This is the story Loving Peace from Warren Peace's POV. Warning: this is rated M for a reason.

Cause I see

Sparks fly

Whenever you smile.

-Taylor Swift

Sparks were a huge part of Warren Peace's life.

Everything seemed to start with them. His mother and father had felt that proverbial spark, fucked, and created him.

He, in turn, shot sparks from his fingertips, just like the old man. They created huge, blazing bonfires, or small blazes.

There was a spark of evil in his father. It drove him insane, made him commit heinous acts that make Warren cringe mentally. (He tried to never let pain outside).

One thing was for certain, at least.

Warren had never experienced any good kind of spark. The only time he felt at peace (no pun intended) with the flames inside him was when he put on his show for his mother. Even then, he felt as though he were trying to atone for a crime (or several) that he didn't commit.

(He didn't bother to remind himself he was being a hypocrite; hadn't he blamed Stronghold for something his father did? And it wasn't as if the old man hadn't deserved it. But still).


Just the name made Warren's blood boil.

The kid was so incredibly stupid. He was immature and naïve and worse, he still had round, childish features.

He couldn't understand why Gwen Grayson liked him so much.

Not that Warren had ever liked Gwen, either. He hadn't. She was like the brunette, superhero version of a Barbie doll, and he couldn't stand it.

In his opinion, they were a match made in heaven. Or hell. Depending on the perspective.

What was painful was watching his old sidekick friends stare after him like lost puppies. Especially Layla Williams. Her gray eyes held so much hurt and betrayal, he couldn't stand to look at her for long. (So why did his eyes constantly rest on her whenever she was in sight?)

He found himself observing her. The way she walked (and how her ass looked when she did it) the bright red of her hair (he clenched his fists, imagining tangling his fingers in it while he… or better, while she…), her smile.

Her smile.

For some reason, it got to him. It looked almost familiar, and made something stir inside him that he kept trying to push back.

Warren decided he really needed to get laid. Soon. Get these damn hormones out of his system so that maybe he'd stop noticing Stronghold's friend. (Even if it was his subconscious messing with him. On a conscious level, he still hadn't really registered this fatal attraction).

Because everyone knew that "future villains" and hippies just don't mix.

Warren really fucking hated his boss.

Seriously. Warren wasn't even fucking Asian. He'd picked up quite a bit of their language, and had recently started taking tons of shifts, but that didn't mean the retarded, short, Yoda-like pig could yell at him like an indentured fucking servant. In Chinese.


Warren huffed out a breath and resisted the urge to roast him, instead reaching for a wet cloth and wiping down one of the tables.

He tossed the cloth back into the sink, and was about to get a fresh one when one of the women yelled from the kitchen.

"There a girl that been sitting there for long time. Ask if she need something!"

If there was one thing Warren hated, it was customer interaction.

Grumbling under his breath, he approached the booth she had pointed at. "Still workin' on that?"

The girl looked up sharply.

Red hair.

Gray eyes.

Tantalizing curves she never showed off properly.


"Hey," Layla said.

"Hey." Well. This was awkward.

"We go to school together."

Warren nodded, shifted on his feet. "You're Stronghold's friend." Stronghold's, Peace. Fucking Stronghold's. Pull yourself together, would ya?

To his surprise, Layla scowled, and Warren watched in a little bit of awe as the flower in the vase on the table wilted a bit. "Not for long."

Warren couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at that, but then he looked away. Just because she and Stronghold were having issues didn't mean he was nominated for Replacement BFF. Or better, FWB. "Yeah… So… Uh….Want me to heat that up for ya?"

Layla looked back at him, seeming shocked. "You're not supposed to use your powers outside of school!"

Oh yeah. That was in the handbook, wasn't it? Warren vaguely remembered skimming over it before turning it into ash.

Unable to resist, he leaned closer to her, so close he could see the blue flecks in her eyes. "I was only going to stick it in the microwave."

Layla's eyes widened, and she blushed as red as her hair, then leaned back jerkily. "Oh."

Warren smirked.

"Um, I was, um," (Did he really get her that worked up?), "supposed to be meeting Will here, but…You wanna sit down?" She gave him a small smile. Not the one he loved, but…

Warren blinked once, not quite believing this was really happening, then glanced back to make sure the boss from hell wasn't watching.

"I guess they can spare me a minute," he sighed, and slid into the booth across from her.

He felt his knees touch hers and froze as he finally felt what he'd wanted to feel his whole life; good sparks.

Warren's entire body relaxed. He looked her in the eyes. The he smiled, really truly smiled, and a tiny blaze lit on his finger.

Layla had started to smile back, probably without even realizing it, then her eyes jumped to the flame.

Warren reached over and lit the candle in front of them, then let the flame extinguish. She giggled.

(She didn't berate him about the no-powers-outside-of-school-thing, either. Mission fucking accomplished.)

"So Stronghold ditched ya?" Warren asked, leaning forward subconsciously, trying his hardest not to stare at her lips.

"Yeah. He's been…a jerk lately." He could tell she was holding back, and it irked him.

"Don't hold back. Call him what you want to." He deserves it. Warren smiled, "I promise you won't corrupt me."

Layla ran her eyes over him, and Warren felt a sort of warmth rush throughout his body. Girls checked him out on a daily basis, but this felt different.

"He's been a complete and utter… Ass! A total asshole!"

Warren grinned, extremely amused. "Ha! Wow. Never thought I'd hear Hippy cuss. I'm proud."

And in some weird way, he was.

Layla smiled a little and shrugged, looking down at the table.

"So why'd he ditch you? I mean, I always figured he was a few tools short of the whole shed, but…" Damn. He hadn't meant to let the compliment slip out.

But it made Layla smile a little more. It was so close to that smile… "He's probably off with Gwen."

Figured that was what was going on… "I would say green isn't a pretty color, but that's pretty much all you wear."

As though his emotions were connected to hers, he could sense something change instantly inside Layla. She turned from docile and harmless into a hurricane in less time than it took to blink. "Damn it, I am not jealous!"

She slapped her hand down on the table, and Warren resisted the urge to jump. That was a violent gesture, and even though he didn't really know Layla Williams, he knew she was not a violent person. At all.

"I'm mad! No, I'm furious! Will has been my best friend since we were in diapers, and now we go to a new school and he sees one pretty- well, okay, perfect- girl, and all of it's down the drain? I mean, what the fuck. This is ridiculous, I don't even know why I'm still here."

She was so goddam hot when she was pissed.

She flushed in the most delicious of ways, and warm tremors ran through Warren's whole body, and he could practically see sparks flying off her from pure anger. He wasn't sure if they were good or not.

But he liked them.

Still, she was throwing quite a fit, and if Boss Man saw him sitting down the last few minutes of his shift… "Geez, Hippy, take one of your chill pills would ya? There are other customers in here."

Layla froze across from him, every inch of her body going rigid. He watched several thoughts flit across her face at once, and none of them were good. (He was amazed. She wasn't guarded the least bit. She was completely pure and expected no one to take advantage of her. Deep down inside, it made Warren feel protective over her, but there was no way in hell he'd admit it).

"Oh my God," she breathed, and just as instinct told him to reach over across the table and put his hand over hers before she had a complete meltdown, and his fingers twitched, about to do just that, she focused those gray eyes on the flower in the vase, and he watched as it bloomed bigger than it had been before.

She created, and he destroyed.

He never felt so unworthy in his entire life. (Guiltily, all the half-realized fantasies he'd been having surfaced, and he almost blushed with shame. Only almost, though. He was Warren Fucking Peace after all).

Finally, he said, "You okay?"

"Um, yeah. God, Warren, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to- I mean, I-" Layla stuttered.

Warren inconspicuously glanced at the clock. Shift over. Yes. "Just stop. Wait here."

