He ignored the yelling in the living room, loud even through his closed bedroom door and blanket stuffed under it to muffle the sound. Instead, he bent all his attention on the figure in his hands, red and blue, standing tall and unbowed. This was someone who would never bend, never break, never allow something like what was going on in the living room right now to happen to someone he knew.
When the yelling had stopped, he went out, but he never let go of the figure. Here was someone who would never leave him, even as the man had left them, alone and friendless, to try and survive on their own.
Through countless moves, short stays with relatives, sleeping on couches and pull-out beds and in sleeping bags in the back of the car, he held on to the figure. Most everything else was gone, his favourite books, games, most of his clothing, but he kept hold of his toy, even when he slept. His mother would sometimes marvel at how calmly the boy was taking all of this, then forget again in the whirlwind that had replaced their life. The boy knew what was going on, even if he didn't always understand it, but he knew he had someone to believe in all the same.
They were in a shelter now, living in a tiny cramped room no bigger than the bathroom at his old home, eating at tables like in the school cafeteria, sharing everything with other families just like them. There were a lot of other kids here, and only the one old tv set, so he didn't get to watch his favourite shows anymore. That was alright though, he made up new shows, all starring his favourite toy. He remembered watching him on the tv, tall and strong and never giving up, giving of himself to save others, to give hope to the hopeless, bringing peace and happiness in the end.
Then the word came - they were getting a home! His mother had gotten a good job with the help of an old friend, and they would be leaving in the morning. Playing with his toy, the boy looked up at the sound of crying down the hall. Crying here was nothing new, but there was something different about this cry. He got up and wandered down the hall until he came to the last door on the left.
Inside were a pair of young kids, a girl and a boy, sitting in a pile of blankets. There was nothing else in the tiny room other then the bed and a chair, so he figured their mom must be getting some food for them. The kids didn't say anything, even when he asked them where their mom was, they just sat and whimpered as they cried. He noticed that they both had bruises on their arms and legs, and some even on their faces.
He remembered when his mom had had the same type of bruises on her face and arms, and why, and stopped asking the kids about their dad. Instead, he started telling them all about his favourite toy, and what made him so great. After a while a woman came in and sat down with the kids, giving them sandwiches, but she didn't say anything to him, just sat holding them and listened. He told them that his toy had a great following, and even though he fought, he did so to protect others. He told them about the tv show, where they could see this for themselves, and it wasn't just make believe.
When his mom came and told him it was time to sleep, he also noticed that their eyes followed his toy as he left.
They were ready to leave in the morning, his mom was talking to the shelter lady at the front door while he stood with their last bag of clothing, holding on to his toy. There were already other people in the room they had slept in, and the boy was kind of glad to be leaving. It was sort of horrible here, when he really looked at the place, but he had been happy to be in here rather than sleeping in the car. He was even happier to know that they would be able to sleep in regular beds again, in a regular house. Then he saw them.
The girl and boy stood against a wall, watching him. No, not him. His toy. The one thing that had made all of this bearable, his hero, his best friend. He looked at the two kids again.
Slowly, carefully, he walked away from his mom and towards the two against the wall. As he stood in front of them, he looked down at his toy. Touched a finger to the shiny red armour, gently caressed the plastic windshield, the silver piping on the arms. Thought about what his hero would do if he were here right now.
"Here, you need him more than I do."
He held the toy out, and the girl reached forward and grabbed it before he could rethink his decision. He walked back to his mom, and on the way out the door, looked back. The two children were still at the wall, both of them holding the toy between them as if it were the most precious thing in the world. The very last thing he saw before the door closed helped ease the pain of leaving behind his best friend - both children were smiling.
20 years later
The young man sighed and closed his binder, deciding that since it was Saturday, maybe that extra bit of paperwork could wait until Monday after all. He felt the need to get outside and walk a bit, see some people, do something. His job as a social worker usually ate up most of his time, to the point where his wife would sometimes have to leave him notes in his work binder reminding him of his most important case - his own family.
His wife and son were upstate visiting his in-laws this weekend, and he had planned to get some extra work done while they were gone, but now when he looked outside... he felt restless. He took a bus downtown instead of the car, enjoying the bustle of life around him, basking in the warm sunshine pouring through the windows. With the bus stopped at a light, he saw an ad on a billboard, listing the dates and times of a popular toy convention that was taking place that very day.
On a sudden whim, he hopped off the bus and transferred to another that would take him to the convention hall. He didn't know why, sure he'd watched the show as a kid, even had a few of the toys, but his parents' divorce had ended toys and fun for him for a long time. Did he even really know enough about the show any more to be called a fan?
He paid the outrageous entry fee anyway, and began wandering around the aisles, listening to the crowd more than looking at the tables.
Then he saw him.
Standing tall and proud, unbowed and unbroken, gleaming in the spotlights. It was only a twelve foot tall statue, not the full-size version (that would be next to impossible to do) but it brought back memories that he hadn't thought of in two decades. Tears rose in his eyes as he recalled the first time he'd held his toy, and he blinked them away quickly lest others see his shame. Then he heard a sniffle beside him. A man older than himself, stood next to him, and tears shone in his eyes as well. With a quirky smile the other pointed to the statue with his chin.
"Brings back memories, doesn't it?"
He looked back at the figure, and nodded, and this time when the tears started up again, he let them flow.
"Yes. He was my very best friend when I was little."
"He was more of a dad to me then my own was," a woman said, stepping up beside the two men. She handed tissues to both of them, keeping one for herself as she wiped her own face.
They stood together, the three strangers, each lost in their own memories. Eventually they nodded to each other as they turned and walked away, but the young man took another look at the crowd surrounding the statue. Little groups, twos and threes and fours, clustered around the gleaming figure, looking up at the masked face. No one was left alone, even if someone new were to step up, another would shift over from a larger group, to ensure that. He turned away with a smile, sure now of what he needed to do.
Finding one of the dealers who had miniatures, he made an order for two hundred of the tiny finger-sized plastic figurines, and took a card so he could reorder when he ran out. Every child's case he worked on, he would visit and give them one. It was, after all, the Prime's purpose - to give hope.