Basically, Warren deserves a chance to enjoy being the hero. So I wrote this.
The Day After
Warren noticed that something had changed shortly after he entered the building on the first day of school after the homecoming fiasco.
The first clue was the whispering. Warren was used to the whispering; it had been following him since his first day at Sky High.
He usually couldn't hear them clearly, but he wasn't stupid. He knew what they were saying:
"Look, it's Baron Battle's son."
"His father's a villain; a killer."
"Why is he allowed in this school?"
"I bet he's gonna go evil, too."
"He looks just like his father."
"He is just like his father."
They probably thought they were being subtle, but gossiping teenagers were some of the least subtle creatures on Earth.
And Warren considered himself to be reasonably intelligent and observant, so he knew what was happening when they gathered in their small groups and kept glancing over at him when they thought he wasn't looking. He knew what it meant when they shied away from him or desperately tried not to meet his eyes. He had known from the beginning, and from the beginning he had tried to convince himself that he didn't care.
But today… today the whispers seemed different.
It was hard to put his fingers on exactly what the change was, but there certainly was a change. The huddled, whispering groups seemed somehow less…fearful. There was a tone of shock instead.
The second sign was much more blatant and much more bizarre.
On his way to his first class—English—he was suddenly stopped by a blond girl who he vaguely recognized as being a sophomore.
"Warren Peace," she squealed. "Omigod, I can't believe I'm actually talking to you! This is, like, totally awesome.
"Ok. So, it was totally amazing how you and all those Freshies managed to save the entire school. I was sooo impressed.
"Also, you're really hot—cute-hot, I mean, not, like, warm-hot—I mean, you probably are, 'cause you're, like, a pyro and all."
She took a deep breath. "Are you really dating the blond ice-girl?" She blurted out.
Warren was saved from having to answer as the warning bell signifying that there were three minutes left until class rang.
The girl suddenly looked terrified. "Oh, no," she gasped. "I can't be late again. Medulla will, like, eat me alive. I'll see you later!"
Then she ran off, leaving Warren to reflect that Hippie really wasn't that bad.
The third clue had come as he had slipped into the classroom just seconds before the bell rang.
As soon as he stepped into the room, all of his classmates burst into applause.
Warren froze and stared back at the students who had been so wary and suspicious when they first met him. Over the years, as they had listened to his contributions in class—English was one of the few classes in which he regularly volunteered information, and his class, which was the highest English class available to Junior heroes, had consisted of mostly the same students since Freshman year—they had come to reconsider their preconceived notions.
"What the hell?" Warren managed finally.
His teacher smiled gently. "The class felt that we should show our appreciation for the fact that you saved us all from being raised by a crazy supervillian.
"Now, if you will take your seat, I think we can have some very interesting conversations based on what happened. So, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that three of your classmates joined Royal Pain. This is going to take some self-reflection and might make you uncomfortable, but I would like you to try anyway, because I think the self reflection will be valuable.
"Think about what might have drawn Lash, Speed, and Penny to join Royal Pain. What warning signs might there have been that we missed? Do you share any of the traits that may have led to your classmate's downfall? If so, what can you do to prevent yourself from following the same path?
"Well, they always had a lot of pride…"
By lunchtime, Warren was almost looking forward to the inane conversations of the sidekicks that had taken over his table.
They, at least, were predictable.
But when he arrived in the cafeteria, the table was empty.
It wasn't unusual for Warren to arrive in the cafeteria before the Freshman, but it had taken him longer than usual to get through the hallways, since several people had stopped him in order to thank him for his actions during homecoming.
He was still trying to get used to that: Though many had seemed terrified when they had spoken to him and had fled as soon as they were done, it was still beyond strange for people to seek him out for any reason.
But since he had been delayed, the sidekicks should definitely have beaten him to lunch.
But really, what had he expected?
It wasn't like the Sidekicks had been sitting with him because they actually liked him, after all, he had threatened to burn them alive during the cafeteria fight.
Clearly, Hippie had only eaten at his table to convince Stronghold that they were dating, and the other sidekicks had only joined so they could sit with her.
Yes, he had come to almost enjoy their company and to think that they enjoyed his. Yes, they had worked together well at homecoming.
But he was Baron Battle's son. He hadn't had friends for as long as he could remember, and that wasn't about to change. He had been stupid to think it would.
He wouldn't make that mistake again.
"Hey, uh, would you—would you mind if I sat here?" Warren looked up, shocked, to find Will standing in front of him holding a tray of food.
"Why would you want to?" he blurted out before he had a chance to consider what he was saying.
"I feel like we should talk," Stronghold said, sounding somewhat nervous.
"About what?" Warren asked warily.
Stronghold seemed to take that as an invitation to sit down.
"I wanted to thank you," he said. "For everything, really, but mostly for being there for Layla when I couldn't. She told me everything," he explained.
"So you know I didn't actually like her or anything."
"But you knew that I wasn't going to be at homecoming, and you'd already told me that you weren't actually dating, but you still went to the dance," Will pointed out.
"Look," Warren said. "We may not have been dating, but I still wasn't going to ditch the girl at her first high school dance. Anyway, you were clearly being an idiot already; someone had to show here not all guys a jerks."
Will grinned. "So the only thing you were thinking about was her feelings," he pointed out, "and you don't even realize that's unusual? You're a pretty awesome guy."
Absolutely flustered and unsure how to reply to something like that, Warren quickly changed the subject. "Where the hell are the sidekicks, anyway?"
"Oh," Will laughed. "Apparently Mr. Boy's class decided to throw a party for them. I have no idea if it's going to end before lunch does. They'll probably be back by tomorrow."
Warren shook his head. The only reason he could think of that his classmates would have thrown a party for him if his Freshman year was if he had announced that he was dropping out.
"There you are," a voice called out. Warren looked up to see the hippie all but skipping toward him across the cafeteria.
"Is the party still going on?" Will asked, grinning.
She grinned back. "It is," she said, "but we're missing two of the guests of honor."
Warren raised an eyebrow. "So maybe you should go back," he suggested.
She rolled her eyes. "Not me," she said, "you!"
"What?" Warren asked.
"Warren," she said, "you're the reason we get out of the gym in the first place. We can't have this party without you and Will. Come on!"
Reluctantly, Warren followed her through the hallway to a party that would undoubtedly be filled with overly excited Freshmen.
But somehow, he didn't dread it as much as he probably should have.
It was still very surreal, he reflected, but if this was what it was like to have friends, maybe it wouldn't be so bad.
Let me know what you think, especially about the characterization. I'll be writing a longer story soon, and I'd appreciate the constructive criticism.