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Hats

A 1-post collection

Challenge #01152-C055: Different Hats

1) http://scienceisadesiretoknow.tumblr.com/post/139009801040/swingsetindecember-where-a-grad-student-becomes

Grad student is a villain for extra credit and/or money

2) Wander over Yonder - adventures of The Hat when Wander first gets it

(haven't seen it? episodes The Hat and Bad Hatter are the relevant ones, or do a story about Sans and a little orange cat) -- Anon Guest

[AN: Ya know, I could do three... my workload has eased up just recently. But not today, I think. BTW, the overlap is now down to 22]

1)

There's two ways to go when your parents have an attack of The Cutes and name you Easter Bunny Smith. Up until I hit college, I went with calling myself East. In amongst all the Maqaulkins and Sivaighnnas, I was okay. Mostly. And my daily mantra got to be "it's not my fault I was born on Easter Sunday." At least until I realised that my studies had changed my fate.

I have a little gift. Nothing big. Nothing splashy. I can sort-of see the future. I get a lot of prophetic dreams. So of course I went into Gifted Studies to try and get a handle on it because genuine future-vision could earn me like a squillion dollars.

What? Tuition's expensive.

It didn't take me long to realise that three out of five of my thesis professors are the secret identities of the three biggest supervillains in Megatropolis. So of course I researched their early careers and- what do you know? They started off as dirt poor college kids with a tiny bit of an edge. Just like me.

There's something about student debt that makes people into villains. Someone should do a study and then rub people's faces in it.

I trained my powers in small areas. Places that had poker machines. After a while, I could get a bunch of coins like nine times out of ten. Most of the spare money went on gadgets. If you aren't a heavy hitter, you need some serious gizmos to hold your own against the good guys out there.

I read up on them, too. Amazing how being rich gets you on the side of the law. It's almost like laws exist to keep rich people wealthy. Ahem.

I did my first bank job with a glimpse of foresight. And a dream. Empty backpack plus hoodie plus an otherwise unforeseen distraction (cheers to one of my professors. He nearly got away with it) and I was walking away with four thousand bucks.

Enough to hold off the tuition fee collectors for a while.

My outfit is basic black and cheap. I source a lot of stuff from 99cent stores. I kind of have to.

Professor Arcana is already grading me on how many of my heists are successful. I'm sort of doing OK.

Except for some damn preppie whose thesis is being a superhero. They're the usual collection of Superpowers. Flight, strength, speed and a certain degree of invulnerability. And absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. God, she's how I discovered I was gay.

And she's allergic to garlic.

So of course I put on enough to incapacitate her. I don't kill. I'm not a complete douche. Besides, killing anyone is an automatic fail.

"Sorry, Wondergal," a quip as I drop the latest garlic bomb. "Tuition's not cheap."

"You can be better than this," she manages before the cloud gets to her.

And the next day, I try not to look at her alter-ego's rashes. And I slip her some cream that's guaranteed to help. She's cute. She knows people struggle and still believes people can get ahead by following the rules.

I spend most of my days arguing with her in class. And most of my nights fighting her off from our latest battle. Garlic's a last resort. She follows the rules and I can use that against her. And I do.

Tonight... she found me casing out a jewellery store. One of the high-ticket ones where someone like me could only get one ring out of, maybe, in my entire life. The sort of place that sneers at hoodies and backpacks. The sort of place that can afford hits and shrug them off.

Of course Wondergal gave me the whole 'halt, evil-doer' spiel.

I'd had enough, tonight. I just went off on her like, "I'm not even doing anything. I'm allowed to sit and watch the city, too."

"But you're sitting with nefarious intent."

I leaned back. "Prove it."

It sparked a debate. Of course it did. Some of the usual rhetoric with a side order of pleading. I think it was the pleading that got to me, in the end. Like she was desperate for me to be good so she would be allowed to like me.

"There's good in you," she finished. "I can feel it."

I sighed. "At this stage in the game, all that's in me is ramen, red bull, no-doze, and spite. Good is relative, anyway. Someone's greater good is always someone else's despicable evil."

"There's universal good," offered Wondergal. "Love, for example."

