Just over a decade later...
"Oh Lionel, look how handsome he is!"
"Stop it Sparrow, you're embarrassing the poor kid!"
"I most certainly am not! I'm not embarrassing you, am I sweetie?"
Eleven-year-old Cylo shook his head vigorously and smiled at his mother. "No mom, it's fine. I like being called handsome!"
Lionel had to stifle a chuckle at this. In spite of getting off to a bad start with the child, they were as close as can be before long. Lionel really was a softie at heart. "You're gonna be a real lady-killer, son, just like your dad."
"You were a lady-killer?" Cylo asked with wide eyes, a hint of fear in his voice.
Lionel didn't seem to notice Cylo didn't understand the phrase. "You bet I was! How else do you think I managed to snag a beautiful gal like your mother?" He attempted to wrap Sparrow in a hug at that point, but she shrugged him off, noticing what Lionel hadn't.
"Oh don't worry honey, it doesn't mean he actually killed anybody!"
Cylo seemed to have already gathered this, but there was a confused look on his face at that point. "Uncle Trevor said you met mom in Combat class, and that she beat you up! I think she's a man-killer!"
Lionel looked cowed, and Sparrow blushed profusely. "Well, your father was um..."
"Cylo! Hurry up, will you? We're going to be late!"
"I'm coming Daniel!" Cylo yelled back to his older brother, but his mother wrapped him in a hug before he could move. He kissed her on the forehead, already taller than her at such a young age, and happily returned the hug. After Sparrow finally broke off, he gave Lionel a hug as well and ran out the door, waving as he went.
Sparrow's eyes watered as she watched him go, and Lionel, upon noticing this, wrapped his arms around her. "What wrong, my flower? You'd think you'd be used to seeing them go by now, and it's not like we don't have a bunch running around here still."
Sparrow took a shaky breath. "It's not that, Lionel, though I will miss him. It's just that... school isn't an easy place for a boy like him. He's so sweet and innocent, I'm afraid they'll tear him apart."
Lionel looked worried for a moment himself, but his voice was reassuring. "Don't worry, Sparrow. I'm sure he'll be fine. He's a smart kid."
* * *
Cylo turned around with a smile, recognizing the nickname his siblings called him by. He didn't recognize the older boy who used the name, but maybe he was a friend of one of Cylo's older brothers? He thought it was kind of funny that he wasn't much shorter than the boy (though he was much less muscular), but he didn't want to hurt his feelings, so he didn't mention it.
"Hi!" Cylo said brightly.
The boy, who was, unfortunately, a bully of some fame, seemed a little disconcerted by the friendly reaction to his presence. Usually people cowered, or ran. As such, he didn't immediately say anything in response to this. His cronies, who wouldn't move without his permission anyway, stood still as well.
"Are you friends with my brothers? Andrew Pulinski and Dan Buckham?"
The other boy gained control of himself, and turned to one of his minion-types. "The kid isn't afraid of me," he whispered devilishly. "How about we change that?" The friend chortled, sounding as if he were just as much choking on a pudding cup as laughing.
The boy smirked and strutted closer to Cylo. "Oh yeah, me and Andy are good friends," he lied. Andrew was a jock, and a successful one at that, and the bully was extremely jealous of him. He placed a hand on Cylo's shoulder and smiled an ugly smile. "Actually, would you mind giving him a message from me?"
Taking a moment to grin over his shoulder at his companions, the bully quickly lashed out at Cylo, punching him square in the gut. Laughing evilly as he felt Cylo's shoulder fall from underneath his other hand, he looked down to where the young demon was doubled over, clutching his stomach.
Only Cylo wasn't doubled over, and when the bully looked down, what he saw was his fist being cradled by both of Cylo's hands. Cylo had blocked the punch with inhuman speed, though the force of it had still pushed him back a few feet. He looked a little confused as to what exactly was going on.
After his initial shock wore off, the bully pulled his hand quickly back. "We've got a fighter, have we?" Cylo vehemently shook his head, but the bully ignored it. "This should be fun. Let me teach you something about this place, runt; around here we all have Gifts. Mine happens to be Increased Muscular Growth, which is a nerdy way of saying I'm stronger than you'll ever be."
The bully slipped him denim jacket off, revealing a black undershirt beneath it, and rolled his muscular shoulders. "But since you're a feisty one, I can stop pulling punches." His grin was pure evil, and accompanied by a chorus of unpleasant guffaws from his companions in the background.
Without warning, he dove after Cylo, apparently aiming to tackle him to the ground. Cylo turned, absolutely terrified, and tried to run, but the other boy caught him by the ankle and they went tumbling to the ground. Cylo froze and simply watched in horror as the bully stood, lifting Cylo from the ground by his ankle as he went. The Gifted boy raised Cylo easily over his head, still smiling the same evil smile.
"Let's see you block a hit now."
He dropped Cylo, hitting him as he fell, which caused the demon to fly backwards, eventually hitting a wall with a sickening thud. If he weren't a demon, he would have had quite a few broken bones to deal with. As Cylo struggled to stand, the three other boys drew nearer.
"Ohhhhh man, runt; this is going to be fun. A nice little 'Welcome to the Academy' you'll never forget, from your good friend---"
The voice was commanding enough that the bully stopped in his tracks to see who it was, ignoring the feeble attempts by Cylo to make it back to his feet. When he saw who it was, he practically snarled.
"It's Doug," he snapped. "Why you gotta be like that, babe?"
"It's Mary," Marianne Pulinski snapped right back. "And why are you hurting my brother?"
Doug cursed. His feeble mind had trouble keeping up with exactly how many Buckham runts there were running around the place. He'd even managed to forget this was Andy's twin sister, probably because he thought she was smoking hot.
"I'm just welcoming him to the Academy is all. Ain't I, runt?"
Cylo spat blood on the floor in response.
"I suggest you leave," Marianne said dangerously.
Doug mulled this over. The runt was out of commission, so it would be him and his friends against one girl. But he knew better than to underestimate Mary; she had some Gift he couldn't even wrap his head around, and knew how to use it. He didn't particularly feel like getting his clock cleaned, but that was why he had cronies, right?
"I think you should leave, babe," countered Doug, in a terrible imitation of a seductive tone. "You're liable to get hurt around here, all alone."
"Who said she was alone?" said another voice. Doug palmed his face and cursed again. "What, you aren't happy to see me, Doug?"
It was Cylo's brother and Marianne's twin, Andrew, and unlike his sister, he was grinning. He looked almost happy at the prospect of fighting Douglas and his friends. And that was a fight Douglas knew he would lose, seeing as he'd fought the boy before and ended up in the hospital.
"Now, I really think you should leave," said Andrew nonchalantly.
Douglas cursed some more for good measure and signaled for his friends to retreat with him, but he turned back to Cylo one last time before he left. Marianne was already helping the boy to his feet, though her glare was still directed at Doug.
"You won't always be this lucky, runt. Soon enough you'll fear my name."
"Now," said Andrew, all traces of a grin gone.
As Douglas finally left, Andrew went to his brother's side. "You alright Cylo? You don't look so good, man."
Cylo's eyes met his brother's, though they were unfocused and glassy. "Doug said... to give you this..."
He tried feebly to bring his fist to Andrew's gut, but instead only managed to fall over again. This time, he was down for the count.
Just over a decade later...