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Michael found himself very confused. He had been following every instruction the teacher had given, to the letter, and yet his cress plants weren’t even half as green as the boy’s on the next table over.

 

At five years old, Michael was sure he knew enough about the world to make some stupid plants grow. But apparently that kid knew more. So during the next break time they had, instead of going to color in like he normally would, Michael followed the boy outside to the swing set.

 

The boy sat alone on the swings, which was more than enough to prompt Michael to actually talk to him. One person he could handle. More than that was a bit much.

 

“Hi!” He grinned as he sat down. The boy jumped and looked very surprised to see Michael sitting there with him. “I’m Michael. How come your cress seeds are so big and poofy and green?”

 

The boy looked confused. “I don’t know, they just are. My dad said that if you whisper nice things to plants, they grow better. Maybe because I’m really nice to them?” He started swinging, going back to ignoring Michael.

 

Well that just wouldn’t do.

 

“Well I thought I was being nice to them,” Michael said as he started to swing too. He wanted to talk to this kid, why didn’t he wanna talk to him? “Could you teach me how to be nice to them when we go back in? Your cress seeds are really nice and cool and I wanna be able to make them that cool.”

 

“No.” The boy ignored him for a minute more, but when Michael didn’t stop swinging, he turned to glare at him. “Why do you want to talk to me anyway? No one ever talks to me except to make fun of me.”

 

He cocked his head to the side at that. “‘Cause I wanna and don’t wanna make fun of you? People do that to me too. Make fun of me, I mean.”

 

The boy looked confused, slowly trying to match his swings to Michael’s. “Why do people make fun of you?” Okay, progress! He was maybe going to get this boy to talk to him after all!

 

Michael kept going with this and shrugged. "They think I'm weird and loud and some kids make fun of me 'cause I only have a mom. They say it’s weird."

 

The boy looked down at his feet, thinking. “They make fun of me because I only have a dad. And because I stammer when I talk to a lot of people. And because I’m weird too.” He was quiet for a minute before he finally sighed. “I’m Jeremiah. But my dad calls me Jeremy.”

 

He got his name, yes! He looked over Jeremiah then and cocked his head as he hummed out loud... loudly. "Well, I like Jeremy more. Oh, but also Remy, like that movie I saw with my mom. I liked Remy a lot, and I like you too. Can I call you Remy sometimes? Please?"

 

Jeremy’s eyes widened and he actually smiled. “I love that movie! Remy was a really good cook!” He thought for a second before his smile got bigger, but almost shyer. “You can only call me Remy if you’re gonna be my friend. And I get to call you... Mikey. Because you look like a Mikey.” He nodded, setting the deal.

 

"OK then Remy! Since you're my friend, you can share my mom with me!" Michael added on with a huge grin, showing off his missing tooth. "She'll love you."

 

He nodded, grinning even brighter. “And you can share my dad! He doesn’t always wear pants, but he’s really nice.” Jeremy and Michael kept swinging all through the break, talking about things they liked. It turned out they both loved video games, slushies, and dogs.

 

By the time break was over, they were best friends.

 

“Umm, do you still want me to teach you how to be super nice to your cress seeds, Mikey?” Jeremy asked shyly as they walked back into the classroom, hand in hand.

 

Oh, right, that's why he came to talk to him at first! Michael just nodded, grinning again. "Yeah, I wanna know! Thank you so much Remy!"

 

By the next day, Michael’s cress seeds had grown to be almost as brilliant as Jeremy’s.

 

 

 

The two remained close in the following years, being each other’s best and actually only friend. It never bothered them though, as both Jeremy and Michael found that they were happier when it was just them anyway.

 

They knew everything about each other, except there was one detail Michael left out. He never told Jeremy about his powers. The fact that he could create and manipulate fire. He was scared that if Jeremy ever found out, he would leave Michael or call him a freak. So Michael only practiced when he knew Jeremy wouldn’t be around.

 

Like today, in the middle of the snowy forest just behind his house. He was having a blast, and had just started juggling about four fireballs when he heard the gasp from behind him. Spinning around, Michael found a very shocked looking Jeremy, staring at him with what seemed to be awe, but could also be horror.

 

Michael let out a small yelp at that. Oh no, Jeremy was gonna hate him. He knew he was a freak, but he didn't want his best friend to know that too.

 

The small fireballs dropped into the snow, making four holes to the covered grass underneath as they sizzled out. "I-It isn't what it looks like! I was, uh..." Oh, what was a good excuse? He tried really hard to think, but he and his mom didn't come up with an excuse he could use for this yet! (No, they probably did, he was just panicking too much to remember.)

