Real Men Wear Tights

High school can be tough for everyone. This is especially true when you're hiding a secret that can never be told.

http://archiveofourown.org/works/469179/chapters/811056

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7. In Which Heir Accidentally Goes on a Date Part 2

It was a calming gesture that reminded him of when he was younger. There was a specific incident that immediately came to mind of when he had been a child and still getting used to flying. He and his dad had been out in the country away from prying eyes, practicing his aerial maneuvers and getting the very young John used to controlling his flight properly. At one point, he had come in too fast during a landing, and had felt real, true pain for the first time in his life as he skidded along the ground, tumbling head over heel. He had been small enough for his dad to scoop him up, then, and carry him in his arms to where he had parked their car, shushing and whispering soft reassurances while John sobbed against his shirt. John had grown up a lot since then, sometimes much more quickly than he had wanted to.

“Son, thank you for trusting me with these feelings. That was very brave of you,” he whispered, the man’s hand rubbing gentle circles on his son’s back. It felt kind of strange to have something like the unleashing of his emotional turmoil be labeled as ‘brave,’ the same thing that was always expected of him everyday as a hero. Crying against his father’s shoulder just seemed a lot like vulnerability to John, the opposite of who Heir was supposed to be. “I’m proud of you.”

There was a lot more to that statement than what there normally was, John felt. It wasn’t a phrase uttered as an empty platitude, but a true, honest reflection of how his father felt about him. Maybe it was just because he was so emotionally vulnerable right now, but the statement brought a renewed flow of tears to his eyes, and John clung to the man even harder.

“I’m so happy that you’ve found someone you care about this much. Karkat is very lucky to have you in his life, and it’s clear that you make each other happy.” His father paused for a moment, apparently weighing his next words very carefully. “But I think you should take your time with telling him how you feel. You know it’s a big decision, but I trust you to make the right one for the both of you.”

John nodded, holding onto the man tightly until his tears finally stopped. He pulled away and wiped his nose against his sleeve, his thoughts stuck wondering how long he could possibly keep himself from telling Karkat. His dad was right on that account, however. He needed to wait and be sure of exactly how much he wanted to tell the troll before he did anything. He didn’t think he could unleash one of his biggest secrets to his best friend without feeling the need to tell him the other. And that was a secret that carried a lot of baggage with it.

“There are so few people out there who know how difficult it is to go through what you’re going through, son.” His dad squeezed his shoulder tight, grinning very slightly as he continued in an entirely unexpected direction. “I think you should forget what I said earlier about Hemogoblin. See if he needs a partner.”

 

/ / /

John felt absolutely drained as he propelled himself across the night sky. Despite having been out for less than an hour, the brief talk with his dad regarding Karkat had taken its toll on him emotionally. He had wanted nothing more after that than to curl up in his bed and sleep away the emotional residue still clinging to him, but duty called. Focusing was proving to be difficult, but as Heir he didn’t have the luxury of allowing his thoughts to wander freely. Besides, he had a mission to accomplish, tonight.

His dad’s sudden change of heart regarding Hemogoblin had been promptly questioned, though John had only earned a smile and a shrug for his efforts. Something had to have happened to make the man change his mind, but he wasn’t willing to share any details with John. Whatever the reason might have been, John had not only been given approval to go pursue the other hero, but also had consent to suggest teaming up with him. All this, and it wasn’t even his birthday yet. Maybe he should have tear-filled emotional outbursts more often?

As he was passing the financial district, the wind gave a sharp tug to John’s senses, causing him to whip his head around. Within moments, John spotted movement on a nearby rooftop, just off to the left of him. Narrowing his eyes, he quickly altered his flight path to investigate. The wind’s tug was gentle in that direction but still present, not urgently calling to him as it usually did when danger flooded the air, but more so just suggesting a path for him. John grinned, putting two and two together and coming to the conclusion that the wind had deemed his mission important and had once again led him to his objective. Besides, there weren’t exactly many freerunners in this city brave enough to jump across the rooftops of mid-rise buildings, let alone ones who made it look effortless.

