Due to the nature of the mid-year tournament contests, injuries were unavoidable. Hence, all available school nurses were on duty. They needed all the help they could get ; acid burns, electrifications, frog-spitting curses and so on were no match for healing abilities - but the latter lost their efficiency with time, and needed to be used as soon as injuries were inflicted. Just half-an-hour was a crucial time loss.For the competition’s entire four-hour period, the nurses were completely overworked. In compensation, they got to go home right around half past noon or so. By lunchtime, all the nurses were all long gone - and Felicio's face a bloody mess.
Felicio had to be transported ASAP to the nearest hospital - a one-hour drive away. Emergency care was crowded, wasting further time. By the time Felicio was taken care of, healing abilities were barely any help. He ended up stuck in bed for weeks, knowing full well that some of the scars on his face would likely never fade away. His parents and brother were distraught enough over that, but two other sequelaes were even more tragic ; the permanent loss of vision in his right eye, and the - hopefully temporary, or at least, doctors seemed confident that it would only be temporary - loss of his ability.
Brett, Fabrice, Brimmie were devasted over Felicio’s painful condition. Though the twins’ parents were almost just as concerned with the fact that, if he failed to recover, he may just be kicked out of hero school. Though abilities weren’t required to become a hero, they certainly were to attend GHH schools. ‘Was expelled from’ would likely be an even worse weight on his resume than never attending hero school at all.
Felicio had very mixed feelings about the whole thing. While he was in pain, and he’d be scarred for life - Finally…he had some calm. He’d always wondered what it would feel like - just laying in bed, day in and day out. It was… peaceful. Felicio let his mind wander.
Brett dragged his brother through the backdoor, and urged him to sit with him in the muddy soil of their house’s long-abandoned vegetable garden. Felicio pouted, but let him do as he pleased. With the mid-year tournament just around the corner, the spunky fanboy had been all over him for weeks now - even more than usual. His excitement was fun in small doses, but at when it was this intense, Felicio had considered, a few times already, just kicking him in the nuts and being done with it.
Visibly unaware of his twin’s sour mood, Brett went back into the house, then stormed back out, imprudently carrying the glass recycling bin. The hazy, tired blur they were known for left Felicio’s eyes, as the boy went from sleepy to worried in half a second.
“B-Brett, what- You’re not supposed to-” Far from being discouraged, Brett emptied the bin in a corner of the garden, picked out an empty beer bottle from the sharp mass of empty containers and broken silverware, and put it down, standing straight and proud in the middle of the tiny backyard. He then ran back over to his brother.
“Come on! Shoot it! Er- Zap it, whatever!” Felicio starred at him with a jaded expression.
“...it’s glass. That’s not gonna work.” He pretended to wipe the mud off of his pants and stood up, but his brother stopped him presto.
“Just doooo iiiiit! I wanna show you something, come on, come oooon!” Brett was shaking him by the shoulders, practically bursting with energy. Felicio let out a dramatic, elongated sigh as he targeted the green-ish bottle with his electric current.
Brett pushed his brother and himself to the floor as a loud bang reached their ears. The bottle blew up into a flurry of pieces, stabbing into the walls and fence. The two dirt-covered boys struggled back to their feet - to see the bottle’s base on it’s own, the rest of its structure shattered all around it. Felicio blinked, trying to recall if he’d ever read anything about this on some blog or other.
Brett broke down into laughter, happily giggling his heart away. “See! See? Did you see it that? I told you! That’s my ability!” Felicio raised an eyebrow. That hardly explained anything. He retorted, getting fed up with Brett’s nonsense again.
“But I did that. Which… doesn’t make sense, actually.
- Well, yeah, dummy! That’s the point! That’s my ability! I can change OTHER PEOPLE’s abilities into the ability to make shit explode!” Felicio immediately let out a short ‘ooo’, as if that made perfect sense - because, to him, it did. Felicio was quick on the uptake - that, and sort of just went along with whatever people said so long as it wasn’t blatantly impossible.
“So is that why it took so long for you to realise you had one?
- Hey, I’m eight! That’s not long, jerk! But. Yeah. I guess it is?
- Uh. Wait, how did you even realise it?
- You know the neighbour? Yasmine? Esper brat?
