Chapter 2: Insults, Doubt & Aggravation
Fandom: Static Shock
Word Count: 3733 (7015 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
Hotstreak is having far too much fun messing with Hawkins, but he just can't resist needling him a little and nothing he's said so far has been a lie. A few bent truths maybe and certainly some snark, but when he said that he was going straight, he meant it.
The firestarter can see that the other teen still has his doubts and while it may make his life harder, he can't actually blame him for it, not considering how the redhead used to beat him up as F-Stop. Although it's been years since then, such fears root deep and Hotstreak knows that he will have to work hard to gain the other's trust. But he will, because Hawkins really is his best hope to stay out of jail and the pyro will do whatever is required to avoid this fate because he knows where it would lead.
When he was in juvie some of the more sadistic guards had delighted in telling their prisoners exactly what would happen to them once they grew old enough to be sentenced as adults. So Hotstreak had listened carefully to these warnings since he knew that as a repeat offender, the moment he turned eighteen all it would take was one more fuck up and he would be put away for life. Life without parole and worse, life without his powers.
The teen may be a delinquent and a piss-poor student, but he knows how the world works and he knows that his time has been running out ever since they started looking for a cure. He goes to prison and it's power-dampeners until they manage to put his fire out for good and then he won't be Hotstreak anymore.
So while joining the side of the do-gooders is not exactly the metahuman's first choice, it's better than the alternative and the firestarter needs Hawkins to keep him on the straight and narrow. The redhead has never been one to deny his faults and he knows that he's impulsive and ill-tempered and bound to do something stupid if left to his own devices. Thus the other teen is Hotstreak's insurance against himself until the pyro gets the hang of not frying everyone who makes him mad.
And along the way the redhead plans to have as much fun as he can, because if Sparky proves anything, it's that good guys don't always have to be boring as well.
Step one, rile Hawkins up as much as possible to see his face pinch in annoyance and hear whatever crazy sarcastic gibberish he comes out with next. Hotstreak had always appreciated the other's sharp tongue and spirit even as he tried to crush it; half the reason he had bullied him so much was because the geek refused to bow his head as he deserved. But while F-Stop could not allow a scrawny little kid to challenge him like that, the pyro is a metahuman now and he has no such face to save.
So when the redhead notices the younger teen shivering next to him, he only hesitates a moment before leaning over to press one burning hand against his back. It's worth the concentration required not to singe him to see the other nearly fall out of his chair in surprise before glancing at him in obvious distrust.
“What are you doing?” Hawkins hisses, and the firestarter grins at the confusion in his voice. Never thought I could actually be nice, did you? Though he doesn't want to ruin his image entirely, so his answer is filled with more snark than obvious care.
Although Hotstreak also finds himself rather entranced by the way the other blushes, and spends the rest of the period watching him instead of the teacher since it's not like he knows what's going on anyway. The teen is sure that he'll have to read the book at some point if he's going to pass the class, but for now he'll take the chance to look at nicer things instead.
The next two periods pass in a similar manner and the redhead is frustrated to discover that every subjects seems entirely mystifying, making him realize just how far behind he is even as he's reminded of all the reasons he quit in the first place. It's just so mind-numbingly dull and even though Hotstreak knows that he needs a degree if he ever wants a decent job, he has trouble believing that physics is really going to matter. Or math, considering that Hawkins is taking some kind of fancy calculus which might as well be voodoo for all the sense it makes.
And everyone is staring at him, the pyro can feel their glances on his skin though they look away quickly whenever he catches their eyes. He doesn't mind the ones who fear him; Hotstreak has earned that reputation and he hasn't changed enough to stop being proud of it, but some of these nerdy little buggers are dissing him instead. The straight-A honor students are obviously wondering what a delinquent like him is doing in their oh-so-special classes and their scorn is starting to piss him off.
Don't think I can cut it do you? You think I'm just some dumb punk who belongs in remedial algebra because I don't know what a freaking derivative is. Well screw you, I bet you wouldn't be so smug with my fist in your teeth.
