Thing is, asking the question right this moment seems a tad indelicate, which is why Rictor has kept his mouth shut since they left the baby in the fucking facility ‘Star grew up in.
He doesn’t know how it feels to pretty much condemn yourself to a life of misery that you know will happen to you just so that you don’t end up fucking with the timeline, the universe’s fabric, quantum physics and whatever else anyone can think of in these situations, but Rictor’s sure as hell that it can’t feel great.
Never mind doing it after losing your memories, being cloned and being forced to relieve your former life as a gladiator in your fucked up dimension that you absolutely did not want to come back to. And after tampering with both your parents’ memories so they don’t remember that you actually ever existed, as far as they’re concerned. Rictor shudders for a long, long moment – and he thought he had it bad when Mephisto dropped them here.
Yeah, ‘Star definitely had it worse. Which is why Ric is not asking the question, not as they leave trying to be as silent as possible, and not when ‘Star’s face hasn’t been this impassive and blank in years.
He’s not asking because it would be fucking indelicate, indeed, but there’s another pressing problem. Mainly, that they can’t stay here. It’s not even that they’d be disrupting the timeline more than they have already, it’s that there’s nowhere to go and on top of that ‘Star looks tired enough to faint. On top of that, ‘Star is definitely not looking like he’s going to address the problem or – or anything else period, soon or not.
Rictor waits for a bit before breaching the subject – by the time he finally does, they’ve walked far enough into some weirdass dark forest where you can’t hear a single sound. It’s creepy, but then again if they make noise he supposed no one will find them yet unless they were being followed.
“Listen,” he says, “I hate having to ask this, but – what the hell are we supposed to do now?”
‘Star stops in his tracks and turns back to look at Rictor, as if he hadn’t been listening to him before. “Sorry?”
Shit, he even sounds tired. And he definitely hadn’t been listening. “What do we do now?” Rictor asks again, his hand going to ‘Star’s arm – he looks fairly unsteady. “I mean, I doubt you want to join the rebellion again. Unless you do, which I guess would mean that I’d be along for the ride, but –”
“Please, no,” ‘Star interrupts him. “I have had enough of this for the foreseeable future. And the not foreseeable.”
Good, at least he’s joking about it. Rictor doesn’t say that out loud but he could probably burtst into song out of pure relief even if it’s hardly his thing – it was getting entirely too weird. He hadn’t seen ‘Star that closed off since they first met each other, for fuck’s sake.
Which, given when and where they are… well, it makes sense that ‘Star would momentarily go back to being… like that, he supposes.
“Then we really need to leave. I mean, if someone finds us –”
‘Star shudders a bit – enough to be visible, which for him means that he’s really fucking not looking forward to that eventuality.
“You are right,” he admits, sighing and squaring up his shoulders. “But – I don’t know if I have enough strength to go back to New York.”
If New York is even still there, Rictor doesn’t add. Well, given how things were shaping when they were thrown back in time it’s not a given, but it would still beat their current location.
“We don’t need to go to New York,” Rictor replies. “I mean, as long as we’re on Earth then we can figure everything else out later. I don’t know about you but there’s no past or future where fucking Mojoworld is a good place to stay in.”
“Good point.” ‘Star takes a deep breath – shit, he really looks about to faint. “I – I guess the next best thing to New York it is, then. Hold on.”
Rictor grabs his arm as ‘Star takes his swords out, and he tries to think of New York as hard as he can even if he’s really fucking worried about how pale ‘Star looks as he closes his eyes and light surrounds them.
He doesn’t know if that is what fucks their trip up, if it was ‘Star being low on time traveling juice or something else, but a moment he’s standing in a dark silent forest in Mojoworld, and the next over they’re crashing over the ground somewhere that’s definitely not New York.
If only because nowhere in New York there’s so much earth that the moment you crash on it, a cloud of dust raises so high that it goes over your eyes and into your mouth and sends you into a coughing spree. Not even in Central Park. What the fuck. He coughs for a handful of seconds until he doesn’t feel like he’s going to suffocate anymore and then looks for ‘Star – he’s on Rictor’s left, he’s breathing like he’s just run a damned marathon for his standards and his white clothes are getting stained in dirt with every passing moment.
“Well, we aren’t in New York,” Rictor croaks, “but at least it ain’t Mojoworld.”
‘Star opens his eyes tiredly and glances at their surroundings, looking fairly confused. “…Something went wrong,” he finally says. “I was envisioning New York. You were envisioning New York.”
“Maybe we went back in time,” Rictor replies, shrugging. “After all, maybe there was a graveyard like this in New York at some point.”
Because they’re in a fucking graveyard now that he notices – it’s early morning, maybe, and they’re surrounded by gravestones, dirt, a few random bushes and trees all around. That said, though –
“The scenery doesn’t look much like it, though,” Rictor has to add a moment later. They could be in New York before their time, but it really doesn’t look like it’s even the same area.
“No,” ‘Star agrees. “I imagine we should find out where we are.” He absolutely does not sound like he’s relishing the prospect. Ric wonders if he ever heard him sound this tired – ah. Right. Around that time when it seemed like he was about to go insane back in the day when they still worked with Cable.
Dios, he really hopes that’s not what’s gonna happen now because if they’re stuck somewhere they can’t afford to be in for long the last thing either of them need is having to go back to Mojo to fix things. And given that they just spent a good long time meddling with the fucking future and especially ‘Star’s, it’s entirely not impossible that he might be suffering the consequences.
Or maybe he’s just tired.
“Rest,” Rictor says before he can stand up. He puts a hand on ‘Star’s shoulder to make sure he doesn’t do it anyway. “I’ll take a look. I mean, can’t be too hard to read a few gravestones.”
‘Star doesn’t protest, which is another reason Rictor’s sure that he needs to rest and for a damned long time the moment they figure out what to do and they’re sure there’s no one on their tails or imminent danger looming on them. He looks at the nearest grave, hoping that at least they’re in the US. If they haven’t ended up on the other side of the planet then it’s good news already, isn’t it?
Well then. It belongs to some guy named James Lighton Gilmore, so at least they’re indeed in the US or Australia (the scenery doesn’t really look like the UK, for one), and he died at the ripe age of twenty-four in –
Fuck. 1882. And it looks like a new gravestone, from what he can see, which means that they’re way off mark if the idea was landing in New York in 2013. Fuck. Anyway. James Gilmore, dead at twenty-four, and born in –
Oh, no. Rictor stands up and moves to the next grave over, trying to find a confirmation that he got this wrong. It can’t be.
He looks over the next five or six graves just to be sure, and then he ends in front of one that looks better kept than the others, and –
“Oh, fuck,” he groans.
“Julio? What’s wrong?” ‘Star has stood up, and is walking towards him. Rictor doesn’t try to dissuade him – when ‘Star moves to his side, he reaches out and grabs his hand both to steady him and both because he really needs to.
“Well, the good news is that we definitely are on Earth. In the right country. The bad news is that this is the nineteenth century and we’ve landed in fucking South Dakota.”
‘Star stares at him as if he’s just said gibberish. “Sorry, we’re where?”