 

When he realized he couldn't come up with anything, he felt tears welling up. "Please don't hate me or run away..."

 

“That was so totally awesome! Have you always been able to do that?” Jeremy didn’t sound scared, or mad. He sounded excited. “Can- can you do anything else exc-except fireballs? How many can you m-make at once?” Jeremy’s stutter was coming out a little from how excited he was and how fast he was talking. Then he gasped, eyes wide. “Are you a superhero?”

 

Well, he certainly wasn't expecting that reaction. He quickly wiped away at his tears and sniffled. "I'm... I dunno, I don't think so. I'd be a lame superhero... Oh, and my mom said since before I could remember. I'm only s'possed to be practicing, which is what I was doing... sorta." He shuffled where he stood, feeling flustered at all of this excitement. "Plus, a superhero would need t'be cool, and I'm not."

 

Jeremy stomped over, frowning a little. “You are cool though, Mikey. You’re my best friend! That makes you like, cool times a hundred!” He grabbed Michael’s shoulders and grinned. “You’d make an awesome superhero, dude! Like the Human Torch when you’ve practiced more! Don’t be mean to my best friend! Or I’ll have to kick your butt, superhero or not.”

 

Michael wasn't good at describing things, but with how his heart was beating faster and he felt himself at a loss for words... it was something. Something new, but he didn't know what it was called. He just knew he liked Jeremy talking so nicely about him and he liked Jeremy’s smile a little more than he did before. "I... But if I was a superhero, according to you, I could kick your butt," Michael reasoned, trying to figure out why his heart wouldn't stop and why the touches felt a little better than normal (they were always nice, but it felt even nicer now?).

 

Jeremy giggled and shook his head. “Nuh uh. ‘Cause my superpower is kicking the butt of anyone who’s mean to you. Remember Sydney Ashton? I kicked his butt and he’s a whole grade above us!”

 

"I mean... yeah but I could just not be mean to myself and I'd beat you," he pointed out before pointing at, and then subsequently poking, his cheek. "Also, he kicked your butt, you got a broke nose and were bleeding all over your shirt. You cried about it after."

 

Jeremy pouted. “Yeah, well I still fought him. I’ll fight anyone who’s mean to you, just like how you always protect me. I’ll fight anyone, even you. I’ll even fight myself if I’m ever mean to you!” He cackled, before hugging Michael. “You don’t gotta be scared anymore though, Mikey. I’m not going anywhere. We’re a team, always, right?”

 

Michael felt his cheeks get warm at that, and he didn't know what to really do. He felt... fluttery, and he liked it but also didn't? Why were new feelings so confusing?

 

Instead of thinking more about his feelings, he hugged Jeremy back and just nodded. Yeah, if they were always a team, he'd like that. "Yeah, we are... Thank you Remy."

 

 

 

Turns out the fluttery feeling from when he was nine had been the start of a crush. Naturally, when Jeremy had told him that he was crushing on Sabrina from the other forth-grade class, Michael had quickly let it go and moved on to more healthy crushes: fictional ones. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t exactly healthy, but it was normal and he knew what to expect. Nothing to worry about.

 

Except there totally was, because coming out as gay at age fifteen was actually a nightmare. He was currently cornered by five seniors, ready to fight his way out of this situation but having no illusions of making it out unharmed. If only his support dog, Hades, wasn’t at the vets, they never picked on Michael when he had Hades with him!

 

"You know, this is extreme homophobia. I thought kids in the New England area wouldn't be so insensitive," Michael tried, though he knew it wasn't because of his gayness that they were cornering him. He couldn't stand still, he was looking around to try to find some way out, some kinda plan. Well, he was trying, but his anxiety kept telling him to look for the 'best' one, and he wasn't sure what this so-called 'best' plan was. Ugh, god damnit anxiety! This is why he needed Hades or his headphones (which they pulled off of him when they grabbed the wire, along with his phone). He had to do his best to keep his fire powers from flaring up too (the music he jammed to helped him control it better).

 

“Yeah, whatever freak. You don’t belong here anyway, we’re just here to remind you of that fact.” The biggest (and ugliest, ugh) senior cracked his knuckles, slowly advancing forwards.

 

“Hey!” A familiar, nasally voice called out from behind the bullies. Jeremy took the opportunity caused by the slight confusion to slip past them and position himself firmly in front of Michael.

 

“Why don’t you assholes pick on someone your own size! Like the gorillas at the zoo, at least they smell better than you. Ugh.”

