◤ Slowing down the car to a stop, Tony Stark turned around in the driver’s seat to face Christopher, who had been uncharacteristically silent during the ride, filling it with a tense atmosphere. One that made Tony and Pepper feel like their son would blow up in anger if they even thought about uttering a word in his direction. But they had to speak up now.
“Chris,” Tony began as he turned off the music. “I know this is not what you meant when you said you wanted to continue your studies, but you can’t leave Akíndynos to go to Massachusetts.” He paused, expecting an answer from the boy, but he remained silent. “We have a long way to go before you can go to the MIT, but I know you can make it through this and show the world what us Starks are made of-”
“Dad,” Christopher spoke up, but he got shot down by his mother.
“This is the best for you, Chris, you need to grow as a person before you keep growing academically.” There was a warning tone in her voice. “This school will teach you what you need to learn, and you won’t be alone through that. You will surely keep yourself entertained.” She could hear her husband give a chuckle at her words.
“You’ve got this, kiddo,” Tony added as he twisted himself to ruffle the boy’s hair, to which he replied with a pained smile.
“I’ll be taking my leave,” he said as he opened the door of the car and slid off his seat.
“This is the best for all of us, right?” Tony asked Pepper, not taking his eyes off the boy.
“It is, he’s going down a bad path,” she replied, “and I don’t want him to have to be kidnapped by terrorists to change his ways,” he added, knowing they both know what she was implying.
“God, how did you put up with me through all those years?” Tony laughed before driving off, hoping his kid would not hate him for this.
Meanwhile Christopher was taking his time to get to the school. But as he heard his dad’s car take off, his scowl changed into a smile. It was time for him to show all of these people who was the best kid around. Yes, he may hate the fact that he was being forced to attend high school again, but if he was going to suffer through it, he was going to make the place his own, and he was going to rock it.
Turning his suit on, he felt the strange metal cover his body. His father had insisted on them building a suit for him together, and he wasn’t going to refuse a chance to have the most advanced technology to use, and to show off.
He quickly began flying and darted into the school, rolling his eyes at the people who instructed him on the way, but doing as he was told, nonetheless. When he finally got to the building, he slumped down on a chair at the back of the room and deactivated his suit.
“So, what is it gonna be?” He asked himself as he looked at everyone around him.◢
◤ Valen had taken his time hanging around the school, wanting to get to know the place he was going to be stuck at from the outside before signing up for this yearly torture. He had taken his time to try around different looks, unsure of how the Midgardians would react to him, before settling down with his natural Asgardian look. He wouldn’t have liked to give himself up so easily, and go as a Frost Giant, but he didn’t have any reasons to hide how he looked back in his father’s palace. It was technically his grandfather’s, but let’s not talk about that, it was not necessary for him to explain how Loki hadn’t really died, and how he had taken over Asgard without raising any suspicion. Nor how he had been raised around the palace hiding his true heritage.
He looked at the doors of the school once again, scowling at the fact that he had to go there to “keep an eye” on Thor’s daughter. The one thing that could risk his ascension to the throne of Asgard in the future. His father’s words resonated in his head once again, The throne of Asgard is rightfully yours, but you have to prove yourself before you are crowned King. You need to make sure that my brother’s Little Princess doesn’t take that away from you.
“I’m not going to let you down, father,” he whispered between his teeth, still staring at the school. Somewhere there was the one person who could make his life miserable, and he had to make sure that didn’t happen, not now. He knew he had to be worthy of the throne of Asgard, and having his father take care of Thor’s child wasn’t going to help him prove he was worthy. But people didn’t want a King that murdered a princess either. He had to make sure this job went perfectly. This could either make or break his entire plan for his life. And he still had thousands of years to live through.
Putting his chin up, he finally began walking towards the school, trying to take comfort in having Nissim following him around, occasionally giving side glances at those who seemed to get too close to him. He wasn’t ready, he wasn’t ready to see the place where worthless mortals would try to pretend being his equals. Nor to face Solfrid in his “true” form. But he had to do this, there was no other way.
