As a child, his mom and dad would take him out to conventions all the time whenever he asked. They’d go in the crowded building and he’d ask for the heroes to sign after waiting for so long behind many other children and adults alike.
At home, they’d play Hero. He’d tie a towel around his neck and act like Homelander, the all American man, who’s confusingly not from Earth. His mom rarely ever played the hostage, it’s always dad who’s the hostage, even back then he was a bit of a nervous wreck. Mom would play the villain.
Those were the memories he would end up reminiscing the older he got.
One day, he jumps off the couch and yells “Cannonball!” as some sort of stupid attack name, only to land far too heavily on the ground, cracking the wooden flooring.
His parents panic.
He was only five back then, but more things happened after that.
Far too many.
He couldn’t control anything he did, didn’t know what the trigger was. His parents were close to losing their minds. They’d whisper in the dark of the night, while he pretends to sleep, worrying about what would happen if someone saw him using his powers.
They feared that some will tell everyone, blow off any shreds of his secret identity.
Government agents would come and take him away, never to be seen again, to be experimented on.
Gangs would kidnap him and brainwash him into being a member, a new age villain, a Supervillain.
At 6, he was too young to understand much, he just knew that having powers as a child was not ideal, and that powers should only be given to adult heroes.
He’d look back at the heroes on the screens and revere them for their choices. With all the problems attached to becoming a hero, and they still decide to become so, to help everyone else. He’s too afraid to be a Hero, too afraid of anyone hurting his mom and dad, and Heroes probably also have a mom and dad, yet they were still out there.
In his mind, they truly were heroes.
They had to move multiple times and rent in New York is too much of a hassle to pay easily. He tries to help out, he learns how to do hardware and would make people pay him if they want something fixed. He’s cheap compared to other hardware stores in the block, so everyone would come to him.
But sometimes, he’s forced to do it for free, because bullies are mean and jerks.
His mom would kiss his bandaged knee and tells him not to worry. She’d talk with the bullies’ parents, not like that ever helped, but at least she tries. Dad was sometimes too busy with his job to do anything.
He was too weak, always bullied, so how could he stop it when a big and meaner bully would come?
Hughie looks at his feet, imagining clouds, and bounces, floating a bit as he did before fluttering back down to earth. His mom would laugh, still holding his hands like they always did when they walked back home at a late hour from her grocery job. She made sure to hold him tighter as he does, floating higher and higher the more he tries.
“Hughie, don’t float, how can I get you back if the wind takes you away?”
“Don’t worry mommy, I’ll never let you go.” He says.
He never lets go of the one he loves.
They stop when they find a man standing in front of them, looking at them with what he only understood in his adult life as fear. His eyes would drill deeply into his own.
“That kid’s a fucking Supe.”
“You’re drunk, go home.” His mom says hurriedly as she immediately kneels down and carries him off the floor.
“I know what I saw. No human can do what he did!?”
That hurt, the insinuation that he wasn’t human.
“What did he do?”
“He’s skipping, mind your own business and leave us alone.” She shoves him accidentally as she passes him on the curb. “Don’t ever let people know you have powers, Hughie, they’ll try to hurt you.” She tells him in whispers as she tries to walk away.
He nods before resting his head on her shoulders and watched the man turn around, angrily glaring at them.
Before he knew it, a gun was pointed at them.
Hughie couldn’t stop a bullet.
The ground was harsh, scrapping on his shoulders as his mother gags, blood comes out of her mouth accompanied by wet coughing, assaulting his ears more than the gunshots did. Hughie was scared, he tries to get up, tries to help her.
She was screaming, and she was in pain. He sees the bullet wound and put his hand on it. He wanted her okay, wanted her to not be in pain, and the wound glows as it tries to stitch itself back together.
But before he knew it, a harsh kick to the head throws him away, and the yell of a deranged man could be heard, someone screams with more gunshots following. Hughie opens his eyes and finds the man down on the ground held by a stranger and others trying to save his mom.
He tries to get close, but someone else held him back, trying to tell him that everything’s going to be alright.