Hotstreak doesn't realize that he's growling under his breath until Hawkins nudges him warily in the side in an effort to get his attention. “Hey man, you with me? The lunch bell rang awhile ago. You're not about to freak or anything right?” The younger teen asks with a worried frown and his concern is enough to sidetrack the pyro's growing rage. It's been a long time since someone bothered to ask how he was and even if Hawkins is probably motivated by the desire to not get punched again, the redhead appreciates the effort.
Not that he's going to tell the other that since he's a metahuman not a freakin' girl and this truce they've called doesn't extend to any kind of sharing and caring. “Nah, I'm fine. I'm just adjusting or whatever.” He replies with a smirk instead, waving at his keeper to lead on.
“Okay then.” Although he still looks skeptical, Hawkins shrugs and starts rambling on about his schedule because apparently he took Fredrickson seriously when the teacher said that they should head to the office during lunch. While Hotstreak's usual plan has been to avoid all bureaucracy as a matter of course, he supposes that doing things right also means doing the paperwork. Which is a damn shame. Not being a criminal would be a lot easier if it wasn't so much fucking work. I wonder if Sparky has to deal with this shit.
Of course, then the other teen notices that the redhead has been tuning out his entire speech and lets out an annoyed growl of his own. “You could at least pretend you're paying attention you know. It's not like I want to spend my lunch in the office either but if you're serious about this we need to get you re-enrolled. So be polite to Ms. Chan because she can seriously screw you over if you piss her off.”
“Fine, fine. I'll be good.” Hotstreak promises, following him into the office and watching in bemusement as the ancient receptionist greets him with a smile. “Virgil, what can I do for you today? I hope there's no more problems with your schedule.”
Hawkins returns her smile with a grin of his own and if the redhead didn't know better he'd think that the teen had nowhere else he'd rather be. “Morning, Ms. Chan. My schedule's great but I need your help with something else today, if you don't mind. Did Mr. Fredrickson happen to mention what happened this morning?”
“Oh yes, he ducked in and told me we were getting a new student. Are you here to sort them out, because I'd be happy to help you with the paperwork.”
It baffles Hotstreak to realize how willing the receptionist is to go out of her way for the other student and he knows that if he were in here by himself no one would be falling over themselves to help him the same way. Hawkins does have a nice smile, maybe there's something to be said for being friendly after all, he wonders before shoving that thought away as best he can.
“Um, not exactly. He's a returning student actually,” Hawkins says to the receptionist with an awkward wince and pulls the older teen forward. “You remember Francis Stone right?”
Indeed she does, because her face goes white at the sight of him and Hotstreak almost feels bad about the way Ms. Chan starts shaking. Almost, because the pyro actually feels rather annoyed instead because even when he was a criminal he hadn't gone around blasting little old ladies; but apparently no one pays attention to that kind of thing. Is everyone going to look at me like that? All I did was rob shit, I'm not a freaking murderer.
Yet despite his wounded pride, Hawkins tight grip on his shoulder reminds him that he needs her and so the redhead stays silent as he attempts a reassuring smile. She flinches beneath it and Hotstreak reminds himself to practice that one for the future even as the younger teen steps in again.
“It's all right, Ms. Chan. I promise he's just here to study and it's my job to make sure he stays in line. So we need to put him in my classes so he can graduate with the rest of us.”
“You're very brave, Virgil, and we all appreciate what you're doing.” She accompanies this statement with a scornful glare toward Hotstreak that makes him grit his teeth again. “But Mr. Stone would have to have receive at least a C in everything to even be eligible and looking at his history with us, I highly doubt that he's capable of that.”
“I know, but we still need to get him enrolled for his parole. However, passing isn't a requirement which is why I was hoping you might have some kind of G.E.D. study guide I could take or know where I could find one.”
“Damn it all, not you too.” The redhead mutters in irritation and only when the other two look up at him in confusion does he realize that he spoke aloud.
“Um, what?” Hawkins asks and the pyrokinetic has to fight to keep from blushing awkwardly as he recognizes what he said and how irrational it was. Hell he's the one who mentioned getting his G.E.D. in the first place so there's no need to be so offended by their assumptions. But it still grates on his nerves to know that the only looks he's going to be getting from now on are fear or scorn and of the two he's more comfortable with fear. Except that path leads back to prison and so Hotstreak simply shakes his head.