There was something unsettling about the smiles of the school staff, and how they were always giving him instructions. If they only knew who I am, he complained inwardly. He was a prince, a prince of Asgard, he should not be receiving orders from these mortals. And yet, here he was, following the indicated path towards a small building, and entering the building as in an almost mechanical manner.
Inside, he quickly scanned the room, looking for Solfrid. It seemed miss Perfect was late, that was enough to put a small smile on his face. “I’m already one step ahead, my dear cousin,” he whispered as he chose a seat near the side, hoping no one would dare to talk to him. ◢
◤ “Deep breaths, Evelyn, deep breaths,” the girl tried to calm herself down as she sat in a park bench near the school. Normally, she would have been doing somersaults for being able to go into the school, but something about how definitive and real this was made her feel weak at the knees, and rendered her almost unable to walk, much less do any of her usual gymnastics tricks. Her heart was pounding in her chest, threatening to jump out of her ribcage, and if it weren’t for the fact that she hadn’t eaten in two days, she would have thrown up by now.
“Deep breaths,” she kept repeating to herself as she hugged her knees to her chest. Did she want this? She had wanted it, but that was when it was merely an idea. Now she wasn’t so sure. To be in the same school as the children of her father’s prison mates, and of the children of the people that had put her father in jail. To study with living reminders of what had happened with her father, and what she had been through to find the Safe City. “Deep breaths,” she kept saying. “Deep breaths. You’ve got this,” she tried to convince herself, but it didn’t seem to work.
Seeing as more students had started to come, and Evelyn had yet to calm down, she decided to take a different approach. Stumbling to a near tree, she used all of her strength to climb up the closest branch, where she hooked her knees and hung herself downwards, hoping that stretching her body while receiving more blood in her brain could help her somehow. A few minutes passed and while she was still anxious about this new school, she was also beginning to focus more on how her body reacted, and the familiar pain of stretching was making her feel more comfortable. Lifting herself up to sit on the branch, she continued to stretch more, to push herself to the limits, and to use the familiar pain to ground herself. Deep breaths.
She wasn’t sure how much time she had been there, but she was feeling better now. The anxious feeling was still there, but now she could ignore it, just as she did with any bad feelings she could ever have. She began making small jumps on the tips of her feet before finally feeling ready to go in.
The girl skipped happily into the school, choosing to focus on the things she could get out of it. She would finally have a chance to learn about all the people who had made her feel like she wasn’t so alone in the world, the people who showed her that the world was a very unfair place, and who had suffered because of this injustice just as she had. She had a chance to finally make justice for herself, so this unfairness would be afraid of her. Because she had seen its true face; because that’s what they had done with her, see her suffering and looked away. At least their suffering would be something fair.
Still skipping through the indicated pathway, she made her way to a dark and almost empty room, with the exception of a few chairs. “Well, this place could have used some more cheer,” she whispered as she made her way to the front rows, hoping whatever was going to come would begin quickly. ◢
◤ “Are you sure you want to go in like this?” J’onn asked Oyarsa once again as the younger martian rubbed her arm. Her human arm to be precise. J’onn had told her multiple times that she did not have to hide her true form there in Akíndynos, but her life had taught her better than that. She know fitting in was always better than standing out. Standing out could get you killed.
The girl gulped as she nodded, not looking at her guardian in shame. He had told her many times that she didn’t have to be ashamed or scared of how she looked like, but she couldn’t change her mindset so quickly, she had too many things to contradict J’onn, but she did not want to get into a fight with the other only living martian. “I’m sure, J’o- dad” she replied, examining her hands in front of her eyes. She knew she was not human, and she knew there was no point in pretending she was human. After all, from now on, everyone would know her as the daughter of the Martian Manhunter.
She may have had agreed to going to this school the very second he had proposed it to her, she really wanted to understand earthlings, but now the idea didn’t seem so good. Sure, she may have gotten to learn from the best earthlings, but it still didn’t feel right. Humans were interesting, from afar. Now that she was so close to a bunch of them, she couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed.