 

Michael felt himself freeze for a minute as he stared down at Jeremy. Yeah, he knew Jeremy would defend him, but against five hulking seniors? "Jeremy, what the hell are you doing?" he hissed through shut teeth as he glanced around, trying to see if there was any new way to get out.

 

It also didn't help that, after six years, his crush was being reformed from a short-lived, puppy-love crush to an actual, legitimate one. Yeah, didn't help right now with how Jeremy was standing up for him.

 

“Keeping my promise, you always stand up for me, I’m not leaving you in the dust!” Jeremy hissed back, not drawing his glare from the seniors, who were laughing at Jeremy. He was barely above half their height, still waiting on a growth spurt of any kind, unlike Michael who had shot up as soon as he turned fourteen.

 

“And what are you gonna do about it, pipsqueak? Snog your freaky little boyfriend?” the dumbest looking one called from the side. He sounded English, weren’t they supposed to be smart or something?

 

“Still more ass than you could ever get,” Jeremy sassed back, earning him a sharp punch to the gut. He doubled over, but didn’t move away.

 

Michael glanced around as he worked, and he remembered that the fire detectors were a thing. While the boys were hyper-focused on Jeremy when he got punched, he quickly flicked a flame near one of the senior's backpacks (hey, they only had what, a pencil and some paper in there?). He watched as the smoke quickly billowed, setting off the fire alarm and causing the water to start drenching everything and everyone under it.

 

"Wh-"

 

"Come on, you moron," Michael said as he grabbed Jeremy's wrist, making sure to snatch his phone and headphones as he quickly dipped around the seniors and outside. The rest of the kids who were either eating lunch, trying to ditch, or were in class all quickly hurried out, some kids screaming about it while others were crying in joy over a test being interrupted.

 

Once they were safely outside, Michael dragged Jeremy over and out of the line of sight that any of those seniors would think to look. "What the hell was that?!"

 

“Just because you’ve got some awesome powers or whatever doesn’t mean I’m going to stand by and let people push you around! You never fight back for yourself, so I’ll do it for you until you will!” Jeremy’s scowled, crossing his arms but flinching a little from the movement.

 

Before Jeremy could react, Michael ducked down and lifted up his shirt. A dark bruise was beginning to form where he had been punched. Jeremy’s scowl didn’t lessen, but he looked away, cheeks flaming.

 

"Yeah, but I know how to get out of them. You either rile 'em up more or get punched. Or both." He let out a sigh as he grabbed his hand again. "Let's take you to the nurse. I can call my mom or mama and ask them to pick us up. You got hurt and I'm probably having an anxiety attack. Plus, skip gym! Woo!"

 

Jeremy didn’t try to escape his grip but he didn’t stop scowling either. “You still need to stop backing down when people push you around, Michael. One day, I might not be around to grab their attention. You need to learn to fight back sometimes!” Oh, he was being serious. Jeremy never called him Michael unless he was being serious, it was always Mikey. Had been since they were too small to remember. (Michael still did, he was really glad he had actually forced his way into Jeremy’s life.)

 

“I will, just not today. I’ve gotten out fine just finding another way,” he muttered out as he tried to find his way to the nurse’s office, most other kids and staff too distracted or irritated to pay attention to them. “Plus, anytime I try, I get ideas in my head on how to do it but my anxiety gets in the way of actually settling on which idea to pick.”

 

Jeremy finally let his scowl drop. “I just worry, Mikey. You seem to end up in bad situations a lot, and I hate not being able to help properly. What if you get properly hurt? What if you died? You’re my best friend, dude, I don’t want to lose you,” he mumbled, cheeks going bright red again. Jeremy’s blossoming anxiety might be different from Michael’s but it seemed to be still just as much of an issue, if in a different way.

 

Michael couldn’t help but laugh as he stopped to the side, looking down at Jeremy with a fondness growing in his chest. “Dude, I’m not gonna die. I promise you that I won’t. People just don’t like that I’m openly me I guess.” He shrugged his shoulders before glancing around, spotting the nurse before tugging him closer. “You won’t lose me. I can’t lose my Player Two.”

 

Jeremy kept blushing, but he finally stopped being dragged and walked next to Michael properly. “Well they should like the open you, you’re awesome.” He bumped their shoulders together and sighed. “I guess I just get twitchy and nervous when I see people ganging up on you. And my brain keeps telling me everything that could go wrong if I don’t help out, even if it’s just taking a hit or two to give us time so you can out-think them. Hello ADHD mixed with Anxiety! You’re so helpful!”