He got to his feet and yanked off the stupid apron he was forced to wear. (Why the fucking hell did he have to wear the damn thing anyway? He wasn't a dumb ass cook).

He retied his hair back because the stupid loose strands got on his nerves (not for Layla Fucking Williams), then swung his jacket over his shoulder.

He was overheated enough without wearing it.

He grabbed a fortune cookie on the way out, one of many with the same fortune inside it, along the wall in a thousand cardboard boxes. Sorting those out was such a bitch.

He grabbed one that he thought fit Layla's situation. It could come in handy.

He also grabbed another, a bit of a plan forming.

Maybe if he let this whole Will thing get out of her system, she'd give him a chance.

"Come on."

"Where are we going?"

"I'm taking you home," Warren said it as casually as possible, and he hadn't realized until just then that that was his intent, but whatever. (He was such a motherfucking retard. He didn't even know where she lived and this was Stronghold's best friend and she was too innocent for him anyway and this whole stupid ass thing was a bad idea.)

But Layla didn't question him. She nodded slowly, left a ten on the table, followed him outside.

His body followed hers automatically, and they fell into step walking down the sidewalk.

"Normally I'd ride my bike, but I don't think we're quite to that level yet." Warren smirked, carefully observed her reaction.

"You have a motorcycle. Why am I not surprised? That's very cliché you know." Layla teased, but was that a flash of nervousness behind her eyes? Interesting.

(And "yet"? What the hell did he expect to happen?)

Still, roles seemed to be reversed with her. She was the flame, he the moth.

And for once, he didn't really mind.

"Oh please. I'm the only one around here that can really pull it off." He bumped against her, unable to resist himself.

She grinned, and Warren's stomach tied itself into knots just like a fucking girl. "That's more like it." That was his smile.


Layla looked away and cleared her throat a little, and he resisted the urge to flame up and punch something. He was so incredibly retarded.

"I really am sorry. About that. That is not me, not at all." She apologized sheepishly.

"I know. So. Will is with Gwen, and now you're in agony because you're in love with him."

Oh, the bitter irony. The one girl he feels that fated spark with, the one he's waited pretty much his whole damn life for, and fucking Stronghold turns her on.

To his surprise, Layla's mouth dropped open in indignation. "I am not in love with Will Stronghold!"

Warren simply eyed her doubtfully, refusing to hope.

"I'm not!"

"You have to be at least crushing. It's incredibly obvious." Warren couldn't resist an eye roll.

"Crushing I can admit to," Layla said.

Crushing Warren could deal with. He'd made plenty of girls swoon that had "crushes" on other guys. Crushing was in no way permanent, and not nearly as sticky as loving.

"So why don't you just ask him to Homecoming and get it over with?"

"Two problems: Gwen, and also his stuck up attitude here lately. He won't even answer my calls, out long acknowledge me in person." He could hear the sadness in her voice, see the way her shoulders slumped as she stared down at the concrete.

Familiar anger rushed through him on her behalf. Stronghold really was an ignorant asshole. Couldn't he see what was right in front of him?

"Stronghold really is an idiot," he huffed. No harm in letting her know that he thought well of her, right? "Alright, Hippy. Just ask him. Get to the bus stop early tomorrow if you have to. I'm assuming he's been avoiding you there, too?"

Walk before you run, Peace. She wants Stronghold.

For now.

Deciding now was a good time to break out the first fortune cookie, he took it out of his pocket, bit into it. "Besides, to let true love remain unspoken is the quickest route to a heavy heart."

Warren always had liked how poetic these things sounded, to be wrapped up inside a bland, twisted little cookie.

Layla stared at him, clearly impressed. "Wow. That is really deep."

Silly Hippy. Hadn't she seen him eat the fortune cookie?

"Yeah," Warren nodded, fighting back a smile. "And your lucky numbers are 4, 16, 5... and 49."

"Oh my God, you read that off a fortune cookie?" She laughed, and he focused on her smile, letting her snatch the little piece of paper from him.

"Doesn't make it any less true," he shrugged.

They stopped walking in front of a standard looking two story suburban house.

She glanced over at him, looking half shy and half extremely grateful. "Thank you. Really. You're actually pretty great when you're not hurling fire at people."

He had that one coming, but he still rolled his eyes. Again. "Yeah whatever."

Abruptly, Layla pressed herself up against him, skinny little arms wrapping around him as best they could.

He was surprised at how it felt. She was so soft and warm. She was at least six inches shorter than he was, fitting snugly against his chest.

His entire body could have burst into flames, and for once, he never would have noticed.

She smelled like lilacs.

He awkwardly wrapped one arm around her and squeezed back. She was so tiny nestled there against him he felt like he could snap her in half. (He had never been good at hugging anyway.)

"Step away before I singe you." Seriously, if she didn't back off, he was going to catch fire right then and there, which would potentially be very bad for Layla.

"You just have to ruin the moment don't you?" She sighed, and he let her think that that was what he had meant.

He gave her the fortune cookie for Stronghold, and a few seconds later she was wiggling her fingers at him and he was trying not to glance back at the woman in the window watching them.

He walked back to his bike with the feeling of sparks running up and down his fevered skin.

Oh yeah. He was in deep shit.


The day started out normally enough.

Warren rolled out of bed. Took a shower. Bent over to kiss his mother on the cheek because she was working on some huge assignment for some government or other and looked worn out. Stuffed cereal down his throat. Went to school.

That's where things started getting weird, which probably shouldn't have surprised him seeing as it was a school for fucking super powered teenagers, but still.

Layla was dressed to kill, shoving books in her locker with more force than necessary, talking to Stronghold.

He couldn't tell what they were saying from this far away, but she looked pissed.

Warren frowned a bit. She should look happy. Hadn't Stronghold used the one brain cell he possessed and told her yes?

(He wanted to run his hands over her pale thighs, up under the tight skirt, feel her-)

Layla slammed the locker shut, jarring him out of his fantasy. "Will, SHUT UP."

You tell him, Hippy.

"I don't care what you think, I don't care who you're taking to, and I don't care for your incessant whining. What I do is no longer your concern."

Sounded like a break up line if Warren ever heard one. Not that she and Stronghold had ever been together, anyway…

He couldn't resist staring at her as he passed, in smug satisfaction. And lust. Lots of lust. God, he wanted her, he wasn't even going to deny it now.

(It kind of freaked him out a bit).

Warren liked space.

More specifically, he liked personal space.

Which was why he wasn't too damn upset that no one would ever sit with him at lunch.

So as fucking hot as Layla looked today, and as proud as he was of her for telling Stronghold off, it still kind of irritated him when she plopped down across from him.

"Hi Warren."

She was nervous, that much he could tell.

"Did I say this was okay yesterday? Because it's not."

She tried to smile at him, but it was totally fake. Not the smile he wanted to see. Not the one that gave him good sparks. "Haha, you're so funny. But, no, seriously. So, I was just about to ask Will to Homecoming this morning, and wouldn't ya know it, I told him I was going with you instead."

Warren couldn't do anything but stare at her. Was she serious? He did not do school functions. Of any kind. "You're kidding."

Layla shook her head and went back to nervously poking her salad.

No wonder she was so tiny. She didn't fucking eat.

Out of no where, in swooped the purple sidekick. (What was her name? Magenta? Damn. Her parents got real creative). She almost reminded Warren of himself, except minus all the daddy issues.

This didn't mean he particularly liked her though.

Glow-Stick and Popsicle sat down next, and Warren felt his blood begin to boil. Layla he could handle. Layla he wanted to handle.

These people? Not at all.

Layla grimaced all of a sudden across from him, and he followed her line of sight.

Ah. Will and his posse were making their way over.

Fucking fantastic.

"Hang on a second Gwen," Will said when he had approached their table. "Layla, can I talk to you?"

He practically dragged her out of her seat, and Layla followed him hesitantly outside.

Oh hell no.

