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Mutantly Beneficial

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David wakes up in an unfamiliar room, little spoon to an unfamiliar half-naked body with Darth Vader’s theme playing in the background.

Well, he can’t say the body beside his is completely unfamiliar when they spent the better part of yesterday and some of this morning getting as familiar with each other’s bodies as two people can get.

David looks around the room as much as he’s able without jostling the body beside him. The ceiling’s a bit too far away for them to be on a bed and he vaguely remembers making then subsequently tearing down a kickass pillow fort in between... activities.

America gets them together biweekly for trips to Vegas; they’re usually hit or miss. Last time they ended up puking their guts out into the Colorado River – though they fortunately broke even before then. When they arrived at the casino, he was content in commiserating his life choices into several overpriced and very colorful drinks. David hardly expected a guy wearing a green boa that matched his eyes to make a grab for the same drink as him. If said guy (Tommy) hadn’t offered to split the drink, David would be back at the hotel room as miserable as he arrived without a hangover to blame for said misery.

He wishes he could blame his boldness on alcohol but unless his tolerance decreased drastically within twelve hours, this was all him. One split coffee cocktail isn’t gonna make anyone tipsy let alone full-blown wasted. Okay, maybe it might make someone somewhere drunk but not him. Perhaps America’s boldness was—is contagious? He has noticed over the course of the eight years he’s been friends with her, he subtly got more brazen in certain aspects of life. Not just him either, they’ve all gotten a bit more bold whether they’d admit it or not. Studies say the opposites attract thing is bullshit, and the same could be said about friendships. Birds of a feather and all that, right? You’re likely to wanna be around someone – whether simply as friends or on a more physical or romantic level – you share similarities with more than someone you don’t have much in common with. Feeds into the narcissism theories that are humanoid nature more than anything but that doesn’t make them untrue. Narcissism aside, this means David Alleyne – a seemingly overly cautious individual who appears the antithesis of an adrenaline junkie – is not-so secretly a thrill-seeker. If he constantly finds himself enthralled with these people, he’s gotta be one of them. Ugh. It’s too damn early in the morning for a psychological analysis.

The Darth Vader theme shuts off only to immediate start up again.

With a groan, David contemplates his choices: ignore the damn thing and settle back into the warmth beside him or see where the fuck the theme is coming from. The former is clearly the smarter option as it doesn’t involve moving. However, his little sister pulled the we never spend time together anymore card then mercilessly made him sit through the first seven Star Wars films chronologically three months ago to get ready for the eighth film. While there were bits of the franchise that made David understand how or rather why Kim became a superfan of something, what, twenty? years older than her, he is in dire need of a year-long sabbatical from all that shit – including that damn theme.

Option two it is. With another groan, he removes the arm that draped itself along his collarbone then slowly sits up. The room looks a bit more familiar now that he’s not laying on a bunch of pillows on the floor. He locates two cellphones on the nightstand next to his glasses. Putting his glasses on he picks up the vibrating, illuminated cellphone and does a double take. He’s wearing his glasses so he’s definitely seeing correctly.

David never understood the phrase blinking dumbly until he found himself doing it. He’d be a piss poor(er) excuse for a mutant if he couldn’t recognize Magneto’s perpetually scowling face at a glance.

What he can’t fathom is the displayed name of gramps coming from Tommy’s phone above Magneto’s picture, accompanying the Darth Vader theme.

There are people who’d lie about being related to Magneto. The man’s a legend who single-handedly started a revolution! The bragging rights alone are astronomical! However, looking at the image then at Tommy’s sleeping face there’s no denying the familial resemblance... minus the perpetual scowl.

Oh motherloving fuck, he slept with Magneto’s grandson?!

Magneto’s gonna find out—find him then impale him onto a girder!

Of all the things he’s heard about Magneto when he spent those three miserable years under Professor Xavier’s tutelage at his institute, no one’s ever said Magneto was the merciful sort. Though he usually steers clear of murdering other mutants outright, deflowering the man’s grandson might be cause for him to break that no murdering other mutants oath to murder one specific mutant.

When the phone starts vibrating, ringing a different far more upbeat theme David drops it as if it instantly set itself aflame. The image is also different: It’s Tommy with a brown-haired, brown-eyed Tommy sticking their tongues out flipping the camera the bird. The displayed name is #1. Wait. David heard this theme yesterday before Tommy flung the phone across the room and went back to pelting him with Nerf darts. David would be surprised he had the energy for sex after the Nerf gun fight, but America’s favorite pastimes are barhopping and Nerf gun fights. Makes him wonder if he slept with a white-haired, male version of America who happens to be Magneto’s grandson.

David’s phone starts vibrating (when did he turn the sound off?) and Eli’s face pops up. Ah, the second—technically first—person he slept with this year with a famous grandfather. He did have a mini freakout upon finding out that piece of information; however, he did meet Captain America which was one hell of a bonus. Not to mention Eli quickly became one of his best friends.

He grabs his phone then heads to the bathroom. Killing two birds with one stone as he only woke up, Darth Vader’s theme notwithstanding, to use the bathroom anyhow. Four minutes and twenty seconds of Eli’s laughter and one empty bladder later, David returns to the room and shuffles back into the deconstructed pillow fort.

His body heat might’ve dissipated from the pillows but he quickly learned Tommy’s body is a furnace so the pillows are as warm and comfy as they were when he first got up. It doesn’t take him long to fall back asleep.

The second time David wakes up in the hotel room, Tommy’s head is resting on his shoulder. It would be adorable if it weren’t for the searing heat pouring into his bare shoulder. Just how hot did his core temperature run? David makes a mental note to check his body for first or second-degree burns when he gets up. If he ever gets up, his body just went numb.

The third time he wakes up, wait... when did he fall back asleep?, the room is at least fifty degrees colder than it was the second or first time he woke up. Looking to his right, he notices the space beside him is empty. There wasn’t any need for blankets with a walking, talking hot water bottle sprawled out on him. He gets up, sits on the bed and wraps his body in bed sheets. Significantly warmer but not ready to leave his cocoon, he scouts the room for his clothing. When he looks up he notices clothing hanging from the ceiling fan. Interesting. There’s also a shirt – his? – hanging from the window blinds. The room’s bathed in a green light because the boa ended up on the lampshade. Thinking back on it, the whole disrobing process was a bit blurred. Fun, but blurred.

“Oh, hey, you’re up.” David slowly turns toward the bathroom where Tommy’s jerking a thumb behind him. “Shower?”

He should be embarrassed by how quickly he slinks out of the sheets to join Tommy in the bathroom, but he’s not.

Their time in the shower is split between making out (they brushed their teeth before dipping a foot into the shower) and actually showering. Tommy’s tiptoeing to lather peach scented shampoo into David’s hair when there’s a thud that did not come from the bathroom.

“You heard that, right?” David nods. They didn’t put up the do not disturb sign on the door so it could be housekeeping. There’s another thud. Or, conversely, it could be a burglar.

They step out of the shower carefully, leaving the water running. David’s not sure how Tommy managed to open the bathroom door without making a sound but he opens it a fraction then opens it wider. He nearly stepped out of the bathroom naked but David grabbed a towel and all but shoves it at him. There’s no cart so it’s not housekeeping. There doesn’t seem to be a sign of forced entry... unless you count the door missing its hinges!? Yeah, not weird at all. Wait. David’s eyes widen. Door hinges are metal, aren’t they? Son of a bitch...

They step out of the bathroom and into the room. Sitting in the windowsill sipping from a standard coffee cup is Magneto. If that in itself wasn’t a surprise, David’s housekeys, cellphone, and wallet are floating in mid-air. It’s a wonderful and horrible intimidation tactic. With a sigh, Tommy goes back into the bathroom to shut the water off then heads back into the room. “What are you doing here, Gramps?” Not like David needed confirmation or anything.

“I couldn’t get in contact with you or William. When I saw William’s most recent purchases I wasn’t expecting you to be...” He eyes David, “otherwise occupied.” David’s glad he grabbed the robe hanging on the bathroom door or Magneto would be eyeing more of him than he’d be comfortable with.

Tommy rolls his eyes, “well I am occupied. I’m very occupied.”

“Yes. I can see that.” Magneto gracefully stands then walks over to Tommy. David’s not sure if Tommy is intentionally attempting to shield him but there’s a good six or seven inch difference between them which would make this hilarious and/or adorable out of context.

The door opens a bit awkwardly as there aren’t any hinges keeping it in place. The brown-haired brown-eyed Tommy—William, David’s mind supplies—pops up. His eyes widen and his mouth opens before he shuts the door.

“Gramps, can you fix the door?”

“Hm? Oh, of course.” Magneto doesn’t even move and the hinges and their screws are back where they belong. This probably isn’t the best time to admire Magneto’s skills. No, scratch probably this definitely isn’t the time. “Now, are you going to introduce me to your friend or not?”

Giving Tommy a reassuring pat on the shoulder, David takes a step in Magneto’s direction. This’ll possibly increase the chances of getting impaled but so will showing his fear. “David Alleyne, sir.”

“Sir? You’ve got yourself quite the gentleman, Thomas.” Tommy mumbles something to low for David to catch. Magneto outstretches his hand which David shakes, “a pleasure making your acquaintance, Mr. Alleyne. You may call me Max.” Out the corner of his eye, David sees Tommy giving his grandfather a suspicious look. David could hardly blame him, this is the opposite of what he suspected might happen if he ever met Magneto – sleeping with the man’s grandson notwithstanding. “Oh. I must apologize for... interrupting you two.”

Tommy’s eyes narrow. “Gramps, are you stalling? Is mom gonna pop up next? Uncle Pietro? The entire family?”

“Don’t be absurd. Your mother will hardly take this as lightly as I.” That brings a grimace to Tommy’s face. Magneto walks past the two of them and puts his hand on the door handle. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I must find William before he teleports himself into another dimension again.” Then he leaves.

Tommy lets out a deep breath then turns to him, “you okay?”

“Am I okay?” Tommy punches him softly in the arm, “you were so hot.” He wraps his arms around David’s shoulders, “I’ve seen dudes literally piss themselves with one of Gramps’ patent staredowns. You know you don’t gotta impress your way into my pants, right?”

