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what tangled webs we weave (Chapter 7)

Title: What Tangled Webs We Weave
Chapter 7: Sometimes Love Hurts
Fandom: Static Shock
Pairings: Hotstreak/Virgil (Static)
Warnings: a bit of angst
Word Count: 4720 (30,164 so far)
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: When Virgil accidentally offers to help his worst enemy turn his life around, he soon finds himself juggling far too many secrets and an inconvenient crush.

Chapter 1: Blame the Rain
Chapter 2: Insults, Doubt & Aggravation
Chapter 3: Skepticism
Chapter 4: A Rhythm of Sorts
Chapter 5: Bullets and Flame
Chapter 6: A Coward at Heart


Fuck this shit! Hotstreak snarls to himself, smacking his hand against the brick wall in frustration. I mean the guy's cute and all and fun to mess with but it was never supposed to be any more than that. I was never supposed to fucking care!

He was never supposed to matter like this and now it's all gone wrong. Because somehow Hawkins had turned to Virgil in the firestarter's mind; they had become actual friends instead of business partners and while he refused to admit the possibility of a crush, things had spiraled out of control from there. Because the redhead found himself looking forward to their conversations and even the tutoring was kinda fun once he stopped being so damn far behind.

But then everything got weird and I still don't know why.

At first Hotstreak had been too proud of taking down the Vipers to really notice that Virgil was avoiding him, especially once Mr. Hawkins had started taking up all of his free time.

Though busy or not, the redhead had noticed when the other teen suddenly started flinching away from him at school instead of blushing like before and the pyro hadn't enjoyed the change at all. It brought back memories of his days as F-Stop and the firestarter didn't want to be that guy anymore. That guy had been scared and stupid and well on his way to becoming every one of those criminal things that some idiots still expected now.

So Hotstreak figured that maybe beating up those criminals had given Virgil some kind of bullying flashback and tried to give him space until he stopped freaking out. Even if it hurt for the one person who had actually seemed to believe in him to suddenly change his mind.

Except that things didn't get any better no matter how many days passed by and the whole fiasco at Thanksgiving really took the cake. Because the pyro wouldn't have come if Virgil hadn't practically demanded it in his invitation and then the guy had the gall to flee the room at his first opportunity. This pissed Hotstreak off something fierce, his anger only slightly masking the ache of rejection, and it didn't help any that Mr. Hawkins' excuses were flimsy at best.

When Virgil never returned, the redhead decided to leave as well since there was no point in sitting around making awkward conversation with people who still didn't like him much. Though the pyro did toss a box of leftovers into his backpack on the way out because bad company or not, the sister was a damn good cook.

So the redhead had been walking down an alleyway near the Hawkins' house and wondering why he couldn't seem to stop caring about what the damn guy did, when he heard a familiar voice calling his name. For one brief moment Hotstreak thought that Virgil had come after him and when he turned to see Sparky instead, his mood had soured even more.

The following conversation had been strange on so many levels because the last thing the firestarter had expected was Static suddenly wanting to be BFFs. Oh the other metahuman hid it well and at first Hotstreak thought he was being mocked, but the signs were there once he got a clue.

However, even if Sparky was having some kind of teenage crisis, the pyro wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to blow shit up semi-legally. This was everything he had been aiming for after all. So he accepted, his words grudging to hide the glee he felt inside, and if Hotstreak also hoped that this would take his mind off Virgil that was no one's business but his own.

The plan had even worked at first because the training was actually rather entertaining and he got a serious kick from bringing the bad guys down. So even if he was just some kind of replacement for the absent Gear, the pyro didn't really mind as long as he could kick some ass. But the longer Hotstreak spent with the superhero, the more Sparky reminded him of Virgil and the similarities made the lonely pit within his chest grow stronger. It wasn't just the age and that stupid hairstyle because the pyro obviously knew that there was more than one black teenager in Dakota and anyone could buy some gel. Though there can't be too many with that fantastic ass.

No, it was the personality which gave him the strongest sense of déjà vu for while Sparky was a great deal cockier than the other teen, they both had the same strange willingness to give Hotstreak second chances and the same sarcastic wit.

Honestly, if the Meta-Breed hadn't proved that Static and Virgil were actually different people years before, the redhead might have started wondering again. Because when the teen wasn't paying attention, the other metahuman felt like Virgil in a way he couldn't quite explain and it was always disappointing to realize whom he was really talking to.

