Hurricanes and Sisters
Both are impressive forces of nature. Sharon knows more than she's supposed to, less than she should, and can't seem to find a happy medium.
Sharon doesn't know who her aggravating brat of a brother thinks he's fooling, but whoever it is, it clearly isn't her. It's been obvious to her since the summer before high school that Virgil is utterly smitten with his best friend, and no matter how many girls Virgil seemed to think he had a crush on, Virgil reserved his moogly-dreamy my-brain-is-mush-over-you-like-a-bad-Harlequin-Romance-character stares for Richie Foley alone.
Considering how many times Virgil sent those out just when Richie looked away, and they were returned by Richie just as Virgil looked away, like a bad tennis match continuing for nearly two years, it was somewhat of a relief to Sharon when it became clear to her that one of them had said "Screw this crap" and had done something about it.
Now, however, she's sitting on the couch, waiting for her brother to come home from wherever he's snuck off to tonight, and she's wishing that the two of them had never become anything more than friends.
And she's regretting that she ever thought of Richie as one of the family.
She'd stumbled across the scene quite by accident. She'd stayed late at work, and was walking home in the dusk. The streets had been mostly empty of people, and even cars were a bit scarce; well, it was a Sunday.
The two had been in a darkened alley, and it had been just like a really bad black-and-white mystery movie where somehow the female lead ends up more or less pinned against an alley wall and pretends to try and resist the detective's charms, complete with cheesy music and cheesier lines.
Except it's really, really hard to think as Richie as a female, and Static is anything but a detective.
The cheesy lines had been there, though.
The voices had been what drew her forward. She'd recognized Richie's but not the other's, because while it seemed familiar, it was almost as though the person was purposefully making it lower in pitch.
"What's a nice guy like you doing in a dark alley like this?"
Richie's soft laugh encouraged her to peek around the corner, the two people clearly visible despite dusk rapidly giving way to night. Static was sitting cross-legged on his glowing disc, hovering high enough to keep him eye-to-eye with Richie, who was leaning casually against the brick wall.
"Looking for you. I tried to call you on the Shock Box, but you didn't pick up. Figured I'd walk over."
Shock Box? Sharon raised an eyebrow.
"A good-looking guy like you shouldn't be out here alone when it's getting dark." Static's grin was wolfish, and Sharon's eyes went wide. Static was hitting on Richie? "Want a lift?"
Richie snickered, reaching out a hand, not at all disturbed by the fact that he was about to touch what was probably a very dangerous electrical field. Automatically, Static slid off the disc and folded it up, his electricity fading, making himself safe to touch. Richie drew him closer, wrapping his arms around Static's neck.
"Only if we go back to your place."
Sharon's mouth dropped open. No, that couldn't be right. That was not the Richie she knew.
"What's your boyfriend going to say about that?" Static grinned. "You know, Virgil?" Richie laughed at that, sounding thoroughly amused.
"Aw, he doesn't have to know." And Static's gloved hand promptly slipped into Richie's hair, pressing him against the wall and kissing him. Making out with him. Whatever. And his other hand was definitely sliding up Richie's sweater. And Richie was most definitely not putting up a fight.
She took a few steps away from the alley's opening and massaged her temples. Shit.
She was going to have to tell Virgil.
She didn't want to, didn't want to hurt her brother no matter how much she always threatened to, but she couldn't let this go on.
She'd never in a million years have thought Richie capable of... cheating. On her brother. His best friend. And certainly not be so flippant about it, like it didn't matter at all, like Virgil didn't matter at all...
Furious at both Static and Richie but knowing she had to make sure Virgil heard it from her first, and not Richie's excuses if he got to Virgil first should she confront him on it right here, Sharon stalked away toward home.
As such, she didn't hear the rest of the conversation.
"Rich, man," Virgil breathed against Richie's lips when the kiss ended, no longer affecting the 'dark superhero' tone of voice. "That was so bad
"You started it, V."
"You were so sleazy
Richie snickered. "You loved it. Now, do I get that ride or what?"
"You get a ride to your house," Virgil admitted. "I've got some chores to do at home, so you'll have to come over in about an hour. You're sleeping over, right?"
"Yeah." Virgil flipped out his disc to its full width, charging it up. Both of them stepped on it, Richie anchoring himself with an arm around Virgil's neck while Virgil held him around the waist. It was a comfortable, familiar position, and the safest possible one. Virgil lifted them out of the alley easily.
Sharon turned at the sudden brightness in the sky and glared viciously at the two forms zipping away.
