The good thing about being Adrien Nox was that no one ever expected much from him. He was a boy whose mother had been pretty in her youth. Pretty enough to catch the eyes of numerous Five elite. He was a boy who'd been born with a last name that was supposed to mean something.
It was slathered all over the district, written on posters in curly ink, stamped on official safety regulations, glued to helmets and gloves and coveralls. It was a name synonymous with power in District Five, and Adrien was just a boy with a mother who'd been pretty a long time ago. She worked long hours in the oil fields, forced to take on more than her fair share of work in order to support the child in her womb, in order to pay for her own home so that her parents couldn't hold her mistakes over her head anymore.
That's what Adrien Nox was. A mistake.
He was surprised that no one had ever connected the dots. He was always the ass-end of the joke, "Adrien is from the other Nox family," or simply addressed as Meredith Luther's son.
He'd put the dots together at about age ten, walking down the sidewalk with his hand in his mother's. There was a billboard between two warehouses picturing a handsome man with laugh lines and a nice suit shaking hands with two oil field workers. Nox Industries. He had always known he was supposed to have a father, that all of his friends did. He knew there was somewhere out there who belonged to the name he'd been given to drag behind him everywhere he went, but it hadn't ever occurred to him to ask until that moment, when he took a look at those familiar brown eyes and the curls that even money wasn't strong enough to tame.
"Do I have a dad?" he asked, peering up at the woman who'd raised him. She was still beautiful, just in a different way. Tired and calm, like the silence when the rain has just stopped.
"No. Yes, but no. You have a father, obviously, but—" She'd dreaded this question for ten years; she cursed herself for not having an explanation prepared.
"I've raised you all on my own, Adrien, with no help. I didn't need help. Not from your grandparents, not from my friends... And not from a man."
She stopped, knelt down so that her eyes were even with his. Hers were blue, and too sharp to have been the well-rounded brown that'd passed down to Adrien. He saw something in them that he wasn't used to seeing, something that made him afraid.
"Do you— are you unhappy?" The greatest fear of a mother who'd done it alone was that it wasn't enough. He could tell, even then, saying yes would've broken her beyond repair. All parents want better for their children, and she'd dedicated her life to making sure he was okay.
"No. I'm happy."
Her hand brushed against his cheek, her smile comforting. Not comforting enough to subdue his fear. He felt like he'd just brought up something he wasn't supposed to bring up. It was like he'd shouted a curse word and his mother heard him say it.
After that the idea never left him, though it took him several months to summon enough courage to bring it up again. Every night, before he went to bed, he wondered. When he woke up the next morning, he wondered. He daydreamed in class about the billboard man, who had the same eyes as him, who worked at Nox Industries.
He stared at the letter in front of him. Three days had come and gone since he'd gotten it. He hadn't mentioned it to his mother due to sheer fear of the unknown. She might've cried, or ripped it to shreds. Or worse, she may have told him to open it.
From the office of Malcolm Nox.
He rubbed his thumb against the raised letters as if to smear them off the face of the envelope. If he opened it, there was no turning back; if he ignored it, he'd never know. The curiosity that'd plagued his entire life reminded him that even if what was in that envelope ruined his life, the pain of not knowing would ruin it just as well. At least he'd have the pleasure of information if he read it.
With a sigh, he looked over his shoulder to make sure he was still alone, and then he ripped it open. A single piece of heavy card stock fell out.
I know you think I don't have any right writing to you. I haven't been a father to you and for that, I am sorry. Although, to be fair, I wasn't aware of your existence until two weeks ago, so I don't think I'm the only one at fault here. Anyway, I'm getting off on a tangent. The point I'm trying to make is that I want better for you than that tiny little house. And your mother needs rest. Your file says she's working two jobs. If you come, there is a chance I can make things right between us. I'm not a man who begs, but right now I am. Please.
He flipped it over to find a time, date, and location on the other side, and then he sighed heavily.
If he went, there was no turning back. If he ignored it, he'd never know.
As much as he hated it, his mind was made up instantly. The only thing left to do was tell his mother.
❝ in your head, they are fighting with their tanks and their bombs❞