Maybe that was why the teen finally just said fuck it and asked the superhero for advice, tired of using him as a second-rate replacement for his friend. Or maybe it had been the metahuman actually caring about his future enough to think seriously on Hotstreak's options when he hadn't expected that.

Whatever it was, the pyro was glad of it because he probably never would have gotten up the courage to speak to Virgil otherwise.

After that conversation, things had been better for awhile even if the other teen still acted a little odd. More than a little actually since he would lean into Hotstreak's shoulder only to jerk away sharply and it had taken the pyro almost a week of close observation to finally figure out what the problem was. But when he did, the teen nearly killed himself with laughing because Virgil had been having a big gay freakout and didn't secretly hate him after all.

This realization had been a relief for it meant that Hotstreak hadn't done anything this time. He wasn't being rejected, the other teen was just flipping about being attracted to a guy and it had nothing to do with whether or not he still believed that the pyro had a chance. It was almost understandable really, even if Hotstreak's personal self-discovery had been more of a “huh, I guess I like dick,” after catching himself checking out Ebon and Static a few too many times. But Virgil did have a lot more to lose than the pyro and he couldn't just flame the crap out of anyone who gave him a hard time.

So as the other teen finally seemed to relax a bit, blushing but not pulling away like he'd been burned, Hotstreak began to wonder about other things. Because as much as he didn't like to admit it, he liked Virgil and if his admiration was returned then that opened up all kinds of possibilities.

However, that's actually not what the redhead had been thinking about when he'd climbed up on the Hawkins family's roof tonight. He had just been worried about the other teen since Virgil had been acting even more depressed than usual for the last couple of days and his family didn't seem to be doing anything. But when Hotstreak saw his friend looking so miserable, he would have done anything to put the light back in his eyes. So the redhead had tried to comfort him, telling Virgil about his sister and holding the teen while he cried.

But then he'd looked up and apologized and the pyro hadn't been able to stop himself from kissing him right there. Which might not have been the best plan considering the way that Virgil ran.

But he kissed me back, I know he did, so what the fucking hell? Hotstreak wonders irately, punching the wall again. Why the hell did he run away from me? I thought he was done freaking out about the guy thing and I'm pretty sure I didn't read that wrong. Maybe it's just me he doesn't like?

That last possibility feels far too believable because the metahuman knows that he's hardly boyfriend material and it's not as though Virgil's family likes him much. Sure Mr. Hawkins tolerates the pyro well enough as a worker and someone his son is helping to rehabilitate, but that doesn't mean he'd be cool with the whole dating thing. And if Hotstreak was going to try things with the other teen, he'd want to do them right because Virgil seems like that kind of guy. Like the kind of guy you'd buy a ring for if you could.

Not that we're anywhere close to that, the redhead thinks, shoving away this frankly terrifying thought. Instead he focuses on how he can make the other teen actually talk to him, which is not something that the pyro ever expected himself to say.

But if Virgil is going to reject him, the guy can damn well tell him why.

---

Which is a great plan except for the part where he is absolutely nowhere to be found. Because while Hotstreak thought that Virgil had been avoiding him religiously before, the firestarter quickly learns that he was wrong.

First the other teen doesn't show up for the school the next morning and while one day to sort himself out may have been understandable, he also misses the next day and the next. So Hotstreak corners Foley during lunch on Friday and demands to know where the hell his friend has been. Because winter break starts this weekend and without the advantage of sharing classes, the pyro isn't sure how he'll pin Virgil down.

“V's locked himself up in his room and refuses to come out.” The blond explains with a helpless shrug, proving himself completely useless once again. “He claims he's sick but usually he'll come to school anyway if it's not too bad. Besides, he's been acting weird for awhile now and he refuses to tell me why.”

Which doesn't tell Hotstreak anything that he didn't already know. So the pyro offers to save Foley the trip and bring Virgil his homework, hoping that the excuse will get him into the house long enough to discover what the fuck is going on.

But Sharon is the one who answers the door and she pins him with a ferocious glare before he can even speak, practically snatching the papers from his hands. Hotstreak isn't sure why she's so pissed off because while big sis has never liked him, she's never been this hostile before. Though the redhead's pretty sure that it has something to do with Virgil since Sharon's expression darkens even further when he asks to see her brother and she snarls out a refusal before slamming the door in his face.