“Thought I did a good job of that at the bar?”

Tommy rolls his eyes with a smile, “you did, nerd. If you can meet my mom without running away screaming I might, like, have to marry you.”

“Yeah? How bad is your mom, then? Compared to your grandpa?”

Tommy clicks his tongue, “bad.” He tiptoes to kiss David. “And she can literally fuck with your mind.”


Tommy’s hands move down to grip the front of David’s robe. “Our shower got interrupted, didn’t it? We should rectify that.”

When they come out of the shower the second time, there’s a dozen various bags of takeout on the bed. “I didn’t hear anything this time.” David says looking around the hotel room. He’s glad they got dressed in the bathroom; although Tommy’s spare clothes are a tad tight on him. Nothing appears to be tampered with and the hinges are still on the door. When his eyes land on Tommy he notices the frown, “breaking and entering is a family trait, I take it?”

Tommy sighs, “‘fraid so.”

The door opens behind them and David gets a better look at Tommy’s twin, minus the difference in hair and eye color and the mole on Tommy’s lower lip, their faces are the same right down to the placement of their freckles. The twin whistles and shakes David’s hand. “Damn.” They even sound the same but that shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as it is. “Billy.” He blatantly looks David up and down with a smile. “A pleasure.”

“You want something.”

Billy hums. “What I want is to know how you bagged someone way too hot for you.”

“If Davey’s way too hot for me, he’s way too hot for you.” There’s a look that crosses Billy’s face, as if he hadn’t considered that when he said it. “Anyway, what do you want? This is premium bribery food.”

“You guys have a scale of bribery food?” The twins nod at him. “Ah.”

There’s a knock on the door, Tommy and David turn to Billy. “Nothing to do with me but...” He jerks his head at David, “you should get it.” David eyes him with a reasonable amount curiosity laced with suspicion. “I’m a telepath.”

“Of course you are.” David opens the door and blinks at America, Eli, Karolina, and Gert on the other side.

America’s hand slowly lowers, taking her cellphone with it. “Didn’t say you were with twins, man.” Eli says in lieu of a greeting.

“Hope it wasn’t incestuous.” America adds. To their credit, the twins gag at the same time.

“Why don’t your friends come inside?” Billy suggests. “Before we get an audience?” Well, if anyone would know it would be the telepath.

The four of them give one another approving nods as they enter the hotel room. “Clothes on the ceiling fan?” America pats him on the shoulder on the way inside. “Very nice.” David doesn’t blush but it’s a near thing. She picks up a Nerf gun, examining it. “You’re keeping him, right?” Is she talking about Tommy or the gun?

“You look very familiar.” Karolina squints at Billy. “I mean... I guess you both look familiar, but you especially.”

“Are you feeding a small army?” Gert asks. “Because that’s a lot of food.”

“My brother normally eats a lot but I anticipated company.”

America, still holding the Nerf gun, looks him up and down not bothering to hide her sneer. “Anticipated?” She repeats, “you mean we’re dealing with another one? Are you their catnip or something?”

“I wasn’t with that twin.”

“Oh!” Everyone turns to Karolina who pushes herself off the wall and points at Billy. “Now I know why you look so familiar. You were at Wriggly’s! You faceplanted so badly the EMT carted you out of the skating rink and while you were getting carted you were flirting with Alex.”

Now everyone turns to Billy who massages his forehead. “Yeah. Not my finest moment.” He mumbles. Tommy laughs loudly. Given how lit up the place was, Billy wouldn’t’ve noticed a girl glowing like a Sailor Moon transformation sequence. That and he was concussed from the fall.

America steps up to Billy with narrowed eyes, towering over him slightly all the while still clutching the Nerf gun. “I don’t care who you slept with, Telépata, I’ve had one mindfuck too many for my liking and if you try to give me another I won’t hesitate to knock your ass out.”

“That’s fair. Gotta protect those close to you, that’s a feeling I understand all too well.”

They stare each other down. America’s hardly the type to back down but she saw the way the telepath’s eyes cut to his identical twin. Every telepath they’ve encountered (and there have been plenty; too many in her honest opinion) only looked out for themselves, having someone they cared about would hinder them. And yet you don’t need to be empathic to feel the love and overprotective vibe coming from the telepath concerning his twin. It makes this twin slightly less of an annoyance than the standard telepath. It also gives him a glaring weakness and mindreading be damned he can’t protect his brother from everything all the time.

The telepath’s eyes narrow and America smirks.

The others look between them. Shit just got heavy really quick. Gert thankfully breaks the tense silence by loudly clearing her throat. “We were coming to get you for breakfast but you know how America is with buffets.”

America snorts. “Not the only person who thinks those things are unsanitary. Randos breathing all over the food and touching everything?” She shudders. “There are reasons they don’t exist on other planets.”

“I feel the same way.” Tommy says with a nod, “and the coughing.”

“Always the coughing.” America agrees.

Damn. David internally shakes his head. He really did sleep with a male America.

“Coincidentally, this hotel has a far better breakfast spread than ours.” Gert points out, “and they have custom orders. We were gonna grab food here but—” She gestures to the takeout, “it would be criminal to waste all this food.”

“How can we trust this isn’t a bribe?” America asks.

“It’s not a bribe for you.” Billy replies.

“Works for me.” Karolina says walking over to the bed and sitting next to Tommy to open a bag. The others take their cues and each start opening bag one by one, though far more cautiously than Karolina.

As everyone starts taking their share and distributing the contents, Tommy tilts his head at Karolina. “I like your glow. It’s badass. Looks like Sailor Moon when she’s transforming.”

Karolina tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. “Thanks. I love Sailor Moon. Have you watched the reboot?” They scoot a bit closer together as Karolina pulls out her cellphone and they start talking animatedly about anime.

As America gives David a look he shrugs.

“Hey twin that slept with Alex? Doesn’t being a telepath give you an unfair advantage in the bedroom?” Gert asks. Billy nearly chokes on what he’s eating.

Eli shakes his head. “Damn, Gert, that was brutal.”

“I’m just asking a question! Besides, Alex wouldn’t shut up about the guy so...” She trails off with a shrug.

As everyone (far from subtly) stares at Billy, he frowns. “I wouldn’t... necessarily say that. In my experience guys rarely think during sex.” Gert mutters something akin to the affirmative.

Despite his size, it’s Tommy who ends up eating the majority of the food. (Which is what Billy said at the beginning, wasn’t it?) David’s seen America put away copious amounts of food and still have room for more. Of course, she is an alien and even after eight years he’s still not sure about her physiology. Not sure if she’s even sure. In any event, to see someone smaller (even if it’s just two inches) – and not an alien – put away more food than America is astounding.

While the food was getting decimated, Tommy and Karolina were glued to Karolina’s phone talking among themselves while the others started talking about random, non telepath related shit.

“Tommy.” He looks up from Karolina’s phone to his twin. “Did Gramps say why he was trying to contact us so badly?” With his mouth full, Tommy shakes his head. “Curious. He didn’t tell me either, which is unlike him because he wouldn’t just show up and not say anything.” Tommy hums. “When you’re done I wanna talk to him.”

After he swallows, Tommy nods. “Alright.”

“Alright? You’re not gonna argue with me?”

“I wanna get it over with as soon as possible so no, I’m not gonna argue with you.”

“I think we saw your grandfather on the way over.” Gert muses. “Tall white-haired guy with piercing blue eyes and a commanding presence?” The twins nod. “Scared the hell out of the bellhops.”

“He’s...” Billy makes a face, “known for scaring the hell out of passerbys.”

“As—” Eli lolls his head from side to side, “fun as this has been we gotta book it before checkout.” David’s honestly surprised it’s not even noon yet. “Want us to get your stuff?”

“What time is checkout again?” Gert, America, and Eli turn to Karolina.

“Checkout is noon? Or was it 12:30?” She frowns. “Or was that check-in time? Uh, I’m not really sure.”

“Now we really gotta go. I’m not getting charged for another night. We’ll get your shit and meet you back here.” America announces.


“It was nice meeting you, Speedy.” Karolina says.

“Back at ya, Sparks.” Tommy replies. They grin at each other. “I’ll send you the link later, okay?”

“Looking forward to it.”

“Yeah. We need to go, ‘Lina.” Gert pushes her out of the doorway. “We’ll be back in like an hour or so.” Then they leave.

“Interesting friends you have.” Billy gets up. “I should go too.” He walks over to Tommy and whispers something that makes his twin’s eyes widen briefly. “Looking forward to seeing you again, David.” With an exaggerated wink, Billy’s out the door.

Fortunately, everyone cleaned up before leaving so the hotel room isn’t any worse for wear.

After a brief period of silence, Tommy awkwardly clears his throat. “I’m gonna level with you, B and Gramps are the least intrusive of my relatives.” David blinks at him. “Yeah...” He rubs the back of his neck, “assuming that isn’t a dealbreaker you still wanna see how this goes? And I’m not just asking because you may’ve ruined me for anyone else.”

Given just how many times they went at it in a twelve hour period the feeling might be mutual. “Yeah. I’d still like to see where this goes.” Tommy tilts his head to the right, “you look surprised.”

“I am. I mean, I hoped but...” He clicks his tongue, “I’m genetically pessimistic by nature.” David hums. “With my mom, aunts, uncle, sis, and B I’ve seen a damn ferris wheel of guys come in and out of my life.”

“I think you mean a merry-go-round.” Tommy furrows his eyebrows at him, “Ferris wheels are upright. Never mind. I get what you mean.” Tommy wraps his arms around David’s shoulders. “Guess I have a lot to live up to, huh? I mean potentially ruining you for anyone else is one hell of an ego stroke.”

Tommy smiles at him, “I wouldn’t’ve said it if I had any doubt in you continuing to blow my mind.”

“I like your confidence.”

Eli, Gert, Karolina, and America head back to their less impressive hotel room to gather their stuff before the noon checkout. It’s currently 11:37am.

“Everyone’s always in such good spirits after they’ve slept with David.” Gert tilts her head at Karolina. “I’ve yet to meet anyone who has something bad to say about him even well after they’ve stopped sleeping with him. It’s remarkable.”

