No One Tops the Top
All the Rogues had issues with their biological families. Captain Cold and the Golden Glider had been abandoned by their mother and abused by their father. Heat Wave had accidentally killed his entire family when he had set his house on fire. The Trickster didn't know where his parents were and didn't seem too sure as to who they were. Captain Boomerang had been abandoned by his biological father and largely ignored by his stepfather, while his mother had let him run wild, and if anything, he was even worse to his son, Owen. The first Mirror Master's father had died when he was a baby, and he had rebelled against his mother in his teens, and the second Mirror Master was an orphan. Weather Wizard's parents had ignored him except to complain about why he wasn't more like his older brother, Clyde, and the Pied Piper had been disowned by his wealthy parents and thrown out of his home. But no one really knew about the parents of the Top, because he never spoke about them. Unlike Heat Wave, he never spoke about missing them, but unlike Cold, he had never complained about them either, and because he had never obviously confronted his parents, no one had ever felt inclined to investigate, especially since he also tended to be an arrogant, unlikeable jerk. Roscoe's past was a mystery to almost everyone, and, if Roscoe was being honest, he preferred it that way. He was an intensely private man, and he had no desire to blab on and on about his childhood the way the others did. However, that didn't mean that there were no skeletons in his closet-after all, those skeletons were the reason that Roscoe took a trip to Bridgeville, a town 40 minutes outside of Central City, to visit his parents once every year. Currently, he was sitting on a train, wearing a magnificent three-piece suit (courtesy of Paul Gambi, underworld tailor) with his hair immaculately combed. (He, unlike the other Rogues, took great pride in his appearance and was usually dressed to the nines when not in costume.) He held a briefcase full of tops in one hand and carried a bouquet of flowers in the other. Suddenly, the train stopped and a number of people got on. One of them, a tall, blonde man, sat down next to him, much to his annoyance.
"Hi. How are you?" the man asked, much too cheerfully for Roscoe's tastes.
"Sit somewhere else." The other man grinned, seemingly oblivious to Roscoe's hostility.
"I'm Jacob Rogers. Who are you?"
"Roscoe Neyle Dillon," Roscoe replied, hoping that learning that he was sitting next to a supervillain would drive the overly-cheerful man away.
"Nice to meet you, Roscoe. I'm headed to Bridgeville to visit my grandmother. Where are you going?"
"I am also going to Bridgeville. My parents and I are having our annual meeting," Roscoe replied stiffly. He started to rock slightly in frustration and anxiety. He hated small talk.
"Cool! Why don't we stick together, then? I mean, we are going to the same place, and I'd love to have a traveling buddy."
"No." Roscoe waited for "Jacob's" face to fall, but it didn't happen. Instead, he just smiled more widely.
"That's all right. It's nice enough just to have someone to sit next to. Say, what do you think about the weather we've been having?"
"I think that the Weather Wizard is in the mood for blue skies." Jacob laughed.
"You're really funny, you know that? I'm so glad I got to meet you, Roscoe." Roscoe glared at the man. If it hadn't been for his desire to avoid a scene, he would have used his telekinesis to forcibly remove the overly-cheery man from his seat. What, exactly, had he said that was so funny? Mardon had told him himself that the recent good weather had occurred due to his instigation.
"You are very easily amused," he said flatly, having no desire to reveal his confusion to the man.
"Yeah. I guess I just like to look on the bright side of life. So, Roscoe, how have you been?" Roscoe started rocking harder. He hated it when people asked him questions like that. It was an invasion of his privacy!
"I woke up this morning at precisely 6:40 AM. I made my bed, ate my usual meal of one piece of toast, buttered with exactly ⅛ an inch of butter, brushed my teeth for exactly 3 minutes, got dressed, brushed my hair for exactly 10 minutes, left the house, bought a bouquet of flowers for ten dollars and sixteen cents, plus tax, and then arrived at the train station at 8:00 AM on the dot. I bought one ticket to Bridgeville for five dollars and thirty-five cents and boarded the train at 8:05 AM. The train left the station at exactly 8:07 AM, and I was planning the rest of my day when you boarded the train at exactly 8:25 AM and sat next to me. That is how I have been," he said in a monotone. Jacob looked at him oddly.
"I have a throbbing headache, but I am otherwise in perfect physical condition,"Roscoe replied in the same bored tone as before.
"But are you happy?" Roscoe continued to rock. Was he happy? He didn't know. He wasn't particularly unhappy.
