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And the Whole World is a Half-Beat Off

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"Kaplan, you can't do this."

The younger twin turned his head to the open door. "I can fix it."

"Yeah, well, Mom thought she could, too, and look how that turned out."

Billy shook his head, eyes both focused and wild. "Things shouldn't have turned out this way. It's wrong, it feels wrong, can't you feel it?"

"Billy--"

"Stop it, Tommy. I get why you feel you need to stop me. Wanda--Mom--she changed reality and it messed everything up. But you can't ask me to accept this. You can't. It's wrong, this never should have happened."

"You can't even bring yourself to say it, can you?" Tommy crouched next to his brother, a book--a fucking tome--between them. Even if Tommy couldn't understand the words, the... the vibe, for lack of a more sane word, coming off the page made his skin crawl. "Where did you get this thing? It looks like it came out of a bad horror movie."

Billy looked up. "Don't ask something you don't want the answer to, Tommy."

"It's not going to bring him back. You can't play god, Billy! You don't just fix dead--"

"He's not--"

"Altman fucking died protecting you and you didn't even go to his funeral. Have you even fucking cried?"

"Stop it!" A blue wave crashed against the faster twin and hurled him into the wall. "He's not--he's not--Tommy, this never should have happened. Don't you feel it? It's driving me insane. It's like there's a vibe that I can feel, but it changed when he--when it happened. It's off, now. It's like the whole world is a half-beat off and only I can feel it."

Tommy got up slowly and approached the ring, putting his hand up to the invisible wall between them and flattening his palm against it. He dragged his hand down as he crouched again, this time right next to his brother. "That's called grief, Billy."

Blue light flared but didn't erupt. "You don't get it. I'm not insane, Tommy. I'm not out to change the entire world because one person--" he choked for a moment, stumbling over the word, "died." He swallowed thickly and dropped his head, but when he met his brother's eyes again his own were steady, determined. "I'm trying to put the world in place again. It's off track right now, but I can fix it."

Tommy held his gaze. "You know there's a price, right. Think, Billy. Look at what's happened when someone has done this kind of shit before. Nothing good can come from this."

Billy slammed a fist against his side of the wall, right against Tommy's palm. "And you think something good came out of this? He shouldn't have been there! He was supposed to be studying for a final. The Fantastic Fucking Four where supposed to have Doom covered. Hell, if it was such a big deal then why not get the X-Men in on it? They've dealt with Magneto, I think they could have handled Doom."

Tommy shook his head. "The X-Men were on bot duty. And you know Sue couldn't handle fighting, with the baby and whatever. Richards is at a conference. You know Cap and Iron Man would have taken it if they weren't on their honeymoon."

Billy looked down, and Tommy felt his gut clench as his brother shook. "We--we were gonna get married. He'd proposed, did you know that? We were looking at a flat, and when we finished college we were gonna ask Tony if he could make a ring for Teddy. Maybe Hank, who knows what it would take to make one that would change with him. I'd still probably end up having to find some sort of," he flapped his hand at the ancient book, "spell, or something."

"Shit," Tommy breathed.

Billy choked on a hollow laugh. "Yeah. That about sums it up."

Tommy pressed against the barrier. "You know if you do this someone's bound to get hurt."

"I know."

"And if that happens they will come after you. The team might have to be the ones to do it."

Billy looked at the page with a focused intensity that made the hairs on Tommy's arm stand. "I don't care."

Tommy stood and backed up. "You really think this is the right thing to do? Not just some wild rabbit out of the hat?"

Billy looked up. "I'm sure."

Tommy crossed his arms. "Make sure you get the cookies, if you're switching to the dark side and all that."

Billy laughed and his hand shook against the page. "And the lousy T-shirt." He looked up and for the first time he looked unsure, maybe even a bit afraid of what was about to go down. "See you on the other side, yeah?"

Tommy rolled his eyes. "If you don't explode the world, sure."

With a last look at his brother/soul-twin/whatever, Tommy walked out and closed the door behind him. A minute later a blue light lit the opposite wall from the cracks around the door. Tommy closed his eyes and tried not to think about just how deep the shit his brother was getting into was. "Guess I'm not the evil twin anymore."