“He’s a remarkable lay.” Is Eli’s reply. “Can’t top that awkward dorky sexy charm.” Gert gives him a suspicious look. “What? You don’t want to have to sleep with him to notice it.”

“Not that. Never heard anyone say someone had dorky sexy charm.”

“Awkward dorky sexy charm.” Eli corrects.

“Yeah, sure. That.”

“He’s not the only one.” He jerks a thumb at Karolina. “She’s got it too.” Karolina points at herself in disbelief. “But hers isn’t coated in 110% sass like David.”

“David is a sassy bitch, isn’t he? Speaking of sassy bitches... America are you okay? You’ve been silent ever since we left that hotel.”


“Dangerous.” Karolina says with a grin. America shoots her a dirty look. “I don’t need to be a telepath to know you were already thinking of at least thirty different ways to take out that telepathic twin if he crosses any of us.”

“Only needed one and...” She scowls, “it only involves threatening your new bestie.”

Now Karolina scowls, “that’s no good.”

“Especially for David. He seemed to really like—” Gert pauses, “we didn’t get their names, did we?” She eyes Karolina. “At least the rest of us didn’t.”

“David’s twin is Tommy and the one who slept with Alex is Billy.”

“Alex.” Gert sucks in a breath. “Alex is gonna be pissed he missed Vegas.”

“For a number of reasons.” Eli adds.

“Hey, did you guys notice how tight David’s clothes were?” Everyone stops packing to stare at Karolina. “C’mon, I’m not the only one who noticed his pecs were threatening to rip that poor shirt!”

“Boy does have an impressive rack.” America muses.

“I suppose we have to thank you for that, dragging our sorry asses to the gym with you all the time. I put on about twenty pounds of muscle in two months.”

America pats Eli on the back, “you’re welcome.”

When they head back to the fancy hotel, the receptionist gives them a side-eye but doesn’t do much else. Three floors later, Gert knocks on the door of the room David’s in. “Look.” Karolina points at the do not disturb sign hanging on the door.

“How much do you wanna bet they’re fucking now?” Eli asks.

Karolina shakes her head. “Sucker’s bet, Bradley. They’re definitely boning.”

America takes out her cellphone, angrily swiping at her phone. She dials David’s number and the call drops immediately. She moves the phone from her ear to stare at it incredulously. “Oh hell no.” She glares at the door.

“No!” Gert grabs her by the waist, halting America’s movement. “You breaking down that door will cost more than your winnings at the casino.” The brunette growls.

The door behind them opens and they turn to see the an amused Billy leaning against the door frame. “Need some help with that?” Without waiting for a response, and since Gert is still holding America (who can easily break free if she truly wanted), Billy walks over to the door and presses a finger to it. The light above handle blinks red once before turning green. They all stare at the door then Billy. “You’re welcome.” Then he walks back to his hotel room and shuts the door behind him.

Karolina grabs the handle before the light turns red again then knocks on the door. “David, Tommy, I hope you two are decent because we’re coming in.” They walk into the hotel room that is... empty? A second later the bathroom door opens and David’s head sticks out.

“That wasn’t an hour.” He pants.

Gert holds up his bag, “brought you something less fitted. Not that we didn’t enjoy the show.” There’s laughter from behind David. Gert disappears from view to put the bag onto the bed.

“Want us to go?” America asks as Gert comes back into view, “and by go I mean leave you in Vegas?”

“Leave? How the hell am I—” His eyebrows furrow then he shuts the bathroom door. Whatever else he and Tommy are saying is muffled by the door, even when America leans against the door to eavesdrop. When the handle lowers, she jumps back. The door opens and David gives her a suspicious look but doesn’t comment on it. “Yeah, you guys can go. I’ll get a ride back.”

Without looking, Karolina clamps a hand over Gert’s mouth before she can open it.

“I was gonna offer to come back for you later but this works out better for me. See you at home.” America gives him a two-fingered salute.

“Make sure you brought your key before you leave then have to end up coming back.” Although she scowls at him, America does dig through her backpack to make sure her housekeys are in fact there.

“Later, David~” Eli, Gert, Karolina, and America give him suggestive looks, eyebrow waggles, exaggerated winks, and unnecessary thumbs ups respectively on the way out of the hotel room.

David shakes his head with a smile. “I see what you mean. I’m not the only one with a nosy-ass family.” Tommy hops off the bathroom counter. “What time do you have to be back... at wherever you’re going?”

“Don’t have anywhere to be for the rest of the day. Planning on taking me somewhere?”

Tommy gives him a little grin. “Maybe, though I figured we should get the basics out of the way first.” He guides David to the bed and they sit on it. “You know my gramps is—who he is and my brother’s a bitchy magical telepath.” David nods slowly. Not what he’d think that about Billy with Billy in mindreading range but sure, he does seem like a bitchy—wait. Magical?!

“Your brother is magical?” Tommy nods. “And I’m guessing you’re not magic?” Tommy shakes his head. “So whatever you do has something to do with you getting in and out of places you’re not supposed to be in.”

Tommy’s smile widens. “Your perception is my new kink.”

“I aim to please. I worked hotel security one year and the way you were leading me around the casino led me to believe you were casing the place.”

“Well, you’re not wrong.”

“Am I an accessory to a crime?”


“Was that a question?”

Tommy tilts his head to the left (adorably) furrowing his eyebrows. “No. A statement. I was already done before I met you.”

“So you did commit a crime in the casino. No, I don’t wanna know. Plausible deniability.”

Tommy shrugs, “fine. Anyway, I—” He holds up his left hand which starts vibrating. “But I’m sure you felt that already.” Boy did he. “I also have superspeed which makes it easy to... you know go in and out of places I’m not supposed to be in.”

Son of a bitch. If he’s not a telepath’s catnip, he must a speedster’s. “Huh.”

“You seem... what’s the word. Underwhelmed.”

Cat’s outta the fucking bag. “My ex was a speedster.”

Tommy lets out an impressive whistle. “I knew you had experience but damn Davey I didn’t think you were experienced with another speedster. Hell, I’ve never met another speedster other than my uncle.”

Oh, fucking right. If Magneto is his grandfather then he’s also related to Polaris, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver. And isn’t it just fitting that he’d end up with the nephew of his first embarrassing crush? Now he just said Quicksilver is his uncle and he mentioned his mother fucking with his mind literally which means – oh shit. His mother is... she’s also a bitchy magical telepath isn’t she? Yeah. There’s no fucking way he’ll survive a full family encounter.

If he was worried about Magneto impaling him, it’s noting compared to Scarlet Witch rearranging his molecular structure.

“I’ll introduce you two so can speed through things and tear shit up to your heart’s content.”

“You are so sweet.” Tommy kisses him on the cheek and it absolutely does not make David blush dammit. They slept together more times than he can count and a chaste cheek kiss should not make him so damn giddy! Oh! That also explains why he has so much stamina! (As willing as David’s spirit is, his body can’t keep up.) However, his stamina seems boundless; Noriko needed to just not move sometimes but Tommy was always moving about – even when he was asleep. “Hold up. You’re cool with an ex? Is that... normal?”

“From what I’ve repeatedly been told? No. But you should know I’m far from what’s perceived as normal.” Tommy shrugs his agreement. “Anyway, we just weren’t made for anything romantic. Didn’t mean our friendship had to suffer because of it.”

“Deep. I hit the jackpot flirting with you at the bar.”

“Yeah, about that. Not that I should complain... but why me?”

“Why not? I got a few laps around the casino and you were the most objectively appealing individual in the entire place. Plus, as an added bonus, your tongue wasn’t down my brother’s throat.”

“Had to move in before he did?”

“He’s a predator, Davey! If he reads a guy is even slightly interested in other guys he’ll pounce! I’ve seen it happen. I mean, not with the closeted homophobes, obviously, but practically any other guy.”

“I’m gonna need an example but nothing too graphic.”

“He’s been a regular at this gay dive bar near where we used to live in Brooklyn since he—we turned eighteen. In three short years he slept with every other regular under twenty-five.”

“Three... you’re twenty-one?” Probably not what he should’ve taken away from that, but this is the first time he’s been with someone younger.

“I’ll be twenty-two in two weeks. I—dammit, we share a birthday with Commander Shepard.” That explains the alarming amount of Mass Effect merchandise Tommy has. Hell, he’s wearing a Mass Effect shirt now. In fact, he only had one non-Mass Effect shirt and it was the one he lent to David... which is probably stretched out. “You’re making me nervous, Davey. How old are you? If you’re like over thirty then you look damn good—”

“I’m only twenty-three you goof. I’ve just never been with anyone younger before.”

“Not even a few months younger?” David shakes his head. “How would you even know? Is asking for your age a prerequisite?”

“Hell yeah it is. Well, normally – I admit I got swept up in things with you. But I mean I knew you had to be at least twenty-one with the way the bartenders kept eyeing you.”

“They were eyeing me because I ordered a shit-ton of stuff and wasn’t even tipsy but yeah I get that I look young a lot.” Must be his genes because Magneto is a hot old guy. Yeah, and that’s not something he should ever think again. Especially knowing both Tommy’s twin and mother are telepaths—and Billy seems like a sadist. “I know that look. You’re thinking my gramps is a hot old guy, aren’t you?” David blinks at him. Wait. Tommy’s not a telepath too, is he? “Don’t sweat it, man. Everyone thinks that.”

“On the subject of your family...” David takes a deep breath, “my first crush was your uncle.”

Tommy lets out a sharp bark of laughter, “you’re kidding?” David shakes his head. Still laughing, Tommy picks up his phone and scrolls through it. He turns it to David and there’s a picture of his uncle in his Quicksilver costume. At David’s scowl, Tommy waggles his eyebrows. “Since you’re into older people I can introduce you?”

“You asshole. Your uncle is pushing fifty isn’t he?”

Tommy grins then basically jumps into David’s lap. “You didn’t specify how much older you liked your partners, Davey.”

“Preferably less than almost thirty years.”

