Title: These Tracks Stretch Out Before (1/5)
Fandoms: Supernatural/Sky High crossover AU
Genre: coming of age/family drama/action adventure
Thanks: To thepouncer for the very helpful beta. :)
Spoilers: Happens after the movie for Sky High, contains conceptual spoilers only for the premise of Supernatural.

Part One

Sam stared down at his tray, avoiding all the kids he still didn't feel comfortable around. There wasn't anyone he'd wanted to ask to sit with, and no one had offered or joined him at the small table in the corner. So he read his book and picked at his meal. The lunches here weren't any better than at a normal school. He'd figured they would be... well, not super, but good.

Halfway through his sandwich someone sat down across from Sam with a creak of both plastic bench and leather jacket. The guy clunked his tray onto the table and popped a handful of fries in his mouth without saying anything. He was dressed in black punked-out clothes and had sparkling dark eyes, shoulder length black hair with a few red streaks, and a vibe vaguely reminiscent of Dean, soft features hidden behind a sharp expression. He slowly chewed his fries as Sam stared. Then he reached in his backpack, pulled out his own book, and started reading, acting like Sam wasn't even there. Sam decided to go with it and looked down again. After a few more bites the guy finally spoke, jerking Sam back out of his reading.

"Bad first day?" His voice was surprisingly deep and rich.

Sam scowled. "They made me a sidekick." The coach had been distinctly unimpressed to hear that Sam dreamed about the future, especially since he couldn't do it on demand. Dean was never going to stop teasing him now.

"There's nothing wrong with that. Some of my best friends are hero support."

"I never thought I'd end up somewhere like this, but now I have and... and they made me a sidekick." After Sam decided to take the offer of admission, he'd had certain expectations and ideas, and so far, nothing about this day was going according to plan.

The guy leaned forward intently, elbows splayed around his tray, book set pages down now, voice even lower and rougher. "So which are you pissed about, having a power or not having a good enough power?"

Sam thought about it for a second. "Being told that I don't have a good enough power to bother with. My dad saves people's lives all the time without any powers so I don't see what the problem is." There was no point in being here if they were just going to teach him in a half-assed way, and he'd already seen the difference in the two tracks. He certainly didn't want to just hop to someone else's orders, either; he got enough of that from Dad already.

The guy nodded approvingly. "You'll do fine then. It's not what you have that counts, it's how you use it. We'll get that through to the rest of them eventually." He took a sip of soda and then pursed his lips. "What does your dad do?"

"He's a firefighter." In real life, at least. Sam could say that much.

The guy snorted for a moment in laughter. "You don't have any idea who I am, do you?" When Sam shook his head the guy stuck out a hand. "I like that. Warren Peace, student body president. I gave the freshmen their little welcome talk earlier this morning. We almost never have new students in the upper classes, so you get a special meeting, Sam Winchester." Sam blinked at that in surprise and reached out to shake the guy's hand. Then he jerked away when the fingers under his burst into flame. He actually grinned as he realized why the guy had laughed about Dad being a firefighter. "Two years ago I was the one sitting all by myself at lunch," Warren continued. "Now… now I'm going to head over and be with my friends. Wanna join us?"

Sam shook his head again, somehow warmed by the offer as Warren stood up and walked off, heavy boots clunking against the tile floor.


Going to superhero school was probably the stupidest thing Sam had ever done. Dad had freaked out when Sam got the admission letter saying he'd been tagged by the central computer database. Sam had finally confessed to the dreams he'd been having, but it had still been a doozy of a fight before Dad gave in and let Sam attend the school.

Understandable, since all Sam's life Dad had been practicing an illegal form of vigilante crimefighting. Registered superheroes were supposed to deal with powered supervillains, and the police were supposed to deal with regular crime. But after the housefire that killed Sam's mother when Sam was a baby, Dad had been putting his ex-Marine skills to use as the Hunter, an unregistered, unpowered hero who took on whatever kind of crime he could find. The fire had been set by an ordinary person, but the police never figured out who. The perpetrator was copycatting the notorious supervillain the Baron, but the superheroes didn't feel that meant they ought to get involved. Both groups were useless.

So John Winchester moved around the country, working as a firefighter in normal life and a caped crusader in secret. The Hunter was accompanied, after a while, by one and then two young boys called the Hounds, in clear violation of both child labor laws and hero support union rules.

Sam had always sworn that he would grow up, go to college, live a normal life, and never ever wear spanky pants again. But then he got that letter.

