1. Save the Date
“We’re going to die.”
“We’re not going to die,” Eli said through gritted teeth. He edged his way along the wall, back straight, head up, hands seeking something to hold onto. The dragon curled up in the subway tunnel only snored, smoke curling up from its nostrils.
“We’re totally going to die,” Tommy told him, and, alright, Eli privately had to agree. There was no way past the dragon except the obvious. The obvious involved a lot of fire directed at them.
It was not a good plan.
“Have you tried vaporizing it?” Eli asked. Tommy shot him a dark look.
“Okay, as much as I’ve been looking forward to the day you actually asked me to vaporize something -- and trust me, this is like Christmas – I’m not actually an idiot. Of course I’ve been trying to vaporize it! I think it’s immune. Can’t phase through it or the walls, either. Whatever’s protecting it is working on the whole damn tunnel.”
Eli cursed under his breath. “I hate magic. Okay. I think we might be able to squeeze past it if we’re very quick, and we’re quiet –”
His cell phone went off with a loud blare. One giant orange eye flicked open. Eli gulped.
“I love you, bro,” Tommy said, staring wide-eyed and stock still for once. “No homo.”
Eli sincerely prayed that those were not the last words he ever heard.
“I am never doing that again,” Tommy said, hunkered down on the sidewalk. He was covered in muck and the ends of his hair were charred. Eli suspected he didn’t look much better. “Ever.”
“Yes we will,” Eli said, pulling out the phone that had nearly doomed them in the first place. He had one message; curiosity won out over annoyance and he dialed his voicemail.
“Yeah we will,” Tommy sighed. “I hate being an Avenger.”
“Shut up,” Eli hissed, and Tommy’s head shot up.
“What?” he said. “What’s wrong? Is it aliens?”
Eli took the phone away from his ear and hit speaker phone. Teddy’s voice filtered through the speakers: “—got the place! WE GOT THE PLACE!”
Tommy burst out laughing. “They got the place!”
“They got the place,” Eli said wryly.
“They almost got us killed for the place!” Tommy said, grin sharp.
There was laughter still filtering out from the phone, both Teddy’s and Billy’s, and suddenly Eli’s night didn’t seem so bad after all.
2. Seating Charts
Billy was twenty-four years old, and this was roughly the fifth time he’d stared down a Skrull invasion, depending on your definition of invasion.
He was pretty sure three elderly Skrulls sitting in his living room, drinking tea from his collection of Star Wars mugs, counted.
“We do not wish to sit with the Scarlet Witch,” the oldest and by far the wrinkliest said. He looked kind of like Yoda. Billy had left that mug in the cabinet. “We feel she is a bad omen.”
“She’s my mother,” he said. The geriatric Skrull division gave him a trio of deeply unimpressed looks that left him shifting uncomfortably in his chair. “You know. Sort of. One of them.”
“This union bodes ill for our race,” one of them whispered to the other, not so quietly that Billy couldn’t hear. He bristled and took a hasty sip of his tea, only succeeding in burning his tongue.
He would not banish the Skrulls to the Negative Zone. He would not banish the Skrulls to the Negative Zone. He would not banish the Skrulls to the Negative Zone.
Even if he really, really wanted to. He would be a strong, supportive boyfriend for Teddy. At least until Teddy finished hyperventilating in the kitchenette, anyway.
The thing was, they were Teddy’s family, sort of. At least in the same way Billy’s Aunt Gina and Uncle Walter were his aunt and uncle because they had known his grandfather for fifty years and attended his father’s Bar Mitzvah.
(Even though Gina and Walter probably weren’t aliens. Probably.)
Billy had his parents, both sets of them, and he had his grandparents (including Magneto). He had his brothers (including his magic twin), aunts and uncles (including Polaris and Quicksilver) and a score of cousins (including the one who was actually a moon princess), and around thirty people Billy was sure he wasn’t actually related to (including Gina and Walter) but who had attended every major non-superhero event in his life.
Teddy didn’t have any of that. His side of the wedding, so far, included his half-sister, her girlfriend and Carol Danvers. Then there were the Skrulls, including Xavin. That was it. That was all Teddy had.
(“You can have the team,” Billy told him late one night, nearly nose-to-nose in the dark. “They’re your family.”
“They’re our family,” Teddy corrected. “We both get the team. Except Tommy. Tommy’s all yours.”)
So if Billy had to sit in his postage stamp of a living room with three Skrulls who thought he was their personal antichrist, out to corrupt their Skrull savior, well. He could do that for Teddy.
The Yoda Skrull finished his tea and cast a curious look around the apartment.
“Regardless,” he said, “you may show us to our lodgings now.”
Billy accidentally electrocuted his mug.
