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what tangled webs we weave (Chapter 8)

Title: What Tangled Webs We Weave
Chapter 8: The Truth Comes Out
Fandom: Static Shock
Pairings: Hotstreak/Virgil (Static)
Warnings: a bit of angst
Word Count: 7042 (37,206 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
Chapter 7: Sometimes Love Hurts


“Hotstreak! Wait!” Virgil shouts desperately as the redhead storms out of the Gas Station, the teen's voice strangled with panic and surprise. The force of the other metahuman's punch had knocked him to the floor but no matter how much his cheek is hurting, that's not what pains him most.

No, what makes the teen feel like someone has ripped the heart out of his chest is the look of horrified betrayal that had been on Hotstreak's face. Betrayal, hurt and anger written across his skin and those were the last emotions that Virgil had wanted to see there.

How did he even find me? The metahuman wonders, focusing on the one idea which doesn't hurt as much. Though it is a valid question since he has been avoiding Hotstreak for weeks now and Gear's alarm system should have kept the other out. But when he looks over at the panel, Virgil sees its wires hanging loose and disconnected, meaning that the blond has been tinkering with the damn thing again. The teen had been too tired to notice this when he first entered, a small slip which he curses now as he leaps back on his feet.

Virgil bursts onto the street seconds later, looking around wildly for some sign of his friend. But the redhead has already disappeared and the superhero is about to take to the sky in chase when he realizes that his mask is still on the couch inside.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” The teen shouts, kicking the plaster in frustration before slumping back against the wall. This is exactly the kind of mess that he's been trying to avoid since the beginning and now Virgil doesn't know what he should do.

His heart wants to trust that Hotstreak will keep his secret despite everything while his mind thinks that's crazy and he must bind the other's tongue. So the teen wants to find a corner in which to cry, he wants to scream at the sheer injustice of it all and he wants to force the pyro to listen to all the excuses he might make. But Virgil knows the other metahuman doesn't want to hear anything from him right now, not with the burning anger that had been in Hotstreak's eyes.

And perhaps the worst thing, worse even than the heartache and the throbbing agony in his cheek, is the knowledge that he deserves no more than this.

Foolish hopes aside, Virgil could hardly have expected a more positive reaction to all his lies and secrets and he was lucky that Hotstreak did no worse than punch. Maybe if the two of them had kept things strictly professional then his falsehood could have been forgiven, but as soon as stronger emotions got involved, he should have known that he was doomed. Because his attraction made the teen hold on as Static when he should have cut his losses and surely the pyro wouldn't have reacted as strongly if he didn't care?

So what right does the teen have to demand that Hotstreak talk to him after everything he's done? Sure the redhead had been a criminal and a bully in the past but now Virgil is the one who should be ashamed and he sinks down on the couch with his head in his hands.

The teen truly is ashamed of his cowardice no matter how good his reasons were and he hates himself all the more because he knows that this won't change. Perhaps if he truly was the person that Static pretends to be, Virgil would find the courage to tell Hotstreak everything. He would explain his feelings, his regrets and the fears which kept him silent and trust in love to make it right.

But instead the metahuman calls Richie to say their cover's blown and Gear needs to keep an eye on the pyro until they know which path he takes. Because even if Hotstreak chooses friendship over hatred and does not rat Static out to everyone, none of the most important things have changed. Virgil may not have feared rejection since that kiss on his rooftop, but everyone whom he cares about is still in danger and his fucking image still requires secrecy.

So the teen tries to convince himself that love is a weakness Static can't afford and he should be thankful for this wake up call. He should be glad that chance brought him to his senses before this entanglement took both metahumans down.

Dakota may still have its heroes but it will not have them together and that is simply the way the dice must fall.

---

If only it were so easy to forget.