“Nothing, nothing important. You just do your thing.” He tells the other teen with a dismissive wave and goes back to brooding since it seems like this whole being legal thing is going to be harder than he thought. The pyro has never done well being ignored or looked down upon and those seem to be his only options now that blasting things is out.
Whatever. If people want to scorn me than I'll just have to fucking show them that I'm still better than they'll ever be. Or maybe I'll pull a Sparky and become a superhero so I can smack criminals around instead. The whole reformed schtick worked for Rubberband Man.
Eventually Hawkins finishes sorting out the pyro's paperwork and they're free to go again, study guides and transcripts shoved under his arm. “So what exactly was that about?” The younger teen asks as they leave the office. “I've never seen you so quiet or so rattled.”
“Who says I'm rattled? I'm fine.” Hotstreak huffs and crosses his arms over his chest, glaring at Hawkins as he dares him to question this claim. But while the other teen obviously doesn't believe him, he just gives him a steady stare and changes the subject, for whatever reason deciding not to push the issue now.
Instead in true geek form he starts talking about homework and study plans and before the redhead knows what's happened, he's spent the rest of the lunch period color-coding his schedule with Foley of all people. It's surreal to look up and realize that he's actually been having fun arguing about highlighters with Hawkins, far, far too enthralled by the way the other's eyes sparkle when he smirks. Once Hotstreak starts paying attention, he discovers that he's leaning into the conversation, finding excuses to touch his hands as they fight over markers, and to make the whole thing even stranger, no one else seems to realize what's going on.
Sure the blond is staring at them like they're crazy and the rest of the lunchroom has gone remarkably silent, but there's enough wariness in their eyes that the pyro doesn't worry that anyone knows what's running through his head. Which means there's plenty of time to shut it down before things get out of hand, so the firestarter forces himself to lean back and start digging at Foley instead.
The blond squawks, Hawkins laughter gains an edge of annoyance, and the world returns to its proper place. Well as much as it can, the redhead thinks as the lunch bell rings and he troops back with all the other sheep to class.
At least the afternoon isn't quite so frustrating since it's just history, gym and econ and Hotstreak had had a lot time to read in solitary. In fact he even manages to answer some of the teacher's questions, pulling out obscure facts about the Spanish-American War that he'd picked up on one insomniatic night. It is worth feeling like a nerd to see everyone's gobsmacked expressions and his steps are almost jaunty as he follows Hawkins out of their last class.
“So where to now, oh math master, or am I free to go?” The redhead asks, leaning against the wall of lockers as the younger teen grabs all his stuff. “I do need to check in with my parole officer eventually and let 'em know that you agreed to vouch for me. I doubt those cops bothered to spread the word.”
“Huh, oh yeah that makes sense. And I should probably warn... let my pops know what's going on before I bring you over to study. He doesn't do well with surprises.” Hawkins replies with a shrug and then starts handing the pyro books as he rattles off instructions at a mile a minute.
“But you should start studying anyway you know, even though the schedule we worked out with Richie only kicks in next week. Take my copy of Catcher in the Rye, I finished it and Dietrich likes to give pop quizzes on the reading, chapter 3 for tomorrow. And I know you don't know what the heck we're talking about in Calculus, but if you read the textbook through the second section that might help you get your bearings. You seemed all right in history and econ's just a lot of memorizing graphs but you better take my physics textbook too. Actually, why don't you just take my bag, I can get by without it today and you need my notes more than I do. Read them all if you have the time.”
“Do you honestly expect me to do any of this?” Hotstreak asks in bemusement when the other teen shoves his backpack into his hands. “I don't usually read this much in a week.” At least not unless I'm stuck in juvie with nothing better to do. Yet at the same time it is kind of nice for someone to have positive expectations instead of negative, even if they are ridiculously high.
“Hey you're the one who wanted me to help you, so why don't you prove that you're actually worth my time. I know you can be a punk but if you want to succeed at this you'll have to think as well. So impress me.” Hawkins says with a smirk that makes his doubts into a challenge and the pyro has never been one to back down from a dare.