He didn't want to be a superhero. He did want to know what made them tick, though. So he was infiltrating their ranks, and hoping to get the knowledge to keep his unwanted power under control. Plus, it made Dad really angry, which was always a bonus.

And the flying bus turned out to be fun.


When Sam got home no one else was there, so he could lounge around on the sofa and look at his new textbooks. They'd moved to Maxville over the summer, renting this little duplex and signing Sam up for Maxville High. Dad had settled into a rhythm of letting them have a semester or a year at one school before moving a few hundred miles away again. Dean had been out of school for a full year now, and was working with Dad at the firefighting station part-time.

If Sam did like Sky High, and stayed there until he graduated, he'd have three years at the same school no matter where they moved. That was an incomprehensible thought. He could actually have friends - if he could make any with these kids. He wasn't sure how to talk to them. Most of them had superpowered parents. None of them had to hide what their fathers did from their classmates and teachers and the government. Sky High was the escape from all that for them, but only exacerbated Sam's problems.

There were eleven other kids in Sam's 10th grade 'hero support' class. Apparently some of the older kids were trying to change the hero/support tracking system at the school, but they were never going to succeed as long as the unions and registration regulations for adults remained unchanged. That had probably been what Warren's comment meant.

One thing Sam knew for sure was that he wasn't going to go on being a sidekick after graduation. He'd had fifteen years of that already. And The Physics of Hero Support wasn't doing anything to change his mind.

Dean barged in the door. "Sammy!" he called, flopping down on the sofa next to Sam. "How was school? Any cute girls?"

"Well, there's this one girl who can stick out her tongue like a frog..."

"Dude, if that's what you're into." Dean started leafing through Sam's social studies book, Heroes, Villains, and Everybody Else You'll Have to Deal With. "They let you save anybody yet? Show off in front of the other kids, because you know more than them about being a hero?"

Sam blushed. "You know I can't do anything suspicious," he temporized. Then Dean picked up Hero Support in Great Literature.

"Wait... They made you a sidekick?!?"

Yanking the book back, Sam nodded, eyes down. "It's based on powers. My power isn't much good in a fight."

Dean turned and put both hands on Sam's shoulders, staring him deep in the eyes. "Sammy, I'm only going to say this once. Who cares about your power in a fight? You're good in a fight. You're great in a fight. We all know they're just narrow-minded fascist idiots." He let go. "And now that's over, and I get to spend the rest of your life teasing you for being a sidekick."

"I'll kick your side," Sam responded, aiming a tickle attack at Dean's ribs. "What do you think you do every night, too?" Twenty minutes later they were both gasping for breath on the floor, but Sam knew he'd won the battle. Not the war, though.


At dinner Sam spent the whole time talking about how much he'd loved his first day at Sky High, just to be obstinate, while Dad gritted his teeth and scowled and Dean rolled his eyes.


The next morning all the students of the whole school were brought into the gym for a round of Save The Citizen. Sam sat there in his blue and orange sweatpants and t-shirt and looked around at the cheering crowd, all full of school spirit.

High up on a chair reminiscent of a lifeguard's throne, Coach Boomer blew his shrill whistle. "Okay, Peace, Stronghold, you're up. Heroes or villains?" Their names appeared on the giant scoreboard above his chair.

"Villains," Warren answered. He was standing next to a short boy with shaggy brown hair in the middle of the arena, both of them in orange and blue armored jumpsuits. The rest of the students went wild, with loud whistles and claps and a bunch of sarcastic, laughing boos and hisses.

"And who do you want to fight?"

The two guys conferred closely for a minute, then Warren turned and looked out at the crowd. "The new kid. Winchester." Everyone's heads swiveled to look at Sam, who shrank down in his seat. Warren winked at him.

"And?" Coach Boomer asked.

Both guys shrugged. "Whoever he wants," Stronghold said. Sam had heard of him already - Will Stronghold, son of the Commander and Jetstream, only student in the school with two powers, a really popular guy. The one thing Sam had started learning so far was that within the superhero community, everyone knew everyone else's identity. He was going to know the real names of every famous hero in the country before too long. They had no idea how loose their security really was. Heck, Dad didn't even know the real names of the small handful of other crimefighters he'd run across, not even the Pastor or the Mechanic, and Sam had grown up knowing them.

"Um," Sam answered. He knew a bit about the powers of the kids in his sidekick class, and the freshmen he'd been through power placement with, and a few of the really popular upperclassmen. Power placement had been incredibly embarrassing, though, and Coach Boomer was even glaring at him again now. "Any volunteers?"

