Words: 17,872 • Date: May-20-2019

Dunstan was running late to his date with his girlfriend again, and now he has to come up with a reason for being so. He can’t tell her that he was busy saving the world, right?

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Notes:

This story was first published on Oct 15, 2015.
You will be reading the updated version, dated May 18, 2019.

For Papa –
you were really bad at the secret identity thing.
everyone knew you were a superhero.

Late Luck (A Short Story)

prologue

Dunstan was fifteen minutes late and running.

Actually, he was also approximately fifteen minutes away from his destination, so by the time he gets there, his girlfriend would have been waiting for him for half an hour.

As he sat in the bus, held up by traffic, all he could do was regret his decision to take public transportation instead of straight up flying towards the meeting place. He could have avoided this. He could have made it… well, not on time, but less late, at least.

As it stood, there was nothing much he could do. He took out his phone, typing a message:

[[ ‘still in the bus. light traffic eta 15 mins. really sorry for this so if theres anything u wanna do aft dinner its on me i promise.’ ]]

Sent. He just hoped he wouldn’t get ditched, although he wouldn’t hold that against her. Nope. He had this coming.

He didn’t get to see the reply though, because suddenly there was a barrel of a gun pressed against the side of his head and he was being roughly hauled to his feet by the collar and-

“HANDS UP OR THIS KID IS DEAD!”

Dunstan let out a huff of breath, then rolled his eyes.

‘Oh come on, I’ve got a date to get to!’

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Late Luck

There was a bet. It was a stupid bet. It was a bet between which basketball team would win that one big basketball game. Games? He wasn’t sure. He doesn’t remember anymore.

Dunstan wasn’t even a big basketball fan.

Really, he was just tired from an adventure with his partner early in the morning, chasing down a freakin’ armored vehicle with stolen cash from a bank all the way across town, all before first class. He had to fly his fastest, and by the time a friend challenged him to a bet, he didn’t think much about it and blurted out his dad’s and granddad’s team. Maybe there’s a reasoned his family rallied behind that team.

He should have paid attention when he agreed that the loser does whatever the winner orders them to.

Of course, as these things always go, Dunstan lost the bet.

Still, he was tired and at his wit’s end. He only said, “Whatever.”

He shouldn’t have let that go so easily, either.

The dare was cruel. The dare was bordering on bullying, really.

His jerk friend told him to ask one of the cheerleading girls out on a date.

Dunstan looked to his other friends, then. They were grinning, expectant. He lost the bet. They wanted him to do this. Ask a cheerleader.

Which. Uh. Not cool.

Dunstan was not the most popular guy in campus. He didn’t even belong to a club. He used to go with the karate club but he quit the previous year because he wasn’t that into it anyway and because his commute time to and from home got longer.

And cheerleaders… well. He doesn’t believe that high school is everything those shitty movies make it out to be, nor does he think cheerleaders are just stuck-up holier-than-thou pretty girls. But he was pretty much a no-face who had no desire whatsoever to be more “visible”. It helped with his cover.

But then again, he just had to… try.

Right?

“What if I get dumped?” he asked his jerk friends whom he will probably stop being friends with real soon, because he was definitely gonna get dumped, for sure.

They sniggered at him. Ah. So the goal here was to get dumped. Fine then. He’ll just ask and get dumped, right away. He won’t be upset because there were no expectations in the first place. Not like he legit wanted a date. No hard feelings, right?

So he just did it for the hell of it, so they’ll leave him alone. Get it over with.

That afternoon, he stood by the lockers with his friends behind him, said ‘to hell with it’ and approached the first girl he saw wearing a cheerleading uniform.

It turned out to be the girl with the perfect full bangs and long straight hair dyed pink. She was memorable from their routines, mainly because of the colored hair and the fact that she was among the taller girls on the squad. Her features were stunning too, bright narrow eyes and a stunning smile.

So yeah, tall pretty girl with pink hair and pink lips, with the sensible bag and huge binder and everything – totally out of his league, there’s no way she’ll say ‘yes’ so perfect choice, Dunstan!

He stopped beside her and was about to call her attention when she shut her locker door and then turned to leave-…

…and suddenly they were face to face.

Dunstan mentally noted that she’ll probably be taller than him if she wore heels.

What was her name again? Shit, he didn’t know oh God he didn’t think of that oh noooo what was he supposed to say here okay whatever let’s go just say something, anything-

“Um, hi uhhhh- Hi.” – ooh good going, great she’ll dump him for sure.

She blinked her dark brown eyes at him, furrowed her brows and looked him up and down. “Hello. Do we share any class?”

“Err, no-“

She nodded. “Okay… How may I help you?”

“Ah, I-… uh.” – He really didn’t know her name, huh.

He took a quick glance around and caught sight of the binder she was holding. He was grateful for his quick reading skills. “Yu… Yuki. Is it… okay if I call you that?”

“Mm-hm.” she nodded again, smiling expectantly. He almost felt guilty because she seemed like a very pleasant person.

“I, um. I’m Dunstan. Senior.” he said quickly, and with nothing better to do, he held out his hand. She blinked once but took it just as quickly.

Did people still shake hands? Dammit. Dunstan, you idiot, wow.

As they shook hands, he just got straight to the point. “And… um, I know you don’t really know me, but… uh, would you perhaps want to… go. Out? With me? On… On a date?”

There. He almost sighed in relief. ‘There we go, hardest part over! Now dump me.

She stared at him.

She stared for approximately three seconds before looking around to see if anyone was looking at them, then stared at him again.

He idly wondered what was taking her so long to reject him. Dunstan waited for her to step back and shout a big ‘NOPE’ and then maybe go on a rant about why she shouldn’t go out with him.

But instead, she asked, “What, like, today?”

That took him aback. That wasn’t a ‘no’. What is happening. The correct answer to his question was ‘no’.

He’s tongue tied but she was looking at him with honest, curious eyes. He had to wing his answer, speaking really slowly.

“Uhhhh… no? Like, maybe… on… a weekend? I… I mean, this weekend?”

She looked him up and down again. He wondered how she thought of him then, a regular-looking dude with short messy-ish hair wearing a worn-out hoodie of an old sports team paired with torn pants and plain scruffy black chucks.

He didn’t look very impressive.

Finally she shook her head. There it was – “Yeah, can’t do that.” – but before he can breathe a sigh of relief and say ‘cool yeah ok thanks bye’, she continued, “Got somewhere to be this Saturday, and Sunday’s family day. But I can go Friday night, if you don’t mind much. Although we really can’t stay up too late.”

She-… Huh.

She wasn’t rejecting him. He hadn’t considered that she might actually say ‘yes’ and now here she was, suggesting the actual date. This wasn’t in the plan. She was supposed to dump him and then he’ll pretend to be a bit dejected but when he goes back to his friends he’ll glare at them and probably say ‘she said no. happy?’ and then they’d have a good laugh at how pathetic he is and-

What the HELL? Dunstan stopped his inner monologue, because he realized that THAT was really shitty of these so-called friends of his, actually.

They made him ask a girl out because they were so sure that he’ll be rejected? Like he can’t get a date?

Those jerks.

Well, this will show ’em.

With newfound confidence (or maybe simply out of spite) Dunstan mustered up a smile and replied, “Friday night’s great, actually.”

“Alright.” she smiled again this time. “But… can we maybe make it a ‘friends’ thing first? You said it, we don’t really know each other, but I’m a transfer so I don’t really know that many people in general. Maybe we can just get dinner or something and talk a bit, hang out? Not that I think you have any ill intentions, you look like a cool guy, it’s just I think my parents will flip when they find out it’s a ‘date’ date right away. Is that… is that cool?”

That was actually… really sensible. And it sounded safe.

For a girl who agreed to go out with a guy she didn’t actually know, she knew what she was doing. He kinda thanked his luck that he asked this specific girl out. She didn’t reject him, but didn’t want to jump into something potentially romantic, either. If anything, she was just eager to make a friend.

He can do that. Friends are nice.

If they don’t go anywhere past this first date-slash-friend-dinner-thingy, he’ll be happy enough to have hung out with this cool pink-haired Japanese (because he’s watched enough anime to know that her name was Japanese) girl.

Next thing he knew, they were exchanging numbers. Then after that, she had to go so she said she’ll see him around and then she was walking away, her pink ponytail swinging like a pendulum behind her head.

When he turned to his shitty friends, he smirked and raised his phone, shrugged, and then told them he had somewhere else to be.
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*

It was Wednesday when he asked her and she said ‘yes’. The same night, she texted him asking for his Facebook, then she added him to her friends list. They talked online a bit after finding out about some mutual friends. On Thursday, they bumped into each other by the lockers where Dunstan though it appropriate to carry her books for her as he walked her to her next class and she graciously accepted the assistance she very clearly didn’t need. He thought it was just right to show her that she’ll be hanging out with a pretty decent guy on Friday night.

By Friday night, Dunstan had resolved to just be himself as much as possible. The least he could do for bothering this girl who wasn’t even in his plans three days ago was to be honest with her, he thought. He went to school as he normally would.

It was just a ‘friends’ thing, so they didn’t go for anything fancy. Instead they settled for a family restaurant some blocks away from the school. Yuki insisted that they pay for their own orders, and no matter how many times he said that he’ll take care of it, she had her way anyway.

Over dinner, he learned quite a lot about her.

Yuki was a senior like him. She was half-Japanese, from her mom’s side. Her parents were separated, but were in good terms. She transferred to their school as she just moved in with her dad, her stepmom and her younger half-brother because her mother had to go back to Japan to take care of Yuki’s sick grandmother. Yuki would have gone with her mom but that meant she would have to quit senior year and transfer to Japan where they have a different system, so she chose to stay.

She had a good relationship with her dad’s new family, and the next day they’ll be going to her half-brother’s Little League game. That was the reason why her Saturday wasn’t open.

Her hair was pink… for kicks. That’s why she didn’t mind the black roots. There was no big reason behind the pastel-colored hair in the first place so when it fades or when the time comes to get a haircut, she’ll just roll with it. She was a cheerleader in her previous school and wanted things to stay the same as much as possible so she also attended the tryouts after her transfer.

She knits for a hobby. Besides that, she was pretty packed with school, cheer and the gym.

Dunstan shared a bit with her too. He was a pretty normal guy, he liked watching some sports mostly with his grandfather, but he liked cooking with his grandma and aunt, who were both chefs. His mother and father were charity and relief volunteers, usually on humanitarian operations helping marginalized communities away from home, so he lived with his grandparents and a single aunt. They got along well too.

He lived in the next town over but they only had a private school in there so he went to this high school instead. He used to be in karate club but now he’s in the go-home-after-school team, what with his long commute time.

