You, James Egbert, have always had a strange gift. The gift to see a number above everyone’s head that told you exactly how dangerous they were in regards to you. Most people were a one or two, the rare cop maybe three or four, robber maybe five, and children and some pacifist people even zero. You had lived your life like a normal person, going to school, getting an office job, and just going through life as if you didn't have your power, only ever using it to avoid people who might be toxic one way or another. Your life was happy and you were content with the job you got working in a cubicle next to other cubicles that housed your coworkers inside. Some would say it was boring but you were content even if sometimes you couldn’t help but dream of opening a bakery. Most of your coworkers were ones with maybe a few twos here and there but nothing beyond that.
That is until the new guy came in.
You were about twenty-six or so at the time and had been working at your job for a good nine years so when he came in you had been the one assigned to show him around and help him get accustomed to things, him even being given the cubicle next to you to work in so he could easily ask you for help if he needed it. You were more than open to helping out the guy, remembering how you had been helped when you first got your job here.
When you saw him you weren’t so sure you were open to it anymore.
He was a very tall man with quite a few muscles to say the very least and to say the most he looked like his previous job would’ve been a bodybuilder. The only issue with that was that he only looked about nineteen or maybe twenty. Despite the office building having no dress code most of your coworkers, you included, wore suits and maybe the occasional fedora to work but this man had a white t-shirt with a popped collar and jeans on, his hands in his pockets. On top of that, he had blonde hair styled in a way you couldn’t quite tell from under his grey ballcap. Even weirder he wore some sort of pointy sunglasses on despite you all being indoors at all times while you worked. His face from what you could see of it was very angular and he had an impressive jawline. But none of that was what made you not so sure about your new assignment helping him even if it was all weird and confusing to you.
What made you worry was the number above his head.
It was a ten.
He had ten standing tall and proud above his head and you had never seen anything like it before or even close to it ever before. You had no idea what to do but approach this with extreme caution and care.
“Hello mister…?” “Strider. Though you can call me Bro.” Oh, that is quite the thick Texan accent. “What a… interesting name. Regardless it’s good to meet you. I will be showing you around the office and will be helping you with your duties until you get used to things.” He shrugs and puts his hands in his pockets. “‘Kay, Just so you know I probably won’t be coming to you for much.” Oh, so he’s an arrogant one it seems. Not that he didn’t have the right to be with his rating but this was office work not fighting. You kept your calm though. “Nice confidence. Now to start our tour of the building we should-” “Hey man?” “Mr. Egbert.” “Yeah, whatever. If you don’t mind I’m just gonna explore myself so you can go back to filing reports or whatever it is you do.” Your jaw nearly drops at his words and aloof personality but you again keep your composure. “Yes… Of course… Come see me if you need anything.” You don’t know whether to be glad or not he doesn’t seem to want anything to do with you at all.
Time passes and Bro, true to his word, never comes to see you as you get your work done peacefully. At the same time, however, he doesn’t seem to be doing much actual working, mostly just sitting around or taking ‘breaks’ by standing around with a donut or even worse, flirting with your coworkers. Men and women alike who were just trying to work were subject to him coming up to them without warning and flirting with them. You honestly weren’t sure how he wasn’t fired yet. What was even more baffling however was how often he actually ended up seemingly being successful with your coworkers as long as they were single. Not that he didn’t try to flirt with those with partners he very much did he just had a much lower success rate with them. He almost never landed one of them while the others he almost always did.
It was strange beyond belief to you.
And you still couldn’t figure out how he was rated so highly.
Not once did his ten waver or change and sure he looked strong but he wasn’t aggressive per say as much as he was a flirt and aloof whenever he wasn’t flirting, barely even speaking, and he made no moves to be at all any trouble to anyone beyond being a distraction. He never even spoke to you even to flirt and yet that ten never moved an inch. Never even gave the slightest hint that it was ever going to change.
Before too long you got too curious. It was in your nature really. You had always been the curious kind of guy even if you had learned to keep most of your questions and curiosity to yourself but this was too much. You needed to have at least some sort of idea what made Bro Strider a ten. So you invited him out for dinner, making it clear it was as coworkers and friends even as he smirked at you. You would even say he winked but with his shades you couldn’t tell. He accepted and you set up for the both of you to go out for dinner a week from then. From there he had smirked a bit wider and waved to you as he moved on and you would’ve sworn he winked again. His shades could be frustrating at times with how much they hid from you, the least of all being his eye color.
Before long it was time for the dinner. You didn’t dress up but wore your normal work outfit of a white long sleeve work shirt and black tie along with black pants and your trusty hat. He arrived wearing the same dressed down outfit he had always arrived at work in. You hadn’t gone too fancy with the restaurant either, just a local place you often enjoyed going to. Not top of the line but not fast food either. Average just like a lot of the things in your life. Which you were more than fine with. You both were seated and he ordered a beer while you just asked for some water. The waiter left to let you two look at the menus but he didn’t even pick his up even as you did despite you practically having it memorized due to how often you ate here.
“So are you gonna tell me what we’re here for or what since you insist this isn’t a date.” You can’t tell if he’s joking around, trying to be rude, flirting with you, or genuinely asking and it throws you off a bit but you respond as cooly as you can. “I just wanted to get to know one of my newest coworkers is all. Maybe you could tell me a bit about yourself?” He smirks. “Sure sounds like a date to me so far but sure. Why not. I’m fresh out of college, was raised in Texas for most of my life but moved here for college and now need work experience and found no point in moving back to Texas when I can just get work here fine, I’m twenty-one and I skipped a year back in middle school in order for that to be possible, I’m a Sagittarius, I minored in robotics and majored in web design in college but took a lot of mathematics classes as well, and I’m mostly using this job as a transition to look good on my resume.”
