Halcyon Sunset pt. 2

Hyperion has gotten everything he’s ever wanted for Team Halcyon but he’s getting the sense things aren’t quite right. Fortunately, a visit to Marcus’ manor sets things straight.

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Hyperion looked down at his hands and flexed his fingers. The skin-tight fabric of the suit moved so naturally with him, without even the slightest loosening or crinkling around the joints that he couldn’t help but marvel.

It was the newest in superhero suit technology and the quality more than justified the mind-boggling sum it had cost to get the entire thing developed and manufactured to his liking.

He smiled to himself. He remembered the mini nerdgasm their team engineer—now promoted to chief engineer—had had upon accepting delivery of the new suit.

Honestly, he could see the appeal. The suit fit him like a second skin.

Hyperion cast a glance down the range. The training room was great. Not only did they not have to pay for it, but they also didn’t even have to book time in advance. They had the run of the place, unlike before, when they had to rent Hall facilities.

Right now, things were set up as a shooting range since he wanted to test the new suit out but the place could be configured to simulate all sorts of environments. He’d watched Flicker navigate the obstacle course of a rubble-strewn cityscape the previous evening.

It almost beggared belief to think he was standing in the same place. The range was clean and clear of extraneous obstacles. Just yesterday, the place where he was standing was buried in the smoldering remains of a skyscraper.

Hyperion leveled a look at the hard light targets at the far end of the range. He’d never have dreamed of having such a good environment for training in the past. The sheer amount of advanced technology in the facility was mind-boggling.

And it wasn’t even Team Halcyon’s official base. They were just using it as a transitional headquarters while their official premises were being built.

As he understood it—he hadn’t really paid too much attention—the facility used to be the HQ for a now-defunct team. Their patron’s organization had taken over management of the premises and had updated it to keep up with the times.

Apparently, the place was intended to help nurture future teams of heroes. It was a cause Hyperion could definitely get behind, though it did fill him with an odd sort of pride that Team Halcyon was the first to make use of the amenities.

Hyperion raised an arm, palm facing forward at a target. His eyes glowed briefly as raw solar plasma pooled in his hand.

He released the plasma in a bolt that streaked down the length of the arena in the blink of an eye. Sparks flew when it collided with the hard light target at the end of the range.

Hyperion lowered his hand and looked at his palm. He touched the fabric; it wasn’t even slightly warm to the touch.

He picked at the suit, trying to pinch it away from his skin in the space between his thumb and forefinger. He didn’t have much luck because it was just so well-fitted.

If not for the weight of the fabric and the slight way it compressed against his body, he might have thought he was naked. It certainly left very little to the imagination, he couldn’t help but think as he rubbed his fingers down his cobbled abs.

"I swear," said Hyperion, "I know they said we won’t even notice but I can feel them buzzing around in there."

The fabric of the suit wasn’t just impregnated with nanites. The tiny machines were integrated into the suit, giving it remarkable adaptive and self-repairing capabilities. The things were supposed to be too small to be perceived but Hyperion was sure he could feel them just under the surface.

"What do you think?" said Hyperion as he turned to face Flicker, the one person in the training room with him. He held his arms out to either side and twisted slightly to the left and then the right to show off.

"Mm. Good," said Flicker in a mildly uninterested and non-committal tone.

Hyperion bristled. "You didn’t even look," he pointed out.

"Oh. Sorry." Flicker looked up from his phone. He gave Hyperion a quick once-over before giving him a little smile. "You look good in the new suit," he said.

Hyperion frowned. There wasn’t anything wrong with what Flicker had told him but he was concerned. Flicker seemed a lot more distracted these days. He barely seemed to pay attention to Hyperion anymore.

"I wonder… You’re so busy nowadays… Maybe it was a mistake to make you the liaison to our sponsor," said Hyperion. He didn’t really mean it. He was just trying to gauge whether Flicker was even listening.

"Uh-huh," said Flicker, nodding as he turned his eyes back to his phone. "Yeah… Sounds about right…"

A sensor embedded in the nearby wall beeped as the temperature in the room rose by a few degrees. "What the hell is so interesting about your phone that you can’t even spare a few minutes to talk to a friend, huh?" said Hyperion as he stormed over to where Flicker was standing.

"It’s nothing," said Flicker. He turned his phone away from Hyperion, cupping a hand over it to hide the contents displayed on the polyglass slate. "Just some business stuff. Nothing you should be worrying about."

Hyperion scoffed. "You never gave much of a fuck about business stuff before," he said.

Flicker looked up from his phone. His eyebrows were knitted and he looked genuinely angry. "Well, I do give a fuck now," he said.

Hyperion couldn’t help but take a step back as Flicker lowered his phone and whirled to face him. A slender finger poked into the middle of his chest, pressing down with substantial force that was only blunted by the kinetic dampening of the new suit.

"And I’m actually a really good b—" Flicker caught himself. "I’m really good at business shit. So you can fucking shove it, okay?"

