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Title: White Flower, Red Candle
Fandom: Sky High
Disclaimer: Not Mine. Disney's
Characters: Warren Peace/Layla Williams
Prompt: 001. Beginnings
Word Count: 2,459
Rating: PG for mild language
Summary: This story is a retelling of Warren and Layla's scenes at The Paper Lantern. From Warren's POV. This is more Pre Warren/Layla

Author's Notes: Warren so totally fell in love that night! (Whether he'll admit it or not ;) Hopefully crossposting this to skyhighfic and eventually fanfic100.

White Flower, Red Candle

It all started because Mrs. Liu was getting anxious about a customer in her restaurant who wouldn’t leave. It was 10pm, past closing time on a week night, and the girl had been planted in her booth for over two hours.

Yes, she had ordered a meal, a vegetarian special, but that was over an hour and a half ago, and she’d hardly even touched it. Clearly the girl was waiting for someone who hadn’t shown up, and wouldn’t admit defeat. But Mrs. Liu wanted to finish cleaning up so that she could go home.

That’s when she asked me to go over there and hurry the girl out the door. Mrs. Liu and her husband, own the Paper Lantern. I work for them, helping out, bussing tables and doing dishes. The Lius are old family friends. They helped out my mom and me a few years ago when my dad managed to get himself into a lot of trouble.

Actually, I don’t know what we would have done without them. They put us up for awhile, after our house burned down, and got me into a school here in Chinatown when I couldn’t go to a regular one anymore. People were afraid of my dad, and I guess they were afraid of me too. So without Mr. and Mrs. Liu, we might have been out on the streets.

So, obviously, the Lius, are more like family to me then just friends. And actually, they are really good family to have. Not many people know this, but they are both retired superheroes from China. She was known as Dragon Tooth, and he was the White Lantern. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, the Lius were as famous in China as The Commander and Jetstream are in Maxville now.

Mr. Liu could “see” things, if you know what I mean. He would know in advance where Dragon Tooth would be needed, and so she’d be there just in time, to save Shanghai from Giant Robots and the like. I sometimes think Mr. Liu can still “see” things, although if he can, he’s not talking.

So, even though I thought it was a little unusual that Mrs. Liu had asked me to go and talk to a customer, (which I almost never do), I grabbed a pitcher of water and walked over to talk to the girl.

I couldn’t actually see her, because she was sitting with her back to me. I walked up to the table and asked her if she was still working on her dinner. It wasn’t until she looked up that I recognized her.

Damn, if it wasn’t Will Stronghold’s little friend.

That was kind of an awkward moment.

Will Stronghold is my archenemy. (Not that I dislike him, or anything. Well, yes, I do dislike him since he’s The Commander’s son, and everyone fawns over him all the time like greatness is some kind of birthright he’s inherited. Not that I would know anything about that.)

Anyway, the girl’s name is Layla, and even if she is Stronghold’s friend, she is kind of cute, in a hippy way. And I’ve never seen anyone look this sad before. She looked like her whole world was melting around her or something.

So, after we finished our awkward moment, and she pointed out that we went to school together, I asked her if I could heat up her dinner for her.

She misunderstood me, and said in a whisper, “You’re not supposed to use your powers outside of school.”

Actually, I knew that. And besides which, Mr. and Mrs. Liu would both have my hide if I ever used my powers in their restaurant.

So I explained to her, “I was just going to stick it in the microwave.”

She laughed at that, and her whole face and body brightened up a little bit, and that made me feel good. I thought she seemed like someone who might be nice to talk to.

I’d only ever seen her walking around with Stronghold, and his other sidekick pals, and really didn’t know anything about her, other then the fact that she always wears green, and that she supposedly doesn’t have any powers. And of course that she has a really obvious crush on Stronghold. Everybody knows that.

