-He's Not My Hero-

Chapter I: Saving the Day

The word "hero" is used too much.

I remember one day when I sat down at my immaculate desk to pen a list of alternatives. I sat and stared at the bright white paper with a gold pen clutched in my hand. I was there for what must have been half an hour, but the only two things that appeared on the page were the word "Hero" scrawled at the top and a rather intricate drawing of my own personal hero, flying towards me as he often did with a mischievous grin on his face.

But I couldn't think of one alternative for the word that was overused in newspaper articles all across New York. The only two alternatives I could think of after another fifteen minutes of sitting were the words I scrawled beneath my sketch of him:
Man of Iron

Man of Iron, as he was commonly known, was a hero. At least, according to every single magazine, newspaper, tourist brochure, and a plaque dedicated to him in City Hall. To my father, he wasn't a hero, he was a menace. My father scowled each time his handsome masked face appeared in the newspaper, undoubtedly coupled by headlines of his heroic rescue of an old lady from a mugging, or something equally as cliché.

"That man's a menace." My father glared at his newspaper. It was before I'd ever met him. I'm ashamed to say that I may have almost believed him.

"Sure, daddy," I said.

"He is."

And my father was off again. His pale face turned blotchy red and his slicked back hair started to come out of place.

"He is, Elaine," he explained to me. "He swoops around preventing one robbery, one mugging, or one fire per week, and the entire city is in the palm of his hand. It's not right."

I nodded because, as ignorant as I was, I thought he had a point.

It wasn't safe how genuinely obsessed we were with him. He was dubbed the "Man of Iron" by newspapers across the city, as if he were some cheesy cross between Super Man and Iron Man.

The headline that day was accompanied by a picture of the "Man of Iron" stepping from a burning building with a little girl cradled in his arm and her cat perched on his shoulder. I hated to admit that I felt my heart grow a little colder towards him at that moment, as I had every time I read of the miraculous rescue of another helpless citizen.

My mother had died in a fire when I was two. Where was this famed super hero then? Where was my miracle?

Superheroes in movies always pulled off miracles like the Man of Iron did, but you never heard about the countless other people who died while the hero was pulling a kitten out of the rubble of a collapsed building or stopping a car whose brakes had failed just before it hit a pretty little girl. What about the countless other people dying of perfectly preventable accidents? What about my mom?

But the man of Iron wouldn't help me. I couldn't even help myself, I couldn't remember my mom, and there were no pictures of her anywhere. I never talked with my father about her, I was sure it was too painful for him. She was never mentioned beneath our roof, and for that reason I had to formulate her for myself in my imagination.

I went off the looks that I'd obviously not inherited from my father. He was tall, but large and broad shouldered where I was slight and dainty. His face was hard and angular, mine was soft. His eyes were brown, mine were green, the color of celery. His skin was dark tan; mine was the color of the fresh white paper in my sketch book. The only feature we had in common was our stick straight brown hair. He wore his slicked to his head, away from his eyes. Mine fell around my bony shoulders and framed my pale face.

The mental image I'd always had of my mother was a thin, dainty woman with my celery green eyes and soft face, but with wavy blonde hair instead of my straight brown hair. She looked like a portrait of an angel I'd once seen at the Met.

"Look at him," my father spat, throwing the paper in front of him on the glass table. We were eating breakfast on the expansive brick balcony that overlooked the crowded streets and tall buildings of New York City. Cars down below could be heard honking, but they seemed worlds away from the silence of our expensive pent house at the top of an ancient, Ivy covered brick building.

"I'm looking, dad," I said.

"That mask is ridiculous."

I had to disagree with my father there, though I didn't voice my thoughts. The man of Iron's mask was very effective. It was nothing but a black strip of cloth tied at the back of his head that covered his eyes, his cheek bones, and the top part of his nose. From what I could see, he was very handsome. I had always taken note of this whenever I saw him, but it seemed to be a given. All super heroes were handsome; it was in the job description.