“I told him he'd just get hurt in the end,” Hotstreak hears her mutter while he's standing there gobsmacked and the sheer injustice of that accusation makes his blood start to burn. The pyro wants to pound on the door until she has to open it, scream that he's not the one at fault here and the only one hurting her brother is himself. But there really wouldn't be much point to that.

So he stalks off instead, using Sparky's device to ask if the other metahuman is free to patrol since there's nothing like chasing down criminals to work some frustration off. Except the superhero seems to have abandoned Hotstreak as well because the reply says that Sparky is busy with Gear right now.

Which is how the pyro ends up back at his house just in time to get into a shouting match with that jackass Hamilton who still thinks that he has the right to boss his ward around. But court-appointed guardian or not, Hotstreak isn't in the mood to take shit from anyone and he's a hair's breadth from losing his temper entirely when the older man demands that he call him “Sir.” The only thing that stops him from planting his fist in Mr. Hamilton's smug grin is the thought of Virgil's crestfallen face watching him get carted back to jail and somehow that's the worst part of it all.

Because if Hotstreak can't bear to disappoint the other teen even when he's acting like a total dickwad then the pyro is fucking screwed. Really fucking screwed and he slams into his room to bury his head in his hands.

Over the next few days the metahuman tries to keep himself occupied instead of pining about the fact that Virgil won't answer his calls, but it's difficult when he suddenly has so much free time. School's out for Christmas break, Mr. Hawkins can only pay him part-time and it feels too weird to hang with Foley without Virgil around, so as long as the other teen stays AWOL, there's a gap that Hotstreak just can't fill. Even Static has been strangely busy with what he claims is League business, cutting their patrols to a few times a week and distracted even then.

But the teen is hardly going to keep trying when Virgil obviously doesn't want to speak to him and the day he looks up to realize that he's completed all of his winter homework, Hotstreak decides that enough is enough.

He's going to go out and get a fucking hobby or something instead of sitting here like some kind of loser who can't function by himself. Sure the ache in his chest hasn't gone away but nothing is going to happen on that front until Virgil pulls his head out of his ass so the pyro might as well get a life while he waits. And maybe Hotstreak will meet someone else along the way, someone who turns the other teen and his idiocy into no more than memory.

---

Of course, the metahuman doesn't exactly know where one goes to find a hobby but he figures the mall is probably a good start. It's bound to have some specialist shops for people with too much time on their hands and maybe one of them will catch his eye. It wouldn't take much because at this point he's almost ready to take up knitting just to reduce the tedium.

But on his way there, Hotstreak hears a siren and he finds himself following the sound down the street. There's a building at the end of the road, an apartment complex in the shitty part of town and it's burning like a bonfire against the clear blue sky.

The teen stands back at first, hesitant about getting involved since the fire trucks are there already and he doesn't know how the firemen would react to seeing him. After all the pyro hasn't always been very careful and he's probably created a lot of work for these guys over the years. So Hotstreak quickly ducks out of the way before one of the men notices him and decides that he must have started this fire as well.

Yet the redhead can't bring himself to leave, not when he can feel the flames beneath his skin like some kind of siren song. He's never been this close to such a large fire before and something in him wants it like a drug. Like the pyro could control it if he just knew the trick.

So Hotstreak waits and watches and tries to get a feel for this blaze within his mind as the firemen rush in to do their job. But no matter what he tries, the firestarter can't seem to get a handle on it, the flames always dancing from his grasp. Stop fucking teasing me, he growls in frustration, telling himself that it's more about the challenge than proving he can help and the metahuman does hate it when there's something he can't do.

Though by this time the firemen seem to have found all of the survivors and are leading the last few out of the building so at least his failure isn't going to cost anyone their lives. Yet even as he thinks this, the pyro feels a sudden surge within his mind and Hotstreak knows that everything is about to go to hell.

“What are you doing?” Someone shouts when the teen sprints past them, racing toward the people who are far too close to whatever is about to go down.

Although actually that's a damn good question because there are too many of them to tackle and the metahuman doesn't have time to convince them that he's right. Not when he can feel the pressure building behind his eyes as something in the basement catches light.