He omitted the part where he was also one half of the duo of the town’s local superpowered vigilantes.

Masked flying superheroes were pretty normal nowadays, yeah – but it might be too much for the getting-to-know-you stage.

Finally, when she asked him why he wanted to ask her out on a date, he told her the truth.

“I lost a bet to my shitty friends and as a consequence I had to ask a cheerleader out on a date. They wanted to see me get dumped. I wanted to get it over with. I saw you first and thought a girl like you would dump me in like one second flat so I went ahead and asked you.”

She looked at him open-mouthed for a minute and he felt the need to say, “True story. And I’m really sorry if that was such a jerk thing to do, and if you wanna punch me, please proceed.”

Then she laughed, and he found himself laughing with her.

Yuki’s laugh was pleasant, and she could hardly catch her breath when she said, “Sorry for disappointing you then!” before giggling into her hand again.

“Trust me, I internally freaked out when you said you’ll go because that wasn’t in my plans.” he said, snorting a bit, letting slip what he knew was a stupid-looking smile. “I didn’t think I’d get this far.”

Yuki laughed again. “So you just, what, found me a pretty enough cheerleader and you thought I’d probably be a snob so you approached me to get rejected?”

“Yes.” he said truthfully. “Wait. No. I didn’t think you’d be a snob. I just thought you’re… uh. Out of my league, I guess? It was a low self-esteem day for me. You’re just. Really pretty. You always look, like, really sensible.”

She sent him a small appreciative smile, which turned to a smirk. “You know, you’re chill, for a guy who came in with everything to lose and the intent to lose that everything.”

“For the record, I don’t regret you saying yes. It’s-… you’re pretty cool. And-” he cut himself off abruptly, taking his next words into consideration. “-this is a ‘friend’ thing, right?”

“Uh-huh.” she nodded, keeping her smile on as she rested her chin on her hands to listen to him.

“Okay, so. This is all… really nice, certainly nicer than I thought it’d be ’cause I originally thought I’ll just end up in your jar of hearts or something after askin’ you.”

“Jar of hearts. Wow.” she chuckled, then nodded to signal him to go on.

“Actually, when I didn’t get a no, I decided to own up because I just… y’know, it just clicked in my head that my jerk friends didn’t expect me to actually get a date, I mean how pathetic do they think I am?”

She huffed, considering. “Oh, they’re kinda jerks alright.”

“I was kinda worried about what to do, but you said you want to go spend Friday night with a friend and I thought that’d be nice ’cause you’re… well, you’re cool. Y’know, pink hair.”

“Pink hair.” she laughed a bit. “You really think I’m cool?”

“Are you kidding? You look like an anime character and you can probably do backflips.”

“Three consecutive plus one unassisted.”

He gaped. “Yo.”

“You’re cool too.” she soothed. “You go show those jerk friends of yours. So you really didn’t ask me out because you like me or anything?”

“Nope, but I stand by what I said, really. You’re pretty and you weren’t a snob. Also, I thought it was really smart, being game like that but setting your expectations quickly like, you really told me you’re not open to dating right away but you’re cool with the idea of hanging out as friends without the whole stupid couple date implications.”

She narrowed her eyes. “If I accepted your date request right away and wanted the full romance treatment, what would you have done?”

“I’d probably have backed out.” he admitted. “Sorry. But I can’t do that to anyone.”

“Do what?”

“Give them that treatment? Make them think I’m into them when I really just wanna get jerk friends off my back. Y’know, that’d be using them.”

She nodded, this time looking down at her empty plate with a wistful smile on her face. “That’s very nice of you. It makes me feel better that I agreed to go out with you tonight.”

“Hey, you’re half of that.” he said with an encouraging smile. “Reminds me, though. What made you not dump me?”

She smiled a little giddy smile this time. “Well, you’re the first guy to ask me this school year who’s not from the football or basketball or cheerleading team.”

“That shouldn’t surprise you. They’re your usual crowd, right?”

“Yes, but more than that – you’re the first one to agree to go out as friends first and actually take it seriously.” she said simply.

That made him pause. “What? Are you-… Sorry. For real?

“All the others, when I tell them that I want to do that, that I want to just hang out a bit before going to the serious dating thing…” She looked down, brows furrowed. “One told me that he doesn’t see the point. Another one said that I just want to monopolize them until I feel comfy enough. And saving the best for last, this little shit told me that I’m an entitled bitch who can’t make up her mind.”

Dunstan could only stare at her, feeling offended himself, on her behalf. He tried to come up with something to say that’s not as harsh, because while she didn’t seem too upset, he knew those experiences must have been unpleasant.

“That’s terrible. How-… They’re… wow. I don’t even-… Good of you to turn them down, dude.”

She nodded, appreciative. “And the one that actually agreed to it, it was almost okay, but after the meal he said, ‘How long are you testing me?’ and I’m like, no shit. I already said no to the dating thing. I came so we can be friends. I don’t test my friends. I hang out with my friends, and have fun with them, but I don’t test them for dating. I mean, how do you even do that?”

Dunstan snorted, unimpressed. “Maybe he thinks that something’ll happen when you laugh together and you suddenly find your faces so close and then you want to kiss…”

She laughed. “I hate those scenes. So. Much! In movies! In… in everything!”

He smiled. “Forget those jerks, Yuki. You’re better off without ’em.”

“And am I better off with you?” she asked, knowing smile on her face.

“I feel like that’s a trick question.”

She beamed. “It is a trick question.”

He found himself tongue-tied, and was thankful when she laughed and told him that he didn’t need to answer that.
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*

They were friends for another two months.

It was easy, they clicked together nicely somehow.

Dunstan was still kinda pissed with his jerk friends so he hung out with another group who were in the same classes as him, or with Yuki and her crowd during breaks. It helped that he had been friendly with and had shared some classes with her friends: a guy from the cheerleading squad, and two other girls who were in the glee club.

He invited her to his aunt’s barbecue and his family liked her very much, saying something about Dunstan never really bringing friends over since he lived out of town.

Finally, one normal afternoon after going with her to shop for a birthday present for her brother, she asked him if he would like to go out with her. On a date. Because she was sort of starting to like him that way, so maybe they could try it out.

He said he’d think about it. She accepted his answer easily and simply let him drive her home.

That was when Dunstan decided he finally needed backup.

So he called the backup. The phone rang once before it was picked up, and he didn’t even get to greet because the person at the other end of the call was already talking at the speed of light.

What is it where are you I’m on my way lemme just put on the costume-”

Before his partner could dress up and teleport to him he saw it fit to speak up and calm his poor panicked fellow superhero down. “Good evening to you too, bud.”

It’s not an emergency?”

“Nope. Just checking on you.”

Huh. I’m doin’ fine. I know you don’t love me this much to just check up on me, though. What’s this call really about?”

“Hey, I do care, kid. But okay, yeah, I have to talk to you ’bout something.”

Please don’t tell me you’re quitting, I don’t want to split up and then go Beyonce, I mean I want to be as fab as Queen B of course but I’m not ready yet!”

Yep. Dunstan’s partner got all the extra.

“No, we’re not splitting up. I’m still in the team. It’s just… err… see, I… It’s just, I’m planning to. Uh. There’s this girl-“

Wait. Stop. Where are you are you? Are in your bedroom?”

“Yeah, wha-” Dunstan stopped mid-word because suddenly someone was sitting on his bed with him. He looked to his guest, unimpressed. “Really, Ez?”

“Okay, I’m here. Dish.”

Ezra – the Chance to his Luck, the teleportation to his flight, the super-smarts, telekinesis and shield powers to balance out Dunstan’s brute force and agility – was just sixteen, a freshman. If Dunstan were to describe him, he’ll say ‘artsy nerd Tinkerbell’. When they stood together, Ezra barely reached his shoulder – he was that small. He had immaculate blonde hair with both sides shaved although he let the longer shoulder-length locks fall freely to one side only. His eyes were big and round, covered by thick-rimmed glasses. He was wearing yellow-and-black striped pajamas so he looked like a giant bumblebee, only one that was hugging a big brown teddy bear.

He was cute in that artsy hipster kid kind of way, if you’re into those sort of stuff. Dunstan had known the kid for a year, tops, but he was already the sweetest cuddliest friend Dunstan ever had.

But he didn’t actually want said kid sitting on his bed tonight and looking very eager for juicy gossip, no.

“You really had to be here while I… dish?”

“You know it.” Ezra beamed. “So. You have a girlfriend?”

“No.” Dunstan rolled his eyes. “Well, yeah. I mean, I’ve got this girl and we hang out a lot and we’re thinking of dating for serious and I really like her so it’s more like, I’m about to get a girlfriend.”

“That’s nice. How sure are you?”

“She asked me outright.”

“That’s not what I asked.” Ezra shook his head. “How sure are you?”

“Me? I’m-… that’s what we need to talk about.” Dunstan said, sighing as he rubbed his temples.

Ezra raised an eyebrow. “What do we need to talk about it for? Don’t worry, I won’t get all jealous superhero partner-person.”

“Not worried about that. It’s just… do you think we can afford it?”

“Afford what?”

“Dating someone, while doing this superhero thing.”

“Why not?”

“You know what happens to people who’re close to guys like us, right?”

Ezra stared at him for a full five seconds before he asked, “What, you’re afraid you’ll go Peter-and-Gwen?”

Dunstan sighed, but couldn’t help but nod.

The kid shrugged at him. “You read too much comics. Our cover’s strong, no one knows we’re Luck and Chance.”

“Yet.” the older teen said, skeptic.

Ezra nodded at that sagely. “Yet, so keep it up. Don’t get busted by your girlfriend. It’s good for cover too, y’know. You’re an ordinary guy with a normal life including your family and girlfriend and friends. Can’t possibly be a superhero, with all these people who know you. As long as you don’t spill, it’ll be fine.”

Dunstan considered that.

Their counterparts were Luck and Chance, two teenage masked (or more like sunglasses-wearing, or maybe those can be considered goggles? Whatever.) superpowered heroes. Most kids think they were cool. They had simple, catchy names which weren’t tacky like Powerdude or Topaz Tornado or Dr. Vanilla or Stabslug or god forbid, Songscream. (They haven’t recovered from that one team-up.) They didn’t go for the usual spandex suits, just stylized hoodies, with matching shirts and pants, and strong sturdy boots. Luck was the taller dude in the black and blue and silver; Chance the small one in the white, red and gold. Ezra’s work. They were a strong duo: good teamwork, a nice bond.

They’ve got at least one town covered, three at most. There were other masked heroic vigilantes doing little stuff here and there, anyway. It was a thing. Sometimes towns even consider them local attractions. The police let them be as long as they don’t cause too much destruction. When they do, it was unavoidable, and they just make sure that the criminals or the villains survive just enough to receive the bill for the economic damage.