He was almost a rebel super hero, though, in a laid back, not-trying kind of way. He didn't wear tights, a cape, nor did he slick back his hair and let one greasy curl fall on his forehead a la Brandon Routh in Superman Returns. I was glad he didn't, he would look like an idiot, and that would make me just a little more inclined to dislike him. His hair was unkempt and almost always wind blown in the photos I'd seen, usually because he'd just landed. He wore pedestrian clothing to save people, usually battered jeans, Nikes, and a plain T-shirt. He even wore that get up when it was twenty degrees outside. The strangest thing about him, though, was his deep set eyes. They were silver, and they were just a little creepy.

The team of our maids was outside to collect our breakfast after a few more minutes of my father's abuse of the Man of Iron. They silently collected our plates and I stood up, shouldering my leather back pack.

"Have fun at your first day of senior year, darling," my dad said.

"Oh I'll try."

I walked through the rooms and hallways of vaulted ceilings and hardwood floors on my way out the door, listening to the soft patter of my suede moccasins on the marble floors of the entry hall as I stepped into the elevator. I was barely able to pull my pleated uniform skirt out of the way before the door closed on it.

I was shifting impatiently from foot to foot as the elevator descended. I sat on the metal handle and rested my head against the mirrored wall, hoping that the elevator doors didn't slide open to admit another passenger.

They didn't, luckily, and after I'd paid the valet to retrieve my car and driven off, my cell phone began ringing from the leather passenger seat of my BMW M3.

"Hey Randy," I said. It was my best friend, Randolph, the gay man who had taught me everything I knew about clothes. "Do you need a ride to school?"

"No, no. You will never guess what just happened." He sounded ecstatic.

"Did you get in a wreck?" There were sirens blaring in the background, my eyebrows knitted in concern.

"Yes!" I could practically see him bouncing up and down in glee.

"Oh my God, where are you? I'll come get you right away."

But Randy wasn't listening to me; he was off on one of his long tirades.

"Okay, listen. So I lost control of the car, right, and I smash right into this concrete column. I thought Rachel and I were dead. But the column starts to crack, and it turns out it was holding up this giant building. People are screaming and calling 911 and what not when, oh, you'll never guess what!"

I thought I saw where this story was going. It sounded like every interview of a witness to one of The Man of Iron's miracles I'd ever read. I closed my eyes; was this some kind of a cruel joke?

"That Man of Iron guy just swoops in! He literally holds the building up; he's still doing it right now, and not even breaking a sweat! People are getting out but you have to come see before he flies away. I think my sister is about to pee herself."

My curiosity was awakening. I briefly wondered how much a photo of the Man of Iron's heroic rescue would be worth.

"Hold it, where are you?"

"Like three blocks from school."

"I'll be right there."

I hung up on him before I could agree to anything else that would make me any more hideously late to school.

I could hear the sirens two blocks away, and when I drove up, there was a mob of onlookers screaming, crying, and fainting. Yes, I did say fainting. People who were perfectly healthy and unharmed were dropping like flies around me as I advanced towards Randy's crumpled Navigator.

Randy grabbed me by the arm, his light blue eyes wild with excitement. His little sister Rachel was staring at the destruction, mesmerized.

"Oh my God, there he is, do you see him?" He looked as if he would burst into tears.

I did see him. The Man of Iron was floating two stories above me, holding the quickly crumpling section of building as the employees vacated. I could see them through several unbroken glass windows, scrambling to get to a stable part of the building.

A NYPD officer stood next to me and held a megaphone to his mouth.

"If everybody would quickly and calmly make their way towards the very back corner of the building, away from the collapsing portion, we will go ahead and let the Man of Iron drop the front half," he said calmly, completely ignoring me as I screeched and covered my ears at the loud noise.

I could see employees scrambling towards the back of the building through the quickly expanding hole in the front. The man of Iron turned his head to look over his shoulder, looked beneath him, and slowly sunk towards the ground. There was a deafening crunch, and several more screams, as the entire front half of the building disintegrated. The dust began to settle after several moments, and The Man of Iron was levitating in the center of the rubble.

A deafening roar came from the crowd. I have to admit that I was caught up in the moment, despite the bitterness in my heart, I let a smile grace my face. Randy was screaming as loud as he could, bouncing up and down and waving at the levitating hero.

"Hey kid, this your car?" Randy turned to glance at a fat, sweaty man in a thick jacket standing behind him. His hat read "Big Apple Wrecking Company".

