Henry was smaller than the other boys in their clan, something they took great delight in. The fact that they were all several years older than him did not matter; when it came to running, jumping and chasing, age was not a factor. If you could stand upright you could be challenged, or, in Henry's case, thrown down.
He dreamed of the day he could outrun them, the day he could pounce powerfully like the Great Wolf. He would be faster, stronger and smarter than any of the boys. They would revere him and treat him with the respect he deserved.
Every night as he curled up with his mother, he would wish, plead, pray to the Great Wolf. Please, he would implore silently. Please take me away with you, teach me everything you know. Please.
It was Ashley who bought him his first comic book. She had seen his eyes fall, transfixed, on the brightly coloured pages and had returned on her own to make the purchase, handing over hot, sticky, hard earned coins for the cellophane-wrapped package.
It was the first book he had ever owned and he spent weeks, months, pouring over the pages. He studied the tiny black letters until they started to form words he understood. And as his understanding of words grew, so too did his recognition of the world around him. They were, it seemed, one and the same.
Doctor Helen was kindly and young, not quite the intimidating wonder that was the Professor, but she ruled over her Sanctuary just as he did his. The young Henry, as he learnt and lived among all manner of mutants, started to realise why it was he had come here. This book explained it all far clearer than any explanation he had already received.
Surely it was just a matter of time until his own powers set in.
Kate had had a long day. It had started well enough – breakfast, morning jog around the sanctuary, light abnormal maiming – but from there it had gone downhill fast.
It was Henry's day off.
Heading silently in the direction of her room, she lifted her feet in a heavy trudge up and over each of the seemingly endless stairs. Henry's enthusiastic babble, in no small part owing to the large now nearly empty coffee cup in his hands (she now realised why all the sanctuary's kitchens were stocked with decaf), was a constant buzz at her side. Reaching the top of her stairs, her bed calling out to her seductively, she tuned back in to his caffeinated rant.
"…I couldn't become Green Lantern unless I was chosen by the Guardians of Oa, but given enough startup capital and an adequate research facility, I could be Batman."
She knew agreeing to a movie with Henry would be a bad idea – she had not, however, anticipated a three movie Marvel marathon. She had seen more grown men in lycra than she would care to admit. Seeing that Henry was still standing between her and her freedom, she caved in and responded to his expectant face with a sigh.
"You could be Batman?"
"Sure!" Henry beamed, before adopting a gravelly voice. "*I'm Batman*. See?"
Kate stared at him.
Shaking her head, she snatched the coffee out of his hands, "No more. I'm going to bed."
Confused, Henry watched Kate stalk off to her room. He didn't know what her problem was, he had had a great day.
The liquid sloshed up against the glass and, eerily, stayed put, a faceless slime staring directly at him.
It was tempting, too tempting, to just unlatch the lid and reach in, become one with this amazing entity. What would be the effect, he wondered. Would he be able to control it? Control himself?
What would it be like to be the hero? Just once.
Will looked up at the soft cough above him. Standing on the stairs on which he was currently camped out, Helen looked down on him with an exhausted but amused expression.
"Heading to bed?" he asked. "You look tired."
"Yes, finally. Turns out former vampires really enjoy their wine, despite no longer being able to hold it. I eventually managed to manoeuvre him to his quarters."
Will was smart enough (or perhaps had just been working here long enough) to not ask what these manoeuvres entailed. Lost in his silent daze, he almost missed her smirking question.
"And you? Need I ask what you're doing?"
He picked up his tablet, "Just catching up on some paperwork."
"Of course you are," she smiled, turning to leave. "Just don't be too harsh, Henry is a very dedicated moper. I don't want to hear you've stolen his cape."
Will jumped up from his seat. "There's a cape? He's wearing a cape?"
Bounding to the bottom of the stairs, camera in hand, his face lit up gleefully as he heard the latch turn.
This was one Comic-Con he'd never let Henry forget.
*Neither is the Big Bang Theory quote used in #3 but I couldn't resist!