Vince was sitting on a bench near the English building when a shadow fell across the open book in his lap. He didn’t need to look up to know who it belonged to. He’d been sitting on this bench for at least an hour after classes all week long just to facilitate this meeting. It would have to happen eventually, and Vince wasn’t one to put off things just because he wasn’t looking forward to them.
“Want to sit?” Vince still didn’t look up, even as he spoke. Eye contact would make everything feel closer, and a little mental distance would be good for both of them.
“Thank you,” Chad said quietly. He took his position a few feet away from Vince. “I think I owe you an apology.”
“I accept. Things got out of hand; I know you didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
“I very much did not,” Chad agreed.
“You’re a good guy, Chad. You treat people with respect even though you’re a lot stronger than most of them. Don’t let one mistake overwhelm the whole of who you are. Trust me on this one.”
Chad was tempted to ask for elaboration; however, he suspected Vince would have given some if he wanted to talk about it. “I shall try hard to keep that in mind.”
“Good. You should probably apologize to Camille too. I mean, it was her party, after all.”
“I made my amends with her this morning.” Camille had been perfectly cordial when they spoke. Her two female friends on the other hand, they had been somewhat less willing to forgive. Chad suspected those two would bear a grudge against him for some time. He didn’t blame them for it, either.
“I’m glad,” Vince said. A shuffle of students meandered by the bench, forcing the two into temporary silence. This location wasn’t ideal for private conversations - too many walkways left it exposed to frequent foot traffic. That was precisely why Vince had chosen this spot to wait. They were in full view of the regular students at all times. It was a measure to make sure neither of them allowed their discussion to escalate into dangerous realms.
“So... about our fathers,” Chad said awkwardly once the other students had passed.
“Your father, and his former best friend,” Vince corrected. “I don’t think my father was that guy.”
“He had the watch.”
“Even if it’s the same watch there are still plenty of explanations. Maybe it was a gift from someone that recovered it, or maybe the Super who made them decided to craft some more. I don’t even know who this Globe person was, but I know my father. He wasn’t a Super, let alone a Hero. He was just a guy living the rails who took it upon himself to look after me.”
“Living the rails?”
“I wasn’t exactly anyone’s first choice for adoption as a child. I ran away from the foster system as soon as I could. He found me one night digging through a restaurant dumpster for food.” Vince’s eyes weren’t looking at his book anymore; they were staring beyond its starched white pages into an alley of the past, gazing at a silver-haired child gagging down rotten fruit because he was too hungry to pass it up. “Father took me in. He taught me how to live on the streets safely and with integrity. We never stole. We worked where we could and foraged whenever possible. Does that sound like a man hiding abilities to you?”
“Only if he were working very hard to hide them,” Chad admitted. “But it’s still not impossible.”
“I can turn this bench into cinders with a thought. You could lift that statue from across the lawn and throw it half a block past the end of campus. We have a very skewed sense of what is and isn’t impossible.”
“What’s your point?”
“I’ll probably never completely convince you that the man who raised me isn’t the same as the one who killed your dad,” Vince said slowly. “Not beyond any doubt. But I’ll never believe he did anything like that, either. So we have a homeless man with enough compassion to raise someone else’s freak of a kid until he dies in an explosion when I’m thirteen. If you prefer to think of him as a murdering former Hero in disguise then I can’t stop you; I can only tell you that there isn’t one shred of evidence in my memories to support that theory.”
“I thought you said thirteen was the age he gave you the watch.”
“On my found-day. We didn’t know when I was born, so that was what we used to mark the passing of years. He died a few months later.”
“I’m sorry,” Chad replied. “Sincerely. Even if it was him, I’m sorry you had to lose your father.”
“Same to you,” Vince echoed.
“I think you’re right. I don’t know anything for sure. The watch is a damning piece of evidence, but it alone doesn’t prove anything. Globe’s body was never found; however, that doesn’t mean nothing of him survived.”
“Globe died?” Vince asked.
“His teammates killed him after he killed my father. Nick and Alice did a presentation on all of this last year for class.”
“I missed a few of them. Coach George called me into his office on one of the presentation days,” Vince explained.
Chad rifled through his memory. Sure enough, Vince had been yanked out that day. “You were gone for it. The summary is that Globe killed Intra, and then was killed off by the remainder of his team when he turned on them as well. Black Hole was the Hero who brought him down, and a side effect of his ability was that it didn’t leave a body behind, so some people have always wondered whether Globe was truly gone or not.” Chad didn’t mention how prominent a member of ‘some people’ he was. His actions over the past week already told that story too clearly.
“He sounds like a bastard.”
“I’m sorry he killed your dad.”
“Is that why you train so hard? Because you’re afraid someone will turn on you?”
Chad shook his head. “My father was one of the greatest Heroes who ever lived. He was strong, pure, and effective. Yet all anyone knows him for is being Globe’s victim. No one talks about the people he saved or the lives he impacted. They only talk about the way he died.”
He stood up from the bench and stretched, feeling the shift of every muscle in his body as he re-centered them to perfect alignment.
“I intend to redeem my father’s abilities. I am going to show the world just how strong he really was, by showing everyone what these powers can do.” Chad turned and found Vince looking at him, the first meeting of one another’s eyes during their conversation. “I am going to become the strongest Hero this world has ever seen. I’ll surpass everyone, no matter what it takes.”
In that moment, watching the slow dip of the sun ring Chad’s blonde hair with orange light, Vince had no trouble believing him.
“I don’t think I’ll be in your way,” Vince said.
“We’ll see. If we ever do go against one another, it won’t be with any bad blood between us. I’m going to choose to believe you about your father.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Vince slid the book to his side and stood up. He and Chad were nearly the same height, two taller-than-average fellows with much greater-than-average potential. He stuck out his hand, letting it jut into open air. “Friends?”
Chad accepted it and shook. “Allies.”
“Allies,” Vince agreed. “And, in next week’s match, competitors.”
“I look forward to it,” Chad said with a grin. Vince smiled right back. He was getting excited about the upcoming battle, too.