That little prick was not getting Layla alone.

Without really thinking about it, Warren jumped out of his seat and followed. If nothing happened, then it was just a precaution. If something did….

He waited just outside the doors.

"What?" He heard Layla ask. She sounded exasperated.

"Look. I don't know what's wrong with you lately, but I want it to stop." Way to be forceful there, Stronghold.

He sounded like a whiny little kid.

"I'm not acting any differently." Layla didn't sound very upset.

"Warren's probably having some kind of effect on you, I told you to stay away from him-"

Of course. Blame it on the super-villain's kid. Classy.

"Warren is a great guy!"

Warren hardly dared to breathe. She was defending him. Against her long time best friend. Holy shit. "If you actually took five seconds to talk to him, you might realize that."

A pause, and then, "Layla, I'm begging you. Break it off."


Elated heat seared through him at her declaration.

"Break it off."


Warren shifted just a bit so he could see…

"I said dump him!" Warren saw Stronghold grab Layla's arm, heard her wail and fall to the ground.

Without even thinking about it, he was blazing, and fury consumed him. It was easy to throw Stronghold against a wall, denting it.

It was difficult to resist tearing him apart.

"Touch her again, and I'll run a stake through you like the goddam marshmallow you are, then roast your puny ass." Warren snarled.

The image was a comfort.

Stronghold jumped to his feet and took off, and if Warren hadn't been so concerned about Layla he would have went after him and taught him a real lesson.

But as it was, Layla was still slumped on the filthy hallway floor, and his first priority was her. (When had that happened?)

He crouched down in front of her, tilted her chin up. He was shocked to find her eyes and cheeks dry.

She was a lot stronger than people gave her credit for.

"You okay?"

He wasn't even ashamed when his voice came out all soft and caring.

"Yeah. He didn't mean it, really, he's super-" No fucking way was she defending the bastard.

"Strong, I know. Doesn't make this okay."

He reached for her arm, but she jerked it away. "Don't!"

Her eyes were wide; confused and hurt and tired and frightened all at once.

"I won't hurt you, Layla." Not ever. Please. Please let me…

She held out her arm trustingly, and Warren held back a triumphant grin. He rotated her arm gently.

"He could've done a lot more damage," he finally proclaimed.

It didn't make him want to kill Stronghold less.

Still, he had to get this bruise taken care of before it made her arm start to swell. "It'll definitely bruise, but it should fade in a week or so. Come on."

He held his hand out and resisted the urge to shudder when Layla put her hand in his without question. Her fingers rested against his perfectly. Her skin was so soft.

He lead the way to Nurse Spex's office, and he left Layla waiting outside. As badly as he wanted to get Stronghold at least a detention for what he did, he knew she'd protest.

The little old woman was behind her desk, check marking a paper absently. "Hey Nurse Spex."

She looked up, then broke into a wide smile. "Mr. Peace. Back for some burn salve again?"

Warren gave her a small, respectful smile. He'd had to practice it in a mirror a dozen times freshman year. She had been the only one not to be afraid of him, or mention his father. When he got in trouble for starting- or ending- fights, she was the only one to see right through his anger, the only one to calm him down with a single reproachful look or light touch.

She was the closest thing to a grandmother he'd ever had.

"Nope. Bruise salve and some ice."

"Mhm," she murmured, eyebrows shooting up. Warren shrugged sheepishly, letting her think he'd done something wrong yet again, instead of something very right. "Don't you send any more kids in here today Warren Peace!"

Oh. That was right. He had slightly injured that stupid ass in first period this morning when he made a snide villain remark…

"No mam, I won't." Nurse Spex was the only person he'd called mam in his entire life.

She handed him the salve and the ice.


"Sure. You're a good boy, Warren. Act like it every now and then," she urged, patting him fondly on the shoulder.

Warren had to laugh at that. "Not a chance."

She nodded in a figures kind of way and waved him away.

He couldn't resist grabbing Layla's hand again, and this time he led her outside, to what he thought of as his Cooling Off Place. Whenever he got too angry or upset to think clearly, even to talk to Nurse Spex, he stormed right through those doors and out here. None of the windows in the school looked out into this little corner, so no one saw him ditch. "This way."

"We're probably not supposed to be out here." Layla bit her lip, and Warren had to resist the urge to lean in and bite it himself.

"Probably not. Oh well." He settled on the grass, and Layla sat down next to him. He rubbed the cool substance on her arm.


"I've had a few bruises in my time." More than a few.

He couldn't stand her looking so unhappy. He had to make her laugh, had to make her smile that smile… "I think the nurse has a thing for me." He winked to add to the joke.

That did it. She laughed, and Warren sighed a bit.

He wrapped the ice around it next, then leaned back against the tree. He liked the feeling of the bark against his back. What to talk about…? "Going dress shopping soon?"

The fuck, man? Dress shopping? Way to make her think you bat for the other team.

She didn't seem to think anything was wrong with his question though. "I don't know. Maybe."

She looked away, quiet for a moment, before she added, "I'm sorry about that, by the way. I didn't mean too, it's just that he gets me so worked up and I wasn't thinking."

It took him a few minutes to catch up. Oh, right. She'd told Stronghold (who'd told everyone else) that they were going to Homecoming together.

How could he deny her when she was the only one to defend him? And against her lifelong best friend, as well?

"Don't give yourself a brain hemorrhage, Hippy. I'll go along with it."

The light in her eyes when he said it made it worth it. "Really?"

"Mhm. Just don't expect me to rent a tux." He hated the damn things.

"…Okay." Thank God she didn't throw a bitch fit like most girls would.

Layla settled on her back, and within ten minutes she was out like a light.

Warren couldn't help but stare at her. The way her red hair shown in the sun, the way her pale skin met the grass, the way her chest rose and fell evenly.

She was beautiful, a word Warren wasn't very familiar with.

He woke her when the final bell rang, and she yawned and smiled at him, and he couldn't help but imagine her waking up next to him like that, in his bed, her lips swollen and their bare bodies pressed together…

He almost had to shake himself to get the image to leave his mind enough for him to speak. "Here, keep this. Put it on every night, okay?"

"Sir yes sir." She smirked.

He couldn't resist. To hell with letting her come to him in her own time.

He leaned in close, so close his lips were almost against her ear. He could practically taste her. The smell of lilacs and earthy tones and just pure Layla overtook him, and he almost groaned aloud. "That's Mr. Peace, sir, to you."

He smirked, and to his complete and utter delight, Layla fucking shivered. Hell yes.

"Don't think I didn't notice that," he said, and he couldn't hold back the triumphant grin this time.

She flushed bright red.

He was really beginning to look forward to Homecoming.

She was driving him fucking nuts.

And he loved every bit of it.

Not only her, but her friends. (Worse, he was beginning to like the sidekicks. They were growing on him, attaching to him like barnacles.) They sat at his table every day and kept up a constant (often very amusing) chatter.

And after school, when he went to work, Layla would eventually show up and stay until closing time.

That's what was driving him crazy.

He'd found, over the hours and hours and hours they spent together, that he could touch her. That he fucking loved touching her. And she wouldn't shirk away from him, or flinch, or anything.

In fact, she welcomed him.

The night that she held his hand, really held it, with their fingers interlacing, had been the most intense thing he'd ever experienced. And he wasn't even a fucking virgin.

Her tiny fingers had slid down his thigh easily, innocent of what she was doing to him, and slipped in between his with ease.

His entire body had shuddered, and when their eyes met, he felt so many good sparks he'd thought he'd flamed up right there.

He wasn't even sure this could be called a spark anymore. It was so much more, so much larger.

He hadn't been able to help himself. He was tired of denying himself. He leaned in, and she did too… so goddam close…

And then the boss yelled.

Warren had stormed into the kitchen and screamed Chinese curses for half an hour after that, glad that the kitchen was well insulated so that Layla couldn't hear.

