There had never been any question that Titan would take the time to see Intramurals. His frequent association over the last year with Lander’s dean meant getting in wasn’t an issue, and for a time he’d suspected his sons might be competing. Although it hadn’t panned out that way, he still wanted to see the matches; after spending a summer helping train all of the competitors Titan wanted to witness how much they’d grown in their final year at Lander. Titan was always going to attend Intramurals, but several days before the competition kicked off it wasn’t Titan who made a special trip to Lander, it was Owen Daniels.
He didn’t often show up to these sorts of places outside of costume anymore, now that he was back in the Hero life it felt important to own that identity, especially when younger Supers were on hand to see him. This wasn’t Hero business, however. At least, not primarily. No, today he’d come as a father, accepting the request from his children. Roy had been the one to ask for the meeting, but he assured Owen that Hershel wanted to talk as well. It was the location that tipped Owen off to the unique nature of the impending discussion, since they didn’t want to meet him at the HCP. Or in the dorms, or a bar, or even a gym: all the normal places he’d expect his sons to choose.
Instead, they’d invited him to a junkyard. Scrapyard, really, since it was mostly rusted and used up hunks of metal littering the ground as Owen carefully steered his rented truck through the obstacles. Teleporting might have been faster, but there was something to be said about driving, taking some time for one’s self to sort through stray thoughts. While there was only so much to contemplate on the way in, Owen had a hunch he’d have a lot more to chew on when this was over. Pulling up next to Roy’s motorcycle, its age starting to show, Owen killed the engine and hopped out of the cab. No sooner had his feet hit the ground than Roy stepped into view from behind a half of an old sedan.
“Ain’t exactly the same as our old spot, but it was the best Hershel and I could find.” Roy took a few steps forward, bringing him in range of a beaten up washing machine that had obviously been dragged to precisely that position. “You remember when I had to struggle to lift one of these?”
“I do. I told you it was too heavy, that you’d get there eventually, and you somehow decided that was a personal challenge. You started working out every chance you got, even when I wasn’t training you, until we went to the old junkyard and you finally got that thing overhead. To this day, I’m still not sure what you were more proud of: lifting the washing machine or proving me wrong.”
Reaching down, Roy gripped the corner of the washerand easily hefted it into the air, the strain negligible compared to his strength. “Call it about fifty-fifty. I was never one to take kindly to someone telling me there was something I couldn’t do.”
“Your HCP career proves that many times over,” Owen agreed. He leaned against the grill of his truck, careful not to move his legs to fast and accidentally shove the whole thing back. “So, what has someone told you that you can’t do this time?”
“Not someone: me. Us, actually, Hershel’s struggled with it too. See, with Intramurals and graduation running up on everyone, it’s hard to ignore the fact that we have to get our internship sorted. All year, we’ve been thinking about it. Wondering who the hell we should learn from to get the best start. When Granite tossed us the offer, it should have been an easy choice, but neither of us wanted to jump on it. Because, deep down, we knew there was another contender. Even if Hershel and I had both been thinking that we couldn’t intern under you, part of us was pushing back on that idea. Whether we like it or not, nobody can train us like you.”
While Owen might have personally disagreed, there were bound to be Heroes out there who could do as good a job, if not better, than Titan as their educators, even he could concede that he was among the top candidates. Assuming one ignored all the complications of their relationship, of course. “If you want to talk about internships, then why didn’t you set this up at the HCP? It’s really more a conversation for Titan.”
“Not the way we see it.” Roy set the washer down carefully, being sure not to let it smash on impact. “Hero and intern might be a sacred relationship and all that shit, but father and son still matters more. We ain’t doing ourselves no favors by pretending that that wouldn’t be our dynamic. It makes things harder, no denying that, but not impossible. Hershel and I have thought about this for months, considered all the risks we’d be taking, and come to the decision that strained and risky as it might be, we’d still rather learn from you than anyone else. Because you can make us better than we’d ever be on our own.”
There was a pause, long enough that Owen almost started to respond, before Roy spoke again. This time, his voice was a little softer; with the bravado dialed back as well.
“And, at the end of the day, you’re our dad. You fucked up so hard I still can’t always wrap my head around it, but… we’re pretty deep into Hero training these days, I’m starting to get how one brief decision can have bigger impacts than you ever see coming. That doesn’t make it okay, I doubt anything ever will. I just don’t want to hate you for it anymore. Not because you deserve forgiveness, but because Hershel and I deserve to move on.”
Roy walked over to the truck where Owen was still leaning and assumed a near mirror position next to him against the grill. Neither looked directly at each other, instead casting their gaze to all the broken, yet perhaps not unsalvageable, hunks of metal around them. “A junkyard like this was the last spot we really trained as a team, not just you giving me pointers. Seemed a fitting spot to either start things up again or put the matter to bed for good.”
“Hershel picked this place, didn’t he? That boy always had a bit more of the theatrical in him.”
“You have no idea. One day I’ll fill you in on the LARPing, a word I hate myself for even knowing. And yeah, Hershel picked the spot. Only seemed right to give him some input, seeing as I was the one who’d do all the talking.”
“It was a good choice.” Owen finally looked over to Roy, who met his gaze right back. The boy never backed down from a challenge, perceived or otherwise. That was going to be one of the many problems they’d have to deal with during his intern years. “I won’t disrespect the amount of thought you both clearly put into this by telling you it will be hard, and dangerous, to learn from your own father. Part of me will want to go easy on you, which means I’ll have to be all the more strict out of caution. Treating you with kid-gloves wouldn’t just do you a disservice, it might get you killed. This is going to be a rough road, emotionally and physically, and we’re putting a fragile relationship in the mix.”
“Fragile? If Hershel and I can come here and ask you to teach us after everything that’s happened, I would say that relationship must be pretty damn tough in its core,” Roy replied. “But we both know it ain’t going to be easy. That’s part of why we want to do it. The more effort demanded, the stronger we come out the other side.”
Carefully pulling himself up from the truck, Owen stuck his hand out to his son, who accepted it and shook. “Make sure to graduate, Roy. My team is counting on a new intern next year, so it wouldn’t do to leave them hanging.”
The grin that spread across Roy’s face took Owen by surprise, though not nearly as much as the hug Roy pulled him into a second later.