"I am fine," he said after a few seconds of pondering. Why wouldn't this insufferable idiot leave him alone?
"Are you sure? You're acting a little strange."
"So I have been told. Many times, actually." It was growing increasingly more difficult to resist the urge to telekinetically move this fool into another seat, or, better yet, another train. To help control himself, he started to flap his hands a bit. It wasn't the same as spinning, but the motion calmed his nerves.
"Do you….do you have autism?" Roscoe glared at the man. How dare he imply that he had some kind of neurological deficit?
"I do not have autism! I am a genius, and it is not my fault that the world is unable to appreciate that fact!"
"Being autistic and being a genius aren't mutually exclusive, you know." Roscoe was too annoyed to listen. He was not defective! He couldn't be defective! He was not retarded! The overly-cheerful man had gone too far by implying that he was mentally deficient. Roscoe's eyes glowed green and he lifted Jacob into the air.
"W-what's happening? What are you doing?"
"Making sure that you learn a very important lesson: no one tops the Top."
"Y-you're the Top?"
"Yes. Fortunately for you, I have no desire to cause a scene, so you will live to remember this day. However, considering the grave insult you gave me by implying that I am retarded, I am afraid that you must be punished."
"But I wasn't implying that!" Roscoe shook his head. He was supposed to believe that? After all those years of people implying that he was intellectually subnormal and in need of being removed from the normal classroom? This "Jacob" was a bigger fool than he had thought.
"Come now, how much of a fool do you believe me to be. I know what being called autistic means. It means that I am intellectually subnormal, that I am incapable of properly functioning or keeping myself in a presentable condition. It means that I am a freak, that my genius is really nothing more than an obsession and that I will never be able to come out on top. And that is a lie! I am not stupid! I am not!" Roscoe said, growing louder and more hysterical with every sentence. He spun the man around in the air, ignoring his shrieks of fear. It was only when the other passengers started to stare at him that he realized that what he was doing was less than conducive to avoiding attention. Upon this revelation, Roscoe quickly sat the man back down in his seat. Once Roscoe's hold on his body broke, Jacob fled from the seat and towards the back of the train. Roscoe's eyes followed him dispassionately. Being spun in the air probably hadn't been the most pleasant experience, but it wasn't as though he'd actually hurt the man, so why had he reacted so strongly? As he had said, he hadn't wanted to cause a scene, so the worst the man would have received was a bump on the head. He thought briefly about apologizing to the man and explaining that he hadn't planned on injuring him in any permanent way, but quickly decided against it, as he had little experience in that area. Besides, it wasn't like the man was likely to believe him. Roscoe spent the remainder of the trip rocking and flapping his hands and trying to forget the whole unpleasant situation. At precisely 9:15 AM, the train pulled into the station at Bridgeville, and Roscoe left the train. He looked around for the man he had levitated but didn't see him, then walked to the street, where he hailed a taxi and took it to his parents' house. After he paid the driver, he walked up to the house and rang the doorbell, which played a snippet of Mozart's "Fur Elise". A few seconds later, his father, Reginald Norton Dillon, opened the door.
"Oh. It's you. Well, don't just stand there, Roscoe, come inside, and quickly." Roscoe complied, shutting the door behind him telekinetically.
"How did you do that?" his father asked, sounding shocked. Roscoe sighed. He'd forgotten that his parents didn't know about his telekinesis.
"Um, the wind must have blown it shut." His father didn't look convinced, but he didn't press the matter further.
"Rosa, Roscoe is here!" A few seconds later, Roscoe's mother, Rosa Nicole Dillon, arrived in the hall.
"Roscoe, my dear boy, it's so good to see you!" She hugged him, and he stiffened like a board. He hated being touched.
"Hello, mother. These are for you," he said flatly as he handed her the flowers.
"Why, thank you, Roscoe! That was so thoughtful of you!" She proceeded to kiss Roscoe on both cheeks, despite his desperate attempts to avoid the contact, and then she started pinching his cheeks. At this point, Roscoe had had enough and started spinning. He started out slowly, but it didn't take long before he was whirling around at speeds approaching those of a tornado.
"ROSCOE! Stop that!" his mother screamed. Reluctantly, Roscoe stopped spinning.
"I don't like being touched, mother." His mother sighed.