“Whatever, nerd. You're just trying to turn me into one of you but I'll see what I can do. Until tomorrow then.” The firestarter replies with a smirk of his own, throwing the bag over one shoulder and swaggering out of school.
As he knew it would be, Hotstreak's meeting with his parole officer is little more than a formality: just ten minutes of playing the repentant teen while throwing in subtle references to Hawkins' reformative influence and he's off the hook for another week. So the redhead leaves the office shortly after he arrived, turning right to wander into the industrial district instead of heading back to his new 'home' because he needs a place to think and blow off a bit of steam.
It seems almost impossible how fast everything has changed: two days ago he had been in juvie, his days filled with attitude and fear and this afternoon he's practically a free man. Free so long as he doesn't do anything stupid, free so long as he stays within the chains that society decrees and while he knows that it is worth it, Hotstreak still needs some time to wrap his head around his new way of life.
And he has always done his best thinking when his head is on fire.
So the redhead finds an abandoned lot and lights himself up, throwing flame around until the twitch beneath his skin eases and he no longer feels like punching someone in the face just to prove he can. In fact by the time the ground is good and charred, he has resolved to stick with his plan, make an actual attempt to graduate and prove to Hawkins and everybody else that he's worth a lot more than they think. And if the other teen smiles at him along the way, there's no reason that he can't enjoy the view, even if he has no intention of starting more than that.
“Are you done?” A familiar voice asks when he pauses for awhile and Hotstreak whirls to see Static watching him from his perch on the fence. “I heard that you were out again and I guess the rumors didn't lie this time.”
“Then you've heard that I'm on the side of the angels now,” The redhead answers, crossing his arms and raising an eyebrow as he looks up at the superhero. While duking it out with Sparky always used to improve his mood, the fire singing in his veins and the thrill of taking an equal down, the metahuman cannot afford a fight today. He has to convince the superhero that he's serious about his change of heart and so he lets him have the first move, keeping his hands quiet and in sight.
“Maybe, maybe not.” Static says, obviously skeptical but not attacking him outright and the redhead will take that as a win for now. “If you stay within the law this time I won't bother you, but I don't trust you and I'll be watching. For your sake I really hope that you don't screw it up.”
“I ain't lying, Sparky. I don't expect you to believe that I've turned into a saint but I'm not going to do anything stupid. I'm just trying to stay out of prison and get on with my life.” Hotstreak tells the superhero, knowing the truth is his best option at the moment since the other metahuman has always has a knack for seeing through his snark. Static is probably the biggest obstacle to his reformation because the other practically owns Dakota's superhero scene these days and unless he allows it there's no way the pyro is ever getting free reign to use his powers in his daily life.
Which is what the redhead wants. He wants to be able to flame something innocuous on the street without being jumped from all directions and maybe someday he could help Sparky take out criminals when he gets the urge to beat other people down; the two Bang Babies had worked together surprisingly well when they were forced to cooperate before.
Not that Hotstreak is going to mention this idea right now since he's sure it's going to be a long time before the superhero stops waiting for him to fuck shit up, let alone trusts him at his back. However, Static doesn't ask him anything else after delivering that warning, simply flies off again and leaves the firestarter at somewhat of a loss. He had been expecting a bit more of an argument or at least some pointed questions but he's hardly going to look this gift horse in the mouth.
So the teen gathers up his stuff and heads back to the house which the parole board stuck him in, exchanging distant nods with his new foster father as he walks through the door. The two of them have already clashed over the rules and regulations that he's supposed to follow, but while the other man is far too obsessed with living by the book, the teen has had far worse as foster parents go.
As long as Mr. Hamilton stays out of his way and Hotstreak follows the letter of the law, both of them can pretend that the other does not exist, which is just the way he likes it. It seems ridiculous to him that the court thinks living some overbearing loser will help him turn his life around, but it's a roof over his head and free meals three times a day, so the redhead will go along with it for now.
Besides, he has homework to do.
Chapter 3: Skepticism