They do good. For Ezra, who was just a naturally sweet kid with an adventurous streak, it was like a game, but he values the importance of what they do. For Dunstan, who was a natural pacifist, the responsibility of being the brute force half of the duo was heavy at first, but he took it with grace under pressure. His parents were out there, helping people. He didn’t see why he couldn’t do the same, just in a different way.

That night, Ezra badgered some more details from Dunstan: who the girl was, what she was like, why Dunstan liked her… When he started yawning, Dunstan, who was the older kid in the room, sternly told him to go to bed. Ezra just pouted and then bid him goodnight before leaving just as quickly as he arrived, blinking out.

Sometimes Dunstan envied the boy’s power, but what the hell, he could fly. That was cool too.

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*

Being Yuki’s boyfriend was… easy.

Almost too easy, Dunstan thought.

She never really demanded too much of his time, independent as she was. She was very easy to talk to, and had all her priorities sorted to boot.

Dates after school? Only during Friday nights because the rest of the nights she was either tired from practice or she wanted to go straight home to do homework.

Weekends? Sure, but neither every nor all weekend, and just within the reasonable hours of the night.

She didn’t need him to walk her to all her classes and carry things for her everytime. So he didn’t, he just helped when she asked or when she really needed it, like carrying big props for a presentation, or holding her bag while she had to scribble something quick on her planner.

She didn’t call or text too much. It was him who always offered to drive her home when he had his aunt’s car with him. She always accepted happily, but never asked for joyrides or impromptu stopovers.

He had… no complaints, amazingly. Some of his friends always whined about how annoying their girlfriends are (and Dunstan just wondered why they just don’t break up if they really couldn’t stand each other) but he found himself without any problems.

At first he thought it was him – that Yuki was just being considerate, too shy or modest to ask things of him and that he did nothing to ensure her that she can ask for more. But they were friends first, and that just… wasn’t her.

Dunstan told her this, and she just laughed it off and assured him that he was doing fine. Really. He’s a good, reliable boyfriend. Whenever she needed help with something, or company for somewhere, or simply when she wanted some time together, she felt comfortable asking him.

Idly, he decided that she was perfect.

That didn’t mean, however, that Dunstan was also perfect. Far from it. Sometimes when they were together, hanging out somewhere, he would have to run because he needed to be Luck. There were dates or meetups he was late to because he got held up by trouble. There were invitations he had to pass up on because he had to go do superhero work.

Here’s the worst part: he became kind of an expert on inventing excuses. He wasn’t even cheating (the worst case) or preparing a surprise for her (the best case) like the manual to a romantic relationship would typically indicate.

He was just… superhero-ing.

Sorry, traffic, there was an accident.” (An accident which needed superhero assistance to recover from.)

I gotta go with gran to the doctor’s for her regular check-up.” (Had to escort the police in sending a superpowered idiot to superpower prison. He almost destroyed half the city, you see.)

I promised auntie we’re cooking together tonight!” (Had to prevent the municipal hall and everyone in it from being toast.)

Havin’ a study group with some of my classmates.” (Chance thought something fishy was going on somewhere and I wasn’t about to let the reckless kid go alone.)

Class project, I spent all night working on it and slept in.” (Translation: ‘On the way here there was an explosion at the other side of town and I had to go check.’)

There was this lady with like five children with her so I told her they can take my place in the bus.” (This one was actually true, but they weren’t the primary reason he was late. They didn’t make him late. Them being hostaged in that bus made him late.)

I gotta run, grandpa called sayin’ my cousin’s over at our house!” (Ezra called, he needs backup.)

Not really feeling so good right now, must’ve eaten something bad from the cafeteria – ugh, this is why I prefer my packed lunches!” (Or: ‘Sorry babe there’s a freakin’ riot downtown and they said a bunch of guys showed up with bazookas. BAZOOKAS.’)

Then there were the injuries. Dunstan had superior regeneration, but that always took a toll on him so sometimes he just let the injuries stay and heal in the normal pace.

That meant that Yuki saw them.

That meant coming up with reasons for them.

Burnt my hand cooking.” (BUILDING ON FIRE)

Helped this kid from some terrible bullies.” (GOT PUNCHED BY ANOTHER SUPER)

Slipped on something while climbing down the stairs.” (PUNCHED THE OTHER SUPER TOO HARD)

Ran into a post.” (ALMOST GOT CRUSHED BY DEBRIS)

Cut myself with cutter for the class project.” (SUCCESSFULLY CRUSHED THE DEBRIS THEN FORGOT TO AVOID THE DEBRIS OF THE DEBRIS)

He was lucky that his excuses always worked. Yuki always seemed to understand every single time. Sometimes she frowned and looked visibly disappointed, but that was as far as she went. She was always quick to nod and let him go. For the injuries, of course she looked worried, but accepted his answers just as well.

She must think that he was simply clumsy. Unfortunate and clumsy.

She was a saint.

One time, he apologized for always running off or being late or canceling. They were sitting by the bleachers then, while the cheer squad was on break.

Yuki only raised an eyebrow at him and then chuckled. “Why would I be mad at you?”

He shrugged, looking down. She was playing with his hand, poking wordlessly at the multicolored band-aids in his fingers. Those were courtesy of Ezra. “Well, I’m ruining ‘us’ time.”

“It’s really okay.” she reassured. “You have your reasons, right?”

That was when they noticed most of the other students around them fussing over their phones and tablets, and a particular group huddled over a laptop. More people were gathering towards the group, all of them talking all at once.

“Hey, what’s happening?” Yuki asked someone passing by.

The other teen answered, “Live tweets and footage! Somethin’ ’bout a truck flying?” before running with the others.

“What?” Yuki asked, blinking, but Dunstan was already on his phone, searching the news, looking for the tweets.

“Oh, hell.” he said. “There’s a freakin’ truck hovering over the primary school, what the fuck. That’s sick.”

At the same time, he received a message from Ezra.

[[ ‘u hear bout the truck and school? tweets. urgent im going’ ]]

He was sure that after a quick costume change, Ezra would be in the scene. The kid can teleport, he was the faster of the two of them.

Dunstan sent a reply quickly: [[ ‘omw’ ]]

“Um, Yuki…” He wracked his brain for an excuse, but before he could come up with a decent one, Yuki beat him to it.

“I gotta go. Emergency.”

He looked at her, blinking. “W-What?”

She said, “Lisa.”

“Lisa? What’s with-“

She had already stood up. “No time. Lady emergency.”

“Oh. Ohhh. Okay okay yeah, sure. Go.”

“We gotta run. See you ’round, D.”

She dropped a kiss on his forehead and quickly grabbed her bag and ran towards one of the other cheerleaders.

He wished her the best of luck with whatever Lisa’s lady emergency was.

As for the flying truck, whatever the deal with that is, he himself was all the Luck they needed.

Okay, lame pun. I should stop.’

.
.
.

*

Yuki got very busy with cheer. Dunstan got very busy with his extracurricular vigilante gig. It came to a point where they were only able to spend a grand total of ten minutes with each other for two entire weeks.

To make it up to her, he asked her if she wanted to get a nice dinner Saturday night. Just some quality time, just the two of them. They both needed a break, something nice after working so hard, after a long exhausting week.

Yuki stared at him and then grabbed his face and planted a sweet, take-your-breath-away kiss to his lips.

“Thank you, I’d love that so much.”

He had to take several moments to gather himself, but he managed, in the end.

He grinned. “It’s a date.”

***

He looked forward to the date. He looked forward to it very, very much – he picked a nice but casual restaurant, asked Ezra to give him a few hours off, and even consulted his aunt about the clothes he was going to wear.

So of course, when it came time for the date, he screwed it up again.

Dunstan was fifteen minutes late and running.

Actually, he was also approximately fifteen minutes away from his destination, so by the time he gets there, his girlfriend would have been waiting for him for half an hour.

As he sat in the bus, held up by traffic, all he could do was regret his decision to take public transportation instead of straight up flying towards the meeting place. He could have avoided this. He could have made it… well, not on time, but less late, at least.

As it stood, there was nothing much he could do. He took out his phone, typing a message:

[[ ‘still in the bus. light traffic eta 15 mins. really sorry for this so if theres anything u wanna do aft dinner its on me i promise.’ ]]

Sent. He just hoped he wouldn’t get ditched, although he wouldn’t hold that against her. Nope. He had this coming.

He didn’t get to see the reply though, because suddenly there was a barrel of a gun pressed against the side of his head and he was being roughly hauled to his feet by the collar and-

“HANDS UP OR THIS KID IS DEAD!”

Dunstan let out a huff of breath, then rolled his eyes.

Oh come on, I’ve got a date to get to!’

***

Dunstan was an hour late and running.

This time though, he had given up and resorted to flying to the restaurant. Literally. He was keeping to secluded spaces and alleyways to avoid being seen, but he was flying his fastest. He should make good time.

After five minutes, he was in the dumpster at the back of his chosen restaurant, trying to fix himself as best as possible. Then he was running around the block and entering the establishment and looking frantically for his girlfriend.

It was easy to spot pink hair with black roots, especially if it belonged to a pretty girl already waving at you with a patient smile on her face. She was in a table for two near the window, a half-finished plate of food set before her.

He greeted her with an apology. “Look, Yuki I’m really sorry, I-”

“Are you alright?” she asked, cutting him off, dark eyes worried. She didn’t look angry at all, which was a good thing. “What happened? You said it was a robbery.”

He sat down across from her and smiled reassuringly. “Yeah, uh, but it’s good. It’s all good now. Told you, that superhero guy came.”

“Luck or Chance?” she followed up, grabbing him by the chin to tilt his head this way and that, checking for injuries. He let her. At this point, coming to a date an hour and five minutes late, he’d totally let her do whatever.

“Chance. He finished ’em off quickly. You know him. Them. Those two.” he said, also letting her fix his unruly hair and straighten his collar.

It was Chance. Because I’m Luck, right? Yeah I kinda not-so-accidentally tripped the bad guys to buy myself time and call my partner-in-superheroing over to deal with the mess while I escaped and then literally flew over to get to you.’

“Good.” she sighed in relief, then looked down at her food. “I’m sorry I already started, you said I should go ahead and start but I really was going to wait for you! I just… got hungry.”

“No way, don’t apologize, it’s-… it’s my fault for running late, really. I’m the one who should be sorry.”

Because before all that shit in the bus went down, Luck and Chance were occupied with rescuing a lotta people from a burning building. It’s a great day I’m really sorry I’m late I was BUSY SAVING THE WORLD but don’t worry please I still really want to date you.’

“It’s okay. You’re here now.” she smiled brightly.