Sharon flinches slightly on the couch as she hears the front door open and close again, her brother's footsteps obvious in the foyer. She doesn't want to do this, but she has to. Fiercely, she reminds herself that she's not the one who's going to really hurt him; she's actually saving him pain and humiliation.
"Virgil," she calls out. "Get in the living room; I need to talk to you about something."
"Sharon, I did the dishes before I left!" Virgil appears in the doorway, a backpack slung over his shoulder. Not for the first time, Sharon wonders what he's always carrying around in there. Probably half his comic collection.
"Virgil," she says again, gently, "we need to talk, and to do that, I need you to sit down with me, okay?"
Terror flits across Virgil's face. "Is it dad?" he demands, staring intently at her, searching her face for answers. "Did something happen to dad?"
"No!" Sharon exclaims, waving her hand about. Damnit, she hadn't meant to scare him. Funny, she was far more effective as a counsellor with people she didn't know extremely well. "No, no, it's not daddy. It's... it's about Richie. And you."
Virgil bites his lip, then slowly sets his bag on the floor and joins her on the couch, on the other end but still close enough to reach out and touch. From the expression that flits across his face for the barest instant, she wonders if... if he already knows.
"Richie and I—"
"Are together, I know," she says, waving her hand dismissively. At the shocked look on his face, she raises an eyebrow. "Virgil, I can't believe you'd possibly expect me not to know. Best friends, in my experience, do not give each other the kind of stares you see in chick flicks. And they don't hold hands while watching The Ring when they think no one's watching."
"We do not stare at each other like couples in chick flicks!" Virgil protests hotly, folding his arms across his chest. Sharon resists the urge to sigh. She's so much better at getting strangers to open up. Now Virgil is on the defensive, his body language indicating that he's closing himself off from her.
"Virgil, I was only kidding." That gentle, soothing voice again. Virgil eyes her suspiciously, but he unfolds his arms. Good; open body language means more openness to critical suggestions and facts.
"Okay, Sharon, what's the deal? You haven't been this nice since I broke my arm in grade eight, and you were comforting Richie because he thought it was his fault."
"Like I said, Virgil, this is about Richie. I know you're not going to want to hear this, but—"
"I'm not breaking up with him."
Sharon closes her eyes and counts to ten. Very slowly. "Virgil, let me finish, would you? I don't care who you date as long as you're happy, but—"
"I'm happy with Richie."
"Stop being so defensive!" she yells, glaring at him; he glares right back, obviously irritated and wanting nothing more than to leave. If she didn't fix this quickly, he would. "Okay, just... hear me out."
"Virgil, I swear on my life that this is true, all right? Can you trust me on this?"
Virgil eyes her warily, but doesn't hesitate. "Yes." The Hawkins family trusts each other, no matter what's happened in between.
"Okay. Okay. You're not going to want to hear this, and I'll completely understand if you get upset and verbally lash out at me because Richie's not here, but. Virgil, I saw him flirting with someone else. And kissing him. And—" She's about to say something along the lines of 'appearing quite willing to have sex with him, too' but the utterly crushed, disbelieving look on her brother's face stops her.
Hey, she does have a heart.
"Virgil," she says softly, touching one of his hands lightly. He jerks away from her and scrubs at his face. Laughs a little.
"I can't believe I'm having this conversation. I can't— He wouldn't."
"Virgil—" She cuts herself off when something seems to dawn on his face. Something a lot like comprehension mixed with hope.
"Who was he? And when was this?"
She hesitates. The last thing she wants is her brother attempting to beat the crap out of the toughest Bang Baby in Dakota.
"Sharon, please. I won't attempt to kill the guy, I swear." Strangely enough, Virgil looks like he already thinks he knows the answer anyway.
"It was about nine, I guess. Today. And... you're not going to believe me, Virgil. But..." She shifts slightly, hoping against hope that he will believe her, because she knows just how crazy this sounds. "It was Static. Static and Richie."
...'Oh'? What the hell was that, 'Oh'? That was not an "Oh my god" 'Oh'. That was a slightly nervous, very sheepish 'Oh'.
Virgil takes a deep breath, then says, far more eloquently than she's used to, "Okay, I believe you. And by that I mean that I fully accept, understand, and am aware of the fact that Richie and Static are together. And that's okay. With me. Because he's not actually, um... cheating."
Sharon's anger flares up, as if she can defend her brother with it since he's obviously not willing to defend himself.
"The hell he isn't!"
Virgil's eyes widen in mock-surprise. "Language, young lady!"