3. Say Yes to the Mess
“I am an Avenger and a twenty-five year old woman,” Kate said. “I have been a superhero since I was sixteen years old. That’s nine years, Ted. Nine years, blissfully capeless. I am not putting one on now.”
“Would it help if it was purple?” Teddy asked.
Teddy was really starting to rethink all the piercings. Not that he thought Magneto would rip them out of his ears (or, erm, other places), exactly, but the threat definitely hung in the air as the Master of Magnetism swept into a seat across from Teddy at the diner.
“I am an old man, Theodore,” he announced.
Teddy had no idea what to say to that. He settled for a nod. Magneto lifted one imperious eyebrow.
“I am an old man,” he continued, “and I have made many mistakes.”
Teddy snorted. “You can say that again.”
“Careful, young man,” Magneto warned, but Teddy thought there might have been a smirk pulling at his mouth. He turned his gaze out the window. “I’ve done terrible things to my family. What I’ve done to Wanda and Pietro is unforgivable – don’t think I don’t know that. And then circumstances kept William and Thomas from beyond my reach. Or perhaps circumstances protected them from me.”
He looked Teddy in the eyes and it was like being caught in a vice. Teddy’s breath stuttered in his lungs. Maybe it was Magneto’s powers exerting their hold over him, or maybe it was just something intrinsically Magneto, the thing that long ago cemented his place as the most feared mutant on the planet.
Then, just as soon as the feeling had come over him, it was gone. Magneto stood from the table. He settled a heavy hand on Teddy’s shoulder.
“Make William happy,” he said. “And make sure he does the same for you.”
He swept towards the doorway. Halfway there he turned and announced, “I’m bringing Kitty Pryde as my Plus One. I’d like to introduce her to Thomas.” Then he was gone.
5. Cold Feet
Cassie was actually the one who found him on the night of the rehearsal dinner, crammed into the coat room, but Tommy was the one who made the joke.
“Little late to be in the closet, isn’t it, bro?” he asked. He pushed the coats out the way, staring down at Billy. Billy could see Cassie behind him, her arm linked with Victor Mancha’s and concern written all over her face. He gave her a little wave.
“It’s okay,” he said, trying for a reassuring smile. It was a pretty half-assed try. “I’m just taking a breather. Go, mingle. It’s cool.”
Cassie bit her lip, but Tommy said, “It’s cool, Cass. I’ll stay with the wet blanket.”
Tommy closed the door once they were gone, leaving it open just a crack. The yellow light from the hall spilled across the floor and onto Billy’s dress shoes. Tommy sat down next to him.
“Romeo out there was looking for you,” he said. “But then he got waylaid by the oldest invasion force ever. Don’t freak out, but I think they’re trying to get him to declare some kind of galactic war. And one of them brought a space horse. He's kind of cool.”
Billy let his head fall back against the wall with a dull thud. “This is not how I thought the night before my wedding would go.”
“What, surrounded by mutants and aliens and people from Florida who keep trying to pinch my cheeks?” Tommy said, raising his eyebrows. “Because it’s how I always pictured your wedding would go. Give or take some more hysterical crying.”
Billy kicked his ankle. “Don’t be a jerk,” he said. His breath rattled between them when he breathed in, and he dropped his head forward and into his hands. Tommy slid a hand across his back.
“Hey,” he said. “Little bro. What’s the problem?”
“I don’t know,” Billy said. “I thought I’d be. You know. Happy.”
Tommy prickled with something like worry and Billy wished he’d kept his mouth shut.
“You’re not happy?”
“I’m not unhappy,” Billy clarified, except for the part where he was hiding from his own rehearsal dinner in a closet, and the part where he kind of was, in fact, unhappy, and the part where he couldn’t figure out why. “I just… I thought I’d feel different. And I don’t.”
“A little last minute commitmentphobia, huh?” Tommy said. “Come on, Bill, shake it off. You love Teddy, right?”
“Of course I love Teddy,” Billy said. With all my heart and soul, he didn’t add, on account of how Tommy would mock him forever. “It’s just…”
“Just?” Tommy pressed.
“It’s just that, Teddy’s the only boyfriend I’ve ever had,” Billy said, feeling his face heat up. He was glad for the darkness. “We’ve been together since we were kids. You know?” Tommy shrugged and shook his head. “Forget it. It’s dumb. I’m just being dumb.”
Tommy nudged Billy’s knee with his own. “Do you want to date some other guy?”
Billy frowned. “Uh. No?”
“Hey, amnesty,” Tommy said, holding up his hands in front of him. “This is the closet of no blame. I’m your bro first and foremost, right? I won’t tell. You want to screw around with other dudes, you can say it.”
“Knock it off, Tommy,” Billy grumbled, sneaking him a sidelong glance. There was just enough light in the closet to make out Tommy’s raised eyebrows and his painfully wide eyes. Billy groaned. “I love Teddy, okay? I don’t want to – screw around with other dudes, or – whatever you’re getting at. It’s not like I wish I was with somebody else. Teddy’s – you know. Kind of stupidly perfect.”
