InFAMOUS does not belong to me. Inspired by a piece of fanart.
New England winters were always a marvel to the rest of the country. The packed cities with all their lights, dusted over with a beautiful layer of snow. Something you see on postcards and wrapping paper. Oh the magic of Photoshop. Empire city, like many other New England cities, was covered in the ice and snow. Most of it was black or brown, piled into disgusting blobs on corners where the plows had shoved it. The roofs had a decent dusting that was mostly untouched, however. Save by one man.
Cole squatted atop one of the support beams that ran over the top of the El Train's track, elbows resting on his knees, frozen hands dangling limp now that he had given up on trying to keep them warm. This was not a good time of year for him. Probably even worse than when it rained. At least when it rained he was stuck inside, unable to step into the watery death than fell from the sky. But snow… snow was a taunting mess. Because he could patrol in the snow, could make deliveries in the snow, got paid an extremely decent amount in the snow. But he also couldn't walk on the streets for fear of electrocuting anyone that walked too close. He had a field of static around him that messed with his phone and with tower signals because of the flakes that were drawn to him, melting around him, making him spark into the air and drain energy off him without his permission.
But he had bills to pay, and a duty to perform. Empire City was slowly but surely making progress. Imports had been re-established, exports were still under negotiation. Other than prime reports for the evening news there was really nothing the city could give at the moment. At least the people were making a living once more. Folks were returning to work, rebuilding their stores and homes, reconstructing relationships with friends and family. Everyone but Cole. He had lost all of that during the quarantine. His best friend… the love of his life… any hope for being normal… all gone in the blink of an eye.
His breath left him in a plume, blocking his vision for a moment before clearing back to his view of the street. This weather, though horrendous for him, did help him slightly. Innocent people were in their houses, warm and dry and enjoying the holidays. Gang members, people making trouble, would find store windows barred so tightly that even broken glass would give them zilch, and with no one to terrorize they would stand on corners freezing for no reason. So they, too, would crawl back to their holes and leave everyone alone. The streets were practically deserted. Made his life easier, and made it suck, all at the same time.
"Cole, it's Warden." The walkie-talkie feature on his phone kicked up with a series of bleeps that caught his attention. Pressing a button on the side he transferred it to a full call. Thank god for plastic casings and rubber buttons keeping his phone from blowing his fingers off.
"Yeah." He wasn't in a good mood right now.
"It's almost sundown. Where are you?"
Oh crap! He had forgotten that he had made a deal for today! Now that the city was coming back into police control, they had decided to strike him an offer. Normally, anyone Freerunning up the side of a building, or beating the crap out of another citizen of the city would be arrested and charged with everything they could be. However, because of all the work Cole had done, he had been given an exchange. Keep doing what he was doing, agree to help the police any time they ask for it, patrol for gangs and problems that police couldn't be at, and he'd be let off scot-free. The police would let Cole have free range over the city to do what he pleased. Sounded like a fair trade to him.
Except, that meant making public appearances too. Like today.
"Oh my way." And he cut the call. He really didn't want to go to the park. The graves were there… her grave was there. Why did they have to make him do this in the park? Cole leapt onto the track below him, allowing the snow-free rail propel him forward. He couldn't get on the streets, they were too wet, they would take too long, and running was tiring when the snow kept trying to drain the electricity out of you. So the train rails and power lines it was. Not that it was anything new.
The bridge was in sight, the link between Warren and Historic. The Historic district was the worst. Hit point-blank by the blast he had set off, most of the old buildings had lain in ruin for months. The onset of snow didn't help much, but it was the first place that the city focused on returning to something semi-normal. Maybe it was because the scar of ground zero had to be removed to start the healing. Maybe it was because Cole had dug in right after and started to clear the way that everyone wanted to help. Who knew? Point was, it was coming along, and had become almost livable again.
Up he climbed, to the power line strung across the bridge from one section to the other. He zapped it with a bolt of electricity; the heat from the current melted the snow off the wire, making it clean and able to be used. A hop, a skip, and a jump later Cole was flying through the city via the wires that webbed every inch of the district. He hadn't meant to be flashy; he hadn't meant to make a grand entrance. But you honestly couldn't do anything but make a scene when the ground and air are wet, and you're giving off hundreds of volts of power from your skin. Cole came to the park, jumped off the power line, and landed in a flurry of blue bolts and snowflakes. It was the safest way for him to dismount without killing himself.
And the crowd in the park cheered as though their sport team had just won the world championship of whatever cup they were after. The people of Empire City; the ones that had suffered the most, and had suffered nothing. Cole just stood, unsure how to react to their adoration. He hadn't done anything to deserve their praise. He had made this mess in the first place.
"Right on time." Warden stepped up beside the yellow and black clad hero, keeping enough distance to prevent himself from getting a shock. "There's a small platform over there. It's safer for everyone if you get on it." The platform was a plastic stool, to be honest. But it would keep people from getting hurt, he was all for it.
"Ladies and gentlemen! Thank you all for waiting!" The newly "elected" mayor of the city bellowed out over his megaphone to the crowd, waving his arm at Cole. "Your hero, Cole MacGrath! The Electric Man!"