His boss stopped being such a douche after that. Not entirely though.

He'd never taken things so slowly with a female before, and it was torture. A slow burn, eating it's way through him.

When he got her on the bike, and her hips had fit against his, and he could feel her breasts crushed against his back, he didn't think he'd be able to concentrate enough to drive. He imagined turning around, crushing their fronts together, smashing his mouth against hers with bruising force.

Christ, he wanted her.

But he wanted her to be comfortable with him, too. He wanted to share the things he loved with her, wanted her to know him.

So he had to show her what the bike could do before he showed her what he could do to her on the bike.

Damn these newfound emotions of his.

Layla was lying on top of him, and Warren was pretty sure he'd died and gone to heaven by some rigging of the books.

Actually, he was pretty sure that had happened when she'd sat down on his bed, her gray eyes staring so intensely up at him.

When she'd kicked off her shoes and laid back easily, casually, he'd almost had a heart attack. Surely she wasn't going to suggest they…

She didn't.

He wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed, or both.

Still, as they talked, she slowly moved closer to him. First her head ended up on his shoulder, both of them sprawled on their backs.

Then she'd put one of her legs across his, and eventually she rolled over, onto his chest, and just like he'd wanted, their fronts were pressed together.

He'd instantly brought an arm up to secure her to him, and brushed his fingers through her hair like he'd wanted to from the moment she walked into Sky High.

"And if you're so tired of being stereotyped, stop wearing green so damn much."

It really was beginning to wear on him.

She rose an eyebrow. "Oh yeah? What color should I wear instead, then?"

He studied her, imagined her in lingerie of every shade.

The sexiest he could think of was, "Red."

She was quiet for a moment, and he just enjoyed holding her.

What if he were to tilt her chin up, like he had the day Stronghold had hurt her arm? What if he were to kiss her right now, softly, the way she deserved to be kissed? Rolled her underneath him and touched her the way she should be touched?

"Why did you agree to go to Homecoming with me?"

The question jarred him more than it should have, and he found he didn't want to answer. "Why did you tell Will I was your date?"

He always called Stronghold 'Will' around Layla.

"Touché," she mumbled.

He stared at his ceiling and tried to think of something profound to say.

He almost jumped out of his skin when he felt her lips against his cheek.

It took every ounce of self control he had not to turn his head to the side and press his lips against hers.

Then she moved to his jaw, and it struck him how wrong it would be, to ravage her right here and now, in his bed, with nothing to stop them. They hadn't even been on their date tonight yet, for Christ's sake!

Layla deserved better than that.

Better than him.

So carefully avoiding touching their lips, he turned his head to look at her.

How was this amazing person lying next to him right now? How could Stronghold give this up?

Fucking moron.

He brushed her hair out of her face gently, and she sighed contently, looking so kissable he almost combusted. "We should get going if we're gonna make it to the movie."

Her face fell, and the satisfaction Warren felt from the fact that she wanted to kiss him too was bittersweet. "You're right."

"Tell me."


"Come on, Hippy, just a hint!"

"Not gonna happen."

"Let me know the color, at least! It's not green, is it?"

If her dress was green, he'd burn it right off her.

Not that he wasn't thinking of doing that regardless of the color, anyways.

"I will get this out of you," he threatened, absently swiping the grungy rag across the table a few more times.

"You can try…" she said unconcernedly, and Warren couldn't help but think of all the different ways he could persuade her to tell him.

He shot a glare at her that he didn't really mean and tore his apron off. She just smiled, not intimidated at all by his menacing attitude.

When they got on his bike, he took it slow, wanting to savor the way she fitted against him, enjoy the way her chest moved against his back when she breathed.

She relaxed against him and laid her head on his shoulder blade.

No one had ever been relaxed around Warren before. (His mother didn't count). He found he liked the feeling.

Layla had pointed Stronghold's house out to him once, and when they came upon it they found bright lights and pulsating music.

Stronghold was having a party.

He heard (and felt) Layla scoff behind him and grinned wickedly.

He wouldn't mind Layla grinding up against him to the beat, and if it pissed Stronghold off, well, that was just icing on the cake.

"Wanna crash it?"


He sped up and hit the curb, rode up the slight incline to park right in the front yard. Layla squeaked and he smiled a bit.

She took his hand again, leading him to the doorway. He couldn't help but feel proud to walk in with her. He didn't understand why, but he knew he liked it.

The inside of the house was nice in classy sort of way, and he could tell the place was normally kept immaculately clean. Furniture was over turned now, spills stained the hardwood and carpet, and some things were broken. Reflected light leant a weird glow to the place, and most kids there were either wasted out of their mind, making out, dancing, or all three.

"Shittiest party I've ever been to," Warren declared, and it was. Stronghold was clearly an amateur at this.

"Ditto," Layla nodded, but he could tell she was pretty innocent when it came to these things. Her eyes were wide in shock and disgust, but really, this was pretty tame.

Layla moved forward, looking around, and that's when one of the Pennys closed in.

Warren squeezed her hand, frowning protectively, and almost missed the grateful little smile Layla shot his way.

Gwen popped up out of fucking no where then. "What the hell do you think you're doing here?"

"Who invited the sidekick?" Penny called out, and just like that, everyone in earshot turned to look at them.

Warren's free hand clenched into a fist. Layla can handle this.

"Where's Will? Tied up on a leash out back?" Layla's voice held more bite than he'd ever heard it.

"He's avoiding you, actually. Come on, Layla. Will knew you liked him." If that were true, and Stronghold had still hurt her the way he had, Warren would fucking kill him.

Layla didn't seem very concerned though. "Did he?"

He shuffled closer to her when he felt her start to tremble. (Whether it was in anger or pain he couldn't tell, but he couldn't stand it either way). She leaned back against him and he resisted the urge to wrap both arms around her.

"Uh huh. Obviously he'd not interested. He's just too nice a guy to tell you so himself." Gwen smiled then, and if she wasn't clearly a female, Warren would have hit her. Hard.

"He wasn't too nice," one of the Pennys said, "to tell us, though. God, he is constantly whining about what an obsessive little bitch you were, calling and trying to make plans all the time."

Layla did a full body flinch against him, her head and shoulders drooping just enough for him to notice. "Whatever."

Gwen just wouldn't let up. "I mean, take a goddam hint, would ya? He's going to Homecoming with me, he's throwing a party and didn't invite you, and he's too embarrassed to be seen with you at school."

Layla's voice was borderline desperate now, and Warren began searching for a way to step around the bitches without them being able to block them from leaving.

He couldn't find one.

It was killing him to just stand here and let her take this, but at the same time he knew that if he didn't let her stand up for herself, she'd be pissed at him in the end, too, and he couldn't have that.

"I don't care, alright? Whatever was going on with me and Will- or not going on- is over now, so just back the hell off!" Layla yelled, and seeming to read Warren's mind, she tried to sidestep Gwen and failed.

"Oh, that's right," Gwen said, her gaze settling on Warren. He snarled at her. "Layla's got a new boy toy now. Warren Peace, resident psycho."

Resident psycho? Was that really the best she could do?

Gwen looked back at Layla. "Careful, Layla. You never know when he'll turn evil. Wouldn't want to get too involved with a guy destined to end up like his father; worthless and locked up like an animal."

As angry as that made him, it seemed to make Layla furious. More upset than when they'd been ragging on her even. Her entire body tensed, and Warren knew the feeling well; she was about to go off.

He couldn't let her do that. Not on his behalf. She'd feel so awful about it later. "Whoa, Hippy. Calm down."

Gwen snorted. "Like she could do anything."

"You wanna see what I can-" Layla started, then stopped. Warren felt her take a huge breath, felt her muscles relax slightly. "Come on, Warren, let's go. This was stupid."

