Thanks to the creative gingerly-writing on Tumblr, I’ve recently acquired a set of characters and the bare bones of a story based in a world populated by super-powered metahumans, heroes, villains, and all shades of morality in between. Our two main characters are Declan Mortell, an arguably psychopathic businessman/supervillain who uses his powers and schemes to further his company, and Aurelia Frisk, a mid-ranked superhero who finds herself the focus of Mortell’s attention.
The following pieces of fiction are based on the aforementioned gingerly-writing’s prompts (shown here in blockquotes), and are not necessarily indicative of the final state of the characters or their world, but should give you an idea of where my head was at when I started developing this story.
“It’s so fascinating, isn’t it? The inner workings of the human body.”
The hero took one look at the intestines splayed across every surface in the room, turned green, and ran for the door.
“Oh come on,” the villain called after them. “You asked me if I had the guts to face you. Well, here they are!”
The hero stood outside the room, doubled over, hands on her knees, breathing hard. “Get out here! I have questions!”
“I think I’ll stay in here, thanks.” The villain idly kicked at one of the assorted intestines, watching it splay across the floor. “I’m liking this new queasy look on you, and I get the feeling you’ll start hitting me if I come out there.”
“Bet your ass I’d start hitting you…” she grumbled under her breath, pushing herself upright and turning towards the room, holding up one hand to block her vision. “Where the hell did you even get this much guts?”
“Funny story, actually. You ever wonder what happens to the dysfunctional organs of people who get transplants?”
“Oh god, you didn’t-” The hero doubled over again, covering her mouth and gagging.
“Please, they weren’t being used for anything important. I might as well take them off the hospitals’ hands.” He shrugged.
“So you could use them as a fucking punchline?”
“Worked, didn’t it? I’m decidedly winning this encounter.”
“Get your ass out here and I’ll show you just how much you’re ‘winning,’ you psychopath!”
“Still good in here, thanks.”
“It’s not kidnapping, it’s just…preventative measures. Hero restraint.”
Unimpressed, the chained up hero crossed their arms and narrowed their eyes. “It’s kidnapping,” they asserted. “Stop trying to wriggle out of it.”
“I hate you.”
“I’ve never been anything but nice to you! Why would you hate me?”
The hero spent a long moment staring at him, scrutinizing his innocent expression. “You’re a supervillain. You commit heists from research labs, banks, and hospitals. You kidnap and experiment on innocent people-”
“Well yeah, but what have I ever done to you, personally?”
“Do you remember the room full of intestines?”
The villain chuckled. “Yeah, that was great. We had a good laugh about that, didn’t we?”
“I wasn’t laughing.”
“Yeah, you were mostly gagging out in the hallway.”
Her cheeks colored slightly. “Shut up. Besides,” she rattled the chains again, “this time you actually have kidnapped me.” When he started to open his mouth, she actually hissed at him. “Hero-napped. Taken preventative measures. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a crime committed against me, personally.”
His lips pursed, and he rubbed his chin. “Okay, fair. But can’t you let this one slide? What’s one little abduction between friends?”
“You’re a psychopath. I have a policy against being friends with psychopaths.”
“That’s a little able-ist of you, isn’t it, hero? Aren’t you supposed to be a symbol of justice for all people, not just mentally stable ones?”
She let out a groan, slumping forward against the chains. “Please just kill me and get it over with.”
“Kill you?” The villain sounded alarmed. “Why in God’s name would I kill you? Like I said, I just need you to be here for a few hours and not, you know… elsewhere.”
Her head snapped up again, fixing him with an intense look. “Why? What are you planning?”
He grinned, an entirely joyless grin that, for the first time, accurately reflected his behavior. “Let’s not spoil the surprise.”
“Just tell them!”
The hero shook their head. “I may be in love with them, but they’re still my nemesis. They never get to know.”
“He’s going to notice when you avoid him for six months.”
“I’ve avoided him before. Never for six months, but a few months isn’t unheard of.” She shook her head, cradling her stomach with one arm. “That’s why I told you. I need you to keep him busy.”
“You’re joking, right?” Their sidekick stood up, pacing rapidly back and forth across the room. “He’s a psychopath.”
“The only reason you can keep him as your nemesis for an extended period of time is because of this inexplicable thing you two have going on.”
“He’ll kill me! That’s not an exaggeration, either; remember what happened last time a hero tried to consistently foil his schemes?”
She winced slightly, a vivid mental image springing into focus. “I remember.” She reached out and took her sidekick’s hand. “But he won’t kill you. Killing you would hurt me, and he wouldn’t do that. Not in that way. He’ll come up with increasingly elaborate plots, trying to force me out of hiding, and he’ll present you with wild theory after wild theory as to why I’m avoiding him this time, but he won’t kill you.”
