He let out an audible sigh, squeezing in one last kill against a faceless, insignificant enemy, before the game was paused.
He didn't need to turn around to know who was talking to him. He could already picture in his mind the awkward, gangly teenager not much older than he was, feet awkwardly shuffling on the ground. The way she handled herself that made it easy to give her the moniker 'dork'.
"What do you need?"
"I was wondering if we could spar."
Alec snorted. "Go ask Brian. He's usually up for that kind of stuff."
"Brian's out. He said he had to take care of something for his home."
Alec paused. "Alright," he said with a shrug, before getting to his feet.
He didn't need to turn around to envision the expression of bewilderment on her face. "Alright?"
"Yeah. Can't ask Lisa and Bitch is...well, Bitch. Besides, Brian's been on my case about this, anyways."
As he walked past her towards the usual place reserved for sparring, he heard her mutter something quietly.
"What was that?"
"Thanks. I said thanks."
"Oh." It was the first time that he could remember somebody thanking him without being coerced by himself or someone else.
It was an odd feeling.
"That was not fair," Taylor said, picking herself up off the ground after her latest tumble.
"We're villains if you haven't noticed."
"I know that. But when I asked for a spar, I was expecting something more physical. No power usage should have been left unsaid."
"Generally, if someone's charging me, and I don't have access to my scepter, then I use my power." Alec shrugged. "Besides, it's not like you can't do it either."
Taylor gave him a confused look, and he sighed. "You can keep track of people through your bugs, right?"
"So, why not do the same thing here? Place a few bugs on your opponent; keep track of their individual movements. Chances are they won't even feel it if you kept the number to a minimum."
She gave the matter some thought. "That...I'm not sure if that's how it works. But I'll give it a shot. Thanks."
Alec ran his fingers through his hair, and lazily entered the stance that Brian constantly beat into him.
"Whenever you're re-" Alec started, before moving backwards to avoid the blow aimed at his face. "Not going to let me finish?"
"We're villains if you haven't noticed," Taylor repeated with a small smile.
Alec blinked, before he returned the gesture with a half-smile of his own.
He hated sweat. It always got into his eyes, and when there's enough of it, it made his clothing and costume hug his body in a way that made it uncomfortable to do anything in.
It was why he took another shower, deviating from his usual one-shower-a-day routine in the early morning.
When he stepped out of the bathroom, pants on and towel wrapped around the back of his neck, Lisa was nearby, leaning against the wall with a knowing grin on her face. He's seen it before – it was the type of grin that meant that Lisa knew something.
Some compared it to a fox, but Alec always thought it reminded him of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland.
"Looking is free, I guess. Knock yourself out," Alec remarked before walking past her.
He didn't want to be part of whatever nefarious scheme Lisa had in mind.
Alec felt someone plop down in the seat behind him.
"Hey Brian," Alec said. Without taking his eyes off the screen, he picked up the second controller off the ground and held it out for him. "Ready to get your butt kicked again?" When the controller wasn't immediately taken (nor was his banter answered), Alec turned and saw that it wasn't Brian sitting next to him. "Taylor?"
"If you're expecting someone else, I'll just..."
Alec shook his head. "Thought you were Brian for a second. You play?"
Taylor shook her head.
"Seriously?" He paused. "Do you want to play?"
"I'll settle for watching."
Alec stared at her, before shaking his head. "Not happening. If you're on the couch, it's because you're working, sleeping, or playing. House rules."
"But-" Taylor started, before she frowned. "You just made that up, didn't you?"
Alec held up three fingers. "Scout's honor."
"I don't even know how to play."
"It's simple." Alec went through the motions, explaining the various button controls to her, sometimes going as far as miming on his own controller when she saw she didn't understand.
After a couple of practice runs, Alec was surprised to find out that Taylor wasn't half bad at the game. Nowhere near his level of play, but if she had told him afterwards that she was new, he wouldn't have believed it.
And though it was left unsaid, Alec found the game much more enjoyable when there were two players instead of one.
Alec watched the spar between Taylor and Brian with feigned disinterest.
Not that he actually enjoyed watching this kind of stuff – he didn't even enjoy playing fighting games – but it would be interesting to see if anything they learned from their own sparring sessions would come into play.
And it had. Taylor was moving around the room, anticipating blows that even bewildered the nearly unflappable Brian for a couple of moments. But his fighting experience came out on top once again, leaving Taylor on the ground, pinned.
"You've improved, Taylor," commended Brian. "I'm honest kind of surpr-" He ducked backwards, avoiding the sucker punch. "Whoa, what was that for?"
"We're villains if you haven't noticed."
Alec and Taylor glanced at each other, sharing a smile.
He let Lisa do the talking. There really wasn't much that he could say that wouldn't be covered by her anyways. He was only here because Taylor needed to be carried back to her house.
Brian could have done it.
Before he knew it, he was left alone with Taylor's dad. He reached for another sip of his soda can, and realized that it was already empty.
So much for that.
Danny Hebert compared to his old man was like night and day. His own dad was languid, exuded a confidence that he hasn't seen replicated. You could walk into a room and immediately have your eyes draw towards him, and that was without even using his power.
Taylor's dad was the opposite in almost every way. He was hunched over the table, thin and balding, with the same bewildered expression Taylor had at times. But there was something else there that he never saw in his own dad.