"Virgil—!" Sharon stops. Grits her teeth, closes her eyes, and breathes deeply. Opens her eyes and takes Virgil's hands in hers in one of those rare displays of sisterly love. "Virgil," she says again, calmly this time. "I know you and Richie have been friends for years, and you've been... boyfriends for awhile now, but"—and Virgil is just kind of staring at her now—"you've got to accept that he's deliberately hurting you."
"Sharon?" Virgil asks tentatively, but she ignores him.
"I never thought he'd ever do something like that, either, but he is. And no matter how in love you think you are with him—"
"—I'm your sister, and no matter how much I curse that fact at times, I'm not going to let him—"
"What?" she demands, annoyed at being interrupted during the one time she's actually attempting niceness in order to get through that thick, stupid skull of his to help him.
He squeezes her hands gently, which is shocking, because it's almost as if he's trying to make her understand something. "Richie is not cheating on me."
Classic denial case. Proper, straightforward psychology. She can deal with that. "As soon as you accept—"
"Richie is not cheating on me," he interrupts again, then continues, "You saw him and Static... making out... and I believe you. 'Cause it happened, and I know that." Virgil squirms in his seat, seeming to hunch in on himself—not as if he's try to deny the fact at all, but as if he's bracing for a blow from Sharon herself. "And he's still not cheating on me. Just like if I were... making out with Gear I wouldn't be cheating on Richie. I. Um. You... get it?" Virgil lets go of her hands in order to spread his arms in a 'what can I say?' gesture. "What you heard or saw earlier... Rich and I were just playing around, you know?"
Yes, she knows. Sharon understands the implications of what her little brother is saying. She just can't quite wrap her mind around it, that's all.
Can't quite wrap her mind around how delusional Virgil really is. He's really starting to worry her, scare her, and that just makes her angry.
"Virgil!" she says, more sharply than she intended to, but she needs to get through to him. "You are not Static!"
Virgil opens his mouth to say something, closes it, then looks at the coffee table where Sharon's set of keys are sitting. He points at them. She glances down.
An electrical charge arcs from Virgil's fingertip to Sharon's keys, lifting them into the air and dropping them into her hands. Sharon can feel the faint tingle of a residual charge in the metal. She looks from her keys to Virgil, twice, then reaches over to set them back on the table, far too calmly to be normal.
"No," she says, and once again she's far too calm.
"Um. Yes. ...Sharon?"
"No. No, because my little brother has not been traipsing around during all hours of the night and day with his boyfriend in spandex, without telling me a damn thing and leaving me to worry if you've both joined some kind of cult because of the way you've been so secretive and don't think I don't know that you've been sneaking out of the house in the middle of the damn night, even when Richie sleeps over, and daddy just says 'they're not doing anything illegal,' but you come home with bruises and cuts and won't answer any of my questions and I ought to slap you! Playing superhero at age seventeen and running around on the streets—!"
"DON'T interrupt me when I'm ranting at you! FLYING around over the streets, I could get dozens of news tapes showing how many times you almost died fighting Bang Babies!"
There's a faint knock on the door, and Richie opens it, poking his head in. From the look on his face, it's clear he heard yelling, but it's just as obvious that he wasn't able to make out exactly what the argument was about.
"Am I interrup—"
"And you!" Sharon yells, stabbing an accusatory finger in Richie's direction. "LETTING HIM!"
Richie makes an interesting squeaking noise and flinches back, trying to escape out the door, but Sharon is having none of that.
"Richard Foley, get in here now."
Richie steps inside the house cautiously, eyeing Sharon as if he's afraid she'll suddenly pounce him and attempt to maul him if he breaks eye contact. Frankly, Virgil wouldn't put it past her right now. Richie shuts the door slowly and quietly, twisting the handle so it doesn't make noise as it latches.
Silence, except for the fact that later both boys would swear on their very souls that they could hear Sharon growling.
"Richie," Sharon says suddenly, pleasantly, and Richie automatically raises his hands to fend off a blow. She stands up and waves a hand at her vacated spot. "Please sit down on the couch. On the opposite end from my brother."
Richie doesn't walk over and sit down so much as he stumbles over and collapses, shooting a terrified look at Virgil, which doesn't help at all considering Virgil appears to be doing his damndest to burrow under the couch cushions.
It's probably really, really stupid to be petrified of a superpowerless older sister, but frankly, neither of them feels unjustified in their terror.
Sharon picks up the cordless phone from the end table and dials a tone both boys recognize as the Centre's number.
"Hi, daddy," Sharon says into the phone, sounding far calmer than she looks considering the way she keeps sending them death glares. "It's Sharon. Do you have a minute? Because I have Richard and Virgil here and I really need to talk you about something."
Richard again. Richie winces.