Sure enough, when John swooped in for a closer look, he could just make out the telltale red and black suited troll as he swiftly cleared building after building. For a few minutes John simply watched him, floating along at a sedate pace, deciding he was in no real rush to make his intentions known now that he had found the other hero. Hemogoblin movements were so sure and confident, with each takeoff, jump, and landing coming in one fluid progression. It was like Hemogoblin had some sort of sixth sense about when and where to jump and twist his body, the whole performance reminding John of a skilled acrobatic troupe he had once seen with his father during a trip to the circus.

Seeing the troll dashing from rooftop to rooftop without any hesitation gave John thought. Could he do the same, without the safety net of the wind and knowing that there was only hard pavement stories below him if he miscalculated? He couldn’t really grasp the concept of physically falling since he had never done so without having at least some control over it. Even if he were to fly as high as he could go and cut all control of the wind, it would still caress and cradle him in its embrace as he fell, reassuring him that he would always land safely.

As he watched the troll flex and spring into the air, John became aware of a growing temptation to catch the other hero off-guard by halting his motions mid-leap with the wind. He was so close to the other now that all it would take would be an outstretching of his hand and a quick flick of his wrist. As amusing as that could be, though, those thoughts were quickly outweighed by the risks the prank could bring about. He didn’t know the extents of Hemogoblin’s abilities and the hero could very well take the action as an attack, react instinctively, and get them both injured, or worse. That would cut his amusement short pretty quickly.

“Are you just planning to watch me all night?” John looked down to where the voice called from, surprised to find that Hemogoblin had veered off his supposed path and jumped to the rooftop under him without John even realizing it. He really needed to work on letting his mind wander until any doubts surrounding Hemogoblin had been cleared. While he wanted to think the best of the other hero, he couldn’t deny how little he knew about him, and every moment of relaxed guard was a potential for attack.

John descended, stopping to hover at eye level in the gap between two buildings. He smiled, knowing that through the thin fabric of his mask his expression would be caught. He cleared his throat, reaching slightly for the deeper octave he used as Heir. “I was actually wondering if you’d like to go get a cup of coffee with me?”

A strange expression crossed Hemogoblin’s face as one of his delicate eyebrows raised above his mask, a mischievous smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Are you asking me out, Heir?”

Oh, shit, he hadn’t worded that right. “No!” John spluttered, caught off guard by the teasing tone and arched brow. The heat of blood rushing to his cheeks flummoxed him slightly as he tried to motivate himself to keep going with his plan. He hadn’t really expected to be the weak one in this conversation, but he had apparently been a bit wrong in assuming Hemogoblin was the quiet and subdued type if that short exchange was anything to go by. He definitely seemed more at ease than he had the other night when they’d just met. “I’d just like to get you know you a bit. You know, as one hero to another, protectors of the same city, all that.”

“Me and you, both foregoing our duties to the city, to go get coffee in costume? Doesn’t seem like the brightest idea ever.” Hemogoblin crossed his arms, scrutinizing John with those luminescent red eyes and a smirk on his lips. His gaze was fixed, unwavering and focused, looking for any reason to mistrust him. Or at least that’s how John interpreted it. Those eyes of his were somewhat intimidating when they were peering into your own, but John couldn’t look away, for some reason. Strangely, the other hero’s voice hadn’t been even, instead laced with a slight nervousness that didn’t project to his body language.

John might’ve been a bit thrown off by that comment, had he not been meticulously groomed and prepared for exactly this sort of banter through all of his verbal showdowns with Karkat. As it was, he brushed Hemogoblin’s words off as teasing and plowed on, an excuse already on his lips. “The wind calls to me when there’s danger, so a few minutes won’t hurt. There’s something I’d like to talk to you about.”

Hemogoblin looked away to the ground in front of him in contemplation, brows furrowing slightly as if trying to work out John’s intentions. John couldn’t read if the reaction was one of consideration or just hesitation, so he tried to soothe the other hero’s doubts as best as he could. “Besides, at this time of night people will just think we’re some fanatic kids in cosplay. What do you say?”