- Wha, the one who yells inside of everyone’s heads at the lake beach so she can skip the line at the ice cream stand?
- Yeah. Well, she was using her ability to chase off pigeons - poor things, seriously! and, I dunno, I was mad at her, and I kinda felt weird, and then...
- Wait, wait, did the bird-
- Ew!” Felicio couldn’t help but laugh. Sure, it sounded gross, and it was sad for the pigeon, but it also sounded kinda funny. Especially the part where Yasmine must’ve whined her heart out, covered in bird bits. “Did they find out it was you?
- What? Of course not. I mean, I was hiding a bit like mom and dad always ask me to. Plus, how they have known? I didn’t know right away either! Glad she wasn’t screaming at me though… “ Felicio gulped at the thought, then thought for a bit.
- Uh-uh. So, you can’t explode things yourself?” He’d asked out of innocent curiosity - nonetheless, Brett gave him a murderous stare.
“No. I can’t.” Felicio gulped. He hadn’t meant to offend him...
“…So what are you gonna do now that you know? Won’t you tell the parents?
- Well, duh! But, not now.
- ...Why not?
- Cuz! I wanna practice! And, and! It has to be dramatic.” There was that word again. If Brett had to give up the use of all adjectives save for one for the rest of his life, he would’ve picked ‘dramatic’ in a heartbeat. “Just, imagine it. You win the year turney! And then boom! I tell them I have an ability too, and we can attend together! Mom, Dad, they’ll be crazy happy!
- Yeah right. Pft! I’m not gonna win.
- Um, you better? I’m extra, ultra counting on you!
- Else what? You’re gonna blow up a bird in my face?
- Well, what are you gonna do if you can’t even win a stupid contest?
- Oh, it’s stupid now? Guess I don’t gotta win then.” Their nonsensical arguments escalated, and the two began play-fighting each other like cubs, rolling in the mud, having completely forgotten the garden was now a minefield of glass shards.
“WHO’S THE DELINQUENT PLAYING WITH FIREWORK THIS TIME?” Thankfully, the neighbours’ shouting stopped them before they endured serious harm. Shit! they both thought as they ran back inside, tail in between their legs.
Brett didn’t speak a word about his ability to his parents, not for Felicio’s entire hospital stay. Even being so young, he understood it would’ve been in poor taste.
The newly one-eyed kid recovered relatively quickly from the bulk of his injuries ; soon enough, the Shaw family was all back together in their home. With one exception ; his ability was still left unusable. At best he could produce the occasional sparks, and even when he managed to, they manifested as little more than static electricity.
His ability may just be out for good. Ergo, expulsion was imminent. Demand was high, places were few, and the GHH was strict ; they couldn’t afford to let unabiltied kids take up space, even if Felicio’s situation wasn’t terminal.
Their parents were devastated. First a non-abiltied kid ; now a disabilitied one, failing school just two years in.
Felicio, in turn, was glad. Sure, he lost an eye. Likely wouldn’t get to use his ability again for a while, either.
But leaving behind hero school was a huge weight off his shoulders. He didn’t even have to feel guilty either ; Brett could just- go instead! If he didn’t up and confess to having an ability already, Felicio would just tell the parents himself. He couldn’t bear being the only one content with this situation, while the rest of his household sulked in their own misery.
On the day he was released from the hospital, and ate dinner with his family again for the first time in weeks, he waited. Waited and waited for Brett to bring it up. No luck.
“Hey, bro! Did you tell mom?
- Tell what?” Brett looked clueless. No, he was faking it.
“Your thing. Did you show her your thing?”, Fel insisted.
“What thing?” Brimmie assertively joined in. Brett glared at his brother, then sighed, defeated.
The family gathered around the coffee table. The parents, dubious and confused, but characteristically curious, sat bundled up together on the couch. while the twins wracked their brains figuring out a setup that would enable them to display off the ability without… too much damage.
By the end of it, they’d blown up the entire coffee table.
Brimmie and Fabrice weren’t nearly as impressed with their little performance as their sons had hoped. With diligent patience, they explained why to their children.
For one, while Brett did have an ability, it couldn’t be used for much more than sabotage. They had doubts on whether it would be enough for him to enroll into GHH school mid-year.