But he knew how to make everything alright, he can do it, he can heal? Despite only ever just changing his weight, he can also heal.
But they never let him get close, and he sees it, see the last moment of his mother’s life as she looks at him, still coughing, but weakly reaching out to him.
He pushes whoever held him back, far too harshly than he intended, and finally grabbed onto his mom’s hands, he tries to will his powers into being, to save her, but his mom shakes her head weakly, and the light in her eyes dims.
He tells him the truth, about how the man was angry because he has powers. This only makes it worse. His dad never lets go of him after that. He always made sure he was within his sight.
They’d spend a long time on the couch, watching TV, just to calm him down during a panic attack induced by his disappearance.
Hughie would look at the heroes, and then look at his own hands, and thinks about how he can’t ever be a hero, not when he had the blood of his mom in his hands. If he can’t save his own mom, how could he save other moms?
He would end up scrubbing his hands raw at night, trying to take the blood away. He’d spend hours behind the tap in the bathroom finishing a pack of soap. When his dad confronted him about the lacking amount of cleaning product and concerning rise of water bills, he cracks down and cries, admitting to the truth.
Therapy wasn’t good.
He couldn’t tell his therapist the truth. You don’t really know a therapist, for all he knew, they could be working with the government.
And his mom told him to never share his powers.
Hughie would lie through his teeth when it concerned his powers. No one but his dad will ever know. At his final therapy session, he figured out what he should do for once.
He looks at himself in the mirror, stares hard with intense focus …
… and willed himself to lose his powers.
His eyes glowed a bit, a luminescent blue.
He felt a part of himself ripping away, and he drops. Something breaks inside of him.
Dad finds him, nose bloodied and unable to ever use his powers since.
Anthony was his best friend. He doesn’t understand why Hughie was weird or different, but he didn’t really care. Instead, Anthony cared about his feelings, asked if he felt safe or not, spend time with him playing video games.
Hughie looks at this and appreciates his friend’s presence.
With time, dad starts to relax on his hold over him, he spoke with Anthony’s parents from time to time and felt that it was safe to let him spend time away from him. As long as he was with them.
They’d usually do something in the halls at first, before escalating towards his neighborhood block. Hughie never spent time outside his own apartment building, in fear of any accidents occurring.
But being with a friend made him feel a little bit brave, that not everything in this world is wrong.
Then one day, he hides behind a bag of animal food for four hours.
He meets a girl who thought he was weird for doing that, but then laughed at him and called him lame for saying what he did about someone’s girlfriend.
From time to time, he’d go back to the animal store and finds the same girl, they’d hang out, and Anthony would back him up whenever dad asks about his whereabouts.
“You should ask her out.” Anthony once said, shooting hoops and missing by a large gap. He only grimaced in reply.
“I can’t just ask Robin out! She thinks I’m lame.”
“Watching you guys trying not to flirt with each other is like watching monkeys trying to communicate with facetime.”
“Is that even a thing?”
“I don't know, but the monkeys will be better at it than you two.”
When Hughie was in his second year of college, Robin asks him out instead.
Robin dies in his arms, and he screams.
People start to notice the blood around him, and they try to help, but he couldn’t, he just sees blood and her arms and remembers a long time ago when he was super-abled and couldn’t help either.
Now he’s normal, and more worthless than he’s ever been, and the super-abled were a lot worse.
He sees A-Track, mumbling, erratic, saying he can’t stop and runs off as if the death of a girl that he murdered was nothing.
He looks down at her arms, and thinks, she can’t be gone.
And the next thing he knew, he sees a shadow, a figure, stand in front of him were her hands were. Some people notice as they scream, flashes come up but he can’t focus on it.
“Hughie, Hughie, oh god, Hughie” She talks. Hughie feels himself dropping on the floor, eyes wide, and a slight tint of blue covering his sight. “Hughie, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, please be strong, baby.” She says, dropping down next to him, the arms moving as if it were still alive with the ghost speaking.
“Rob-Robin.” He whimpers, the hand moved to touch his face, before her figure flickered out of existence, arms dropping next to him with a splat of blood.
