By the time the Fourth of July rolled around, Felix had all but forgotten his worries regarding what the Evans' had said. Somewhere along the way, he'd decided there were more important things to worry about than the likely-false accusations they'd made, that he'd rather let it go than worry his head over it. Even though he kinda knew deep down he should at least investigate who they were, he'd found it within himself to not care, especially with the new concerns about the gangs in town mounting and the introduction of KeyMaster.
He hadn't seen the other vigilante again but to be fair, there hadn't been all too much time since their last meeting. He was honestly still shocked they'd met so frequently for so long. Felix could only hope the meetings would die down in frequency - she seemed nice enough but he wasn't interested in forming a partnership of any kind.
Well, maybe if he was teaming up with Havenden's warlock, but that was a separate matter - the warlock had never encroached on his territory or questioned his abilities. The warlock was a friend, KeyMaster was more of a rival. One he'd cooperated with, but a rival nonetheless.
But on the morning of Fourth of July as he lazed in his living room on the couch beside his mother, sipping coffee and watching a Twilight Zone marathon, all that hardly mattered. He liked to keep his vigilante life separate from his civilian life where possible, so having a morning like this once in awhile was absolutely key to even maintaining a semblance of balance. He'd struggled with it last school year and was determined to manage himself better in the future.
"Hey," he commented, taking a long sip of coffee before continuing. "Isn't this actually kinda the worst show to marathon on a day that's supposed to be celebratory? It's all about how humans suck and other deep dark stuff like that."
His mother shrugged. "I don't mind. It's realistic on a day so otherwise overblown with embellishments."
Felix laughed lightly. "Well, I guess I shouldn't complain about quality television."
When the show went to commercial, however, they both groaned.
"I can't do this again," the teen whined. "Just switch to something else and come back. There's hardly a chance we'll miss the show."
"Ugh, fine, but I'm putting on the news," Juliana conceded.
"Lesser of two evils…" Felix muttered, slightly disheartened at his prediction of what the news will be talking about.
Sure enough, when Juliana flipped to the local station, the headline displayed:
"POLICE ASKING FOR INFORMATION REGARDING VIGILANTE"
Juliana rose an eyebrow. "Vigilante singular?"
Felix shrugged. "Guess they're only interested in one. Probably Scarfboy."
Listening to what the newscaster was saying, he heard similar sentiments:
"...police have become concerned where the recent strings of new vigilantes are involved. They've released statements asking if anyone has information on who these vigilantes are and to do their duty as citizens and bring that information to the police. One vigilante in particular that the police would like information on is the one the city has started calling Scarfboy. This vigilante, the best known and longest active, has been singled out as the instigator of all other vigilante activity and deemed dangerous-"
Juliana turned the TV off.
"Honestly," she groaned, slumping down further in her seat. "I'm tired of hearing about this. I almost miss the overabundance of politics."
Curious, Felix asked, "Really? I think all this vigilante stuff in kinda exciting."
She narrowed her eyes as she directed her gaze at him. "Of course you do, you're a nerdy teenage boy. But I'm an adult, possibly the only functioning one in this household-"
"I don't think any of us count as functioning, actually."
"-and I'm able to realize the truth of the matter here."
Felix went cold.
"...Um… what do you mean?"
Please don't have figured me out, please don't have figured me out, he begged internally.
"That these vigilantes are pretty dumb."
And so a whole other pause was sent through Felix.
"Gladly. They're stupid, not because they have no mental ability to fight crime like they do, but because they're risking themselves when they do it! These people should know better than to risk their lives like this, what would people think if they were to die on the job? Either the entire city would find out who they were or their body would be done away with and their family would never know what happened to them! A few of them, the images the news sometimes shows, they don't even look that old. No way that scarf guy is any older than his mid-twenties and even that's giving him some serious nutritional issues," she ranted, waving her hands in all directions as she spoke.
Felix gulped. "Oh, uh, yeah, I guess that's a good point."
She let out a long breath. "Seriously, it's like everyone forgets these are people, not heroes that only exist when help is needed."
Felix didn't have any immediate response, choosing to sit with the silence for a moment.
