Fandom: Avengers: The Initiative
Written for: millenniumrex in the Yuletide 2007 Challenge
Thanks to Gabbychanning for being kind enough to beta.
Summary: Growing up is never easy.
In less than a few months time two children became adults. They didn't do it quickly; they didn't do it from one moment to the other. It wasn't like in the movies, with one defining moment that changed their life, it happened slowly. It happened and it left them here, in this room, with one of them in a hospital bed and the other holding his hand. They were children when they got here; recruited super powered children, but still children. No longer are they children.
His name was Terry, Terrence, last name classified. Home was a barely wished for hope. It wasn't something he liked thinking about, not since his mother. They thought he was some Goth punk, or just plain emo; he was neither. He just liked wearing black or so he insisted. When you come in wearing all black hot topic stuff, you leave an impression that's hard to leave behind.
He was just happy they didn't make him cut his hair. Considering the type of uniforms they were supposed to wear, he wasn't looking forward to an army type crew-cut. Not that the uniform was all that ... appealing to the girls type of fashion. It wasn't that formal, just a pair of military slacks and a t-shirt. Though at least it wasn't tights.
Terry had never planned to be a superhero, not even after he got his powers, but after his mother... he couldn't afford not to sign up. The guys from the Initiative had promised to make him safe. It was better than getting the weird looks at school. Joining up was the only way out.
Little Abby, sweet little girl with a heart of gold; sweet little wallflower. Getting her powers was the best moment of her life. Before her powers she'd been the girl sitting in the middle of the class. She wasn't one of the nerds, her grades were never high enough for that. She definitely wasn't one of the popular kids either. She'd signed up for cheerleader try outs once and she'd slipped away before they called her name.
She'd gotten on the bus in New York; people had been staring at them, at the wannabe superheroes. It hadn't been easy to get through the demonstrators, but at least people didn't throw stuff at her, like they did at some of the others. She'd arrived at the terminal and looking at most of them she hadn't felt anything but terror and realization that she should have come up in some kind of costume. Compared to the others she felt seriously underdressed. Well...overdressed was a better world, some of those girls, they'd make a bathing suit model look modest.
Some photographer had tried to take pictures of them, but the army guys at the terminal had quickly put a stop to that. Abby had tried to slink away in the shadows, gave them her codename and was quickly let through. It was weird how many of these people knew one another; she heard that several of them used to hang out with the New Warriors. They didn't look that bad, but what did she know?
She desperately tried not to get too close to the big guy wearing a mask that covered everything but his mouth. One of the others called him Rage and he looked like it.
She hadn't ever planned on being a superhero. Superheroes were something from children cartoons or comic books. They were larger than life people that took prime spot on the five-o-clock news.
Even when she got her powers, she never thought `I can be a superhero'. There had been plenty of mutants out there then and Abby had just relaxed in knowing that at least she wasn't one of them. Being a superhero though hadn't even been a consideration. Not even once.
She'd signed up because of her dad. Her dad had gotten this big freak out when he found out Abby had powers and after Stamford, they couldn't mess up their little middle class life by having her be arrested. It would have been worse than being caught driving without a license. Or being home late from a party; as if she ever got invited to any of the cool ones. Looking at the other girls around her, she didn't think she'd ever fit in.
She knew her dad just worried, that he loved her. Sometimes, just every once and a while, she wished she didn't have to be the good girl.
Terrence hadn't even thought about a codename when he came in to register. The guy behind the bench had seemed bored. There had been about a dozen guys before him and all of them had seemed like they'd stepped right out of a comic book or a body builder magazine. Turns out that out of the dozen guys that signed up, Terry was the only one who's registration was actually accepted.
For some reason lots of guys seemed to think that all it took to be a superhero and get paid for it was to wear a costume and have big muscles. Terry didn't feel so much like an idiot after that. The guy behind the bench had barely even looked at him before handing him about a dozen sheets. The first line had been codename. Terry had looked at it in shock.
"I was supposed to come up with a codename?" He'd asked.
The guy behind the bench looked at him as if he were some kind of moron. Terry had quickly stopped talking.
"So what's your powers?" The guy finally asked.
"I turn into what people are scared of." Terry had answered.
"And you can't think of a codename based on that?"
Well... Terry had come up with a few; the guy had rejected them all, for being too stupid, too common, already in use, often by bad guys.
"Codename Trauma." The guy finally said. Terry hadn't bothered to object. At least the guy hadn't gone with his first pick in names.
God, `Emo boy', what had he been thinking.
You know, besides trying not to stare at the woman next to him dressed in a snake and little more than a snake.
Abby loved flying. She'd wanted to fly since the first time her dad took her up in a helicopter at the town's fair when she was a little kid. They'd asked five dollars a trip for a flight and Abby had kept talking about it for months. At first her parents had thought it was cute, but they'd soon gotten tired of it. Other girls her age played with dolls, she bought a play mobile airport set and every piece in it. Her favourite My Little Pony had wings and her favourite Barbie doll was the fairy princess one because of the wings.
She always knew she would someday fly, she'd just never expected to do it like this.
