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A little more conversation

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1

Teddy doesn’t get really fed-up until their third week of missing Game of Thrones, which he thinks is actually pretty impressive.

The problem is that, when you go on the run out of nowhere, with no way to pack anything, your stuff is pretty much limited to the clothes on your back and the contents of your former team leader’s new alien boyfriend’s spaceship.

There is a screen with TV-streaming capabilities on the ship—a quick scan of Noh’s saved programs reveals that he basically only uses it for VH1 specials and reruns of Mythbusters—but there’s only the one, and somehow, every time they have some down-time near enough to earth to be able to pick up a signal, Loki will have already taken over the space and turned on Dance Moms way too loud.

“It’s ridiculous,” he complains to Billy, who doesn’t seem to feel his pain the way he should, “I never even notice him getting there until he’s already there, how does he even move that fast?”

“I think he might be teleporting just a little,” Billy says, shrugging. “I mean, theoretically, it should be possible, and you know he’s just messing with you. Pretend like you don’t care a couple of times and he’ll lose interest.”

“If it doesn't work for you with your eight-year-old brother, why do you think it will work for me with the god of mischief?” Teddy asks, disbelieving.

“I’m not very good at pretending,” Billy says, and it’s true, he’s got a million tells when he’s annoyed, but Teddy still isn’t convinced.

“How can you be so calm about this?” he asks.

Billy bites his lip, thinks about it, then says, “I have been suffering a huge lack of Tyrells in my life, lately. Hang on, leave it to me.”

He wanders off to chat with America for a while, then drifts back over to lean against Teddy’s side and argue that they should grab curry for dinner and Teddy is pretty sure he’s forgotten all about it until the next night when they find a place to land for the night, and Teddy makes his usual move towards the screen-with-streaming-capabilities, and sure enough, Loki is there, reaching for the remote, until America intercepts him and tells him, “Come on, chico, we’re going to spar now. Just because you have magic doesn’t mean you can get away with neglecting hand-to-hand.”

Teddy watches them go, and as he does, America turns around and winks.

2

“Mind-control saliva, really?” Loki asks into the quiet, hours after Noh-Varr’s conversation with Teddy. He sounds frightfully interested, which is alarming for two reasons—first because Loki in possession of mind-control saliva is a terrifying thought, and second, because Noh Varr had been sure the conversation had been far enough away from Loki and Billy’s lesson to be impossible to overhear over the roar of the engines.

Still, it’s probably too late to claim he’d been lying. He tells Loki, “Yes, really,” and looks away, trying to signal his disinterest in discussing the matter further.

Loki says, “What an odd ability,” and then, slow and musing, “There are certainly many useful applications for it, but the limitations must be just as significant.”

“If you heard me speak of it, you must also have heard that I would not use it, that I regard the use of it to be utterly immoral,” Noh-Varr points out, but he doesn't hold out much hope that it will cut this conversation off at the pass the way he wants it to.

Indeed, Loki goes on as if he hadn’t said a word, “By definition, you cannot begin the mind-control until they are near enough to come in contact with your saliva,” and then he gives Noh one of those speculative glances that makes him wonder how much of an adult’s mind there is hidden inside Loki’s child-body, and he says, “You need to seduce your prey before they come under your spell, don’t you? Charm is one of the more insidious weapons, but the truth remains that you can’t really control those who don’t already want to be close enough to kiss you—the ones you already have a hold over, essentially.”

“There’s something on an innocent in you yet, isn’t there, Loki?” Noh-Varr asks, teasing at one of the odder threads of this line of reasoning. “People often draw close for reasons other than charm. Besides,” he adds, thinking the matter through, “I don’t know why you’re so caught on kissing, when all I would really need to do would be to get close enough to spit in someone’s eye.”

3

David is pretty tired by the time they reach the center of the maze, just in time to watch the Patri-not disappear into a stream of smoke, but not tired enough to just shut up and go along with it when Kate decides it's time for breakfast and America sets up a star leading straight to a diner without waiting for a response from the rest of the group.

“You know what? No. I am actually not in the mood for breakfast.”

Six heads turn toward him wearing incredulous looks on their faces. America’s star-portal hangs in the air, expectant.

“What?” David asks them. It’s not actually that strange, he doesn’t think. “I’ve been awake for fourteen hours, that does not make it breakfast time.”

Still no response.

“Seven of the last ten meals we’ve eaten have been breakfast,” David argues valiantly in the face of their too-shocked-to-be-verbal opposition. “And the other three of those ten have been Korean Barbeque! Don’t you guys ever get bored?”

Still nothing.

“Have any of you consumed, say, a vegetable or fruit—orange juice doesn’t count!—any time in the last week?”