“Far as I know, there’s just one Wild Bill Hickok in the world and he’s buried in Deadwood, and given that the guy we landed next to died fairly young and the grave looked fresh, I’d say it has to be 1883 at best. And early into it, because it’s fucking freezing.”
He’s noticing just now, but the air is chilly – then again, if their pal James died in December then it can’t be later than March. But that’d be pushing it.
‘Star’s face falls. “I am sorry,” he says quietly.
‘Star shakes his head. “I don’t think I can try this again anytime soon. I am – spent? Completely. I got this wrong because I was too tired already, if I try again –”
Rictor gives his hand a squeeze hard enough that he stops talking for the moment. “’Star, don’t even. You got us out of that mess in the first place, I guess spending a few days here won’t be what kills us.”
“I – I think I need at least a week to try it without risking something like this. I wouldn’t want to land us somewhere dangerous. Or – more dangerous.”
“Well, then we just have to survive a week in here. Could be worse.”
Except that they need at least clothes and money – their current attire would get them singled out in a moment and he doubts any of them has spare cash on them, never mind that he doubts people would accept currency from 2013 in the first place.
“Dios, let’s get moving,” he mutters, taking ‘Star’s arm again. “We need to find some clothes. Shit, this is going to be fun.”
“If this is a graveyard,” ‘Star points out, falling into step next to him, “shouldn’t someone work here? Maybe we can see if they have clothes.”
That’s – that’s actually a good idea. There has to be some kind of guardian around. Maybe, with luck, they have a house somewhere and they can sneak in and if no one is home they can steal at least a coat. If not, well, he figures they can scare the man into it.
“Good point,” Rictor tells him. “Let’s – let’s just go. I need a coat and you need to sleep.”
‘Star goes along and they walk along the largest path they find – damn, the hems of ‘Star’s trousers are dark brown now. This is quite some sturdy dirt. For some kind of miracle no one comes by to pay respects by the time they finally find a gate to a path that heads down the hill. He can see the city from here – yes. These are definitely not current times. It’s fairly small, certainly smaller than it’d be these days, every building seems out of a fucking western movie and there’s just horses and carts and carriages going in and out, as far as he can see. What’s more urgent, though, is that he can see no place where someone could live in the vicinities, but there’s a shack a bit to the side.
“Better than nothing,” he mutters. “Come on. Let’s check that out.”
‘Star follows him there – it’s locked, but it takes a moment to create a small, contained tremor that makes the door rattle enough that Rictor can break the lock without too much effort and without dislodging it completely. He goes inside and drags ‘Star with him and – well, it’s mostly a storage place and it’s full of junk, but there are some old clothes folded on a chair to the side. He goes and checks them out – there are a couple of old coats and a few pairs of trousers and a couple of shirts. No money anywhere, of course.
“You think any of this can fit you?” He asks ‘Star, who comes over and inspects the clothes wordlessly. Then he sighs and picks a few.
“These might do, for a bit,” he says. “Not for a week, though.”
“Better than nothing. Shit, I think I can only wear this coat and the shirt, but maybe they’ll hide the rest. I – I guess we can pawn something if we need money.”
What he doesn’t know. Or maybe they can just punch someone and steal said money – but maybe that was gonna work before the time they’re in. If he’s not too wrong by now there should be some sort of sheriff making things work in here. Damn it.
Anyway, he gets rid of his shirt and puts on the new one and the coat – it’s old and barely fits him, but it does hide his trousers enough that people might not look at him twice. ‘Star’s clothes are all mismatched but at least the coat that somewhat fit him is large enough to cover his frame completely. It’s also older than Rictor’s – if they were playing dress-up, these’d be the worst Halloween costumes ever. Still, at least they won’t attract anyone’s attention the moment they step foot into town. Good. They should get moving already, but before then –
“Hey,” he says, putting a hand on ‘Star’s shoulder, “I’m not gonna ask you if you’re fine because you’re not, but do you need a moment before we go?”
“’Star. You’re not fine. If you need a bit of time to recover –”
“There is no time for now. You’re right, we need to go.” And then he moves away and walks out of the cabin. Rictor shakes his head and runs after him, figuring that they’ll talk about things when they hopefully find some hotel room or something and they can have a moment of calm.
He falls into step with ‘Star, wishing he could put a hand on his back or something, but then he thinks better of it – if this is really Deadwood and it’s fucking 1883 public displays of affection will probably not work in their favor. So, he thinks, money. They need money, possibly… well, right now.
“Do we have anything we can pawn?” Rictor whispers as they go down the hill and towards the town.
“Not my swords,” ‘Star replies. He’s clutching them in the coat’s sleeves – Rictor really hopes no one notices.
“Dios, no. That would definitely get us noticed or worse. Shit, we don’t have anything else, do we?”
“I do not think so,” ‘Star sighs, looking to his right, and then –
“But maybe he has.”
Rictor glances in the direction ‘Star is and – well. Okay. There’s a dead guy lying in a ditch just outside the road. Madre de Dios. He’ll need a drink before this day is over. Or maybe more than one.
“Are you suggesting that –”
“I do not see any better option.”
Rictor has done a lot of weird shit in his life and he’s been through a lot of weirder shit, that’s for sure, but as he kneels down along with ‘Star rummaging through a dead man’s pockets he decides that this is just… another kind of weird. Put very nicely.
At least when they come back home they’ll have a hell of a story to tell the others. Hey guys, while you were battling demons we were in fucking Deadwood stealing from a corpse, how about that.
Said guy also died falling off a horse or something because there are no gun wounds on him and ‘Star finds a decent enough pocket watch in his coat in a few moments, so definitely not a robbery. Good, because if it’s the case –
“Oh, yes,” Rictor says as he feels something heavy in the man’s pocket. He takes out a leather pouch and opens it – well. There’s money in there, both coins and notes. Not a great lot, but definitely enough for a decent set of clothes for the both of them and a room for a couple of nights. If they pawn the watch, they might get more. “Come on,” he says, “that’s plenty enough for now. I’m feeling bad doing this, let’s just go.”
“All right,” ‘Star agrees, handing him the watch. “I guess we might pawn this if there is the need?”
“Yeah. Let’s hope that there’s a shop early on. We really need to do better than this.”
They leave the poor guy alone on the side of the road – Rictor vows to himself to check the obituaries in the next few days and maybe at least figure out the name, it’s the least they owe him– and head towards the city’s outskirts. And that’s when they finally run into a street sign that reads WELCOME TO DEADWOOD in entirely too huge letters. And it’s hand painted.
They’re definitely in the nineteenth century.
That’s when ‘Star abruptly stops and just stares at the sign as if he’s found out something he hadn’t known before.
“Oh,” he says a moment later, his eyes going wide.
“I – I hadn’t realized.”
“You hadn’t realized what?”
“This is – I know why we’re here.” And then – his cheeks take a slightly redder tinge. Is he blushing or what?
“I – I might have been marathoning the show before – before Mephisto showed up.”
The show –
Oh, yes. The HBO show, that’s what he means.