“You will be fine, Oyarsa,” J’onn reassured her. Of course, she had forgotten to break the mind link they had been sharing for this conversation. He was able to hear all of her thoughts, and he could tell she was not feeling comfortable. “I know it’s hard to feel like you belong, but lots of these kids know the feeling of being an alien. Even if it’s not in the literal sense for most of them.”
Trying to organise her thoughts and feelings, Oyarsa looked up at the older martian. “Thanks, J’onn,” she finally managed to say. “I-I should get going though,” she continued, trying to avoid the awkward feelsy moment. Hovering towards the entrance of the school, she felt somewhat glad that the place was run by a friend of her guardian, maybe that would give it all a more familiar feeling.
Making her way through the crowds, she occasionally listened to some people’s thoughts, but didn’t stay listening to them for too long, not wanting to get overwhelmed by them, nor to let others know what she was doing as she moved through the signaled path.
Once inside, she looked for a seat in a corner, somewhere she could be left alone with her thoughts. ◢
◤ Instead of driving all the way there, the Kaplan-Altman family decided to take a walk through the city, their city to drop off Lieber and Aya at the school they would be attending to for the next few years. Any passerby could have seen them as the perfect family, the parents were proudly holding each other’s hand and smiling as they chatted about nothing in particular as they kept an eye for their children in front of them, while the youngest kid wore a bright smile and lead the way to the school. But Lieber seemed to break the picture perfect family, the boy was hunching as he walked, and a scowl adorned his face in a way that seemed not to fit with the others, and that’s because he didn’t think he could fit the family. Not after what he’d seen.
As they walked around the city, Lieber’s mind was running with the reasons he shouldn’t be there. He knew his family was being selfish, and even though what one of his fathers had helped create seemed like a perfect invention, and claimed that it was to keep everyone safe, he knew that was far from the truth. They were all living a lie, and no one really seemed to care about that, it was only him, his voice against all the others, against everyone claiming that Akíndynos was a good idea.
Lieber had been ignoring his parents’ chatting until they got to the entrance to the school. This was it, here he was going to say goodbye and finally free himself from keeping quiet about every little thing his parents did or said, anything that could even remotely remind him that they were on a pocket universe. He knew that the creators of Exousía had ulterior motives for this school, if they didn’t, they would have made it a normal school, not a school for exceptional teens, the boy scoffed at the thought, this was all so stupid . And the worst was that he was being treated like an idiot. He knew both of his parents knew the reasons for Exousía to exist, but neither of them, or any adult for that matter, would give him the reasons.
When they got to a stop, Lieber walked up to Aya and put a hand to her shoulder. “Why don’t you go ahead and save us some good seats for the first day activity, sweetie?” he asked with a soft smile, he didn’t want her to listen the conversation he was going to have with their parents. “Say your goodbyes to pops and dad, I’ll be with you in a second,” he added before giving her a kiss on the forehead. He watched her say goodbye to their parents, and saw how they took their time to chat before Teddy wrapped them in a hug. Even when he wasn’t hulked out, he was a big guy, and a part of Lieber’s chest ached when he saw that scene. There he was, going to ruin their perfect picture. Again.
Once the younger kid had left, he approached the adults, his scowl had come back to its place and he had shoved his hands into his pockets now. “I know you’re not going to tell me what’s going on. So I need you to know that, until I figure it out, I cannot approve of your actions,” his tone was dry, and his eyes were burning with rage. But the tension on his shoulders showed he intended to keep himself restrained. “I’m going to figure out what’s your deal with all of this, and I swear, if my sister gets hurt because of your plans, I won’t forgive you.” His eyes drifted down, he knew he wouldn’t be able to look at his parents’ faces during this conversation.
“Lieber, your father and I love you, very much,” Billy began, trying to reach for his son, but knowing he had put up his walls. “I know you don’t understand why we’re doing all of this, but it’s for the greater good. This is only a temporary situation, we’re trying to find the permanent solution,” he explained once again.
