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From Within

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     For all the intelligence he had, Prock was surprisingly good at missing the little details. Or maybe it was that he did notice them, but buried them deep beyond a wall of rejection if he didn't like it. That was the only reason Muscleman could explain for the freedom he had to sit beside his friend, the reason why he hadn't been immediately tossed into a jail cell upon the superheroes' victory. He heaved a sigh, mustering as much sympathy in his voice as he could.

     "I'm sorry, buddy," he said.

     "I couldn't save her," Prock quietly replied, his gaze firmly fixed on the floor.

     "No," Muscleman agreed, "you couldn't." And what a treat that was, a blow that would further knock Prock off balance. "But you saved mankind," he threw out, clapping his friend on the back, "and that's not bad!"

     "Yeah," Prock murmured, clearly not ready to let himself be convinced.

     "I'm proud of you," the larger man said, giving Prock a genuine smile. He was, the man's victory against such bad odds had only solidified Muscleman's decision. "And you know what?" he asked, reaching out to pull the smaller man firmly to his side. "If your dad could see you," he continued, glancing towards the sky, "he'd be proud of you too." Prock didn't say anything to that, instead leaning back in his grasp to look towards the distant skies. Muscleman curled his fingers around his friend's other arm, keeping his grasp gentle as he gave the broken arm a small squeeze. Prock finally met his gaze, the smaller man curling his lips in an attempted smile. It came out more like a grimace, and Muscleman smiled as he released his friend and stood. "Come on, let's go back to the others."

     "All right," Prock finally agreed, letting him lead the way as they headed back towards the funeral and award ceremony. The others waved in silent greeting to the two as they approached, Prock claiming an inside seat as Muscleman sat down beside him. Really, it was hard not to pat himself on the back. Evil pretending to be good pretending to be evil. Genius. And everyone had fallen for it, both the villains and the heroes. He glanced down at his friend again, giving the man another smile. Dr. Malocchio had been too blatant in his attempt to tear the superhero community apart, too sure of his victory in Mr. Awesome's absence. Really, the man had just been trying to hard. Why subjugate and turn the entirety of the superheroes, when you only needed one? Another mistake on the villain's part, he had never focused on Prock in the right way. He'd only ever seen the man as the son of his enemy, someone to be defeated and humiliated. He'd never truly considered any other possibility, and that had led to his failure. Because really, Muscleman thought, sitting back as Perfect Man droned on, the Doctor had gone about it all wrong. He'd never been able to figure out that the first person he should have used the serum on was Prock Awesome. Muscleman wasn't going to make the same mistake.