“I could not finish it,” ‘Star keeps on. “And it really bothered me, but never mind that. I hadn’t thought about it in – a lot. All the time we spent back in Mojo.” ‘Star’s voice goes down a bit before he clears his throat and speaks up again. “In theory I should have gone where you were thinking, but – I imagine things were mixed up somehow.”
“Well, at least we figured that out,” Rictor sighs. “Hey, don’t sweat it out. We found the money, now we just need to lay low for a bit, avoid getting shot or – or whatever, and then we can try it out again when you feel better. The others managed without us until now, they’ll manage without us for however long it takes us. At least we’re on fucking planet Earth. And nothing horrid that we’re wearing now can be as bad as what we used to wear back with X-Force.”
‘Star shudders under his coat. “Suddenly this attire looks entirely more fashionable.”
“Yeah. And I think I need a shave. I feel like shit. Let’s find something better.”
When they run into a clothes shop maybe a minute after they actually walk into town, Rictor decides that if this is how the universe has decided to slightly repay them for the trick it pulled on them then he’s not going to complain.
The shop owner doesn’t seem too convinced at the story Rictor comes up with on the spot – that he’s from Mexico and he’s here to work in a mine and he met ‘Star along the way and they made the trip together. She also doesn’t seem to buy that ‘Star comes from Sweden (it was the first place Rictor thought of that sounded halfway plausible) but then she sees that they have good money and tells them to knock themselves out as long as they pay.
‘Star starts looking into the first rack on his right and Rictor figures he’ll handle his own stuff – he goes towards the opposite. He wishes those clothes didn’t smell as much as they do, but then again the entire city smells that he pays attention to it – he’s going to have to bear it. The moment he goes back to civilization he’s never again in his life going to complain about broken sewers.
He finds some trousers, a couple of shirts and a coat that doesn’t look completely ridiculous on him for what seems like a decent price. He loses a bit of time finding some suitable boots – most of the ones on display seem used, and he has this hunch that they might have belonged to some poor dead bastard that used to work in one of the mines. Given that he’s already spending money belonging to some other dead bastard he’d rather buy new ones, but in the end he has to settle on a pair that isn’t definitely new but is the only one that’s exactly his size if compared to the boots he has on. He ends up throwing into the bundle some stuff that passes for underwear – he’s going to have to hope it’s as clean as advertised because he probably can’t bring it for a wash before wearing it.
“Can I try the coat on?” He asks – no point in doing it with the other things. ‘Star is nowhere to be seen, so he’s obviously occupying the only changing room in this joint, and he’s fairly sure the rest should fit.
“Where I can see you.”
Obviously. He shrugs off his own, giving her the shoulders, and he shrugs the new one on. Right. This one fits. And isn’t torn in ten different places and not smelling of graveyard dust.
“Right. I’m gonna take it. You don’t happen to sell razors or anything of the kind, do you?”
The woman sends him an even more unimpressed look. “No. Try the store ‘round the corner. Or there’s a barber up along the road.”
“Yeah, I’d rather do it myself,” Rictor says, not relishing the prospect of someone putting a blade near his throat. “Whatever. Thanks anyway. I’m gonna wait for my, er, for my friend to get out and then I’m paying.”
“Sure you will.” She keeps an eye on him and a hand under the counter. If she doesn’t have a gun under there Rictor’s going to be very surprised, truth to be told.
Then he’s completely taken out of that line of thinking because ‘Star comes out of the dressing room, and –
Well, shit. When picking clothes he had chosen the first things that looked comfortable and suitable and were all in some shade of brown, if only because he doesn’t want to attract attention and they looked plain enough. But he supposes that not attracting attention will be moot now, because given what ‘Star’s picked – well. A part of him says that he should tell ‘Star to go get something less conspicuous, but there’s a weaker one which is saying don’t you dare.
Thing is, since he showed back up in his life ‘Star’s more or less always worn white as far as Rictor can remember – he was really fond of that outfit. Rictor was also very fond of that outfit. So seeing him wear all dark green – trousers and shirt and vest, fuck – under a coat so black it paints a really striking picture against ‘Star’s pale skin, well, for a moment it’s a complete shock. Then he notices that ‘Star picked fucking boots with spurs and that he has a hat as black as the coat in his hands and – he really needs to congratulate himself on self-control because his baser instinct the moment he saw the whole picture had been go and ravish him right there.
His throat is also so dry it could go in a competition against the fucking Nevada desert.
Rictor also realizes that if he actually dressed with everything he had chosen, then ‘Star has to have hidden the swords somewhere in the coat, which means that it’d be a really bad idea to ask him to put back his old stuff. Also, ‘Star opens his mouth to ask something and Rictor realizes that if it’s something like how do I look the owner might get suspicious for real, and –
“Fine,” Rictor says, “we’re taking all of that. I mean. My stuff and whatever it is he has on. It was everything you brought into the room, yes?”
“I – yes,” ‘Star agrees.
The woman asks for twenty bucks and Rictor hands them over without trying to bargain – the guy had a hundred in his pockets without counting the coins, they can afford it.
“Strange tat you have,” the woman says as she puts their cash away and stares at ‘Star’s face.
“What can you do, people in Sweden are weird,” Rictor replies. “Say, I can get a razor around the corner. Where does one go to find a room to sleep in?”
“Sorry there ain’t that plenty places to choose from.” It’s so obvious that she thinks they’re up to no good, Rictor can’t wait to be out of this fucking shop. “There’s the old Grand Central. They rebuilt it after the fire, you can find a couple rooms there if there are no soldiers passing through town.”
“Thanks,” he replies, figuring that it can’t hurt to be somewhat nice to her even if she’s not doing anything to earn it. He considers asking her to change, then he settles for switching his coat with the new one – he thinks he wants to wash and fucking shave before wearing the new things. Shit, he feels horrible. He almost envies ‘Star for a moment since at least he looks presentable, but then Rictor remembers that he wasn’t the one getting the short end of the stick in this entire mess and so he shuts up.
He leaves the store, ‘Star following suit. He finds a convenience store around the corner where he buys the darned razor, hopefully there’ll be soap at the hotel or whatever it is.
“Fuck,” he says under his breath as he walks out of the store, “this place stinks.”
“What year did you say we are in?” ‘Star asks, thankfully he’s keeping his voice low. A few people are definitely looking at them. Rictor’s so not staring back.
“Has to be early 1883. Why?”
“You should feel lucky we didn’t arrive ten years earlier then.”
“Because I am fairly sure that now they clean the streets and remove waste. Before, not so much.”
“And how do you know that?”
“I was enjoying that show,” ‘Star sighs. “I watched a documentary about the town’s history before watching the last season.”
Which – well, makes goddamn perfect sense.
“Ah, shit,” Rictor says a moment later. “We probably should have guns.” He sighs, not really fucking relishing it.
“Why?” ‘Star almost looks disgusted at the prospect. “I do not need guns. You do not need guns.”
“True and true, but I’m somewhat sure that we’d look even more suspicious than we already are if we went around this fucking place without –”
He was about to say a gun, then he hears a shot coming from a few alleys on their left, which was definitely a gunshot, and no one even heads there.