Hyperion was a bit taken aback. Part of him was proud Flicker was finally showing some spine but at the same time, he couldn’t help but be irritated Flicker was talking to him so disrespectfully.

The temperature monitor beeped again. Hyperion grabbed Flicker by the wrist. "How the hell can I trust you to have my back when we’re out there fighting villains when you can’t even fucking be bothered to pay attention when I’m asking you something?"

Flicker, who would normally shrink away whenever he raised his voice met his eyes with a flat expression. "Chill, man," he said.

Hyperion didn’t like being angry. It was as if a red haze descended over his thoughts and he just had to lash out at the nearest thing.

It wasn’t even anything particularly offensive Flicker had said but Hyperion nevertheless fumed at the audacity. He didn’t know why it made him so angry but the fact Flicker didn’t pull away even a bit set him off.

"Chill?" Hyperion shrieked. "Chill?! Don’t fucking tell me to chill!"

The worst part was that he got physical when he was angry. He squeezed Flicker’s wrist, his hand glowing through the suit. "This is exactly the kind of careless, irresponsible attitude that turned us into a fucking laughing stock!"

Flicker, with uncharacteristic calmness, wrested his arm out of Hyperion’s grip. He didn’t back down or take a step back. He stood there, in Hyperion’s face, rubbing his wrist with a frown.

"How can it be irresponsible?" said Flicker. "You asked me to be the liaison. I’m being the liaison and dealing with business things. I think I’m being pretty responsible by definition."

Hyperion silently seethed. The fact Flicker wasn’t beating a hasty retreat was winding him up. There were no attempts made at accepting the blame or appeasing his anger.

It might have been irrational but he couldn’t help but feel as if Flicker wasn’t taking him seriously. Flicker wasn’t even slightly perturbed. It was as if he didn’t even care Hyperion was on the brink of blowing his top.

The metal plates of the floor under Hyperion’s feet had begun to glow a dim cherry-red as his power leaked out of him. "I don’t care if it’s business or if you’re talking to the fucking Prime Minister!" he shouted. "I’m the leader here! When I say something, you listen!"

Flicker sighed. "Alright, fine," he said as he delicately wiped away the spittle that had landed on his face. "Since you’re so interested, I’ll tell you."

Even though Hyperion had yelled at the top of his lungs, Flicker remained perfectly cool and collected. It was so out-of-character it gave Hyperion pause.

"The boss wants to meet you and I’ve been making arrangements. That’s it. Happy now?" said Flicker as he turned to leave.

Hyperion just stared after Flicker for a moment. The wind had been taken entirely out of his sails.

He didn’t even know why he felt like a kicked puppy. It wasn’t that he had wanted to see Flicker cower because he was angry. It wasn’t because he wanted to see Flicker trip over his feet trying to appease him.

Before walking out the door, Flicker stopped for a moment and turned around. "Oh, and the right response would have been ‘you’re welcome,’ just in case you didn’t know."

The door hissed shut behind Flicker and Hyperion deflated. He looked around. He looked down at himself, clad in the new suit.

The last few weeks had given him everything he’d ever wanted. The team had a solid foundation now. They had good backing. And yet, deep down, he felt as if something wasn’t quite right.

He was losing his grip on everyone. They were all doing their thing. It was as if no one wanted his input.

Hyperion took a breath. It was all he could do not to scream as he unleashed hell on a couple of targets at the end of the range.

He didn’t even know why it bothered him so much. He knew he should have been glad everyone was taking initiative but it left him feeling adrift and out of the loop.

Flicker, especially, felt like a stranger. He’d never known his childhood friend to be the type to stand up for himself. It was a good thing but he didn’t even know when that change had happened. He felt like there was a wall between them that was never there before.

Hyperion remembered the other day. He’d seen Flicker with the support staff. The speedster had always been the friendly type but he seemed even warmer and more cordial than before.

It only made perfect sense Flicker was spending more time with the support staff since he was the liaison with their backer but it made Hyperion bristle anyway.

He wasn’t going to say he was jealous but he felt as if Flicker almost didn’t pay him any attention anymore. He missed the way Flicker would smile at him and laugh at his jokes. And pathetic as it was, he felt as if he’d become less important than a phone.

As Hyperion was waiting for the targets at the end of the range to spawn, he realized there was a common thread between all the people that seemed distant these days. They were all involved with the "boss."

Hyperion growled under his breath. He unleashed a beam of concentrated sunlight down the length of the range that blasted a target apart.

He needed to lay down the law. These were his people. This was his team. Just because the "boss" had money didn’t mean that he got to make decisions for the team.

That responsibility was Hyperion’s. No one else’s.

Hyperion stared out the window as the landscape sped past. He’d started out the journey determined to set things right with the "boss" but his mood had since soured and he didn’t even know exactly why.