Yet the look on Hotstreak's face still haunts Virgil days later and although he hates to admit it, the teen misses the redhead more than he thought possible. For while he had been avoiding the pyro long before that moment, the separation had been easier to stand when the other metahuman was still trying to contact him. So the teen knows it's hypocritical but he cannot help it and even Christmas loses much of its shine.

For now, now all there is is guilt.

Guilt and silence where friendship once existed and although the superhero stands by his decision, he doesn't want to leave their relationship like this. Because Hotstreak probably thinks that Virgil lied about everything and that simply isn't true. For he still believes the pyro is capable of achieving greatness if he only stays the course and so the teen sincerely hopes that his actions won't damage his former friend's resolve.

Of course maybe I'm just being egotistic in thinking that I might have influenced him at all, Virgil muses a week later as he prepares to patrol. Maybe Hotstreak cut our ties without ever looking back and he's happier without me around.

That depressing thought is shoved from his mind when Static finally takes to the air, the superhero trying to focus on the here and now rather than past regrets. But keeping the two facets of his life from bleeding together is no longer as easy as it once was, another thing which he blames the pyro for. Virgil used to be a master of compartmentalization before Hotstreak got him all tangled up and while he still had his issues, at least he was content. However, the superhero is finding that he cannot live in the comfort of denial anymore, not when the flaws within his spirit seem glaringly obvious. They eat at him no matter how the teen tries to rationalize his actions and he wants to be a better man than that.

Love may be a weakness, a vulnerability which Static can't afford, but the thought that he's not even worthy of it seems terribly wrong somehow. Indeed this idea burns within him, an obsession that grows stronger as every day goes by and it's almost time to return to school when he cannot take it anymore.

What would his mother think if she saw him now? Would she still believe that her son was a hero or would she denounce him for his cowardice?

Because even though Virgil tries to tell himself that he would have acted the same if he had fallen for a woman, he cannot choke this falsehood down. For while a civilian might have been kept in the dark just like his sister, a female metahuman would have been an entirely different story. Static would have been proud to love a superheroine, proud to tell the whole world about her, and it is that truth which destroys the fragile web of justification in his mind.

I'm supposed to be an example, aren't I? But I'm so afraid of being rejected that I'd rather lie to those I care about than risk them hurting me by leaving and where is the nobility in that? Using Static's image as an excuse for not putting my heart out there is an insult to everything I'm supposed to stand for and I don't want to be Batman, tortured and alone and driven by nothing but duty in my life.

And isn't that a revelation. Virgil does not want to be Batman, despite how much he admires the other superhero's range of skills. For while Static has his purpose, he is more archetype than person, and the teen doesn't want the mask to become all he is. He doesn't want to forget why he started doing this.

Because it isn't really about catching criminals, it's about protecting people and somehow the metahuman had begun to lose sight of this, focusing instead on public opinion of his name. But if the superhero's only goal is making the world a better place to live in, why should it matter what Dakota thinks of him? Why does it matter what anyone calls him as long as Virgil can say that he's saving people who would otherwise be lost? And when did his fears start to justify making decisions for those whom he loves most?

After all, his sister is a grown woman, wouldn't it be better to warn her of the danger instead of forcing her to walk around in ignorance? And while his dad and Richie already know about Static, don't they deserve the truth about how his heart has changed?

I mean, they might tell me I'm crazy, sure, but if I decided to go for it, how can I doubt that Richie would be there to watch my back?

Staying silent is tantamount to admitting that he does not really trust them with his life or their own and they have all earned more than that. Even Hotstreak, for the pyro is certainly able to protect himself and has kept Static's secret despite his anger, his loyalty making Virgil feel incredibly guilty about doubting him this long.

So really, when examined through the harsh lens of proper self-reflection, the teen's justifications tumble like the house of cards they are. Trust has already been proven, public opinion should not matter, and thus, all that's left is the truth of Virgil's fear.

A bitter truth since the metahuman can finally see that his cowardice has cost his integrity and he knows deep in his bones that his mother would be ashamed of him right now.