 

Michael couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Yeah, ADHD with everything else I got is the best too!” His gaze turned fonder as he swung their hands together, though ducked out of the view of any seriously irritating teachers so they wouldn’t be called out for not ‘being with their teacher’ even if this was their lunch time. “We’ll get through it though. Plus, shit’ll be a lot better once we’re out of this shit hole of a school.”

 

“Yeah, for sure. Maybe people will finally recognize our coolness and stop picking on us so much. Maybe one of us could even get a date! There’s got to be more gay guys outside our town that we can set you up with. You have more hope than me with that, what with me being an, ahem, acquired taste.”

 

Michael couldn’t help but belt out a laugh as he gently shoved Jeremy with his free hand. “Dude, don’t undersell yourself. I’m sure anyone with common sense could see that you’re the package deal. You know, with the nerdiness, the sass, and the memes. Oh, and your random facts, can’t forget those.”

 

Jeremy stumbled a little, but shoved him right back, ignoring the tiny flinch he gave in favor of trying to get even a small reaction from Michael. Jeremy was still too small and too weak without his growth spurt and he hated it. Michael knew it and never ceased to tease him a little about it.

 

“Yeah well, you’ve got the whole handsome gamer thing going on, plus you’re smart as hell. Guys’ll be tripping over themselves to ask you out one day, mark my words.” Jeremy sort of gestured to all of Michael with his free hand before nodded, apparently satisfied.

 

Michael raised a brow at that. “Mhmm, whatever you say, wise guy. I say that all the girls will be all over you once they truly see you,” he argued, feeling his chest hurt a little when he said that. Hey, they were babies in the eyes of the world still. He could hope that Jeremy could have some sort of awakening like he did, right? “I’ll have to fight them off to even just say ‘hi’ to you.”

 

Jeremy snorted, squeezing his hand. “Yeah right. And as if I’d ever let a girl come between us, I don’t care how pretty she is. You’re my favorite person. If she tried to make me leave you or ignore you, she’s not worth it.” Jeremy bumped shoulders again, hissing a little as it aggravated his new bruise.

 

“Alright, Little Chef, calm yourself or you’ll hurt yourself,” he couldn’t help but tease as he laughed and just squeezed his hand back. “Glad to know where I rank against future Mrs. Heere.”

 

Joking about it would help smother his crush and blooming feelings about Jeremy... right?

 

Jeremy’s face turned a delightful shade of red as soon as Michael used that old nickname. “That is taking it too far, big guy. I told you to leave that name in the past. Remy? I can handle Remy, but... that? No. No way, I refuse, no!” His denial was hammed up, as usual, but Michael could tell the name was just a smidgen embarrassing for Jeremy. Hence why he only ever used it to distract him from something.

 

“Too bad Little Chef, you’re going to never live that name down, especially if you don’t get to be taller than me. Deal with it.” He gently poked his cheek then, grinning down at him before he made it over to the nurse, starting to explain what happened.

 

Yeah, Jeremy distracted himself from the embarrassment, he could distract himself from these feelings. He could handle that... right?

 

 

 

“I have a feeling junior year is gonna be entirely different for us, Mikey! I mean, I think Mr. Heather actually liked our poem this time around!” Jeremy cried dramatically as he lounged around on the bench next to the student parking lot. They were enjoying slushies while waiting for the rest of the cars to leave from their first day back at school. It was always chaos for the first week, and it was easier to just wait it out while the noob drivers tried to figure out how to do a three point turn or something. Jeremy grinned over at Michael. “Even if Ms. Summers fixed us with a stink eye the whole of last period, things are looking up!”

 

“I think she just likes picking out kids that she wants to mess with and we are her unfortunate victims,” Michael almost cried out, resting an arm over his eyes as he grinned. “Isn’t that right, Hades?”

 

The small black lab mix (with terrier and chow, mind you) just barked softly from where he sat at Michael’s side, tail wagging with the abundant energy as he proudly wore his service dog vest. “She might just also hate dogs.”

 

“Heere! Mell! Ms. Summers wants you!” a shrill voice called from the door of the school. “I’d best not keep her waiting.” Mrs. White, the school secretary, stomped back inside, obviously annoyed at having been sent out on such a simple errand.

 

“Speak of the devil, and she shall appear.” Both Jeremy and Michael huffed in unison as they sat up in perfect tandem. That happened sometimes. Thirteen years with one person as your main source of human interaction tends to leave a sort of pattern on both parties.

 

“What do you think she wants?” Jeremy asked as they stood.