Hemogoblin seemed to ponder his words for a moment more before he replied, “Sounds interesting.” The troll shrugged his shoulders, the air around him speaking of a lazy confidence as he agreed.

John resisted the urge to do something that didn’t fit with Heir’s image in his excitement, like spinning around in the air and slipping into exuberance over everything going to plan. He grinned to himself as he felt his earlier exhaustion bleed away to be replaced by this excitement, his entire mood uplifted from where it was not minutes before.

“I know a place. Should we meet there?”

“I have something quicker in mind,” John quipped. With an unnecessary flourish, he raised a hand symbolically, asking for the wind to bend to his will. It flowed around him in twisting currents before breaking off to twirl and dance around Hemogoblin, lifting up on his arms slightly and inviting the other hero into the sky, its demeanor light and playful as it welcomed the chance to embrace another in its grasp. Surprise registered in Hemogoblin’s eyes for a fleeting moment as he was slowly lifted a foot off the ground, but the alarm quickly gave way to a look that John could only equate to a childlike state of unimaginable wonder at realizing that he was actually flying, floating around above the rooftop weightlessly.

   

“Wow,” he uttered, the word coming out as an honest, awed breath as glowing eyes kept focus on the ground just below his feet. The reaction wasn’t entirely unexpected, as there were very few people in the world that had experienced the sensation of flight, just kind of... cute. John felt himself grinning more for being able to draw that kind of reaction out.

“Is this okay?” John asked as he lifted Hemogoblin higher and pulled them closer. It would be easier to control one central stream for the two of them than to have alternate, parallel paths, or to stretch the wind across a distance. She might get cranky with him if he tried that. Hemogoblin kept looking between Heir and the significant distance now between him and the ground, emotions now seemingly under control, but there was a clear struggle on the hero’s face to quell his apprehension. And John could understand that. Having lifted Hemogoblin up into the air with his powers, the other was basically now powerless and completely at his mercy. If John had decided to betray him, getting rid of him would be as easy as twisting his wrist. It wasn’t easy to essentially trust someone with your actual life, like that. “I’m not going to drop you, Hemogoblin.”

The troll said nothing for a moment, pursing his full lips. “It’s just different than how I imagined.” It was almost difficult to hear the troll’s soft voice over the wind whistling around them, but John managed to catch it, the wind carrying the subtle vibrations directly to his ear as if the troll was whispering into it, the sensation sending a slight shiver down his back. “The wind is warm.”

“You imagined I’d take you flying?” John asked, his tone amused. Hemogoblin’s lips twitched as he nodded in response, arms unwinding and falling slowly down to his sides. John couldn’t help but follow the limbs, catching himself before he lingered too long on the sculpted muscles hidden by such a thin layer of material. He had a feeling that, at least for the foreseeable future, staring was going to be a big challenge when it came to dealing with the other hero—Hemogoblin really did have an amazing body, and he definitely seemed to have no problems with putting it on display. He even put most of the sculpted bodies of the swimmers that John regularly encountered to shame.

John lifted them up until they were looking down at the illuminated city that they were both sworn to protect, deciding to allow Hemogoblin a moment to take in the view before he asked for directions. It wasn’t until he halted their ascent that he realized that Hemogoblin had at some point latched onto his arm, the hero’s grip loose but firm enough so that he was never without an anchor. John remembered feeling like he needed an anchor the very time he had flown, too, so the gesture was somewhat amusing to him. He looked down at the hand wrapped around his elbow, finding that a small alteration had been made to the arm warmers in order to include gloves. The modification was interesting, with the entire palm being exposed, the cut of the material following a V up his forearm to show his wrists. Yellow peaked out from the very tips of the gloves, and John took a second to realize that small slits had been made to allow his nails to poke through.

“Those are new,” he remarked, wondering how long it had taken the troll to whip those up. There had to be a reason for the design choice, since the gloves seemed like a whole lot of work if they were just for aesthetics.