He looked up at him. "Yeah?"
"I just want to thank you again. For what you did for Taylor. If you guys hadn't been there..."
Alec waved away his words silently.
His own dad used to say similar words whenever one of his brothers or sisters was brought back to him.
The only thing was, Danny's words were genuine.
Alec sat on the couch later on, next to Taylor, too busy in his own head space to pay attention to the movie they were watching.
In his old home in Vancouver, he had everything he could possibly want provided to him, in an upscale house.
Yet when he caught a passing glimpse of Danny looking at Taylor, and the dilapidated house that they lived in, he couldn't help but feel just a little envious.
He just didn't know why.
Alec didn't anticipate the leg sweep from behind, so it was a shocking surprise when he suddenly ended up flat on his back, staring up at the ceiling.
And then the ceiling was replaced by her face, sweating and with dark strands of hair spread everywhere.
"I finally beat you," she said in between gasps for breath. There was a hint of pride in her voice.
Alec felt her forearm up against his neck, keeping his shoulders on the ground, and knew it to be true.
"So you did," he conceded. After what felt like a couple of minutes had passed, he added, "You can get off me now."
It was almost worth it to see the sudden change of expression on her face as she scrambled back to her feet. By the time he got himself straightened out, she was already out of the room.
"Smooth," a voice called out behind him. "You almost had me fooled."
Alec turned around, spotting Lisa against the other side of the wall, with the same grin on her face.
"No idea what you're going on about."
"Right, like you didn't actually just throw that match to see her smile."
He rolled his eyes. "I'll catch you when you come back down to Earth, space cadet."
Lisa only hummed as Alec left the room, towel drying off the residual sweat on his face.
He didn't notice that he passed by Taylor, who had been outside the room the entire time.
"This is the fifth time I've beaten you at this game. In a row."
"Really? I lost count after the second loss."
Taylor frowned. "Alec, are you throwing these games like you threw that match?"
He sighed audibly. "Did Lisa-"
"No, she didn't. I was outside of the room, waiting for you."
He raised an eyebrow. "Waiting for me?"
Taylor started to look slightly flustered. "Well, yeah...look, that's not the point!"
He cracked a smile. "I don't know, I think that's something worth investigating."
"Will you listen to me? I appreciate what you're trying to do, but lately, you've seemed out of it. Your game play is sloppy, your movements are sluggish-"
"Going straight for the throat, I see."
"I'm being serious, Alec! This is why I waited. I wanted to know what is on your mind that's making you like...like this!"
Confusion crossed her face. "My dad?"
"Yeah, your dad. Nothing bad, really, just..." He sighed, lips upward.
He never told others about where he came from. He knew the connotations, knew the stereotypes, and knew that people would look at him differently because of it. They'll wonder how near the apple fell from the tree, whether he's just a chip off the old block.
And up until now, that had never bothered him, because there wasn't a point. There wasn't anyone he cared about enough to even broach the subject, let alone tell them.
So why did he care now?
And why was it so hard to just say it?
"I'm sorry for bringing it up," Taylor said after a lengthy silence. "I shouldn't have said anything."
As she got up from her seat and started to walk away, Alec made a choice.
Taylor swiveled around on her heels. "What?"
"My dad is Heartbreaker."
Alec spilled the beans, and told her things that he thought he would never tell anyone, never be able to tell to anyone.
And when he got up from his seat and left afterwards, stomach twisted into a Gordian knot, Taylor let him.
"There you are."
"Here I am."
Taylor took a seat beside him, her legs dangling over the ledge. "You've been avoiding me."
"I'm afraid of having another losing streak. The shame might just kill me this time."
Taylor smiled. "I haven't told anyone."
Alec shrugged. "Wouldn't care if you did."
"I wouldn't betray your trust like that."
"We're villains if you haven't noticed." He ran his fingers through his hair once more, turning to face Taylor. "Listen, I'm-"
He was interrupted by Taylor's kiss, directly on his lips.
"I've had better," he said in a flippant manner afterwards.
Taylor punched the side of his arm, but there was still a smile on her face.
"Can't say that's the reaction I usually get."
"Lisa said you'd respond in that kind of manner."
Lisa? "Did she-"
"Good night, Alec," Taylor said as she stood up and walked away, back down to the loft.
That would explain the grin.
It reminded him of a moment when he was younger. It was summer, and one of his neighbors was a little girl around his age. He couldn't remember her name, but she had strawberry blonde curls, and always carried around a stuffed panda.
They never really played together, not in the usual way other kids played, or even the way his brother and sisters did it. Often times, they would spend hours just in each others company, hidden under an oak tree.
Until one day, where they decided they wanted to play at adults like the other kids, and they shared their first kiss.
It was weird, it was gross, and they both resolved to never grow up afterward.
She moved away a couple of months after that incident, and Alec never visited the oak tree again.
It was his first kiss, but it always felt off. Subsequent kisses were always initiated by him using his own power. It was, in a lot of ways, like kissing himself in the mirror. The sensation felt much the same as it did under the old oak tree.
Alec knew there was something different about this one than the rest.
It was spontaneous. It was genuine.
It was nice, Alec thought as he stared up at the starry sky.