had a hard time going back on their word with her even when they hadn't intended to give it. She was so not above taking advantage of that.
"F-Friday I guess?" Kyle answered, mind clearly trying to find an out that wasn't there. She'd already begun to work her magic on his hair and they both knew that meant no escape until it was over.
"That's awesome! I'll let him know."
Kyle frowned at his reflection, "Does your brother even want to go on a date?"
"He will." She promised sweetly, and Kyle was probably to some extent made aware of how terrifying she truly was.
"Great..." He sounded like he'd swallowed a slug.
She giggled, "Think of it this way, now you have an excuse you can use to reject your brother’s proposal! You know I wouldn't dare just send you on a prank date, so that's not a concern, and I'm really sure you two would like each other!"
The thought settled in Kyle's head and he relaxed a little into the chair. "You know, you're right. I definitely trust you more than Ike and now I don't have to go out with mystery-man kindergarten teacher."
Karen shook her head in disapproval, wagging a finger, "Don't knock kindergarten teachers! I'll have you know my brother is one too."
"Seriously?" Kyle's face relaxed as he let out a disbelieving laugh, "What are the chances of that? Do I have a sign on me that says, 'set me up with kindergarten teachers'?"
Karen actually considered this. Kyle was a soft person with a kind disposition and a healthy paycheck, working in law in an attempt to better humanity. There wasn't anything that said that in particular, but a teacher did sound like a nice fit.
She decided to just shrug in response, "I'll call it a coincidence at this point. If you get hooked up with a third one though I'm going to start asking questions."
That earned her the laugh she'd been gunning for and she relaxed into her job, getting little pieces of information about Kyle's life and relaxing him into the careful styling he preferred.
"...Who the hell are you and why are you on my balcony?"
The sigh was tired in a way that Kyle found uncomfortably familiar and Kyle suddenly had an inkling as to why the masked man was standing on the second-floor balcony of his apartment while brandishing a dead look.
"Your... younger brother. Ike." Yeah, Kyle could see the symptoms of an Ike victim miles away, "I kind of owe him, well, he's sort of blackmailing me, but that's beside the point. He got uppity that you refused to go out with me." The man cringed at how that sounded, "And so he figured the best way to get back at your, and I quote, 'scheming and manipulative hairdresser' is to have me come sweep you off your feet the night before your big date."
Kyle couldn't even be mad. Sure, the guy looked somewhat ridiculous on his balcony wearing a mask and hood, but he was well aware how persuasive his younger brother could be. He breathed out his own thousand-year sigh and turned around. "Come on in, I'll make you some coffee."
"Do you have tea?" The man requested meekly, clearly feeling more than a little awkward given the circumstances.
Kyle nodded in response, briefly gesturing for his mystery guest to sit at the table while he got to work. "So, what's your name?"
The man looked all the more uncomfortable, "Mysterion."
Kyle leveled him with a look , "Really?"
'Mysterion' shrugged weakly, "It's kind of a long story."
Kyle mulled this over while he placed the generic brand generic tea in front of his guest, putting his own coffee across the table. "Well, what the hell else are we supposed to talk about?"
Mysterion adjusted his jeans as though he expected there to be something there that wasn't. He was momentarily taken aback before he caught himself, feeling awkward. "That's true enough..."
"We'll start with something easy then, how did you meet my brother?"
The pained look told him that it was somewhat complicated, but he obliged, "Do you know the First Street gang?"
"The ones on the news lately?"
Mysterion nodded, "Well, they were trying to recruit kids from my neighborhood. Uh, one of my students actually had an older sibling get successfully grabbed." He looked so uncomfortable talking about it that he sipped the tea and couldn't hide the disgust he had.
"What flavor is this?"
Kyle shrugged, "Uh... tea flavor?"
"Ah, that explains it." Mysterion frowned at his glass and Kyle felt somewhat offended at the picky guest but he sipped again nonetheless so Kyle forgave it.
"What does a gang picking up kids have to do with my brother?" Kyle was completely confident that Ike wasn’t involved in gang activity. Ninety percent sure. Somewhere in eighty percent sure. He was at least fifty percent sure that the boy wouldn't be able to hide it.
"I, um, went out to try and put a stop to it."
"You're a vigilante." Kyle surmised, actually feeling some level of intrigue for the mystery man develop. Even if the mask was still kind of ridiculous.
Mysterion didn't look terribly pleased about it but continued, "More or less. I bit off a bit more than I could chew, and I needed to hide out for a bit and your brother was..." He struggled, he really struggled, it was apparent in every inch of his face the quantity of detail he wasn't going to admit, "...kind enough to hide me."
Kyle considered this, a mystery clicking into place within his mind. "You're the reason his apartment was actually clean when I went over."
Oh god, only Ike would pull something like that.
"I'll have a talk with him." Kyle rubbed his forehead, what the hell was his brother doing? "Sorry about that, and this for that matter."
Mysterion actually laughed a little and it was a clear and light sound, Kyle liked it. "This is actually not as bad as I thought to be honest. I half expected an older version of Ike to monotone me to death."
That made him smile a little, usually when he was compared to his younger brother it wasn't as the better of the two. "Glad to see you're not dying then."