What’s so special about contragrav limos anyway? he wondered to himself. He didn’t get it. Flicker had talked it up so much and it wasn’t even anything particularly mind-blowing.

If anything, it was somewhat worse than a normal car. If he hadn’t been looking out the window, he would have never known they were moving. The ride was so smooth.

Hyperion could see Flicker out the corner of his eye. The speedster was practically bouncing in his seat and it was annoying. "Could you fucking stay still for one second?" he said.

Flicker met Hyperion’s glare. He had the grace to sheepishly apologize, at least. "Sorry," he said. "I just can’t wait for you to meet the boss. I’m sure you’ll love him."

Hyperion opened his mouth to say something but chose not to, instead. He’d figured out why he was so irritable.

He’d hoped that the ride over would be a chance for him and Flicker to reconnect. Being in a car with just the two of them, he’d figured they’d have no choice but to talk.

The only thing Flicker seemed interested in doing, though, was talking up the "boss." He kept going on and on about how Hyperion was going to love meeting the guy.

The more Flicker said about the "boss," though, the more Hyperion was convinced he wouldn’t like the guy at all. Though he supposed he’d know soon enough as the limo pulls up to the estate.

Hyperion looked out at the mansion. It was huge but he didn’t see the appeal. If he ever got rich, he didn’t think he’d build something so ostentatious. He would be happy with something smaller and cozier.

He thought it was just tacky if he was being honest. It was the money equivalent of taking out a billboard ad boasting about how big your dick was.

And besides, a house that big was bound to be more trouble than it was worth. What was a guy even supposed to do with all the space?

The limo pulled to a stop in front of the house and Hyperion reached for the door handle. Flicker stopped him. "You have to let the chauffeur open the door," said Flicker.

Hyperion stared at Flicker in disbelief. "What?" he said. "I’m perfectly fucking capable of opening the damn door by myself, thank you."

Flicker shook his head. "It’s the way things are done. It’s not about being incapable. It’s about decorum. Doing things properly."

Hyperion huffed. He pulled back his hand and crossed his arms over his chest. He supposed he could relent this once. It was someone else’s house, after all, and his parents hadn’t raised him to be rude.

"It’s stupid, though," he said. "And I know you know it."

Flicker shrugged. The door opened and the chauffeur held a hand out for him. He accepted the help and stepped out of the limo.

Hyperion, for his part, ignored the hand and emerged from the car on his own. The mansion seemed even bigger from outside the car, somehow.

"Come on," said Flicker. He motioned for Hyperion to follow him to the front door.

Hyperion took a breath and sighed. "Alright," he said. "Let’s get this over with."

Flicker banged the knocker thrice. The door swung open as soon as he let go.

The two were greeted by a butler. He was a handsome young man, probably in his late 20s. He was actually pretty cute—and extremely well-dressed at that.

Hyperion couldn’t help but check the guy out. He had to admit, the boss seemed to have a good sense for eye candy, at least.

He gave the butler a small smile as he held his hand out. "Hyperion," he said.

The butler shook Hyperion’s hand and introduced himself. "Ganymede, sir. It’s a pleasure to meet you."

Hyperion chuckled. "The pleasure is all mine," he said, allowing the handshake to linger as he looked the butler up and down.

He made no effort to hide that he thought the butler was pretty hot. "Would you maybe be free after we’re done?" he said.

Ganymede shook his head. "Perhaps another time, sir Hyperion," he said.

Hyperion had expected the rejection so he managed to take it in stride. "I’m disappointed," he said. "But I’ll hold you to your word."

Ganymede smiled politely and nodded. "Of course, sir."

Hyperion glanced at Flicker. The speedster was watching the whole exchange and he wanted to see his reaction.

His mood instantly soured. There wasn’t even the slightest hint of jealousy in Flicker’s eyes when there usually would be. He didn’t know why it made him so angry, but it did.

"Stop harassing the staff, man," said Flicker. "Follow me. We wouldn’t want to be late."

Hyperion frowned but he didn’t want to make a scene. He followed Flicker, quietly fuming. He barely even noticed when they stopped in front of a beautiful set of wooden double doors.

Flicker let himself in. Beyond the threshold was a beautiful study. Even Hyperion had to take a moment to take it all in.

There were three people inside who couldn’t be more different from one another. One was a young man who couldn’t have been more than a few years younger or older than him and Flicker, dressed in surprisingly casual clothes.

Another was a tall man with dark hair and a cocky smirk. He wore fitted pants, a black shirt, and a nice leather jacket that hugged his torso in all the right places.

Finally, the third was an older person, probably in his late 30s. He exuded confidence with almost regal bearing. The expensive suit he wore didn’t just suit him aesthetically, it looked right on him.

Flicker grabbed Hyperion by the arm and pulled him gently into the room. He introduced the men one by one. "This is Corey. He’s an important part of the operation around here."

Corey gave Hyperion a little wave, which Hyperion reluctantly returned. He wasn’t sure he believed all that. The guy was cute enough, he supposed. Chances were, Corey was more the rich guy’s boy toy than an actual integral part of operations.