“I made some changes to be safer,” Hemogoblin said, figuring out fairly quickly what John was referring to as he was all but picking the troll’s hand up to inspect the new addition to his ensemble. “You looked at my hands the last time we met and seemed concerned.”

John was impressed that the hero had picked up on that. It probably wouldn’t have ever been an actual problem, as those who had the means to run fingerprints through the necessary databases generally were working on the same side as them, but seeing the other err on the side of caution was still good. John paused, filtering Hemogoblin’s statement through his head. “You made your own costume?”

Hemogoblin was slow to nod and offer John a raised eyebrow, his expression seemingly asking John to elaborate on what exactly he was getting at.

John flushed slightly, returning his gaze back to the gloved hand around his elbow. “You did a...very good job.”

The tone the troll responded with after a slight pause was taunting, with a twinge of something else to it that John was unused to. “Thanks. I’m very good with my hands.”

John’s attention immediately shot back to Hemogoblin’s face, quick enough to catch the troll’s knowing smirk. John’s face felt hot under his mask but he tried not to let the troll’s words get to him. He was suddenly very much aware of the close proximity of their bodies as he straightened back up. Still, being so close up, now, John could really take in the hero’s eyes. They were really something else, already unique to him with that vivid crimson and their almost unsettling intensity. And that was without even considering how they shone in the darkness in an unnatural glow.

The hand at his elbow squeezed tightly and John tried not to let it show how flustered it made him. It seemed that he definitely needed to get used to those kinds of remarks, though he honestly wondered if Hemogoblin was being genuine, or just teasing. He decided to put that concern to the back of his mind, for the moment, because he still had a mission to accomplish. “Shall we?”

Hemogoblin chuckled lightly before he instructed John to head to the southwest corner of the city’s downtown core and to look for a well-known plaza there. At having confirmed their destination, John smirked, his prankster side rearing its head as he let the wind gather and coalesce around them, and then with a shot, they were off into the night sky. His prank was proven to be a success when the hand around his bicep tightened considerably and John just barely heard a muttered curse under Hemogoblin’s breath. He only kept that up for a few seconds before he let the wind die down a bit, but the unimpressed stare Hemogoblin sent his way had John grinning shyly. It shouldn’t have been that big a deal, really, since it wasn’t like the troll’s grip on his arm was the only thing keeping him afloat. They were both firmly in the wind’s embrace, with protection from inertia and whispers of safety tingling against their ears.

Once they reached a point not too far from their location, John let the wind flow less urgently around the two of them, giving Hemogoblin the chance to see the world from John’s normal viewpoint. This was a viewpoint that you couldn’t achieve by being in a metal plane, protected from the elements and the air by material means. This was different. And John wanted to share something that was his, to open up his world to show that he was genuine when he’d ask about potentially being partners. The troll seemed to appreciate it, if the visible excitement on his face and the hitching of his hand higher up on John’s bicep were any indication.

With Hemogoblin pointing the way, they arrived at his coffee shop within several minutes. Their destination was a small, brick coffee shop done up in eggplant purple and rich red, tucked away near a park and down the street from a major shopping centre. Cream-coloured lattice covered the windows, a warm glow emanating from inside the building. John and Hemogoblin landed in an alley near the shop, Hemogoblin detaching himself from John’s side. If John was honest with himself, he instantly missed the warmth and pressure, but he shoved that along with Hemogoblin’s earlier comments to the back of his mind, and together they walked the short distance to the cafe door.

Going inside from the chilling winter night to the embracing warmth made John breathe out a relieved sigh. Even if he had been using the warmth of the wind as protection from the night’s chill, it felt wonderful to relax his control and bask in the glow of central heating. He inhaled the rich smell of roasted coffee and books before stepping further inside, several of the cafe’s customers stopping in their conversations to give the pair curious looks. It wasn’t everyday that you saw a pair of teens “cosplaying” as superheroes strolling into your coffee shop, John supposed.