He smiled a relieved smile back, letting out a sigh as he took her hand and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. “Thank you. Really. I… I thought you’d walk out on me or ditch me and I understand why you’d do that, but… but you’re here. Still. And I am really. Really sorry. Will never happen again. Hopefully. I’ll try my best. Swear.”

He tried to sound his sweetest. Because Best. Girlfriend. Ever.

Seriously, the girl was a saint.

She laughed. “Stop apologizing! You kept texting me where you were, I knew you were coming. Why would I ditch you? Besides, it’s great we can go out once in a while.”

He inwardly cringed at that. Yep, they hadn’t been going out much in the two months they’ve been dating.

“You should order.” she said, taking it upon herself to raise a hand to ask one of the staff for a menu.

As Dunstan received the item and began scanning through the list of dishes, he realized that he was indeed very very hungry. He made a quick choice – a full, healthy meal, relayed it to their waiter and then gave the menu back.

As they waited, Yuki talked between bites. “You said I get to pick what we do after this, right?”

“Mm-hm. Thought of anything yet?” he asked, secretly wishing she wouldn’t choose something out of his budget or too horrible for him. But maybe that’s why she was so calm? She’ll take it out on him after dinner? Good Lord, no-

“I wanna go somewhere quiet and high up and just hang out. You got a place like that?”

Oh, that wasn’t so bad. Or maybe she’ll take him there to kill him. Fine by him. He really had this coming.

He wanted to say ‘I can carry you and fly above the whole town for as long as you want.’ but he didn’t, because haha cover to maintain and all that secret identity shebang, right?

So he just said, “I can think of somewhere, I guess.”

“Excellent.” she beamed, then resumed her meal.

***

Dunstan knew a lot of places that were “quiet and high up”, as Yuki called it. He and Ezra always hung out in places like these to either regroup, rethink a strategy or just to look out at the town.

He took Yuki to the rooftop of an apartment building. It was the building where Ezra lived with his older sister and her husband, and Dunstan had been there before, so Dunstan got a pass from the doorman easily.

She sat on the edge of the rooftop, her legs dangling from the ledge as she looked out at the view of town from above. He stood beside her, enjoying the same view which was familiar to him by now.

After a while of her pointing out several lights from streets, of buildings and houses she recognized, she turned towards him.

“I don’t get to meet this nice friend of yours, the one who let us in this building?”

“Nah, he’s cool.” Dunstan shrugged. “He said he didn’t want to disturb us.”

She rolled her eyes, then leaned sidewards to nudge his shoulder with hers. “Or did you tell him not to disturb us? Because that will be such a jerk move, after he got us this spot.”

“I didn’t! He’s a sappy guy. Really volunteered to stay out of our way.”

Really?” Yuki raised an eyebrow. “That’s nice of him.”

Dunstan nodded, smiling a bit. Ezra was a nice kid. “Yeah, well… we’re bros.”

“I know a bunch of varsity bros who show off their girlfriends like they’re trophies – or worse, trading cards.” she snorted, unimpressed. “I hate that. But hey, this guy seems nice.”

He chuckled. “The kid doesn’t exactly play for my team so he wouldn’t have a girl to show off.”

“Oh.” Yuki blinked once, considering. “I still would like to meet him. And you keep calling him a kid, how old is this friend of yours?”

“Sixteen.”

“Are we getting him in trouble?”

“Nah, he’s good. Don’t worry ’bout him so much.”

“If you say so.” she finally agreed with him, then bumped his shoulder again.

At this, she accidentally hit a bruised part of his forearm. He yelped even before he could help it. “Ow!”

She whirled around to look at him. “Sorry, was that me?”

He rubbed his arm consciously, wincing a bit. “No big, just hit a sore spot. I’m fine.”

Her brows furrowed and she got down from her perch on the ledge. “Sore? Let me see.”

“It’s alright, really-”

“C’mon, take your jacket off.”

“It’s a nasty bruise.” he warned, trying to scare her off.

“I’m in cheer club, a lot of us get injured during rehearsals.”

He gave up, grudgingly slipping his jacket off, remaining in his short-sleeved top and revealing a bruised arm. He got it from the scuffle earlier that day, but he had to focus his energies on flight, so he didn’t try to heal the arm since it was neither bleeding nor broken anyway. He figured it would just go away eventually, and he always wore jackets so he knew he could hide it easily.

Not tonight, though.

Yuki touched his arm gently and frowned. “What happened? Was this because of the robbery?”

“No. I mean. Uh. Yes.”

She raised a suspecting eyebrow.

He knew better than try her. She was too smart for that. “Okay, it wasn’t from the robbery.”

“Then what was it?”

Uh-oh. He had to think of a reason. An excuse.  Fell down the stairs-… wait, he used that already. Urgh. What could he say that’ll make her believe, that makes it fine for him to be bruised-

“I recently took up boxing.”

She stared.

He stared back.

Because yeah, that was… a reason, alright.

But it would be stupid if he backed down now.

“I used to be in karate club, right? But I quit ’cause of the commute. But there’s this new gym in the town and I thought I should try to get fit. it’d be good to go on some days off. Like weekends or something.”

“O…kay? When did this happen?”

He swallowed, mustering up what he hoped was a nonchalant smile. “Oh, just recently. I meant to tell you, just… It’s not a big deal so I kinda always forget ’bout tellin’, y’know.”

“Oh.”

“And things got kinda intense last session and I used my arm to shield a punch, so. Yeah. It hurt a bit, not anymore. I’m good. Swear.”

Yuki seemed to be… confused. Shaken? Still, she just nodded quietly and helped him put his jacket back on. “Just… be more careful on these sessions of yours, okay?”

He smiled. “Only if you’re careful during cheer practice too. I heard someone sprained an ankle last week doing backflips.”

She laughed a bit and then let him pull her into a kiss.
.
.
.

*

But as Dunstan had told Ezra before – they should know by now what happens to people close to guys like them.

“Shit.”

Luck and Chance were standing on top of a heap of what used to be cars, crushed flat in the parking lot of the family restaurant where Dunstan and Yuki had their first friend-date-thing.

Half the establishment was also crushed, and they were lucky nothing had exploded yet.

Chance had his hands raised high, maintaining a shield to protect the people still inside the restaurant.

Luck stood beside his partner, hands on his sides, fisted. He growled under his breath. “Fuck.”

Chance was trying to concentrate on keeping the shield up, but he glanced at his partner anyway. “Um, what?”

“DON’T MOVE!” bellowed the voice of the attacker, a guy driving what looked like a giant vehicle-robot contraption that vaguely looked like a Transformer. It had several arms, including the ones it used to squish half the restaurant and its parking lot flat. There were also arms that looked like giant sharp knives, a chainsaw, and drill, and a clasp- “…OR THIS GIRL IS DEAD!”

Clasped in that arm, dangling high in the air, was a very familiar young woman, struggling, uselessly hitting the giant metal clasp that gripped her by the waist.

Chance gaped. “Is that…?”

“…my girlfriend, yeah. FUCK.” Luck breathed out, gritting his teeth. He saw it all happen, while Chance’s eyes were closed in concentration to build a shield big enough to protect the whole restaurant. Yuki was with her friends when the attack happened. They successfully dodged the restaurant ceiling crashing down upon them, but then when the robot bastard came to pick a hostage as if playing a crane game in the arcade, Yuki pushed someone out of the way and got herself caught.

He’d be proud if he wasn’t so worried. And angry.

Truth be told, Dunstan was kinda surprised at how he felt.

If you asked him if he loved his girlfriend, of course he would say ‘yes’. Was he in love with her, though? He really didn’t know.

She was just so easy to be with, and they got along so well because she was a very sensible, responsible girl and he was an organized guy himself. It was easy to like her. It was easy to be with her, so he never really thought about why he was with her.

He’d be worried if anyone was in her place. That’s who he was. He was a superhero, and he started on this path because he wanted to help people because he cared about people.

They had hostage situations before, and he always worried, always tried as best as he was able. All his other attention or emotions he found himself reserving for the fight.

This time though, he was not only worried, he was downright angry. He was mad at the fake transformers asshole. He was mad at how the stupid robot had its clutch on Yuki – hurting her, threatening her.

Dunstan never got angry. Except for that moment.

Chance called out to him. “Luck? Calm down. He’s got her, all the more reason to be careful because he might-”

“He shouldn’t.”

“I know. That makes him the bad guy.”

“I’ll make him pay.” Luck said, glaring behind his goggles and biting his lip as Yuki screamed because the robot’s clasp on her waist tightened.

“Luck, don’t get personal.”

“He’s hurting my girlfriend – it’s personal.”

“Fine.” Chance scoffed, but gave in because holy hell, keeping a shield that big up is draining him of everything. “Let’s make the bastard pay. But I can’t hold this forever, and you can’t go at him alone. What’s your plan?”

“Get me close, I’ll kick his tin ass in, you get Yuki out.”

Chance nodded, then braced himself. He glanced behind him to see that the civilians have successfully hidden behind debris and whatever remained of the diner. They’ll be safe enough.

“On your signal.”

Luck cracked his knuckles before nodding. “Go.”

Dropping the shield, Chance grabbed his partner’s arm and teleported them mid-air in front of the giant robot thing’s head where they took the enemy off-guard enough for Luck to land what could be his strongest punch yet.

Chance blinked out just as fast and reappeared latching on the clamp arm.

There was no time, Dunstan’s attacks were gradually throwing the robot off balance, so he reached out towards the hostaged girl. “Take my hand!”

Yuki only blinked once, aware of his powers, and quickly clutching the offered hand.

Getting people unstuck from things used to be tricky, but Chance liked experimenting so by now, he could manage alright. He blinked the both of them back to safety.

While he left Luck to finish the robot and its pilot with more force than usual, Chance helped Yuki sit up on the ground. She winced in pain, hands flying to her hip and laying back on the ground.

“Are you alright?”, he asked, worried.

“I think I broke something.” she whimpered, lifting her shirt and cringing when she saw a large bruise on the side of her waist area.

Fortunately, some of the other civilians in the area had already called the police and the hospital. Chance could hear the familiar sound of an ambulance approaching. “Hang in there. Help’s coming.”

Yuki summoned up a pained but honestly grateful smile. “Thank you.”

There was a crash, and they both turned their heads to see the robot fall in a twisted heap.

Police cars lined up as soon as they arrive, most of them helping other civilians, some talking to Luck as he surrendered the guy piloting the robot to them.

The guy was only beaten up slightly – Chance admired his partner’s self-control. Add to that the fact that he only watched as Yuki’s friends and the medics helped her into a stretcher before carrying her to the ambulance.

The restaurant owner was fuming, but the old man still thanked the duo for saving the people inside and stopping the criminal from wreaking any more havoc.