 

“Maybe she’s one of those assholes who doesn’t think a service dog is needed by a student? I don’t know. We didn’t do anything literally all class wrong.” Well, maybe they talked a little longer at the beginning and had a hard time focusing on the syllabus, but it was math. “Also, how long do you think she’ll keep us back? I’m saying at least fifteen minutes.”

 

“I’m betting on twenty. She seems like a hardass who likes to labor a point,” Jeremy grumbled before stepping aside at the door to let Michael and Hades go inside first. “My lieges.”

 

“Oh, why thank you Mr. Heere,” Michael said in a faux fancy accent before walking in. Hades, who had been relaxing and expecting to get off duty soon, went back into his serious mode as he walked into the building.

 

Jeremy giggled a little before following after them, jogging to catch up. He wasn’t quite as small as he once was, but he was certainly below average. Still, it made it funny that he always had to jog to catch Michael and his long legs.

 

Something in the air seemed different as they walked the empty halls together. The school was far from abandoned, with the clubs being pinned on notice boards already and things like the play being auditioned for (Mr. Hughes liked to open it as early as possible), there were still students around. But in that moment, it felt like Jeremy and Michael were totally alone. And in the middle of a lot of danger.

 

“... Are you getting that weird feeling too?” Jeremy asked slowly as they made their way deeper into the school. Hades growled a little, seemed to agree with the sentiment.

 

“Yeah... I feel like we should just be ditching and just going back home and dealing with the repercussions tomorrow,” Michael admitted as he felt the uneasiness slowly crawling up his back, making him shudder.

 

As he offered that, though, they were right outside Ms. Summers’ classroom. They were in her line of sight, and Michael felt like prey and she was the predator who just lured them into a trap. Seriously, how the hell was this lady a teacher? Was she tenured in it or were they that desperate for teachers?

 

“Urge to bolt? Very much a thing right now,” Jeremy muttered, just loud enough for Michael (and Hades) to hear.

 

Ms. Summers smiled at them, a sickly sweet bearing of her teeth more than an actual smile. “Glad to see I caught you boys. Please, come in and close the door behind you, I have some important things to discuss with you both.” Jeremy shot Michael a look. One he could easily translate as ‘you wanna run or face? I’m with you either way.’

 

Hey, when you’ve known someone for so long, you usually can read more than a little from any expression!

 

“Uh, if it’s things, like, plural, and it can’t be quick, could it wait until tomorrow? I’m sorry Ms. Summers, but I have some important stuff with my moms that I need to do and I gotta drop Jeremy off first,” he lied, though he knew it was believable enough. “Can you just tell us right here? If not, we can’t stay.” Gauge the situation, and then book it if the vibes stay bad.

 

“Sorry boys, but you really need to come inside. It’s more of a show than just a tell, you see. I promise I’ll be quick about it.” She smiled again, and the bad feelings didn’t get better. They got much, much worse. Jeremy was watching Michael out of the corner of his eye, and he gave a subtle nod. He was ready when Michael was.

 

“I’m sorry, if it isn’t a quick tell thing, I can’t stay. Maybe tomorrow when this isn’t so last minute?” Michael offered, already backing up and getting ready to book it if they had to. Hades could outrun him honestly, he had a bundle of energy, and he was pressed close to him in a way that he knew meant that this was a bad situation. His free hand, the one not holding Hades’ leash, was in his hoodie pocket, already clutching onto his keys.

 

“I really must insist, Mr. Mell. Come inside at once! You’ll understand, I promise.” Ms Summers was getting annoyed. Michael nodded over at Jeremy.

 

Three. “Come inside.”

 

Two. “Or else I’ll have to give you detention.”

 

One. “Mr. Mell, Mr. Heere. Now!”

 

Run!

 

They were off like a bullet from a gun, Jeremy keeping pace just a step behind Michael, height differences be damned.

 

From the classroom, Michael heard a screech, like the sound from a bird of prey, and when he glanced over his shoulder he was so shocked by what he saw that he almost fell over.

 

What he saw was a gross, old, bird-like creature from the depths of hell with the mangled face of his teacher screeching after them. She was screeching and practically barreling after them, down through the halls, and for some reason no one was coming out or paying any mind to this chaos?! What the fuck, Middleborough?!

 

"Turn!" he screeched, turning down the hall to the right while demon-Summers accidentally turned down the left hall.

 

"You two will not get away from me!" they heard her scream from behind them as they were trucking it down to get outside.

 

She dove through the air and landed firmly on top of Jeremy, her knife-like talons digging into his backpack like hot knives through butter. Jeremy screamed and struggled, but didn’t seem able to get away.