---

Of course, recognizing that he needs to change and doing it are two very different things. Because understanding has not diminished the seam of panic in his chest and the teen's heart only pounds more frantically at the thought of coming clean.

For telling the truth means owning up to his falsehoods and Virgil knows from experience that Hotstreak and Sharon both have powerful right hooks. Even his father has always been able to ruin him with one disappointed gaze and he can't face that chance right now. So the metahuman takes the path of least resistance and goes to Richie for advice. This is what he's always done when life seemed insurmountable and his shame gives him courage enough to take this first small risk. Indeed, the blond has often been able to see his problems clearly, whether Virgil's sudden new superpowers or his latest failure with Daisy, and the teen should never have waited this long to ask.

So after they finish their patrol one evening, Static sits down next to Gear and suddenly blurts out, “I'm in love with Hotstreak.”

Though he probably could have timed this statement better since his friend is too busy choking on his soda to respond at first. But as soon as Richie manages to catch his breath, the other metahuman shouts, “Oh my god, you're fucking serious. That explains everything!”

“Um, what?”

“Why you've been acting so weird, dumb ass.” The blond replies, the duh coming across clearly in his voice. “Did you honestly think I haven't noticed your bipolar craziness? I mean, I have known you since elementary school, although I'm not so sure about your taste in men.”

“Um, what?!” Virgil repeats incredulously, finally looking up from his lap to meet Richie's cheeky grin. “Why the hell are you so calm about this?”

Hello, super-genius here. I ran the statistical probabilities on your preferences ages ago and so I've just been waiting for you to get a clue as well. Though I have to admit I never thought about matching you with Hotstreak before now, even if the mentions of him in the news lately have been generally positive...”

Virgil's not sure whether to be relieved at his friend's blasé acceptance or annoyed that Richie never bothered to tell him about this. But some kind of strangled noise must have escaped his throat because his friend suddenly looks up at him with narrowed eyes.

“Hey, wait a minute... You thought I was going to freak out about this, didn't you? That's why you didn't tell me before now. Dammit V!”

The teen hunches his shoulders beneath Richie's anger, unable to meet the other's gaze as he offers this weak excuse. “Well, to be fair I was freaking out for awhile. And it was more about Hotstreak than the guy thing, at least in part.”

“Which is why you should have told me!” His friend retorts fiercely. “What's the point of having a super-genius for a friend if you don't make use of my advice? I mean I had my reservations at first but Hotstreak hasn't been so bad to hang out with and he definitely seemed hurt when you stopped talking to him. And really, what the hell is that about? I thought you were in love.”

Virgil winces at this question since his reasoning seems so flimsy now and he really doesn't want to admit what had been going through his head. But he had promised himself that there would be no more lying and if he can't even tell Richie, the teen will never find the strength to tell everyone else. “I am and he might like me too, only I fucked it up. Because I thought I couldn't with Static and all, so when he kissed me, I ran away. And then he saw me take off my mask and now he probably thinks I was just fucking with him all along.”

“Holy shit, V, he kissed you? You've definitely been holding out on me.” His friend says and the other metahuman sends a frustrated glare his way.

That's what you choose to focus on? Really?! How about concentrating on the part where I screwed everything up and need your fucking help.” However, despite Virgil's harsh words, he's not actually that angry, because if the blond is joking it means that things will be all right.

“Easy, bro. Yeah things are bad, but excuse me if I take a sec to get over the part where you made out with your former nemesis and didn't even have the decency to kiss and tell.” Richie snarks back, before putting on his serious face again. “Besides, I don't think things are as terrible as you seem to think. I mean, Hotstreak hasn't used our secret identities for anything so he's probably more hurt than angry and you obviously haven't thought the Static issue through at all.”

“What are you saying?”

“I'm saying that the majority of Dakotans won't care about your orientation as long as you keep doing hero things if the recent polls on gay marriage are any indication of their thoughts. And even the bigots are hardly going to insult you to your face unless they're suicidal. But the more important issue is that Hotstreak doesn't have a secret identity.”