Four-and-a-half-hours later, David puts his key into his door and enters his and America’s apartment. The brunette looks over her shoulder from the couch. “Welcome back. Sólo una pregunta: ¿Cuántas veces te has follado al gemelo antes de que te fueras?”

He closes the door. “¿No te gustaría saberlo?” America grins at him. “How’d Alex take it?”

“We were on one of those...” She gestures around vaguely. “picture chats? Anyway, couldn’t really tell what he was saying in between laughs.” David hums, setting his bag down on the table. He feels America’s gaze on him but when he looks over at her she’s watching the TV. “Nice shirt.” David looks down and notices he’s wearing Tommy’s shirt. Huh. When did he put it back on? Or perhaps the real question is: did he ever take it off? “It’s one of those ‘smediums’ right?”

“I’m surrounded by assholes.”

“What’s that say about you, pal?” David’s response is to flip her off on the way to his room, taking his bag with him. “Hey, too tired out from fucking to grab a bite to eat? What am I saying? This is you I’m talking about. Of course you’re not tired. I wanna go back to that place with that cute curly-haired server.” America doesn’t remember places by name or even location, just by how cute the employees are.

When David – now in a different shirt – returns to the living room he shakes his head. “Should’ve known you had an ulterior motive.”

America points at herself. “Perish the thought, Amigo.” David gives an unconvinced hum. “By the by, you should wear tighter shirts more often. I had to resist the urge to motorboat you.”

“Please do. At all times.”

“You’re no fun. I’ll go find someone who appreciates a good motorboating.”

“You do that.”

“Let me feel ‘em.” David looks at her curiously. She points at his chest. “Never really wanted to feel a dude’s chest before. Not that you’re just ‘some dude.’”

“I appreciate the sentiment, I guess, but... what?”

“They’re just there. I never realized how massive they were before you had on that tight ass shirt. Come to think of it: why are you never shirtless? Seems a shame to cover that up. I’ve seen pendejos with less musculature proudly strutting without a shirt. Thinking their hot shit. It’s a fucking eyesore and I’m not the only one who thinks so.”

“I—” He furrows his eyebrows, “you’ve rendered me speechless.”

“I aim to please. Oh, but if you’re trying to be a one-trick pony—”

“Not using that phrase correctly.”

“Independientemente.” She waves him off. “If you are doing the one partner thing like you were with Blue Hair then you shouldn’t go shoving those in everyone’s faces.”

“Most people call ‘the one partner thing’ dating.” America just shrugs. “Wait. How’d you know I wanted to try and date Tommy?”

“Because I know you.” She leans up to poke his forehead. “Plus, I saw you two at the bar laughing it up.” David remembers her less than subtle kissy face that caused him to choke on his sip. “You were looking at him like you didn’t wanna things to just end right there. I’ve actually never seen you look so dopey before. It was pitiful.”

“Thanks. Just for that you’re not getting your grubby mitts on my chest.”

“What? I don’t know any other jacked 6’ guys besides you! I need to feel for myself what keeps you with so many groupies.” She makes a squeezing motion with her hands.

“I—I don’t have groupies?” America gives him a flat look and even if she didn’t, he sounded less convinced with each word spoken. “Fine. Feel my chest.”

America practically hops off the couch to stand face to face with him and squeeze his chest. “Maldito. I definitely need to find someone to motorboat now.” David replies by swatting her hands away.

They end up going to “The Place With The Cute Curly-Haired Server” (also known as Red Robin). Said cute curly-haired server instantly recognizes them. Against his better judgment, David allowed America to dress him. She puts him in one of her flannel shirts that’s unsurprisingly bigger than Tommy’s shirt but no less “form-fitting.” America told him point-blank if she were into guys and they weren’t like siblings she’d consider tapping that – it’s as high a praise as one can get with America.

The server – Riri – seats them in her section and after some less than subtle flirting from both parties, she disappears. Once Riri leaves, David turns back to America. “You slept with her already, didn’t you?”

“Yeah and I wanna sleep with her again.”

“You can’t just call her?”

“Sure but I need to eat just like she needs to get paid. Furthermore, her ass looks amazing in those pants.” Well, David can’t find any argument there.

America can’t cook to save her life and there’s no reason to nearly burn their apartment down in any attempts to teach her... again. David had the luxury of having a professional chef for a father and a pastry chef for a mother. His skill isn’t even remotely close to theirs but they imparted their wisdom onto both their children as much as they were able.

Some people just cannot cook and America willingly accepts this. The food industry depends on people like her so it’s one of those situations where everyone wins, sorta.

Also, they’ve met a lot of interesting people eating out so often. In exchange for not having a lick of cooking prowess, America has a knack for finding real quality eateries. And most of the time it has nothing to do with pretty servers/cashiers/baristas; although that is her main reason for returning to certain establishments.

She has a member card at three different coffee shops in their neighborhood because of the baristas.

America is nothing if not dedicated. (And maybe more than a little addicted to coffee.)

On the rare occasions where America doesn’t feel like leaving their apartment or ordering takeout, he’ll just whip up something simple.

“I have a question.” She looks up from her menu (they had the idea to order something different but after their twelfth visit they forgot half the things they ordered already and just settled on ordering whatever. They’ve already gotten a shitload of free stuff from America’s loyalty program given how much America eats). “Does your thing with Riri have a period or question mark at the end?”

“Question mark. Trust me, if I meet someone I wanna do the one partner thing with or a few someones to do a repeat multiple partner thing, you’ll be the first person not actively involved I’ll freak out to.”

“Fair enough?”

“Cabrón, tu es familia.” She grins at him. “First person to make me feel... not alone on this weird planet. I literally owe you my life.”

“You don’t owe me anything.”

She shakes her head, “te equivocas. I lost mi familia once and I’m not gonna do it again.”

“It’s... cute how you two bond.”

America’s out of her seat before David can stop her and she wraps a hand around the pink-haired man’s throat. “Bastardo. Te voy a matar.” She hisses.

Even getting choked... and with pink hair, Quentin Quire is still a magnificent asshole. He laughs and if anything, as David honestly expected, America’s grip tightens. He fucked them over once and America doesn’t normally give second chances – particularly to assholes. “You know I can’t understand you.” He rasps.

Thankfully they arrived after the lunch rush and well before dinner so there isn’t too big of a crowd watching them. America’s eyes start glowing. “America, espera.” Her still glowing eyes turn to David. “You don’t have to stop choking him but maybe you should sit down.”

They still have the attention of the restaurant so America’s eyes stop glowing and she sits taking Quentin with her. “You’d better have a damn good reason for being here.”

“You—” Her grip tightens, “air.” She looks at David who gives a noncommittal shrug. He personally couldn’t care if she killed him on the spot but that’ll be a bitch to explain to the staff. Her grip loosens slightly. She has the strength of at least ten professional weightlifters; if she wanted him dead he’d be dead their most frequented restaurant or not. Her self-control is extraordinary.

“Talk, now.”

“Maybe you can loosen your grip?”

The patrons’ attention returns to their tables but a worried Riri shows up at their table. “Hey. Is this asshole bothering you?”

“How can you ask that when she’s choking me?!”

“I’m sure you deserved it.” She looks him up and down, “sir.” She tacks on. “Let me know if you need anything?” America nods then Riri walks off.

“How’s this gonna look on the news, kids? It’ll be a hate crime.” America’s eyes start glowing again. “Okay, okay! I came here with every intention of walking away, alive.” America’s eyes do not stop glowing. Quentin’s eyes cut to David’s narrowed ones. Oh why oh why did these two have to be his last resort? He sighs as much as he’s able since he’s still being choked. “Evan’s gone missing.”

“For him to ‘go missing’ wouldn’t you need to be aware of his location?”

America’s eyes finally stop glowing. “Recuérdame otra vez: ¿quién es Evan?”

“He’s Victor’s best friend but I’m a bit unclear on his connection to this jackass.”

Riri pops up again looking around. “My manager is about to make his rounds so you need to discreetly choke this guy or something.” With a scowl, America slowly removes her hand from Quentin’s throat. “Also, did you guys decide on your order?”

“I think I saw a Bailey’s milkshake? Can I have one of those?”

“Make that two.” America adds.

Riri nods, “I’ll be back with those.” Then she walks off.

“Don’t I get anything?”

“Not when I’m footing the bill, pendejo.” Quentin huffs. “Back to this missing guy. When did he disappear? And just remember if you are fucking with us I won’t hesitate to put your ass in the ground.”

Quentin sighs, rubbing at his throat. There’s definitely a hand-shaped bruise forming. “He was acting weird all day yesterday and to top it off last night he ‘needed to go for a walk.’ That was around six and he hasn’t been back since. Plus, he didn’t even take his phone with him when he left.” David and America share a look before turning back to Quentin. “I’m worried about him.”

“Pobrecito. Karma’s a bitch, aint it. Not so high and mighty when you’re over sweating over someone who isn’t yourself and what’s with the hair? It wasn’t pink before.”

Quentin clears his throat, “I felt like a change and you’re right. I was...” He scowls, “awful to you two.”

David snorts. “You think?”

“In my defense, I’ve been treated like shit—”

You’ve been treated like shit?” She parrots. “You’re an entitled asshole who got one-upped by an even bigger entitled asshole so and your inferiority complex decided to take out your uselessness on everyone else. And you still came here thinking we fucking owe you something?”

“As brutal as ever, Chavez.” He mutters. “Contrary to what you two think, I know neither of you owe me a damn thing and I only came here to ask for help. Why would anyone wanna take Evan? He’s like the nicest person on the planet!”

“He has to be if he even considered hanging around you long enough for you two to have any kind of schedule.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Alleyne, you have the patience of a saint to have a ticking time bomb in your pocket.”

“This ticking time bomb is within striking distance.”

“Be that as it may, I’m thinking it’s a...” He looks around the restaurant, “you and I thing.” He gestures between him and David.

Oh. Shit.”

“Yeah and—” A look crosses the pink-haired man’s face, “wait. You slept with Magneto’s grandson?” He whispers.

Fucking telepaths. “Can we focus?”