"I'm sorry, Roscoe," she said meekly, only for his father to snap,
"Apologize to your mother right now! It's not her fault that you're so particular. Haven't I told you that you'll never be successful until you learn to respect your elders?" Roscoe sighed.
"I am sorry, mother."
"That's better. Remember, son, no one will respect you in the business world until you learn to be normal."
"Yes, father." There was no point in reminding his father that he was not in the business world, as that would only lead to a rant about how he should have gone into business.
"And son, what on Earth are you wearing? Haven't I told you that no one wears white tie in the business world anymore? You have to keep up with the times, or you'll be a failure, just like you were as a boy." Roscoe winced.
"I like wearing white tie," he protested. His father ignored him.
"Son, that suit is too tight on you. What have you been eating? Putting on weight like that will only be detrimental to your coming out on top. You might want to think about losing those extra pounds." Roscoe flushed. The last time he had checked, he had weighed 183 pounds, which was a more than decent weight for a man of his 6'3" stature, but perhaps he had put on weight since….
"I..I'll keep that in mind."
"Good. And while you're at it, do something about your hair. No one wears it like that anymore, and it makes you look like a pathetic schoolboy." Roscoe started flapping his hands again. This was why he only visited once a year.
"What do you have in the briefcase, Roscoe?" his mother asked. Roscoe smiled-a rare occurrence for him when he was out of costume.
"I'm so glad you asked, mother. I brought my tops. Do you want to see?" His mother smiled.
"I suppose so, dear." Roscoe opened his briefcase excitedly and started to pull out his tops.
"This is one of my favorites, mother. I bought it at an antique store several years ago, and its design is exquisite. Just look at the detailed, delicate handiwork that went into creating it! Oh, and this top is one of the largest tops I've ever found. Isn't it lovely? Yes, I thought so. It spins very quickly for its size, you know. Oh, and this top is jewel-encrusted. Isn't it a marvel? I got it from a museum. And this top is one of my oldest ones. Do you remember going to the store with me to buy it? Don't you remember how happy we were? Honestly, I still sleep with it. It's comforting. Oh, and this top-" he said enthusiastically.
"Rosa, stop encouraging him! His quirks are bad enough without you making them worse."
"But Reginald, tops make him so happy."
"I don't care, Rosa. If he wants to become a success, he needs to get rid of his quirks. No son of mine will have a reputation as a freak." Roscoe frowned. Captain Cold was just as into his gimmick as he was into his, and yet no one called him a freak. It was most unfair.
"I am not a freak, father." His father laughed.
"Oh, really? The man who runs around the city dressed in yellow and green spandex and using tops to commit crimes isn't a freak? Why, the only reason I haven't disowned you is because your activities have been a boon to our finances." Roscoe sighed.
"I'm sorry that I have disappointed you, father."
"'I'm sorry that I have disappointed you, father.' I don't want your apologies, you foolish boy, I want you to be better, to shape up and finally make something of yourself. You're going to disgrace us if you're not careful. No son of mine is going to be a failure, even one like you."
"Dear, is it really wise to push him like that? He is a supervillain, you know, and can you imagine how the neighbors will react if he does something drastic?" his mother asked.
"Mother, I am not going to do something drastic. Contrary to popular belief, I do have some standards, and keeping my personal and professional lives separate is one of them." His mother sighed in relief and kissed him on the cheek again, much to his discomfort.
"Thank you, Roscoe. I'm glad you're willing to be a good little boy while you're visiting." Roscoe raised his eyebrow in mild irritation. His mother's babying was almost worse than his father's constant nagging.
"Rosa, stop babying the boy. He's thirty-six years old. If he can't control himself by now, it's his own fault." Then he turned to Roscoe.
"Come with me, and take your briefcase with you." Roscoe complied, knowing from experience that he was unlikely to hear the end of it if he refused. His father led him into the living room and to the fireplace.
"What are we doing here?" he asked, unsure of why the change in location had been necessary. His father sighed.
"We're here to do something I should have had you do a long time ago." He opened Roscoe's briefcase and stared at his tops.
"You want to talk about my tops with me?" Roscoe asked hopefully. Maybe he had finally managed to please his father after all!
"No, Roscoe. I want you to destroy them. You'll never get ahead in life if you spend all your time playing with toys." Roscoe frowned.
"B-but father, I have spent years collecting these tops. They're the closest thing I have to friends." His father scowled.
"All the more reason for you to get rid of them. They're nothing but a crutch that's holding you back."