"I'll do it," a tall, pretty blonde girl said from a few bleachers over.

"Oh, thanks," Warren yelled at her, but he was laughing. She stuck her tongue out at him and walked over to meet Sam. "Natasha Allen," she said as she shook his hand. "Otherwise called Freeze Girl. I'm a senior, and I can make ice."

"Sam Winchester, sophomore. I, uh, don't actually know how to play this game."

She turned to the coach's throne. "Coach, I'm gonna need a few minutes to confer with my partner after we suit up."

"Then get on with it!" Boomer shouted.

Sam struggled with the jumpsuit in the locker room, but eventually he got into it and met Natasha at the edge of the arena. Her hair pulled back in a high ponytail made her face look colder.

"Okay," she started. "The villains have captured a citizen and tied him up over that machine with all the spinning blades. The rope's on a timer that takes three minutes to lower him down. If we can free him in that time, we win. If he gets chopped to bits, the villains win." Sam thought that was an incredibly stupid and inefficient way to kill someone, but he didn't say anything. "Warren can make fire." Sam nodded at that. "Will has superstrength and can fly. They were undefeated together all last semester." Sam raised his eyebrows. "So, what's your power?"

"Uh, nothing we can use. I have these dreams sometimes. But I know a lot about tactics."

"Well..." She shrugged. "Oh, well. I wasn't expecting much."

Sam frowned, mildly insulted. "What do they normally do when they're villains?"

"Warren surrounds the death machine with a ring of fire, while Will flies above it. Will can attack anyone who comes near, or Warren can throw fireballs."

"Can you put out the fire?"

She smirked, the same way Dean did when he'd made it with an exceptionally hot girl. "Oh, yeah."

"Okay, I'll take Will and keep him distracted. You take Warren and deal with the fire. Can you make enough ice to grab the citizen or get one of us up there?" She nodded. "Do that, then."

It felt really different walking into the arena with her. Sam had worked with Dad and Dean for so long; he knew all their strengths and weaknesses, just as they knew his. They didn't even have to use words or signals to plan most of the time, could just slide together like three limbs of the same body. In fact that was when they worked best, because as soon as they did discuss anything, Sam and Dad started arguing.

The coach blew his whistle again, and the lights flashed as the timer started counting down. Will flew straight up in the air, and a stream of flames blasted out of Warren's hands, settling in a ring around the machine. Natasha let a burst of ice out of her hands at it, and the fire and ice warred together in the air, almost totally blocking the path to the citizen as the two of them threw fireballs and snowballs at each other. Will hovered up near the ceiling, apparently content to wait rather than attacking Sam or Natasha directly.

Sam ran as quickly as he could right under the path of Natasha's ice and toward the maelstrom of temperatures surrounding the machine, trying to keep obstacles between himself and Will. He could only hope that Natasha was paying enough attention to him to do what was necessary. Covering his head with his padded arms, Sam leapt and rolled through a wall of flame that singed his hair, coming to his feet just a few inches from the smooth metal sides of the machine. Above him hung the mannequin, suspended in the air, with no easy way for him to reach it. Natasha wasn't coming through with anything yet.

Well, there was one way up hovering above him. Sam looked up and gave Will the finger. Will opened his mouth in shock, then swooped down and grabbed at Sam. Sam dodged a few times, letting Will take some shrapnel, then finally slowed and was snatched up by the waist. As they rose above the flames and ice, above the mannequin, the crowd began to cheer. Sam kneed Will in the crotch.

The drop was heartwrenching, with the spikes rushing toward him, and Sam wasn't quite sure he was going to be able to grab anything and save himself, let alone the citizen. Then something cold closed on his wrist and he bounced to a stop, shoulder jerking painfully. A fireball whizzed past his head, and another. Sam reached out and grabbed the rope, wrapping himself around it, and more ice wound its way through the fibers just above his hands, bursting wide and splitting the rope in two. He dropped a few more feet onto a solid, cold, smooth surface, sliding to the ground with the rope and mannequin tangled around him.

"Heroes win!" everyone in the room roared. "With one minute left!"

Natasha ran to Sam's side. "Wow. I thought you were a goner a few times there. Just wow." Sam tossed the mannequin away and stood up, taking the hand she offered him. She grinned wickedly. "Hey, thanks for letting me kick my ex-boyfriend's ass."

That explained it. Sam burst out laughing. "My pleasure."