Thankfully, Riri shows up with a tray with five glasses on it: two milkshakes and three waters. “Here you go.” She announces, in a tone slightly louder than normal. A warning. But warning for what? She distributes the glasses then runs a hand through her hair and subtly points behind her. The three of them look behind her at the large white man standing at the table across from theirs chatting up the white customers. “Appetizers?” She gives them a pointed look.

“Yes.” They both reply nodding. “I think I saw nachos?” David adds, “and pretzel bites?”

“Coming right up.” Then she walks off.

“How long have you been sleeping with that server, Chavez?” She slaps him upside his head. “Yeah, I deserved that.” He rubs his head. Although America’s mind is a full-on buffet, usually highly-detailed and incredibly gruesome methods resulting in his untimely murder, he somehow cannot see her movements coming. As for her bestie taking his alcoholic milkshake to the head, his mind can only be read sporadically and even then it’s merely fragments. Quentin has no idea why that is and it’s a mystery worth uncovering.

Plus, he definitely has to know more about him sleeping with Magneto’s grandson... for research purposes. Yeah. That sounds like a real reason.

“How are you folks doing today?” The manager asks. It’s a manager they’ve never seen before which is probably why Riri warned them ahead of time. The man eyes Quentin especially. Either seeing another white dude dining with an afro-latinx (alien) woman and a black man is... concerning to him or, alternatively, he caught/heard about America choking Quentin earlier. Regardless of the reasoning, David’s worked around enough phony people to know a forced smile when he sees one.

“We’re great.” Is Quentin’s reply. Then he “casually” sips from his water. The manager doesn’t look too sure but he nods all the same then leaves. Once he’s moved onto a new table, Quentin sighs slumping back in his seat.

Another familiar server, Julie, shows up with Riri to hand out their appetizers. “Only two appetizers? Are you two—” The blonde blinks at Quentin. “Who’s this?”

“Nadie importante.” Julie nods at that. “I think we’re ready to order.” America nods at David who returns the nod. They relay their orders to Riri who nods and walks off with Julie.

“You two are seriously gonna eat all that food and not offer me a bite?”

“Yup.” They reply, sipping from their drinks.

Quentin sighs, propping his face with fist. “I should’ve known.”

“You shouldn’t’ve shown up at all, let alone while we were getting some food.” Quentin frowns at her. America pops a pretzel bite into her mouth and smiles evilly at him.

“Let’s say we believe you about Evan, is there anything else you can tell us? Like how exactly was he ‘acting weird?’”

Quentin spares another glance at America who is loudly munching on some nachos. “He was quiet... quieter than usual. Plus he didn’t eat anything.” The hums they’re giving him are suspicious. He didn’t think hums could be suspicious before now but these two never cease to amaze.

America glares at him over a nacho, “listen closely, you piece of shit, if something truly is gunning for...” She lolls her head from side to side, “did you ever stop to think you’re putting David in danger even bringing it up?”

“I did. I also considered this is me warning him. If something really is gunning for...” He mimics America’s lolling, “all my associates should be aware.”

“And why the hell should we trust you?”

Ah! There’s the kicker. ‘Fool me once: shame on you. Fool me twice: shame on me.’ Think about it, Chavez. Talking about this puts me at risk just as much as your precious David, and I’m willing to do just about anything to save my ass.” He sighs dramatically, “even if it means coming to you two for help.”

“How do you know we won’t leave your ass to get taken?”

“Oh, I know you will, without question, but him?” He jerks his chin in David’s direction, “he actually has a soul.”

David hums, “I’m afraid I gotta agree with America. I wouldn’t wish you harm but I’m damn sure not gonna put myself in danger taking your ass out of any.”

“That’s cold.” America picks up his glass of water and throws it in his face. “I was mistaken. That is cold.”

“Wait. Evan’s gone missing and you heard that from Quentin Quire? How does he even have your number?”

“He doesn’t.” A pause. “At least, I hope he doesn’t. I really don’t wanna have to change my number again. Anyway, he didn’t call he saw us at Red Robin.”

Noriko rolls her eyes – at least David thinks she’s rolling her eyes. The Skype video is a bit grainy. “Is that server really so cute for you to go there so often?”

“You should really be asking America that question.”

“You’re no help. I’m not into girls so I figured I’d ask someone who is into them. I mean, objectively – sure – she is worth a couple or repeat visits but—” Noriko frowns, “just answered my question.” With a sigh, she leans back in her seat. “So what’s up with you? Other than the unexpected and unwanted run-in with Quire?” She shudders. “That—ugh. Just thinking about him makes me skin crawl. Let’s just—let’s move on.” David adjusts his glasses and Noriko gasps as she inches closer to the screen. “You met someone!”


She points at him with a leer, “whenever you touch your glasses unprompted you’re thinking about someone you’ve either slept with recently or want to sleep with.” He gapes at her. Having a blatant tell is the last thing David needs. “C’mon Alleyne, I’ve known you almost as long as Chavez.” Speaking of America, if she notices his tell he’ll never hear the end of it. With a satisfied smirk, Noriko leans back in her seat. “Is this just a one-off thing or are we talking a new me?”

“New you?”

“You know. An actual more than just sex relationship. Like the thing we tried and failed at.” She taps her chin, “ever wonder why we sucked at being together so badly?”

“Not really.”

“I haven’t either.” She laughs, “guess that’s why we were so bad at it. But I deflected. Tell me all about your... whoever.”

David sighs. She’s not gonna give this up. Plus, he did want them to meet. Although now that he thinks about it, he’s not sure why. One speedster by themselves is a handful, putting two together? He doesn’t even wanna think about it. It invokes a shudder. “Alright. Alright.” Noriko squeals. “His name is Tommy and...” David exhales deeply, “he’s a speedster.”

The laugh Noriko lets out is cringeworthy but expected.

David feels a weight on his left shoulder, smells vanilla, and sees curly brown hair out the corner of his eye. He’s honestly surprised they weren’t thrown out of the restaurant when America punched Quentin in the face... the second time. Then again, their usual manager showed up and practically joined them for lunch all without batting an eye at Quentin’s bruised face. (They’ve come in there a little worse for wear a number of times so the employees that know them learned to stop asking questions.) “What’s she laughing at?”

“He’s sleeping with another speedster.” Noriko says in between gasps of air.

America lifts her head so her chin is on his shoulder then she eyes him, “thought you were the type to learn from mistakes.”


America grins at her. “Just fucking with you, Blue Hair. How goes New York?”

“If I have to go to one more wedding, I might have to kill somebody. Let me show you my awful bridesmaid dress for tomorrow’s affair.” She gets up from her seat then disappears from view.

“Did you tell her about what that pink-haired asshole said?”

Pink hair?” Noriko repeats although she’s out of the camera’s range. “Who has pink hair?”

“Quire decided to add to his obnoxiousness by coloring his hair pink.”

“I’d comment but that’ll make me a hypocrite.”

Right. America forgot Blue Hair’s hair isn’t naturally blue. Much how like Gert’s hair isn’t naturally purple. Still, neither Noriko nor Gert look like pretentious douches with their hair color. Of course, Quire fit the pretentious, self-absorbed prick description well before the pink hair.

Suddenly, there’s a pea green feathery ball of fluff thrust in the screen. “Oh fuck, what’s that?” Both America and David yell.

That is my dress.”

“No wonder you wanna kill someone.” America mutters.

“By the way, I just checked in with Vic because I don’t trust Quire as far as Chavez can throw him and he confirmed Evan’s disappearance. I’ll put the phone on speaker so you can hear him.”

Noriko puts her cellphone near the speaker. “Hey, guys.” He sighs. “I knew something was up with Evan when he didn’t want to go to the gym with me. You know I didn’t realize they were poké-stops as well.”

“Of course you weren’t talking about a real gym.” America shakes her head.

“We all have our reasons for going to that particular type of gym, America.”

“Uh-huh. Whatever you say.”

Victor clears his throat. “A-Anyway. Know what I noticed? My favorite shirt is gone. You know the Vader one where he has the ‘different expressions?’” David remembers that shirt well. Evan got it for Victor to “cement their friendship” or something along those lines. Victor wore it so often it’s now dark grey instead of black “It disappeared yesterday too and I’m thinking that’s not a coincidence.”

“How’d that jackass even find out about Evan?”

Victor sighs, “He was there. He shows up from time to time. ‘Checking on his peers.’ Out of all of us Evan and I are the only ones nice enough—”

“To tell him to fuck off?” America answers.

Victor pointedly clears his throat. “Yeah. Would it be terribly naïve to think he just got lost and wasn’t abducted?”

“No. Not terribly naïve.” Noriko replies.

“Just the usual amount then?” Victor sighs. “Great. On a far less broody note, Alex told me David slept with the twin of that guy who faceplanted at Wriggly’s.”

“Oh no. What? You didn’t tell me that, David! All these damn weddings, I’m missing out on everything.”

“You’ve only been gone three weeks.” Victor says.

“And look at all that shit that happened in those three weeks!” Noriko sighs, “and I still have one week left.”

“I’ll try to wait to get a girlfriend until you get back.”

“Aww. At least someone is looking out for me.”

“I doubt I’ll be getting a boyfriend anytime soon.” Victor says with a sigh.

“We can look for boyfriends together. We’ll be each other’s wingperson. As long as David doesn’t tag-along and steal the interest of every guy in the area.”

“What? I don’t do that...?”

He glances at America who gives a one-shoulder shrug. “Well, you two don’t have to worry about him tagging along and stealing your guys because he has someone he wants to be with. Speaking of which...” She turns to him, “are you free to sleep with other people while you’re figuring things out with him?”


Chapter Text

The last time America saw David glued to his cellphone he discovered Word Cookies.

It’s admittedly an addictive game, much like Pokemon Go which America has Karolina to thank for getting her involved in that madness despite knowing next to nothing about Pokemon. However, according to Alex you don’t even need to know anything about Pokemon to play/enjoy Pokemon Go.

It’s the return of his dopey face as he texts away on his cellphone.

His not yet defined but progressing relationship with Tommy is only three days old and it’s resulted in hours of whatever the hell has David attached to his cellphone. America could swear she heard David giggling for a solid hour yesterday but he vehemently denies the accusation.