Richie says this last as though imparting a great wisdom and yet Virgil honestly has no idea what he's talking about. Sure a lot of people know that the pyro had a life before the Bang, but not even the cops use his given name anymore.

“So?” The teen finally asks, conceding his attempt to figure out the answer and taking his friend's long-suffering 'are you an idiot' face as no more than his due.

“So that means you can hardly date him as Static and Virgil or someone is going to figure it out.” The blond tells him with a roll of his eyes. “Your disguise isn't magic and even if I hack Hotstreak's records to make Francis Stone seem like a different person, some people are still going to remember the truth.”

“Oh. You're right, I hadn't thought of that.” The superhero says softly even as his mind is spinning from the other metahuman's words. All his worries about Static's image have been irrelevant because of course he can't let his identities link up like that, and if he were to build a life with Hotstreak, Virgil is the one that he would choose. Because Virgil is real where Static is little more than a cardboard cut-out of a person and if he had just told the pyro the truth after they kissed, he probably wouldn't be in this mess right now. “God, I'm such an idiot!”

“Yes you are, but at least you have other good qualities to make up for it,” Richie says, patting him on the shoulder sympathetically. “And now that you finally told your awesome best friend the truth, I am going to help you fix everything.”

“Really, you'll help me tell Sharon about Static then?” The other teen asks cheekily. It's a far cry from his former guilty silence but now that he has the blond's support, surely things must turn out all right.

“Oh hell no. Your sister scares the bejesus out of me and you know it. But I will help you track down your wayward boytoy after you clue your family in. You don't want your dad to have a heart attack when you show up with a boyfriend after all.”

The mention of his father sours Virgil's new cheer slightly because that's still not a conversation that he's looking forward to. However, Richie sees his hesitation as a challenge and before the teen is quite sure what's happened, he's being marched through his front door. His friend shoves him into the kitchen where Virgil's father is making coffee and plants him at the table with a cheerful, “Hey Mr. Hawkins. Your son has something he wants to say to you.”

The superhero can hardly wimp out after that, no matter how much he wants to, so he sends Richie a pointed glare when the blond hightails it from the room. Then Virgil turns back to face the music, shoulders hunching beneath his dad's questioning gaze.

“So, uh, I guess that's true. I do have something to tell you.” The metahuman mumbles as his father waits patiently, the man having long practice at out-lasting troubled teens. This practice serves him well tonight because his son can't seem to find the right place to begin; Virgil doesn't want to blurt it out this time in case Richie's mention of heart attacks was more than an idle joke, but there also doesn't seem to be a good way to lead into the confession on his mind.

For once I wish English was my strong suit, the teen thinks in frustration after stuttering out a bit more gibberish.

But eventually his father takes pity on him, or maybe the man's just gotten bored, and he holds up a hand to halt the awkward tide. “Son, breathe. Whatever you have to tell me can't be as bad as you seem to think and at this rate, I'll be a grandfather before you spit it out.”

“Yeah, about that...” Virgil seizes on this statement as the closest thing to a proper segue that he's going to get and charges forward before he loses his nerve entirely. “Grandchildren probably aren't in the cards at all. Not from me anyway. I like guys, dad. I mean I like girls too so I guess I'm more bi than gay, but that's... not really the point right now. So yeah, that's what I wanted to say.”

“Okay then.” His father replies, a range of emotions playing across his face as Virgil watches him nervously. But despite the teen's fears, none of those are anger or disappointment and eventually his expression settles in a kind of bemused calm.

“So I guess I should tell Sharon to stop worrying about your love life? I'm assuming you do have someone in mind since you've never been the type to notice things until they smack you in the face.”

Dad! That's really all you have to say?” Virgil asks incredulously, wondering if everyone he knows had guessed it before him. I'd almost prefer bigotry if it meant they were actually surprised.