Typically, they’d wait until all the injured had been taken care of, and the police have sorted everything out. This time though, Luck placed a hand on his partner’s shoulder and tilted his head.

“Let’s go.”

Chance looked up at him and only nodded. Before his partner could ask, he teleports them away.

***

Luck sat alone on the edge of one of the higher rooftops. It didn’t take long for his partner to reappear and offer him a cold, canned soda.

Dunstan, took off Luck’s goggles-slash mask, sighing. “Thanks, man. Needed this.”

“No problem.” Ezra smiled, sitting beside his friend, nudging him with his shoulder. “You alright?”

“No. I wanted to do worse on that guy.” Dunstan said, looking down.

Ezra let out a small smile at his partner’s honesty. “I figured that. You did the right thing, stopping.”

Dunstan nodded, opening his drink and proceeding to gulp it down. He got out relatively unscathed, but he was using his regeneration powers now so he was kind of feeling a bit drained.

“You’re not going to the hospital?”

“She’ll ask me how I knew.”

“So… when are you going?”

“In a bit. I’m waiting for someone to freakin’ call or text me. Her friends she had with her, or her parents. Anyone.” he sighed. “Did it look bad?”

“It… wasn’t bleeding.” Ezra answered, voice tentative.

“So either not so bad, or really really bad, huh.”

The blonde looked down. “Sorry.”

Before Dunstan can tell his friend not to apologize, his phone rang. He looked at the caller’s name: Catalina.

Ezra watched his friend breathe a sigh of relief and mumble something about Yuki’s stepmother before answering the call, pretending to know nothing about what happened.

***

Two days after the incident, Dunstan found himself sitting on his bed in front of Ezra again. The boy wore his bumblebee pajamas again but this time he had a big furry companion with him.

“You called?” the younger teen asked, grinning.

Dunstan eyed the giant white sheepdog that now occupied half of the bed. The dog made Ezra look all the smaller, but he was calm and didn’t seem to mind that he was suddenly in the a different room (or bed).

“Yes, and I see you brought Kai.”

At the mention of his name, the dog let out a single bark at Dunstan, but remained lazily lying on the bed beside his owner.

And goodness gracious of course Ezra’s dog would wear a flower crown.

“We were cuddling but you needed me.” Ezra shrugged, casually leaning against his pet.

Dunstan squinted at the canine in fascination. He had met Kai a couple of times before because Ezra took the dog basically everywhere he was allowed to take a dog to, and he knew that Kai was a smart dog but… “He’s so chill. Aren’t dogs supposed to be alert? You teleport him often?”

“Yep.” Ezra smirked, stroking the dog’s white fur. “Who’s my BFF?” he cooed.

Kai whined in response, tilting his head back to lick his master in the face.

Finally Ezra turned towards the owner of the bedroom. “Oh hey, how’s Yuki, by the way?”

Dunstan let out a small hopeful smile. “She’s doing fine. Still got that big nasty bruise, but they said it’ll heal. She’s already complaining that she’d have to give up her backflip solo to someone else.”

Ezra frowned. “But she’ll be able to do that again, right?”

“Yeah. No permanent damage, they said.”

“Good! So what’s your non-emergency this time?”

Dunstan considered it for a minute, but then gave up and let it out anyway. “How sure are we that… that what happened was a coincidence? That they didn’t take Yuki hostage for a reason, that they just really picked her at random?”

Ezra narrowed his eyes, adjusting his thick glasses. “Are you saying that someone might know our cover, that’s why they chose Yuki for the hostage? To get to you?”

Dunstan nodded, expression serious. “I mean, it’s not entirely impossible, right?”

“Not impossible, yeah. But… true right now? I… I don’t know, D. On my side, as far as I know, my cover’s good.”

“Me too, but… just… what if?” he insisted.

Ezra looked back at his partner, lips drawn to a thin line as he let out a deep sigh. “Look. I choose to think that it really is coincidence. I mean, you told me, she got taken because she pushed someone out of the way.” then he smiled a bit, trying to reassure his partner. “Your girlfriend’s got a hero streak like yours.”

Dunstan looked down as well, then finally shrugged. “I’m being paranoid, am I?”

“Yep.”

“It’s just… I dunno, maybe I’m not used to worrying about her like this.”

“Good, that means you trust her that much.”

“I mean. I didn’t expect. To be so angry.”

This time Ezra blinked. “That’s… normal, she’s important to you and she got hurt, so you got angry at whoever hurt her-”

“It’s not like that.” he said, this time making Ezra stop because he looked and sounded… frustrated, almost. “I mean, whenever we… whenever we deal with hostage situations, I’m… I care about the innocent people who get hostaged, and I worry about them. But with Yuki, I was worried and angry – angrier than expected.”

“Yes, because she’s someone you know. Someone close to you. You said it, it was personal.”  Ezra blinked, considering. “What is your point, exactly?”

Dunstan sighed and chose to start over. “Y’know, she’s an awesome girlfriend.”

Ezra nodded. “Yeah, with the way I never hear anything bad about her ever, I figured as much.”

“I don’t have any complaints whatsoever. She’s great.”

“Uh-huh…?”

“It’s just… I like her.”

“You should.”

“No, I mean. I just… I like her. I’ve always liked her. And I like being with her.”

At this point, Ezra just stared warily, obviously not knowing where the conversation was heading.

“I love her. Like, I love my friends, and you and Kai, and my family and Digimon and mother nature and superheroing, but… like, I… we never really… I didn’t think… uhhh…”

“What. What?” Ezra cut him off, gaping at him disbelievingly. “Are you sayin’ you’re not really in love with her?”

Dunstan looked down.

Ezra blinked this time. “Really? ‘Cause… you talk ’bout her like she’s the best thing ever like, she’s a perfect and supportive girlfriend who’s got her own badass life and stuff and-”

“Look. She was… easy. To be with. Convenient. Like, she just put herself in my life and fit there perfectly and nothing much really had to change – I didn’t have to change and suddenly be this cool dude, I didn’t have to worry ’bout impressing her or whatever. And like you said, she’s good for the cover ’cause sometimes I get to use her for white lies to the guys and auntie and grandma-”

“D!” Ezra shouted at him. “Listen to yourself!”

“I know, I sound like a jerk-”

“You sound like you got this really handy app – easy, convenient? The hell, dude?”

“I know-”

“Really?” Ezra’s eyes were sharp, frown deep.

“I know! Just- The point I’m trying to make is – I think she’s more than that to me now!

Ezra looked taken aback. “Oh.”

Dunstan rolled his eyes. “…and I just realized that because of what happened. That I got so damn angry. I never get that angry. Like, shit I love this girl more than I thought I did.”

His companion stared at him for a bit more before chuckling. Then he turned his head to muffle his laughter against his pet’s fur.

“Oi.” Dunstan frowned. “Why’re you laughin’, man?”

Ezra tried to hold his laughter in as best as he could as he asked, “You need me to know all about this because…?”

“I don’t know, I felt like venting.” Dunstan shrugged, hopeless, leaning back against his headboard. He looked down at his phone, absently scrolling down his message history with Yuki. “And because it makes things more complicated.”

“More complicated how?” Ezra prompted, watching his companion curiously.

“More complicated, meaning now I’ll feel really bad whenever I lie to her about what I’m up to and stuff.”

“You didn’t feel bad before?”

“I did, but now I’ll feel worse.” he sighed again. “You think I should tell her?”

“I think,” Ezra started, sitting up straight and looking at his partner with a serious expression. “I think you should think about it some more, spend a lil more time with her, make sure she’s worth telling.”

Dunstan smiled, appreciating the good advice. “You’re saying I should see if she’s worth riskin’ our cover for.”

Ezra scoffed. “Your cover. I’ll kill you if you blow mine.”

“Fine.” the older teen nodded. “Advice taken. Thanks, partner.”

“Anytime, partner.”

Then they heard some footsteps outside the door, and a knock followed by a woman’s voice, “Dun? You there, sweetie?”

It was Dunstan’s aunt, and he didn’t have to say anything as his two guests had already vanished from his room. He breathed out in relief before calling back, “Here!”

.
.
.

*

Ezra was walking down the mostly-empty school halls, carrying his books and about to head home when someone fell into step beside him.

“Um. Hey. Ezra?”

He looked up and saw a relatively familiar face.

“Hey.” he greeted back. Someone from one of his classes who he didn’t talk much to… he just had to remember the name… “Brent- No, Bran- Bren…? Brenden. Right?”

The guy looked pleasantly surprised that he knew, eagerly nodding. “Yeah! We’re uh, in the same Bio class-”

Ezra nodded back, this time smiling in recognition. “Right! Week 1 lab partner before Mr. Vasquez got ’round to officially pairing people up for the assignments. Don’t worry, I remember you now.”

“Great.” Brenden smiled back.

He was very tall, Ezra thought. Kinda rugged-looking but at the same time he sported a boyish grin and friendly eyes. His hair was… well, a messy bundle of curls. But it was a nice messy bundle of curls although it can be trimmed a bit on that side and- Wait, Brenden’s talking must not criticize fashion sense and listen-

“You don’t mind me walkin’ with you, right?”

Ezra looked around curiously before shaking his head, unsure of why the guy would assume that he was uncomfortable walking with him. “Um, no, not at all? I can ask the same to you, though…”

“Uh, what? Why?”

“Well, I’m not exactly the most well-liked person in campus right now. Last week the football guys gave me hell.”

“They-… What?”

“Actually not hell, I’ve had worse – but they, uh, vandalized my locker and shoved me against it once or twice just for simply standing in the vicinity. For five days they took turns on bumping into me whenever I was carrying something.”

“They… did that…?”

“Yup, but I already talked to their coach before going home Friday. So far they’ve laid off but they still give me those stink-eyes and probably talk shit about me to their friends.”

“They really did that?” – it surprised Ezra that Brenden looked mortified. “I didn’t notice-… I mean- Nobody helped you? What about that-… your… friend?”

“Friend? Which one?”

“The… um. The tall one?”

“All my friends are tall compared to me, dude.”

“The… guy.”

“Oh. Dav!” Ezra laughed. “We’re actually cousins, you know. We don’t look it, but we are.”

“Oh, wow, I didn’t know that.”

“Now you do.” Ezra said, smiling at the thought of his favorite cousin. Dav was also a tall drink of water, and most of the time, he was basically Ezra’s much taller, very intimidating shadow, trailing after him like a makeshift bodyguard.

“I haven’t seen him around.” Brenden said.

“He’s off on a family thing.” Ezra explained. “But, yeah, he wasn’t around to… really, uh… scare the football guys off for me.”

“What about your other friends?”