"Father, I cannot get rid of my tops. I just can't! They're the only thing I've ever been good at." That was accurate. He was well aware that he had been painfully mediocre in every other area before he had decided to base his criminal career on tops.
"That's not true. We had you tested, and you're a genius. The only problem with you is that you've got less common sense than those crazy people on the streets! If you wanted to you'd be a billionaire-but maybe you were destined to be nothing more than a failure, a disgrace to the family name." The words twisted like knives in Roscoe's gut.
"N-no, Father, I'm not! I'm not a failure! I'm the Top!"
"Then take my advice and destroy your stupid toys." Roscoe tried not to panic, as his father had placed him in a bit of a Catch-22. If he kept his tops, he was a freak, but if he destroyed them, he would be destroying the only thing that had earned him any respect. However, considering the fact that all his weaponized tops were at home, his desire to please his father outweighed his desire to keep his most precious possessions. Slowly, he started dropping his precious tops into the fire. Once he'd burned his last one, his father smiled.
"There. Was that so hard?" Roscoe glared at him incredulously. He had just destroyed his most precious possessions. How would that ever have been easy?
"Father, may I ask you something?"
"Yes. You may." Roscoe took a deep breath.
"If, by some cruel twist of fate, I had ended up as a pickpocket or a janitor or at a fast food place, would you be proud of me?"
"Are you joking? I'm not proud of you now, what with how little profit you've made in your so-called "job". If you were in a job like those you mentioned, I wouldn't let you in the door. No son of mine will ever end up in a dead-end job like that." Roscoe cringed. He was the Top, Central City's most dreaded supervillain! Why on Earth had he given up his tops for this man? He thought about dropping a piano on his father's head, but then the thought of his mother's horrified and devastated face filled his mind, and he realized that even he couldn't kill his own father. After all, if he did, he would never be able to prove himself to the man.
"Y-you really think of me that way?"
"Yes. If you want to impress me, you're going to have to show a lot more success." Roscoe sighed in exhaustion.
"Noted. Is there anything else you wish to tell me?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. Is it true that you're dating a woman who grew up in a trailer park?" Roscoe stared at him in surprise. How had he found out about that?
"Yes, it is. Her name is Lisa, and she is a goddess amongst women." His father frowned.
"Son, a woman like that will never be able to appreciate you. Not only does she lack the intellectual capacity, but she's probably dated a hundred men already. She'll never stay faithful to you, and besides, she's probably just after our fortune. Get rid of her. If you want to be successful, you need to court successful people, not gutter trash." His father was lucky that Lisa had decided not to come with him, as she would not have reacted well to that.
"Yes, father. I'll keep that in mind." As far as Roscoe was concerned, Lisa was not gutter trash, so he wasn't even lying, not really.
"Good. The last thing you need is more distraction from your work." The rest of the morning passed rather uneventfully, as Roscoe's mother had joined them in the living room a few minutes after his father had criticized his beautiful Lisa and changed the subject to less controversial subjects, like stocks and bonds and his father's business. But then, at 11:45 AM, his mother revealed that they were going to meet some friends of hers at Golden Corral for lunch.
"But mother, I hate eating lunch with people."
"Nonsense, Roscoe. It will do you good to get out of your own head for once," his mother said.
"Your mother's right. You'll never come out on top until you learn how to deal with people." Unwilling to anger both his parents, Roscoe capitulated.
"Very well. I will come. But I do hope you warned them about me." Ten minutes later, he and his parents entered Golden Corral.
"Are your friends here?"
"I'm not sure, dear," his mother replied. A few seconds later, his father said,
"Oh, there they are." He pointed to a trio of people standing about fifteen feet away. One was a tall, thin man who resembled a 1940s action hero, one was a woman with black hair that fell to her thighs, and one was-
"Mark? Mark Mardon?" The skinny man's mouth dropped open.
"Roscoe Dillon?" The long-haired woman turned to Mark's look-alike.
"You know the Dillons?" she asked.
"No, I know him. He's the Top!" he said, confirming Roscoe's suspicions that he was indeed the Weather Wizard.
"Patricia, you didn't say you were bringing a guest too!" Roscoe's mother said.
"That would be because it was an unpleasant surprise. This is our son, Mark," 'Patricia' replied.
"I thought your son's name was Clyde, and that he was dead," Roscoe's father said. 'Patricia' sighed.
"This is our younger son, Mark. He's Clyde's little brother," she explained.