He slid his hand down her arm until he felt her fingers, then guided her to the door as swiftly as he could.

This had been a very horrible idea. What had he been thinking?

"Layla!" He heard Stronghold call, and grinded his teeth together. Two more seconds, and they would've been out the door!

Fucking hell.

To his delight, Layla didn't seem to be in a chatty mood. "Fuck off."

He'd definitely made a dent in her vocabulary, that was for sure.

But, but, I mean," Stronghold stuttered.

Enough was enough.

"Save it," Warren growled, allowing his free hand to finally ignite in a warning.

Stronghold's face hardened. "When did you become such a, a, a bitch Layla? You used to care."

Layla turned away, and Warren saw her face crumple.

The little bastard had made his Layla cry. Oh hell no.

"Have fun with Gwen, Stronghold," he spat, throwing a ball of flame and barely missing Stronghold's head. "You two are perfect for each other; you never did deserve a second of Layla's time."

Warren ushered Layla out of the house and slammed the door behind him. She stumbled down the porch steps, her torso shuddering with her sobs, her arms crossed across her chest.

Warren had never felt pain for another person before, except for maybe his mother, and even then, it was tinged with resentment because she had brought it upon herself. Layla had done nothing to deserve this. Nothing at all.

"Whoa, whoa," Warren said softly. "Whoa, Layla. Shhh. Calm down."

Unable to resist himself, he wrapped his arms around her. She buried her face against his chest and he drew soothing, mindless patterns against her back with his thumbs.

"I'm so sorry, Warren," she gasped. "I'm so sorry, this was a horrible idea."

She thought this was her fault?

Guilt consumed him. Why hadn't he just drove her home? Why did he have to let his ego get in the way?

"I was the one to suggest crashing, if you remember," he huffed. Fuck me. "This was my fault."

"No," Layla shook her head against him. "It's Will's."

Warren couldn't argue with that.


Warren turned his head to see the Commander and Jetstream strutting up their walkway, looking confused and concerned and heroic.

Warren absolutely refused to let Layla go even for one second. He just stood there with her wrapped securely in his arms, observed the man responsible for his mother crying alone in her room for hours on end, even though both she and everyone else knew his father had deserved it.

"Layla, sweetheart, what is going on here?" Jetstream asked, and it shocked Warren for a moment that Layla was so familiar with the couple before he remembered that she had been their son's best friend since they were in diapers.

Small fucking world.

"Will is throwing a party," she sighed.

"Well we can see that. Why? And why are you so upset?" This bumbling idiot was the one that saved the world every other day?

"I guess because his prissy little girlfriend asked him to," Warren answered the Commander's first question.

For the first time, the Commander seemed to really see Warren. His eyes widened in recognition and Warren glowered, knowing what was coming next.

"You're… You're Barron's boy!"

No shit Sherlock. "Yeah."

Jetstream instantly interfered. "Layla, I apologize for whatever Will has done. Warren, it was nice meeting you. Come on, Commander, we've got a son to severely punish."

Warren didn't recall saying his name, but it didn't surprise him that she knew it.

She dragged her husband to the door, and unlike him, didn't spare him a second glance.

"Where are we?" Layla sniffled, her arms crossed across her chest.

She looked tired. Sad. But most of all, she looked guarded, something she had never been. It killed Warren. Made him physically ache. Nothing in the world should ever make her look like that. Certainly not a fucking pussy like Stronghold.

She was so beautiful, even now. He'd never wanted anything more in his life than her.

"Come here."

She moved instantly, standing just a few inches in front of him.

He thought about fucking the show he had planned and just kissing her senseless right then and there, but he took a deep breath he hoped she didn't notice and focused.

His eyes met hers, and when they did he tapped into his power, and a large circle of fire sprung up, thirty feet away in either direction.

Layla's eyes went wide and she gasped, and Warrens smiled. This was so going to be worth it.

Might as well give her the background story.

"When I was little," he began, "around six or seven, when I was finally able to control my powers, my mother and father went to war again. It killed her to do it, because she loved him. Still loves him."

He didn't fucking get it. How his mother could be so infatuated with such a man. But if she felt anything for Battle like Warren felt for Layla, he supposed he couldn't blame her. (Even though a small part of him did blame her, and always would).

Layla listened intently, and that made it so much easier to just make the words flow.

"Sometimes, when she thought I wouldn't notice, she'd go lie in bed for hours and not get up. She didn't sob her eyes out, and I almost wished she had, because that would've made sense, ya know? But she just laid there and one tear would come out at a time…" Warren had forbade himself from remembering those days, and he sure as hell had never discussed it with anyone.

But he could share this with Layla.

He was almost ashamed of the soft, ragged way his voice came out, but then he noticed her stray tear, and when he wiped it away, he figured that emotion was probably a good thing.

Well. With Layla it was a good thing.

"I couldn't stand it. And I thought I was adding to the problem; I have the same power as my father, and I got to thinking that all the destruction I caused when I lost control made her even more sad. So I came up with a way to show her that fire isn't just destruction, and also make her happy again. Practiced for hours outside, while she laid in bed."

His body starting to get in the groove of things again as he told his story, he let another ring pop up outside of the first, burn brighter and larger. Layla's eyes flickered to it, and then back to his.

"It worked. It made her happy again. I still do it sometimes, when things get really bad." He stepped a few feet away from her and stripped his shirt off, not giving himself time to think about stupid ass inhibitions.

By the way her eyes widened, and the way she licked her lips, Warren had nothing to worry about.

He opened his palms toward her, and felt the telltale heat start underneath his skin. Soon little drops of fire began dripping off him, into the grass. Sometimes they landed on his wrist though, and he deliberately let them grow, let them follow the path of his red tattoos, farther up his arm, onto his shoulder. Soon they cascaded down his chest, and he kept his eyes on Layla and her clear amazement.

He'd never been so proud of his ability in his entire fucking life.

Layla smiled that smile at him, and he smiled back, and it was the first time he could remember that he didn't have to put any effort into it.

He bounced a ball of fire back and forth across his shoulders and she laughed.

He let another ring pop up around them, then another, closer and closer to them. He wanted to see how she reacted.

She didn't flinch. She didn't shy away.

This encouraged him, and he decided to try something he'd only ever done once.

It was easy to set his torso and arms and hands on fire. It was as easy as breathing. He had to think a bit about his legs, and he never deliberately did anything above his shoulders.

But once, his mother had come staggering in from an interview sobbing her eyes out, sliding down the front door.

His little show hadn't been enough to cheer her up, and then he'd come up with an idea.

He'd burned the back of his throat and had been unable to eat anything but soup for two weeks.

He knew he could do it now. Could do it for Layla.

So very slowly, he let the heat inside him build up, travel through his neck, line the inside of his throat. He felt it thrum through his pulse point.

He took a deep breath, then opened his mouth wide and released it. Above him, bright flame filled the sky, and he released his entire breath before letting his head drop back down.

He wasn't hurt at all.

"Oh my God!" Layla laughed, looking at him in utter awe.

He laughed too, enjoying her reaction to him. That was one of the best "Oh my God!"s he'd heard in reference to him ever.

He felt the excess energy in him spread out into the ground, and he let geysers of flame burst up everywhere, and turned it all different colors.

Just not green. Green really got on his fucking nerves.

"You're amazing," Layla breathed, then blushed like she hadn't meant to actually say it.

Warren smirked. "I try."

And he would try. For her, anyway. Everyone else could go to hell.

He made the flames on his body smolder out, then stepped closer to Layla, until he could see all the little blue flecks in her eyes. "Now for the grand finale," he murmured. He took her hand in his, loving the way she let him do it, the way she was no longer guarded at all anymore.

"You have to trust me completely for this to work, alright? You can't freak out."

A flicker of excited apprehension darted across her face. At least it wasn't outright fear. "What's going to happen?"

