Boys were stupid. Molly had been living with Chase long enough to know this. Even when they were smart, they were stupid, like Alex. But no boy was ever as stupid as Tommy Shepherd was being right that moment, as he stared back at her from the screen of her tablet, with a stupid look on his face.
“Come on!” Molly said, to the screen. “It’ll be awesome!”
“But I don’t want to see Bubblegum Pirates 2.” See? Stupid. Tommy scowled back at her, and his face froze like that when the connection weakened.
Living under the La Brea tar pits was not exactly the picture of modern luxury. Chase had rigged an antennae so they could steal- that is share- the museum’s free WiFi, but sometimes all the stone and stuff still got in the way. Molly stood up and waved her tablet around, looking for a better signal.
The tablet had been a gift from Dr. McCoy, if by ‘gift’ you meant ‘secretly homework.’ He seemed to think it was inappropriate for a twelve year old girl not to be in school, and he gave her lessons over Skype, sometimes, usually about history or math or some other dumb thing. It was a fair price, though: the tablet was pretty cool.
Molly climbed on top of a pile of crates stacked in the corner, and the signal returned. Tommy’s face started moving again. “-hy don’t you go by yourself?”
Molly rested the tablet on her knees and sighed. “I would, okay, but it’s PG-13...”
Tommy grimaced. “What sadistic monster would make Bubblegum Pirates PG-13?”
“I know!” Molly was superhero twelve, she thought that was at least as good as normal person thirteen, but the ticket nazi at the Grove didn’t agree. Molly rolled her eyes. “And Chase is working some job, and Karolina is at the Academy, and Victor would, but he makes the digital projector go all fuzzy. And Nico’s around, but yesterday she started crying over an insurance commercial and I don’t think she’s really in the mood for gum chewing bandits right now.” Molly gripped the tablet with both hands. “You have to come over right now and take me or I will die!!”
“Mo-ly...” She held the tablet higher until his voice stopped stuttering. “-in New York City. You’re in Los Angeles.”
“And? You’re Quicksilver fast, right? Just run here.” Molly flicked her hand and made a woosh sound.
Tommy didn’t answer. Molly noticed then that he looked like he’d slept in his clothes, and his hair was a mess and he probably hadn’t showered. Molly felt bad for calling him stupid before. It was definitely a good thing that she'd called, she thought. She probably should have called earlier.
Molly frowned. “It’s not like you’re, you know... doing anything important.”
Tommy gaped at her, and Molly flushed red. She was always saying the wrong thing. It’s not like it was his fault he was sitting around in his pajamas. If two of her teammates had just died and then her whole group fell apart, she probably wouldn’t want to do anything, either.
“Tommy I’m really really sorry.” Molly held the tablet a closer, so that her eyes were big as saucers in the camera. “I say dumb stuff sometimes. I’m just a kid, okay? But so are you kinda. And if we can’t enjoy normal kid stuff like Bubblegum Pirates 2, then what point is there to anything, really?”
Tommy looked at her, and it was hard to tell through the tablet but she thought he looked a little moved. But he still shook his head.
“You don’t know what it’s like out here right now,” he said. “Billy’s practically catatonic, and Teddy just keeps baking him things, and Kate doesn’t even know what to do. I can’t just go to a movie with you, like nothing’s happened.” Tommy bit his lip. “I’m sorry Molly, I just can’t.”
Molly lowered her eyes. She really should have called earlier. “Okay. I understand.”
The tablet beeped as he hung up. Molly stared at the blank screen for a moment before she stowed her tablet in her shoulder bag, and then climbed down off the crates. She didn’t know what to do with the rest of her day now. Above her the drip drip drip of a leak echoed in the empty cave.
Molly sighed. Maybe she would call Dr. McCoy and do math. A cold draught blew threw the cave, unsettling papers and giving her a chill. Molly rubbed her arms, turned, and bumped right into Tommy Shepherd.
Tommy grinned. “Psyche.”
Molly threw her arms around his shoulders. “I’m so glad you’re here!” she said. Then she pulled away and punched him. “You shouldn’t have lied to me. But I’m so glad you’re here!” She hugged him again. “I was really worried about you, you know.”
Tommy wriggled awkwardly in her embrace, and she released him. She noticed he was wearing his sunglasses, and he had changed out of his pajamas into jeans and a gray hoodie. It looked like he might have even showered. Molly thought it must be pretty handy to be able to get ready so fast.
His silver hair was still kind of a mess, though, probably from running like a million miles an hour. Tommy ran his hand through it, leaving it more artfully disheveled. “So... how do we get to the theater?” he asked. “What train do we take?”
“Haha, subways, that's funny." Molly stuck out her tongue. “This is LA, Tommy. We drive.”
“But I don’t have a car. Remember I ran here?” He frowned at her. “And you’re twelve.”
“Oh right.” Molly hadn’t really thought about that. Nobody but Chase could pilot the Leapfrog, and you could just forget about the metro bus system. They would never make it to the Grove in time for the movie if they walked.
Well, if she walked. Molly rubbed her chin and considered Tommy. Then she threw her arms around his shoulders and jumped on his back. He let out a surprised oomf. “Okay, speedy,” she said. “Giddyap!”