 

Michael's mind slowed down, and for once, his anxiety seemed to melt away. He knew what to do.

 

Raising a hand, as if by instinct, he yelled out, "Hey, bird brain!" before sending a powerful blast of fire onto her. As the flames started to lick along her feathers and skin, a scream piercing the halls and echoing, he reached through, apparently impervious to the fire, before tugging her back as her talon grip loosened from Jeremy before tossing her aside, away from them. He cursed himself as he saw his zip-up grey hoodie was starting to be engulfed, though he quickly tossed it before the smoke detectors went off.

 

"This is feeling too familiar and I hate it," Michael muttered out as he quickly grabbed Jeremy, yanking him up, and dragging them out of a nearby double set of doors to the outside, Hades trailing right by Michael and Jeremy's sides.

 

They sprinted all the way to the car, and didn’t stop until they were well off school grounds.

 

“Holy shit, dude. You just legitimately saved my life, Michael. Holy fuck. Thank you.” Jeremy seemed to be bubbling on the edge to a panic attack. “You saved my life from the teacher. Who was a giant demon bird. Yeah that’s totally normal. We need to get home and tell someone about this. But who can we tell who won’t think we’re crazy?” Yup, definitely on the edge of an attack. But then, Michael wasn’t much better off. Hades nudged them both, gently trying to keep both his humans calm.

 

"Well, both of my moms are working, so your dad?" Michael offered, though softly thanked Hades under his breath. "Just focus on your breathing, do the Five Senses and tell me everything." Hearing Jeremy do that would help him too. They had both used it with the other and found that either doing it or hearing the other do it helped them both.

 

Jeremy took a deep breath and nodded. “I can see Hades looking worried, Sabrina’s pear tree we just drove past, an empty slushie cup, Michael, and the steering wheel.” Jeremy took another deep breath before letting it go and relaxing a little.

 

“I can feel the heat left over from your fire, the leather seats in the car, Hades’ nose on my arm, and my soft cardigan.” Calmer still, and Hades seemed less worried.

 

“I can hear the engine of the car, Hades’ tail wagging against the seats, and the air con.” Jeremy’s voice no longer shook, and glancing over, Michael saw that he had closed his eyes. Good, that meant he felt safe enough to do so. He wouldn’t do that unless he was almost properly calm.

 

“I can smell weed and... fried chicken.” Jeremy actually giggled a little at that, even as his confusion showed through.

 

“And I can taste the remains of my Blue Raspberry slushie.”

 

Michael felt himself calmed down by the time Jeremy finished, laughing a little at the fried chicken comment. "Well damn, now I want some KFC," he muttered out as he turned into Jeremy's 'neighborhood' (it was a collection of houses with a sign up front, it was close enough). "How're you feeling now?"

 

Jeremy sighed and reached up to pet Hades. “Better. You?”

 

"Better, but I'm craving that KFC," he replied as he turned down to Jeremy's street.

 

“We can pick some up on the way over to yours once we speak to my dad.” Jeremy half grinned, hopping out the car as soon as Michael pulled outside his house. He pulled out his keys and let himself in, beckoning Michael to follow.

 

“Dad! I’m home. Michael and I need to talk to you!” he called out as soon as Michael closed the front door behind him.

 

“In the living room,” came the reply. Jeremy’s dad was sprawled out on the couch, as usual, in no pants. He smiled over at the boys, his jovial expression dropping very quickly when he saw Jeremy’s torn backpack and the slight singeing it had. “What happened to you boys?” he asked disbelief coloring his tone, which was more serious than Michael had ever heard it before in his life.

 

"Uh... Well, our math teacher sorta turned into this weird bird demon from hell and tried to kill us?" Michael offered, shrugging as Hades decided to lie down on the floor, apparently taking a break. "Uh... we never got told what to do when that kinda stuff happens? Any helpful advice, Mr. Heere?" Yeah, Mr. Heere was gonna think they were really high and had some bad trip or something.

 

Strangely, he didn’t see me to think any of that, his expression went serious as he stood. “Are you both okay? She didn’t hurt either of you?” When Jeremy shook his head slowly, Mr Heere relaxed. “Good. I want you to go upstairs and pack yourself a bag Jeremy. As much as you can fit for as long as you can manage away, understand? Michael, help him and we’ll do the same for you once we get to your house, I’ve got some calls to make.” He walked out of the living room and into his bedroom no more questions asked or answered.