However, that snark is more a reaction to the overwhelming wave of relief than a serious consideration and the teen slumps back in his chair as his father tells him earnestly. “I admit I never thought I would be having this conversation, but you are my son and I love you no matter what, just as I will care about the person with whom you choose to share your life. I will care about them just as I care about you and you should never doubt this fact.”

What can Virgil say to that? How can he respond to these words which so neatly slice through all his doubts and fears? They make him feel guilty and relived and happy enough to start crying all at once and he stumbles around the table to bury his head against his father's chest.

“How do you always know exactly what to say?” Virgil mutters as he holds on to the other tightly, his dad making soothing noises and holding him in turn.

“It's my job, son. That's what parents are for.” His father tells him when the two finally separate. “Though your mother would have been better at it if she were still around. Jean would have sat you down with a cup of tea and had you tell her all about this boy who's got you tied in knots. And by the time she finished with you, the world would seem a brighter place indeed.”

“Yeah, mom was great, though you're not doing too badly yourself. I just wish I had listened to you sooner about the lying 'cause I'm finally going to tell Sharon the truth today.”

“You know I'm glad to hear that, but why the sudden change of heart?” His father asks, picking up his coffee cup again. “I've been arguing your sister's case for years.”

“Hotstreak found out about Static and now he won't even talk to me.” Virgil admits in a small voice, looking back down at his hands. “I know he thinks everything was a lie and I was just pretending to be his friend to make sure he stayed within the law. Or that Richie and I were just mocking him behind his back, but that's not true. I was just... I never meant to hurt him.”

“So it is the Stone boy who has you flustered. I was wondering if that might be the case since you've both been so depressed these last few weeks.” His dad says, taking a long sip of coffee while he gathers his thoughts. “I'm not going to give you a lecture on why this is a bad idea because I meant what I said and I'm sure you've already thought of every argument. However, I will offer you this advice: if you're truly sorry, apologize. Get down on your knees and beg for forgiveness until Francis is willing to listen to your explanation and maybe then you'll have a chance.”

His dad speaks as though from long experience and while Virgil has never thought much about his parents' relationship, he has to wonder what story lies there. But that's a tale for another day because the metahuman has to repair everything he's broken before he'll have time to chat about the past.

However, with both Richie and his father behind him, and offering similar advice, the rift that stands between him and Hotstreak no longer seems quite so insurmountable. Hard and painful and frustrating, yes, but Virgil knows that the reward would be worth it and he will always regret it if he never tries.

Of course, first he has to survive his sister's vengeance, whatever form that takes.

---

Sharon receives the news that her brother is Static about as well as he expected, which means Virgil is prepared to duck when she hurls a dish his way.

“What the hell were you thinking?” His sister shouts, eyes blazing with fury as she brandishes another plate. “How could you lie to me like this? For years!! Don't I deserve to know that my little brother is risking his life on a daily basis? Jesus fuck, Virgil, what is wrong with you?”

The teen offers her no excuses, simply accepting her anger as he deserves and apologizing every time she takes a breath. He figures it's good practice for his next set of groveling and Sharon has earned the right to rant after all the lies he's told. So Virgil just bows his head when she orders him out of the kitchen, her muttered swearing following him from the room.

But while his sister's temper burns hot, it also burns down quickly, and by the time the family finishes dinner, the fire has died out. Instead her eyes are sad and a bit considering and as Virgil begins to clear the table, she unbends enough to ask.

“Did you really think I couldn't keep your secret? Or that I would think you're a freak? I did date Rubberband Man after all.”

“Maybe at first because you were pretty vocal against the Bang Babies and we didn't get along so well back then.” Her brother admits. “But it's been years since I thought that. I just... I guess I didn't want you to worry about me or be put in danger because of what you knew.”

