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we make midnight a maquette of the year

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Tommy had just settled down with a bowl of popcorn and Battle Royale when the door clicked open and Teddy came in. He said, "What are you doing?"

"It's New Year's Eve," Tommy said. "Kate's gone. Your boyfriend's moping full time. Eli's in Arizona. My social calendar's pretty quiet."

Teddy craned his head so he could see the screen. "You're watching a movie?"

"You were expecting Anderson Cooper?"

"Very funny," Teddy said. He put his hands on the back of the couch and loomed over Tommy. He was good at looming. "C'mon, let's go."

"Go where?"

"Anywhere. You ever watch the ball drop in Times Square?"

"We're not doing Times Square."

"Then we'll find something else to do," Teddy shrugged. "I don't know. Billy's watching his brothers and he didn't want to go anywhere anyway. I'm gonna go crazy if I hang around here all night."

"So you want to hang out with me?"

"Less and less by the minute," Teddy said. "Are you coming?"

Billy had been moping for months. And Teddy had been putting up with it for months. He probably needed to go out just to keep his sanity intact.

And it wasn't like Go-Go Yubari was going to make it if he watched the movie again, was it?

"Okay," he said, turning the TV off and getting up. "Lead on. But I mean it about Times Square."

"Got it," Teddy said.

 

"This is a gay bar," Tommy said.

Teddy nodded in approval. "You're very perceptive."

"I can't believe you took me to a gay bar on New Year's Eve. And why are they showing ESPN?"

"It's a sports bar."

Tommy had originally thought it was a sports bar, until he noticed the distinct lack of girls and number of dudes holding hands and touching in ways that dudes at sports bars normally...didn't. "It's a gay sports bar."

"Yep."

"Do you, like, go here?"

"Um," Teddy said. "I've been here a couple of times. Football nights. When you can look as old as you want to you don't have to worry that much about a fake ID."

"Yeah." Teddy looked close to thirty now. Tommy especially enjoyed the moustache, it was a nice touch. "So you basically came here because you thought I'd like it."

"I." Teddy looked hilariously guilty. "Um. No? But I thought you might like it more than some of the other places I go to...."

"I don't actually like sports that much," Tommy said.

That earned him half a glare. "I got you a beer."

"Okay," Tommy said, and raised his glass. "I love sports. Especially whatever's on tonight. Some college crap, right? Go Arizona. Or whoever."

"I cheer for Arizona now, you know," Teddy said. "For Eli. How dumb is that?"

"That's not dumb," he said. "That's loyal. You're loyal. That's a good thing."

Teddy frowned at him. "Are you drinking too fast?"

"I'll metabolize it out," he said. "Don't stress it. But seriously, you don't have to stay here for me. My heterosexuality will remain intact no matter what you throw at it."

"Careful," Teddy said, sipping his own beer. "I might take that as a challenge."

"No booty-shaking rentboys can change me," Tommy said, gesturing with his free hand. "Did I say that right?"

"I have no idea what you're trying to say," Teddy said. "So maybe?"

Someone turned up the music, even louder than it already was. "We're gonna have to shout to hear each other," Tommy said, which was a hint.

"Got it," Teddy said. "Finish your beer and we'll get out of here."

 

Teddy took them through a shortcut to get to their next goal, which was a cupcake place, because they could both agree on cupcakes. The beer had burned out of his system by the time they ran into the gay-bashers.

Tommy hadn't even figured they looked like a couple. And who the crap pulled this stuff anyway? Half of the gay guys in the city were bodybuilders.

Four guys, blocking the alleyway, talking shit. Tommy only half-listened; they all said the same stuff. He'd read worse about Billy on the Web, and that had pissed him off a lot more.

He squinted at them. "Are you serious?"

Teddy sighed and ran a hand over his hair. "They usually are."

"Usually?"

Teddy shrugged.

Tommy wondered how often Teddy did this, took the dangerous way home, made shortcuts normal people wouldn't, hoping to be a target so someone else wouldn't be. Maybe he wasn't wearing a costume any more, but he couldn't let it go any more than Tommy.