Making a quick choice to try and lighten the mood, he cleared his throat.
"So, uh… have you ever seen the vigilante that took up residence in Havenden?"
Juliana hummed, tilting her head. "Once. Not like I talked to the kid or anything. I just happened to see him as he darted by. I couldn't really get a good look at him, my eyes kinda wanted to look away for some reason, but I saw him. It stands to reason he's a student there but he's also probably the vigilante putting themselves in the least amount of danger."
Felix suddenly thought back to his first encounter with the warlock and the odd phenomenon where he could only make out a facial feature after an emotion was portrayed and drew the conclusion that the warlock probably had some sort of glamour protecting his identity since he lacked a mask.
Note to self: Tell Flex about findings, he thought briefly.
Once again, he didn't know where to take the conversation, stewing in his own personal pot of awkwardness.
He was saved by his father entering the room.
The man was dressed down in his pj's, something not uncommon to see, with his hair in a worse case of bedhead than Felix usually experienced and his glasses nowhere in sight.
Felix found great mystery as to how the man had poured the cup of coffee in hand without his glasses on but chose not to mention it.
"What's with all the action so early in the morning?" Chester groaned.
Juliana smirked. "It's eleven, dear."
"As I said: Early," the man insisted grumpily.
Felix welcomed the change of mood with open arms, setting his now empty mug down on the table in front of him as Chester took his spot in the armchair.
"Just the typical stuff going on in the city these days," Felix explained.
Chester nodded and rubbed his eyes.
"God, I stayed at work so late last night," he whined. "We've been having a lot of server issues recently and finally figured out there's human interference."
Felix frowned, inclining forward. "Wait, like, hackers?"
"Yup. There's this new hacker group popping up and causing trouble lately. We finally added two and two together and sure enough, there's evidence of tampering that matches the known signature," Chester explained to them, slumping in his seat.
Felix tapped his foot anxiously. "Isn't it weird they just showed up out of nowhere? Like, they must be part of a larger whole, right?"
His mother nodded. "It's possible but not a given. It'd be something for the proper authorities to look into, though.
Felix's eyes sparkled. "Well, if you're looking for organized crime, the West Side is probably where to look. Were you guys successful in tracing the interference? Any IP addresses?"
His father shook his head sluggishly. "Nope. Not a clue past the typical hallmarks of their work as others have reported."
The teen sighed. "Yeah, should've guessed as much. Was anything seriously messed with?"
Juliana cut Chester off, saying, "I think we might be verging on classified information here."
The boys pouted, forced to concede.
Remembering what day it was, Felix asked, "Hey, do we have any plans today? Like family barbeques? Firework watching?"
Juliana spared a glance at her husband's blank expression before answering, "Well, we have a standing invitation to the Kelley's household across the street for their party but we haven't decided whether or not to take them up on it. With this issue at work, I'm certain your dad will be busy tonight, so it's up to you and me."
The prospect of a social situation was pretty unappealing but he also knew they hadn't really engaged with their community much since moving into town. It would also probably be healthy to get some social interaction with people other than Brody, his parents, and his favorite barista - it didn't mean he had to like it but it did seem to be the case.
He locked eyes with his mother and nodded. "Yeah, let's go. It'd be good for us."
Felix could see a slight bit of annoyance crop up in her eyes and he guessed she'd hoped he'd give into his own introversion and settle for a quiet night at home.
"Ugh, fine. We'll go be normal people for a night," she muttered, taking a big gulp of her coffee.
The party at the Kelley household had been fun enough. Felix didn't actually know anyone, not even the other teenagers who honest to god sneered at him when he tried to introduce himself, so he found a nice, quiet corner outside and sat alone for most of the night. When he did come out, it was only for food and to check on his mother whom he'd effectively ditched.
He had to say the food was pretty good - violently American, even. The amount of bacon he saw was a little disgusting but the hamburgers were some of the best he'd ever had so he allowed it. Dessert was also pretty good and for once he felt like he wouldn't have to stop for food at all on patrol that night.
Well, more clearly, he wasn't going on patrol at all that night. He was going out, yes, but he planned on investigating something more important.