Ugh, that was creepy on so many levels. He was a bike messenger. Half these people in the crowd tipped him to not step on their designer carpets just a year ago. Even more of them had used his services this week not as their hero, but at their delivery man. Being a hero didn't pay the bills, it didn't put food on the table. He was a low life, and he knew he always would be no matter what these political types said. But he lifted a hand, giving a weak half smile to the crowd that went crazy at the mention of his name. He was famous. Everyone knew who he was. He was the savior of their city. He was also just someone with a bike that drove taxi drivers nuts.
"And, starting a new tradition, Cole, the hero of Empire City, will light our Christmas tree!" Oh yes, the Christmas tree. Despite being wrapped in debt in trying to rebuild the city, the council had decided that it would "boost moral" to have a tree lighting ceremony on Christmas Eve. And that's where Cole came in. He would be the one to light it, and the city grid would take over after a few seconds to keep it lit. It was a PR stunt, not so much a thank you as he felt he deserved. But he kept his trap shut, and did as he was told. No one got hurt, he would be allowed to keep doing what his powers let him do, and all was well.
The crowd began a countdown, and Cole looked up at the massive tree they had imported from New Hampshire. The money that went into the tree, the lights, the decorations… that money could have fed a family for months. Could have rebuilt a whole series of streets. But it was being used to "boost moral" for the winter season. Way to go commerce.
"TWO! ONE!" The crowd reached a deafening roar as Cole stuck his hand into the air and zapped the tree. He could have done more, made more of a show of it. But there was no need. How many other "Electric Men" were out there to compare his show with? Blinding blue and white power leapt from his fingers, lighting up the star and the multicolored strings of lights, illuminating the darkening square as the sun dipped below the watery horizon. It was almost poetic.
But Cole wasn't a poet.
He was just a man, a very lost and alone man, given great powers that separated him even further from humanity. And yet strangely, he felt more human now than he ever had before.
The politicians kept talking, but the crowd was dispersing. They got what they had come for. They had seen their free show. Warden nodded to Cole, almost offering to shake his hand before Cole shook his head and kicked snow off the "platform."
"Thanks for doing this MacGrath." The man was a gentleman, polite, kind, though hard to read. "I know it might not seem like much, but it's doing them a world a good."
'Yeah? And who's doing me a world of good?' Cole couldn't help but think selfishly right now. He didn't care about the rest of the city, not at this moment. He could see the frozen lake that just last year Trish had tried to teach him how to skate on.
"For someone that climbs walls like he walks the streets, you're pretty klutzy." Trish laughed as Cole fell on his ass for the fifth time. She floated by him, neatly spinning circles as he attempted to stand back up.
"Yeah well, walls aren't slippery." Lame comeback, he knew that. But he was letting her have her fun. He wasn't going to admit to her that he knew how to skate. He wasn't going to tell her that he had been skating all his life. She had gotten excited when she saw ice skates in the window of a shop the other day, and had boasted to Cole that she was going to teach him how to skate. She didn't even bother asking if he knew how or not. Just assumed that he didn't. But it was nice, letting her think that there was something physical that she was good at and he wasn't. The way it made her eyes light up, the pink in her cheeks as the cold nipped at them.
The memory disappeared as another familiar face entered Cole's line of sight, and made the soft smile that had formed pull into a tight frown.
"I'm not talking to you."
"You don't have too." Zeke puffed, bending over and grabbing his knees in an attempt to catch his breath. Apparently climbing the hill through the snow had been hard work. "But I'm not here for me. This PR bullshit is just that, isn't it? If you want to do some real good, you'd follow me." And Zeke turned back around, and walked away. Oooh, he knew Cole too well. He couldn't just let that hang in the air without making good on it. So he hopped off the stool, and followed at a safe distance.
There was an overhang of sorts not far from the entrance to the park. Under it the ground was free of snow, and nicely dry. Almost like it was planned for him to be under it. And sure enough, that's where Zeke headed, straight to a group of children. That made Cole stop in his tracks, still ankle deep in electrified snow. Children. During the quarantine, while he had been running from place to place and saving people left and right, he had only ever seen adults on the streets. But here, here were children. Something he had seen commonly on the sidewalks and on the sides of bus stops and even covering the park as they enjoyed the company of their friends.
But he hadn't seen a single child during the aftermath of his explosion.
"See kids, what ol' Zeke tell ya! The real live Electric Man!" The kids all stared at him, wide eyed and curious. Some even had their mouths open.
"Zeke, what the h- what is this?" Cole rarely censored himself, if ever. But these were kids. Something just didn't feel right about swearing where they could hear. But he came closer, shaking off the snow before stepping onto dry ground. No fried kids tonight, thanks.
"Well, it's Christmas, and these kids ain't getting no presents. Santa's not allowed into the city just yet. And a lot of them kept claiming that the Electric Man wasn't real."
"So you brought me here as a bragging right."
"No. Not quite. See, these kids, they were in school when the sphere went off. Some of their parents were lucky and made it out. Others… well, they stayed in their schools the entire quarantine. Their teachers went out to get food and supplies and the like. The schools, see, they've become orphanages. Now that the city is coming back and all, I figured it'd be a good time to get the word out that these kids need homes. See."