“I'm your sister, Virgil. Of course I'm going to worry about you even when I want to smack you upside the head.” Sharon retorts, jabbing her fork in his direction. “However, I'm going to worry a whole lot less knowing that you can take care of yourself than I did thinking you were off doing drugs or something and if anyone does find out who you are, I prefer to know why I'm being kidnapped.”

“That's what dad always said and I'm sorry it took so long for me to realize he was right.” The teen tells her and his sister's expression softens slightly at this apology. “But I'm trying to make up for my mistakes so from now on I'll warn you and dad when something serious is going down.”

“You do that and maybe I'll let you off the hook eventually.” She says and Virgil can tell from her slightly vicious smile that Sharon is going to make him work for it. “Though I suppose this does explain why you were so intent on turning Hotstreak around, even if it didn't work out in the end.”

“Yeah, about that. It's been a rough few weeks but I haven't given up on him just yet.” Virgil informs her resolutely, wondering if he should mention the whole potential boyfriend thing right now.

“Seriously, little brother?” Sharon asks, her eyebrows climbing in disbelief. “You've been a maudlin mess since before Christmas, moping about like he killed your puppy or something and I figured he had finally screwed things up.”

“What?! No!” The teen exclaims, insulted by her assumption for Hotstreak's sake. “If anything, I'm the one who fucked him over and I intend to make it right.”

“Huh, if you say so. I guess I may owe the kid an apology.” She mutters before crossing her arms with a huff. “But I still don't trust him. You guys were practically arch-enemies for ages and now he comes to you when he wants to change his life around? I don't buy it even if he has been helping Stati- helping you out lately. Talk to me again when he's actually graduated and made something of himself.”

That certainly answers the question of whether Virgil should tell his sister about his feelings now so the metahuman decides to leave that conversation until after he makes amends. But at least Sharon is kind of considering the possibility and he's sure that Hotstreak will win her over eventually.

This is assuming that his apology is even successful because it seems unlikely that the pyro will forgive him as fast as his relatives. They're his family; they're required to love him even when he's been an idiot and there's years of love between them to balance out the lies. In contrast, his friendship with the redhead had been something new and fragile and Virgil worries that he shattered it beyond repair.

And in truth, he is right to wonder because tracking Hotstreak down turns out to be the easy part. For while Backpack can't pinpoint the pyro's exact location unless he's using his powers, Richie has other ways of discovering what he needs to know.

Indeed, Virgil doubts there's any information that the blond couldn't get him and he is quite happy not knowing exactly how it's done. One of the worst arguments they ever had was over the ethics of Richie's inventions and the teen would prefer not to disturb the balance that the two of them have found. So he simply accepts his friend's color-coded printout of Hotstreak's schedule with quiet thanks, looking for the best place to try his hand.

At home is probably the most obvious location since the redhead does have to sleep sometime but the metahuman is trying to apologize not make the other feel like he's under attack. Which means daytime attempts in public places only and Virgil wants to laugh when he realizes that he's planning this as carefully as any mission he's ever done.

But with the Center out of the equation – the last thing he needs is that kind of audience – the teen doesn't have too many options and he really wants to finish this before school starts again. However, there is one place which catches Virgil's eye and he figures the fire station is worth a shot.

Unfortunately for the metahuman's dreams of reconciliation, the first attempt doesn't go so well.

He doesn't even manage to talk to Hotstreak because the redhead takes one look at him and turns around, while Virgil's path is suddenly blocked by a dozen enormous firemen. They are polite but immovable and the teen clearly isn't getting past them without the other's consent. So after trying and failing for what seems like ages, the teen finally gives up, throwing his hands in the air and shouting, “Fine then! Will you just tell him I'm sorry?”

If I was Static right now they'd let me by, Virgil thinks, turning around with a huff as he vows to try again another day. But the metahuman is pretty sure that showing up in costume would give Hotstreak the wrong impression and he already has enough misconceptions to overcome.