When she got her powers, it had been an accident, just something silly, if she'd been five seconds later or even a minute earlier, it would never have happened. Just one moment of absolute terror and thinking her parents were going to find her dead body and the town would be all upset at how her far too young life was gone far too soon and blah blah...
And then she'd started floating and it had turned into a dream come true. Flying was amazing and there was nothing she loved more in all of her life. She used to dream she'd fly one day. Just a silly dream. She'd thought she'd end up fulfilling it by taking some flying classes, maybe become a pilot one day, well that or a stewardess if she failed math again. This though... it was better than any of her dreams had ever been.
Unburdened by social expectations she was able to leave them all behind her on the ground while she went up to the clouds, light as a feather. In the air there was no one to judge her, no one to ignore her. Up there she could claim she was alone because she wanted to be, not because they just ignored her. No one in class could follow her up to tell her otherwise.
Terry had noticed her as soon as he stepped on the bus. She looked sweet. And unlike the others she didn't look down on him. She was just trying not to look at everyone else, kinda like him. He didn't dare smile at her. He did notice she had a cute smile.
She was the one to ask what happened if they washed out, she didn't get an answer. Doctor Pym, Yellow Jacket didn't give them an answer. Terry hoped that meant they'd get him rid of these powers, this curse of his.
She fell for the jock, all the girls did. Terry had wished to be him, unburdened, just gifted. The dream recruit for everybody. Until MVP died. Because of him. Until Armory washed out, also because of him; because his powers had scared her so much she'd killed MVP. He wished he'd never gotten them.
Even she was afraid to be around him after that. All of them in their own little group of secrets and lies stared at him. And all he could do was brood to keep from laughing at the silly nicknames and the soap opera. They were worse than high school. High school with powers and high tech gadgets and being taught how to shoot and kill, maybe it wasn't that weird then.
They formed their own little clique though, the amateurs, the newbies, the fresh recruits. All the other trainees had at least some kind of experience, but not them.
He smiled at the girl, but was glad that she didn't notice.
She'd never been as scared as the moment she realized she'd killed a man. She'd killed a man, their instructor; Justice had been the only one to act as if that was wrong. It wasn't like in the movies. As soon as they'd gotten to the toilet, she'd thrown up, even as she pretended to the others that everything was normal. She couldn't reveal to be squeamish in front of the president, especially after their first real mission.
She didn't think she'd ever want to do it again.
She was still a kid. She wanted to go home in her room with her teddy bears and childish toys and instead she kept seeing the moment where she'd shot at the plane. She'd expected to see a chute, a guy jumping out of the plane after she shot him. But none of that had happened. He'd been the enemy, he'd have shot her or one of her friends if she hadn't fired, but he'd been a person and she'd killed him.
She threw up again.
Up to that moment target practice had been fun, something she was good at, afterwards... she couldn't help wonder if he'd had a family waiting for him back home. Had he known this was how he would end?
Her finger on the trigger and everyone told her what a good job she'd done. They'd stopped Hydra, they'd saved the president. They were heroes. Real heroes.
So why was Justice so disappointed with her for doing just what she'd been taught to do?
Dani wasn't like anyone else at the camp. It wasn't just her being a mutant, or ex-mutant. There weren't many mutants left; most of them were at Xavier's and Dani had lost her powers on M-day. But she knew what his powers felt like, she knew how scared he was of hurting someone with them and she showed him what he could do if he'd let himself. The good they could do for others.
She knew fear and she brought hope. The first time that he turned into something to help instead of to cause fear, he'd stood there with a dopy grin on his face. She just patted him on the back. It was the best moment of his life.
He'd thought he'd been doing really good, learning to control his powers, how not to accidentally lash out whenever he got angry or scared. And then director Gyrich showed up and told him he was wrong about everything and dragging him off to his black ops team without a second notice.
The others got a choice; he was just supposed to be the weapon for them to drop off.
Dani had wanted him to be a healer; Gyrich wanted him to be some kind of Omega level weapon to bring down the Hulk. All he remembered was being scared as hell when he was in actual combat.
Who was he supposed to believe?
Abby stood at Trauma's bed, shaking, unable to cope with being around him.
"I can't be here," she'd said, "every time I get near this guy, bad things happen."
Like MVP dying to save her, like losing control and almost killing someone, like becoming the very image of a monster she feared to become.
"He freaks me out." She'd finally admitted.
She'd even said it in front of him; she hadn't even realized he was already awake. But he hadn't taken it as an insult; he'd just reached out to her, offered her his hand and showed her her fear, giving her a chance to get over it. He'd understood.
She nearly cried, refusing to think just how much she'd hated him, how much she'd hated herself.
"I can help."
And he did. She wasn't her own worst fear any more.
She wished they could stay this way.
He was the one on the bed; she was the one standing next to him. Yet he'd helped her, helped her fear. And for the first time since MVP died she faced him without fear. It's when he knew, no matter what they told him, whether or not he'd graduate. He could help people. And that made it all worth it.
Abby smiled, they joked.
Who knows, things might actually work out...