“– without firearms of any kind, qué chingados," he finishes. Damn it to hell and back, and to think that there should have been some sort of sheriff around at this point. Not that he thinks anyone’s going to shoot them, but –
He has to stop when ‘Star grabs at his arm.
“What’s up?” Rictor asks, and then he doesn’t even need an answer the moment he sees what ‘Star’s looking at.
“’Star, I am not going inside there clutching my stuff.” He’s plenty aware he hasn’t said that they’re not going in there at all, but he already knows it would be useless. Never mind that ‘Star is actually looking fucking excited right now, the way he always does when he gets the chance to kick some ass at his leisure, and given what they just escaped from he doesn’t have the heart to say no.
Even if it means –
“Does that mean we can go in there… later?”
“Well, what kind of story would I tell my friends if I said I ended up in fucking Deadwood and didn’t go into the damned Gem Theater? Fine, we’re going. But I really need to shave first.”
“That’s acceptable,” ‘Star declares, and is he walking with his shoulders slightly less hunched? Rictor should have imagined that the guy would perk up at the idea of having a fight or drink in the darned Gem Saloon (or Theater, however it’s called here) if he was really digging that show, but hey, whatever works as long as they survive without causing a scene and exposing mutants long before their times.
Shit, he really has watched too much scifi where people meddle with the past and fuck up the future. Anyway, there’s soldiers passing through town so there are not rooms available at the Grand Central, but they’re told to go to this smaller place where some guy rents rooms. It’s so shady that the guy doesn’t even ask their names, just takes the money and says that if they leave before a week he doesn’t do refunds. Fine. As if they’d need money from the nineteenth century back home anyway. He pays for a bath to be brought upstairs and he’s not too surprised when ‘Star says that he’d rather have a look around and they’ll see each other in front of the Gem – he did look like he wanted some time to himself. He probably needs it.
“As long as you swear I’m not going to walk into a fight when I get there,” Rictor sighs, far enough from the owner that he can’t hear them.
“I won’t,” ‘Star says with the face of someone who means to keep a promise but can’t guarantee they’ll manage, and Rictor decides it’s going to be enough. He really needs to wash Mojo’s dirt off him, goddamn it.
‘Star leaves. Rictor doesn’t let himself linger – the sooner he washes, the sooner he can go after him – and heads upstairs, trying to not get too worked up over the fact that he’d rather have ‘Star when he can see him. And not just because he’s worried he’ll slice someone open, but because he hasn’t seen ‘Star for months and the guy has been experimented on, forced into a life he didn’t even like and fucking cloned, never mind the whole erasing your memories bullshit, and forgive him if he’s worried sick.
He resolves to try and be as quick as he can – he takes the bath, which is blissfully warm and very much needed, takes his time shaving and damn if it doesn’t feel good to get rid of that awful beard. He takes advantage of the scissors someone left in front of the one mirror in the room to at least trim his hair. Overall, it’s not a job Monet would have been impressed with, but it’s still better than the fake-hobo-from-Woodstock look he had been forced into. When he’s done drying off and putting on his new clothes he doesn’t feel like a new man but it’s enough of a difference that he feels utter relief washing over him. Good. Now he just has to find ‘Star and hope he hasn’t released any pent-up tension yet.
He also should buy a couple fucking guns. Sometimes he wonders if the universe has a grudge against him or something like that, but he can think about it in depth when they go back home. For now, he leaves the room, locks the door and heads downstairs. He’s sure he remembers the way to the Gem, it wasn’t that far; meanwhile, if he finds an armory –
There’s one not far. He sighs, goes in, spends the least possible amount of money on a couple revolvers and holsters that he really hopes they’ll have to wear just for show and heads towards the Gem for good, and he’s utterly fucking relieved to see ‘Star standing in front of it without looking worse for wear. He’s also wearing the fucking hat – shit, this is probably not the right time to think about how hot he looks in those clothes. Maybe if they’re real quiet he can take them off very slowly, later.
“Everything all right?” He asks, moving closer.
“Yes,” ‘Star replies without expanding on it. It’s obvious it’s not exactly the truth, but for now Rictor’s letting it slide.
“Well, good. Here,” he says, handing him over one of the guns along with the holster he had to buy for it, “put this on. Let’s try to not use it, but – yeah. If we walk in there without someone’s definitely bound to notice.”
‘Star smirks ever so slightly as he takes it and Rictor should maybe get worried because he didn’t seem that excited at the prospect an hour ago.
“Can we go in?”
“I don’t know how you’re this excited to walk into a motherfucking brothel, but as long as it’s for drinks, sure, let’s go.”
He lets ‘Star go first and keeps his hands to himself, and –
Well, he thinks as they walk inside the joint, it definitely smells like sex. It’s almost overwhelming but then again it’s a brothel, what does he expect. At least it has a bar. Shit, okay, he can do with a fucking drink right now –
And that’s when the bartender takes a very good look at them and his eyes turn suspicious. Well, they aren’t exactly the most inconspicuous people now, are they.
“New in town?” He asks, his elbows going to the counter.
“Very much so,” ‘Star replies, and his fairly neutral accent completely clashes against the bartender’s thick drawl. Shit, so much for not attracting attention.
“Stayin’ for long? Not that I want to get into your business, pal, but we like to keep track of who comes into this joint.”
“A week or so,” Rictor steps in, moving up to the counter. “We’re, uh, passin’ by.”
“Hm. What will you have and what’d your names be? If you’re gonna be regular clients until then, Mr. Swearengen might wanna know.”
Rictor is honestly relieved that ‘Star’s face doesn’t change at all when the bartender mentions the infamous owner. But then ‘Star smirks ever so slightly and –
Oh, no, Rictor thinks. He’s not going to do it.
He’s not going to –
“Of course,” ‘Star replies. “I will have a whiskey on the rocks. As far as the name goes…”
Don’t do it, please don’t. Rictor knows it’s completely ridiculous to think that on purpose, ‘Star is not a mind reader, but maybe the universe will hear him and he won’t answer –
“Eastwood. Clint Eastwood.”
“What kind of dumb name is that?”
Shit, good thing that the bartender can’t know why exactly ‘Star is smirking the way he is.
Though hey, at least he’s having fun. If he had to re-enact fucking Back to the Future to do it, fine, but Rictor’s gonna have Jamie’s head for this when they go back to New York. Because Jamie was the one suggesting ‘Star to watch those damned movies.
“You cannot choose your own name, sadly. My drink, please?”
Rictor sighs and passes a gold coin over to the counter – the bartender eyes it and decides that it’s good enough to drop that conversation.
“Serve yourself,” the guy shrugs, passing over a glass. “And what ‘bout you?”
“You wanna know my order or my name?” Rictor asks.
“Both, thanks. I don’t know where he comes from, but we don’t see many of your kind ‘round here.” Rictor shrugs, figuring that since ‘Star started it, he might as well finish. Never mind that he can hardly give them his real name, if anything happens and they end up mentioned on the local newspaper he can’t afford his real name to be in print. Or ‘Star’s, for that matter. He’d really like to meddle with the future as little as he possibly can. Also he doesn’t know how they figured out in a moment where he was born, but at this point he might as well go with it.