"You'll see. Pick a color." He knew what she would say as soon as she opened her mouth, so he cut her off. "Not green."

"Prejudiced," she grumbled, but didn't seem truly miffed. She smiled. "Blue."

An image of her in nothing but a blue lacy thong popped into his head. It had been the second hottest. "Is that the color of the dress?"

"You'll have to wait and see," she teased.

He couldn't resist an eye roll. "Alright. Blue it is."

He felt the fire start in his hand, then immediately transferred the energy to Layla's hand. Her palm caught on fire instantly, the blaze a pretty blue.

She yelped and started to yank her hand away, but Warren was prepared for this and held on tight. "I told you not to panic, Hippy. If you freak out, it'll burn you."

She relaxed instantly, her eyes flickering from the dancing flame to meet his.

It took him a moment to find his voice. She made him speechless without even fucking trying.


He changed it instantly.

"Oh wow. This is incredible. How are you doing this?"

He shrugged, not quite able to find the words to properly describe the energy, the heat in his veins. "I dunno. How do you make flowers bloom?"

He could tell she didn't have a sufficient answer for that either.

"Thank you, Warren. So much." She whispered, looking up at him with those eyes and those gorgeous lips that made the smile

He let go of her hand, and his fingers tingled where he'd held it.

Fuck it. The time is now.

He wanted her.


Slowly, half expecting her to step back, to tell him no, he brushed some hair out of her face. He shuffled closer, giving her plenty of time to escape his advances.

She didn't.

He was pretty sure his heart was about to fucking combust it was beating so fast. He'd never felt like this with a girl before. Figured it would be the goddam hippy to break him.

He brought his hand up to cradle her cheek, felt her jaw and cheek bones, brushed his thumb against the edge of her lips.


His name came out like a plea, and he almost lost it. He almost flamed up, almost created an explosion of flame that would've consumed them both.

Out of the corner of his eye, he did see the flames on the ground that were still going burn higher, brighter.

"Layla…" he breathed, and it was the closest thing to a prayer he'd ever uttered in his life.

Then his mouth was on hers and everything he could possibly comprehend was pure Layla.

Her fingers twisted into his hair, pulling him closer, and this shocked him more than anything else. He expected Layla to want soft, gentle, but here she was, pressing herself against him so passionately it made his head spin.

Getting over his initial shock, he clutched at her lower back, licked her bottom lip. She tasted so sweet, like honey almost.

She opened her mouth instantly, rubbing her tongue against his. Her moan went right through him, and he deepened the kiss, taking over her mouth with his tongue, rubbing it against the roof of her mouth.

She gasped and rubbed herself against him, and he made a mental note to do that again.

He could feel their powers clashing, trying to find balance, and knew she felt it too. His fire was burning higher, brighter, hotter, and he knew he'd lose complete control soon if they didn't find some common ground.

Fire and earth didn't mix. Period. He could feel the heat in his veins trying to take over, to consume, to destroy.

He'd been to fucking kindergarten. Smokey had taught him all about forest fires, and he was terrified to hurt Layla.

Already he could feel himself holding her a little too tight, kissing her a little too hard. Not that she was complaining. In actuality, she was matching him stroke for stroke, kiss for kiss.

Just as he thought he'd have to break away, have to call it off, boom. Something clicked.

Several images flickered through his mind at once. A picture of the sun, huge and glowing. Sunlight filtering through tree leaves. The Earth's molten core, lava spewing from a volcano, making life possible.

A never ending cycle. A way for fire and earth to be completely compatible, completely reliant on each other.

Layla felt it the second Warren did, and he broke their kiss to breathe while holding her against him firmly.

He couldn't stop touching her though. He wouldn't. Not now that he knew what he knew. That they were made for each other, that she wanted him as much as he wanted her.

Mother fucking love of God, he wanted her.

They were both breathing hard, panting almost, and he ran his tongue behind her ear, sucked on her neck, scraped her collarbone with his teeth. She pressed little kisses to his cheek and jaw and bare chest, any part she could reach.

He lifted her up against him on instinct, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. He felt her grin against his mouth, and that was almost better than this kisses.

But only fucking almost.

Then she went back to kissing him and flicked her tongue against the roof of his mouth in payback. Shudders went down his spine, and he growled playfully. He let her go to tangle his fingers in her hair, pressing her lips against his more urgently. She supported herself, clenching her legs around him, and messing with his hair too.

Almost hesitantly, she rubbed her center against the bulge in his jeans, and he almost fainted like a damn girl. He groaned, and she moaned, and the frenzy started all over again.

When they finally stopped millions of years later, Warren felt short of breath, unsatisfied, and extremely sated all at once.

He had a hickey where his neck met his shoulder and Layla's lips were swollen.

He felt amazing.

"I should get you home," he managed, and almost kicked his own ass. I should get you home? Damn it all, Peace.

"Probably," Layla muttered. She didn't seem to like the idea.

Unable to help himself, he kissed her again, sweetly and lightly this time. When he dropped her off, he kissed her a little deeper even though he knew her mother was watching out the window.

His mother looked up from her tea when he came in with a small smile on her face. "How's Layla?"

"Fine," he said shortly. He thought of the desire in her eyes, thought of the way her body arched and moved against his. He smirked. "Well. A little better than fine."

His mother's eyebrows shot up, and then she grinned. "About time."

"Go to bed," he called over his shoulder as he went up the stairs, smiling sheepishly. She just laughed.

He was in love with Layla Williams, and he wasn't even ashamed to admit it.

He. Had. Nothing. To. Wear.

Why had he been an arrogant prick as usual and refused to go rent a tux like every other normal teenager with a school dance?

He couldn't show up looking like a fucking retard now. Not when Layla meant this much to him.

He huffed at his image in the mirror. A pair of extremely singed khakis were not going to cut it.

His mother's voice from his doorway startled him. "Need some help?"

He refused to admit it. He just stared at her.

She giggled a little, then turned and gestured for him to follow her. "Come on."

He trailed downstairs, to her bedroom, and sat on the edge of the bed while she rifled through her clothes to reach the back of the closet.

She reemerged with a long garment bag. "I know you have daddy issues, but…"

And she unzipped it to reveal a tuxedo.

His eyes met his mother's for a full second before he snatched it and disappeared into her bathroom to change.

The damn thing fit fucking perfectly.

Well son of a bitch.

"You're more handsome in it than your father ever was," his mother said.

Damn straight.

"Layla is one lucky girl."

That he couldn't quite agree with. He was the lucky one.

He was almost late by the time he got there. The decorating committee had tacky taste, but what could you expect from a bunch of teenage supers?

He spotted Layla instantly, talking to Mr. Boy, and his stomach almost dropped through the floor.

She was wearing red.

More specifically, she was wearing the sexiest red dress he'd ever seen in his life. It clung to her like a second skin, and he couldn't help but imagine peeling it slowly off of her, revealing creamy skin and curves.

The fuck-me heels she was wearing wasn't helping his overactive imagination either. He could just picture her in absolutely nothing but those, all bent over and-

He stopped himself right there. He took a deep breath before approaching her.

"Don't mind him. He is such a jerk," Layla was saying to Mr. Boy.

"Hope you're not talking about me," he said, and Layla whirled around.

He scanned her from head to toe, trying to memorize the way she looked. God, she was beautiful.

No, gorgeous.

No, flawless. That was it.

"Red, huh? Nice choice." Perfect choice.

"I thought you weren't going to rent a tux?" She asked quizzically.

"It was my dad's," he shrugged, trying to be blasé. "He doesn't have much use for it in solitary."

He appreciated her effort to hide how touched she was by his gesture. She leaned in and pressed her lips gently against his. He smiled when she pulled away.

After they'd made enough small talk, Warren pulled her over to a corner of the gym. He kissed her the way he'd been dying to since he told her goodbye outside her house. His hands were on her hips, and he slid his leg between both of hers.