Actually I did notice her one time at the beginning of the school year, during this fight I got into with Stronghold. I got pretty carried away hurling fireballs at him. (Which I admit, I enjoyed…) And chasing him under a table, (That was fun too…) So, I remember yelling at him something about where were his Sidekicks now? It was meant as a taunt, since at the time, Stronghold was still a Sidekick too.

But then that whole little group of them had come running over. And they were standing right in front of me.

Man, they looked helpless. And I didn’t have anything against them, or anything, other then they were in the Cult of Stronghold, which was annoying. But anyway, she was standing right there in front of me, and she didn’t look like she was budging an inch.

I knew that I wasn’t actually going to do it. I was all powered up and ready to, don’t be mistaken, but I sure as hell didn’t want to back down either. So, it was this whole, different kind of awkward moment.

Then Stronghold, (unfortunately) decided to take that time to discover his super-strength, and he threw me up into one of the ceiling beams. (That I didn’t enjoy at all. Good thing I can take a hit.)

So that was the first time I really noticed Stronghold’s little hippy friend.

Anyway, the girl, Layla, must have been really ticked off at Stronghold tonight because she asked me to sit down with her. And, I admit, I was intrigued. I looked around, and couldn’t see Mrs. Liu anywhere because she was back in the kitchen. I spotted Mr. Liu heading over to the other side of the restaurant, so I decided, what the hell.

“I think I can spare a minute,” I told her.

I sat down in the booth across from her, and noticed that no one had lit her candle. I ignited my forefinger, and took care of it. She laughed when I did it, and I smiled back at her. I don’t know why I smiled. I know I don’t do it that often. But she seemed kind of pathetic sitting there for two hours waiting for Stronghold, and I wanted to cheer her up. So that’s why I did it.

It’s not like it’s a big deal or anything.

I noticed that the flower in the vase next to the candle looked kind of droopy. She noticed it too. And all of a sudden the flower perked up blooming right before my eyes.

Now it was her turn to smile at me.

“Did you do that?” I asked her.

“Yeah”, she answered.

“Cool,” I said. “But I thought you didn’t have any powers?” I whispered at her so the waitress wouldn’t hear.

“Oh, I do have powers. I just don’t believe in using them unless the situation demands it,” She whispered back.

“Like in Power Placement?” I asked.

She giggled a little again, “I didn’t believe in participating in that silly test in the gym. That would be supporting a flawed system, and I’m not into labels.” She said.

Definitely a hippy.

“So, you didn’t want to be in Hero Class?” I asked.

“Oh, no”, she said, “I’m right where I belong in Hero Support. And I’m going to stay there until Heroes and Sidekicks are treated with more equality.” And she nodded her head in resolution.

And I could tell by the way she smiled when she said it that she really meant it, when she said that she was happy to be a Sidekick. That’s the first time I ever heard of anyone feeling that way. Being in Hero class is one of the most important distinctions at Sky High. Because, man, you are nobody at that school unless you are in Hero class.

I actually thought it was kind of cool that she was able to see past all the stereotyping and preconceptions that went along with the whole hero/sidekick thing. Not that I would know anything about stereotyping or preconceptions.

After that, I don’t remember much of the conversation. She did most of the talking. Babbling, actually. Most of it about Stronghold. For some reason I didn’t mind. It seemed to make her happy. I think she told a couple of old stories, and went on for awhile about how she discovered her powers, and something about Lima Beans.

Funny thing though, Even though I don’t remember much of what she was saying, I do remember that she was smiling the whole time she was saying it.

After, it must have been twenty minutes, of Stronghold Rambling, I finally just asked her point blank about the fact that she has a crush on him.

“I do NOT have a crush on Will Stronghold,” she tried strongly to deny.

I tilted my head at her so that she would know I wasn’t buying that.

She got it, and said, “Is it that obvious?”

I didn’t want to stress her out about it or anything, so I just said, “Yeah”, as gently as I could.

“Great.” She said. It made me feel a little bad, because I hadn’t meant to embarrass her.

“So, why don’t you just tell him.” I threw out at her.