The noise, the loud noises turn into ringing. He looks around him as people pointed phones at him. But he couldn’t handle it, because turning around means feeling the drips on his face, and seeing blood on the ground with the spine and the jaw and-
His dad stood next to him, holding him in a half hug. Robin’s family were all huddled together, her mom crying her eyes out.
There were a lot of people, people that along with Robin’s family as well as him, can pinpoint as to who they were in connection to her. But they noticed … a lot of unknowns. People he never heard of before. The type of people Robin would never associate with, even.
That’s when he hears someone whispers.
“How can a Supe die that easily?”
“Dude, her powers are literally turning ghost. She needs to die to discover her powers, no wonder no one ever heard of her before if she didn’t know it herself.”
Something cracks inside of him. He knew for a fact that Robin was not a Supe, he knew because he understood what happened right after her death.
He wanted her back.
He didn’t think about how he wanted her back, he just wanted her back, and not her body. She was suffering because he didn’t think it through, and he couldn’t let her suffer any longer. He thought wrong, and Robin paid the price, and now all these people are just here to ogle at her casket that didn’t even have anything but her two arms inside it.
At the end, he had to call up the funeral director to help kick out anyone who doesn’t have any relationship to her, stating that this is a family and friend private funeral. Robin’s parents and sister looked grateful.
When they get back home they sit on the couch, like they always do. It was his only comfort having his dad here. If only his dad could also listen to him instead of just sit next to him. He does hear him, but he doesn’t … get it sometimes.
But how can a normal person understand a Supe?
He hates it, the couch. It used to have all three of them. Mom physically died, but the two of them basically died along with her.
Only mom understood him completely, but how the hell would he be sure about that? She died when he was seven, for all he knew she wouldn’t be understanding him now as an adult.
“-the spread … just really nice.” his father says, and he realized he skipped everything he said. He had to breath in with his eyes closed, because spreads? Really?
That’s when they both heard her voice.
Of course, Hughie would know this voice, who wouldn’t? The CEO of Vought, the sponsor of the seven.
He sees the headline banner “A-TRAIN OFFERS DEEPEST CONDOLENCES” in big letter, but in smaller letters below it says, “TRAGIC LOSS CHASING BANK ROBBERS”.
And that … felt wrong.
His father tries to change it, but Hughie doesn’t let him.
His ear is ringing again, that sharp ringing that reminds you of old amps that need fine-tuning, that comes up and splits your ears the moment you turn one on.
“My deepest condolences to Robin Ward’s family. I was chasing these bank robbers,” Hughie’s hearing … the ringing’s too loud. “And she just stepped in the middle of the street, and I-I couldn’t-”
“In the middle of the street?” Hughie says out loud. She wasn’t. “She was half a step off the fucking curb.”
“Oh come now, Hughie, don’t get upset.” His dad starts, there’s worry, there’s an old worry that he hasn’t heard in a long time, not since therapy, “Just- He knows …”
The ringing is too loud.
His dad’s hand was on his shoulders, in that same old familiar soothing way. But it wasn’t helping.
It wasn’t helping because-
And they’re ruining Robin’s reputation, making it sound like it was her fault. He couldn’t-
“I want him to stop lying, and to tell the whole goddamn truth.”
“There was no bank robbery, she was right on the curb. I lied. I just wasn’t focusing enough and didn’t care if anyone’s on the sidewalk to move to the middle of the street.”
Silence. The ringing is gone, and the TV’s background sounds hushed as something horrible was being processed. Hughie felt sick, and he felt the hand on his shoulder move to the back of his head, pulling his head closer.
“Oh god, Hughie, stop it, you’re hurting yourself!” His dad was freaking out, and now tissue’s filled his view as they slowly turned red.
Even without seeing the screen, he can tell that the press conference exploded with questions.
Hughie just felt dizzy.
He’s hearing the doorbell now, he wasn’t even sure if that’s real anymore.
“Hughie! Oh god, oh no. Fuck.” His dad had to get off the couch and lay him carefully, with an anxious face, he apologized, leaving him alone. He felt something soaking the couch beneath him, raising his hands only gave him the view of hands drenched with blood.