Hero by Leto
"Hey, check out this one - Joe Kido, most likely to chicken out."
"Haha, that's a good one!"
"Yeah, you pegged 'im just right."
"Son, this really isn't good enough. Wherever you lost this 3%, you're going to have to make sure you don't do that again. Remember, high school entrance exams aren't so very far in the future. You'll really have to raise your standard before then if you want to get into the *right* school."
Well, maybe I *don't* want to, he thought, and said "sorry, Dad. I'll do better next semester."
"Hey, it's four-eyes."
"Get outta the way, dork."
"Hey, lemme try those glasses."
"Heheh, no wonder he always looks so zoned out. Can't see a thing with these things on!"
"I - am - Joe, from the planet Dweeb!"
"Good one, Matt!"
The boy stands quietly, a little nervously, waiting for his glasses. The others grow tired of making fun of him when he doesn't react, and throw his glasses at his chest, running off to find some more interesting hobby.
This same boy sits alone at a table after school. Other boys are out playing baseball or soccer with their friends, but he sits down quietly at his desk and starts to spread the day's homework over the desk, starting immediately. There is no mother to welcome him in, and his father is working late.
Repeating phrases over and over. If you say something enough times, it might come true.
"Some day I'll have friends. And I won't be a disappointment to them. Some day I'll be strong and prove all those guys wrong. There's another me, there's another me, there's another me somewhere in the future. Some day I'll show 'em all. Some day I'll have friends. Some day I'll have friends. Some day I'll be strong. Some day I'll show 'em all. Some day I'll have friends."
This boy, enduring another day of school, worse than usual. He hides out in the library at lunch, but for once he can't take refuge in the books. Everyone thinks picking on him would be a fun thing for that day and he can't escape.
"You're a bigger wimp than my little sister!"
"What's that you're reading? Oh, the handbook for nerds!"
"Hey, why don't you look at us when we're talkin' to you! That's rude!"
Joe straightens his glasses and stares down at his desk. Suddenly there is an incredible crash, a window breaking, shards of glass sprinkling down over the carpet near them. The boys stop their fun for a moment to stare in shock as a huge, fierce-looking shaggy walrus leaps into the library and growls.
"We're going to take over the human world," he snarls, "and you are all going to die!" The walrus lowers his head. "Harpoon Torpedo!"
The horn from his head shoots off, splitting and sending missiles right towards Joe and the others. Joe thinks fast, snatching up the desk he was working at and holding it in front of them. The missiles smash into the desk, splintering it but protecting everyone else.
"Everyone get out of here," barks Joe, clenching his fists, "I'll take care of this."
The others glance at each other, with new respect in their eyes, and back away, moving as if to run out the room. But they really hide behind some bookshelves and try to watch what is going on.
The monster charges at Joe as if to stab him, but Joe jumps nimbly aside and slams him over the head with the bookbag. The monster growls and whirls around, but Joe quickly clambers onto his back. For a moment, the two simulate an expert rider on a bucking bull, and then the walrus fires another missile. Joe dives off his back and the monster injures himself with his own weapon.
The two stare at each other. Joe shows no sign of fear, even taking a step towards the monster again.
Behind the shelves, the boys are all amazed. This was Joe? This was the wimp they all made fun of? Being far braver than any of them, and protecting them all.
Joe runs at the monster again, swinging his body around to deliver a roundhouse kick. The monster snarls and is about to retaliate, but -
"Kido, if it's not too much to ask, could I have your attention now?"
Joe's eyes snap open, the fantasy broken by reality's intrusion, as usual. He blushes as he realises where he is - in class, in normal boring life where the teacher is glaring at him and the kids all laughing again.
"Spaced out like always!"
"S-sorry, miss," he says, bowing - and smacking his head into the desk in the process. Everyone laughs harder.
He bends back over his maths book, pretending to get back to work, but his pen wanders and he's sketching little creatures again.
The walrus-monster is a creature of his own invention, and he has a store of others, pleased with his own creativity. But something about that monster destroying everything doesn't ring true. He isn't sure why. But it is his favourite monster to use.
And lying awake in bed that night, thoughts torpedo through his head, repeating phrases over and over, mingled with a fantasy where he's a hero, not a misfit. He wishes he wasn't stuck in real life, where nothing could ever really, dramatically change...
This same boy walks through an endless desert, pushing up his glasses and wiping the sweat from his forehead. He is not alone now - thirteen friends now, and one a best friend. Not quite what he expected, but in a good way. He thought a real friend would be one who wouldn't make fun of him or try to change him. But Gomamon persisting in trying to change him, in never losing faith, was the best example of friendship he knew of.
This is no daydream.
The group have been walking all day with no food and minimal water. There might not be anything for dinner that night either. Complaints are voiced more often than encouragement or confidence, and nobody knows whether there may be violent monsters somewhere over the horizon.
* Joe climbing a mountain in the middle of night, being afraid of heights and not too happy with the dark either. Yet going it alone so the others won't have to, and glad nobody but Gomamon is around to see his shaking hands and clenched teeth as he tries not to look down. Glad that Gomamon IS there so he can't fall apart. *
* Going into danger so that Sora wouldn't think less of him. That was the last thing he needed, when they'd actually respected him enough to make him leader. He could make the right choices without being hot-headed. He could have the same guts. *
* Climbing onto the roof - ohh, heights again - and deliberately falling. One of the hardest things yet, to make yourself fall, especially when you're afraid of heights. But it worked, and it hurt like crazy, but that was okay. Matt stared at him, amazed and horrified, seeing nothing of the guy he had made fun of at school. *
No, playing the hero is not an exciting adventure. It's scary, and painful, and real, and he could have never expected it of himself.
Joe suddenly smiles to himself, a little grimly, a smile of the sweat and stress of the day. He had daydreamed about being a hero, but didn't realise how someone became a hero. It was days like this. Days where you're just so tired but have to keep going because there's nothing else to do. And going into potential danger, and getting into fights, and facing very real fears. Being afraid but doing it anyway.
Part of heroism, part of friendship. Part of being a human.
His legs are aching terribly - he was never much for exercise in the real world - but he forces them on, plodding steadily.
Suddenly it occurs to him - "some day" has come. He is the future him, and it didn't necessarily come in a blaze of glory. Heroes are made. But he looks at the people around him and feels happy in spite of the heat. It's a strange assortment of friends - not the sort he would have chosen! - but even if they fought a lot, and disagreed, and sometimes just plain hated being with this same group of people for so long - he knew they somehow... cared.