“I told them it’s no big. It really IS no big! I get it all the time, I’m used to it. When it starts being real trouble for me, I just report it. Authorities usually do something about it. The football coach was okay, didn’t seem to like me much either but he knew if he didn’t stop his boys, I could report to guidance and get them suspended or something so, you know, just keep them on a leash.”

“Still, man. Someone should’ve stood up for you.”

“Eh. It’s what I get for being an openly gay kid with girly hair and nerd glasses and a mathlete title and unusual fashion sense…” he listed off, rolling his eyes.

Brenden frowned. “Hey, none of those are bad…”

That made Ezra chuckle. “I know. But that’s them, I guess. They’ll find one reason or another to dislike anyone.”

His companion fell silent then, and Ezra felt kinda bad for dampening the mood. Brenden had always been a friendly face. Ezra didn’t mean to dump his troubles on the guy.

So he tried to lighten up the mood. “Hey, you’re in the basketball team, right? I assume your football cousins haven’t told you to continue their mission of tormenting me then! So there’s that.”

Brenden looking down at him with a rather… disarming… smile. Boy, is he a charmer. “Yeah, I guess there’s that. I’m actually here because of them. The basketball brothers, I mean – not the football cousins.”

Ezra pretended to be worried, faking a gasp. “Oh no, are you about to warn me that they’re gonna bully me next?”

“No, you’re safe from those giants.” the guy said, laughing tentatively, bringing up a hand to rub the back of his neck. Ezra didn’t know much about him, but it must be some kind of nervous mannerism. “It’s just, they’ve been bugging me about… err… making a move.”

“Making a move?”

“On someone who… I’ve had a crush on for a while.”

Ezra blinked, considering that. He never saw Brenden flirting with anyone from class, so… okay, maybe he was a hopeful. The dude wouldn’t be the first one to ask Ezra about something like this, though.

There had been many before him, because dammit Ezra has really nice-looking friends: “Is it Olive or Lindsey?”

Brenden paused for a beat before saying, “No, actually-”

“Oh! It’s Carolyn?”

“No, it’s you.”

Ezra stopped walking and looked up at the raven-head blankly. “Um. What.”

Brenden, in turn, looked up at the ceiling as if realizing something. “Shit, I could have totally asked them first. For help.”

“Me?” Ezra blinked, looking around before pointing at him. “Me, ME?”

“You-You.” and then the taller teen looked like he was trying his best to look smaller. Or maybe just disappear. “Yeah, uhhhh…”

“Oh my god, is the basketball team trying to prank me?”

“No, I swear-”

“Our Bio classmates are trying to prank me?!”

“No one’s trying to prank you, Ezra-”

You’re serious?!

Brenden just looked at him with the most hopeless, helpless, kicked-puppy expression that tugged hard at Ezra’s heartstrings and left him gaping in disbelief

Ezra looked down at his books in his arms and tried to give out a decent response.

“Brenden, I… I just-… I don’t know what to say, I-…”

Brenden sighed and also looked down, resigned. “It’s fine if I’m not your type or you don’t like me or whatever, I just… thought I could give it a shot-”

“Why me?”

Brenden looked at him with a small shy smile, a blush playing in his cheeks. “Why not you? You’re brilliant.”

Ezra didn’t like cliches, but maybe this is what those damned cheesy YA novel butterflies feel like.

And then there was a beep on his phone – a special message alert tone he had for Dunstan. Often when Dunstan sent the first text, it was important.

Brenden looked about ready to run away.

Ezra had to act fast.

“I-… um-… Okay, good answer, good answer, just-… lemme… get this, the text might be urgent, I… am trying so hard not to short circuit but I, I’ll just check, uh-”

He fumbled to transfer his books to one arm so he could use the free arm to get his phone, but realized that his phone was in his backpack’s pocket so he struggled some more-…

“Here, I can… hold that for you…” Brenden offered shyly, gesturing towards the stack of books on Ezra’s arm.

“Thanks, this won’t take a moment.” Ezra said, letting the other guy take his books. Once both of his arms were free, he was able to easily get his phone from his backpack pocket.

There were two messages from Dunstan.

[[ ‘ sos code yuki ‘ ]]
[[ ‘ ok to call? ‘ ]]

Ezra rolled his eyes in exasperation and was about to tell his partner to wait, but then if Dunstan could wait, he wouldn’t have asked ‘ok to call?’, maybe it was indeed urgent.

Ezra then looked up at his companion, who was watching him intently. “Um, one minute.” he said, before calling Dunstan.

As soon as his partner picked up, Ezra said, “We have a Code Yuki now?”

I NEED YOUR HELP, EZ.”

“Christ, D – I love you but you’ve been all kinds of needy lately-” – then Ezra realized who he was with and looked up to see Brenden’s face, which was, for lack of a better word, horrified – and he quickly covered his phone and said, “It’s so not like that, I swear. Get back to you in a moment.” – then he switched again – “Alright, what is your problem with your girlfriend now?!”

She wants to meet you.”

“Oh my God, did you tell her?”

NO! It’s just, remember early this morning, that nasty whatever it was that hit my leg?”

“Yeah, can you walk fine?”

It’s just a bruise now but I had to explain it away and of course I went with the boxing excuse again because I suck-…”

Sensing that his partner was going to talk for a while, Ezra decided to get things moving as he used his free hand to lead his companion and continue their walk through the school hallway.

Brenden kept silent and simply walked beside the other, conscious of the hand on his arm.

“…and now she’s curious because apparently I make stuff in there sound intense or something – so she wants to go. Watch how things go, hang out, meet YOU because I told her I met you at the gym, remember? And-”

“Hold up, what did you tell her?”

That I’ll check with my friend. YOU. When you’re available and we can spar and now she’s in the ladies’ room and I’m waiting for her to come back OKAY HELP.”

“Let me get this straight, you need to actually be a boxing guy now.”

Yeah, and I need a wingman who’s gonna testify that I’ve been doing the thing for months now.”

“Okay, I know I’m an awesome wingman but do I look like a boxing guy?”

What, you expect me to find someone else who’ll go with it without me explaining WHY we have to pull it off?”

“I can’t do it, D. One, I really don’t look like a boxing guy. Two, if we did it, I’ll totally suck because I have no upper body or arm strength whatsoever and it won’t be believable that I’m the one responsible for those bruises you’ve been getting. Three, I hate boxing.”

Well what do you suggest? I’m out of options, she made a really great argument and she said ANYTIME we’re free she’s free too and she’s sure she’ll like you DUDE what do I do.”

“Okay, um tell her I’m still checking my sched too and uh, we’ll find a… boxing guy… Wait.” Ezra looked at the guy whose arm he was holding on to.

Brenden was usually all shy smiles and laughter but he was an athlete, and a competent one at that, and… right now he was looking both confused and mortified listening to one half of a conversation. They stopped walking.

“Um. I’m sorry if none of this is going as you expected.” Ezra started, putting his phone on mute for the meantime as he talked to his ex-lab-partner-now-potential-romantic-involvement-person. “So… you like me. Right? I assume you want to… date and stuff.”

Brenden audibly swallowed, but nodded, determined. “Yeah, I guess…?”

“Look, you’re cute. You’ve really been nothing but nice and sweet to me. And okay, I’m very flattered about what you think of me and no, I don’t have a boyfriend or anyone and I’m currently open to… a dating thing.”

“Really?” – he looked hopeful. It was very touching.

“So, um. I need your help with something. Do you trust me?”

“Uh… I guess I should?”

“I’ll take it. My best friend – the helpless idiot on the phone – he’s a great guy, you’ll like him, but he needs my help. I kinda need your help to help him. There’s just this thing. That you have to do with him – I swear it’s not anything illegal or offensive or whatever. He needs a wingman of sorts to pull off this kinda white lie on his girlfriend and I swear – I promise you it’s not because he’s cheating, it’s really for good reason. We just can’t tell you ’cause it’s sorta private – and I just don’t fit the bill so-”

“You need me to do it?”

“I wouldn’t ask you if I don’t need to-”

“You swear it’s not illegal and I won’t be hurting the girl in any way and I won’t get in trouble?”

“You just need to pretend to be his best boxing gym buddy. For one session! I’ll be there to back you two up. It’s a white lie. It’s… he has something private he’s still sorting through and… you know. I’ll explain in detail… maybe tomorrow. And hey, after the whole thing maybe we can go watch a movie together! Just the two of us? Date?”

“Okay, I think… um, I can try…” Brenden shrugged. “And I’d like that date… very much… yes.”

“You’re awesome.” Ezra replied quickly, and Brenden smiled lightly as the other teen went back to the phonecall. “Hey, loser. I got your boxing guy. But you’re gettin’ me two movie tickets this weekend, you hear me? And maybe throw something in for popcorn.”

Wait, you have a guy? What did you-”

“I’ll tell you everything later. For now, tell Yuki we’re off to the gym on Saturday.”

Wow, okay. Uh. You’re the best, E.”

“I know, D.” Ezra rolled his eyes. “Now go away, I’m with a cute guy and you’re disturbing me.”

Then he hung up, pocketed his phone and looked at his companion again.

“So…” he started, smiling a bit. He reached out for his books on the other’s arms. “I’ll take that now, thanks-”

“Nope, I’m holding these hostage.” Brenden said, smirking when Ezra pouted up at him. “Do I really have a date with you on Saturday?”

“Yes.” Ezra sighed, running a hand through his hair consciously. “What can I say? You’re charming. And I’m… a good friend?”

Brenden smiled shyly down at the books on his arms, but moved them away when their owner reached for them again. “Do you need a ride home?”

This time Ezra frowned. “Will you hold my books hostage until I say ‘yes’?”

Brendan shook his head earnestly, offering the items back. “Nope, I’m not that kinda guy.”

“Well then,” the shorter teen started, pushing the books back on his companion’s arms and letting him carry them. He sent a smile that was quickly rewarded with Brenden’s red cheeks yet again. “I’d like that ride home very much, thank you, and maybe on the way, you can tell me all about how your basketball boys pushed you into this.”

Brenden beamed.

Ezra lets out a puff of breath.

Oh, no. He’s cute.’

.
.
.

*

On Saturday, Yuki met Ezra, Brenden and Kai.

Dunstan gulped nervously when he saw all three of them arrive.

Ezra was his usual self, wearing one of his oversized sweaters, leggings and flower-patterned doc martens that got Yuki clinging to Dunstan and asking in a whisper “Who’s that? Who’s that cute one with the killer shoes and the giant dog oh my god answer me I need to know???”

He had Kai on a leash this time, a red scarf tied around the good boy’s neck.

And then there was the new guy – Brenden, Ezra said in a text – who fit in all-too well in the boxing gym with his athlete’s build, sports gear and bag.