America carefully dumps her latest purchases onto the table. David spares a glance in her direction then goes back to his cellphone, “what is all that?”

“Shit from the grocery list and I got tons of candy. There was a huge sale.”

“Sunday was Easter so a sale is no surprise.”

“That explains all the baskets and fake grass under a buck. I didn’t see any bunny-shaped anything though or, thankfully, those awful marshmallow chicks.”

“Don’t let Gert hear you badmouthing Peeps.”

America makes a face, “of all the wonderful confectionary creations on this planet who the fuck decided to create marshmallows? It’s like eating a sugar-coated cotton ball.”

“I don’t know anyone who isn’t Gert or Lani that eats marshmallows by themselves.” America walks over to the couch and drops a heart-shaped box into his lap. “Thanks, but I think you went down the wrong holiday aisle.”

“Maybe...” She shrugs, “but it was still discounted.”

With a shrug, David opens his box. “Gold leaves? Fancy.”

“What do they taste like?”

“They don’t taste like anything. They’re just for decoration.”

“Qué desperdicio.” She shakes her head. “Why even bother? It’s the... cómo se dice? The paste they decorate the cakes with?”


“Yeah. They put hours sometimes even days into making that shit look all pretty and it just tastes like sugar, which just ends up making the cake even sweeter than it oughta be.”

“You’ve thought a lot about this, haven’t you?”

America huffs then plops down on the couch next to him with an opened bag of puffed Cheetos. She tilts the bag in his direction and he takes a handful. “I’m thinking of paintball Friday, you in?” He nods. “Cool. So, I have a date tonight.” David coughs, nearly choking on the Cheetos. “Thought I waited long enough?” She pats him on the back until he swallows. “What is an opera and what do I wear to one?”

“You have a date... to an opera!?” David lets out a full-body laugh for like three whole minutes. There are tears in his eyes and everything. Once he calms down somewhat, he shakes his head with a chuckle. “Wow. I think I needed that.”

She glares at him. “So glad to be of service. And you call me an asshole all the time?”

“No. Not all the time. I honestly don’t know what’s ‘opera safe,’ having never been to one myself, but you can’t go wrong with a classic formal gown.”

“We’re going shopping? Might be a good idea to bring along Iris? She has an eye for fancy shit.”

“True. Although, she didn’t really have much of a choice growing up; having actors for parents and whatnot.”

“You ever see anything her parents starred in?”

“I have. You?”

America gives a one shoulder shrug. “Yeah. I mean, they’re pretty – obviously since they gave birth to Iris but—”

“They give off a jerkass vibe?” America nods. “Yeah. I noticed that too. Imagine if we had an actual conversation with them.”

“Yeah, not looking forward to that.”

Approximately twenty-three minutes after their brief phone call, they open the front door to find Karolina on the other side. Surprisingly for someone who grew up in Hollywood with not just one but both parents being extraordinarily famous, Karolina wasn’t even a blip on Hollywood’s radar. Hell, people never seem to remember Leslie and Frank Dean even have a daughter. America saw a couple of interviews where people asked if they ever thought about starting a family.

And as Dean is a common surname, Karolina was able to live an ordinary life as a “human.” Until she was twenty and the medical alert bracelet she’s never taken off got caught in a door and snapped off. Her freakout was justified because just about anyone would freak if they instantly started glowing like a disco ball; still, she put her bracelet back on and went on with her life. Two years later, it got caught in America’s shopping bag and snapped off. That freakout was a bit more intense than the first, and it wasn’t just because she wasn’t alone when it happened.

Ever since whenever she hangs out with them she forgoes the glamour via medical alert bracelet and is her true glowing form. At the moment, however, she is not glowing. “Hi. I was thinking on the way over that my phone connection was off but I could swear I heard you say you were going to an opera?”

“I did say that.”

Karolina blinks at her. “Huh. Interesting. I have a couple of ball gowns you can borrow? Or we can go looking for some?”

“You’re wearing the bracelet.”

Karolina lifts her left arm with flourish, her medical alert bracelet glints in the light. “I guess it’s not hard to notice I’m not glowing.” She gives a self-depreciating snort. “I just had breakfast with my parents and they don’t know I know we glow.”

“Try saying that three times fast.” David mutters.

“How do you know your parents glow?”

“I saw them. They were talking into this box and they were glowing like I do. I guess, as their offspring, I shouldn’t be as surprised as I was but that was before I embraced...” She helplessly raises her left arm, “me. I should’ve realized it was a longshot to think—to hope I was adopted.”

“Well you’re cute whether you glow or not, Iris.” America puts an arm around her, “now these ball gowns aren’t all poofy, are they? Because that’s a certified deal-breaker.”

On the way to the dress shop, their detour to the coffee shop results in them bumping into Alex and an unfamiliar brunette he introduces as Molly. Alex states Molly’s parents are paying him a ridiculous amount of money to tutor their daughter for the SAT.

Alex decides a change of scenery would help the study session; plus he already missed Vegas and he’s not about to miss America modelling formal wear.

Upon entering the shop, the employee hugs Karolina and kisses her on each cheek. “Chérie! Il a été beaucoup trop longtemps! Que puis-je pour vous aujourd'hui?”

“Mon ami a besoin d'une robe pour l'opéra.”

The employee’s eyes light up. “Lovely! Which friend?” Karolina tugs on America’s hand drawing her closer. “Oh.” They blush. “It would be my honor to dress your friend in our clothes.” They hold out a hand toward America, “may I?” America looks down at the hand then puts her in it. With a nod, the employee whisks America off further into the store.

“They might be gone for a while.” The four of them take a seat in the “waiting area.” Karolina turns to David, “did she tell you what time her date is?”

“Did she tell you who her date is? They must not know her well if they think taking her to an opera is a good idea.”

“Come on, Alex, the opera isn’t that bad.”

“The one with your parents was admittedly kinda kickass but not every opera is that one.”

“You two went to the opera together?”

“Our parents are friends.” They both reply. “They make us do shit together all the time.”

“I... see. Anyway, no. She didn’t tell me anything.”

“Hm. Must not be serious then.”

“What makes you say that?” Karolina asks.

“For starters: America goes on tons of dates—”

“Not as much as you.”

Alex scoffs, “at least I go on dates.” Karolina frowns at him. “Hey, you walked into that one. Anyway, secondly: If it were even semi-serious she would’ve said something to one of us; and by ‘one of us’ I mean David.”

“Hold on. Nothing happened between you and Julie?” Karolina’s frown deepens. “I’ll take that as a no.” David gives her a sympathetic pat on the shoulder.

“Wait. Isn’t that the server America’s into?”

Karolina, still frowning, shakes her head. “No. America’s into Riri.”

“Well, they’re both cute.” Alex says with a shrug. “However, I’m not about to compete against America in anything let alone making a lady choose between us.”

“I don’t know, Alex, you almost got her when we went skeet shooting.”

“Who had the bright idea to give America a firearm in the first place?”

“America, but I don’t think a shotgun is classified as a firearm.”

“That’s not the point, Karolina.”

“What’s skeet shooting?” The three of them turn to Molly who is texting on her phone. She hadn’t said anything or even made a noise since they arrived so they essentially forgot she was even there.

“It’s where you shoot these clay disc things with a shotgun.” Karolina answers.

The brunette hums. “Sounds like fun.”

“I think you need to be eighteen to do it though.” Molly pauses in her texting to look up at Karolina. “Like I said, I think. I’m not sure.” The brunette maintains eye contact for an additional five seconds before returning her attention to her phone. Karolina inches closer to David, “I forgot how terrifying teenagers are.” She whispers.

America returns in a dark red mermaid gown and is greeted with: “Holy fuck, Chavez!” Karolina, David, and Alex are out of their seats applauding. Even the employee beside her is dabbing their eyes with a napkin.

“Ustedes son ridículos. This is only the first dress and mamá taught me to never accept the first offer.” She’s met with a chorus of complaints. “Alright, alright! We’ll keep this one on the good pile.” Then she walks off.

“Not sure why I’m surprised America cleans up well.” Karolina leans back in her seat with a sigh, “I’ve seen her still look good while covered head to toe in raspberry jam.”

“That shit was sticky.” Alex says with a shake of his head, “had to take a three hour shower to get it all out of my hair.”

“How’d you guys even end up in all that jam?” Karolina asks.

“I don’t wanna talk about it.” Karolina then glances at David who shakes his head while shrugging.

America is back this time in a black halter dress with a high neck line. “What do you think? Too much leg?” Karolina, David, and Alex stare at her; even Molly’s fingers are frozen above her phone. America looks at them and frowns, “¡Alguien diga algo!”

“Don’t think it’s too much leg for an opera.” Is Molly’s reply – after several seconds of silence, “but I don’t like the neck line.”

“Yeah. I’m not crazy about it either but it’s classy, you know?”

Molly gets up and stretches, bringing the others out of their stupor, “classy doesn’t have to equal boring.”

“That it doesn’t. Oh and you guys can move closer so I don’t have to walk all the way to the front of the store.” Wordlessly, they get up and follow America. Sure enough there’s another waiting area – a bigger waiting area. So they take their seats as America disappears behind a door with a mirror.

Less than a minute later, America opens the door wearing a purple one shoulder chiffon dress. She gets a thumbs up from Molly and David and a thumbs down from Karolina and Alex.

She rolls her eyes then goes back in the room.

Another minute ticks by then the door opens. America’s wearing an off-the-shoulder light pink peplum dress. “Is this too bright for an opera?” Molly makes a seesawing motion; well, it’s more like she’s moving like a libra scale. With a nod, America goes back into the room.

“This is making me want a new dress.” Karolina grouses, “but at the same time, I don’t wanna miss what she’ll come out in next.”

When the door opens again, America’s in a gold bodycon dress. She turns around showing off the zigzagging straps. “I don’t know what I’m gonna wear this to but this dress is a definite buy.” She gets a thumbs up from each of them. “Right?” As she shimmies back to the room they give her a round of applause.

Two minutes later, America walks out in a navy and white pinstripe romper. “That dress was harder to get out of than the others.” She turns in a circle, “well?”