Hemogoblin walked past him confidently, and John couldn’t stop his eyes from trailing after him. Everything about him had become much more visible in the bright light, especially the way his muscles shifted under the tight material of his costume with each step. And wow, did Hemogoblin ever have an amazing butt. Just. Wow. That sure was a flattering costume.

Someone cleared their throat loudly, breaking John’s attention. He looked up to see Hemogoblin grinning over his shoulder at him, swaying his hips a little from side to side, so—okay, he needed to stop looking at the other hero’s butt, regardless of how appealing it might have been. Down boy. It was not cool to just stare at the assets of your potential partner in justice on the second meeting. In his weak mental defense of his blatant ogling, he was positive that he wasn’t the only one who had been looking. The furious typing from one corner of the room had paused for an extended moment before slowly picking back up, and it seemed that someone was cursing after having over-poured their cream until their coffee had overflowed.

“Do you see something you want?” Hemogoblin asked, his voice almost a purr, and John cursed himself mentally. He was completely out of his depth trying to stand up to a flirtatious personality like this. He had never really encountered it before, so the words weren’t rolling off of him as easily as he would have liked. John could feel his face heat up before the troll chuckled, pointing up at the chalkboard behind the counter. “To order.”

The barista emerged from the back room moments after Hemogoblin delivered this quip, halting in mid-step as he took in the two people who had just entered his coffee shop. He blinked for a moment, eyes going from Hemogoblin to John and back again before an amused grin broke out on his face. “Well, hey there!” He exclaimed, hurrying over to the counter. “Those are some awesome costumes you’ve got there! What can I get you?”

Hemogoblin smirked, twisting slightly in place and spreading his arms out to show off his costume, his hips twisting in a way that would’ve made John double-take had he not already been staring. “Thanks, we worked really hard on them.” The troll looked up at the board, tapping a finger to his lips before deciding. “I’ll have a medium mocha with extra whipped cream. And he will have a...?”

John shrugged when Hemogoblin turned to him. “Gotta stay in character,” he said, tapping his face mask. Quickly opening up the pouch where he kept an emergency roll of bills, John pulled out a twenty. He put it on the counter, earning a curious look from his fellow hero. “I invited you.”

“Such a gentleman.” The short remark would have been harmless, if Hemogoblin’s voice hadn’t caressed the words in a silky flow that was both way too sensual and far too alluring. The batting of petite eyelashes didn’t help. Any nervousness the troll had possessed in their last encounter seemed long gone, and John suddenly felt totally out of his depth. Maybe suggesting a partnership was best to be delayed until John had a better idea of how to take the troll’s personality. He could use this time to assess the idea instead of jumping too far ahead of himself, despite his dad thinking it was a good idea.

Once Hemogoblin had received his drink—which came with a fair amount of chocolate sprinkles scattered across the mountain of whipped cream—they headed to a table near the back of the coffee shop, away from the curious eyes of the other shop patrons. While the barista didn’t seem hesitant to accept them as just kids in costumes, the handful of others there seemed much more eager to investigate, if given the chance.

Once they were seated, Hemogoblin crossed his legs under the table, giving John’s leg a quick nudge when he started talking. “So, Heir, why the sudden coffee date?” Hemogoblin asked, before he took a long sip of his drink, swallowing deeply before flicking his tongue over the top of the whipped cream in a slow, drawn-out gesture. It would have successfully left John stuttering and admittedly fairly turned on, if the other hero didn’t have whipped cream on the tip of his nose.

 

John stifled a chuckle, debating with himself whether to inform the troll, or let him sit there and make his flirtatious jokes with whipped cream all over his face. In the end, his decency won out. “Ah, Hemogoblin. You have a little...” He motioned to his face and Hemogoblin’s eyes widened. The look of embarrassment on the troll’s face as he hurriedly swiped his fingers over his nose made John laugh out loud, unable to contain his mirth.

