Disclaimer: I don't own Young Justice.
Author's note: Thank you so much for your wonderful reviews and suggestions. If it weren't for you, I'd be forever swimming in my drool, deranged and unimaginative, sick with the infamous writer's block. Sometimes I update the next chapters on twitter. You can follow me kristlQ. Make sure you let me know that you're from fanfiction, otherwise, I'll ignore you completely. I would also like to apologize for some spelling errors in the previous chapter. I must have overlooked that.
Anyways, enjoy the chapter!
He stopped at an ice cream parlor and ordered the usual: orange sorbet. He loved it not because it was the long lost thirty-second flavor that most people overlooked, but simply because it was his favorite. Orange was an obscure, quirky color. It was neither aggressive nor subtle. It could hurt the eyes and at the same time create a smile. While the fruit was denoted solely by its color, Vic was glad that it earned meaningful respect among the growing circle of health buffs. The citrus fruit was refreshing and packed with Vitamin C—perhaps not as potent as strawberries—but the blend of cold ice and sweet flavor was orgasmic.
Vic walked down the street, slipping spoonfuls of sorbet into his mouth, enjoying every bite. He passed an intersection, strolled along a deserted street, and finally reached the park. There was a lamppost that strobed where he stood, as if he were in a horror movie, waiting anxiously for something to materialize from the darkness. Vic was usually calm, however, so even if a flash of sharp teeth and red eyes appeared in front of him, it would be nothing more than a flicker of his schizophrenic imagination.
He continued his slow, routine journey, stopping once in awhile to bask in the quietness, the serenity of makeshift nature around him, the darkness that wanted to leak inside him. He preferred to be alone. People called him an oddball, a freak, a fluke in the normal flow of the world. But Vic ignored the name-calling, the hurtful remarks, and plowed through life, contented with the silence around him, loving the noise that riddled his brain. He was known to talk to himself in bathrooms, during class sessions, often in the journalism club sitting in front of his laptop or notepad.
He couldn't help it when ideas came and went, engaging him in the inevitable. How could he ignore an idea when it persisted to push through, calling forth attention, wanting to be heard, demanding to share ideas? Deep down, Vic knew that he was careful and analytical with his thoughts, but at the same time he let intuition take over. Intuition didn't mean emotions and feelings running wet and cold. To him, intuition was the subconscious speaking its mind. Like a little boy imprisoned in a cellar, he's constantly knocking at the door, crying to be let out. Vic had the key and unlocked the door, embracing him, setting him free.
And what was the consequence of releasing the little boy? Freedom. Pure. Simple. Naked. Freedom. And that's why Vic's favorite movies consisted of Braveheart, The Patriot, and Silence of the Lambs. The last one was for Anthony Hopkins' acting. Vic was neither deranged nor vampiric; he simply loved the chills one would have after staring into Hannibal Lecter's eyes, like he was watching Vic, contemplating what Vic would taste like. Sweet, marinated with cups of orange sorbets, Vic imagined himself swimming in a bowl of punch, Hannibal's eyes lighting up and nodding his head in satisfaction.
"Orangey," Hannibal would say, his ominous smile electrifying.
Vic arrived at the small bridge over the pond. This was where he listened, letting the little boy send him notes of ideas. The path from where Vic entered the park was littered with lovers' benches and trash cans, while the other side of the bridge held the children's playground. Vic finished his sorbet and set it on the rail, thinking. A couple of days ago a hole dented the school's football field. He was bombarded with one theory after the next, the previous one as baseless as the next.
Vic suspected Luthor but the student body president was as surprised and curious as everyone else. He thought of stray boulders, wrecking balls, broken missiles, a meteor that crumbled from the impact, a spaceship from outer space. Behind each theory, Vic would naturally blame the government's involvement. One way or the other, they could have accidentally triggered a missile, hitting the football field, extracting it right away to avoid the public from pointing fingers in their sleazy business. Vic sighed, bumped his forehead against the cold metal. He was stuck. This was the most bizarre event he had ever come across with, and it has left him in a shroud darker than before.
Suddenly, he heard movement in one of the swings, its rusty hinges squeaking in protest. Vic imagined a dark-haired girl swinging, her hair concealing her face, but he could tell that she was fixated on him, waiting for him to come closer so she could look into his eyes and turn him into a statue.
If that were to happen, Vic didn't care. He'd rather cross the other side than stay on this plane, where classmates taunted him, a father that never came home from work, a mother that left him for a better family. Vic was slightly thankful that his father was neither son-beater nor drunk. His father was a detective, driven by justice and not by family. His mother had the right mind to leave, but Vic wondered why she forgot about him. Maybe he resembled so much of his father that she didn't want any sliver of reminder from her past. She wanted to move on, to forget those lonely nights alone, to start fresh with a new husband and babies. Seemed like she wanted to purge herself of the horrible past, which included Vic.
The only thing that he inherited from his mother was her hair color: orange. Was it coincidence that his love for the color was neatly attributed to his mother? Vic wasn't sure. The only thing he was certain of right now was that the sound from the swings soothed him, enticed him.