"Watch Rachel," he commanded me before following the smelly wrecker to sign some papers.

I looked to my side to where Rachel should have been. There was an empty space where the little girl had previously stood. I spun around, anxiously searching the crowd around me for her face. She wasn't there.

"Rachel!" I shouted. No answer. I was starting to get frantic. "Rachel, honey! Come here please!" I was answered by the loud shouts and cheers for the Man of Iron, but not by Rachel's soft, shy voice.

"Oh my God, Rachel!" I began to run out of the crowd, searching for her on the outskirts. "Where are you!"

The crowd began to dissipate and quiet as people remembered the real world and the places they had to be. Rachel was still nowhere to be seen.

"Rachel!" I was beyond frantic now. What if someone had taken her?

Then a wave of relief washed over me at the same time as my heart melted. Rachel was standing at the front of the crowd, her little school uniform covered in dust.

"Man of Iron!" She shouted up, staring through the dust at the levitating figure. I ran to her side and scooped her into a hug.

"Oh my God don't run away from me like that," I said.

"I want his autograph!" She whined, pointing towards the Man of Iron's figure. I sighed.

"Rachel, he probably has more people to go and save."

I grabbed her hand and began to pull her gently away.

There was a loud gust of wind that blew my hair into my mouth and eyes. I stopped dead in my tracks and began to reel backwards. The famed super hero stood right in front of us, a slip of paper extended towards Rachel.

"Here you are, I made it out to Rachel," he said. His voice was amazingly clear and low, as if it was the digitally enhanced voice of an actor in a movie.

I was still falling backwards from the shock of his sudden appearance and I stepped right into a huge chunk of concrete. I would have fallen, had it not been for the inhumanly hard arm that shot out to catch me.

"Watch yourself." He was much closer than he had been before, he stood next to me, and I was stretched across his right arm. I blinked several times.

"Um, thanks," I said, pulling myself up and dusting myself off.

"Any time." There was another tiny, amused smile on his face. I returned it and began to walk away, dragging a tiny, staring Rachel behind me.

My eyes widened as Rachel managed to slip away from me for the second time. She wriggled her chubby little sweaty hand out of mine and ran towards the Man of Iron.

"I don't wanna go to school!"

"Rachel, you have to," I said. "I don't like it either, but we all have to."

Rachel pouted and, to my extreme embarrassment, walked over to the Man of Iron and clung to his torn up blue jeans.

"Rachel," I sighed. "Come on."

He grinned and grabbed her by the wrists, swinging her up and setting her safely on her feet as if she weighed half a pound.

"You should go with your sister," he said, giving her what was sure to be his most charming smile. My heart raced a little at the sight of it, but I quickly reprimanded myself. Was that how normal girls, girls who didn't have a reason to hate him, reacted towards him?

"Oh no, I'm not her sister," I corrected him, already feeling stupid for doing so. What should it matter to him if I was her sister or not? "Her brother's over there." I nodded towards Randy, who was awkwardly shooting the breeze with the large driver.

He nodded and I suddenly had the feeling that I was boring him with my chatter. I looked into his creepy silver eyes one more time

"Okay Rach, we need to go." I took her hand and practically dragged her towards Randy.

I felt several pieces of debris hit me in the back as a strong gust of wind blew them towards me. The fifty or so stragglers cheered and waved towards the Man of Iron's figure, which was quickly becoming an invisible speck in the sky. I turned to squint towards the dust, but I neither cheered nor waved. I swore I could have seen him looking back down on me.

A/N:

Just so you know, despite my snarky comments about Brandon Routh's hair, I loved him as superman and still love him dearly. I also loved Christopher Reeve, who sported a similar hairstyle. I don't, however, love the dorky hairstyle that somehow manages to stay perfect even after flying "faster than a speeding bullet". It works for superman, but not for the Man of Iron!

And, yes, I know it's a dorky name, but so are "Superman" "Batman" and "Wonderwoman" (Just to name a few). It fits the trend of superhero names without actually using the standard formula of an adjective plus a statement of their gender.

I feel that now is as good a time as ever to mention that I am a total and complete review whore. Really. Although I love writing on its own without the reviews, they give me incentive to publish the next chapter much quicker!