"I know about them, and I—" Sharon stops and listens to the phone. Virgil doesn't even try to pick up what his father's saying, because it'll be awhile before Robert gets home and he just knows that Sharon will somehow know he was listening in and murder him long before then. If she's not planning to already.
At 'I know about them' Richie had all but passed out, judging from the lack of blood in his face. Virgil shakes his head fractionally to indicate that isn't what this is about.
Richie just goes paler.
"Daddy, it's not about them being gay together. I'm not blind, I've known about that since it started. I knew about before they did, what with all the googly-eyed stares they kept giving each other when they thought the other wasn't looking."
Richie thumps his head against the back of the couch, which isn't really effective considering the softness, and his face goes from vampire-pale to fire-engine red in the space of a few seconds. Virgil is pretty sure that's not healthy, but considering they're going to be dead soon, he supposes it doesn't matter.
But the silence is lasting too long on Sharon's end. Finally, she says something, sounding as though someone just punched her in the gut.
"You knew? And you told them it's okay! ...They are not responsible! They're teenage boys who are going to turn into men; the word 'responsible' can never be applied to them!"
Sharon paces angrily, listening, and finally says grudgingly, "Okay, daddy." Then, not grudgingly at all, "I love you. Have a good day," and she hits the 'off' button and turns to glare at each of them in turn, and then somehow both at once.
Virgil is pretty sure that ability is a female-only gene.
"This... superhero business, if it continues, does not mean that you can skip out of any of your chores, Virgil Hawkins. Not even if the world is ending and Superman shows up and begs for your help," Sharon says lowly, annoyance sparking in her eyes. "Now. Go to your room."
Virgil jerks, staring at her in disbelief. "I'm sevente—"
"And Richie, you go to the guest room," she interrupts, still staring at her brother. Richie opens his mouth as if to protest, and Sharon swings her formidable glare to him instead.
Richie books it up the stairs so fast Virgil wonders if he'd been hit with another round of Bang gas.
Then Sharon hisses at him like an angry cat and Virgil is right behind him.
No matter where Sharon had directed them, however, both end up on the floor in Virgil's room, backs to Virgil's bed, side-by-side.
"Jeez, bro," Richie says, leaning his head back against the bed and laughing nervously, "my brain kept telling me that there was pretty much a negative chance of her murdering us, and I was still convinced that we were going to die."
"Yeah... You can have negative chances?"
"Well... no. Not unless the parallels between two virtually identical dimensions fail and an overlap occurs, in which case the chances of any occurrence would—"
"Rich," Virgil interrupts, reaching over to sling an arm over his partner's shoulders. Richie grins and leans into it, then abruptly frowns. Virgil is used to the sudden mood changes; it usually means an idea has hit.
"How did she find out? What were you doing, washing your costume?"
It's Virgil's turn to grin, albeit sheepishly. "She, um. Caught you kissing someone who, in her mind, wasn't me."
"Static," Rich says with a half-groan, half-laugh.
"Yep. So she confronted me on it and she was actually really nice about it, which was pretty frightening, trying to convince me that no matter how utterly smitten with you I am, clearly I deserve better."
They both snicker over that.
"You going to leave me, V?" Richie smirks, and Virgil laughs.
"Dude, I could do way better than you. Like... Ebon. Or... or Hotstreak."
"Or Shiv." Richie quirks a grin up at him, and Virgil shudders.
"That's uncalled for. At least Ebon and Hotstreak aren't clinically insane and their IQs are over two."
"All of them are kind of pathetic, you know. Jeez, at least I can actually get a superhero. Haven't you heard? Static's all over me."
"Awww, is that your dream?" Virgil shifts to straddle Richie's waist, planting his hands on either side of his partner's head. "The big strong superhero swooping down to save the damsel in distress?"
"Okay, that was uncalled for," Richie says, his arms snaking up around Virgil's neck. Virgil smirks, but there's no real malice in it, only gentle teasing.
"Think of it as payback," he retorts, and then there's no more talking because their mouths are fully occupied. Somehow, Virgil manages to shift them up onto the bed and still keep Richie pinned underneath him.
Something light hits Virgil in the back of the head, and he turns around just in time to both see and hear Sharon slam the door.
He picks up the thrown item from where it fell to the bedsheets, discovering it to be... a box of condoms.
"Awkward," Richie says, sounding a little disturbed. "I don't want to know why she thinks we're going to have sex with her being both in the house and totally aware of what we're doing." He pauses. "Can I share something with you, bro? Because sometimes having a super-brain just sucks and I need to share the thought."
Virgil blinks, not quite getting the sudden topic change. "Sure."
"Why does she have condoms?"