"This is Pollux," said Flicker as he introduced the guy in the leather jacket. "He’s one of the boss’ agents and he’s very good at his job."

Pollux extended a hand. "Nice to meet you at last, sunshine," he said.

Hyperion’s eye twitched. It wasn’t that the nickname offended him, it was just that it was a bit overused at this point. Nevertheless, he let it pass and shook the man’s hand.

"And, last but certainly not least," said Flicker as he gestured to the man in the suit, "This is Mas—This is Marcus. He’s the man with the means."

Marcus smiled but said nothing.

Hyperion knew in an instant that he wasn’t going to get along with this man. It wasn’t that Marcus was suspicious or anything, he could just instinctively tell that Marcus was a rival—a competing Alpha making a move on his territory.

"And guys, this is Hyperion. As you know, he’s the leader of Team Halcyon. He’s a good friend so try not to be too hard on him," said Flicker.

"Ah, yes. The mighty Hyperion. I have heard much and more about you from Flicker," said Marcus as he extended a hand toward Flicker.

Hyperion took Marcus’ hand. He’d bristled at Flicker’s comment—he didn’t need anyone to protect him—but he let it go as he had more important matters to attend to.

It might have seemed like a simple handshake on paper but it was a pivotal moment as far as Hyperion was concerned. Now was the moment to establish the hierarchy and he fully intended to come out on top.

Hyperion squeezed Marcus’ hand. He bore down with all his enhanced esper strength as he gave Marcus his warmest smile. "It’s a pleasure to meet you. We genuinely appreciate your generosity."

Much to Hyperion’s chagrin, Marcus wasn’t fazed at all. Even with all his superhuman strength, Hyperion couldn’t get Marcus to show even the slightest hint of pain.

He pulled his hand away. Things hadn’t worked out as he’d hoped. The first round was a draw.

Though if he was being honest, it was more of a loss. He was an esper. He had super-strength. He should have been able to make Marcus wince or grimace or something.

The fact he’d failed to intimidate a normal human even a little was a bit embarrassing. But he was never going to admit that so, as far as he was concerned, things had ended in a draw.

Marcus sat back. The sofa was incredibly comfortable but it did little to assuage his frustration. If anything, it made matters worse because he was trying to be angry and the plush upholstery was making it difficult.

"Yeah, fine," he said as he threw his hands up. "I guess that works."

"Good," said Marcus.

Hyperion wasn’t happy. He made it clear he wasn’t happy. But no one seemed to give a fuck.

Marcus clapped once before placing his hands on his knees and rising from his seat. "Alright. If we are all agreed, then we can call this meeting adjourned," he said as he buttoned his suit jacket.

Hyperion made to get up from his chair. "Sure," he said gruffly.

Before Hyperion could stand, Marcus motioned for him to sit down. "Hyperion, if I might have a word? The rest can go."

Hyperion took a breath. He sat up straighter. Here it was, the confrontation he’d been anticipating since the moment he and Marcus had shaken hands.

Flicker was about to leave but Hyperion placed a hand on his leg and forced him to stay seated. "No, Flicker. You stay," he said firmly.

Hyperion felt a twinge of anger when Flicker hesitated.

Flicker looked at Marcus. It was as if he was asking for permission.

Hyperion didn’t like that. He would have to bring it up with Flicker later. He was the leader. He was the one in charge. If Flicker was going to seek permission from someone, it should have been him. If Flicker was going to follow orders from anyone, it should have been him.

"If there’s something you want to say to me, you can say it in front of Flicker," said Hyperion as he glared at Marcus.

Instead of engaging, however, Marcus just looked at Flicker.

Flicker shrugged. "Sorry about h—"

Hyperion rounded on Flicker. "What the fuck are you apologizing for?" he said. "Fuck, man. Whose side are you on?"

Instead of shrinking away, Flicker met Hyperion’s glare with a level gaze. "I’m on the same side as everyone here. I’m on the team’s side."

Hyperion fumed.

Flicker continued. "I understand things are changing quickly and that can be a bit stressful, but what I don’t understand is why you’re so angry. Isn’t this everything you ever wanted?" he said.

Hyperion didn’t have an answer to the question. He floundered for the words to respond to Flicker. When he couldn’t find them, he turned on Marcus and glared at him.

"It’s you!" he said through gritted teeth. "You’re the problem! You’re trying to drive a wedge between me and the team!"

Hyperion leaned forward and pointed at Marcus. "Don’t think for a second that I’m falling for the amiable billionaire shit. I can see what you’re doing, you fucking bastard. You’re trying to drive me out because you know the rest of these fuckers won’t stand up to you!"

"Oh my gods. Hyperion! How could you say that?" said Flicker. He grabbed Hyperion by the arm and tried to pull him back but Hyperion just shook him off.