The moment Felix and his mom got home, she wished him goodnight and went to recover from the large amount of social interaction. It was clear Chester wouldn't be returning anytime soon so even though it was only eight at night, Felix grabbed Flex set out as his vigilante alter ego.
The hacker group his dad had talked about was easily becoming a problem for a variety of people and companies. Now that it was also brought to the prevalence that it was causing his dad issues, it was probably a good time to look into it.
The vigilante made for the West Side of town, where organized crime was the heaviest. Though many lived over here, the large harbor, industrial warehouses, and poor living conditions brought on an onslaught of gang activity and muggings. Felix used to stop by the West Side on patrols far more often but started to lessen the amount when rumors of Dark Gunner started up.
Plus, after joining a gang undercover, he figured he should stay out of the action for a while due to safety concerns.
Something his extended investigation into a now-disbanded gang had given him, though, was a contact. An information broker who was careful to conceal his own identity. It was assumed the man was part of a gang himself, or at the very least had multiple workers in a variety of different gangs feeding him what they find, because he seemed almost endlessly knowledgeable regarding gang activity. He hadn't charged Felix when he'd discovered the teen posing as "Marty Lewis" in the Crimson Coast gang and helped the police gather evidence on it, and if the man knew that brunette kid was the same vigilante he gave free information to every now and then, he made no comment and Felix would trust the man not to tell.
He was an information broker, yes, but something that had become clear was a fondness for superhero comics that translated to a willingness to help the vigilante out. It was almost too simple for someone in such a dangerous line of business.
The contact, often called Deathwish because of the risky way he conducted his business, was typically found in a bar on the edge of the coast called Fish Bone's Bar. It was pretty sketchy and frequented by those with low moral obligations. Felix always hated the salty smelling, boozed up guys who frequented it but he thankfully didn't have to enter the building himself. The way to contact Deathwish was through an old pay phone on the backside of the bar. Placing a call to the restaurant and asking for the man would send him out to meet you.
After waiting about two minutes for the man, leaning against the wall with the payphone two feet to his left, Felix finally heard the back door open and turned his head in time to see the man himself step through the doorframe in all his hooded glory.
The info broker smiled when he recognized his customer was the vigilante.
"Heya, Scarfy. Been a while, hasn't it?" Deathwish greeted. "Two months, at least."
Felix gave the man a wide grin. "Haven't been in the area. But I am tonight."
His contact walked over beside Felix, leaning back and letting out a sigh.
"And you just happen to be in the mood to pay me a visit?"
"I may need some help on something," Felix admitted.
"Mmm… Interestin' turn of events takin' place?" The man asked.
Felix let his grin grow. "You should be the one able to answer that."
Deathwish nodded. "Yes, but only with the appropriate question."
The vigilante gave a breathy laugh. "I'm looking for info regarding a certain hacker group stirring up a ruckus lately. I need to know any information you have on their infrastructure, their HQ, and any affiliated groups. I get the feeling something more is going on than a few programmers wanting to cause trouble."
"Right, you are, Scarfy! There is a little more. Dunno if I wanna tell ya', though…"
Felix stiffened up. "What? Why? You've never been information shy before. Don't tell me you want money? I thought we had something special, you totally innocent citizen."
The man hummed, tilting his head. "Is that supposed to be an insult?"
"Not workin'. And no, I don't want any money from ya'. I get tons of pay from both ends of the law, I don't need any from some twinky fella like ya'self."
"Then what is it?" Felix prodded.
After a moment of silence, the man heaved a sigh and brought his hand up, making a finger gun pointed at the vigilante's head.
"Because another little fella workin' outside the law is currently investigatin' it," he said, making a little sound effect as he pretend-fired.
Felix's blood ran cold as he came to understand the meaning. "You mean… Dark Gunner? I've only heard rumors about him, never anything substantial. He's targeting the group?"
Deathwish chuckled. "Fine, I'll squeal. But don't blame me if ya' get hurt."
The man made a sweeping check of their surroundings, checking for unwanted ears, before continuing.