Hemogoblin stared down at the offending cream on his glove and huffed before glanced at the table in search for a napkin. John had almost expected him to lick it off his fingers. It was a strangely relieving break from the troll’s blatant sexy side, and John found it much more endearing. Hemogoblin’s personality certainly wasn’t all he initially let on to.

“Did you always want to be a hero?” John asked as the other hero tried a second attempt at drinking his coffee, this time more mindful of the topping. The moment passed as soon as Hemogoblin’s tongue traced slowly across his bottom lip. He really needed to stop thinking about Hemogoblin’s tongue.

“I’ll answer yours if you answer mine.”

That sounded like it could be a dangerous game with his present company, but John agreed to it, regardless. If he could get honest answers out of Hemogoblin, he would take the potential few thrown at him with the intention to get him hot under the collar.

“Most of my life, I just wanted to live quietly. I have a mutation, of the ‘You’re a freak,’ variety. I just didn’t realize I could apply it to something worthwhile until I was properly inspired.” Hemogoblin shifted, stretching his long legs under the short table. John jumped as a booted foot brushed against his shin. “The same question to you.”

John relaxed when the foot dropped to the ground, even if the sensation hadn’t been all that unwelcome. “I was always going to be a hero. I wanted to, yeah, but I was raised to do it. I don’t know if I would have been allowed to just refuse, to be honest.” Hemogoblin nodded at his answer, taking a tentative sip of his mocha. “Who inspired you?”

“You did.” Short and spoken with utmost confidence, the answer was unexpected. Knowing he had somehow inspired Hemogoblin to see a potential in himself, and to use it to help people by becoming a hero, gave him pride in the symbol that Heir represented. And, frankly, flattered him. “Would you ever give it up?”

John paused, weighing his answer. “I think about it. I’d be lying to say I don’t consider how much easier it’d make things. There are things I want from life that this lifestyle can’t give me,” he paused, his heart reminding him it was there with a dull ache as he thought of a certain someone in particular. “I don’t know if I could forgive myself for stopping, though.” John took in the troll across from him: gorgeous, powerful, deadly, and sipping on a mocha covered in fluffy whipped cream and sprinkles. Hemogoblin had surprised him in the boldness of his flirtatious side, the unexpected bouts of endearing actions, and the thoughtful silence he slipped into after John’s answers. Under that costume was someone who was complex, and who could relate to the struggles of being depended upon at such a young age.

It was John’s turn to ask a question. “Do you want a partner?” The question hadn’t even seemed hard to ask anymore, like he thought it would be. The ever-present nag of caution in the back of his mind was still there, but after sitting down with the troll and getting a better feel for his personality, his instincts were telling him he was making the right decision. Besides, the wind wouldn’t have settled like it had if Hemogoblin had presented any hostility towards him. If his instincts couldn’t be relied upon, then there was always the wind.

Hemogoblin sat up straight, eyes widening for only a moment before he was able get a grasp on his emotions. It had been more than long enough for John to see it and become curious, however. The troll tried to disguise the surprised reaction by leaning back, switching his legs so that his right leg was crossing over the other in a sufficiently distracting manner.

“As in, in general, or are you asking me to be your partner?” Hemogoblin would have sounded just as confident as he appeared, if not for the slight rise of his voice midway through his sentence. When his coffee cup was settled down on the table, John thought he saw the other’s hand shaking ever so slightly.

“Do you want to?” John asked, grinning boldly. If he was really the reason why Hemogoblin chose to become a hero, then he at least respected him, maybe even idolized him a bit.

“You haven’t even seen me really fight,” Hemogoblin breathed, his voice still a bit unsteady.

John nodded, briefly wondering just how much of Hemogoblin’s abilities he had still left to see. The first and only experience he had had with the hero’s style painted a clear picture of someone using his basic potential. He was too fast and too clean in his movements to show what he could do against regular people who couldn’t hope to match his experience.

“Let’s do a trial run, then,” John suggested, hoping for the answer he almost expected at this point. He didn’t think he could have read the situation wrong, even with his less than stellar people skills.