“Leo Carrillo, and I’ll have what he had. Double.”
“Less ridiculous than your pal. Comin’,” the guy says as he grabs the whiskey bottle again, and Rictor decides that after this, he’s redefining his concept of fucking embarrassing.
“Double?” ‘Star whispers as he moves closer.
“Listen, I think I earned it. Did you really have to?”
“Should I have given them my real name?”
“Hell, no,” Rictor replies without even thinking twice about it, and then he downs his glass in one go. Well, if anything it’s good booze, nothing to complain about. “So, is the Gem living up to your expectations?”
‘Star finishes his glass and puts it on the counter way more delicately than half of the clientele around them. “Might be,” he concedes. “Can we afford another drink?”
“Why not. Still, if you want to try and get drunk off your ass now it’s a bad idea. I don’t know if I have that much money to try it on.”
“Oh, y’need to make some?”
The fuck – ah. Yes. It was someone behind them. Rictor turns – the guy was sitting at a table with another two people.
“What if we do?” ‘Star replies very, very calmly.
“Well, we need a fourth for a hand or two. Care to join us, Mr. –”
“Eastwood,” ‘Star finishes for him. “You know what, I think I should accept.”
“’Star,” Rictor hisses, “don’t –”
“Julio,” ‘Star whispers back, “I know what I am doing.”
Rictor isn’t that sure about it, but fine. At worse he just ends up destroying the saloon, but since where they come from there’s no news of that and he’s fairly sure that they just fixed a damned timeline, it shouldn’t happen.
‘Star stands up and goes to sit at the table. Rictor ponders the situation for one moment and then hands the bartender another coin. “Y’know what, give me a refill.”
“Look at a man who pays for five refills in advance,” the guy says. “Here you go. Also, I shouldn’t be sayin’ this ‘cause it goes against my fuckin’ work ethic but you two seem to be decent people, so maybe I should warn you that if those three asked your friend over and not you –”
“It’s ‘cause he looks like the kinda guy they can cheat on?”
“And you’re smarter than you look, Mr. Carrillo,” the guy says. “But yeah, that was ‘bout it.”
“Then I’m just really fucking sorry for ‘em,” Rictor snorts. “And I’ll want another refill for this.”
“You sure ‘bout that? You might wanna run out.”
Well, at least they ran into the only semi-decent person in this town, Rictor figures. “Don’t you worry. There won’t be the need. Besides, I might not look like it, but I can defend myself.”
The bartender doesn’t look too convinced but refills his glass without giving further opinions on the matter and while Rictor half-turns so that he can see what’s going on at the table.
He can see a mile away that some guy is trying to pull out some card from his sleeve, but he also can see that the guy next to him had underestimated ‘Star’s skills at showing a poker face. Too bad, but then again he hadn’t met the guy when he had just landed on Earth. Because back then he sure as hell could pull off the blankest poker face in existence, which is pretty much what he’s doing right now. Except that Rictor thinks he can read him well enough to decide that he’s actually having fun while doing it. Some twisted level of it, but it’s obvious from the way ‘Star’s holding himself and the fact that he has shoulders relaxed to a degree rather than stiff as they always used to be.
“Pal,” the bartender says a short while later, “if I were you, I’d run. I mean, you have the money, don’t you?”
“Nah,” Rictor says. “No need for it.”
“If you’re as smart as you sounded before –”
“I’d know that asshole on the left has changed about three cards with the ones in his sleeve, asshole on the right has changed two and asshole in the middle hasn’t because at least one of them should have a shitty hand, which would mean that my pal over there should be in deep shit. But don’t you worry.”
“If you say so.” The man doesn’t sound convinced at all, but he says nothing as they declare that they’re gonna show their hands.
Rictor isn’t entirely surprised that asshole on the left has a full house with three aces and two tens. Too bad that ‘Star has a three of a kind with one of those same aces being one of the two spare cards.
“Hm,” ‘Star says, “it seems like something went amiss here.”
Rictor can see the other guys are about to tell him that he cheated, but –
In the span of some fifteen seconds, which Rictor decides were ten too many for ‘Star’s usual (but maybe he held back so that no one decided that it was inhumanly fast), ‘Star has grabbed Asshole On The Left by the sleeve, held him in a fairly strong grip and reached under said sleeve, and a moment later, still keeping that hold as strong as it gets, he throws a few extra cards on the table.
“It seems,” he says, very slowly, as every other patron in the room turns to look at the scene, “that something was amiss and that wasn’t my hand. Now, I can perform this same check on all three of you without letting him go, but I don’t feel like picking up a fight on my first day. Do you think you will take the noble way out and leave the money on the table where it belongs?”
Rictor thinks that the entire saloon just went so silent you could hear a fucking pin drop.
The two guys that aren’t in ‘Star’s grip take a good look at their friend’s face, then glance at each other and then push all the money on their sides at the center of the table.
“Good.” ‘Star moves around the table and pretty much throws the guy over the other two – they go to the ground in an undignified heap and while they try to get back on their feet he pockets all the money that was on the table. “That was a very profitable game.”
For a moment he looks on the verge of saying something. Rictor can see that he really wants to say it but he’s holding it back in case it’s not a good idea –
But then he smiles again and no, he’s going to say it. He’s going to, and Rictor’s betting on a specific thing.
“So long, cocksuckers,” ‘Star says with entirely too much satisfaction, before he comes back to the counter and says that he wouldn’t be adverse to a last drink paid with his hard-earned money.
“You really had to, huh?” Rictor asks a moment later, when the bartender’s off serving someone else who’s looking at them as if they’d rather never get close.
“I had to say it before we left,” ‘Star replies, his cheeks flushing ever so slightly, and when no one actually tries to bother them Rictor decides that maybe, just maybe, this hasn’t gone pear-shaped yet.
Maybe until they’re here, if this is how ‘Star decides to pick fights, he can just let him do his thing without stepping in, if it helps him unload.
Meanwhile, well, they have enough money to afford a round of good stuff.
They eventually pay for two rounds of the good stuff.
It probably says a lot that when they leave Rictor’s on the good side of tipsy and ‘Star’s nowhere near close to it, but after all it means that he feels giddy and ‘Star, well, he’s not giddy but he definitely looks better than he had this morning.
They also were smart enough to leave at mid-afternoon, which means that at least they’re going to avoid the evening crowd and won’t risk getting shot in the middle of the fucking place. And – well, let’s say that it had been ages since Rictor had been buzzed but in a good way. It’s a nice sensation.
“I was wondering,” ‘Star says as they go back to their lodgings.
“I – we cannot know what happened after we left. But all things considered – what if headquarters are not there anymore? We don’t even know what happened with the others.”
Damn. Trust ‘Star to point out the obvious. Sure as hell it’s nothing to keep up a good mood about.