At least the captain of this squad – the one with the unpronounceable name – does agree to pass his apology along and although the teen hasn't really talked to him as Static, the guy seems like the type to keep his word. However, even if Hotstreak does get his message, it doesn't seem to make any difference in his actions and Virgil soon moves on to plan B.

Which goes down in a pillar of flames when the redhead brushes by him on the sidewalk without so much as a word. Indeed all his attempts to apologize keep failing miserably and the teen moves quickly through plans C to G, each one foiled by the pyro's determined refusal to listen to anything he has to say.

So over the next week, Virgil tries a slew of methods to get his point across, from coffee to notes to birds of paradise – the flowers not the feathered kind – but the closest the redhead comes to speaking is a brief hitch in his step before the latest offering is thrown away.

Honestly, by the time the teen has reached plan Z without even a conversation, he's almost ready to try skywriting because at least that Hotstreak wouldn't be able to ignore. It's either attempt something crazy or give up and the metahuman refuses to stop until he's tried everything.

However, before Virgil reaches the level of desperation required to fall to his knees and beg forgiveness in the middle of the street, the redhead makes all his strategizing moot.

---

Static has just finished another exhausting patrol when the first drops of rain begin to fall and he drags himself up off his perch to run for shelter. The sky has been threatening a storm all day but criminals are rather like mailmen – neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail keeps them inside where they belong. Which means that the superhero must show his face as well, lest the less law-abiding citizens of Dakota realize how much he hates to get wet.

So the teen is racing along, trying to reach the Gas Station before the deluge shorts him out, and he's paying far more attention to the sky than to what's on the ground. Which is his only excuse for why Static nearly goes ballistic when someone grabs his arm right by the door.

The metahuman whirls around, ready to blast the interloper with the ball of lightning in his hands but the energy fizzles out as soon as he sees the other's face. Because it's Hotstreak standing there and the teen feels a spike of panic at how unprepared he is to have this conversation now. Static may have been praying for this opportunity, but he's cold and wet and tired and so hardly at his most eloquent. The pyro's first words do not help.

“What the hell have you been doing?” Hotstreak demands, fingers tight around the superhero's arm. “You need to stop showing up wherever I am like some kind of fucking stalker and just get a clue already. I don't want to talk to you; I don't want to look at you. I don't even want to speak your name.”

Static winces beneath the firestarter's glare, his guilt increasing with every pointed snarl, and if the pyro had stopped there, the teen would have given up. He would have accepted Hotstreak's hatred as no more than his due and slunk away to nurse his broken heart.

But the other metahuman does not stop and the superhero's shame begins to be overcome by outrage at the accusations that he hears.

“Was this your whole plan? Pretend to like the stupid ex-Meta-Breed until he falls for your act and then mock him secretly?” The redhead yells, his face twisted with anger and with pain. “What kind of secrets could you have hoped to get from me? Or were you just in it for the kicks? Pretend that you might even like me and see how gullible I am?”

He goes on in this vein for some time, calling the other metahuman every name under the sun, and although Static meant to accept the pyro's condemnation, eventually he can't take it anymore. Sure he may have listened to his sister's rant without complaint but at least her anger was grounded in reality.

“Okay, you know what, screw you!” The superhero shouts, cutting Hotstreak off mid-word as his temper finally breaks. “I've been trying to apologize for lying and freaking out on you for weeks but I refuse to accept the blame for your insecurities. This wasn't some secret plan to screw you over since in case you don't remember, you came to me, you dick. I just wanted to help and then things got fucking complicated and I panicked, okay?! I panicked because I care about you too fucking much and I know you have the right to hate me for being such an idiot. But at least hate me for the stuff I've actually done! I may not have told you about being Static, but I meant the rest of it.”

This last sentence trails off into a defeated whisper, the teen's shoulders slumping as he realizes that he just blew his last chance. Although Hotstreak is currently too busy gaping at him to respond, Static doubts that this will last and he doesn't think that he can handle anymore insults. So the metahuman tugs his arm from the pyro's slack grip and turns to go.