"In a just world, he would be the one that was dead," 1940s action hero added. Mark made a strange strangled noise.
"Why?" Roscoe's father asked.
"Because he's a lazy, shiftless, and clumsy thief, that's why. He doesn't have even a glimmer of the potential his brother did," 1940s action hero (Mr. Mardon, Roscoe supposed) said.
"How did your son know who he was? We don't talk about him," Patricia asked.
"I know him because we work together. He's the Weather Wizard. I am the Top."
"I see," 'Patricia' replied, clearly having been caught off guard by that explanation.
"It's too bad that you never got to meet our other son. Not that Clyde would have become a thief, of course, but he made much better company than Mike does," Mr. Mardon said. Mark's mouth dropped open.
"My name is Mark!"
"That's what I said," Mr. Mardon replied awkwardly.
"No, it isn't!"
"Mark, dear, stop making a fuss. After you stole from your brother's coffin, you're lucky to even have a name," Patricia said.
"I didn't steal from his coffin, I stole from his lab! I mean, yeah, he was dead, but he didn't have a funeral until a week after I got arrested by the Flash for the first time, remember?"
"Shut up, Mike," Mr. Mardon snapped. Before the conversation could continue, a waiter arrived, led them to their table, and then took their drink orders. Roscoe and Mark had ended up across from each other, and as soon as their parents were safely engrossed in their own conversation, Mark said,
"What are the odds?"
"Astronomical. But then, the odds of everything that happens to us are astronomical."
"So, your folks live in Bridgeville, too, huh? I'm surprised that we never met each other when we were kids, then."
"My parents did not move here until I went to college. I grew up in North Ridge."
"Oh. Okay then. What're your folks like?" Roscoe looked at Mark in confusion.
"You can see them, can you not?"
"No, I mean, how do they act?"
"Then you should have said so. My mother is very touchy-feely, and she seems to believe that I am five years old. My father makes 500,000 dollars a year and is very particular. He, ah, never misses an opportunity to remind me that I have much room to improve." Mark smiled.
"I guess you already saw what mine were like. I was born eleven months after Clyde, and that messed up my whole life. Clyde was handsome, brilliant, popular, athletic, and gentlemanly, and I was, uh, not. He was on the varsity football, basketball, and track teams, was elected prom king and homecoming king, and graduated as the valedictorian, and I was basically the class joke-not in a good way. I mean, I failed all my classes before I dropped out-even gym class! Basically, since I was about three years old, my parents have thought that my name is "why aren't you more like Clyde"?"
"They, ah, played favorites?"
"Like you wouldn't believe. One time, Clyde's little league meet was on the same day as my birthday, and they didn't give me a party or a present or anything." Roscoe raised an eyebrow.
"Why is that bad? Birthday parties are such an irritant. They are loud and annoying and stressful, and usually full of children who make fun of your tops."
"Because I like spending time with people."
"I still do not follow." Mark sighed and paused for a few seconds before saying,
"For me, not having a party would be like you not getting tops for your birthday." Roscoe winced. His tops…..A full minute passed before he realized that Mark was probably expecting a response of some sort.
"Aah. So you have a reason to feel bitterly towards them."
"Yep. As far as they're concerned, I'll always be a really poor substitute Clyde." At this point, their drinks arrived, and Roscoe took a sip of his iced tea. It was far from the best iced tea he had ever tasted, but it was at least tolerable, which meant that he wouldn't raise a fuss about it. Mark tried to copy the gesture, but ended up spilling his Mountain Dew instead. He yelped in surprise and pulled out his weather wand, which he used to create a wind that was strong enough to dry up the spill, only to also knock a stack of plates out of a waitress' hand with that same wind. Mark flushed and ran over to her.
"Oh, man, I'm sorry, lady!" She looked at him in alarm.
"How did that happen?"
"Uh, I think that wind came from a window I opened. Where's the broom?" She pointed, and he ran off. A minute later, he returned with a broom and a dustpan-and promptly tripped over the dustpan and ended up face down on the floor. Roscoe sighed. One of the many ironies about Mark was that he tended to be as destructive when he tried to help as when he was trying to cause harm, and that was certainly on full display today. The waitress pulled him to his feet and took the broom and dustpan from him.
"I'll handle this, sir."
"But it was my fault!"
"Nonsense. You couldn't have known that a wind would come through that window. Now sit down before you cause a bigger mess or give yourself a concussion." Mark pulled out his ragged wallet and gave the waitress a fifty dollar bill, then walked back to the table and managed to sit down without incident.