 

Michael just blinked in surprise before looking at Jeremy. "Uh... what?" Despite him asking that, he and Jeremy started up the stairs, Hades seemingly refusing to go with for now and watching over the door, as if anticipating for hell spawn like whatever Ms. Summers turned into to possibly show up again. Oh god, he really hoped not. "Do you have any idea what's up with your dad? I've never seen him so... serious?"

 

Jeremy shook his head. “I have no idea dude. Let’s just do as he says for now and see where it takes us.” Jeremy darted upstairs and started packing. “Can you grab my bathroom stuff?” he called over his shoulder.

 

"Yeah, of course," Michael said before he hurried into Jeremy's bathroom, grabbing all of his toiletries and essentials (as well as his bottle of concealer, because Jeremy would kill him if he missed that) before walking into Jeremy's room, dumping it all out onto the bed spread. "I think this is good?" he offered as he looked over all of the clothes and essentials Jeremy was packing. After peering down at his stuff for a moment, he quickly went into his drawers, ignoring the tissue boxes, and grabbing his spare set of glasses before putting it onto his bed as well. "Can't forget these."

 

“Thanks dude.” Jeremy nodded, stuffing the glasses case into his bag and zipping it up. “I think that’s everything important?” He looked around, before quickly reaching out and grabbing a book that Michael recognized as a small photo album, which he quickly packed. “Now that’s everything.” After getting an amused look from Michael, Jeremy raised his hands defensively. “Hey, I don’t know when we’ll be coming back, and you know it helps to calm me down.”

 

Michael did his best to keep himself from melting (it was their photo album from growing up) before grabbing and unplugging his phone charger and pocketing it into his jeans pocket. “Now that’s everything. Let’s get downstairs and see if your dad’s still in his super serious mode.”

 

Jeremy hefted up his suitcase and nodded, following Michael downstairs. Mr. Heere was pacing in the living room, wearing pants for once and yelling into his phone. “I don’t care, Dalisay! They were attacked! We don’t have time to wait, or else we risk both their lives! We’ve waited too long as it is! I’m taking them both, you can go and see him once they’re safe.” He scowled, not noticing that Jeremy and Michael were watching him. It was then Michael noticed the bronze fencing sword strapped to his side.

 

Leaning down to Jeremy, he whispered and asked him, “Uh... any idea what your dad’s talking about? And why the hell does he have a fencing sword?” As he asked, Hades looked over to the two, hopped up, and practically ran over, rubbing himself against the two happily.

 

“I don’t know. And I didn’t even know he fenced,” Jeremy whispered back, brow furrowed as he watched his dad.

 

“Look, I’ll get them to camp alive, I promise.” Mr. Heere’s tone switched to something softer. “We just can’t afford to wait any longer than we have to. If one monster found them, you can bet there are more on the way. I’ll tell him to call you guys before he goes in, and you can follow us to the camp to say goodbye tomorrow or something. But we need to leave as soon as possible.”

 

Reaching down to let Hades quickly, Michael cleared his throat to get Mr. Heere’s attention. “Uh, Mr. Heere? We um... we finished packing Jeremy’s bag?” He didn’t mean for that to come out as a question, but hearing everything that Jeremy’s dad was saying was only helping to raise a lot of questions in his mind.

 

Mr. Heere spun around, eyes wide, before he nodded. “Okay boys, take my keys and go get yourself and Hades set up in the car. I’ll be out in just a second. And don’t talk to anyone, we don’t know who’s safe.” Mr. Heere pointed to his car keys which were resting on the table, and turned back away from them to finish his call. “I’ll take them over to your house, get Michael packed, then go. See you in New York.”

 

Jeremy sort of bent down to stroke Hades before making a slow bee line to the front door with his suitcase, looking more than a little dazed.

 

“Uh, what about my car, Mr. Heere?” Michael couldn’t help but ask as he fiddled with his hefty key ring he took out. He went to go grab Mr. Heere’s key ring, but still felt uneasiness and confusion running rampant. If Jeremy was still out of it, he’d step up and do the talking.

 

Mr. Heere sighed. “Did you see the monster die?” Michael shook his head. “Then she’s likely alive and she knows the car is yours. You’re gonna have to leave it here, it’ll be harder to track my car anyway. Get anything important you need from your car before we go.” This was scary, Mr. Heere was never like this. Never sharp or serious. What was happening?

 

He seemed to pick up on Michael’s fear because he sighed again. “Look, I’ll explain everything once we’re out of town. For now, I just need you to trust me and do as I say. I promise, I’m only trying to keep you safe.”