"It's actually quite nice." Mysterion's face eased into a smile that Kyle begrudgingly admitted was a bit handsome. "If I didn't have a date tomorrow, I'd see if you wanted to go on an actual date instead of whatever the hell this is."
Kyle shook his head in disbelief, "You have a boyfriend and you let Ike talk you into this?"
"Nah, believe it or not I actually got set up on another blind date. This one I'm pretty optimistic about though, apparently it's a hot lawyer."
Somewhere the back of Kyle's mind was making connections but that was ridiculous. The world wasn't that small.
"I'm actually a lawyer." He said easily, going to refill his coffee.
He was treated with a disbelieving laugh from the vigilante. "I'm going on two dates with hot lawyers this week, hot damn. What are the chances?"
Kyle snorted, hoping that the warmth in his face wasn't as pronounced as it felt, "Please, flattery will get you nowhere. I really don't have any other tea."
This seemed to please his guest all the more, he was smiling in an easy way while resting his face in the palm of his hand, "What if it's just honesty?"
Kyle refused to admit his weakness for upfront flattery. Especially from smooth operators like this one. It was good that he was going out with Karen's brother tomorrow. A kindergarten teacher sounded nice and boring. Not some vigilante who was a bit unfairly handsome and good at delivering killer lines.
"Then I would suggest you get your eyes checked." Ah, the eyes were blue, he just noticed. They were twinkling in a way similar to Karen's. That combination of mischief and enjoyment in one.
He liked it.
He wouldn't admit to it but he almost, almost , lamented that he'd rejected this not-date in exchange for Karen's brother tomorrow.
The good news was this guy had someone else he was more interested in anyway. It was doomed to always be nothing between them.
The night was cut short after only another cup. "I have to get my beauty sleep for the kids. You don't understand, five-year-olds will literally eat you alive if you give them an inch."
Kyle believed it. He bid the guy adieu on his balcony and, even if only for a moment, wondered about what could have been.
No. Fucking. Way.
Kenny actually dropped the cup of proper tea he had raised to his mouth. Luck was on his side because it didn’t tip over and spill, instead landing neatly back onto the table.
It was just supposed to be a casual meet up at a Starbucks. If they liked each other they could go to dinner, if they hated each other they'd call it an early night.
But there was Kyle Broflovski, Ike's older brother, walking into the establishment texting him; ‘I'm here’, before looking about with a bit of anxiety splaying over those cheeks.
"No freaking way..." he checked his phone to confirm before weakly waving the man over. Kyle looked a bit relieved that he hadn’t been stood up and made his way over.
"Sorry that I'm late. Work ran a bit over." his smile was anxious but light as he presented a hand for shaking, "I'm Kyle Broflovski. You're Karen's brother...?"
Kenny took the hand, acutely aware that he hadn't even bothered with his ‘Mysterion voice’ yesterday. It had been him. All him.
"Kenny McCormick." He got out with a healthy dose of disbelief painting his words.
Kyle's eyes widened in recognition.
Kenny nodded in confirmation, gesturing for Kyle to have a seat.
"Wait, are you really..."
"Siblings, right?" Kenny cut in, not particularly keen on someone talking about his secret alter ego in a public establishment. "What are the actual odds on this? I want to talk to a mathematician."
Kyle nodded in response, eyes still locked on his with shock.
"I want it stated for the record that I had absolutely no idea," Kenny decided it was good to get this in early, "Karen didn't even give me your name. Just said it was a hot lawyer client of hers."
"I really should have put this together." Kyle bemoaned, finally finding his voice, "We both have a blind date the next day? Just happening to share the same professions?"
"In your defense, I didn't figure it out either." Kenny offered, struggling somewhat to find where they should go from here, "I mean there can't be too many attractive lawyers looking for a date, right?"
"You'd be surprised." Kyle replied, probably thinking of his actual coworkers.
Kenny tried a laugh and found it a little stilted. How was the ice harder to break right now than it had been when he'd literally come in through the window?
He had to find some common ground, the mixed emotions and whispers of don't fuck this up ringing through his brain demanded it.
Kenny found it.
"We might need to exact revenge against our siblings." He smiled in a way he knew charmed.
Kyle looked intrigued, "Oh?"
"Yep, this surprise took a few years off my life, holy shit ," Kyle had a sincere laugh for that one, it was a win, "But first, wanna get some dinner?"
Kyle hadn't ordered anything yet and Kenny hadn't finished his tea, but he stood and offered an arm in a gentlemanly way that caused most to swoon.
Kyle coolly declined the arm with a charming smile of his own, Kenny couldn't decide if the guy knew he was stupidly attractive or not, and stood on his own. He placed a guiding hand on the small of Kenny's back.
"Yeah, let's get dinner." Kyle's face was a bit red, but he was making a point, "And afterwards, let's wreck our siblings for this debacle."
He'd found some sibling resemblance between the two, Kyle had him on his toes with the unexpected. But unlike with Ike, it sent a treble of excitement through him.
Someone that didn't immediately fall to his charming tricks was intriguing in a way he hadn't ever thought of before.
Kenny wondered why he was the one left feeling like a good swoon.