"Today’s meeting was meant to facilitate the construction of a concrete roadmap for the team’s future success," said Marcus. "I know it might be difficult to trust a stranger but I do have the team’s best interests in mind."

Hyperion rolled his eyes. "Oh, that’s rich," he said.

"I tell no lie," said Marcus. "You were invited because you are the team leader and I thought it would only be prudent to involve you in the process of making these plans."

"Oh gosh. Thanks. I didn’t know you thought so highly of me," scoffed Hyperion. "I’m so glad you thought my involvement was prudent."

Hyperion stood from his seat. "Because it’s not like you would be making plans without the leader’s input if you didn’t think it was prudent, right?" he said sardonically.

Marcus chuckled. "Believe it or not, Hyperion, there is no grand conspiracy to push you out of the team," he said.

Hyperion rolled his eyes.

Marcus sighed and gestured at the documents on the coffee table. "All this work is being undertaken for the benefit of your team. And yet you have balked at my every suggestion, resisted my every proposal, complained about every potential process change I put on the table, and in general, have contradicted me at every turn."

Hyperion crossed his arms over his chest. "Because your ideas are shit," he said.

Flicker stood up. "Hyperion! Stop that!"

"Stay the fuck out of this," said Hyperion. He reached out to the side and placed a hand on Flicker’s chest. With a light push, he forced Flicker to sit back down. "The men are talking."

Marcus quirked an eyebrow. "I do not appreciate the attitude you are showing me, nor the way you are treating your teammate," he said.

"You have been belligerent from the start and needlessly stubborn. You have raised only objections and proposed no solutions." Despite his words, Marcus didn’t raise his voice in the slightest. He spoke in the manner of a teacher, a tinge of reproach in his voice.

"I had not imagined that the leader of such a promising team would be such a bellicose and contrary young man. Which begs the question: whose side are you on?" said Marcus.

Hyperion glared at Marcus. "I’m on my team’s side," he said.

Marcus seemed unconvinced. "I would not have thought so given the way you’ve acted. Are you certain you are a member of Team Halcyon? Or perhaps you are more a member of Team Hyperion, instead?"

Hyperion felt a flash of rage burn through him. "H-How dare you?!" he yelled as the temperature in the room increased by a couple of degrees.

"How fucking dare you?!" he said, taking a step toward Marcus. "Who the fuck do you think you are to say that? You don’t even have any idea what I’ve sacrificed for this team!"

Hyperion’s anger got the better of him. He raised his hand to strike Marcus but Flicker suddenly appeared in front of him. "Get out of the way!" he said.

"Are you alright?" said Flicker over his shoulder, ignoring Hyperion.

Marcus chuckled. He patted Flicker on the head and said, "Don’t you worry, little thing. I am alright."

Turning his gaze to Hyperion, Marcus brushed past Flicker and said, "Perhaps if you weren’t so prideful and eager to give in to anger, your efforts might have borne fruit," he said.

Hyperion spluttered. "T-that has nothing to do with it!" he said. "Sponsors didn’t want us and the Hall didn’t give a shit about us!"

Marcus rolled his eyes. "Everyone’s fault but your own, is it?" he said. "Nevertheless, your efforts were squandered. They amounted to little more than a floundering, slowly sinking team."

There wasn’t the slightest hint of malice in Marcus’ voice. Indeed, he spoke as if he were merely stating facts.

"W-we were doing just fine!" said Hyperion. He couldn’t deny what Marcus was saying. He’d lived the evidence. But neither could he admit to his own failure. "W-we’d have managed eventually! W-we don’t need your help!"

Marcus’ expression hardened. For the first time in the evening, he looked angry. "Think very carefully about what you are about to say," he said, a cold edge to his voice.

Hyperion gulped. Marcus suddenly seemed seven feet tall. He couldn’t believe he was being intimidated by just a few words and a sharp tone. "I-I won’t be intimidated!" he said, even though he already was.

Marcus narrowed his eyes. "My money is building your base. My money is paying for your new suits. Are you certain you do not want it? From where I stand, it seems to me you need it much more than I do," he said. His tone was level. He wasn’t boasting at all—or putting Hyperion down for that matter. He was just stating facts.

Hyperion glanced at Flicker. He was hoping to get some support but instead saw that the speedster was glaring at him. There was a genuine fury in those eyes that didn’t think he’d ever seen before.

Flicker was angry at him. Flicker was furious at him. It was enough to take him aback.

But Hyperion couldn’t back down. His pride was on the line. He looked Marcus in the eye and said, "Maybe we’d be better off without it."


Hyperion stared at Flicker in shock.

"Don’t look at me like that! Stop being stupid! We need this!" said Flicker.

Something snapped inside Hyperion. His breaths grew shallow. Hot. He glared at Flicker, his hands trembling.

Flicker should have been defending him. Not Marcus. Him. "Can’t you see what he’s doing?!" Hyperion yelled. "He’s driving us apart!"