"And then there's those dickbags," I gestured at the jewellery store. "They bought up and then evicted three tenement buildings so they could have their fancy building and imported granite fa├žade. Five hundred people just thrown out of their homes and maybe a few thousand more when the neighbourhood rents got too high. And for what? So rich people can go shopping for things they don't need for about twice what the people they evicted could dream of earning inside a year!"

I expected another 'invisible hand of the free market' speech. What I got was, "So you're fighting another kind of injustice."

I guess she was actually paying attention during my rants in Morality classes. "Yeah. These assholes could give up ten percent of their earnings to the poor and never notice the difference. Hell, they could give up ten percent of their holdings and never notice the difference. It'd make a hell of a difference to the people they give it to."

"But the poor would become dependent on the handouts," she said. But she didn't seem that sure. "Won't they?"

"Dude. You give poor people money, and they'll instantly spend it on stuff they've been holding out on forever. Sometimes, I think all those rich bastards are scared of poor people having nice things."

"So what are you doing with the things you take?" She didn't say 'steal' this time. "Some kind of Robin Hood thing?"

"Something like that. Yeah. Tuition fees are a bitch and we just got a new book list. I dropped a thousand dollars I didn't have on a set of books I can't re-sell or use, and I have to do it again because they changed horses in mid-stream. I need this degree! They won't hire without it. You? You probably have some uncle in the business, already."

"Aunt. Yeah. And she insists I still get the degree." Wondergal coughed. "She's... uhm... she's helping me buy all the stuff I need. So I have more time for field work."

"And your tuition?"

Mumbled, "...igotascholarship... fr'mmyaunty..."

I knew it. I so fucking knew it. "Uhuh. Right. So you don't have a criminally un-proportional student loan to pay for tuition, three part-time jobs, and any worries about where your next meal is coming from. I ate the last of my ramen for this week before I went out to literally follow a dream, by the way."

"It's Tuesday," said Wondergal. "When do you get food again?"

"My next cheque comes in on Friday. Assuming they don't dick me around for another three to five business days." I couldn't very well act on my gift now. Not with her watching. So I leaned back on the rooftop and stared up at the few stars the city lights let show. "Some of us are criminals because there's no other choice."

"Did you try being a hero?"

O, the naivety... I laughed out loud. Like, really loud. "Sweet summer child," I tisked. "You rescue a baby, you get a medal and some swag. I rescue a baby, the police think I'm a kidnapper and fucking shoot my latina ass dead. I don't have any white friends to be sidekick to. I don't have any advantages. I just have me."

And then she said it. "You could have me?"

I think... things are going to get interesting.

2)

It has been two weeks and the Wanderer has yet to ask for anything. I am still afraid. I still... ache. If a cloth hat can feel, I feel... bad.

People take advantage of magical hats. You know it. I was very badly used by my last owner.

The Wanderer is not using me like that. I am still afraid he will.

He has not taken anything from me. He has... made me hold things.

A banjo, a map, and a bottle of Orbble Juice. Everything else... he foraged for. Which worries me, still. Why steal a magic hat if one doesn't plan to use it?

He sat me opposite a fire, whenever he made camp. Played me songs. Talked about love and kindness. I got the feeling that he didn't talk to people for very long.

It was when the night closed in and the temperature dropped. He knew I could hold anything. He knew I could give him anything I wanted. And yet?

"Say, pal. D'you mind if I use you like a sleeping bag for the night? It's gotten kind'a chilly, here."

I let him. It was nothing like what I was used to. And I knew he was a still sleeper. He took great care not to harm me, and as much care to pick a comfortable place to lie.

I read his mind while he dreamed. Trying to gain a closer understanding of his thoughts. And I was surprised to find a genuinely good soul.

There was, the next morning, a bad guy. A need to flee faster than he, himself, could manage. I knew it. If he lost, the villain would have me and all my magic.

So when he reached for his Orbble Juice... I gave him something he needed.

It... it didn't hurt. And he didn't ask for anything more. Just a 'thanks!' and a lucky escape.

He never asked me for anything. Never suggested. Never demanded.

I think that's why I'm starting to like him.

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