The four of them blink at her for an entire minute before Alex blurts out: “That’s not a dress.”

America laughs, “I know. It’s way more badass than a dress. Maybe not the gold one but any other dress.”

“I agree.” Is Karolina’s opinion, “but I really liked you in the red dress too. I mean, it’s kinda unfair since you looked good in everything you tried on.”

“So this or the red dress?”

“That.” David says, then his eyes dart down to his cellphone.

“Red dress.” Alex says.

Karolina makes a distressed noise, “aw hell, that.”

“I’m gonna go red dress too. You got a standing ovation in it and that beats stunned silence.”

America lolls her head, “it does but they were kinda silent a lot.” She jerks a thumb at them, “like now.”

Karolina abruptly gets up. “You’re already gonna buy the gold dress, right? Buy them all. I doubt you have dresses in your closet.”

“I don’t have any place to wear dresses.” Karolina’s smile is... unsettling. “What are you planning, Iris?”

“Nothing. I’ll buy these for you~” With a squeal, Karolina all but drags America back into the changing room.

With the vote tied they flipped a coin that went in favor of the romper. Karolina picked out a shit-ton of accessories that complimented America’s outfit; she actually picked out a lot of accessories for all the outfits America tried on and a few she didn’t but Karolina bought anyway. While they all know Karolina is ridiculously rich, it’s not often she splurges but when she does she has a tendency to go overboard... and for some reason her splurging almost always involves dresses. The first time she got Gert in a dress her medical alert bracelet unclipped itself and nearly fell off her wrist completely with all her bouncing. None of them know what it is about dresses that excites Karolina but they’re all a bit too afraid of the answer.

Karolina’s last recorded splurge was for her parents anniversary last year where they all had to don monkey suits and whatever the equivalent is for dresses as it was a “black tie event.” America got away with wearing a suit there so this afternoon was the first time they saw her in a dress. Well, David saw her in a dress several times before he or America even met the rest of them but that’s neither here nor there.

America said she’d keep him updated which was code for if it blows he can expect her to text him to alleviate boredom. Her romper—well none of the outfits really—didn’t have pockets so Karolina found a clutch purse that was also navy and white pinstripe. America was right about Karolina having an eye for fancy shit. However, the big surprise was Molly; she instantly and unofficially became America’s fashion confidant. For every article of clothing or accessory Karolina picked out America deferred to Molly’s judgement.

Back on the subject of boredom, it’s a Wednesday evening and he’s at home watching... David squints at the television. What the hell is he watching? Giving up all premises of attempting to find out what served as background noise for the past half hour, he turns on his xbox. During their bar conversation that led to the Nerf gun fight that led to the sex, he and Tommy exchanged xbox gamertags before phone numbers. Hands down, the most unorthodox meeting of his life and that includes his time at the institute.

This is the first time he’s been on his xbox since Vegas so it takes him a while to put in Tommy’s gamertag and discover he’s online. They’d been texting each other all day until an hour ago when David’s battery died. Thankfully, he was able to tell Tommy it was dying thirty seconds before it died because his phone has no manners and likes to cut off whenever it wants so long as the battery is under twenty percent. He only got the reply when he got home and plugged the phone into the charger. Since then he’s been absently channel surfing and still doesn’t know what the hell he was “watching.”

Before he can decide on what game to play his phone starts ringing. At the same time, his xbox informs him he’s become friends with Tommy’s gamertag. There’s a picture of the coffee cocktail on his phone with Tommy’s number over it. Huh. He didn’t take a picture of Tommy, did he. That needs to be rectified.


“Hey!” Tommy greets, followed by an explosion in the background David hopes came from a television. “You busy? I mean, you playing something important?”

David stares at his home-screen, “not playing anything yet.”

“Cool, cool.” There’s tapping in the background then: “wanna do something together?”

“Something like playing a game?”

“No. Well, sure. But I meant something face to face.”

The area code of Tommy’s phone is 718 which is New York (multiple boroughs according to Bing). Even if Tommy hadn’t mentioned he’s both from and currently living in “parts of New York and New Jersey,” he has the most blatant New York/New Jersey accent David’s ever heard, and this includes the years he spent around natives at Professor X’s school. One thing David has noticed about New Yorkers or New Jersey-ans...? New Jersey-ites...? People from New Jersey. It’s they never add the New when referring to the state. Josh was the first person David noticed did that but Josh himself never noticed other people didn’t do it.

David’s area code is 773 because he has the same cellphone number since he was fourteen and in high school living with his grandparents in Chicago. He did get a second cellphone with a New York area code that wasn’t 718 but after... various reasons (some of which were Quentin Quire), that phone got disconnected.

When he was fifteen his parents moved to California and Kim went along with them because she hated her school. David hated his school too but they—probably with a much-needed, potentially illegal push from the X-Men—skipped him and he had one more year to go. Once that year was over it was off to New York for the three years, and when that clusterfuck ended he moved to California briefly. America went with his parents, because they all but adopted her in every way but legally, and often visited him in New York. He spent a little over a month in California before he and America visited Arizona then never left.

The distance between Arizona and New York is a thirty-eight hour car drive, a three-day trip on Greyhound or any other bus, and a five hour plane ride. Meeting up face to face at a moment’s notice wouldn’t even be in the realm of possibilities if Tommy didn’t have superspeed. Then there’s Tommy’s teleporting twin brother and David’s best friend who flies and can create star-shaped portals out of thin air.

“Yeah. We can do that.”

“Yeah? That’s—” There’s a loud clatter followed by some muffled swearing. “Hello? Shit. Did this damn thing hang up? Fu—”

“No.” David clears his throat to stave off his laughter, “I’m still here.”

“Oh! Great. Hey, can you text me the address of where you wanna meet up?”

“You want me to pick the place?”

“If you want, next time I can pick the place?”

Already giddy by the prospect of a next time, David nods then remembers he’s on the phone and can’t be seen. “Okay.”

“Sweet. I’ll see you in a little while then.”

“Yeah. See you in a little while.” Once Tommy hangs up, David stares at his phone. 5:18pm. Hm. It seemed later than that. Fortunately, he hadn’t changed when he got home so he was good to go. Now the question was: where to go? After thirty seconds of deliberating, his grumbling stomach decides for him.

David grabs his keys and wallet then texts Tommy.

It takes David ten minutes to walk to his destination so, in hindsight, he should’ve texted a speedster the address when he was already there. The block has all sorts of eateries he and America frequent and since Tommy eats more than America it’s the perfect place to take him. Plus there’s always the light rail for a change of scenery.

When David enters House O’ Noodles, Gabby greets him then asks about his partner-in-crime. He tells her America is on a date and the black-haired teen gasps saying something along the lines of she knew she was right but doesn’t elaborate as she seats him at the bar then scurries off.

The second David picks up his menu there’s a strong, almost unnatural breeze threatening to rip the menu out of his hands. Looking up from the menu he finds Tommy in a pink D.Va jacket sitting in the stool beside him. Before David could say or do anything Tommy leans in kissing him softly.

David’s blinking dumbly again but this time it’s at Tommy’s grinning face. “Sorry I’m late. Got lost a few times. Have this thing where I screw up numbers...” He shifts then takes his phone out of his back pocket and stares at it for a second before shoving it back into his pocket. “Anyway, noodles? I’m digging it. Digging this place too. But I’m especially digging the sexy librarian thing you got going on.”

David wouldn’t consider himself well-versed in the art of understanding speedster babbling but he caught enough of what Tommy was speed-saying. Hopefully. “I, uh, thanks?”

Tommy shakes his head, “I feel like I should be thanking you.”

“Thanking me? For what?” Tommy gestures to his sweater, “you’re ridiculous.”

“Maybe but look at it from my perspective, and that sweater’s not leaving much to the imagination.” Tommy lets out an appreciative hum, “but far be it from me to complain about the show.”

David raises an eyebrow at him. “Uh-huh.”

“Hey, I’m just calling it like it is.” Tommy picks up the menu for approximately two seconds then puts it down, “I know what I want. What about you?” The menu is by no means large but reading the entire thing in two seconds is impressive.

“I gonna assume you’re talking about food.”

Tommy snickers, “nice.”

“Yeah. I know what I’m ordering.”

The co-owner moseys over to the bar and pauses when he sees them. “Can’t say I was expecting this.” They both turn to him and Tommy’s face breaks into a shit-eating grin. “Damn kid, you look every bit like him with each passing day.” He turns to David, “where’s your other half? I have a bunch of people who want to challenge her record.”

“Uh, she’s on a date but I’ll pass on the memo.”

“Logan! How goes things?”

“Things were good before you showed your troublemaking mug.” As Tommy laughs Logan shakes his head, “hope you know what you’re getting into messing with the kid.”

“You’re sniffing him, aren’t you?”

“Not my fault your scent’s all over him.” Grumbling about brats with no self control, Logan disappears behind the door behind the bar.

Once the door is fully closed, David turns to Tommy. “You know Logan, like personally?”

Tommy nods, “he babysat us all the time.” Given the history between Wolverine and Magneto that seems impossible to picture. At the same time, they’re Scarlet Witch’s sons not Magneto’s and that history is less... bloody. Maybe. The fact that Wolverine (voluntarily?) watched the twins would be a surprise if the man didn’t have sixty people he became a parental figure toward and who all love him unconditionally. And not all of those people came from Xavier’s school. David never met him in the institute but after he let them eat here for free when they first literally stumbled into this place, he saw why everyone loved him. Logan’s like the cool uncle that buys you liquor and gives you a candid pep talk when you’re feeling down.

“I almost forgot to ask: How are you with spicy food?”

“Uh. I’m okay with it.”

Tommy nods, “do you have any food allergies?”

“Just shellfish.”

“Me and B have shellfish allergies too. Good to know kissing you won’t put you in the emergency room for anaphylaxis.”

David noticed Tommy’s medical alert bracelet at the bar and Billy’s at the hotel. When he first saw Tommy’s he half expected him to glow when he first took it off like Karolina did but after finding out he’s Magneto’s grandson, David figured glowing won’t happen. You know, probably.

“I take it people haven’t shown you the same thoughtfulness?”

“Never had the opportunity.”