Hyperion whirled on Marcus, his eyes glowing, incandescent with power. Solar plasma began to form at the tips of his fingers but before he could do anything, Flicker was in front of him again.

"I’m the leader here!" Hyperion bellowed. "They belong to me! I know what’s best for them! And they. Are. Not. For. Fucking. Sale!"

Hyperion’s head snapped to the side as Flicker backhanded him. "You don’t own us!" said Flicker.

The development so shocked Hyperion his powers winked out. The temperature in the room plunged back down as he touched his cheek. It stung.

Marcus placed a hand on Flicker’s shoulder and gently pushed the speedster aside. He stood in front of Hyperion. They locked eyes. "Take a breath," he said gently.

Hyperion’s head was spinning. All the bravado and anger that was wound up inside him had evaporated the instant Flicker struck him.

His friend had always been so kind-natured and affable. Flicker had never so much as raised his voice at him. To suddenly get backhanded across the face was a shock that went right to Hyperion’s core.

He was so confused, so off-balance. He had to touch his cheek again just to make sure he wasn’t imagining it. He took a breath, just as Marcus had said.

Marcus smiled. "Better," he said. "Now, take a moment. Think about what you’ve said and done. No doubt you will realize you’ve been acting like a spoiled child."

Hyperion’s cheeks warmed. This had nothing to do with his powers. It was embarrassment, pure and unfiltered. The heat spread to the tips of his ears and he could even feel his neck flush.

He had acted like a child. "I-I’m sorry," he muttered, still somewhat dazed as he looked into Marcus’ eye.

"There, there," said Marcus as he patted Hyperion’s cheek. "Is that not better?"

Marcus took a step back and motioned for Hyperion to sit down. "Sit," he said. "Let us have an adult conversation."

Hyperion bristled at the implication but he knew he didn’t have a leg to stand on. He had acted immaturely and petulantly. So he sat down.

That wasn’t to say he was happy with the way things had turned out, though. He crossed his arms over his chest and frowned.

He did, however, at least manage to stop himself from pouting when Flicker took a seat next to Marcus instead of him.

Marcus smiled and ruffled Flicker’s hair. "Good," he said, turning his attention to Hyperion. "Let us be frank with one another. You are capable of frank conversation, correct?"

Hyperion scowled. Now Marcus was getting the jabs at his character in. "Fine," he said, though he wasn’t thrilled at being treated like a child.

"Good," said Marcus. "Then you will be honest with me."

"Why would I lie?" said Hyperion. He hadn’t had any intention of doing that, anyway. He wasn’t in the mood for sparing anyone’s feelings.

Marcus smiled. "And you will trust I am being honest and truthful. You know I have no need for dishonesty."

Hyperion wasn’t sure about that. But he supposed Marcus was rich enough that he probably didn’t need to lie for his own benefit. "Sure," he said.

A smirk tugged at the corner of Marcus’ mouth. "Good," he said. "Now, it has not escaped my attention that you appear to harbor a fundamental hostility toward me. Why is that?"

Hyperion glanced at Flicker, his cheeks taking on a tinge of pink. He didn’t know if he should answer. It was a little embarrassing.

The hesitation must have been obvious because Marcus clicked his tongue and said, "I will remind you, Hyperion, that we promised to be frank and truthful with one another."

Hyperion sighed. He supposed it was true. They had promised. And he was nothing if not a man of his words.

"I don’t like you," he said. It was about as blunt of a way as he could put the way he felt about Marcus. "Ever since he met you, Flicker’s been acting differently. Distant. I feel like you’re driving a wedge between me and the team. But I suppose you know that already. I’ve spoken my mind."

Marcus quirked an eyebrow. "Whatever gave you that impression?" he said.

Hyperion shrugged. "I don’t know," he said. "I guess it’s because the first time I hear about something happening, it’s already happening."

He frowned deeply. "I feel like I’m being left out of important conversations and decisions that I have a right to be part of because I’m the leader of this team."

Flicker leaned forward. "That’s because we wanted to—"

Marcus held a hand out to stop Flicker. "Allow me to put it thusly: we did not wish to burden you with the minutiae until we were in a position to make concrete plans."

"I still need to be a part of these things!" said Hyperion. He didn’t care if it was a minor expense. He wanted to know. Because he was the leader. And he couldn’t make the right decisions if he didn’t have the information.

Marcus nodded. "Very well. Then we will endeavor to include you in every step of the process moving forward. Is that all? You dislike me simply because you feel left out?"

"Don’t put words in my mouth!" said Hyperion. "You’re making me sound petty."

Marcus remained as unflappable as ever. "Then please, elaborate."

Hyperion leaned against the backrest of the sofa. He took a deep breath. "I care about these guys," he said.

"No one disputes that," said Marcus.

"We’ve been through so much together. I’ve gotten us out of so many tough spots. But ever since you came into the picture, I feel like we haven’t been as tight as we used to be."