“Get down!” Hotstreak shouts, grabbing the last fireman and shoving him away from the entrance just as a wall of flame explodes before his eyes. It's a fucking fireball, debris shooting toward them like missiles from the blast and there's no way that he's controlling that. All the pyro can think to do is throw up a wall of his own, as thick and hot as he can make it, and hope that nothing will get through.

When his vision clears, the teen is sitting on the ground and he's really not quite sure when his knees gave out. His shirt is toast, literally, but no one else seems to have more than minor injuries so it looks like his panicked efforts did the job.

If only I didn't feel like someone had run me over, I might call this a good day, the pyro muses, trying not to think about what would have happened if he weren't actually fireproof. Although it's probably a bit late to go unnoticed, the metahuman really doesn't feel like answering any questions and maybe he can sneak out while everyone else is still in shock. But the first step nearly topples Hotstreak over, only a quick helping hand keeping him on his feet, and as he looks up into a fireman's concerned gaze, the redhead knows he's out of luck.

“Hey kid, are you all right?” The guy asks, face twisted in confusion. “I don't know what the hell just happened but you should definitely have injuries.”

“Don't be stupid, Hansen. That's Hotstreak there and fire ain't gonna damage him,” another voice cuts in before the teen can say anything and he's honestly slightly insulted that the first guy doesn't seem to recognize his name. This new fireman certainly knows of him even though the pyro could really do without the staring and the iron grip upon his arm.

“Will someone please explain Bang Babies to the new guy while I find out what the devil is going on?” The guy calls out with an slightly exasperated sigh as he drags Hotstreak over to one of their trucks and sits him firmly down. “Sorry about Hansen, he just moved in from out-city and he hasn't learned all of Dakota's unique quirks just yet. But I'm Anton Wojciechowski, the Captain of this shift, and I'd like an explanation. Now I'm pretty sure you didn't light that since you've never gone for large scale arson before, so could you tell me what you're doing here?”

The teen is momentarily thrown by the lack of accusations and the other's ridiculously unpronounceable name but when he thinks about it, the cops and firemen probably do talk. So he pulls himself together with an effort and tells the truth to someone in authority for possibly the first time in his life.

“I heard the sirens and Sparky's been on my ass about getting a real job so I thought I'd see if you needed any help? Or maybe I was just curious, I don't know. See I can sort of control normal fires when they're not so freaking large and I felt this one surge. Actually you should check the basement because I'm pretty sure that whatever made that explosion wasn't supposed to be down there; the flames were too gleeful for that.”

His head is still aching and the pyro knows that his explanation is rather scattered but the captain seems to be following it well enough. At least enough for his eyes to widen when Hotstreak finishes with, “I mean I was pretty sure that I was fireproof and I melted a bullet once so I figured I could stop all that.”

“Wait, you didn't know?” The man asks, obviously thrown by the teen's recklessness. Which is kind of strange considering that he runs into burning buildings for a living and he's just a normal guy.

“Well I never had the chance to test it in an explosion before.” Hotstreak says with a shrug. “Though maybe I can get Sparky's sidekick to make me some better clothing because it would be a pain if I ended up naked every time I had to stop someone from getting burned alive.”

“Uh, yeah. I can see how that would be annoying.” Unpronounceable name guy says, his turn to be at a loss. “Well thanks for your help and if you're really not injured I can let you go. I'm probably supposed to tell you to leave this to the professionals but you saved half a dozen of my men from being injured today so I'm not going to bother. Just be careful since being immune to fire won't help you if a building collapses on your head and if you decide you want to enter the academy, I'll put in a good word for you with the chief.”

“Seriously? Man I guess Sparky was right after all.” The teen says with bemusement, still punch drunk enough that everything is slightly hilarious. But Hotstreak sobers a bit when he realizes that the one he really wants to tell about this is Virgil in order to show him that he has a future after all.

So he promises to keep the captain's offer in mind and then heads back home to change out of his charred clothes. When the pyro gets there, he passes out for a few hours and wakes ready to try again. Because immune to flames or not, even Hotstreak isn't crazy enough to think of firefighting as a hobby and he still has too much time on his hands.

But apparently the universe is conspiring against him for the redhead has barely stepped out his door when he spies Static from the corner of his eye. The League must be running him hard because the superhero looks exhausted and he doesn't hear the firestarter call his name.