The biggest guy looked a little like a gorilla. He wore brass knuckles over his gloves. "You really want to do this?" Tommy pulled his own gloves on tighter. "Hard to see the ball drop in a body cast."

Gorilla sneered. "You really think you can take me? What do you weigh, fifty pounds?"

"One hundred and forty two," Tommy said, showing his teeth. He thought, briefly, about running back and grabbing his costume, but that was a little melodramatic, and Teddy might start throwing punches before he got back.

Instead, he focused on the brass knuckles, vibrating them just enough to throw off the gorilla. Teddy glanced over at him. "Are you--"

"I'm fine. I call the big one."

"Of course you do," Teddy said. "I got a boyfriend to get home to, and I want a cupcake. If you insist on doing this, let's just get it over with."

Gorilla smiled and said, "You realize you've brought all this on yourselves."

Tommy blew up his brass knuckles just as he threw the first punch.

 

"This is the best thing I've ever eaten," Tommy said, licking the last of the peanut butter frosting off the back of his hand. "All is forgiven, even the gay sports bar."

"I thought the last cupcake was the best thing you'd ever eaten."

"That one was the second-best thing I've ever eaten." He put the wrapper back into the box. "Man, I can't believe you only had one."

Teddy grinned. "I don't burn the calories off the way you do."

"Can't you just shapeshift it off?"

"I can't shapeshift away a stomachache. I had half the nachos back at the bar, remember? Even I have limits."

"Yeah, yeah." Tommy found a wastebasket and pitched the empty box in. There was a little streak of blood on his gloves still. "Next time you want to crack heads, you let me know, okay?"

"Yeah," Teddy said, not meeting his eyes.

They passed another brightly lit nightclub. "Look," Tommy said, "the ball's dropping."

They watched through the window. At midnight, everything lit up, and the singing started. "Happy New Year," Teddy sighed, clearly wishing Billy was with them.

Even Tommy was wishing Billy was there, a little. No moping on New Year's, he thought, and took Teddy's arm. "Hey," he said, and pulled Teddy down for a kiss. Just a peck on the lips. No big deal. It maybe took a little longer than it should have, for a peck, but it was New Year's.

Teddy put his arms around Tommy and hugged him. "I love him," he said into Tommy's ear. "More than anything."

"I know," Tommy said. "But it's New Year's."

Teddy kissed the top of his head, in a far more brotherly gesture than the last kiss. "Yeah. Wanna go beat up more bad guys?"

"Hell yes."

"After that we can go home and prank call Eli," Teddy said, letting him go. "We still got two hours 'til midnight there."

"Awesome."

 

Billy even came down to call Eli, though he insisted they shouldn't prank call him. The idea was abandoned after no one could think of anything funny to say. It had nothing to do with what Billy wanted, because Billy had never been any fun before he got all depressed, and he sure wasn't any better now.

Tommy did manage to talk Eli's sister into getting him later, though. Not a total loss. "Wonder if she's pretty," he said, after they'd hung up the phone. He was trying not to think about Kate. Eli hadn't mentioned her either, which meant they were probably both trying not to think about Kate, or Cassie, or Vision. Or the way Billy'd hardly ever left his room since it all went down.

There were a lot of things to not think about. Tommy thought about going out again, to make it easier to not think.

But Billy was actually downstairs, and he'd smiled once or twice, and they flipped channels until they found a movie that looked promising - not much plot, lots of explosions. Teddy made popcorn, and they ended up on the couch with Billy in the middle, eating popcorn and complaining about the bad special effects. Which were really bad.

Pretty decent night, really.

"It really doesn't make any sense, though," Billy said. "Even if you were using Pym particles, the transformation wouldn't--"

"Will you shut up?" Tommy kicked his ankle. "No one cares. If we did, we would've picked a better movie."

"I can shut him up," Teddy suggested with a wink.

"Just keep your hands where I can see 'em." He got up and went out to the kitchen to pop more popcorn. The Kaplans would be back in a little while. Pathetic that they were out later than their kid, and their kid's boyfriend, and his sort-of brother. They'd probably make them all pancakes and sing terrible songs from the seventies.

His life was so weird.

Could be worse, though. At least there were pancakes.