Secondly, even if Brett went and enrolled, Felicio would still lose his spot. He still would’ve failed. Worse, he’d be directly put into comparison with his twin, who’d upstage him.
Lastly - and this last reason, they kept for themselves - they’d… concealed Brett’s existence over time. Showing themselves in public with one son at a time, addressing him either by Shaw or Felicio. They loved both their children immensely. But they’d lived for heroism and abilitied antics for the entirety of their lives. More than an unhealthy obsession, the source of much of their income, it was the reason they’d found each other, the meaning they’d found to their lives. Against their better judgement, it had affected how they’d treated their two children - only one of which served their passion.
Suddenly re-introducing him into the world by enrolling him, right as his brother was taken out of school, would not have reflected well on them. They lacked the guts to face the consequences. Keeping things the same was more comfortable. Safer.
They wouldn’t enroll Brett into a GHH school. There was no convincing them otherwise - immature as they were, there was no winning that conversation.
They couldn’t find an alternative either - Not Brimmie, Fabrice, or Felicio.
Brett, however, had an idea.
“Can’t we just, like, switch places?”
The adults glared at him with dejected surprise. They would have thought him old enough to understand that, just because the two were twins, did not mean they were interchangeable - though perhaps they were to blame, having slowly assimilated the two brothers into one in public. But, then, they… well, they actually thought about it, their knowledge of crazy schemes pulled off by past heroes combining with their own imagination and desire for fantasy, and concluded - Yes.
With some effort, it could be done.
The plan was… well, relatively simple.
Felicio would still attend most classes, but whenever abilities were involved, Brett would go instead. As for how they would sneak Brett in, there was no need to ; The campus was gigantic, and the students plenty. For the sake of saving time, checks at the gate were considered superfluous and skipped entirely, so any kid could enter, really. As long as the two were never seen together in the same place, it would be just fine. Brett would just have to spend a lot of time hiding in the toilet or in empty halls. He could still follow online classes from there anyway, so his parents saw no issues with it.
Now, there was still the issue that Brett’s ability was not anything like Fel’s : They could get around that too. He could sneakily turn someone’s ability into that of exploding things,just for a bit, then claim that was him using his ability to short-circuit whatever unfortunate thing had blown up.
Yes, the system was flawed, and almost certainly going to fail ; they had to artificially ‘scar’ Brett’s face with makeup every morning so that he could pass as his brother, and the two had to somewhat tone down their respective personalities, though fortunately, being kids, they didn’t have too much of one anyway. But even all that considered, Brimmie and Fabrice were confident ; it only needed to last until Fel could reliably use his own ability again, which should be anywhere between two to eight weeks. They just needed to pretend that had happened much earlier by using Brett as a stand-in, to avoid Felicio’s expulsion.
What they did not account for was that, once they knew this was an option, the boys weren’t about to let it go. This was not only incredibly exciting and fun, being all secretive and mysterious right under their classmates’ noses, it was an ideal arrangement for the both of them. Felicio got to work less, and pursuing short term interests and his nonchalant nature, and Brett got to play hero, flaunt around his ability and openly socialise with kids his age again. Instead of slowly transitioning back into the way things used to be, the brothers started to switch more and more, thanking the existence of public bathrooms for the discretion it offered them. If anyone asked, they had bladder problems. Most people weren’t rude enough to ask for more details. And, somehow, doing it so often meant they actually got quite skilled at playing the same person. So good, that their parents couldn’t find a good enough reason to slap them out of it. After all, they were utter hero nerds themselves, and this excited them too.
And so, Brett and Felicio became more or less one, planning out the way “Felicio”’s day would go every morning - though, over the years, Brett ironically ended up being the one who played him most of the time. Felicio would follow around, just hanging out in the shadows, enjoying himself and his supporting role in his own life, while his brother enjoyed venting out his extra energy and ambition to his heart’s content.
Still, this did come at a cost; since it was harder for them to directly use Felicio’s electricity without giving away the trick, their grade average fell from S to A tier. But that was all bureaucracy. The ranking system was as flawed as any other. In truth, their teamwork as Bolt, their future hero alter-ego, was so flawless that it easily gave them an edge worth more than the sum of their parts. All that, without the high and mighty GHH suspecting a thing.