He reaches the entrance of the Gas Station with no response but falling water, the cold chill seeping through his costume to gather on his skin. Or maybe it's simply the frozen pain within his chest that takes his breath away.

“Virgil, wait. Please.” These words halt the teen in his mid-step, one hand wrapped around the handle of the door. “I understand why you kept your secrecy at first; I mean, I'm not a total idiot. But why didn't you tell me later on? I thought that we were friends. I had thought that, maybe, we could be more.”

“Because I'm a coward. Because I didn't want you to get hurt and I couldn't see any other way. Because I'm an idiot. Take your pick of excuses and any one of them would be the truth. I didn't want you to know because I didn't want you to look beneath the mask and realize there's nothing worth loving there. But I am so sorry that I hurt you with my fears.”

Static is afraid to turn around as he speaks this confession. He is afraid to hope and have that hope denied. So the teen stops breathing when warm arms wrap around his chest.

“Anyone ever tell you that you're an idiot?” Hotstreak murmurs in his ear. Yet despite the words, the tone is fond and the pyro's breath against his neck sends a shiver through his skin. “I didn't fall in love with your mask; I fell in love with you and I've never found Sparky all that interesting. He's nice enough and good at what he does, but he's a caricature of a hero and I prefer someone a bit more human in my bed. What do you say, Virgil? Will you give us a shot?”

And it is Virgil who turns around slowly, one hand coming up to remove his mask as Static slips away. He's still nervous, still terrified really, but the future that spreads out before him is worth taking the leap. Though the teen still has to ask, “Are you sure about this? We might crash and burn to ashes in the end.”

“Fire is my element, remember? So I'll risk it if you will and I think you might be surprised by how well our sparks mesh.” With every word, Hotstreak presses closer, his body a warm pressure against Virgil's chest and when the pyro finally kisses him again, the teen can't hold back a moan.

He opens to the redhead easily, wrapping an arm around his neck and welcoming every touch against his skin. Hotstreak teases him, nipping at the Virgil's lips while working his hands beneath the superhero's costume to stroke hot fingers across his ribs. It makes him shudder, the heat of the pyro's hands chasing away the chill, and he pulls Hotstreak closer to shove his tongue into his mouth. The action is both claim and exploration as the teen maps every crevice, sucking a hint of cinnamon from the other's lips before they finally part.

“See love, I told you that we'd burn bright together.” Hotstreak tells him with a smirk and Virgil feels some smugness of his own at the other's breathlessness. “Although if you ever go AWOL on me like that again, I am breaking up with you for good. Either of us has a problem and we're going to talk and yell and fucking work it out. Deal?”

“Deal. As long as the same applies to you.” The other metahuman replies, the frustration of the last few days at the forefront of his mind. However, he's too happy, and horny, to stay serious for long so he continues with a cheeky grin: “And will you please tell your firefighter buddies that I'm allowed in your presence now? Those guys are the best cockblockers in existence, but I rather think that you don't need them now.”

“God I hope not.” Hotstreak laughs and Virgil's heart flutters at the sight of his happiness. He looks good like that, eyes sparkling and a soft smile on his face, and the superhero vows that he'll do his best to keep it there.

They've still got a lot to talk about: details to consider and grievances to air, but at the moment, the teen really does not give a shit. Standing here with Hotstreak, naught but rain and heat between them, it feels as though there is nothing in the world but this. Nothing but the two of them in this one bright moment and for once Virgil's fears are silent in his mind. They have disappeared beneath the wave of joy that fills him and he will enjoy this peace for however long it last.

So when Hotstreak leans down to kiss the teen once more, the superhero tilts his head up to meet him and Virgil loses himself in pleasure with one last random thought: Maybe the rain isn't so bad after all.


Chapter 9: Epilogue