Hero stood tall, fists wrapped as he and Villain parried with one another, preparing for the day when Supervillain would show up.
Besides wrapped fists, Hero also sported a fanny pack, which Villain liked to judge every time Hero wore it. ‘It’s for emergencies.’
‘Yeah?’ Villain would quirk a brow. ‘Let me guess; you have lip balm in there.’
‘Amongst other things, yes.’
No matter what else Hero carried, he kept the fanny pack with him during training days- which, at this rate, was every day. Neither he, nor Villain, knew when Supervillain would make her appearance.
But, it was obvious Villain was overexerting himself. The way his shoulders were slouching, his head was ducking, fists were loosening- it all revealed how close Villain was to a catastrophic collapse. Villain was going to destroy himself.
“Why don’t we pick this up another day?” Hero asked, dodging a lazy punch.
Villain’s head swam and he had to steady himself before responding. “No,” he said with a wheeze. “No way. I- I’m fine.” Supervillain was on her way, and wasn’t it possible that she showed up tonight? Villain needed to be prepared.
“Will you at least”- Hero dodged again, taking note of how Villain had begun coughing- “take a puff of your inhaler?”
“Technically, I need- need two puffs of it, but it’s only for emer...emergencies.” Damn it, why’d I even say that? He broke out into a coughing fit, but cleared his throat and threw another punch at Hero, who clutched the fist with ease.
“You don’t think this is an emergency? You’re about to pass out.”
“No.” He was becoming more and more breathless with each moment of training. “I said- told you I was”- Villain’s head lolled to the side- “fine. I’m fine. Keep going.” His head returned to its regular position.
“You don’t need to be embarrassed, Villain. It’s fine if you can’t-”
“I’m fine!” But as Villain said it, he doubled over, hands on his knees, his weight gathering at his front as he was leaned forward. He fell into Hero’s chest. “Just- just give me a moment. I’m fine. Just two seconds- two...” Villain blinked, one time after another, after another.
He’s going pale, Hero noticed, and also took in the red on Villain’s cheeks. He was overheating, as well, but he wasn’t going to say that, of course. Villain was just going to keep training, keep training until he couldn’t handle it any longer. He needed to stop pushing his body to such a great extreme.
“Okay. Okay, get your hands off me.” Villain pushed against Hero’s chest, elbows nearly buckling against his own weight. Still, he pushed with a strong wheeze. By some miracle, he was able to push himself onto barely capable feet. From Hero’s perspective, Villain looked like he was about to fold like a collapsible box.
“Pushing your body to this limit is dangerous, Villain. You’re going to-”
“I don’t have”- he swallowed then cleared his throat- “a limit. I’m a- I’m...look, I can do this. You’re treating me like a child. Just train- train with me, alright?”
“You do have a limit,” Hero reasoned, a bit aggravated now at Villain’s stubbornness. “Everyone has a limit, even me.”
Villain threw his arms up in a bout of aggravation of his own. “Then you know that no one meets their limit this quickly!” Deep breath. “I’m. Fine,” he stressed.
Before Hero could try reasoning with him any further, Villain kicked, foot never meeting Hero’s side- like he no doubt intended- but instead went flying into the air as his other foot left the ground. Villain’s back hit the ground with a hard thump, but this didn’t stop him for a minute before he tried sitting up.
Focusing so hard on trying to stand and maintain a consistent breathing pattern, Villain didn’t see Hero reach into the dorky fanny pack on his side. He didn’t see Hero pull out and uncap a syringe. And he didn’t see the way Hero slowly maneuvered himself around Villain’s backside, sticking him in the neck in order to lay Villain down.
“It was going to happen anyways,” Hero said, more to themselves than to the slowly fading villain. “Better it be by my hand than your own body shutting down because you’re too goddamn stubborn to stop pushing yourself for five minutes.”
If Villain had the proper amount of consciousness, he might have cursed. Might have called Hero by Supervillain’s name as a harsh insult. He might have kept arguing, telling himself- not Hero- that he was strong enough to keep pushing. That he had enough oxygen and didn’t need two puffs from a pesky tube full of medicalized air in order to breathe right.
He would tell himself that asthma was just a scheme created by doctors in order to take advantage of people’s minds, making them think they needed to spend more money than what was ever necessary.
But Villain couldn’t say this, or even think it, for the sedatives were already kicking in, and his world had already blinked out of existence.
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