"The hacker group you're referrin' to, it's directly affiliated with the Hell's Harbor gang. The higher ups there like makin' bold moves and they've branched out a lot before," the info broker started.
Felix nodded along. "Yeah, I remember they had some beef with the old Crimson Coast gang. A struggle for dominance."
"Yup! And though the fall of the violent Crimson Coast gang was without a doubt a good thing, it also gave Hell's Harbor some wiggle room. They've started pushin' other groups into lower prominence. Makin' moves on the tech business is just one way of assertin' dominance."
Felix frowned. "How exactly did Crimson Coast go down again? I wasn't all too involved at the time."
Deathwish dismissed the question and Felix felt relieved. "Not too important. I played a role in it but an unnamed buddy of mine did most of the work."
"Anyway," the man continued, "Hell's Harbor has been gettin' ballsy lately. But so has that gunman. Word 'round the rumor mill is that he's an ex-soldier or somethin' like that. Unfortunately, I don't have any solid info on him, jus' that he's dangerous and startin' to target the members of Hell's Harbor. He's prolly got it handled… or, at least, he may not like it if ya' try to get involved."
The vigilante crossed his arms, grimacing. "So, what? You're worried he'd shoot me?"
The info broker shrugged. "Rumor mill describes him as a violent guy who's a lil' trigger happy. He obviously does a lot to take his targets down so I can't tell ya' what he'd do to someone who threatens to steal the glory."
A moment of silence passed between them and Felix found momentary comfort in the sound of the ocean the bar overlooked, gently hitting the concrete used as a coastline. The night seemed a bit too nice for the conversation at hand.
"...And if I don't interfere? Do you think he'll manage on his own? He can't possibly mean to take down all of Hell's Harbor on his own, can he?" Felix questioned.
Deathwish gave a long sigh. "Kiddo, I don't really know. There's not a lot of solid info on 'im. I've searched into this before and got nothin'. Lots of what I hear is real overblown, too. Like the rumor he's a god of death. As if."
The info broker laughed after that; Felix didn't. Sure, he doubted that rumor as well but until he got a solid explanation for how on Earth the Havenden warlock's abilities worked, he doubted he'd find it funny.
When the man continued, his tone grew more serious. "If ya' end up pushin' yer nose into this, be careful, kay? You're one of my favorite customers."
Felix frowned. "But I don't pay you anything."
"It's not in the pay. It's in what ya' do with what I give ya'. I'll prolly be gettin' another visitor tonight, so ya' might wanna scram."
The vigilante nodded and bid the hooded man farewell, taking off towards the north where Hell's Harbor sometimes gathered.
"Felix?" Flex spoke up, far more tentative than usual.
"What are we doing?"
"The only thing I can think of. I'm gonna see what this Dark Gunner guy is all about."
"Felix, he kills people," Flex warned.
"I know, I know. I gotta be careful. But I can't just sit back and do nothing."
Flex didn't argue back to that point but did speak up with, "I don't like that informant very much. He speaks so casually and is way too dangerous."
"Eh, he's alright. Don't be such a spoilsport."
Felix knew there were quite a few hot-spots for gang activity on the West Side. Violent crimes tended to happen a little further into the city, usually in the middle of the West Side and large meet-ups tended to go down along the borders, typically favoring an area along the coast. Larger gangs, especially, loved to monopolize the waterfront, most times blackmailing the fishermen for some share of their pay.
The moon was nearing fullness but the clouds in the sky obscured it's light, making for a darker sky that night. He supposed the firework celebrations should be starting soon. Though many people went to see the fireworks display held at Golden Beach, a 30-minute drive to the north from the edge of the city, there was still an event down by the harbor, though most people just watched it from the taller buildings of the city.
Felix almost regretted spending the night like this, away from his family. But his father wasn't available and he couldn't recall ever being particularly fascinated by fireworks in the first place so he didn't waste much time on throwing himself a pity party.
He had work to do.