You sit in stunned silence for a moment. You don’t think you’ve ever heard Bro talk this much but it did explain a few things though not a lot and certainly not about what you were really curious about.
“That’s a lot of interesting facts! Any hobbies or anything you enjoy doing in your spare time?” He shrugs at your question. “I mean I guess kinda. I make puppets but it’s mostly for the irony of it and I sword fight but mostly on my own and I don’t have any formal training in it.”
Sword fighting. That might explain it. But if he didn’t have any formal training than how did he get so good that he had a ten above his head? It still didn’t make any sense. “Sword fighting? That certainly seems like an interesting hobby.” “I guess. What about you Mr. Egbert. Anything you do but slave away at your job?” You aren’t expecting the sudden flip over to you but you can’t just brush off his question to keep asking him things without being rude so you stop to answer him. “Well, I bake mostly to pass the time.” “That all?” You nod. “Damn. You need more hobbies man.” You rub your neck. “I am content with my life as it is.” “Sounds boring to me. Need to get a little excitement in there.” His face is as neutral as it ever is when he isn’t flirting but something leads you to believe he actually believes this and is being entirely serious about his words. You don’t really know how to respond.
Luckily the waiter returns with your drinks which helps break the silence before it gets awkward and you both order right afterward. Bro doesn’t take his gaze off you, or at least he doesn’t turn his head to the waiter, as he orders a cheeseburger while you order some spaghetti and meatballs. The cheeseburger has to be the most grease covered thing on the menu and the only thing remotely fast food like but you say nothing.
“So you say you have no formal training with your sword and yet you train with it anyway?” “Yeah I mean I mostly started for irony’s sake but it’s actually pretty cool and it’s cool to be able to fight off others if I need to.” “Have you ever needed to?” “Once or twice. Texas can get pretty mean sometimes.” “As can any town.” You nod but you feel like there’s still something missing. Still, it doesn’t make sense how he’s a ten. But you can’t figure out what else to ask him. Things fall to a silence for a while as you wait for your food and neither of you really talk anymore for a bit. Even when you do talk again it’s just small talk and you don’t get anything out of it.
Somehow you feel as if he’s tricked you like his mind has run miles around your own, but you don’t know what to do about it. Your food comes and the mindless chatter continues with Bro giving aloof and half-assed answers, returning to his barely speaking ways.
Finally, the meal comes to an end and after insisting you pay the bill you offer to walk with Bro home after discovering he walked rather than drove. You had driven but he insisted he walked and you didn’t mind leaving your car there while you walked to Bro’s house with him before returning to it. You weren’t worried about the old car your dad had bought second hand for you getting stolen and besides you figured Bro was at least partially right. You did need to get out more so this was as good of a start into that as any.
Along the way, however, you realized maybe walking home at night wasn’t such a great idea.
Just as you are walking along, still making idle chatter that Bro seems to be getting annoyed with as much as he’s trying to hide his emotions, a man with a gun trained at you both steps out of the shadows. “Hand over whatever valuables you have.” He says in a gruff, clearly forcefully changed voice, keeping his head down so the hood of his black hoodie hides his face from view. Hoping to avoid confrontation you raise your hands and open your mouth to surrender just moments before a blur of speed moves out of the corner of your vision and the next thing you know Bro has the man pinned to the brick wall of the building next to you with a katana to his throat, the gun having been dropped to where it hit the ground and clattered away enough that it wasn’t in arms reach of any of you.
You sit there in awe of Bro and his speed before you see him emotionlessly push the blade further against the man’s throat, making him bleed a bit. He seemed fully intent on slowly cutting the man’s head off without even showing a hint of emotion.
This must be why he had a ten. Because he had no remorse, no regret, no hesitation when it came to killing and harming others. Even a cop or robber would feel guilty if they had to pull a weapon on and kill the other but Bro showed no signs of any of that and as far as you could tell this man was just the average desperate man in need of cash with no way to make it expect taking it from others. Quickly you decided you couldn’t just stand back and watch this happen. Even if Bro could easily kill you based on the speed and strength he very clearly had along with his lack of remorse you couldn’t just stand by and let him kill this man even if said man just tried to rob you at gunpoint.
You reach out and place a hand firmly on Bro’s shoulder and his head very subtly turns to you just the slightest bit. “Mr. Strider that is enough. Let the man go.” Bro says nothing and doesn’t move an inch. “Mr. Strider I know you told me you would never need my help or advice and so far you’ve been true to that but in this moment I ask that you listen to me and let the man go.” By some miracle Bro listens to you. He pulls his weapon back and the man stumbles forward a bit as Bro backs off. You, however, do not and just as the man stands up straight again to thank you you deck him hard in the jaw. While you haven’t trained like Bro clearly has your strength is nothing to laugh at and the hit sends him reeling. You turn silently and continue walking, satisfied that the man won’t try that again. Bro follows behind you after a moment and you’d almost say he looked impressed at you and your actions though he said nothing to you until you arrived at what he claimed to be the apartment building he lived at.
Once there he turned to you and spoke. “That was cool back there, you punching that guy.” “Yes well even if he didn’t deserve death he couldn’t just go unpunished either and it was likely he would’ve gotten away by the time the cops arrived if we called them. Besides, that would’ve been a hassle.” He seemed even further impressed by your reasoning and nodded. “Yeah. That was pretty cool. See you at work?” “Of course.” He smiles at you, not smirking but smiling, waves, and heads inside. You smile back and watch him go in and just as he does you see the ten above his head drop down to a zero and you know then and there that this is the beginning of something amazing for the both of you.