Warren and Will walked over, Will leaning against Warren's shoulder. "Just promise me you'll be as hard on the actual villains, and I'll forgive you," Will said. He winced as he held out his hand, but his face was open, mouth curling up easy.

"Yeah, sorry," Sam said, and shook Will's hand. "I get a little… into things? Competitive, sometimes."

Will snorted. "Never seen that before." Natasha rolled her eyes.

Warren responded with one perfect eyebrow arch. "I have no idea what you could mean." Then he slapped Sam on the shoulder. "Guess you're a winner, Winchester." The crowd was still clapping and cheering. "That means you get to choose who to play next. Want to team up with me? If you don't mind, Tasha."

"Go for it. I'm satisfied."

"What about me?" Will asked, mock-plaintively.

"Oh, Stronghold, I'll come back to you when you're up to it again." Warren shoved Will off playfully and held out a hand to Sam.

Sam didn't take it, leveling a sly glance at Warren. "You know, I haven't said yes yet." Warren just grinned at him until Sam took his hand. Warren's skin was warm but not flaming this time. "Sure, if you think you can keep up."

"Okay, what's going on down there?" Coach Boomer yelled.

"Winchester and me are gonna be a team together," Warren called back. "We just want a minute to conspire." Natasha and Will cleared out, and the sounds of the crowd changed from cheering to whispers and hushed expectation. Sam didn't mind when Warren took his shoulders and huddled in close in that atmosphere. "So what is your power, anyway, winner?" Warren asked.

It was probably never going to get easier to explain this, was it? "Sometimes I dream about the future," Sam answered. So far it hadn't come in handy even once.

In actually the least obnoxious response he'd gotten so far, Warren just cocked his head to the side for a second and examined Sam. "Know anything about how this game will go?"

Sighing, Sam shook his head. "No. It just... happens sometimes."

"Then how do you feel about taking on a guinea pig and a bunch of plants?"

Sam shrugged. "Bring it on."

"Okay." Warren nodded. "Now, I do like to play the villain team. I think it's important to train in a way that gives insight into that mentality, in order to better combat it. That fine?"

"I got a taste of the hero side, so yeah, I'll try it the other way."

"Great. Magenta can shift to a guinea pig, which is actually more useful than you might think. It makes her very maneuverable. Layla can control plants. She's been wearing these bracelets of live ivy recently, so watch out for that. I can burn it, though, and I think you're pretty good at keeping people distracted." Sam nodded, and Warren pulled away, turning and waving at the coach.

"Okay, heroes or villains?" Coach Boomer asked.


Boomer rolled his eyes at that this time. "And who do you want to play?"

"Williams and Wu."

The crowd cheered again and two girls stood up next to each other, the redhead letting go of Will's hand as she did so. They climbed down the bleachers and into the locker room.

"Which one is which?" Sam whispered.

"Layla's the hippie redhead, Magenta's the black-haired one in the purple fishnets. Now be nice to them, they're my two best friends in this place."

"Not Will?"

Warren grinned. "Will's more the idiot barnacle I have to like because I can't get rid of him."

"Sounds like my brother."

"Yup, pretty much."

Layla and Magenta came out into the arena, dressed in the same tacky jumpsuits now. The coach sounded his whistle again, starting the countdown on the scoreboard, and Sam dropped into a defensive posture.

With a shimmer Magenta sank to the floor, her body shrinking into a furry bundle that skittered off to the side, disappearing behind the fake mailbox that, along with a few other scattered objects, made the arena seem a bit like a minigolf course.

Warren spread his arms and blasted his protective wall of flames around the machine and the slowly sinking mannequin. Layla smiled wide at him and a flood of ivy poured out from her wrist, quickly covering almost the entire floor of the arena and trying to sweep Sam off his feet. He fought to stay standing and started to wade his way through it toward her.

The ivy withered and crackled where it met Warren's flames, most of it staying clear, leaving a moat of polished wooden boards, only some tendrils winding up into the air and attempting to climb above the fire. Sam decided the floor must be somehow burnproof.

Something small knocked the back of his knee just as he was taking a step, and Sam toppled over, wildly grasping at Magenta as he fell, but missing her. He was quickly wrapped in ivy, almost immobilized, and lifted into the air.

The ivy carried him through the air over to where Layla was standing, dangling him in front of her. "Hi," she said brightly. "Sam, right?" Sam nodded. "Nice to meet you. But, um, maybe you could try to be a little more careful?"