He tilted his head, and she ran her tongue between his lips, stroked her hands across his shoulders. He couldn't get over how incredibly sensual she was.

He pulled away from her, ran his tongue across the shell of her ear. She shuddered, and he imagined her doing that while underneath him. "I fucking love what you're wearing."

She shivered against him and pulled his head back around so that they're lips were touching again for another searing kiss.

"I thought you would," she breathed when she pulled back, smiling. He couldn't resist staring at her, letting his gaze linger on her cleavage and the shape of her hips…

She pulled back the jacket and collar of his tux to reveal the quarter-sized purple blotch she'd made. Her smirk sent waves of heat rolling through him, and he groaned when she bent her head to lick his bruise. It ached in the most delicious of ways at her touch.

"Maybe we should just ditch this shindig altogether."

"Most powerful super-being ever to walk the halls of Sky High… Me!"

Layla snapped her head to the side at Gwen's announcement, and Warren followed her gaze just in time to see Grayson rip her skirt right there in front of everyone, revealing some sort of suit of armor and a helmet.

"What the fuck?" Warren managed.

What looked like bolts of lightning burst from Gwen's fingertips, and out slid signs reading Royal Pain.

Warren knew a thing or two about villains, and he knew enough to realize that this was not fucking good.

A weird little elf thing cackled and skipped onto stage, releasing a secret hatch on the podium and handing Gwen some sort of gun.

Magenta rushed over and grabbed Layla's arm. "What the hell is going on?"

"I…I don't know…" Layla stuttered.

Zach and Ethan were right behind Magenta, and together, they moved closer to the refreshment table, closer to the exits.

The voice of the Commander rang out. "Royal Pain… is a… girl."

"Yes I'm a girl, you idiot." Gwen's voice did not sound like Gwen's voice. It was unnatural, robotic. "Now prepare to be Pacified."

Layla and Warren shared a worried glance while the Commander scoffed. "You really think you can kill me with that thing?"

"My dear Commander, who said anything about killing you?"

And then she pulled the trigger. Energy that looked light lightning shout out and hit the Commander square in the chest. He shrunk immediately, and the sound of a baby crying echoed throughout the gym.

Bursts of more lightning-stuff shot out as Royal Pain aimed at others, hitting adults and students alike. People screamed and panicked, running as fast as they could-

Only to have the exits barricaded by Speed, Lash, and Penny.

"Boomer, get the kids out of he-" the principal started to scream before she was also hit.

"Sparky, find an exit," Coach Boomer ordered Warren, and started to continue, before he was hit as well.

Served him right for starting with the whole Sparky nickname anyway, dammit.

Still, an exit would be nice.

"Come on," Warren said, looking around a bit before spotting their way out; the vent in the wall.

He held Layla back, his first instinct to protect her, then sent fire hurtling toward it. It fell off easily, and Magenta rushed past them, crawling inside. Layla followed, and the boys fell in line behind them.

They crawled as fast as they could, and Warren tried very hard not to think about the way Layla's dress hugged her and the fact that Zach was behind her, not him.

They twisted and turned, leaving the screams and bursts of light behind. After awhile, they slowed down, and Magenta asked, "Where the hell are we?"

"In a vent?" Zach said in a duh sort of tone.

"Smart ass," Magenta hissed.

Warren held back a snort.

"Hey Warren, how about a torch?" Ethan asked.

Frustration ate his way through him. He was utterly worthless in these damn vents. Helpless. "Not unless you wanna be barbequed."

An eerie green glow filled the vents, and Warren saw the girls fall to the side in front of him to let Zach past.

"And then all the reindeer loved him…" Magenta sing-songed.

Well what do you know. Little freshman actually does have a power.

"Hey, way to glow man!" Ethan snorted.

Warren came upon Layla, and she reached out to stroke his cheek, squeeze his hand.

He appreciated the sentiment, but now was not the time to get all sappy.

He huffed and blew hair out of his eyes, motioning for her to go on.

And this was why he didn't fucking do school functions.

"We've gotta get out of these goddam vents," Magenta griped in irritation.

Warren couldn't agree more.

"Head this way," he suggested, pointing randomly. There was another vent opening in the wall.

They did, and as soon as Zach reached the metal barrier, it was ripped away.

"Sup, kid?" Zach said.

Magenta and Layla crawled out after him, and Warren saw Layla freeze. He was on his feet next to her in an instant.

Stronghold was here, and Layla was clearly not okay with that.

He threw a protective arm over her shoulders, and felt her relax minimally.

Ethan fell out of the vent, then popped back up. "Hey, Will."

Way to be smooth there, Popsicle.

"You guys are never going to believe this! Gwen-"

"Is Royal Pain's daughter?" Layla asked flatly.

"Yeah! And she-"

"Stole the Pacifier?" Zach chimed in.

"Right, yeah, and she's turned everyone into babies, including your parents, dude." Ethan sighed.

Will looked more than freaked out. "Okay, that I didn't know."

"I think this is more than anyone can handle." Layla groaned, turning and leaning against Warren.

He loved that she trusted him enough to take care of her.

He especially loved the look on Stronghold's face when she did.

"Who, you and Warren? The rest of us are only sidekicks." Magenta hissed.

Stronghold sighed. "Just because someone has powers doesn't make them a hero. Sometimes it just makes them a jerk. It makes me a jerk."

Layla stiffened in his arms and turned around at that, and Warren felt his heart begin to crack again.

Fuck it all, she was going to forgive him, and forget all about Warren.

Stronghold went on. "Layla, I'm so sorry. I never meant anything that's happened these last few weeks."

Warren braced himself for the blow.

"And in case my homecoming date ends up killing me tonight," Stronghold just didn't know when to fucking stop did he? "I just want you to know-"

No. Please no. NO.

"No Will. No." Layla's voice echoing his exact thoughts startled him, and he watched as she took a step back, away from her former best friend and crush.

What the fuck was she doing?

Apparently Stronghold had no more of a clue than she did. "W-what?"

"I said no. I-" Layla cut herself off, then continued. "I'm in love with Warren, okay?"

Warren fully believed he was dreaming. There was not another explanation for this fuckery.

"Please tell me you're joking." Stronghold said weakly.

Layla turned her head to stare up at Warren, and he got lost in her gray eyes. "No. I'm not joking."

"I love you too," he whispered, feeling his heart speed up at her declaration and his own words, not caring he was in front of bunch of her- okay, their- friends, and he leaned down to kiss her-

"Isn't that sweet? I hate sweet," Penny snapped from behind them, standing between Lash and Speed.

"You guys are involved in this too? Why am I not surprised?" Stronghold asked, glaring.

Uh, weren't these his fucking friends? How the hell had he not been able to tell they were evil?

Still. It was time to take these fuck-tards down.

"Go take care of Gwen," Warren said darkly, "we'll handle these bitches."

With one last despairing look at Layla, Stronghold ran off, straight through a wall.

Show off.

Lash reached out, grabbing Magenta by the throat. "Hey there little rat. Hard to transform now, huh? Worthless. You shouldn't have even been allowed into this school."

"Maj!" Zach yelped, reaching out, catching her when Lash let her go. He pulled her back into the air vent, and Warren could hear her gasps and wheezes, and Zach trying to take care of her.

Last straw.

Warren stripped off his jacket and flamed up. Speed rushed past him, and Warren took off running.

He barely had time to register the Pennys going after his Layla. They turned in the opposite direction, towards the cafeteria.

He remembered how fierce and strong she could be, though, and decided not to worry too much.

Speed stopped at the end of the hall, and zoomed around in zig-zag patterns and circles. "Come on, hit me!"

Warren through some fire and missed. Speed was just so damn fast.

"Right here!" Speed cackled, then moved out of the way again.