“I’m not a pony, Molly.”
“Please please please?!” Molly squeezed his shoulders and wiggled her legs and until Tommy sighed and relented. He hooked his arms around her legs.
And then they took off. Tommy ran out of cave, flew across the tar pits, and headed west on Wilshire Boulevard. They zipped past a tour bus and a few startled panhandlers. Molly thought they were going pretty fast, maybe as fast as an airplane, but not like the Blackbird or the Fantasticar or anything. As they rounded the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, Molly spotted the rows of lamposts in front of LACMA - the streaks of light they left in her vision were only about three feet long.
“Is this as fast as you can go?” Molly taunted. “I thought you were Quicksilver fast!”
“Faster!” Tommy’s voice was shredded by the wind. “My top speed would rip the skin from you flesh.”
Molly thought that sounded unlikely. “How come it doesn’t rip the skin from your flesh? Or your clothes for that matter?”
“Because I’m a speedster.” Tommy paused. “And... and I have inertial... something or others... and... dampening... whatzits... and... and I don’t have to explain my powers to you! Just trust me it’s dangerous.”
“Princess Powerful can take it!” Molly accessed her own powers, and a purple haze clouded her vision. She held onto him with awesome superhuman mutant strength.
She could practically feel him roll his eyes. “Okay, fine,” Tommy said. “Just don’t throw up on me or anything.”
And then he leaned forward and everything turned to colors. They were going so fast that Molly’s brain couldn’t even process it. They zipped past the gridlock outside the Grove as if all the cars were standing still. She heard the smell of Mexican food, and she tasted the sound of car horns, and she could practically feel the exhaust in the air as it slammed into her face. Her heart was pounding out of her chest as they shot up Fairfax Avenue, faster than any roller coaster, and it was basically the greatest piggyback ride ever.
“Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!” Molly said. Tommy laughed.
They arrived at the Grove, zigzagged through the crowds at the farmer’s market, and found the movie theater. A line of people snaked from the front door all the way to the ticket counter.
“Oh no, the line, we’ll never make it...” Tommy said. Molly might have been imagining things, but she thought he actually sounded a little disappointed.
She grinned and pulled out her tablet. “What line, grandpa? I already bought tickets.” Who stood in line for movie tickets any more, anyway? Molly showed her tablet to the ticket lady, the messianic arbiter of who shall pass, and who shall go home crying. The ticket lady scanned the barcode and her scanner blinked green. She looked at Molly, and she looked at Tommy, with his grown-up height and his silver hair and his over-seventeen-ednes, and then she waved them by with a cursory enjoy the show.
Molly rolled her eyes. It was really silly if you thought about it.
They found their seats. The previews had already started, but it was just some dumb dog movie or something, and it didn’t matter. They hadn’t missed anything important, like pirates, or bubblegum.
It was dark in the theater, obviously, and Tommy took off his glasses. He looked younger, somehow, in the soft light of the theater, without the hard lines of his rims sharpening his face. He really was just a kid. Molly squeezed his arm.
“You’re going to love this,” she said. “I’ve been waiting ages for this movie, I remember when the first one came out. It was... it was right after Gert died.” Tommy looked at her, sharply, his green eyes flashing in the dark. Molly swallowed. Her voice dropped to a whisper. “It... it does help, you know. Doing normal things.”
Tommy regarded her skeptically. “That whole bit before, about how no one else wanted to take you.” He frowned. “That was kind of a lie, wasn’t it?”
Molly felt her face flush. “No!” Tommy quirked a brow, and if Molly was blushing before, she was on fire then. “Well.... maybe. Look, I was just worried about you, okay? You’re probably one of my top ten favorite people in the world. Maybe even top six.”
“You barely know me,” Tommy said.
“I... I don’t really know that many people.” His eyes softened a little at this, and Molly waved her hands. “Nevermind. I just saw what happened in New York, with Doom, and I...” She looked down at her hands. “Chase really wanted to take me actually. He’s going to be so mad.”
Molly couldn’t really bear to look at him at this point, she was sure he was still glowering at her, but then he started laughing. Not a mean laugh, either, but a real unruly laugh, the kind that makes you sound a little dorky. It ended with a sigh.
“I can't even remember the last time I laughed like this," Tommy said. “Molly... thanks.”
Molly looked up to see him wiping his eyes. She wanted to tell him that it would get better, that you never stopped missing Gert, or Cassie, or Jonas, but one day it would hurt a little less. And she wanted to say that they were all still with them, somewhere, and that they wouldn’t want them to be sad, that life goes on, or some other adult thing, but she was still a kid and it would probably sound stupid coming from her. Anyway, Tommy had probably heard all of that already.
So she just said, “You’re welcome.”
The last preview ended and the screen went dark. Molly sat up and clapped her hands. “Oooh, look, it’s starting! You’ll see, Tommy, this is going to be so...”
And then the music came up, Bubblegum Pirates 2 flashed bright across the screen, and that was when Molly’s powers finally caught up to her. Everything seemed really heavy. Molly leaned against Tommy’s shoulder and quietly fell asleep.