“Well, I was going to ask him to Homecoming,” she replied. “But there’s two problems. He likes somebody else… And she’s perfect.” And Layla frowned again after saying that.

Yeah, I knew who she was talking about. Gwen Grayson, Homecoming Queen, and the most popular girl at Sky High. She’s been fawning all over Stronghold since day one. (Even though she’s a Senior, and he’s a Freshman. Which is kind of weird right there, when you really think about it.)

But Grayson’s fawning has become especially noticeable since he discovered his super-powers, (thanks to me, unfortunately). In fact, earlier today, when Stronghold and I were assigned to fight together in Save the Citizen, I saw him get all distracted just because she waved at him. I had to call him back to reality to get his mind back in the game, because there was no way I was losing to a couple of jerks like Speed and Lash. (And, no, just because I won Save the Citizen with Stronghold, does not mean we are going to be buddies now.)

Anyway, come to think of it, I haven’t noticed Stronghold sitting with Layla and his old sidekick friends much lately. Ever since Stronghold had been promoted to Hero class, Gwen has been dragging him over to eat with her In-crowd.

Maybe that was why Layla was so sad, I wondered.

“Hmmm, you want to know what I think?” I asked her. “To let true love remain unspoken, is the quickest route to a heavy heart.”

I’d just read that off a fortune cookie that had been sitting at her table. But, hey, it sounded good. And she seemed impressed.

“Wow. That is really… deep,” she told me.

I couldn’t leave it at that, even though she was looking at me with these huge brown eyes, and her jaw was hanging slightly open, and I noticed that she had a really pretty mouth.

“Yeah,” I said. And then I read the rest of the fortune cookie. “And your lucky numbers are four, 16, five and 49.”

And then she giggled, which was nice, because it meant that she was smiling again.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Liu took that moment to stick her head out of the kitchen, and noticed that I was still talking to Layla. She yelled at me, in Chinese, to get back in the kitchen, and some other things too. (Mrs. Liu is a really tough lady, and did I mention that she’s a retired Chinese superhero?)

So, I said, “I gotta go. See you around, Hippy.” And I handed her back the fortune cookie. I figured that was pretty much that. And, I suppose I will see her around. Not that it will make any difference.

Things are different for me at school then they are here at the restaurant. You see, I’m the only guy there whose father is a super-villain, and everyone acts like they expect me to be a super-villain too. In fact, sometimes they act like I already am one. And it’s been that way since I was eight years old. And it doesn’t matter whether I play up that reputation, or try to play it down. People just believe what they want to believe about me.

But I’m OK. I just play along now because I’ve gotten use to the role. And, it can be fun sometimes . I liked throwing fire balls at Stronghold in the cafeteria. Hell, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. You know, sometimes when I look in the mirror, I wonder if that really is a Future Super Villain looking back at me. Sometimes, I just don’t know. Maybe it’s a toss up.

Anyway, I guess when you get down to it, my problem with Stronghold isn’t that his dad put my dad in jail. (Although, that does piss me off.) It is that he and I are on opposite poles. Everyone expects him to be great, just because of who his parents are, and they give him every benefit of the doubt, whether he has super powers or not. There must be a lot of stress to go with having such high expectations placed upon you. (But I doubt he’d last a day walking in my shoes.)

And you know what? The guy’s not really that bad. He’s actually just a big doofus, who has fallen for Grayson’s pandering, and is apparently the only person at Sky High who hasn’t figured out that Layla has a crush on him. So, I guess in a strange way, me and Stronghold have the same problem. Both of us have been judged by who are parents are, and not by who we are.

Maybe that’s what Principal Powers was trying to tell us when she put us in the Detention Room after the Cafeteria fight. She said that trying to live up to your father’s reputation was a sad waste of talent. Maybe that’s true. I wonder if trying to live up to your dad’s reputation is as hard as trying to live it down?

Something to think about, I guess. Not that it will make any difference.


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June 2017

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