Five Minutes of Fame
Tiger & Bunny
Even before his own peculiar NEXT power manifested itself, Barnaby Brooks, Jr. has always been good at timing.
It's not quite like counting. Anyone can watch the seconds ticking on a clock.
He can feel the time passing, measure it, gauge it, know it. Perhaps that power has always been there, even before the strength and speed that his NEXT allows.
His mother used to read to him, before bed: his favorite picture book would take her eight minutes. His father would tell the same story in six, but he always rushed through the bits with the lion, where his mother would take her time with the voices.
If he does not think too hard about them, he can nearly recall these things. Memory is fickle, but remembering is-- almost-- without pain.
And afterwards-- after the thirty-seven minutes it took for the fire to consume the parlor carpet, after the four weeks of pressed black jackets--
He clearly remembers Aunt Samantha. So much more than his housekeeper, then. Baking, she would ask him to mark the time, and her cakes always came out perfectly. (The first time, he suspects that she was simply teasing him, joking to coax a smile from him. Once he'd proven himself, she'd ask in earnest.) He could tell her when the washer and dryer were done, to the second, though she insisted that he not trouble himself with such things.
He has practiced, of course. Once his NEXT was obvious (and stabilized), he considered it part of his homework: when exactly five minutes is all that you have, you must learn to use it wisely.
For a few months when he was nine years old, the power was sporadic: lasting twenty seconds, then twenty minutes. Maybe a dozen times, it was just a millisecond flash (the thrill of a soccerball kicked inexplicably far, the horror of a textbook accidentally ripped in two). One agonizing time, it lasted three hours, and he was crying with frustration at the end, standing in the shower completely dry as all the hot water ricocheted off the aura he was helpless to stop.
By the time he was ten, his NEXT had steadied, perhaps by the sheer force of his will. Five minutes. Three hundred seconds. The regularity of it was an indescribable comfort.
As an adolescent he would boil eggs without a timer. Five minutes for a perfect soft-boiled egg, not too runny, not too firm. Just the way he knew Samantha liked them. (He never ate the eggs. He didn't care for them.)
Living on his own, he still plays little tricks with time, to keep himself sharp. Turning off his phone a second before an alarm, measuring the silence in a conversation before the other person coughs and excuses himself. And she's "Aunt" Samantha again; himself old enough not to be ashamed of the familiar nickname. She bakes him a cake for his birthday, and it makes him smile.
Five minutes is comfortable second nature, now. Five minutes of strength until it fades; five minutes of power. He can do pretty much anything in five minutes, and he knows five minutes better than his own breath and heartbeat. A five minute hero.
He never, not once, expected to find another person with the same NEXT as his own.