 

“I... Alright.” Michael sadly dumped his key ring down, gently going and grabbing Jeremy’s hand and Hades’ leash before going outside with them. He quickly made sure to grab some of Hades’ treats from the glove compartment before quickly getting Jeremy’s stuff packed into his dad’s car. “Are you alright, Remy?” Michael couldn’t help but ask as he shut the trunk and opened the backseat door, watching as Hades practically leaped in.

 

Jeremy slowly shook his head. “I think I’m in shock? I’m pretty sure I’m showing a good number of symptoms of shock.” He took a deep breath as he climbed in. “We got attacked by our teacher, who is a fucking bird lady, my dad is being serious and wearing pants, and he’s treating this like it’s totally normal! I’m not sure what to think, and I’m scared as hell.”

 

Michael got in as well, shutting the door behind them as he sat beside Jeremy. Hades was standing on the middle console, apparently happy there for now. “Hey, I’m scared as hell too, but we’re a team. We can get through this together, the two of us.” His dog huffed. “Ok, sorry, the three of us.”

 

Jeremy half collapsed against him. “He said he’d explain, right? He’s not just leaving us in the dark? I didn’t imagine him saying that?” Jeremy half hid his face in Michael’s shoulder, and reached out to stroke Hades. It seemed to help a bit, because his breathing became a little less tight.

 

“No you didn’t,” Michael reassured him as he watches Hades hop off of the console and settle across both Jeremy and Michael’s laps with a yawn. “I... he said he’d explain once we’re out of town, and I think we’re headed to New York?”

 

Jeremy nodded again. “Okay, I can deal with that. Just until we get out of town.” He grabbed Michael’s hand and squeezed it. “We’ll be fine. Besides, you swooped in and saved me last time. Told you that you’re a superhero.”

 

Rolling his eyes at that, Michael gently squeezed Jeremy’s hand back. “No, I just wanted to keep you safe. But we will be fine though, we will.” Hades huffed, seemingly in agreement this time, before flopping his head down off of Michael’s thigh.

 

Jeremy relaxed properly at last, and he started stroking Hades fondly.

 

Mr. Heere jumped into the front seat and turned back to the boys. “Okay, so you have everything, Jeremy?” After getting a small nod, Mr. Heere turned to the front and stared the car. “Michael, you’re going to need to do the same. Your moms are meeting us there. I’ll explain as soon as you’re all packed and we’re driving, I promise.”

 

 

 

Michael really hoped Mr. Heere was going to keep his word. They quickly stopped by Michael’s house, and they were quick with packing his things (he was a little neater than Jeremy, but only a little, and planned what he needed to pack on the ride over). He had his red, patch-covered hoodie wrapped around his waist as they were driving past the city limits, and Mr. Heere started driving on the freeway.

 

Michael fiddled with the fidget spinner he grabbed as he glanced over at Jeremy, silently asking if they should prod him or not to start talking.

 

Before Jeremy could respond, Mr. Heere started speaking.

 

“You two aren’t entirely human,” was his first impossible statement. “You’re demigods, children of the Greek Gods and mortals, like me and Dalisay,” was his second impossible statement. “That thing that was your teacher is a monster, likely a harpy from what you said, who wants to kill you before you become a threat.” That was impossible, but also true to a point at the very least. So how true could the other statements be? “I’m taking you both to a special camp for other demigods so you can be safe.”

 

Jeremy burst out laughing, and Michael could hear the slight hysterics in it. “Good one dad, now what’s really going on? The gods aren’t real, are they?”

 

“No more real than a boy who can create fire from his hands,” Mr. Heere responded simply. How did he know? They had never told him, only Michael’s moms and Jeremy knew about it!

 

Michael had to definitely rest his hands in Hades’ fur, and the dog leaned his head against Michael’s middle to help him stay calm. “I... this a lot to take in, Mr. Heere... and how did you know? I just...” He had so many questions, but he had to practically bite his tongue to keep himself from belting them all out. Just wait, and if he needs to know more, ask more.

 

“Well I know because I’m Jeremy’s biological father, that is very true. But his mother was a literal goddess. And when I met you, I recognized the same sort of energy on you. When I spoke to your mom, she told me everything so I could help keep an eye on you. I... I’m not allowed to tell either of you who your godly parent is, but trust me when I say that we’ve been lucky you haven’t been found sooner. You’re both very powerful.” Mr. Heere sighed and fell silent for a moment. “I’m sure you have questions after that, so ask away.”

 

There honestly were so many, it was a bit overwhelming. It took Michael a good minute to be able to stay calm and sort through the bouncing questions in his mind until one really stood out to him. Looking at Mr. Heere through the rear view mirror, he asked the most pressing question on his mind.

 

“Where are we going?”