"I don't get what his problem is," Tommy said to the ceiling. He was laid out across Billy's twin bed in his ESU dorm room throwing a bouncy-ball up at the ceiling and catching it when it fell again. All his concentration focused on the ball, not on Billy, because he did not want to look at his wreck of a brother right then. The dark-haired twin was huddled at his desk with his knees pulled up to his chest and his arms propped on top of them. Dark circles lined his eyes and his hair stuck up in all directions. He wasn't even wearing a shirt, just some pajama bottoms that Tommy suspected hadn't seen a washer for a while. Worst of all, Billy reeked even in a room filled with the fumes of his roommate's paint thinner.
Depressive funk: go.
"He doesn't have a problem," Billy said, his voice monotone. "No one's got a problem. We're fine."
"No offense, dude? You don't look fine. You look like a zombie." They had fought zombies last week, so Tommy should know. He threw the ball so that he could wave his hands in the air to demonstrate how very not-fine Billy was. "And you're not fine, you and tweedle-dee broke up."
"We didn't break up!" It was at least the fourth time Billy had insisted that in the past two hours. His dark head popped up and he glared at Tommy with his upper lip curled. Tommy smirked back. As if that look would work on him. He invented that look.
"You broke up. You are no longer dating. He's probably out getting laid and you're sitting in your own stank. What else do you call it?"
No answer. Because Tommy was right. The thrill of triumph dimmed when he noticed how miserable Billy looked. Bounce, bounce, bounce went the ball.
Something like five minutes later, Billy said: "Trial run. Seeing other people. Exploring our options. We're going to be two hundred miles apart. We've been dating since we were sixteen. It's not you, it's me."
"That's what he called it. I mean, he didn't actually say 'it's not you' but it was really close." Tommy winced when Billy's voice cracked and he had to pause before continuing: "It's not forever. It makes sense."
"On what planet does you guys breaking up make sense? You're like Batman and-and- Robin."
"Batman and Robin aren't--" Billy tried to say, but Tommy interrupted before he could finish.
"I mean, you've been attached since I've known you. Are you going to stand for this? Are you going to let your man be dragged away by some sorority girl?"
"One, I don't even think--"
"Or let him cozy up to some stupid jock who doesn't even play a real sport, just something gay like rowing? Are you going to let him get another butt buddy? No, you're not! C'mon." The ball careeed off in the other direction and knocked over the art project taking up a third of the space in the dorm room. Faster than Billy could blink, Tommy grabbed one too-thin wrist in his hand and yanked hard hard. Billy stumbled up and out of the chair, which put him standing face-to-face with Tommy.
"...Well," Tommy drawled while he spun his free hand in the air. "Come on. Zap train express already."
Billy's shoulders slumped inward and he threw his head back into the posture of 'fine, you win, I'll do what you want to get you to leave me alone.' He sighed. "Where are we even going?"
"To M.I.T. Duh. We've got a man to catch."
"--This is stupid," Billy declared loudly. "Really, really stupid."
"This is not stupid. You're not going to catch the straight, jackass," Tommy said as he signaled the bartender for another shot. The dark-haired twin stared into his glass morosely. That was not the point. (Okay, it might have been part of the point. But it wasn't all of the point and, anyway, Tommy shouldn't assume.)
"I might. It would be horrible. Teddy would never forgive you."
"Shut up," Tommy said. He ruffled Billy's hair, but jerked his hand back when some girl walked past and distracted him. "And help me."
"I don't get what I'm supposed to be doing."
"Haven't you ever seen Top Gun? Look. We pick a girl. That girl has a friend. You distract the friend while I get the girl." Tommy spoke in short sentences as though explaining to a particularly stupid child.
"Exactly. Hop to it." Wishing he were somewhere else entirely, Billy huffed and looked around the room. The Skrulls could invade any second now and he would be just fine with that. Or maybe Doctor Doom, he hadn't shown his face in a while. That would at least distract Tommy from whatever they were supposed to be doing. As if the bastard needs someone to help him pick up a date. Ha! Billy thought. Tommy got all the attractive genes and he was saddled with the neurotic ones.
Tommy rolled his eyes before sulking off to the dance floor and leaving Billy alone with his (non-alcoholic, anti-reality altering) drink at the bar. Billy was just reaching for his phone to text Teddy when he realized he'd attracted an audience. In front of him stood a woman that even he noticed was pretty. She wasn't movie-star beautiful, but cute in the same way that Cassie was -- all blond hair, boyish frame, and broad smiles.