He walked slowly, almost on tiptoe, hiding in the shadows.
And that's when he first saw her. Dark hair whipped the air, glistening in the eye of the moonlight. Her tanned legs were perfectly toned and long, like she were a model for a fitness magazine. Her face was parallel to the starlit sky, her eyes drinking in the massive universe that loomed above her, the city, the world. Vic wondered what she was thinking.
Looking at her profile, Vic knew who she was. Hazelnut eyes, thin nose, full lips—Helena Bertinelli was the epitome of Italian beauty. Even her olive skin seemed to shine through the darkness.
He stepped forward and broke a twig.
Helena instantly stopped, looked at him. "Who's there?" She tightened her grip around the chain. On defensive mode, her attire also revealed that she was ready for anything: sports bra, ridged abs, and skintight gym shorts, Helena could beat the crap out of five guys in a minute.
"It's just me. Vic," he said, holding his hands up as a sign of surrender. He walked towards her slowly, trying not to scare the wary lioness.
She squinted her eyes at him. "Who?"
"Vic Sage. I go to DC Academy."
Helena titled her head, filtering her memory bank for a sprinkle of who he was. "Sage. Journalism club? You wrote about the UFO sighting from Mississippi."
"You remember that?" Vic asked, gawking at her in surprise.
"Who can forget such a weird article? Crop circle phenomenon. It made my day," Helena said, smiling lightly. She had to admit that reading that absurd article made her laugh in a good way. She remembered that day clearly. Dinah Lance had just taken over the Baywatch (guys) and Bitch (girls) list, walking all over Helena just because she was blonde and new. Helena couldn't breathe, especially after seeing Ollie ogling the petite bombshell, and she was walking down the hallway, fuming with anger, when a page from the school paper smacked her in the face. She almost threw it away when she read the title, 'Girl Scouts Not Responsible for Crop Circles'.
She glanced at his face and she had to admit that despite his bizarre articles, Vic Sage was quite attractive. In an odd, adorable way. Like a German-Shepherd-Terrier mix. He clearly worked out—though there was hardly proof because he was either talking to himself or sitting in front of the computer all day—but he had a delectable shyness, awkwardness about him. His eyes were a bold green, his nose slightly hooked, and his eyebrows were full and masculine. At first glance, Vic wasn't one to catch the female eye. But a longer look would make a woman think twice. Helena couldn't put a finger to it, but she felt strangely drawn to him.
Was it because she just broke off an official-unofficial relationship from a man she was physically attracted to but with whom she saw no future? Was she after another man for rebound?
"Thanks," Vic's cheeks blushed.
Helena's face pinked after seeing his expression. She could feel her chest beating like a loud African drum. She wanted to stop it, stop from feeling this way toward a schoolmate who she barely knew. And he was weird. Extremely weird.
"So what are you doing swinging this late?" Vic said when he noticed that Helena was suddenly quiet.
Helena shrugged. "Didn't you know? This is when the kids aren't hogging the monkey bars. I use them for chin ups. The swings are just for fun. My father used to push me all the time when I was younger." She didn't know where that came from, but Helena wished she didn't reveal so much about herself.
"Yeah, this park is my kind of sanctuary. A place to get away from it all." Vic saw the hesitance in Helena's face so he took it as a sign to leave. "Well, don't strain yourself too much. Playgrounds were used as a training ground for government agents."
Vic began walking away when Helena called him. She didn't know what came over her but his last comment nearly made her howl with laughter. She didn't know if this was attraction, rebound, or the beginning of a strange friendship, but all Helena knew at the moment was that this guy was hilarious and the last time she laughed out loud was in the playground, with her father pushing the swing, her tiny legs in the air, her giggles seemingly endless. Time stopped then, and she wished she could go back in time to be with her father again. To hear him call her his little angel, to hear herself laugh again.
The next thing she knew it, she was playfully punching Vic in the arm, feigning hurt. This was a first in a long time she laughed heartily. Well, if this wasn't the first time, it was the second time. The crop circle article drew a laugh out of her, letting the little girl out of her shell, beckoning her to find hope and happiness all over again, to laugh like life depended on it—and to some extent, life did depend on it.
They walked and talked the whole time, out of the park, down a couple of blocks until they reached Helena's house. Vic felt like their time was short-lived, but there was still tomorrow. He accompanied her to the front door, and stuttered when he wasn't sure what to do next. Was he supposed to hug her, kiss her on the cheek? What's the protocol for bidding a girl… acquaintance goodbye?
"You have never been on date, haven't you?" Helena asked, her arms on her hips.
Vic shook his head. He was deeply embarrassed and he couldn't look her in the eye.
"You're such a baby doll," Helena said, leaning forward and pecking his cheek. "Thanks for the walk home. I'll see you tomorrow."
Vic was utterly speechless. He was also elated, glued to the floor with his circulation pumping on overdrive. His cheeks were as bright as a ripened tomato, and he couldn't speak when Helena waved him goodbye. He felt deaf and mute at the same time, but his vision of Helena was absolutely clear.