“Trial run?” Hemogoblin raised an eyebrow and tilted his head slightly to one side in question.

“Flying around the city together, stopping crimes, splitting the credit and work fifty-fifty. I can show you the trouble areas that need to be patrolled carefully and which parts are hot zones for gang activity, and you can show me what you can do. How ‘bout it?” The troll unwound his leg slowly before standing up. After a pause he picked up his coffee and finished it off, licking cream from his lips when he pulled the empty cup away. He looked expectantly at John.

“Let’s go.”

 

///

Hemogoblin’s kick connected like a whip, cracking just under the his opponent's pelvis with the bone of his shin and sending the man to the ground before he even had a chance to realize he was outmatched. The timed rotation of the troll’s hips and natural length of his legs made for brutal speed, his leg hitting with a force that could fracture a rib if he aimed high. Though from the position of the man’s leg and his clear agony, it wasn’t a stretch to assume he wouldn’t be walking comfortably anytime soon.

The fluid fighting style of capoeira had given way to mixed martial arts, heavily relying on muay thai, part way through the night. John wasn’t sure if it was just Hemogoblin demonstrating his different skills to him or if he was just adapting to no-nonsense takedowns for the more one-on-one fights, but it was impressive nonetheless. The troll had a strong background in the Thai discipline, evident in how precise his movements were and how each hit was focused on any and every vulnerability his opponents presented without thought. John was familiar with some of the moves Hemogoblin used thanks to the MCMAP training his dad had passed on to him, but he was honestly beginning to wonder if they were to face off without powers whether or not he’d stand a chance against the other hero’s speed. He knew how to block those kicks and elbow jabs in theory, but not when they came that quickly.

Hemogoblin restrained the man, who had been reduced to tears due to the pain in his leg, and John really wasn’t that sympathetic. They had caught him pinning a young woman a block away from a popular nightclub, hidden in the darkness of an alleyway away from prying eyes and any help. The wind had brought them there just as he had torn the purse out of her hands and before he could think of committing a crime worse than theft. The sight of the two heroes landing beside him had sent the man sprinting away, but Hemogoblin had caught up and rendered him immobile in a matter of seconds.

John stayed with the panicked woman, trying to calm her with gentle words, while the troll whispered something in the man’s ear that had him shivering and frantically nodding. Probably a threat, by the way the man looked ready to wet himself and the sinister expression the other hero wore. John raised an eyebrow as Hemogoblin walked past him and to the opening of the alley. He followed, hoping the hero would explain his excessive use of violence without John having to prompt him to do so.

“If they’re not afraid of me, they’re not going to stop.” He kept his voice low, a dark rumble as he walked with John. Once they were out of earshot, he sighed and let his face soften, keeping his back turned and body language aggressive. “They’ll just be back on the streets doing the same thing if I don’t give them a reason not to. That guy isn’t going to walk without feeling what I did to him. Without getting unnecessarily serious, this is what I can do.”

That made sense. Intimidation was a good tactic for stopping people from re-offending. John’s control of the wind, his unexplained powers to manipulate a gentle breeze into a hurricane at will, was what people feared. Hemogoblin was trying to establish his brute force and unreachable speed as his threat, as well as his unforgiving willingness to use both.

“‘Unnecessarily serious’?” John was curious. The whole night he had hung back unless needed, letting Hemogoblin show him his potential skills as a partner. Quiet, fast, powerful, and very flexible, he was definitely worthy of fighting alongside Heir, but he never showed anything above what a highly-trained troll could do. It was impressive that he had such a high level of skills at such a young age, but still, it wasn’t unheard of. Being a hero was dangerous for someone who couldn’t dodge bullets or take hits that would otherwise kill a normal person. John wondered what he could be hiding.

Hemogoblin grinned slyly, “You’re not the only one with a fancy trick, Heir. I’m just keeping mine until I need it.”