"Uh, hi." Billy's never been good at this. He hoped holding his glass in his left hand would draw enough attention to his engagement ring even in the uneven, pulsating light of the club. Apparently it didn't work, because after a minute of staring she moved down three barstools to sit next to him and waved for another round. Billy hunched his shoulders when she ran her manicured hand over his thigh.
"I, uh. Am engaged. And gay." Smooth moves, Kaplan. Billy wondered when his insecurity started sounding like Tommy. He ran his hand through his hair.
When he glanced up to check her reaction, her cute little face had wrinkled up. As he watched it softened into an -- awkward -- smile. "That's really too bad. For me, I mean."
Billy just grimaced and shrugged one shoulder helplessly. No matter how many not-so-Young Avengers (team name pending) fan-sites he saw, he could never get used to people thinking him attractive enough to pick up in a club. Maybe she was drunk. He checked with narrowed eyes, but saw nothing in her face to confirm it. An idea formed and he tried to dismiss it, but he was pretty sure that it was Tommy's freakish idea of bonding and he shouldn't screw it up."Well, have I got a deal for you. See that guy? The one with the white hair."
He pointed into the crowd where Tommy was grinding in the middle of the dance floor. Billy's twin's bright white hair glowed under the black lights like a beacon floating in a sea of writhing darkness. The young woman stood on tip-toe to get a better look at the direction he pointed. "That's my identical twin brother. True story."
She made the same little nose-wrinkle face and shook her head. "Look, that's sweet and all, but he seemed like a jerk when he was talking to you."
Brutal honesty and brotherly loyalty battled it out in Billy's head. "He's not a jerk! He's my brother."
The stare that she leveled at him won honesty another point, which put it firmly ahead of loyalty. "--And, okay, kind of a jerk, but he's a pretty nice guy. Sometimes."
"Sorry, I'm done with jerks." She patted him on the shoulder and shrugged. "Congratulations on the engagement."
And then she was gone, and Billy felt slightly more useless than he had before she came.
Tommy made his way back over slowly. He was actually out of breath when he flopped back onto the barstool and ordered another of those unholy redbull concoctions he had been drinking. "Who was the hottie?"
Billy made a noncommittal noise and gave Tommy a wry smile. "You wouldn't have liked her."
"You really suck at this, you know that?"
"--Are you sure my hair's not sticking up?" Billy demanded. He didn't wait for an answer before turning to the mirror and smoothing down his already-gelled hair for what Tommy thought has to be the thousandth time. Tommy considered killing him and putting him all out of Tommy's misery. The groom -- the other groom -- might not like that, though, and he had no desire to make enemies with the Kree-Skrull on the other side of the field.
"I'm sure your hair is not sticking up. Would you stop it?" Tommy knocked him in the shoulder. "I'm pretty sure Skrull-boy is going to be too busy thinking about fucking you--"
"Or is it the other way around? I never did work that out." Tommy smirked; from Billy's murderous expression, his revenge had succeeded. If he could make his brother pitch a tent in front of a zillion little old Jewish grandmas, and Mrs. Kaplan, then he would have won the day.
"You are such an asshole." Tommy couldn't deny it, but at least Billy wasn't whining about his hair anymore. The speedster idly checked his watch to see how much longer he had to put up with this (another five minutes -- eternity) while his brother went back to taming non-existant stray hairs. "And it's both ways."
--Now Tommy was picturing it. Damn. They're one-for-one. "Yeah, well-"
But Mrs Kaplan peaked her head around the little screen set up on one side of the field, and even Tommy couldn't talk dirty around Mrs. Kaplan. He had no doubts whatsoever what she would do to him for polluting her adorable baby boy's mind on his wedding day, and he liked all his parts exactly where and how they were.
"Are you boys nearly ready?" Billy nodded. She stepped behind the screen and grabbed his tie, straightening it. Figured he would forget that with all the hair-spazzing, Tommy thought. "I am so proud of you."
Tommy made a little huff of disgust when Mrs. Kaplan leaned over to kiss him on the forehead, too. Tommy didn't even put up with that from his own mother, but the terrifyingly happy expression on Mrs. Kaplan's face kept him from wiping the lipstick off before she ducked back around the screen. Billy scrubbed at the lipstick stain with a tissue and shot Tommy a smile full of rueful sympathy. "Looks like you're one of the family."
Tommy stepped out from behind the screen as the band cued up the music. From here he could see both sides of the aisle; seated in the little white chairs on one side is a sea of Kaplans that all looked more or less alike, and on the other more superheroes than Tommy thought they knew. Captain America sat in the front row with Scarlet Witch beside him dabbing at her eyes. The white hair of his uncle stood out in the bright morning sun, and Tommy ran a hand through his own. "--Yeah. Looks like I am."