It was about two hours in, at his third location of the night, that he managed to pick up on the very quiet sound of footsteps. They were fast but soft and Felix couldn't quite figure out what direction they were from or where they were going on his perch on the roof of a smaller warehouse that belonged to the Newcoast Fishing Company. The place was pretty ramshackle and was seldom used ever since a bigger one got constructed a few years ago but Felix was privy to the information that the locks were all decrepit and broken, easily allowing trespassers inside. The tin roof itself was full of rather large holes, allowing Felix a good range of vision from his waiting spot.
The footsteps alerted him that someone was in the building below but for all his effort straining his eyes, he couldn't seem to pinpoint their location. After about a minute of quick-paced steps eluding his sight, Felix decided to get a better viewpoint.
Cautiously, he climbed along the roof, careful not to make any loud noises. It was when he peeked through a hole on the opposite end of the building that he finally caught sight of the elusive vigilante.
The first impression wasn't the clearest: The guy blended into the darkness of the night extremely well with the dark colors and he didn't have anything that pulled away from his stealth like Flex's silver radiance did for Felix at times.
But the glimpse of movement as the gunman skirted around a large shipping crate gave Felix an idea of what the situation was - that is, it was obvious Dark Gunner was checking for anyone else in the building.
Felix had to admit he was pretty shocked the place was empty. It was such a hot spot that you'd normally see at least one or two people lurking. Maybe a warning had been issued that Dark Gunner would show up? But then it was more likely they'd prepare for a fight rather than evacuate. They were feisty like that.
So, it must just be a grand coincidence. Felix counted himself lucky.
He changed position again, trying to spot the other vigilante. The next glimpse was a little longer and Felix managed to pick out a black leather jacket and a black beanie with a dark red lining as part of the guy's outfit. Then he disappeared from sight again and Felix was left searching.
"What's he look like?" Flex asked, squirming slightly from his spot draped on Felix's shoulders.
"Shh!" Felix whispered, skirting to the middle of the roof as fast as he could.
"Oh, please! As if he'd hear me."
"No... but I do and it's ruining my concentration," Felix complained.
There were some grumbles from the scarf but Flex mostly remained silent after that.
Soon, Felix arrived at a hole that was almost in the dead center of the warehouse. There were still quite a few spots he couldn't see but he reckoned it was his best bet.
Sure enough, it was easier to spot the gunman from a more central point of view, seeing a quick flash of movement every now and then, often surprisingly far apart. Felix began to wonder just how thorough this guy was going to be as to how empty the building was. He couldn't even tell if this was emblematic of a cautious mindset or of a deep want to find something to shoot at.
It was a disturbing thought that he quickly decided to brush aside for the time being.
Eventually, the other vigilante began to slow down, ending up out in the open in the middle of the floor, glancing around as if confused. Felix couldn't hear him say anything from so far up but had a strong feeling he'd let out some whispered complaint.
Finally, he was able to take in the vigilante's full appearance. Instead of a mask like he, KeyMaster, and the Evans siblings had, Dark Gunner wore a pair of pure black, sleekly designed sunglasses, a dark mask with a creepy, crescent grin on the front. Felix had been right about the beanie earlier and from his vantage point, he could just see some pieces of blonde hair sticking out from beneath it. He'd also seen the leather jacket right, now visibly worn on top of a dark red shirt. His jeans were also black, or at least really dark, and torn in several places - not even in the fashionable way. Felix had to admit they looked pretty cool though and would probably wear them himself if his style wasn't more "book nerd" than "emo kid."
Dark Gunner had obviously accepted that no gang members were in the building tonight and Felix was worried for a second that he'd leave before Felix could even get a good observation.
Thankfully, though, the vigilante seemed to have different plans. Felix could make out the watch Dark Gunner took a moment to check and was reminded to turn his attention to his own phone, affirming the time as 4 minutes to midnight. He absentmindedly acknowledged that fireworks should have started by now but maybe they were just having some difficulties getting started.
Turning his attention back down to the vigilante below him, he noticed the guy was reaching down into his pocket. Felix froze up for a moment and ducked his head away from the opening, hoping Dark Gunner wasn't reaching for his gun as he thought he was.
After a few moments of silence, he realized he wasn't being shot at and peeked his head back over to look at what was going on.