“That’s not much of a relief.” The sidekick sighed, using his free hand to pinch the bridge of his nose. “So, what, in six months you show up and pretend nothing happened?”
“I’ll tell him I had a bad case of mono. It’s a stupid reason, but it’s all he’s getting.” She squeezed his hand, looking up into his eyes. “He can never know, understand? If he knew, God only knows what he would do. I know him better than anyone, but even I can’t say whether he’d take to the notion fondly, and want to control it, or if he’d see it as something coming between us and try to… get rid of it.” She shivered. “Secrecy is our only option.”
“And if he finds out? Finds out not only that it exists, but that you lied to him about it? Hid it from him?”
The hero’s hands curled into fists. “Then I’ll deal with him. Whatever that entails, I’ll make sure no one but me gets hurt.”
(Time passes here; gingerly-writing asked for a continuation, and so I wrote more.)
She could hear the door opening from the kitchen, where she bent over the counter, chopping vegetables for a soup. “You’re back early! Did he not show up today?”
“He got tired of the runaround.”
The hero’s grasp on the knife shifted from cooking to combat, and she whirled toward the sound of his voice. Her eyes were wide, and her heart raced. “H-how?”
Her villain didn’t respond immediately. His gaze slid from her eyes down over her, taking in her civilian clothes, the rounded belly peeking out from her loose shirt, her bare feet, and only after the end of all that did he bother to notice her knife. “So long as you kept coming out to meet me, I didn’t attempt to discover your secret identity. When I tired of your sidekick, however…” He shrugged lightly. “It only took me a week when I put my mind to it.”
She tightened her grip on the knife, cheeks coloring slightly from his casual examination. “What about-”
“Your sidekick is fine,” the villain cut her off with a dismissive hand wave. “A series of traps took him out of the picture for a few hours. He’ll escape eventually, or I’ll release him when I’m done here. I just couldn’t have him interrupting us.”
Her eyes narrowed. “And what is it you plan on doing here?”
“Is it mine?”
The tip of the knife sank a few inches, and her gaze was drawn to his. His question, so forthright, so earnest… but coming from someone like him, it couldn’t be. Her knife came back up to combat readiness as she cleared her throat. “I don’t know.” He always knew when I lied. “I only had one moment of foolishness with you, and I was seeing someone else around the same time.”
The coldness in his voice had returned with a vengeance. “No one you know. He’s not in the picture anymore.”
He was quiet for several heartbeats, his gaze absently directed at her midsection, chin resting on his knuckles. “Do you have a doula?”
Another disarmingly earnest question. “I… a what?”
“A doula. A midwife. Someone to assist you leading up to the birth, during the birth, and in the weeks immediately following.”
“No… No, I’m flying solo here. I have an OBGYN, but-”
“I’ll send you a list of candidates tomorrow. Be a dear and pick one without putting up a fuss.” He had already pulled a small tablet out of his coat and begun tapping at it.
“What? No, no way! Why would I ever trust someone you sent me?” She shook her head, the knife hand having fallen to her side, confused frustration replacing fear.
The tapping ceased, and he took two steps towards her, cupping her face in his free hand, eyes gazing intently into hers. In a moment of panic, she swung the knife upwards, but the wrist of his hand holding the tablet casually blocked against hers, holding the knife at bay.
“If there is even the slightest chance that you carry my heir,” he murmured, thumb tracing her jawline, “then I am going to make sure that you, and he, are given the best possible chance.” He grinned softly, adding, “As to why you’ll accept my assistance… Let’s make a little deal, hm? As long as you’re allowing me to assist with the care of this child, I will not commit acts of villainy. No heists. No murders. No schemes or plots. If you are going to focus on this child instead of on me, then I will do the same.”
Her cheeks burned with a confusing mix of emotions. Fear. Suspicion. Hope. Arousal? She kicked herself mentally, letting the knife fall from her fingers, clattering to the floor beside them. It’s not him. You just haven’t felt anyone touch you but your doctor in months now. “If I agree to this… how long could I expect it to last?”
He smiled, but it wasn’t his usual, mirthless smile. An uncomfortable smile, as though he didn’t use it often, but one with the faintest flicker of genuine warmth. “As long as you allow me,” he repeated, slowly guiding her hand back down from its attacking position. “If that lasts until the child is 18, then 18 years.”
She stared up at him with wide eyes. The villain who had never gone more than two weeks without committing a major crime was offering to give up crime for nearly two decades? “I can’t possibly believe that,” she said, almost a whisper.
“Then we’ll just have to take it one day at a time.” He released her, stepping back and turning for the door, tapping away on his tablet once more. “You’ll have that list by tomorrow.”