Not a word.

David is pretty sure time hasn’t stopped, leaving him as the only unfrozen being in the landscape, but honestly, at this point, it’s kind of hard to tell. “How about a nice salad?” he asks, but he’s losing steam, it’s getting half-hearted, “Or noodles, I could totally go for noodles. Maybe a nice sandwich? You know what, never mind. Okay, let’s get breakfast.”

4

America has never been a big confider, which is probably why she’s out of practice enough that it’s Tommy Shepherd she’s talking to when the whole story comes out, four glasses of definitely-not-at-all-spiked punch into the New Year.

“Wow, really, Billy, though?” Tommy asks when she’s done.

“I know, right?” America gripes, knocking back the last slug of punch in her glass.

“But isn’t that like, I don’t know, going back in time to become your own grandfather?” Tommy asks her, and she groans.

“Trust me, chico, you do not want to get into time-travel-paradox discussions with a time-and-space-traveler, it will give us both a headache.”

Tommy nods like he sees the wisdom in that, then repeats, “But really? Billy?”

America laughs at that, throws her hand over her eyes and says, “I know.”

She tries to pretend that a small, childhood part of her isn’t still doing an excited little dance in the back of her mind about how she’s friends with the Demiurge, close enough friends to be affectionately exasperated. She is drinking punch and complaining about the Demiurge at a party with the Demiurge’s mystical soul-twin brother.

There are days when America can’t quite believe her life.

She says, “In a way it’s kind of inspiring, figuring out your heroes start out as just stupid assholes like everyone else.”

Tommy nods. “And they always do turn out that way!” He chimes in, before dialing back, “Well, that or they turn out to be your magical, in-a-past-life mother.”

5

Tommy says, “When I said you were moving too fast, I actually meant it,” and David says, “What?” because until this point, Tommy has been debating the pros and cons of bacon over breakfast sausages, and David has not actually been listening for the last minute and a half. He suspects he’s missed something important.

“When you kissed me,” Tommy clarifies, which, yes, was exactly the piece of context David needed.

He’s still talking, though, which is pretty much the defining feature for getting a meal with Tommy, so David isn’t exactly surprised.

Tommy says, “I mean, I know now, you didn't actually mean to kiss me, you meant to kiss the weird demon-creature that sucked me into non-existence for a while and might be your future self, who wears my sort-of-ex’s superhero costume, which, whatever floats you boat, man. Point is, I get it, the kissing me part was pretty much an accident. But, like, it occurred to me that it might have sounded like I wouldn’t be up for that, at some point? So I just wanted to, you know, be clear. Kissing then was a little fast for me, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be down for it, you know, at some point. If you are.”

That’s a lot of words in a row, and there were a few points where Tommy started talking fast enough to get a little hard to follow, but David pretty much thinks he got it all. He nods, because Tommy has actually stopped talking and is looking at him like he’s waiting for a response, but David’s not sure what to give him.

It’s not like David is opposed to the idea, he’s just never really thought about it. Tommy isn’t bad looking, and David has continued to voluntarily spend time with him, despite the speed thing and the constant chatter and the Tommy-disappearing-into-a-non-dimension-and-then-requiring-rescue thing.

It seems like there’s probably something skeezy about the way Tommy is the identitical-but-not-biologically-related, white-haired magic-twin of the boyfriend of the last guy David kissed, but he doesn’t think that’s a deal-breaker.

Besides, it’s not like he has to know now. Tommy seems to just want to open the door a bit to a ‘maybe, someday.’ David can handle that.

He smiles across the table at Tommy, who grins back wide, and tells him, “Good to know. Let’s see how it goes, okay?”

+1

Kate drops her head onto the pillow beside America, face turned towards her when America blinks her eyes open. She’s been out with the other Hawkeye, and though her hair is damp and freshly showered, she still smells faintly of smoke. America is not even going to ask. Instead, she murmurs, “Night, princess,” and lets her eyelids flutter closed again. It has been a long damn week.

Kate apparently isn't feeling the exhaustion the way America is, that, or she’s still got enough adrenaline in her veins, because her voice sounds bright and lively and far too loud for 4:30 in the morning as she asks, “Why do you call me that, anyway?”

It’s not the first time Kate has asked, and America has never lied, but she’s never been so honest before as she is when she answers now, words learned by rote in childhood escaping her tired lips as the says, “‘Everyone is a princess in utopia,’”

Kate seems to reflect on that for a moment, biting her lip before she asks, “So does that mean I’m just not that special?”

“Oh, you’re the special-est, princess,” America replies, tone teasing, and Kate laughs and draws the comforter up to her chin.

As she’s drifting off to sleep, though, America thinks, no, it means you remind me of home.