“I still can’t believe you guys pulled that off,” Hershel said in awe. Mary nuzzled closer to him; the two were lounging on his bed, looking at the television without watching it.
“Sure, all it took to get a tie was two injuries and what I’m pretty sure was divine intervention in the form of Nick’s lineup working,” Mary sighed.
“Admittedly, it wasn’t perfect, but it was still impressive,” Hershel countered. “And to be honest, it was just what Roy needed. He’s hidden it well, but he’s been really down about this whole issue with hitting his limit. Finding a way to beat Rich was a pretty good morale boost.”
“I know, and I’m actually happy with the outcome, I just don’t want to get too overconfident,” Mary replied. “We had a whole lot of things break our way. Nine times out of ten, that team would beat us definitively.”
“Good thing we got the one out of ten then,” Hershel said, giving his girlfriend a loving squeeze.
“Very good thing. I’m happy Roy is feeling better, too. I’ve heard his thoughts and I know the inability to break through that wall has been eating at him.”
“It’s getting pretty bad,” Hershel agreed. “Professor Fletcher has run through every method he knows of, and Roy’s read up on gobs of people with his power, yet so far we’ve seen zero progress.”
“It’s not something people like to talk about, but every one of us does have limits. Eventually we all hit a threshold we can’t cross, no matter hard we train. We’re not gods, after all; just people with special abilities,” Mary said.
“I know, and that’s the scariest part of it. If this is it, if this is as far as Roy can go, then I’m not sure we’ll ever make it to Hero. There’s just too much of a gap between what we can do and what strongmen at that level are capable of.”
“Wasn’t your dad a Hero? I thought Roy had his ability, and usually the second generation is equal to or stronger than the first,” Mary pointed out.
“Usually is a pretty key word there,” Hershel said. “But Roy doesn’t have my dad’s power. Not exactly. His power was adaption. If he got injured, his body would toughen itself so the same thing wouldn’t hurt him anymore. For example, when he was a kid, he took a nasty tumble off his bike and scratched up his knees and elbows. A week later he fell off again, and this time his skin wasn’t even raw.”
“Didn’t he have super strength too?”
“Same principle. He’d fail to lift something, and within a day he’d be strong enough to do it. By the time he was an adult, his defensive and offensive capabilities were already on par with famous Heroes.”
“Strange that the son of a man whose very ability was breaking through limits would hit his own so early on,” Mary said offhandedly. “Chalk another one up to the mystery of how these powers work.”
“Yeah, it is pretty weird.” Hershel’s voice had grown a bit distant, and Mary had to actively quell the desire to listen on where his mind had wandered. She managed to resist, but if she’d tuned in, all she would have heard was him reminiscing over a memory from childhood. It was one that Roy blocked out, but still haunted Hershel in moments like these.
It was about a month after Roy had come into the picture. He and his father had been sitting in a park, eating ice cream on a warm afternoon. The details had grown blurry, but the one piece that was still sharp was his father’s hand patting Hershel’s head and his voice telling Hershel that one day the two of them would surpass him by leap and bounds. Even now, looking back, it didn’t feel like speculation. It seemed like his father knew something, something that was becoming increasingly more important as Roy stayed still while the rest of the class moved forward.
Mary poked him in the ribs. “Hey, you in there?”
“Sorry, I was just thinking about something,” Hershel said. Gazing at Mary, it sunk in that if Roy couldn’t make the cut, they would fall on a very different path than Mary and the others. Hershel didn’t want to lose future memories of the HCP, even if they were secondhand. He didn’t want to live in a different world than all of his friends. Most of all, he didn’t want to feel his brother’s frustration and fear anymore. Roy had been an ass to him for a lot of their life, but when push came to shove, he’d always looked out for his weaker brother. It was Hershel’s turn to do something Roy couldn’t do.
“When is spring break?” Hershel asked.
“Like, two weeks away. Didn’t you see the posters for the freshman river trip?”
“Must have missed those.”
“Why do you ask?”
“Just figuring out how I’m going to spend my time off. Wanted to know how much prep time there was.”
“I hope you come up with something fun. We could all use some stress relief after our semester so far.”
“That we could,” Hershel agreed. It was the only phrase he could come up with that sounded on the same page but wouldn’t count as a lie. His spring break would be anything but fun. It would be hard to keep from Roy, too. Fortunately, Roy didn’t often reminisce on Hershel’s memories of Mary, so if he was lucky, the other brother wouldn’t notice this harebrained idea lurking in their shared mind. It would take damn near a miracle, but after today’s spectacle, Hershel found himself a bit more inclined to hope for one.