As it turns out, the vigilante hadn't been reaching for a weapon but had instead brought out a bag of candy and had pulled down his lower mask to reveal his mouth. Felix had no clue as to why - the longer he looked, the more apparent it became that they were sour gummy worms and that the vigilante was eating them himself. So the guy just… liked them?
Dark Gunner began to walk over to a window on the side of the building that looked out to the water and propped himself to lean against it. Felix quickly checked to see if there was anything worth looking at before returning to his spying.
"Um… did he just let his guard down?" Flex asked.
"Yeah, he did," Felix whispered back. "Guess he determined the building to be empty and wanted to take a break?"
"Why are all you vigilantes so lazy?"
"Hey! The Havenden warlock seems to work really hard."
"KeyMaster would be so happy of your valiant defense of her," Flex snarked.
Felix puffed out a scoff. "Please, we both know she'd be able to defend herself. Tell her your thoughts next time you see her, Flex. See where it gets you."
"We both know that's ridiculous."
"And you calling people who work overtime to clean up crime isn't?"
"You're right, my bad. That's just reckless."
Felix returned his attention to Dark Gunner.
"I don't know…" he deliberated. "Some of us get into more danger than others."
After a moment of silence, a dull boom resounded through the sky. Felix damn-near jumped out of his skin before noticed the fireworks already lighting up the sky not too far away down the coast. He'd been so lost in his thoughts he hadn't noticed the first one flare up.
Dark Gunner had also freaked out for a moment, it seems, because the guy had snapped his head in the direction of the noise.
Felix watched as another rocked shot up into the sky, exploding into a spread of purple. He gave a little laugh at how much of the light got through the holes in the building's roof, lighting up the vigilante with bright colors along with the rest of the interior. The loud booms slowly calmed Felix and the vigilante seemed to calm down as well.
"Huh…" Felix reflected. "You know, Flex? I always thought fireworks were just kinda… neutral. I didn't really have an opinion. But they're actually really cool."
"Most people think so, according to my database. Have you ever seen them in person before? That seems to be the format found most beautiful by most," his scarf supplied.
Felix gave a moment of thought to it, gazing down onto the vigilante below him. Dark Gunner seemed pretty relaxed by this point, absently chewing on the sour worms while gazing back out the window.
"I… can't say. I thought I did but maybe I was too young to really appreciate them…" Felix answered, scratching his head.
"Speaking of young, my mom said something about how young she expected the city's vigilantes to be. We currently know how young two of us are - I'm fifteen and the Havenden warlock has to be a university student. KeyMaster seems relatively young too, I wouldn't place her any older than mid-twenties. This Dark Gunner guy… everyone says he's some war veteran because of his marksmanship but…" Felix trailed off, focusing on the youthful stature and eating habits of the other vigilante.
"How can I say a guy eating sour gummy worms and moving so fluidly is some old dude?" He shook his head, laughing at the prospect.
"He's killed people, Felix. That's why Deathwish almost didn't tell you anything," Flex pointed out.
"I know, okay?" Felix sighed. "I'm not excusing that, I'm just saying… I don't know what I'm saying… it just doesn't make much sense to me. But then again, if you break down the idea of a teenage boy with a coffee addiction doubling as a vigilante who fights using his snarky, talking scarf… That sounds pretty nonsensical, too."
"What are you getting at, Felix?"
Booms filling the air and color sporadically lighting up the world around him, Felix once again struggled for an answer. Reality seemed warped, in that moment, and the details of his current lifestyle suddenly seemed unnatural. Everything seemed like it would fall apart under any greater inspection and he was honestly frightened of the prospect things would unravel more.
The questions he'd refused to think about threatened to surge up and force him to search for an answer and he only just barely managed to suppress them, pushing them down beyond his notice once more.
Swallowing hard, Felix forced himself to take a deep breath and clear his mind, focusing on the rhythmic booms filling the sky as a distraction.
"I guess, if there's anything I'm trying to say, is that I don't want to judge him yet," Felix answered, only half-positive it was what he wanted to say. "I don't know why he does what he does, when he started to do it, or anything about him. For all I know he's just a lost kid, like…"
Like me, Felix finished in his mind, not letting the thoughts slip out for Flex to dissect.