Marcus said nothing. Hyperion took it as an invitation to continue.

Hyperion looked up at the ceiling. His cheeks were hot. The tips of his ears were, too. "These guys, they’re my family. My pack. And I’m their leader—their Alpha."

He hadn’t wanted to see how Flicker would react to what he said but he couldn’t help his curiosity. Flicker looked both touched and concerned.

Hyperion brushed it off as best he could, though he could tell Flicker probably thought he was cringe-y for buying into this whole Alpha thing. But it made sense to him. He couldn’t help that.

"I knew you were another Alpha when we first met and…" Hyperion bounced his leg. He wasn’t often anxious but it was a habit he’d picked up from Flicker. "And I guess I felt threatened. There. Happy? I feel like you’re making moves on my turf and I don’t like that."

Marcus laughed. There wasn’t any derision in the light sound of it, but Hyperion still couldn’t help but feel a bit offended. "Interesting that you frame it that way," said Marcus.

Hyperion’s cheeks flushed. "W-what’s wrong with it?" he said.

Marcus shook his head. "Nothing," he said with a little smile. "So you view yourself as an Alpha, yes? What is it that you think makes an Alpha, in your estimation?"

Hyperion frowned. It wasn’t something he’d ever really given much thought to. He’d just always known he was the Alpha type. "I guess an Alpha is someone… strong? Someone confident? A good leader, for sure."

Marcus smiled. There was something faintly unsettling in the way he bared his teeth—an almost predatory glint in his deep blue eyes. "So you would agree that an Alpha would be sure of himself and trusting of, as you put it, his pack. Correct?"

Hyperion couldn’t help but look at Flicker. He knew people on the internet made fun of people who bought into the whole Alpha dynamic which was why he never brought it up out loud. Now that it was out there, he wanted—no, needed—to know if Flicker thought any less of him for it.

"I-I guess so," he said, turning his gaze back to Marcus after failing to discern how Flicker was feeling.

"And you would also agree that an Alpha should be calm and level-headed, not prone to emotional outbursts… Correct?"

Hyperion felt as if his cheeks were going to catch on fire at the slightest provocation. He could faintly tell what Marcus was getting at and he wanted to deny it, to protect himself, but he’d promised he would be truthful so he could only nod.

Marcus smirked again. "Then surely you must know, by your own definition no less, that your behavior just a few minutes ago proves you lack the qualifications of an Alpha. As you put it."

Hyperion bristled. Marcus wasn’t lying. Marcus wasn’t twisting his words or squirreling double meanings into them. Marcus was just stating facts and Hyperion hated that he couldn’t deny them.

Neither could he admit to them, either. Because he did believe he was an Alpha. He did believe he was a good leader. "I-I just got carried away!" he said. "I-it’s just that I care so much about the team. I-it was just a one-time thing!"

Marcus gave him a cold look.

Deep in the pit of his stomach, Hyperion felt a pang of fear. It was an unfamiliar sensation and he didn’t quite know what to make of it. Or of the man who was able to inspire the feeling, for that matter.

Marcus shook his head and clicked his tongue. "We promised to be honest," he said.

"I am being honest!" said Hyperion.

Marcus raised an eyebrow. "This is the first time you’ve asserted your authority in anger? The first time you’ve raised your voice in front of a teammate? The only time you’ve used abusive language?"

Hyperion opened his mouth to speak but the words wouldn’t come out. He didn’t say anything. He couldn’t.

"Your silence speaks volumes," said Marcus. "Tell me honestly. Do you think this is the way a true leader reacts?"

Hyperion lowered his head. He didn’t want to say it but the words came to his lips and spilled out of him anyway. "No… No, it isn’t…"

Marcus nodded. "Correct," he said. "You must feel better now that you have admitted the truth."

Hyperion’s eyes watered. It was shameful but it was true. He felt terrible but at the same time, there was a strange sense of relief—as if a burden had been lifted off his shoulders.

Marcus pressed on. "So, if you lack the qualifications of a real leader and yet you call yourself a leader, what does that make you?"

Hyperion’s cheeks burned. He mumbled the answer. He didn’t want to hear himself admit it —even if it was the truth.

"Repeat yourself," said Marcus, his voice firm. "Louder."

A quiet whine escaped Hyperion. It was the first time he’d made such a sound and it was pathetic.

He didn’t even know why he obeyed the command but he did. "I-I’m a fake," he said, lowering his eyes to the ground.

He felt heartbroken. The image he’d always had of himself shattered into a million tiny pieces.

After a moment, he looked up at Flicker. He fully expected to see scorn and disgust in his friend’s eyes. Instead, he found sympathy and a small smile.

Marcus rose from his seat and walked over to Hyperion. He reached down and cupped Hyperion’s chin, making him tilt his head up. "No need to be so forlorn," said Marcus. "You simply did what you felt you had to."