“Yeah, guess that it might be a fucking problem. Contacting any of them from here would be out of the question, wouldn’t –”
Except that maybe it’s not out of the question.
“Julio?” ‘Star asks a moment later. He sounds… not worried, but at least perplexed.
“’Star, I’m disappointed. You’re the one who has to say he’s named fucking Eastwood because you had to re-enact Back to the Future, I shouldn’t be the one coming up with this.”
“Follow me one moment. You are the one who /i>loved that show. Who was whatshisname, the nice guy who ran the post office?”
“… Charlie Utter?”
“Right. So, Charlie Utter should’ve opened a post office here already, unless they were making it up.”
“Not according to that documentary.”
“Even better. So, we write a letter where we tell Jamie to make sure we find his ass waiting for us when we say where we say we’re gonna show up. We go to the post office, we pay them to bring it to Denver where I’m sure there’s some Western Union office, then we pay enough to make sure it’s delivered to X-Factor at some point when we weren’t there, Jamie comes to get us in 2013. What do you say?”
‘Star stares at him for a long, long moment. Then he flashes Rictor a grin so blinding that for a moment he feels like he’s going to lose his footing. “I say that we should do that now.”
The post office is still open at least – they buy the necessary to write the damned thing, spend a good half hour on it and after it’s done and sealed Rictor hands it over to the clerk.
“Kid,” he says, “there are specific instructions to deliver this.”
“Which would be?”
“You need to deliver this to the nearest Western Union in Denver. Then, they have to follow the directions written on the back.”
The clerk turns the envelope and reads it.
“To be delivered to a Mr. Jamie Madrox – wait, where is Mutant Town? There’s no Mutant Town in New York – when? Two thousand –”
“How much will you need so that Western Union keeps that letter as long as that letter asks and delivers it?”
The clerk thinks about it and says some fifty dollars should do as long as the receiver pays for the rest when it’s time to. It’s obvious that he thinks they’re both insane, but ‘Star won enough money before that they can afford it, so Rictor hands the guy the amount he asks.
“What did he mean when he said as long as the receiver pays for the rest?” ‘Star asks after they walk out of the post office.
“Well, he just means that if our fifty’s worth runs out before time’s due, Jaime is gonna have to make up for the rest, but as far as I’m concerned, he can shell for it. He also owed me at least a couple paychecks by the time Mephisto decided to fuck with our heads.”
“I – I suppose it sounds sensed,” ‘Star says. “Where did you have it delivered?”
“To our former headquarters back before you showed up and in a moment when I wasn’t around. We’ll see if it works out. That said –” He takes a look around and then, noticing that there aren’t too many people around, figures that he can take a slight risk. He grabs ‘Star’s arm and drags him downwards a bit, and then –
“That said, I’ve been wanting to take off those clothes of yours one by one since you got out of that fucking dressing room. You think that can be arranged?”
‘Star’s eyes are positively glinting as he replies that yes, it can.
He doesn’t know how he managed to keep some semblance of control while they went up the stairs to their room, though he figures that survival instinct might be a good choice – he’s pretty sure that if anyone caught them kissing in the middle of the road it would have been the straw breaking the camel’s back –, but damn if by the time he’s locked the door behind them he’s almost literally aching with need.
‘Star, who hasn’t actually seen the room yet, is taking a good look at it when Rictor’s finally locked them in and put the door on the small table on the side.
“So, what do you think of our royal palace?” Rictor asks, shrugging off his coat.
“I have slept in worse places for longer than a week,” ‘Star says, and Rictor can sympathize since he’s done the exact same thing for the previous three months –
He goes towards the window and drags the curtains over so that there’s no chance they might be seen, and then he doesn’t wait until ‘Star puts his hat away – he’s on the opposite side of the room in a moment. He grabs the hat, throws it on the ground or the nearest chair or whatever is just on his left and shit, this is the first time since they met again that they actually could do this, he thinks fleetingly before moving his hands up to ‘Star’s face and tugging it down.
The moment ‘Star moans a little and kisses back it’s like some dam has just broken – he groans and presses harder, their tongues meeting at once as Rictor pretty much presses ‘Star against the wall and his hands go at his shoulders, tugging the coat down. It pools at their feet and Rictor kicks it out of the way.
“That,” he breathes, “looks too good on you to ruin it.”
“Did you mean it when –”
“When I said I wanted to take these off slowly? Yes, ‘course I did,” he breathes against ‘Star’s mouth. “And for that matter I think you’ve done enough work for today.”
“You’ve done enough work for a lifetime,” Rictor sighs, and then moves his hands towards ‘Star’s back and he pushes and it’s endearing that ‘Star’s fallen for this trick since they started fucking, but it probably says a lot about how much his guard is down, doesn’t it? Anyway, it works like a charm and a moment later ‘Star has his legs crossed around his back and his hands on Rictor’s shoulders and –
“I will never learn, will I?”
“Shut up, you love it,” Rictor replies, and he knows ‘Star does, never mind that a man can’t be blamed if he takes advantage of alien anatomy, once in a while.
Christ, he’s light. Maybe lighter than last time they did this. Then again, neither of them has eaten properly lately, have they?
He moves from the wall and ‘Star leans down again and they’re kissing slightly less hurriedly while Rictor heads for the bed and lets ‘Star fall down on the mattress – he breaks the kiss just so that he can work on more pleasant things.
Such as, removing the vest.
He leans back and starts unbuttoning it as carefully as he can. “You know,” he says, sliding the buttons off one by one, “I’m never letting you throw these away.”
“Oh, so I should go around New York dressed like this?”
Rictor laughs, unable to keep it in. It feels relieving, honestly. “Maybe you’d get away with it. I was thinking of keeping the sight to myself, but if that’s what you feel like, I wouldn’t be the person stopping you.” He slides the vest off ‘Star’s shoulders, his palms running over that dark green shirt. ‘Star kicks off his shoes, good idea that, and Rictor puts a knee to the side of the bed before his hands reach down and grab at the hems of the shirt. “But for now I’ll definitely get a kick out of it.”
“That – that is good to know,” ‘Star breathes out as he lifts his arms upwards. Rictor tugs and gets the shirt off, throwing it on the side and hoping it’ll land on the coat. He’s not surprised to see that he hasn’t lost any muscle but looks less healthy than he did the last time they did this, and he’s not surprised to see that there are fresh-looking scars on his chest that he doesn’t remember. But underneath it all it’s the same body he’s missed like a fucking limb for months, and all of a sudden the urgency he had felt up until five minutes ago dies down.
He thinks he wants to take his time.
“Lookin’ good,” he says, before ‘Star can get any weird ideas on the reasons why he’s stared at him for a good half minute.
“Do – do you think so?” ‘Star replies, sounding a bit awed and relieved at the same time.
“’Star, I’m so not in the mood for lying. You think you can go with your back against the headboard?”
‘Star nods and wiggles back until he’s done just that while Rictor kicks off his own shoes and moves to straddle him, his hands going at ‘Star’s hips, touching the trousers’ waistline.
For a moment, he fears that things are going too well and someone will knock on the door interrupting them or something, then he decides that he’ll be damned before he lets that deter him.