"And not kick your boyfriend important places? Sorry." She blushed when he said that, pink across her high cheekbones clashing with her bright hair, and the vines curled around him a little tighter. Some of Warren's fireballs flew past them and Sam swiveled his head as much as he could to look behind him.

A bridge of ivy stretched across to the mannequin now, wrapping around the rope and halting its descent, as a guinea pig made her way over to it. Warren was throwing fire at the vines, but always just missing Magenta rather than hitting her directly. A few more of his fireballs swept past Sam but didn't free him from the vines. Layla gave Sam a perky grin as he glanced quickly back at her, knowing they were about to lose.

Sam started wriggling, putting all his hours of practice with bonds and chokeholds to use, and managed to free his right arm enough to reach out. He caught one of the fireballs whizzing past, gritted his teeth against the heat of it in his hand, and lobbed it just above the mannequin. It sizzled through the rope and ivy and the citizen plummeted down, barely outpacing the vines grasping for it and then bouncing as it was torn to shreds by the spinning blades. Sam's heart surged in triumph.

Coach Boomer's whistle blasted. "FOUL!" The room shook with his shout. "Villains forfeit. Heroes win by default." The aftershocks faded away, leaving the room deathly silent and Sam cold inside. Everyone in the crowd was staring at him. Magenta was back to human form, standing next to an angry Warren. Layla's eyes were wide. She hadn't released him yet.

"You're not supposed to do that," she whispered.

"That's stupid," Sam snapped. He shoved his embarrassment away, replacing it with annoyance. "If I wanted to kill someone, I'd just do it, not use such a dumb method." He'd been trained to be efficient and to do what it took to get the job done. Those were things he actually agreed with Dad on. There was a point to rules and limits in practice exercises, but if they believed that real villains would just sit by and let the heroes rescue someone without trying to stop it, they'd be in for a rude awakening.

Layla was still looking at him like he'd stolen her pie right out of her mouth, and the vines still weren't letting go of him.

"I'm not gonna kill anyone," Sam continued, softer, trying to calm her. She started like she only just realized she still had him and he was softly set down. All the ivy retracted and disappeared back into a narrow band around her wrist.

"Hit the showers, Winchester," the coach ordered. Sam slunk off, shoulders lowered, feeling the whole school's eyes following his retreat. When he got to his next class, Mr. Boy sent him to the nurse, who put ointment and a bandage on his burned hand and then sent him to the principal's office.

The principal was an elegant, dark-haired woman in a white suit sitting behind a large desk. Sam had seen her when she gave a brief welcome to the new students before power placement, but she was even more imposing up close. "Well, Sam Winchester," she greeted him. "I'm sorry that our first conversation is under such unfortunate circumstances. However, the concerns over your behavior in gym this morning must be taken seriously. We've had certain, shall we say, incidents in the past, and we have to take care now to monitor students for signs of villainous behavior so that we can engage in effective rehabilitation or expulsion rather than just training our future enemies." She smiled at him regally. "I'm not accusing you of anything. I'd just like to hear your version of what happened."

Sam took a deep breath. "Principal Powers, I don't have parents who are superheroes. I don't know how this school works or what the expectations are. I was barely briefed on how to play the game before I was thrust into the middle of it, and I was just trying to achieve what I was told my objectives were. I'm sorry for breaking the rules, but I have to plead ignorance of them." He certainly didn't want to be kicked out so soon.

She nodded, and her tone was understanding. "I know. We can be a very insular group in many ways, and we assume that the children who come here already know how to handle it. I apologize for letting that trip you up. Please feel free to come to me at any time if you need help navigating this world. I like to be a friend to the students as much as possible."

Leaning back in his chair, Sam tried to relax. "I don't..." He had to swallow and start over. "I don't want to do this wrong. I want to learn." That was about as sure of the truth as he got.

"You will." They looked at each other for a moment, then the principal shooed her hands at him. "Run back to your class now, Sam. Just remember that the ends don't justify the means, and take care of that hand."

Sam felt better when he left, but as soon as he got back into class his heart sank again. He was used to being the odd one out at school, had been the new boy his whole life. But the suspicion he could see around him now felt different, more chilling. He sat quietly in the back until class let out for lunch.


In the cafeteria he was weaving through the crowd with his tray, trying to reach his hiding place in the corner, when someone caught his arm.

"Man," Warren said, pulling Sam around to face him, "undefeated for a whole semester, and then you go and mess that up so spectacularly. You've got real talent." Sam cringed for an instant before realizing that Warren was smiling at him. Warren jerked his head to the side to point at a full table nearby. "Come on, you're sitting with the gang today. You've met most of them already anyway."