Hyperion looked into Marcus’ eyes. For the first time, he noticed how blue they were—how deep they were. He felt like he could lose himself in the older man’s gaze and yet he couldn’t tear his eyes away.

"You never wanted to be a leader," said Marcus. "It was the only way you could help your friends become successful. I am right. Aren’t I?"

Hyperion closed his eyes for a moment. He was pretty sure he had wanted to be a leader. That he’d always dreamed of it.

But that didn’t quite make sense. He knew he wasn’t leader material. And he knows Marcus wouldn’t lie to him. So it must have been true. He must have never wanted to be a leader. But he was so, so sure he had.

Hyperion shook his head. His mind was fuzzy. His thoughts were in complete disarray. He felt like there were two conflicting facts in his head and he couldn’t quite make sense of it all.

He decided Marcus was probably right. They had promised to be honest and frank with one another. He did trust that Marcus wouldn’t lie to him. So it stood to reason that Marcus’ account was right.

Marcus rubbed his thumb in small circles over Hyperion’s cheek. "Unfortunately, you failed. You were unable to live up to expectations. You could not build a successful team as you wanted. You disappointed your friends."

Tears welled in Hyperion’s eyes. It was hard to hear but it was true. For all his efforts, he had failed.

"It’s alright," said Marcus. "Not everyone is meant to be a leader. You did your best and that is all anyone can ask for."

Hyperion gulped audibly and nodded. He had done his best. And while he wasn’t sure he believed Marcus that it was sufficient, it helped to hear.

"It was hard, wasn’t it?" said Marcus. "Being a leader?"

Hyperion nodded. Painful as it was to admit, it was true. It had been hard.

Marcus smiled. "Your team is in good hands now. You no longer need to be a leader."

Hyperion frowned. "But…" he said, trailing off. Being a leader was hard but it was all he knew.

Marcus chuckled. He must have noticed the hesitation in Hyperion. He motioned for Flicker to approach.

Flicker obeyed without hesitation. He got up and walked over to stand next to Marcus.

Marcus ran his fingers through Flicker’s hair and a blissful look crossed the latter’s face. Flicker leaned into his touch and sighed softly, eyes closing as if he were savoring the moment.

"Take off your clothes," said Marcus gently.

Hyperion watched, wide-eyed, as Flicker did as he was told. The Flicker he’d known all his life was shy and modest—blushy whenever he had to strip down and change into his suit. The Flicker before him didn’t even bat an eye as he stripped down.

Marcus smirked. "Good boy," he whispered, in a voice loud enough that Hyperion could hear.

Flicker moaned softly in response, leaning into the touch as he received another gentle petting.

Placing his hand on Flicker’s shoulder, Marcus pushed down and said, "Kneel."

Flicker did as he was told. It was as if he didn’t even have to think about the command. He just did it. Not even Hyperion had been able to command that sort of loyalty from him.

Marcus ruffled Flicker’s hair. "Such a good, obedient boy, isn’t he?"

Hyperion couldn’t find the words to answer. He couldn’t stop staring at Flicker, either. His eyes were wide—disbelieving. And despite himself, something in his pants stirred.

Marcus looked down at Flicker and chuckled. "Tell me. You think he looks happy. Don’t you?"

Hyperion nodded. "I-I do," he said. He’d seen Flicker happy plenty of times but he didn’t think he’d ever seen his friend look so content.

Marcus smiled as he turned his gaze to Hyperion. "Being obedient makes him happy. He no longer has to think. He simply has to do what I say. Think what I tell him to think…"

Hyperion shivered. A small voice in the back of his head was telling him something wasn’t quite right, telling him to get out, but another part of him felt a strange sort of admiration for what Marcus was doing.

He’d fantasized about it before, dominating another man. But he knew he could never do it as well as Marcus did.

He was almost a bit angry about it. Part of him felt he was the one supposed to be making Flicker smile like that. But another part of him was feeling almost… envious.

Marcus smirked. "Being a leader is a thankless job," he said. "You have to think. You have to worry. You have to make decisions."

Marcus stepped forward. He cupped Hyperion’s chin and forced him to look into his eyes. "Being a good boy is much easier. You can see that in Flicker. You know it to be true. I would not have said so if it were not. We promised to be honest and truthful."

"Y-yes… W-we did," Hyperion stammered. They had promised, indeed. And there was no reason Marcus would lie to him. So it must be true. It must be easier to be a good boy than a leader.

Marcus chuckled. "You have no desire to be a leader."

Hyperion shook his head. "I-I don’t want to be a leader anymore."

Marcus smirked. "Then what is it you would like to be instead?" he said.

Hyperion glanced past Marcus at Flicker, the small dopey smile on his lips as he stared adoringly at Marcus’ back.

He chewed on his lip. He couldn’t shake the feeling something wasn’t right, that he was missing something, but he was tired. So tired of being a leader.

"A good boy…" he whispered as his cock stirred in his pants. "I-I want to be a good boy!"

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