"Mike, did you really have to raise such a scene?" Mr. Mardon asked.
"My name is Mark, and it was an accident! For once." Patricia sighed.
"See? I told you he was a clumsy idiot." Roscoe's father nodded.
"I can't understand why you even still speak to him. If my son were that much of a fool, I would have disowned him a long time ago."
"If Clyde hadn't passed away, we might have, but he's all we have left now, and we couldn't bear to lose both our sons." Roscoe's mother nodded.
"You poor dear. To have one son dead and the other one a fool must be devastating." Mark flushed.
"I'm sitting right here!" he said to Roscoe.
"I take it that that is considered rude?" The only social setting Roscoe was familiar with was prison, where talking about people right in front of them was more or less acceptable, but he suspected that in normal society, things might be different.
"Yeah, it's rude! And they've been doing it since I was like five!" Roscoe took another sip of his iced tea.
"That is singularly unfortunate." Mark sighed.
"You know, just once, I'd like to hear them say that they're proud of me, or that they love me, or anything other than "our son is such a loser compared to his brother". Just once!" Much to his surprise, Roscoe felt a pang of sympathy. He didn't have a brother, of course, but he knew what it was like to hear nothing but criticism from a parent.
"I do not think that my father has ever told me any of those things, either."
"Really? But you're so smart! And also terrifying and totally intimidating. But mainly smart! How could anyone ever complain about you? Criminal career aside, I mean."
"Oh, my father does not care about that. In point of fact, he rather appreciates the money. What he is concerned about is my success rate, and in my father's eyes, I am not and will never be successful enough to please him. Every time I come to visit, he critiques everything I do-even his compliments have a tendency to be backhanded insults. He makes me feel like a failure, like a freak-and I despise it." He started rocking and flapping his hands again, trying not to think about all the time his peers had called him a retarded freak behind his back.
"Uh, Roscoe, you're doing that weird thing again." Roscoe glared at him.
"I am not weird. It is the rest of the world that is weird." Mark shrugged.
"Okay, but your dad and my mom are staring at you." At the mention of his father, Roscoe immediately stopped flapping his hands and slowed his rocking. While this caused his stress level to rise, it was preferable to upsetting his father.
"Is he autistic?" Patricia asked suddenly.
"I've feared that he might be for years, but he's verbal enough that I'm hoping he's just weird. The Dillon family couldn't possibly produce a neurologically defective son."
"But the rocking, the spinning, the top obsession...the way he talks. Even Mark doesn't act as oddly as he does." Patricia protested.
"I don't care. I will not have a retarded son!" Roscoe really wanted to start spinning again, but he resisted the urge. He was not autistic! He was not! Luckily for Roscoe (and Mark), Rosa said,
"Why don't we go get our lunch?" and the rest concurred, cutting the autism conversation short. Roscoe took a full ten minutes to fill his plate, selecting for only the most flawless pieces of food. Mark took only about a minute to put food on his plate, but he dropped the plate on the way to the table and had to go back to refill the plate (and give another fifty-dollar bill to the long-suffering waitress). Therefore, the two ended up returning to the table at about the same time. Roscoe mechanically cut his fish into slices that were precisely 4 inches each, and then slowly lifted them to his mouth, one piece at a time. After he had finished the fish, he started eating his salad, one without even a hint of the disgusting salad dressing Mr. Mardon had drowned his salad in. Then he carefully buttered his roll with ⅛ an inch of butter and ate that, then took three more sips of his iced tea. Unfortunately for him, he had taken so long to eat this part of his meal in his precise, mechanical nature that the rest of the table had finished their lunches by the time he had gotten to his soup.
"Hurry it up, son. If you want to be successful, you can't be so particular about everything." Roscoe sighed. Why was discernment a negative characteristic?
"I apologize, father. I will stop eating if you so desire."
"I don't see what you're complaining about, Reginald. At least your son eats neatly," Patricia commented. Mark, who had practically inhaled his food and left a huge mess on the table, flushed and looked at the floor.
"She's right, dear. Things could be much worse," Roscoe's mother added.
"Maybe they could be, but your clumsy fool isn't a Dillon. Roscoe is. The standards for my family are much higher, and therefore my son's behavior is unacceptable. Roscoe, clean up your plates." Roscoe complied. When he returned, he was confronted by Mark.
