Ashes fell from above. Armageddon had its way and then moved on just as quickly to turn something else into ruins.
Welles shoved a table out from under him, a gash running across his narrow cheeks.
The visor of the Power Suit stared back at him from across the room, standing innocently among the rubble, its hollow gaze accusing him of something.
“Lucius?!” Welles cried out, scanning the lab desperately. Running his hand across his scalp, he shouted Lucius’ name again.
Old jokes echoed in his mind; two guys in their mid-twenties would probably trigger some kind of explosion eventually with their lack of knowledge. Jokes that spilled chemicals and contorted faces, hands clapping the other’s back.
“I’m alright!” Lucius cried out.
Welles’ resulting smile stretched the gash but he couldn’t help it; it was okay to be excited now. “Do you need help?”
“No—no, it’s good,” Lucius groaned, limping out from behind a chemical vat, nervously readjusting the cuffs on his corduroy jacket. “I’m okay,” he grunted, his voice peaking higher than usual.
Welles’ expression softened at hearing that familiar voice. Lily rarely escaped Lucius nowadays.
Lucius cursed under his breath and clenched his throat, pounding his chest and trying to cough out the Lily within him. “Ha, brief malfunction,” he shook his head. “What happened?”
Welles dug his hands into his pocket and looked across the room. Tables flipped over, wires burning, steel melting, and yet the Power Suit they had been constructing remained intact. Of course his baby made it. “Probably the Power Core.”
“Well—yeah,” Lucius rolled his eyes, climbing over the wreckage. “Seems a tad too strong, huh?”
Welles’ steely eyes observed the way the explosion forced the Suit open like an overheated bag of popcorn. “No I don’t think that at all actually. Maybe we just need stronger reinforcements.”
“Ah shit,” Lucius muttered absently, noticing his bare elbow sticking out of the jacket, noticeably smaller than the arm imagined by the corduroy.
Welles rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers directly in front of Lucius. “Hey, c’mon, we’re working, you can get another jacket.”
“Yeah, like I can afford another one,” Lucius muttered just loud enough to be heard but quiet enough that it didn’t demand a follow-up.
Welles sneered. Despite the fantastic display of The Suit’s strength, they were talking about corduroy.
“Anyways I’m not worried about The Suit,” Lucius said, tangibly pitching his voice down. “I’m worried about the person operating it.”
“Eh, we can reinforce them too,” Welles scratched his neck, a motion Lucius could see all too well from directly behind him. “Maybe an additional layer of armor?”
“Y’know, you can look at me when you’re talking to me,” Lucius pointed out, crossing his arms. Welles bowed his head down, probably to take in a deep breath. “I’m concerned about the project too, you know that.”
Welles looked over at Lucius sullenly. “Sure,” he said after a moment of restraint.
“Just because I’m upset about my jacket?” Lucius shot back sharply.
Welles tittered through pointed teeth. “In case you didn’t notice, an explosion just knocked out half our lab!”
Lucius’ eyebrows shot up and down. “I can see that and yeah—it scares me. I think we’re getting in a little over our heads right now.”
“Lucius, we’re creating a war machine,” Welles challenged. “What just happened is proof—proof that we can do some good in this world.”
The soft features of a boy reluctantly sitting on a big pile of money had sharpened over the past eight years.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone, Hector,” Lucius’s eyes widened. Chocolate eyes fighting to stay young. “I just want to do good, you know that.”
“Yeah? You want to do good?” Welles pressed his lips together, towering over Lucius from ten feet away, stepping closer and closer. “I figured that you more than anyone else would realize that if you want to do the right thing, then you need to do some damage.”
A flash of red and Lucius lunged forward at Welles but froze as a loud RIIIP! tore through the room, his arm springing upward as if nothing was holding it back any longer.
The sleeve had been torn.
“Dammit!” Lucius whimpered, clutching his arm.
“Good,” Welles chided. “You shouldn’t be wearing that kind of stuff in here anyways—we’re working.”
Soft brown eyes darkened.
“The lab coats don’t fit me well here,” Lucius expressed delicately. After a second thought, he clarified, “I have to present as male or I just can’t think straight.”
“Uh huh,” Welles said in a way that Lucius had heard many times before.
“Can you not mock me?!”
Welles smiled again. Shaking his head like an older man would, he angled his chin upward and said, “Look at you—getting all worked up over a jacket.”
A sudden flash of red, and Lucius whipped the corduroy jacket into the dust at his feet. Padded broad shoulders became thin, narrow one. Without the jacket, the dress shirt pillowed around Lucius. Fingers struck at the shirt, fumbling, undoing the buttons.
Welles’ jaw fell slack. Did he inspire this?
Lucius tore the shirt open, revealing his well toned stomach and flattened chest behind the binder. All the pain and tension was right there. Welles could almost hear each individual heart beat pounding against his chest like a gong.
A beautiful body crushed and molded into something against the call of nature; what a mess his good old friend Lily had fallen into.
Heaving deep breaths, Lucius spat at him. “I’m fighting this, okay?!”
Welles had to fight hard to hold his wry smile. But he managed. Later all he would need to say is, “Sorry about earlier, I know it’s hard for you but–you seem to be doing so well now and I forget sometimes. After we finish this project, it’ll be easier I think.”
“Lily’s gone and this isn’t pretend. I’m Lucius now and I’m real,” Lucius seethed. He considered the wreckage for a moment and threw the jacket over his shoulder. “I’m out of here and don’t you dare call me tonight to apologize.”
The floor gave out under Welles’ mind, the already completed and calculated sentences tumbled into an abyss.
When the door slammed, Welles could barely even recall what they just fought over.
Liked the story? Here’s a sequel: Baby