“There’s the saccharine adoration that haunts me day and night,” Tommy said. “So you love Big, Green and Soppy, and he loves you. What’s the real issue?”
“I told you,” Billy said, gnawing on his lower lip. “It’s not how I pictured my wedding. I mean, hell, this isn't how I pictured my life. Everything in the past few years has just been so crazy -- we lost Cassie, then we got her back. There's a Vision but he's not our Vision. We nearly lost Eli the other year, you know? And it feels like I'm still getting used to being a real Avenger. And Kang the Freaking Conqueror sent me a congratulations card. And now I'm getting married. Tomorrow. I'm getting married tomorrow. And it's not what I pictured. What am I supposed to do about that?”
“That’s kind of easy, right?” Tommy said, getting to his feet. He extended a hand and hauled Billy up, dusting off his shoulders. His eyes twinkled in the gloom. “Just do what you do best. Make things change.”
“Did you seriously just tell me to reality warp my own wedding?” Billy asked, making a face. Tommy cuffed him on the shoulder.
“It’s really embarrassing, how some people think you’re the smart twin,” he said. “Think about it. You’ll get it.”
“Jerk,” Billy said. Tommy shoved him towards the door.
6. The Runaway Groom(s)
“You know, I really thought I would hate it,” Kate said, adjusting the collar of Eli’s cape. She straightened it, then stepped back to admire her work. “But the capes really aren’t half-bad.”
“Speak for yourself,” Cassie groaned. “I look like Little Red Riding Hood.”
The doors burst open, and Jeff Kaplan all but fell through them. He caught himself at the last moment, gazing around the room as he adjusted his glasses.
“Ladies,” he said, nodding towards them. “Eli. Have any of you seen Billy?”
Cassie sat up a little straighter. “I haven’t seen him all day. Is he okay?”
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Mr. Kaplan said hurriedly, in the voice of someone trying to convince himself of the fact. “It’s just that he was supposed to meet us forty minutes ago, and we haven’t heard from him. His mother is starting to worry.”
“Tommy probably knows where he is,” Kate said. “They had some big heart-to-heart last night. They’re probably together.”
“Right,” Mr. Kaplan said, exhaling slowly. “I’ll check. Thank you, Kate.”
“Want me to go with you?” Eli said, frowning. Mr. Kaplan waved him off.
“That’s okay,” he said. “I’m sure Teddy needs you guys.”
The doors swung shut behind him.
“Actually, come to think of it,” Cassie said. “Shouldn’t Teddy have, y’know – been here by now?”
She looked at Kate, who looked at Eli, who looked at his watch.
“We might be in trouble,” he said.
The doors swung open again and Captain Marvel leaned in.
“You guys might want to tell Groom Two to get his butt out here,” she said. “The Skrulls are getting kind of uppity.”
“Scratch that,” Eli said. “We’re definitely in trouble.”
Tommy was waiting just outside the synagogue, leaning against the wall with his tie undone and a letter in one hand. He held it up when they approached.
“I’ve got a message for you guys,” he said, “but before I give it to you have to promise not to a) freak out, or b) get mad. Their words, not mine.”
Eli made a grab for it but Tommy zipped backwards, arm held high. “Hey! I gave my word, now you give yours –”
“Cut it out!” Cassie exclaimed, shooting up a foot and easily snagging the letter. She unfolded it and read on, her eyes growing wider and wider. “Wow. Oh, wow.”
“What? What does it say?” Eli demanded. Cassie held the letter out to him, and Kate crowded near so she could get a look. Eli got halfway through and groaned. “Those idiots.”
“Hey,” Tommy said. “It’s what I’ve been saying they should do from the start. This way it’s actually about them.”
Kate’s face softened. “That’s true. And it won’t be half as crazy as in there.”
“They’d better take pictures,” Cassie grumbled. Tommy swung an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close and messing up her hair.
“Cheer up,” he said. “It’s a wedding day.”
“Sure it is,” Eli said. “Now who’s going to go in there and tell Magneto?”
There was a quick chorus of "not it." Eli groaned. “I hate you guys.”
“This is, without a doubt, the geekiest thing we’ve ever done,” Teddy said, grinning so wide he thought his face would split.
“Teddy Altman,” Billy said, both of Teddy’s hands in his own. “Would you have it any other way?”
“Not in a million years, Billy Kaplan,” he said.
“Then by the power vested in me by the state of Nevada,” the Galactus impersonator intoned in a deep, nasal voice. “I now pronounce you husband and husband. You may kiss your herald.”
“Sexy,” Billy said, laughing.
“Shut up and marry me,” Teddy said, and kissed him.