"What gives, man? You never listen to anyone at home! But here, when your pa says jump, you just say "How high?" Why do you let him boss you the way you do?" he whispered.
"The same reason you do not remind your mother and father that you could summon up a tornado if they fail to respect you as you do with everyone else. The same reason you act like a gentleman around them: we want to please them, and quite frankly, we are still afraid of them." Suddenly, Roscoe's mother grinned.
"I have a terrific idea, Patricia! Why don't we go to the park together?"
"That's a good idea, Rosa. We don't spend nearly as much time together as we should."
"But Patricia, darling, what if Mike causes a scene?" Mr. Mardon asked.
"Matthew, he's enough of an attention seeker to not want to alienate us. He won't cause trouble while we're around to disapprove." Patricia replied.
"Good point. In that case, let's go. I know how much you and Rosa like to talk." Mr. Mardon said.
"Besides, we could all use the fresh air." Roscoe's mother added.
"But I despise parks. They are so loud and uncomfortable," Roscoe protested.
"Roscoe, you'll never be successful until you learn to deal with discomfort. Now stop your whining," his father snapped.
"Roscoe, dear, I know that you don't like parks, but your father will be disappointed if you don't come. Please be a good boy and make him happy, dear," his mother added.
"Very well, mother. I will go." Roscoe said. The thought of dropping a piano on his father's head was becoming increasingly more appealing. Ten minutes later, the Dillons and the Mardons had arrived at one of the banes of Roscoe's existence (the others were the Flashes, Iron Heights Penitentiary, Captain Cold, and people who chewed with their mouths open).
"So, why do you hate parks?" Mark asked him as soon as they had both left their respective cars.
"Because they are loud, and annoying, and full of small children who make fun of my tops." The last time he had gone to the park, the whole affair had ended with another boy giving him a bloody nose and calling him a "freaky special ed kid" before absconding with the top he had brought with him, and he had no desire to repeat that experience. (He had subsequently paid the boy back by telekinetically dropping a tree branch on him and breaking his leg, but the memory still stung.)
"Uh, Roscoe, you're a terrifying grown man. What sort of kid is gonna make fun of you?"
"My parents brought me to parks a total of twenty times during my youth. In all but one of those times, another child mocked me because I chose to play by myself with my tops rather than with the other children. It was most unfair. Tops are fascinating. I have no desire to be forced to relive my memories of parks," Roscoe explained.
"Roscoe, if you don't stop complaining, I will give you something to complain about," his father snapped. Roscoe sighed.
"I apologize, father. I will attempt to enjoy myself and bring credit to the family name," he said flatly. The group walked into the park, and Roscoe pulled out a top out of his pocket, sat down, and started spinning it, while Mark seemed to forget that he was no longer a child and made a beeline for the swingset. Unfortunately for Roscoe, before he could start enjoying himself, his father confiscated the top.
"Roscoe, you are an adult, not a child. Get off the ground now and start behaving like a man," his father said. Then he threw the top into the trash can. In response, and much to his horror, Roscoe started to cry.
"Don't cry, Roscoe. No one will respect you if you cry, least of all me." In response, Roscoe tried to stop the tears and succeeded after about a minute.
"Is that better, father?" Roscoe asked icily.
"Somewhat," his father replied. Frustrated by his father's confusing instructions, he walked away from them and sat down on a bench, where he watched a happy-looking family: parents, grandparents, and child-play happily. Their giggles and calls were ear-piercing and irritating, but still, he couldn't help but feel a sense of longing. His father had never even tried to play with him like that. He looked over at Mark, who was still swinging, and wondered if he was thinking similarly. Roscoe started to rock again, but that didn't alleviate the stress, so he began to spin-only to be rocketed to the far end of the park. Before he could work out what, exactly, had happened, he found himself handcuffed to a tree.
"What are you doing here, Roscoe?" a familiar voice asked. Roscoe quickly identified the speaker as Barry Allen, the Flash, and realized with a jolt that he had been the father of the family he had been watching.
"I am here to see my parents. Why are you here?" Roscoe asked, irritated that he was seemingly being arrested for no reason. The Flash was very lucky that he was not in costume right now.
"I was visiting my parents, Nora and Henry Allen, with my wife and son, but you already knew that, didn't you?" Barry asked. Roscoe scowled.