When he finally did move, in baby steps, he touched his cheek. It felt like the warmth from her lips still lingered, tingling his skin, searing into his memory like a tattoo. This was the best night ever. He had never thought a girl would treat him this way. All throughout his early school life, girls shunned and teased him. He was like a leech, a thorn in their Twilight-driven, bubble-wrap world. Because of their shallow way of life, Vic had never wanted to do anything with girls. Some thought he was gay, and men started to pick on him. But he was straight, proud and true. He just didn't do well with crowds, especially among vapid high school peers. And he had thought that Helena was like them, just another fish in the sea, another popular girl who wants to be a sheep like everyone else.
But Vic was completely wrong. Helena Bertinelli was more than good looks and a hot body. She was sassy, street-smart, and unsuspectingly caring. As Vic looked back and watched her lighted window, he wondered what his future laid in store for him. He used to believe that there was no point in hoping, because once one started hoping, disappointment would be bigger and more painful. The fall would leave him completely broken, irreparable. There were too many moments in his life that nearly pushed him over the edge, and Vic was afraid of going through it all again.
Was he being irrational? Was this a trick of the heart? This was completely new and Vic felt like it was messing with his head. He let out a long sigh and retraced his steps, going home. When he arrived, the house was pitch black. The yard was unkempt, weeds were sprouting everywhere, the oak tree was as lifeless as the house. He instantly knew that he would be alone again. Either his father was busy or was avoiding his son, Vic betted on the latter.
Walking through the front door, he checked the refrigerator. He was hungry, probably from tonight's surprising turn of events. Thankfully, there was food. His father left him some groceries—they were still in the brown bag—and some Chinese takeout. Vic quickly heated up the fried rice and pork, went up to the bathroom for a quick shower.
He and his father rarely saw each other. As penance for the lack of responsibility to his son, Vic's father would drop off groceries when the food supply was dwindling. He would do the same for the rest of the house—hire a maid. Vic had grown used to the arrangement, seeing that his father was preoccupied with work or an affair—Vic was also banking on the latter—and it became a normal routine in his life. In fact, he loved it. There was no one to nag him, no one to tell him what to do, no one to interrupt his thoughts.
But unlike most nights, as Vic hopped into the shower, he felt restless. He tried to shake the feeling of unease and dissatisfaction from consuming him, but it kept coming back. Afraid of where his feelings may lead him, Vic quickly washed himself and changed into his orange boxers and clean shirt. He checked his email and when he found one unread message, he almost erased it until the subject line caught his attention.
'Alien crashed in DC Academy. Pictures are attached.'
This must be spam, Vic thought to himself. The sender's email address was just as shady, hawkgirl1940. But the subject line was so enticing that Vic thought to just risk it. Besides, he recently installed an anti-virus software. He clicked on the message and saw one picture. He enlarged it and he only stared, unwilling to breathe. There was a picture of an alien spaceship in the field, which explains the crater that is becoming a school landmark at the academy. At first he believed that it was a real UFO, but his rational mind nagged him to search for a more concrete explanation, to doubt the sender who wanted to remain anonymous. He thought that this could be a prank, one of the football jocks playing a joke on him.
Vic exited his email and went to the kitchen. As he sat down for dinner, his mind wandered back to the email. It must be someone playing a trick on him. But as he thought more and more about it, as his photographic memory replayed the image, it didn't look like it was digitally altered. Leaving his dinner unfinished, Vic nearly ran up the stairs and into his room, opening his email and scanning the picture. He was sure of it—it was legit. There were no marks or indication that it was photoshopped.
He clicked reply and typed, "Who are you?" He knew that it was a long shot but it was worth the try. He blew out a sigh and leaned back, wondering if he would be the laughing stock at school tomorrow, finding out that he bought into their prank again. It was no secret that he loved UFOs and alien movies, but his main concern right now was why someone would send him this picture. And what was the purpose of keeping the sender anonymous? What was the person hiding?
"Oh shit," Vic said out loud. He rubbed his face, knowing that he would end up losing sleep tonight. And maybe the following nights.
He turned on his laptop and started hacking into the sender's email. This would take days, and Vic was normally opposed to this whorish solution but there was no other way around it. If this picture was indeed real, he wasn't going to let this matter go. If a real live alien crashed into Earth, into his school's football field, he finally struck gold. After years and years of research and ridicule, this would prove everything. That he had been right the entire time.
Finding out the sender's identity was important so that he could track down that person. It was integral that he knew his sources. As his fingers played along the keyboard as if he were Mozart on a piano, as the night grew darker and cold, Vic felt the fire being ignited, like he were hot on someone's tail. As if he was stumbling on a breakthrough. His skin tingled at the anticipation, and Vic knew his sleepless nights would be paid off, one way or the other. Vic has always been an advocate of delayed gratification, and although that didn't involve intimate relationships; when it came down to work Vic put his heart and soul into it. And more often not, hard work almost always prevailed, reaping the benefits.
To be continued…
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P.S. Thanks yob3 for your input. Guess you'll have to see if Clark is really gonna dress J'onn up as a mascot. Read on and you'll find out. Thanks for your review again!