“Please,” Teddy interrupted. “We only want what’s best for our family.”
Lieber kept quiet, not wanting to repeat this argument, not in front of everyone at this new school.
It was a while before someone else spoke again, and that someone turned out to be the youngest one. “I’ll take care of Aya,” he promised as he turned around and walked towards the school. It was not the goodbye he would have wanted, but his family was not what he thought it was.
Walking through the marked path, Lieber could only think of his parents, of how quickly things had turned downwards, and how he resented the whole situation. But he had to remain strong on his position, that’s what he had been taught.
Looking around inside the room, Lieber tried to find his little sister, not wanting to break his promise with her, but it seemed complicated. ◢
◤ Still examining their physical form, Sephtis turned to look at their sibling, who was already covering themselves with human clothes the had managed to find. This form was strange, and Sephtis was not used to being tangible, much less look like a human being, but here they were now, and they knew that, no matter what they said, Esdras would not change their mind about it all, and Sephtis was now cursed with having to be by their sibling’s side, just to make sure things didn’t get out of hand.
However, their thoughts got the best of them, And Septhis couldn’t help but ask, “Es, why are we doing this? It’s not like we need it, or like we would possibly fit in among all the mortals.”
To this, their sibling pouted, “please, Seph? It will be only for a year! Don’t you want to be with kids with powers like us? Don’t you want to get to know them better? I bet they’re so cool, man!” Esdras beamed, “Imagine all the things we could see and do to them.” Their eyes gleamed, and even though they hadn’t been in that form for long, it was enough for Sephtis to know that they were already planning something.
“We could have just waited for them to die, then their souls will belong to you, or to me, or to Death.” Sephtis’ head moved to the side with each of their last words. “Either way, you can get to know them after they are death, it’s not like you’re going to die too, or like they won’t come to us eventually. These people are not like you and I, we don’t belong here. We belong to the multiverse.”
A whine came from Esdras before they argued back. “Don’t worry, you know we don’t actually have to reap every soul, there are people to do that for us! And I don’t want to wait until they die, it takes them so long to die,” the complained, but their sibling shook their head, it wasn’t long enough for Sephtis, it was never long enough when it came to them.
“Still, you didn’t have to enroll us in his school, we could have just watched. You know? From the outside. Like we always do.”
“What’s the fun in that? Really, Seph, we have the chance to intervene in the universe for once, don’t you want to know how that goes?” Esdras said as they threw clothes to their sibling. “Now put this on, you don’t want to stand out because of your form, that could ruin some fun.”
Sighing at their sibling’s insistence, Sephtis began getting dressed as well. “Why do we even have to get these clothes? They cover all of our bodies, but we don’t even have real bodies.”
“Well, do you want everyone to know you are the embodiment of an abstract concept? I don’t know if they would take you seriously like that,” Esdras scoffed. “Plus, I know we can manifest ourselves as we want, but mum-”
“Death,” Sephtis interrupted.
“Mistress Death, hasn’t taught us everything yet, and she said it would be dangerous if our bodies began changing or gave out that we don’t naturally have natural forms. What would people say if they just saw an skeleton walking around? Come on, cover up!”
Complying to their sibling’s pleas, Sephtis quickly got themselves covered, not wanting to have another argument like the one they had when they found out about Akíndynos. “Alright. Let’s get over with it.” After all, what was a year to an immortal? Definitely not that much.
Walking side by side into the school, the twins went straight to the meeting room, and while Sephtis was feeling quite awkward among all those people, Esdras seemed to be about to jump from excitement. Getting annoyed at their sibling, Sephtis finally spoke up again. “Hey, why don’t you go and look someone to talk to? You don’t really know how to conceal your excitement,” they said softly, it would be good to get them away, but it would also be fun to see their interactions.
“Alrighty, Seph, I’ll find someone super awesome! This is going to be a lot of fun.” And with that, they went away, leaving Sephtis alone with their thoughts.◢
FINALLY DONE! They are all approachable minus Chris