He dragged Sam over and shoved him down into an empty seat across from Will and Layla, then sat down next to him. Further down were Magenta and a guy with bright yellow hair who was even taller than Sam. They all broke off from discussing homework to stare at Sam.

"Hey, yo," the tall guy said, sticking out his hand for Sam to shake, "I'm Zach, and I glow. The Zach Attack. You were pretty epic."

Frowning, Sam shook his hand a little limply. "I don't know. I had to go to the principal and she gave me a speech about how they need to watch out for potential villains."

Warren snorted. "Don't worry about that. I've gotten a million of those talks myself." That was surprising, because Warren seemed so popular and likable. Sam did remember him saying that he used to be the one sitting alone at lunch, though, so maybe that hadn't always been the case.

"Well, they do," Layla stated firmly. "After Royal Pain especially-"

"Oh, please. Even you've gotten detention," Magenta cut in. She turned to Sam and winked. "At least you didn't destroy the cafeteria or get caught in the fountain without-" Her words turned into mumbles as an ivy vine wrapped itself over her mouth. She immediately shrank into a guinea pig, dropped out of the loose curl of vine to the chair, and turned back into a girl, now free. The vine receded and Magenta calmly popped a handful of potato chips in her mouth.

"Most supervillains have attended Sky High, since the central system finds anyone with powers," Layla continued primly. "If we could do a better job of prevention we wouldn't have to deal with so many of them later. And since at least some recent cases have specifically been due to the hero/sidekick dichotomy, that supports my arguments that-"

"Ninety-five percent," a short guy with glasses said excitedly, dropping into the seat next to Sam. "Ninety-five percent of villains have attended Sky High. Well, that's of American villains who started after the school was founded. An unknown number have been involved in toilet-dunking incidents. I'm still looking into that." He startled when he noticed Sam. "Hey, that was you this morning. Hi, I'm Ethan, I melt. Welcome to Sky High."

Everyone seemed to introduce themselves that way, name and power, maybe grade. Sam didn't think he could handle saying it himself all the time. "Thanks," he said instead. "I'm Sam."

Nodding, Ethan turned back to Layla and continued expounding statistics. Zach got up and moved over to sit on Will's other side, poking him in the ribs. "Hey, did you watch the game last night?" He turned to Sam. "You like football?"

"My brother watches it," Sam answered. A moment later he was still just sitting there, eating his sandwich while Will and Zach discussed the game and Warren, Layla, Magenta, and Ethan argued about villains and attempts to equalize the superpowered world. Sam didn't even understand half the things they said, and the discussion wasn't reassuring him about his social prospects at school.

Then Natasha wandered by, accompanied by a guy with spiky dreads, and she and Warren did this quick weird thing where he handed her his yogurt and she handed him her cheese sandwich, and then they gave each other back a frozen yogurt and a toasted sandwich. She poked Warren in the shoulder and laughed. "Now you're not just sitting with juniors, but also a sophomore?"

"Like you can talk?" Warren answered. He turned to Sam. "That's Tasha's boyfriend, and he's a junior, too."

The guy stuck out his hand to Sam. "Name's Lewis. Power's acid spit."

He should've had better control, but Sam opened up his mouth and blurted it out to Natasha anyway. "You're dating a guy with acid spit?" Everyone laughed. He tried to recover, thinking about it a second longer and looking at the guy apologetically. "Well, I guess it doesn't eat through your own mouth..."

"It only affects inorganic material," Lewis answered.

"Right, okay. I'm Sam, by the way."

"Sam's going to be the next big thing," Natasha said, actually reaching out and ruffling his hair. "You watch out for him." Sam had to brush his hair back down.

"What, should I be jealous?" Lewis grinned.

"Of a guy who has the same hairdo as Will?" Magenta said. "I wouldn't be."

"There's nothing wrong with my hair," Will protested. "If Sam wants to copy it that just shows he has taste."

Warren slung an arm over Sam's shoulder and stage-whispered at him. "Don't worry, winner, Tasha would never condescend to cradle rob." Part of Sam's brain told him that he was being teased and he should be upset. But somehow, being involved in this conversation made him feel good instead, better than he had before. Sam thought this might be a glimpse of what it was like to hang out in a group of friends. Maybe going to superhero school wasn't the stupidest thing he'd ever done after all.


That night Sam dreamed of fire and dark eyes.