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An Undisclosed Location, One Month Ago

The mouth of the underworld opened and spat out two people, both gasping and shaking with exhaustion: a mountain of a man with a brown mohawk, a battle axe, and a skull and crossbones on his breastplate; and a blond boy in battered samurai armor, carrying a katana with a red-stained blade. "That was fun," Alex said to his father. "Let's not do it again sometime."

Ares looked inscrutably down at his son for a moment before saying, "Indeed."

Rural Tanzania, Two Weeks Ago

They needed time to rest and recover, so they went back to Africa, to the hut they'd stayed in after Alex's last return, from the hands of Amatsu-Mikaboshi. It was nice for a while, chasing elephants, playing tag with lions, but then it got boring. "We should go back," Alex said one day, and his father corrected him:

"No. We should go forward."

"Okay," Alex agreed readily. That made sense. "But New York is still cool."

Ares smiled slowly. "Yes. New York is still...cool. They may not welcome me, though."

"Then they're stupid," Alex concluded, and Ares couldn't argue with that.

The Apartment of John Aaron, the Bronx, One Week Ago

The problem with being part of a super-secret task force was that if you died, things kept happening while you were gone. The Secret Warriors had moved on, and Alex had no idea which base they were in now. He got back from checking the empty base to find his dad sitting at the kitchen table waiting on him. With Nick Fury. Well, that solved one problem. "Dad," he said. "Nicholas. Am I in trouble?"

"Yes," Ares told him.

"Oh, okay," Alex said, and sat down across from them. Ares shoved a pile of papers at him, and Alex had to only take one look to see that they were his truancy notices. "Okay, but I was dead for a while," he protested, "so that totally doesn't count."

"Most of these are from before that, Alexander," and his father's voice was almost amused. "I think it is important you continue your schooling. There is much you have yet to learn. But I have things to do, I cannot police your attendance, and clearly you cannot be trusted to go on your own." Alex winced. "Fury admits that that was partly his fault, which is why he has helped to come up with a solution. An alternative, if you will."

Alex brightened momentarily. "Like homeschooling? That could be kind of cool."

"No, Alexander. Not like homeschooling."

Thirty Seconds Later

The chair hit the floor with a crash. "Boarding school?! You want to send me to boarding school?"

Ares was unfazed. "Yes."

Alex wilted a little, his defiance, as always, seeming rather pointless in the face of his father's implacability. "But--but--but we just got back! I just got you back!"

"And nothing will take you from me again. This distance--it is a little thing. It means nothing to us, and even to humans it is not so very far."

"The school specializes in weird kids, Alex," Nicholas told him. Man, he didn't bother beating around the bush, did he? "You'd fit in there." He stood, clapped Alex on the shoulder, and said, "And this part from here on out really isn't my thing, so I'll just be going. But, kid," he added, slipping a communicator into Alex's hand. "Keep in touch."

Alex sighed, picked up his chair, and sat back down. He and his father stared at one another for a long while before Ares said, "If you truly do not want to go, I won't force you. But if you stay here and persist with this truancy...it shames me, Alexander, to have to explain to these officials that I do not know where you are."

Alex winced. The last thing he wanted to do was embarrass his dad. "What is it, like, like Xavier's?"

"Something like that, as I understand it, but more comprehensive. More...unusual. Who knows?" Ares asked, smiling softly. "You might even find an adventure or two there. So that you can make this decision fully informed, I have to warn you. You're very far behind." Alex winced again. "Not just because of all the truancy; you were dead for quite some time, and I've been...lax about re-enrolling you since we returned. If you want to catch up, you'll have to go to summer sessions. You'd have to leave in a week."

"A week?" Alex protested. Ares said nothing more. Alex thought about it; thumbed through the brochure Nicholas had left. It was in like a castle; that was pretty cool. Wait. "Is that Deadpool?"

"I believe so," Ares said dryly. "Or someone foolish enough to wear his costume."

"Huh." Alex squinted at it a little bit more. "Huh." He puffed air out in his cheeks, blew it out hard, and said, "Yeah, okay."

"Yes?" Ares asked, sounding a little surprised. Maybe he'd expected a bigger fight, but that wasn't surprising. His dad always expected a bigger fight.

"Yeah. I can at least give it a shot, right? And who knows? I might learn something."

Ares smiled at him. "Excellent," he said as he rose from his seat. "We'll start packing tomorrow. Tonight is for the two of us. What do you want for dinner?"

"Can we get Thai?" Alex asked hopefully.

"Certainly," Ares agreed, rummaging around in the drawer of menus until he found the appropriate one. Look, it was New York City. This was how they rolled. Alex picked out what he wanted and Ares went to make the call. Later, maybe they would go see a movie where things blew up a lot, or they would spar. So, boarding school, Alex thought. But right now, he was hanging out with his dad and things were pretty darn cool.
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