“Yes,” he says, his fingers brushing against ‘Star’s crotch, feeling that he’s way past half-hard by now, “definitely lookin’ good. You think I can go ahead and show you a good time?”
“Fekt, yes,” ‘Star moans. “I think I am in dire need of being – shown a good time.”
“Well then, let’s get down to it.” He leans down, kissing ‘Star again and running one of his hands through his now longer hair while his other hand works open the belt. He gets rid of it easily enough and he leans back so that he can finally push down ‘Star’s trousers and slide them off.
“This is not fair, though,” ‘Star complains as he throws the clothing behind him, too.
“And how’s that?” Rictor moves over so that he’s straddling ‘Star fully again, his fingers closing around ‘Star’s erection and giving it a small, short stroke.
“That’s –” ‘Star’s eyes go slightly wider, as if he’s re-acquiring the taste for this, but then again so’s Rictor. “You are still clothed.”
Rictor is unable to keep himself from smirking openly. “I won’t be for long,” he assures ‘Star. “Patience. I know, I know, sounds ridiculous if coming from me of all people, but I think we earned takin’ it slow. Didn’t we?”
Not even expecting an answer, he leans down and kisses ‘Star before he can come up with a retort, and at the same time he keeps on jerking him off slowly. He can feel him growing harder under his fingers and shit but he had missed this – and ‘Star – so bad, he could cry out in relief. But it’s not the time to. He’s not going to ruin the fucking moment.
“Fuck,” he blurts out after he breaks the kiss for air. He breathes in, dives in again once, twice, moaning when ‘Star’s hands slowly reach up and grab at his hair. They’re shaking minutely, but Rictor’s not going to be the person who points that out. “Fuck, we’re never pulling a stint like that again.”
“No,” ‘Star agrees, and he sounds a little breathless now as Rictor’s fingers start stroking him faster. “I don’t – I missed you,” he blurts out with such raw honesty in his voice that for a moment Rictor feels like he’s been punched in the gut while at the same time he might feel drunk on fucking relief other than whiskey.
“Why,” he replies, “Me, too. We – we really need to stop ending up in different dimensions.”
“We do,” ‘Star agrees, but it was barely understandable, given that he said it right when Rictor’s free hand had tugged a bit at his hair again and okay, right, this hasn’t changed. ‘Star used to be crazy into it when he had long hair and he was always kinda sensitive around his neck even when he had it short, and it’s real good news seeing that at least this has stayed the same. It means he knows what to do for the next hour or so. Or at least, until they’re so tired they can’t move anymore.
“Nice,” he breathes out, next to ‘Star’s ear. “You still like it when I do that?”
“Yes,” ‘Star confirms, his grip on Rictor’s shoulders going tighter.
“So it means you’ll still like if I touch you here?” He moves his hand downwards, right in the hollow of ‘Star’s throat – there’s some kind of weird scarring there, as if someone stuck a needle in there and left it in a bit too long, but ‘Star used to love that, too, and he just hopes he still does.
Given that ‘Star lets out a moan that Rictor hopes no one heard – then again they’re the only people on this floor or so it seems – that’s probably a yes.
“Yes,” ‘Star finally manages to say, even if he sounds out of breath. By now other than jerking him off, Rictor’s kind of completely leaning over him and they’re rubbing against each other like the horny teenagers they never got to be properly, and it should probably be embarrassing but it doesn’t matter, because he has plans.
“Good. Because then after this, you wanna know what I’m gonna do to you?”
“No, but – please share.”
“Well, I’m going to do everything you used to like. Just to see if –” He stops, moves slightly onwards so that their faces are right against each other. “If I can still make you come just with my fingers.”
‘Star’s pupils are a pool of black right now, and he’s looking up at him with something that’s way too close to adoration to feel comfortable, but he’s way beyond caring. His hands go to Rictor’s shirt as he nods once, twice, and then tears it off, buttons and all.
Well, he’ll have to buy another. Patience. It was totally worth it.
“Then,” he keeps on, slowing down his motions because he can feel that ‘Star’s close but he doesn’t want him to come yet, “then I’m going to do that with my mouth. Like that idea?” He doesn’t even know where this is all coming from because he hardly has ever been one to talk a lot while fucking, but maybe it’s because he’s really so fucking relieved that they’re together and here and not running from imminent danger and his relief has turned into chattiness.
Who even fucking knows. What he knows is that ‘Star’s looking wrecked just at the suggestion, so he’s not stopping until he runs out of imagination. Not that he will anytime soon.
“Very – very much,” ‘Star agrees. “Oh, fuck, Julio, please, just –”
“Yeah, yeah, all right, just –” He leans down and kisses ‘Star all over again while he gives one last stroke and he can feel it when ‘Star goes rigid for a moment and comes undone under him – Rictor strokes him through it, one hand on his dick and his arm moving behind ‘Star’s back so they’re flushed against each other, and he’s been so concentrated on getting ‘Star there that he’s realizing just now that he’s coming as well and he barely even noticed getting hard in the first place.
Well, he can get his due in round two. There’s no hurry. By the time the both of them are spent he lets himself flop on the other side of the bed and gets out of his trousers and underwear, they’re both filthy and he’s not going to need them for the moment. Or for the entire night, more probably.
He turns back to look at how ‘Star’s doing and shit, he’s still looking wrecked – his cheeks are flushed a deep, healthy pink, his lips are slightly swollen, that now long-ish hair is plastered all over his forehead and he’s just a fucking sight for sore eyes. And he also looks sated but also absolutely not like he wants to go to sleep already.
“So,” he says, moving his hand to ‘Star’s cheek, nestling closer, “are we going through my list?”
“Please, yes,” ‘Star agrees, and he doesn’t break a sweat as Rictor reaches for his hips and drags him on top so that he’s straddling him. Best position to use his fingers anyway, isn’t it? Tomorrow he’s going to have to find some oil or whatever passes for slick in this time and age because spit might be good for what Rictor has in mind right now but not for fucking after months, and while ‘Star would probably tell him to just do it and that it’s not that painful and that he can take it, well, Rictor would really rather wait.
Then again, he has plans.
“But,” ‘Star says, “if you are worried – if you think that I might not like some things anymore, you’re worrying for nothing.”
“Am I? And why’s that?” He reaches up with his clean hand while he wipes the other on the sheet, moving those red strands out of ‘Star’s forehead.
“Because I – I would like anything, if you were the one doing them,” he whispers, his voice so much lower than his usual, and Rictor doesn’t know if his heart just grew some ten sizes at once or if it’s just the way it always was but being separated for this long after being together officially for longer made him forget.
That’s fine. He’s going to love finding that out all over again.
“Flatterer,” Rictor laughs, and then drags ‘Star’s head downwards. “So, should we?”
“Yes,” ‘Star replies without even waiting a moment to think about it, and Rictor leans up for what turns out to be the kind of soaring kiss that’s bordering on painful.
Oh, he’s definitely not stopping until they both literally can’t move a muscle. And if anyone hears them, screw it.