"In any case, my silver sidekick, I think it's time to get out of dodge. No telling when our edgy little friend down there will actually notice us."
Felix backed away from the opening in the roof slowly before managing his way to the edge of the roof and making a run for it. He'd noticed he'd made a slight bang kicking off from the roof, but even if the fireworks didn't manage to cover it up, he doubted Dark Gunner would even have time to react.
Felix didn't want to go home right away. He doubted he'd get a good sleep with how worried his mind was, anyway, so he decided to head to a place he knew would calm him.
He'd lost track of how much time it had taken to get there by foot, but he was soon enough on the far north end of Newcoast, overlooking the darkness-engulfed college campus from his spot within the bell tower. He was sure the warlock wouldn't mind him up there… if he was even awake at this hour, that is.
The teen wanted to clear his head, he really did, and while the calm atmosphere of the campus helped, it didn't do nearly enough.
"Hey, Flex?" He tentatively searched out.
"What is it now?"
Felix hesitated for a moment before continuing, "My mom said earlier that the vigilantes around the city are stupid for risking their lives so much when we all seem rather young. What do you think? Is it dumb that I do this almost every night? I consider myself competent but… there have been quite a few risky gambles and barely-managed moments. How soon before something does me in?"
His scarf let a moment of silence pass and Felix knew he must have been debating whether or not to give a serious answer.
Finally, Flex replied, "With as much opinion as I can actually have, I'd say all you humans are a little stupid. There are tons of documents in my data especially regarding the teenage years about how natural it is for humans to make mistakes. But I don't believe you'd consider this whole thing a mistake even if it ended up killing you so that's probably not helpful. Overall, I'd say it's stupid in the most general of definitions but looking at you gives way to another perspective."
Felix frowned, fingering a piece of the scarf that laid above his chest. "And what perspective is that?"
"I'm not gonna say this often so listen up, kiddo. Your heart, just like that warlock's heart and hopefully that KeyMaster's heart… it's in the right place. You could done so much else - so much worse - once you found me and yet you consistently risk your life for others and sometimes even get the scars and bruises to prove it… though that's definitely something you shouldn't brag about."
Felix snorted. "Yeah, I'd say showing off battle scars is one of the stupidest ways to blow your secret identity."
"Somehow I get the feeling you'd manage it."
"Got it, got it. We're off-track anyway. Back to the point, you've got a good heart and I'd consider you capable enough to look out for yourself on a regular basis. KeyMaster can generally look out for herself as well and so can our warlock friend… at least, I assume he could, but it's not like we've ever observed him in combat. The point is, I get why your mom worried this morning but I don't think you should worry your little head over it. And believe me, it is little," Flex finished.
"Hah! I don't know whether you're trying to reassure me or insult me," Felix pointed out.
"Little bit of both."
"It was a lazy joke."
"I'm allowed that. Side characters are always allowed to be less interesting."
Felix finally grinned. "Oh, really? So there's no show or book out there where a side character is more interesting than the main?"
"...From my database, I can tell you that's the way it should be but your tone voice indicates a trap."
"Let's just say I could name quite a few examples. Also, thanks for admitting I'd be the main character."
"I never said that," Flex denied. "I just said I'd be a side character. For all I care, you'd be one, too."
Pouting, Felix gave a light swing to his dangling legs before rising up. "C'mon, let's go home before we ruin the warlock's beauty sleep."
"Felix, he's a year-round college student. I highly doubt he's asleep this early. On a weekday," Flex criticized.
Felix shuddered, taking one last sweeping look at the quiet campus. "God I could never do college year-round. I don't care if it cuts a year off, I need my summer breaks."
"Sometimes I worry if you'll make it out of high school."
The vigilante gave a slight twirl to his scarf, taking pleasure in the quickly voiced discontent, before taking off on his journey home.
When he did finally get back to his room, it was near 4 a.m., and he passed out on his desk as soon as he hid the evidence of his nightly activities away. He'd regret the location in the morning.