"No, I did not. I am here because my parents dragged me here, as I already told you, not in an attempt to attack you. Although I am tempted to take advantage of my good fortune, considering your willingness to believe the worst of me." Barry frowned.
"After your constant attempts to put me out of the way permanently, can you really blame me for suspecting the worst of you?"
"Yes. I am off the clock at the moment, Flash, as are you. To attack you now would be the mark of an amateur, and I am a professional." Suddenly, Barry was joined by the little boy he had been playing with.
"Dad, what's happening? Did you stop a bad guy? Awesome! That's so cool!"
"Bart, get back! The Top is a dangerous criminal, and I don't want you to get hurt!" Barry yelled. Roscoe sighed.
"I am not going to hurt him, because I did not come here to attack you, your wife, your parents, or your spawn. I am here with my parents, and you can ask them if you don't believe me. They're over by the picnic shelter," he said wearily.
"All right, I will. Bart, go back to your mother," Barry said. He left, but his son did not, much to Roscoe's surprise. He would never have disobeyed his father so blatantly.
"Is it true that you tried to make my dad really old so that he would have to retire from crime fighting?" the creature asked him.
"Yes." Roscoe said flatly.
"And do you really have mental powers?"
"No, I just pretend I do so that I can be put in a collar every time I am sent to Iron Heights," Roscoe said sarcastically.
"Really? Then how did you move stolen gold from that train without touching it?"
"I was being sarcastic! Yes, I have mental powers, and no, I will not tell you how they work. It is too complex for you to understand."
"And do you really date another supervillain?"
"That is none of your business."
"Are you gonna have supervillain babies with her?" Roscoe blushed.
"I just told you that that is none of your business!" Why, oh, why had this had to happen on one of his personal days? Luckily for him, before the questions could continue, the Flash returned.
"Well?" Roscoe asked him.
"I don't believe this, Roscoe, but your parents confirmed your story. For now, you are free to go." He uncuffed Roscoe from the tree, and then seemed to notice that his son had not obeyed his orders.
"Bart, why didn't you leave when I told you to?" he scolded. Roscoe felt a pang of sympathy for the boy. This would be the part where his enemy told the boy how he was a failure, a disgrace to the family name.
"I just wanted to be like you, Dad. You're so cool!" Roscoe swore inwardly. He didn't want to feel more sympathy for the child of his enemy, but he couldn't help feeling another drop of pity for the boy. How many times had he told his father something like that and been rejected?
"Son, I'm flattered that you want to be like me, and I'm very glad that you want to spend time with me. I love you more than you can imagine, and if I could, I would let you stay with me as much as you wanted. But my line of work is very dangerous. The people I fight are usually desperate, and they might try to hurt you to get to me. I wanted you to leave for your own safety." Roscoe's mouth dropped open. Where was the anger, the demands for perfection? Where was the reminder that nothing was more important than pleasing his father and being successful?
"Why are you telling him that you love him? Did he not fail?"
"My love for him has nothing to do with what he does or doesn't do. I love him because he's my son; because he's a gift from God, not because he brings me glory or makes me happy." Roscoe stared at his enemy in shock.
"That is not what my father told me," he said flatly. The Flash shook his head.
"Allow me to give you some advice: stop tearing other people down to give yourself value and find out where your true value comes from instead. It'll be a lot better for you, me, and society if you do." With that, he and his son ran back to the playground, and Mark appeared from behind a tree, evidently having watched most of the exchange.
"Did you see how happy the Allens all were? I mean, I know we all hate the guy on lack of principle, but none of them seemed upset or nervous. What kind of family can just be happy like that? I didn't hear even one comparison!" Roscoe shrugged.
"I saw. Our foe treats his son almost like an equal and said that he loved him right after the creature disobeyed him. Can it be that some parents do love their children as they are?" Mark shook his head.
"It looked that way to me." Roscoe sighed bitterly.
"Well, whatever it was, it is something that neither of us will ever have, so we might as well not concern ourselves with it."
"Yeah, you're probably right. Besides, all that lovey-dovey stuff's for sissies," Mark said, sounding decidedly unconvinced.
"Indeed," Roscoe said flatly. Despite what he had said, however, Roscoe couldn't stop thinking about his enemy's words. Was it possible that he, as strange as he was, was more than how he performed? And if so, how could he find the thing that would make him believe it the way that his enemy's son did? He thought for a few seconds, then sat down and pulled out one last top. At the very least, he could finally relax and do something he loved. He smiled, and started to spin the top.