“I don’t know if I should look forward to seeing it, if that’s the case,” John said, feeling like his attempts to split his attention between watching the woman on her cellphone with the police and the man whimpering on the ground were made nearly impossible while in view of those bright eyes. They were too new for him, and hard to not lose himself in if he wasn't paying attention.

“Good idea.” Hemogoblin tilted his head to the side, listening to the quiet sound of sirens in the distance that cut through the otherwise silence of the night. That was usually his clue to go if the victim seemed capable on their own, which in this case she did. Rattled, yes, but things hadn’t progressed far enough for her to be traumatized. Hemogoblin must have read his thoughts, because not a moment later, he asked, “Should we head out?”

“It’s about time to turn in, yeah,” John agreed, before reaching an arm around Hemogoblin’s waist without a second thought. He jumped off the ground, letting the wind carry them to the rooftop above. For such a short trip it was easier to just carry the other hero himself rather than ask the wind to do so. When he let go, Hemogoblin lingered against him for a noticeable time before stepping away, luminescent eyes shyly finding his own.

“Would you be able to give me a ride to the edge of the city?” The question was tentative as the troll leaned against the railing of the building, keeping his eyes on the would-be mugger he had stopped. He shifted his hips slowly, making it nearly impossible for John not to look at his butt. Not that his eyes hadn’t gone there on their own as soon as the hero had bent over, anyway, but damn. John was pretty sure the troll wasn’t even doing that on purpose, this time. Anyone who wore whatever material that costume was made of was not self-conscious in the least.

 

“Flying beats my usual method of travel,” Hemogoblin offered as way of explanation. When he looked over his shoulder, John looked up sharply to his face, his expression as schooled as he could possibly make it. The troll raised an eyebrow, smiling devilishly as John attempted to look neutral. “Were you just checking me out?” The troll paused, his grin widening as he gave Heir a sultry look, his tone dropping a few octaves. “Again?”

John refused to let his glance look anywhere other than the troll’s face. “Nope.”

The other hero laughed shortly; John really wasn’t fooling anyone, but at least he could pretend he hadn’t been caught wondering just how long the troll had spent getting the material to curve around him like a second skin.

“Looks like the police are here. Let’s go.” The sirens were closing in, flashes of red and blue light catching off the windows of buildings less than a block away. Hemogoblin didn’t say anything, simply walked over and waited for John to make him fly again.

The troll’s eyes lit up with glee when his feet left the roof behind, despite having been flying with John to stop various crimes for most of the night. They flew close enough together for Hemogoblin’s directions to come as whispers in John’s ear, this time the sounds completely unaided by the wind. It made John shiver every time, which made him want to push the other hero further away so he could sort out why. Soon enough, though, they reached an inconspicuous building and he was letting Hemogoblin descend to the roof alone.

“I’ll have my answer for you the next time we meet,” the troll called up to the floating teen. With a smirk, Hemogoblin jumped off the side of the building, landed in a roll, and ran off at a speed John could only hope to match with one of his strongest gusts propelling him.

As he watched the other hero disappear into the shadows of the city, John took the time to try and clear his head, trying to puzzle out what exactly his deal with the troll was. He didn’t consider himself to be all that shallow, so this probably wasn’t a case of Hemogoblin’s ass working a spell on him, as damn near perfect as John found it to be. Hero-worship was not out of the question. Despite being an enormous fan of superheroes, he had never had an actual, tangible hero to idolize before. Here was one in the flesh, perhaps just as young as he was, new to the life yet seemingly more confident than he was. And—okay, there was also no denying that Hemogoblin was physically attractive—sexy as hell, with that body full on display—and knew it, but it wasn’t just that.

There were also the moments throughout their night when the troll had slipped up in his sultry persona. In those brief glimpses, he had been revealed as having a personality that John felt was genuinely adorable. The teen reminisced with a small smile, drawing up the images of a first flight and whipped cream in his mind before realizing what he was doing. That kind of reflection was very familiar to him. He’d been doing it for almost a year now, with another troll.

The realization hit him like a ton of bricks. John could see himself slowly starting to fall for the other hero.

“Shit.”

 

 

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