He zoomed past and Warren went running after him again, back the way they had come. He barely had time to see Ethan emerge from the bathroom (vaguely he wondered what had happened to Lash) when Ethan melted and Speed went skidding.

Warren through a fireball one more time, one of his largest yet, and it hit Speed straight in the back. He went hurtling through a wall, and continued to flame.

Warren smirked, approaching Ethan. "Fuck yeah, Popsicle."

They bumped fists.

Warren could see the use in having hero support.

He heard Layla's heels clicking before he saw her. He raced back through the halls and met her where they conjoined.

She raced to him, and he held her tight against her. She was safe. "Hey," he breathed, kissing her. He noticed the glass in her hair, cutting into her shoulders, and began picking it out.

"Come on, there's no time for that. We need to get to Principal Powers' office," Layla grabbed his hand and drug him along behind her.

"What, why?"

"Because we need a map to the antigravity device. Royal Pain sabotaged it, we have ten minutes until we start falling." She summarized.

He started to run.

They hit the door head-on, Warren blasting right through it. They scourged the cabinets and finally found what they were looking for- the internal map of the school.

They found Ethan, and ran back to the vent together. "Zach, Maj!"

They crawled, out, Magenta still seeming shaken. Layla explained once again and laid the map out on the floor.

Warren leaned against the wall, keeping watch, while they tried to come up with a plan.

"Here's the antigravity room," Layla pointed.

"Didn't Royal Pain seal off every route?" Magenta pointed out.

"Hey, what about this?" Ethan pointed.

Zach snorted. "Yeah right, you'd have to be like a rat to fit in there."

Everyone instantly looked at Magenta. She winced and averted her gaze. "Don't use that word."

Zach's eyes widened in understanding and he reached out, drew her to him, kissed her on the forehead. It was about time he stepped up. He'd been drooling after her since Day One. "C'mon, Maj, You're the only one who can do this."

After a moment's hesitation (What choice did she fucking have?) she nodded.

Warren really hoped Stronghold was as capable of fighting as the Commander. He and Layla were racing through the halls, trying to find him and Royal Pain.

They followed the sound of fighting back to the gym, now empty of babies and barricades.

"Will!" Layla called when she saw him pinning Royal Pain down.

He glanced up, and Royal Pain hit him hard, sending him flying backwards and crashing through the window.

"No!" Layla yelped.

Warren stood there stunned. He basically hated Stronghold, but he had never wanted to see him actually die.

(Well, okay. Maybe he'd wanted that once or twice. At his hands.)

"And there goes your last chance at stopping me," Royal Pain announced.

"We'll see about that," Layla snarled, taking several steps forward. Warren held her back. He couldn't lose her.

Surprisingly, she stopped mid-step, and that's when Warren noticed that Stronghold was hovering outside the window, flying.

Fucking figured. (Still, he couldn't help but feel a little relieved. He told himself it was for Layla's sake.)

"Surprised?" He called. "Yeah, so am I."

"You're flying?" Royal Pain gasped. "That's impossible."

Stronghold surged forward, grabbing her and carrying her upwards, then dropping her and hitting her as hard as she'd struck him. Her helmet went flying off and she laid motionless.

For a beat everything was still, and then Stronghold was up and running to grasp Layla in a bone crushing hug and she returned it, and Warren couldn't even find it in himself to be angry, but he still tried to pull Layla away while clapping Will on the back-

And then the floor dropped out from under him.

Layla shrieked and grabbed onto Warren. "The school is falling!"

"Oh God, if we make it out of this I'm going to kill Magenta," Warren groaned, and gathered Layla to him.

They could hear Ethan and Zach screaming out in the hall, and Warren just wished desperately that the free-fall feeling in the pit of his stomach would go away.

He would never admit it, but he was more terrified than he'd ever been in his entire life.

Layla clutched at him, and he held her tighter.

It wasn't fair. They were going to die before he even got to make love to her.

"Warren," she cried, and it was then he realized she was sobbing.

He knew they only had a few precious seconds left.

He gritted his teeth and held her tighter, pressed a kiss to her forehead.

He loved her so much.

He couldn't help but think of his mother, all alone when he was dead, splattered across the destroyed gym floor like a bug.

And just like that, it was over.

They stopped falling.

Slowly, they started rising, and Warren couldn't stop shaking.

"Oh my God," Layla whimpered, their hold on each other just as tough as it had been when they were falling.

"Holy fucking shit, mother of Jesus," Warren gasped.

They laid there on the floor together until they stopped moving, and even then, it took effort to peel themselves from their spots.

Then Ethan, Zach, and Magenta came running in.

Anger licked its way through Warren. "Took you fucking long enough!"

"I'm sorry!" Magenta squeaked.

Layla hugged her, and Zach and Ethan clapped Warren on the back.

Will came flying back in. "Ron Wilson needs us, but first we should probably take care of Royal Pain and her posse."

They decided to put them all in the detention room until Principal Powers was back to herself and could decide what to do.

They unloaded all the babies, and then stood around awkwardly.

"Um… Now what?" Layla asked.

"Perhaps I could be of assistance," a small voice piped up.

Yep. Warren was officially done with school functions.

After everyone was back to normal, Principal Powers called all the students and faculty back into the gym. "I think it's only fair we let the students continue their night! School will be out all of next week, however; we need to make repairs."

The assembled teenagers cheered.

The group looked at each other, standing in the back corner. "I really just wanna get out of here," Magenta muttered.

"Me too," Layla nodded.

"I've had enough excitement to last me a long time!" Ethan yawned, rubbing a hand over his face.

"I don't wanna leave you alone," Warren frowned, brushing a curl off of Layla's neck.

He never wanted to let her out of his sight again.

"I don't want to leave any of you guys," Zach said.

"I have an idea." Will said. "Layla, is your mom still up for hosting sleepovers?"

Layla smiled slowly. "I think so."

"Hang on," Will held up a finger and then went to his parents. After a few minutes of talking, he came back. "They said they could call all of our parents. They don't think we should be split up after everything that's happened tonight, either."

Looked like Warren would be spending the night with a bunch of sidekicks, his former arch enemy, now tolerated friend/enemy, and girlfriend.

He could think of worse ways.

Layla's mother had seemed delighted to have a house full of teenagers.

She seemed especially delighted to get to know Warren.

Layla's father, however, had made a not-so-subtle threat. Layla had cracked up. Warren had grumbled under his breath and made sure to be extra polite when he was in the room.

Waking up next to her in the morning, though, with her tucked safely underneath his arm, was so worth it.

His mother had loved Layla's parents, and he figured that could've gone worse. Even the Strongholds were civil, telling his mother how good a kid Warren was.

He didn't exactly want to conform to that label.

They bowed out of the barbeque the parents had planned early that night.

Warren finally had Layla all to himself, and he wasn't about to pass the opportunity up. They kissed their way from the driveway to the living room, and he was filled with so much longing he began to think the couch was just as good as the bed.

Her tongue rubbed against his, and she slid his shirt up and over his head. She sighed and traced every part of his chest, stomach, arms. He shuddered underneath her touch.

"I love you," he whispered raggedly. She had to know that before they went any farther.

It struck him suddenly that when he though of sex with Layla, he called it making love and not fucking.

"I love you too," she breathed back.

His fingers slid up under her shirt, teased around her belly button. She moaned and arched her back (God, he loved her noises), then kissed down his neck, across his collar bone.

His hand trailed down to squeeze her ass, then he hiked her leg over his hip. She brought her mouth back to his.

He picked her up and carried her upstairs to his room. Her shirt got lost somewhere, and then her jeans, and then his jeans, and suddenly there was nothing but skin on skin, delicious touches and moans and friction and pleading and ecstasy and pain and declarations of love and ivy growing and tiny bursts of flame moving up and down their entwined bodies.

And the sparks Layla created were his whole life.

Sorry about the wait everyone! What do you think? Review!