Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: I got bored in Modern Drama. No, really. So I pretended to take notes and did this instead. It's not great, but it's the first fun thing I've written in ages because real life has been getting in my way and sucking. A lot. So. Anywhoo. Hope you enjoy. Please review.
For the first eight years of his life, Neal thought his dad was Batman.
Not that he thought he was the Bruce Wayne version from the comics and on TV every Saturday. But the crime fighting superhero, the guy who rescued people and kept the world safe, yeah, that was his dad. His momma told him so.
Momma told him his daddy died, too, back when he was still really little. That he died a hero, fighting the bad guys to defend truth and justice and puppies and all that good stuff. But sometimes… Sometimes he'd pretend that his daddy was out there still, locked in an epic battle with his arch-nemesis, and as soon as he'd defeated the villain he'd come home. He'd come home and hug Neal and tell him how proud he was of him, and maybe teach him how to be a superhero too.
Neal knew this wouldn't happen. But it didn't hurt to pretend.
Neal was walking home from third grade when Dylan Schaefer and his goons intercepted him. Dylan was a fifth-grader, even though he was really supposed to be in seventh, and he was twice Neal's height and three times his weight, and mean. He stepped in front of Neal, putting his sweaty, meaty fist on his chest.
"Well, if it isn't the Mama's Boy," he sneered, and his cronies snickered. "What'cha doin' Mama's Boy, goin' home to try on dresses?"
Neal held his head high and met the boy's beady black eyes, aware that bears only attacked if you showed fear. "Your grammar is atrocious," he informed him steadily, and tried not to smile when Dylan's Cro-Magnon forehead crinkled in confusion.
Dylan shoved him and he fell back a step. "You tryin' to confuse me, Mama's Boy?"
"You're not making it very difficult," Neal replied.
"I'm bigger than you!"
"I'd suggest Weight Watchers." Neal watched him make his 'confused' face again, which kind of made him look like a cross-eyed ape.
When it began to look like he really wasn't going to get it, one of his goons figured it out.
"He's callin' you fat, Dylan!"
Neal would have applauded him, but suddenly he found himself on the ground, his palms stinging from scraping on the sidewalk.
Dylan loomed above him, red-faced and thunderous.
Neal had forgotten. Bears attacked if you baited them, too.
"Get up, ya' pussy! Get up!"
Neal began to rise, and Dylan kicked his legs out from beneath him. His elbow hit the pavement this time, and he cried out, cradling it.
"Get up! Fight me like a man, you fuckin' girl!"
Neal knew better now, and didn't move.
Dylan kicked him in the ribs.
"Come on little girl, fight me! Didn't yer daddy ever teach you how to fight?" He smirked, ugly and cruel. "Oh, that's right. You ain't got no daddy."
Neal felt cold. "Shut up."
Your daddy's dead dead dead," he mocked, "a dirty dead pig."
"My dad was a hero!" Neal cried, tears pricking at the corners of his eyes.
"He was a dirty cop! My uncle Beau says he took payoffs and ran heroine for the Vista gang!"
"Your daddy's nothing' but a dirty dead pig, and your mama a lyin' whore-"
Neal launched himself at Dylan.
When he finally got home, his knuckles were busted open, and he was crying through two black eyes. He ran to his room, ignoring his Momma for the first time ever, and hid under the blankets and wished the world away. He asked her, the next day, to tell him the truth.
After that they never mentioned his dad again.
And Neal stopped believing in superheroes.
Peter was good, good in a way that was pure, and kind of contagious, and without the darker side that came along with a lot of heroes. The dark side that Batman had always had, but as a child Neal had overlooked.
"He's like Superman without his powers."
Peter was Superman.
And when Sara called him "Boy Wonder," he acted annoyed, that she'd mixed up her superheroes, and he was a little bit, but mostly he was a little bit thrilled.
Because some part of Neal was still that eight year-old little boy who wanted a superhero to look up to, wanted to be a superhero himself.
Peter gave him that. Peter was a superhero, and he could teach Neal to be one too, could teach him to do the right thing, to be honest and good.
"You did this. The fire, all of it. You did it."
And then Peter accused him, and he realized.
He felt like such a fool. He should have known better.
Neal wasn't a superhero. He wouldn't ever be.
Peter had already cast him as Lex Luthor.