Warnings: Child abuse, disturbing imagery
A/N: Written for jaune_chat for the Heroes Company Picnic at Heroes Exchange (I won back Casual Fridays for you guys, you’re welcome).
Summary: Control: To exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; to adjust to a requirement: Luke had never been in control.
The first time is like this:
Luke is nine and his dad is still around and mostly things are okay, except for when they're not. Now is a time they are not. He is nine and he is small for his age, and even worse, he is energetic. They have given him pills that do nothing and therapists that talk about one-to-ten scales for more than a year and none of it helps, because he is small and nine and he still accidentally scorches the cereal display in Aisle 10. It is only one box that actually catches on fire, the cereal inside giving off a smell like caramel or like burnt marshmallows, but his dad still has to pay for it, and they all know that there's no way in hell Luke will ever be getting sugary cereal for breakfast.
And so dad pays for the cereal and they drive home in silence, with Luke fidgeting and his hands twisted against the seat belt and look, look at that dad, look, please look at every interesting thing that passes the car by. And dad's hands get tighter and tighter on the steering wheel, until eventually they get home and dad grabs his arm (hard hard hard enough to bruise) and drags him to the garage and shows him exactly who is in charge. Fist across his cheekbone and one to his stomach and then dad asks him how much he likes playing with fire, and that is the first time the cigarette comes out.
And Luke honestly can't remember how or why the display got burnt, but he can remember the warmth, and the sudden wave of contentment. And then the cigarette plunges down again, and he cannot think beyond the searing pain in his arm.
So this is the second time:
Luke walks home from school every day because more often than not he is spending time in detention or writing lines or whatever new and interesting punishment they come up with to try and keep him in line. But he is not nine and helpless any more, he is almost fifteen and he is learning to control it.
'It' is the fire. The fire in his hands.
He doesn't tell anyone because, who the hell would believe him? But he practices, on whatever he can find, always careful to keep it a secret. Dad is long gone, but mom is quick to follow in his footsteps; there are no cigarettes, but Luke has gone a week before, living off of what food the cafeteria ladies felt like giving him because there was nothing in the house but cornmeal and one lone bottle of ketchup.
So he's been practicing, but on the way home is this stupid house with a stupid invisible fence that doesn't work, and a stupid dog. Not even one of those tiny yapping dogs, but a big dog, with big teeth and an obvious hunger for human flesh, because Luke has lost his fair share of blood to that thing, and he...and he's...
He's so sick of it.
So he walks home, and the next time that fucking dog tries to tear a chunk out of his leg he pushes, with hands and mind and all the force he can muster up, and there's a brief yelp, so brief, followed by nothing. Just the smell of burning fur and burning skin, and the dog (quite dead) about a foot away where it landed.
The owner actually calls the police to come and investigate, and they determine that it must have gotten into faulty wires somehow and fried itself. Luke tells no one. For once he made a choice, and followed through with it. Control.
But then there's the third time:
Being with Sylar isn't at all like being with his dad or his mom. Okay, there are some similarities. Sylar likes to be in charge, he likes to be listened to and he likes to be heard, and Sylar is perfectly capable of killing the fuck out of Luke if he doesn't do as he says.
Except Sylar also seems fascinated by what Luke can do, and one time he disappears for an hour and comes back saying he had 'business' to take care of, but he's also brought a bag of microwaveable popcorn and he asks if Luke can control himself well enough to not burn it.
Luke has been practicing, and so he can. The smile that Sylar gives him, small and secretive and theirs, makes him feel charged and happy for the rest of the day (or at least until Sylar gets tired of him bouncing around later that night and pins him to a wall). But a little bit of abuse is worth it if it comes with affection in equal measure. Luke doesn't pretend that he can read Sylar like an open book, but he can recognize some of his expressions. And Sylar, for all that he complains, is just as motherfucking lonely as Luke has always been.
So he's not in control. He's not the one calling the stakes or the one with all the power. He can dig it. He's been out of control most of his life.
Now he just has someone who can actually keep him in check.