So Hotstreak chases after him, trying to get the other metahuman's attention because he wants to talk to someone about what happened today. The teen needs to wrap his head around his options and he has always made better decision with a sounding board. While Sparky may not be his first choice, he has at least thought about the pyro's future and with Virgil still not speaking to him, the superhero is the best friend he has.

And isn't that a sad thought? The redhead muses as the other teen begins to descend toward a gas station on the outskirts of town.

The pyro has always figured that Static and Gear must have some kind of secret hideout since the pair has too many gadgets to store under their beds, but Hotstreak has to admit this isn't what he had imagined at all. Though I guess we can't all be Batman, can we? And he did say that superheroing isn't a paying job.

For a broke teenager these digs actually aren't that bad: large, deserted and unassuming, and the redhead does have to admire the pair's ingenuity. He even starts to feel a little guilty about intruding on their solitude so while he doesn't stop, the pyro does check to make sure no one else is around.

Really Sparky should have done a better job of that but he was either too tired or too complacent and the other metahuman should thank him for this wake up call. Hotstreak is hardly the only Bang Baby capable of following someone and better it be a friend than an enemy.

When he ducks through the doors, the pyro doesn't see the superhero at first though someone has obviously done some renovations. Half the gas station looks like a tech geek's wet dream, all kinds of gadgets strewn across the countertops, and he knows what Gear must do in his free time. The other half looks more like what Hotstreak might expect from a teenage superhero: couch, a computer, a few police radios, and of course the snacks. There's also some spare outfits hanging off to the side and some very familiar textbooks tossed upon the desk.

I guess even superheroes have to do their homework, the pyro thinks with a smirk, before he freezes as he catches movement off to the side. It's Sparky, walking out of an alcove that the redhead hadn't noticed and the other metahuman looks even worse up close.

Truthfully the teen looks like he hasn't slept in a week and Hotstreak isn't all that surprised when he slumps down on the couch with a tired sigh. Perhaps this exhaustion is why the superhero still hasn't seen the other standing there and although he knows that he should say something, the pyro is too fascinated to speak. There's something compelling about seeing Sparky with his guard down like this and not for the first time, the redhead wonders what's hidden beneath that mask.

Because the other metahuman seems almost human without his normal cocky smirk, vulnerable and yet somehow more attractive as well. Hotstreak has always thought there was something false about the face that the superhero shows the world and while he can understand the need to appear unflappable, he finds this version way more interesting.

This Static reminds the pyro of those first few fights right after the Bang when the other metahuman hadn't really known what he was doing but had persisted anyway. The pyro has always admired him for that even when he hated him because it took a certain amount of strength to stand against the rest of the Bang Babies and not even get paid. Hotstreak admires it even more now that he's facing the same choice and he really understands the kind of foolhardy courage that it took, particularly since the superhero started without even Gear to watch his back.

However, whatever admiration he's feeling is wiped away in an instant when Sparky reaches up to take off his mask. Because the pyro knows that face even in profile; he's spent weeks staring at those fucking cheekbones and he's seen it in his dreams often enough.

“Virgil?” Hotstreak bites out incredulously, not even realizing that he's spoken until the other whirls to stare at him with wide eyes.

If he were still one of the Meta-Breed this would have been like Christmas because Ebon would have quickly blackmailed Static into getting off their backs. If he were still the twisted unhappy bastard that was F-Stop, he might have used this information to leverage other things and find out what Virgil tasted like whether the teen wanted him or not.

But he isn't any of those people anymore, so the metahuman just feels like an idiot for not seeing the truth before his eyes. Of course Gear must have rigged something when the Meta-Breed kidnapped Virgil and Hotstreak should have trusted his instincts when they were screaming about the similarities. He should have fucking known and this betrayal is an angry knot within his chest. How many times have you and Foley laughed about your deception, Foley because who else could Static's sidekick be?

How many times have those assholes laughed at him and the panic in Virgil's eyes does nothing to ease the hurt.

Although the superhero is stuttering out some kind of explanation, Hotstreak doesn't want to hear any halfhearted apologies right now. If he's so fucking sorry then he shouldn't have fucking done it and the pyro snarls the other metahuman to silence before punching that lying bastard in the face.


Chapter 8: The Truth Comes Out