He saw Ezra whisper something to Brenden’s ear (he had to tip-toe) before waving at them.

“Hey, D!” he greeted cheerfully. Kai barked once.

“Hey, man.” Brenden greeted as well, looking comfortable as he stuck a fist out.

“Yo.” Dunstan said, in actor mode as he tried to appear natural, sharing a fistbump with his new boxing gym buddy.

That he only met today.

Brenden nodded, and to his credit, he did feel like a good ol’ friend. “You been waiting long?”

“Nah, we just got here.” Dunstan shrugged, then he turned towards Yuki, who had been eyeing the three new acquaintances quite avidly. “I brought company. I’ve told you ’bout my girlfriend, Yuki.”

Yuki beamed, waving a bit. “Hi!”

“Yuki, this is Brenden, we’ve been goin’ here together for quite a while now.”

Brended offered a hand out. “Dunstan told me ’bout you.”

Yuki beamed as she shook his hand. “He better have! It’s nice to meet you!”

Dunstan then gestured towards Ezra. “Right then, and this is Ezra, he’s the kid who let us in his condo rooftop.”

“Oh, that was you!” Yuki marveled.

“Yours truly.” Ezra raised a shoulder in a half-shrug.

“So…” Yuki looked back and forth from the other two. “…you’re together?”

“They should be.” Dunstan teased.

Ezra sent him a split-second unimpressed look before smiling again towards Yuki. “Bren’s trying to win me over.” he explained, and Dunstan envied how he didn’t have to lie about that, ugh.

“I can see why.” Yuki said, smiling an amused smile as Brenden blushed.

“Don’t ask how, but I always end up going here anyway.” Ezra rolled his eyes, then indicated towards his canine companion. “Oh, and this is Kai, my life partner.”

“My rival.” Brenden added good-naturedly, and they all laughed at that as Yuki stroked the dog’s fur and the dog licked her hand affectionately.

“Aww, he’s such a good boy!” she cooed.

As she got busy with playing with the dog, Ezra turned towards the other two guys. “You boys go change, we’ll still be here when you get back.”

“Yeah, uh. Have… fun with Kai, I guess?” Dunstan tried.

“Go on, Dun.” Yuki smiled up at him, fingers already tangled in sheepdog fur.

The boys disappeared into the gym’s changing room and left Ezra and Kai to deal with Yuki. The last they heard was Yuki asking Ezra where he got his badass shoes.

***

As they started changing into their sports outfits, Dunstan spoke up.

“Hey, so… uh, thanks for doing this, man. I know you don’t know me or anything, but… this is really nice of you to do. I know Ezra didn’t tell you anything-”

“No big, he promised me, like thirty times. That you’ve got good reasons. Private ones.” Brenden smiled and shrugged. “And well, I was promised a movie date, plus I get to show off a bit.”

Dunstan chuckled. “Feel free to leave a bruise or two, then. Y’know, impress the kid.”

“I’m not really a violent guy…”

“I figured. But, y’know. Just enjoy this thing, I guess? Let’s go punch each other nicely.”

“Right.” Brenden nodded.

Dunstan felt smaller than usual, standing to someone as tall as Brenden. He wondered then how Ezra must feel hanging around such a tall person. In speaking of Ezra… “So you’re tryin’ to win E over, huh?”

“Ah… yeah.” Brenden scratched his head bashfully. “He said you’re the best friend? Other than his cousin, that is. Any tips for me? Life hacks?”

“Mm, let’s see…” Dunstan considered for a bit, before shrugging cluelessly. “I dunno, man. Be yourself, I guess? He’s a good kid. And really frank. You got a question, ask him. He’ll answer. Just don’t mess with Kai and don’t be racist or sexist ’cause he fights for those stuff. Don’t question why he’s wearing something weird, that’s just how he rolls and… err, start worrying if he’s not looking like some kind of fashion model.”

“Right.”

“If you talk to him about books, he won’t shut up. Also, he loves watermelon. He can finish one just by himself.”

“Watermelon, wow, right.”

“And, most important pointer here… you break his heart, I break your face. That is, if Kai hasn’t bitten it off yet.”

Dunstan smiled cockily, allowing himself this little shred of protective arrogance. The other guy might be a tall drink of water but Dunstan was still two years older, plus he’s also got the superstrength going for him.

Brenden, who didn’t know about Dunstan’s usual gentle demeanor, couldn’t help but take one step away in fear. “G-Got it.”

“Good.” Dunstan simply nodded and, done changing, proceeded to walk out the changing room. “Now let’s go out there and warm up before we try to punch the living daylights out of each other.”

***

Dunstan let Brenden win the sparring session. It was alright, they mostly tried to do what they saw the other guys in the gym do, and for the most part, Ezra chatted Yuki up about all sorts of stuff. Yuki was too busy talking to Ezra and playing with Kai (the two made a great distraction team) that she hardly paid attention to the boys boxing.

Then it was time to leave. Brenden was a cool guy, Dunstan decided – he gave the pair a ride to Dunstan’s before he drove away, Ezra waving happily at Yuki and telling her that they should hang out again sometime.

For all of Dunstan’s talk about Ezra being the kid that he always looked out for, the Ezra really covered up for his sorry ass most times.

Dunstan’s grandparents were happy to see Yuki, his grandma telling them right away that she’ll cook something special for dinner. After the pleasantries, the teens found themselves on Dunstan’s bedroom, going through a stack of old DVD’s and deciding what to watch for that afternoon.

As Yuki scrutinized a couple of Disney movies, Dunstan leaned back on his pillows and checked his phone for messages.

[[ ‘did u tell bren that i like watermelon’ ]]
[[ ‘he just disappeared and came back with a watermelon smoothie omg’ ]]
[[ ‘i bet u did’ ]]
[[ ‘stop helping him he’s cute already you’re making this difficult!!!!!’ ]]
[[ ‘HIS HAND IS SO WARM’ ]]
[[ ‘fuck man i’m in trouble’ ]]

Dunstan snorted in amusement, then started to reply.

[[ ‘you liiiiike him wink wink’ ]]
[[ ‘and if u need my opinion i think he’s nice’ ]]

“What’s up?” Yuki asked him. “You’re smiling at your phone, mister.”

“Oh, it’s just. E. I mean, Ezra. Trying not to cave in to Brenden’s charm.” he chuckled. “He’s panicking because the guy’s being too cute apparently.”

“He texts you that?” she raised an eyebrow.

“Errr, yeaaah well… he’s that kinda guy.” he answered, hoping that it was convincing.

Dunstan knew that Ezra was normally a quiet kid. Even with the loud fashion sense and personality, he kept to himself most times. Dunstan also knew that Ezra opened up like this to only a chosen few – him included.

“They are cute, though.” Yuki said, smiling. “Specially Ezra. Dig those shoes, did you know that they’re from a thrift shop? He thrifts. A lot.”

“Oh.” Dunstan blinked. He knew that. He had been dragged to those thrift stores a couple of times. He got himself a nice coat once. “Figures. He’s got a closet, huh?”

“His bag? Up-cycled from old jeans and a kiddie furcoat.”

“Huh.” – that explained why he’d never seen a backpack like that before.

Then she said, “So I’m guessing he’s the one who came up with your awesome costumes.”

“Yea-… what?” he turned towards her, blinking. “W-what costumes?”

“Y’know,” she gave a noncommittal grunt, eyes focused in consideration as she tried to choose between Atlantis and Treasure Planet. “Your superhero costumes.”

“S-Superhero costumes?” he tried his best to feign innocence. “What’re you talking about?”

“Dun, please.” she rolled her eyes, amused. “You can stop denying.”

He laughed a bit, still trying to look innocent. “Denying what?”

Dun.”

“What?” he repeated.

Duuuunnnn.” she groaned. “I know about it.”

“I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Yuki sighed, setting the DVD’s down on the bed and crossing her arms across her chest. “C’mon, you know better than lie to me by now. When were you planning to tell me, by the way?”

He stared at her.

She deemed it fit to continue. “I won’t get mad if you say ‘never’ – but I know already, so there’s really no use now.”

He still stared at her.

So she grabbed one of the DVD’s and then threw it straight at his face.

Dunstan caught it effortlessly, for a dumbfounded guy. He had to credit his agility and enhanced reflexes. That effectively broke the ice too, and he gave up, sighing. “Alright, one question, one answer. Are you angry?”

“No.” was the quick response. Then she continued, “Who else knows?”

“On my side – no one. On E’s – just Kai. Why do you think I kept it from you?”

“Superhero S.O.P. was my best guess. Was I right?”

“Yeah. Y’know, keep everyone ’round us safe as possible. I mean, we’re not exactly big shots and we don’t have a resident nemesis in town to target our families, but better safe than sorry.” he answered in one breath, and he had to take a second before speaking again. “What gave us away?”

“Many stuff for me, but I don’t think other people caught those. For one, the excuses-”

“Shit, I tried my best on those-”

“-I don’t think anyone else noticed, but I did because I’m always on the receiving end of your lame excuses which kinda matched the timing for whenever Luck and Chance save the day.”

“Ouch.” he groaned helplessly.

“That’s not really all, it’s also the cuts and bruises but people can actually buy those, so keep it up. It’s this minor slip on your part that really broke your game…”

His head shot up as he looked at her. “What is it?”

“Once when I asked to borrow your notes, you were busy playing Temple Run in your phone so you told me I should just get it in your bag.”

He blinked. “Yeah… okay?”

“Dun.” she deadpanned. “Your costume’s in your bag.”

He stared.

“So your costume’s in your bag, and I thought it’s either my boyfriend’s working on a cosplay or…”

She reached out and brought her hand to his hair, combing his bangs back with her fingers in a loose attempt to replicate Luck’s hairstyle, which really was just his own hair gelled back.

“…my boyfriend’s a superhero.”

He looked ready to spontaneously combust.

She was patient for several minute before shaking her head.

“Dun. Talk to me. Did I break you?”

“Crap.” was all he said, and when she withdrew her hand, he replaced it with both of his, covering his face. “Ezra will kill me.”

Yuki snorted, unimpressed with his reaction. “For blowing your cover?”

“No, for blowing his. Because you knew who I am, then I introduced him to you. Did you know who he was, right away?”

“Yeah, I kinda figured that one out. You two don’t look much different when you’re beside each other, y’know. I just don’t know which parts to believe. Is the boxing thing actually true?”

“No, it’s just… I had to back it up, and E said he won’t make a believable boxing guy so he got this dude who has a crush on him to act the part and we improvised from there.”

“So you didn’t know Brenden before today?”

“Nope, no clue.”

She let out a hearty laugh. “Oh, my God. You guys could’ve fooled me! You guys hit it off, huh?”