(No one hears them, but the owner of the building will wonder why the painting he has hung in his own room, two floors below, falls down on the ground all of a sudden.
A week later, after those two weird tenants leave, he’ll wonder why he never noticed a few cracks in the wall of the room below the one they had shared, but it’s an old building, he’ll decide. Maybe it just happened. )
“I feel like a fucking idiot,” Jamie Madrox says
(a hundred and thirty years or so later)
as he stands in front of the ruins of X-Factor’s former quarters.
Layla sends him a look that shows exactly how unimpressed she is.
“Then why are we here?”
“I don’t know, because years ago I got this weirdass letter from Rictor when he was in Detroit and I was here, and it said I should be here at this day at this hour and – ah, well, just read it.” He hands his wife the damned piece of paper he’s kept for years at this point, through a lot of shit and hardships, and he still doesn’t know why he never asked Rictor if it was some kind of practical joke. Still, given what was written in it, taking the risk wasn’t a good idea. And it was the one reason he hadn’t been too sure that those two had died during that damned fight with Mephisto.
“Let’s see what’s so weird about this. Hm. To Jamie: on January 15th, 2014, if Earth is still standing and New York still exists, you’d better fucking be in front of X-Factor’s quarters if they’re still there. And if they’re not, you’d better fucking be there anyway. I know this is going to sound really fucking weird but don’t you dare tell me that you received this letter when you see me next, don’t you ever mention its existence to me and pretend that you never got it until the aforementioned time. If you do that, you’ll end up causing a fucking temporal paradox bigger than the one I just had to fix, so for the love of whatever you hold dear just be there and shut your mouth about it. Sorry if I can’t tell you one hour but I’m fairly sure that by now you’re gonna owe me enough that you can spare a day of your time. Well, this certainly is interesting,” Layla says, and for once at least she has no clue of what’s going on. Jamie would find that refreshing, except that this maybe is one of the few times he’d have liked her to know what the hell was up with this.
“Interesting is a word for it. But you don’t even know. It was in an old envelope that said it was sent from the freaking Deadwood post office in 1883. 1883! And the Western Union guy who delivered it said that it had been a joke in their office for years and he owed some colleague of his who apparently was the only person in the department who thought I actually existed. Hell, he didn’t make me pay the remaining fee just because I wasn’t a waste of his time or something like that. I just – tried to forget about it, but then I realized it was the day and – well. What do I know. Sure as fuck I’m freezing here.”
“Well, this certainly is old paper,” Layla agrees. “Then again, it’s not as if the farm can’t survive without us from one day. And the baby will be fine without us for one day.”
Which is also true, Jamie knows that their neighbors are real trustworthy people and it’s really not what he’s worried about. He’d just like to know what the hell –
He never finishes that thought because a moment later white blinding light shaped like an X fills his vision and he has to close his eyes for a moment out of surprise.
And when he opens them Rictor and Shatterstar are walking out of the portal.
Any other day, the first thing he’d ask would be where did you two even end up, we all thought you were dead even if I suspected you weren’t thanks to this fucking letter.
But then he takes a good look at them.
“Is this a fucking practical joke?” He blurts out before they can even say hi.
What the hell should he even think when Shatterstar is wearing spurs and a cowboy hat and clothes that make him look like some kinda Clint Eastwood wannabe and Rictor’s sporting a very similar attire, just not as stylish and a lot dirtier? Along with another cowboy hat that really looks ridiculous on him?
“No,” Rictor replies, grinning. What the hell? “And hello to you, too. I see you did get the letter.”
“…You sent this from –”
“Deadwood, yes,” Shatterstar says. “Interesting place. We had no idea if it would work, but we thought to give it a try. Well, it’s nice to see you both in good health. I imagine the world didn’t end after Mephisto attacked us.”
“No,” Layla replies before Jamie can, but then again he’s so out of his element that maybe she realized that he wasn’t going to answer anytime soon. Especially given how those two seem so nonchalant about it. As if they hadn’t just said they ended up in Deadwood of all places – it sounds like they went on a fucking vacation. “And I see you’re both doing better than we imagined. I mean, we thought you had died or –”
“Nah,” Rictor interrupts her, “Mephisto just had the courtesy to send us to fucking Mojo, as if anyone missed that fucking place. And then ‘Star tried to teleport us here but it went sort of wrong. It’s a long story. But we figured that since we didn’t know what happened after we left, we might make sure someone was actually waiting for us.”
“Good idea,” Layla agrees. What? “It was a very well-written letter. Definitely going straight to the point.”
“Yeah, and I spent years wondering if you were just playing some joke on me,” Jamie sighs. “Whatever. We also have a long story to tell you, I suppose. As you see headquarters are gone for good, but the two of us moved in the country.”
“You, living in the country?” Rictor sounds kind of skeptical, but then again he would. It’s not like Jamie ever was the kind of guy who spent his time saying he wanted to retire and harvest fields at some point in his life.
“If you want to see the place, you’re welcome. Otherwise –”
“We would like that,” Shatterstar says before Rictor can share more feelings on the matter. “Thank you. Our lodgings were not bad but I think I would like being some place where you don’t hear gunshots every other minute.”
“Fuck, yes, definitely a good point,” Rictor agrees, and when Jamie notices that in between now and the moment they came out of the portal they started holding hands, he doesn’t point it out. It’s probably a testament to the level of weird people are adjusted to in this city that no one has stopped yet and asked why the hell two people dressed like they just walked out of a John Wayne flick showed up into the street out of thin air, he thinks.
“Right. We have a car over there. At least you didn’t wait another six hours to show up or I’d have turned into a block of ice,” Jamie says, and motions for them to follow.
Yes, he thinks as he notices that now they’re not just holding hands, they’re interlocking fingers, there’s a long story to tell here, especially because neither of them was that huge on this kind of open display of affection back in the day. Or at least, not where strangers could see them.
“New development?” He asks, nodding towards their joined hands. “I mean, you did that all the time in the house, but –”
“Try spending a week someplace where you think someone might shoot at you if you do that in the open and when you can’t afford to let people know you come from the future or that you’re a mutant then we can talk about it,” Rictor says. “Hell, the nineties weren’t half as bad in comparison.”
Shatterstar says nothing, but if the bordering-on-adoring look he’s just sent Rictor’s way is anything to go by, he agrees.
Okay, this is just getting weirder.
“Oh, by the way,” Shatterstar says as they approach the car – now that Jamie’s noticing, they both definitely smell like they spent a long time in some place where sewers don’t exist – “I have to thank you.”
“The letter idea, it was from Back to the Future. And you were the one advising me to watch it back in the day. It was very helpful advice.”
“Wait, what –”
“See,” Rictor says, and now he sounds like he’s fucking giddy, “you were complaining that much about the letter, but it was your own fault after all.”
Layla agrees with him and Jamie decides that this is the fucking weirdest day he’s had since Hell on Earth was averted.
Then again, he decides as he sees how fucking happy those two are looking and realizing that at least now he knows where everyone else in the team ended up and that he has this loose end finally closed for good, maybe weird doesn’t have to mean bad. Not at all.