And then it clicked. The world was listening to Cole right now. They wanted to know more about him, see who's side he was on, what he was doing to fix this dump of a town? And he had just been thinking that this tree lighting stunt was so full of crap…
"So you want me to make some kind of show to get people to take these kids?" One little girl had broken free from the pack, and touched his hand with a cautious finger. A small static shock leapt from him, making her jerk back and crouch away, frightened. He hadn't meant to startle her. It was the snow, making the air around him crackle and dance. Kneeling by her, he forced a small smile onto his cold-bitten face.
"Hey, I didn't mean to shock ya'. What's your name?"
"Mary." Came the quite, mousy reply. The girl was seriously freaked.
"Having a good Christmas Mary?" She shook her head no. "No?"
"I miss my mom and dad." The whisper was so soft Cole almost missed it. He half wished he did. It, this, was his fault. He had destroyed lives to gain his power. He hadn't always been fast enough to save someone that was going to their death. He wasn't able to be everywhere at once and stop every gang member. Cole dropped his head, frowning at the ground beneath his feet. He had thought so hard on how much he had lost. How many people he no longer trusted. Trish and Amy were dead, Zeke had double crossed him so hard it physically hurt, Moya had lied to his face, Kessler… Cole wasn't even going to start on what Kessler had done to him.
"Yeah, I'm not having a good Christmas either. I lost a lot of people too." Honest blue eyes lifted from the ground, meeting the children that had started to draw closer. "I think we all have, in some way. Doesn't make for a very good Christmas."
Cole stood, almost, but not quite, meeting Zeke's eyes.
"I guess some of us forgot that they weren't the only ones that missed someone. Hey, you guys want to watch me blow up a trash can?" The somber moment had lifted as the kids looked around and started to laugh and cheer him on. It wasn't hard to find a can, they were all over the city. And while Empire could save all the money they had to try and rebuild… what would one trash can hurt?
"Whoops." Deadpan, as all Cole's responses were. Zeke flipped around on the couch cushion he was on, peering over his useless sunglasses and the top of the moth-eaten piece of furniture. After a second or two to grab his breath back, calm himself from the silent approach of the man that hadn't stepped foot on the roof in months, Zeke slowly lifted himself from hiding.
"Cole? What are you doing here?"
Said man shifted from foot to foot, staring at the ground, unconsciously sending sparks through his fingers. He was, quite obviously, unsure if it was alright to be there.
"Can I, uh, sit down?"
"Oh sure, sure!" Zeke sat back on the couch, in his normal corner, hands on his knees for fear of doing or saying something that would set off an angry tirade. Cole stiffly sat as well, a good distance from Zeke despite the small couch. The two of them sat, watching the fuzzy program on the television in silence for some time. When it was broken, Zeke jumped again out of the suddenness.
"I told Warden about the kids. He said he'd bring it up to the heads of the rebuilding committee and get something done."
"Oh good. Good."
And silence rained down once more. Only, not as uncomfortable as before.
"I was thinking." Cole started up again some moments later. "Perhaps… I was a little hard on you. I mean, well. I set off the bomb, and I'm not getting pinned for those deaths. You didn't exactly make Kessler kill her. You weren't even there. He would have gone and done it had you been with him or not."
Zeke could only stare at Cole. Cole was still stiff, refusing to look at his friend as he spoke. Zeke, on the other hand, had visibly relaxed. He was almost smiling, to be honest.
"I mean, I hated it when Trish blamed me for Amy. It's not like I wanted her to die. And… yeah, I hadn't exactly been the greatest through the whole thing to you. But, damnit Zeke!" Cole did turn at this, anger and confusion written all over his face. "You could have gotten killed! I told you to stay with the cops because you wouldn't get hurt in there! And then you have the nerve to look me in the eye and go with Kessler! Do you have any idea how worried I was about you the whole time?"
That… was not what Zeke had expected. Cole stood, continuing to rant and have his frustration pour out of him as he paced behind the couch, a caged animal finally seeing his ticket out of the pen. And Zeke could only watch as he did so. It was so un-Cole like; it was almost funny if you forgot that he could blow up a car with just a touch. Finally, after many minutes and a track in the snow Cole's steam ran out, and he limply glared at Zeke, unable to find anything else to say or do.
Zeke just smirked, resting his head on his hands that were folded neatly on the back of the couch. It was about time Cole chilled out, about time he let the weeks and months of constant movement and little rest out of his pent up rage. The man had been living on the streets, with little to no cover from the elements, still having to raise money from a low-end job to pay his debts that had collected over the years. And now he was to play hero every morning noon and night without mercy. This outburst was a long time coming.
So, Zeke said nothing. Cole shrugged, trying to find some response to his soul-spilling, and found none. None, save for Zeke raising from the couch, grabbing a handful of bottles of suds from the refrigerator, and plopping back down on the couch with his back to him. Then, he held up a bottle.
"You gonna sit down and let me watch my movie, or stand there in the cold all night?"
Stepping under the temporary overhang erected on the roof, they were the sweetest words Cole had ever heard.