“He’s… nice. And he was promised a date. Which I’m paying for.” He groaned again.

“I’m guessing that’s going well.” she giggled.

“Yeah. For them.” he sighed. “Still. I’m super dead when E finds out I screwed up.”

Yuki laughed at him this time, leaning back against the pillows behind her. “Why so worried? I haven’t told anyone. You don’t trust me?”

Dunstan scratched his head. “No, it’s just… I was planning to tell you. But then I’d feel like I have to tell auntie and grandpa and grandma too. And all Ezra had to say about it was that he’ll trust my judgement if I spill to you guys but I can’t blow his cover too. Something like that. And… err, now you’ve figured it all out. I mean… I just… this wasn’t in the plan, y’know.”

“What was the plan?”

“There was no plan. Well, there was like 30% of a plan. I was still making up a plan.”

“Well, now you don’t have to. I did it for you.” she said, starting to stack up the DVD’s neatly. “Do you trust me to keep it?”

“I should.” he shrugged. “I mean, what can I do? I don’t have a choice. Or some memory mumjo-jumbo power-… what’re you doing?”

“I don’t want to watch anything tonight.” she said as she finished cleaning up the DVD’s and putting them away by his desk. Then, she sat beside him and clung to his arm. “I want you to tell me how Luck and Chance happened.”

Dunstan gaped at her. “Oh, no. No no no no no noooo it’s cliche and straight out of a teenage novel. Even Ch-… Ezra thinks it’s silly.”

“Dude.” Yuki chuckled. “I’m a normal girl who moved into a new school and I just discovered that my boyfriend is a masked superhero – I’m straight out of a teenage novel too. So spill!”

He sighed, deciding that he didn’t have much of a choice anyway. And Yuki… well, she was smart and wise and he knew he could trust her.

“Well, better get yourself comfortable.”

She laid back down on his bed and hugged a pillow to herself, like a kid about to listen to a bedtime story.

Dunstan smiled, then started his tale.

“Once upon a time, I went to the coffee shop downtown and there was this hipster-looking kid who was being hassled by some bigger kids because… well, he was being himself…”

.
.
.

*

YOU TOLD HER WHAT?!”

For such a small person, Ezra could pack a big dose of terror in his wake.

That night, after Yuki had left and after his date with Brenden, he stood in Dunstan’s bedroom with a couple of Dunstan’s stuff floating behind him – and he was ready to chuck them at his partner. Man, telekinesis sure was impressive.

“Everything.” Dunstan answered solemnly, and narrowly avoided a flying thesaurus. “From how we suddenly had superpowers and then we started to hang out and then you wanted to save this poor kid who was on top of the burning building but you screwed up and called me for help and then it felt good to help people and we started the whole superhero gig.”

WHY DID YOU TELL HER ABOUT ME TOO?!”

This time he had to dodge a Peter Pan DVD before answering, “I didn’t! She figured it out! That I was Luck, and then when she saw you it didn’t take too long to conclude that you’re Chance!”

HOW DID SHE KNOW YOU?!”

The desk lamp would break so Dunstan caught it instead. “Apparently I once let her into my bag and she found my costume there.”

WHY WAS YOUR FUCKING COSTUME THERE?!”

“I have no excuse for that. It was an honest mistake. I will never do it again. Maybe I’ll just keep it in my locker, Ezra!

With that, he threw the desk lamp back at his partner. He saw Ezra squint at it and suddenly it was floating in midair again.

Ezra took it and placed it carefully back on the desk, along with the other items he planned to throw at his companion.

Dunstan sighed. “Are you really angry?”

“Ugh… Not really… I can tell she’s trustworthy. You would’ve panicked and called me sooner otherwise.” Ezra said glumly, walking towards the other and then slumping on the bed. “I’m just bummed I didn’t see my first big reveal. Is she fine with it? The gig?”

“Yeah. At least now I can stop making excuses.”

“You’re terrible at it anyway.”

“Hey, she said she could buy most of it! If… if she didn’t know Luck and Chance so much.”

“Huh. Good for you.” Ezra sighed, gesturing for a pillow. Dunstan obliged and watched him snuggle into it. “I fucking went on a date for your cover and ultimately it was useless.”

“Hey, you like the guy.” Dunstan said, raising an eyebrow. “Don’t you? He got you watermelon.”

“I like him.” the younger sighed. “He’s so cute. And sweet. I’ve never-… ugh. I mean, I know like two or three other openly gay guys on campus and they’re mostly boasting about going ‘vegan’ for high school to avoid… y’know, talks and bullies… and then they’ll go find the perfect guy on college where everything and everyone are more tolerant or something like that. I thought that it’s a good plan they have. But I’m not committing to it because… I dunno, they annoy me how they can’t stop talking about how being gay and single is the greatest thing ever. I’m like, ‘shut up, grow a personality!’. Okay. I feel bad about thinking that…”

Dunstan hummed, settling comfortably across his partner. “What’s this got to do about your guy?”

“I didn’t know he was gay.” Ezra pouted. “I didn’t even think he was cute. He was just… that guy from Bio I partnered with for a week. Then he asked me last week and he was really honest and humble about it and holy crap, his friends think we’ll be cute together! HIS BASKETBALL DUDEBROS, D! This happens just right after I got hassled by the football jerks!”

Dunstan didn’t get his point. “So…? Isn’t that good? He’s cute, he likes you and you like him and his friends like you together… what are you on about?”

“It’s almost too good to be true! And if… if we date for real, oh my god those other gay kids might give me the stink-eye, like ‘oh you think you’re cool because you have a boyfriend and we don’t?’ Urgh, I don’t know, maybe I’m just thinking they’ll be mean because sometimes I’m mean – do you get me, D?”

“…Kinda? I think you’re overthinking it.”

“That’s my job here! To overthink stuff.”

“Only when we’re fighting bad guys, E.” Dunstan reassured. “And when you’re on your mathlete stuff. And when you’re playing chess. But not when there’s a cute guy who wants to date you.”

“There’s another thing!”

“What is it this time?” Dunstan indulged. He was glad that they weren’t talking about him and his slip-up anymore.

Ezra groaned against the pillow. “He’s a normal healthy young teenager who probably has needs and I… am ace.”

“You think he won’t understand.” Dunstan said. It was not a question. When his companion nodded, he sighed. “Well then, tell him. You go talk to him and if he doesn’t understand that… err…”

“What?” Ezra peeked at him shyly.

Dunstan shrugged. “Uhhhh, I’ll hug you when you cry?”

Ezra grunted a small “Stupid-head.” and then threw the pillow back at his companion, who caught it effortlessly again.

“Hey! I will do that! And he might think twice now, y’know – I told him I’ll break his face if he breaks your heart and all that. I think it scared him. I scared him, see?”

Ezra stared at him before sighing deeply again. “Thank you…?”

Another matter-of-fact shrug. “Anything for my partner.”

“Ew. Sap.” This time, Ezra sat up, patting down his clothes. I should go home.”

Dunstan frowned. “Uh… are you mad at me now?”

Ezra chuckled as he shook his head tiredly. “God. I’m not. I just really have to go home and get some sleep, I’m going out early tomorrow with the sister and bro-in-law. Company outing or something like that, I’m their plus one.”

“Oh. Well… okay.”

“I’ll call you if I need you to break Bren’s face.”

Dunstan got a kiss on the cheek and then he was alone in his bedroom again.

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*

Dunstan said it was easy, having Yuki for a girlfriend.

Boy – it got much easier, having Yuki for a girlfriend and having her know about The Gig.

Because that made her… well, an accomplice.

“Oh, he’s here – yep, over there busy rough-housing with my brother in the yard!” Yuki said, giggling while on a phonecall with Dunstan’s aunt. “Oh, it’s no problem, dad likes him ’round here, he helps with the guy stuff! I know. Boys, right?”

She didn’t say ‘He is totally NOT that guy you’re currently watching on TV fighting that great monster. Nope totally not your nephew out ther-… ow, that much hurt but look he’s getting up now! Thank Chance and his shields, eh?’

Instead, she only laughed and said, “Yep, will tell him to check his phone and buy the stuff on his way home, ma’am! Good evening to you too… Bye!”
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epilogue

Dunstan was thirty minutes late and running.

This time though, as he finished the job, he turned to his partner. “Hey, Chance?” he panted, because man, he was beat.

His partner though, was also panting. Dammit, that jerk Transformers guy was persistent, he almost always managed to escape prison and come back with a bigger robot somehow.

Chance looked back. “What now?”

“I think I need a ride. I’m late for my date.”

The blonde nodded. “Fine, fine. I think I’m good for a few more jumps before I collapse on my bed. Where to?”

Just then, his phone began to ring. He answered right away. “Hey sweetie don’t worry I’m hitching a ride with our resident teleporter-”

Um, actually there was an explosion on the building on the next block.”

Luck gaped. “What?”

So people are evacuating and I think I have to leave the restaurant.”

“Okay – get out of there. Are the firefighters there yet?”

No, I don’t see any trucks- It’s an apartment building, D! There are lots of people inside-”

“Yeah, we’re coming. Uh, would you happen to have one of those energy bars you always eat?”

***

When Luck and Chance teleported several blocks away from the restaurant, Yuki was ready with two chocolate-flavored energy bars and a half-full can of soda.

“Oh my god you’re a blessing.” Chance said, grabbing the soda and proceeding to gulp it down.

Luck sighed as he accepted an energy bar. “Thanks, babe.”

He took the soda from Chance and shoved the other energy bar towards his partner.

“So, uh – game plan?” Yuki asked curiously, watching them try to get some extra energy and a bit of adrenaline pumping.

Both of them chewed the chocolate bar and looked solemnly towards the burning building.

After a few moments, Luck shrugged, already finished with the snack and the soda. “I dunno, save people, I guess.”

“That’ll do. Uh, you go first.” Chance said, busy finishing his own snack.

“Right.” The brown-haired superhero nodded. He turned towards his girlfriend. “I’m sorry we’re gonna have to reschedule.”

“It’s fine. I ate already, and it’s chaos out here anyway.” she shrugged. “Just go do your job.”

He smiled and nodded, taking her hand. “Kiss for Luck?”

Yuki rolled her eyes, but leaned forward anyway, for a short, sweet kiss.

When they drew apart, Dunstan pressed one last kiss to her fingers. “I’ll drop by tonight. Keep your window open?”

And then he launched off, flying towards the burning building.

Yuki watched him for a bit before turning to the other superhero. “And you?”

Chance scoffed, now licking his fingers. Damn, they eat fast. “Heh, I just gave him a headstart. See ya, Yu!”

Yuki shook her head in amusement as she watched them go, but not without taking a second to throw their wrappers in the nearest trash bin first.

“Dorks.”

 

.fin.

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