“Well, I can’t have you in the ER for anaphylaxis either so what are you allergic to?”

“Oh I have tons of allergies but the food ones that’ll knock me on my ass even with my speed are peanuts slash legumes and shellfish.”

“Why do I get the feeling you tested that somewhat?” Tommy beams at him. “I’m not sure I wanna know the extent of your testing.”

“My heart only stopped for three seconds, that’s less time than a sneeze and barely enough time for my body to cool down. Besides, as you can see, I’m still kicking.”

“Was it scary?”

“I was six when it happened so yeah. It was scary. At the time all I was thinking of was if I stayed dead for any longer B would be my older brother.”

That’s what you thought about?”

Tommy shrugs, “I was six.” He repeats. “Being older didn’t give me any responsibilities or anything but I was still older, you know?” He sighs, “didn’t help that B was—is everyone’s favorite.” There’s an adorable crease between his eyebrows but this really isn’t the time to admire that, “but I just made shit way too heavy for a first date.”

David reaches for Tommy’s hand and squeezes, “don’t worry about it. And for the record, I like you more than your brother.”

“You’d be one of the few...” The smile Tommy gives him is too damn adorable for words, “but thanks.”

Gert stares at her reflection in the mirror. When was the last time she dyed her hair? Her roots are starting to show. Great. With a sigh, she adjusts her glasses then adds hair dye to the shopping list in her phone’s notes.

Before she can put her phone down it starts ringing with Karolina’s smiling face lighting up the screen. (Not glowing because they tested that it doesn’t photograph well.) The last time she spoke to Karolina was a few hours ago when the blonde said she was taking America dress shopping. Gert was glad she dodged a bullet there, because if she showed up Karolina would have her modelling dresses too. And they all know Karolina get a bit... obsessed with dresses.

Gert picks up the phone after the third ring, “hello?”

“Gert? Hi! I’m at that beauty supply store you go to and your hair color’s been discontinued.”


She can practically hear the face Karolina’s making, “yeah. I’m buying the last two boxes but I’m not sure what you’re gonna do after that.” Gert furrows her eyebrows at someone else’s voice in the background. Someone familiar and deadpan. Considering that’s damn near everyone in the inner circle it doesn’t narrow the options, “what? No. Anyway, do you want me to pick up some other purples and see if they mix into your usual purple?”

Sweet, thoughtful Karolina. “No, that’s alright. I’ll think of something.”

“There are only, what, four different shades of purple she can use.”

“Do you remember how pissed you were when they stopped selling that specific blood cherry red dye you put on your tips?”

Nico – because that could only be Nico Minoru if the hair comment wasn’t obvious enough – scoffs. “I managed to find a different blood red that suited me just as well. Oh. That reminds me. Maybe a different brand might have a purple close enough to the usual. That worked for me. Want us to look?”

“Sure. Why not. I appreciate it.”

“Good. We’ll see you later.”

“Bye Gert!”

“Uh, bye.” Then Karolina or Nico, probably Nico, hangs up. America has theories about Nico having more than simply platonic feelings for Karolina. However, Karolina is pretty damn dense when it comes to getting hit on.

If Karolina is getting her hair dye it doesn’t make sense to keep it on her shopping list so she erases it. While her cell is in her hands, Gert checks to see if she has any missed calls or texts. Two missed calls – one from each parent and six texts with attached images from Alex. She opens the texts and, huh, they’re of America in different dresses; the last one isn’t of a dress but America is still, by definition, dolled the hell up. Hm. Maybe she didn’t dodge a bullet meeting up with them earlier.

Objectively, America is attractive. Unfairly so. One might argue it’s because she’s an alien because ninety-eight percent of human women Gert’s encountered on this planet don’t hold a candle to the brunette’s hotness.

Less than a year into being friends with America, Gert could no longer delude herself into thinking she was the token straight friend in the group. Still, despite the curiosity (because given how overall unsatisfying her experiences with men have been, why wouldn’t she be curious about being with a woman? Or a few women?) she has yet to initiate anything with a woman. Hell, she’s been in a dry spell for a few months.

Although, considering who she regularly hangs out with a dry spell isn’t all that surprising.

With a sigh, she scrolls through her contacts. Ordinarily, she’d call up Karolina so they can bullshit together but with the blonde hanging out with Nico that’s a no-go. Gert frowns at her finger which is hovering over Karolina’s name. Shaking her head, she scrolls one name up from Karolina’s then hits call.

The phone doesn’t even ring. There’s silence then static, muffled talking, loud winds, and car horns before Gert hears Kamala’s voice. “Hey. What’s up?”

“Hey yourself. Are you free?”

“I’m as free as the dust in the solar wind. Did America move up paintball?”

“What? No? Wait. I—I didn’t hear anything about paintball.”

“You didn’t? She sent me a text a few hours ago saying we’re playing paintball Friday. Then, she said if I miss one more Vegas trip she’s gonna break into my apartment and kidnap me.”

“Sounds like something America would do and say. If you’re not busy do you wanna hang out?”

The thirty second silence is unnerving. “Karolina is busy, huh?”

“I—” Gert frowns, “yes but you and I haven’t hung out together in a while.”

Kamala chuckles, “okay, Gert. I can meet you at Smoothie World in fifteen minutes.”

“Sure. I’ll see you then.”

Sixteen minutes later, Gert sees Kamala at a table slurping away at an extra large purple smoothie. The brunette waves her over, “I ordered your usual.” She pushes the green tea smoothie in Gert’s direction. Gert thanks her then takes a sip.

Even though it looks like Kamala’s simply absently sipping from her smoothie, Gert knows better. She puts her own smoothie down and frowns. “Alright. What is it?”

“What is what?”

“The face.” Kamala blinks at her. “You have a tell, you know that?”

Kamala touches her face. “Huh. I know now.” Her head tilts to the right, “hey, isn’t that America?”

Gert turns, following the brunette’s line of sight and sure enough across the street laughing arm in arm with a woman in a sparkly gold mermaid gown is America in that pinstripe romper from the pictures. Gert is tempted to take her glasses off and clean them but refrains. “Is that—no way. That looks like Loki. Thought Loki was a dude?”

“Loki is Loki.”

“Right. That explains it.”

Kamala gives a one-shoulder shrug, “xe is a complicated individual.”

“Hm. Hey, don’t think I’ve forgotten about your face because America is paling around with Loki.”

Kamala smiles at her, “I hope you wouldn’t forget about my face since it’s in front of yours.”

“Smartass.” Gert’s phone loudly pings an alert she’s tempted to ignore but Kamala’s making that damn face again. Only this time she knows why Kamala’s making that face, “go ahead and say it.”

Kamala sips from her smoothie, “I wasn’t about to say anything.”

“Is that so? You weren’t gonna say anything about my phone?”

“Nope. Who you wanna text is your business.” She shakes her smoothie cup, “but if I was going to say something about who you text it would be what you said to say and that was to stop you from texting a certain someone you didn’t want to get back into a relationship with.”

Gert’s amazed she understood that. With a scowl, she takes her phone out of her pocket and stares at the blank screen. “I thought I’d be better than this. Growing up I told myself I’d never be like those desperate women throwing themselves at hot idiots or staying in toxic relationship because the sex was good.” She runs a hand down her face, “thankfully I haven’t reached desperation territory yet but still...” She glares at her phone for good measure, “I’m so fucking weak-willed it’s disgraceful.”

“No, I’d say it’s your uncanny attraction to assholes that’s disgraceful.”

Gert lets out a humorless laugh, “so true. Chase wasn’t as big an asshole as the rest of the guys I’ve been with.”

“But he was an asshole all the same. If you’re looking for sex with someone who isn’t an asshole or an asshole adjacent you can always take America up on her offer?”

Gert can’t help the blush that creeps up if she tried. It wasn’t even America offering the sex herself but the proposition alone—she shakes her head. Not the best place to think about it. Still... “Would you take America up on that offer? I mean, would you even have to?”

Kamala makes a seesawing motion, “I’ve done stranger things out of curiosity.”

“I love how you keep anything sex related so simplified.”

“It’s a gift.”

“You’re lucky not to be misguided by a traitorous libido.” Gert narrows her eyes as Kamala tries and fails not to smile. “I think it’s time we changed the subject.” Kamala puts a hand over her mouth and nods. “Did you hear Evan went missing?”


“That quiet grey kid who hangs around Victor?”

“I didn’t hear anything about that but America told me Quire dyed his hair pink and ambushed her and David at Red Robin a few days ago.”

“I heard that too. Also heard America regrets not taking a picture of herself throwing a drink in his face. Gotta say, I regret that too.” Gert unlocks her phone, “well, well... look what we have here.” She slides it to Kamala who leans in. Julie and Chase are taking pictures with an unknown blond who looks eerily familiar. Before Gert can comment on the blond’s familiarity Kamala beats her to it.

“Huh. He kinda looks like a pale Johnny Storm.”

Gert blinks because –oh shit, she’s right. He looks like a pale, blond, slightly less attractive Johnny Storm doppelgänger. According to the Instagram page. Fucking Instagram. The page belongs to a Franklin Storm-Richards. Oh. Looks like Johnny Storm and has Storm hyphenated in his surname? That can’t be a coincidence. Susan Storm and Reed Richards’ marriage was one of those “marriage of the year” events that turned into the “marriage of the decade” which evolved into the “marriage of the millennium.” Point was, everyone and their mother knew about that wedding. Hell superheroes and even a few supervillains showed up for it. It was weirdly nice of them to stop villainy for the entire day to let them get married in peace. They’re the most famous (or infamous depending on who you ask) interracial superhero couple, next to Storm and Thor which came years later – and everyone was admittedly jealous of both of them for finding each other because come on! Who didn’t have one or both of them on their bucket list?

If that asshole is taking pictures with hot people to make her jealous, the poor fool is gonna be sorely disappointed.

“I wonder if this was why nothing came of Julie and Karolina?”

Huh. Gert furrows her eyebrows. Anyone who’d pick Chase over Karolina has a few screws loose. “Or maybe Ms. Perfect isn’t as perfect as she seems.”

“If I didn’t know any better I’d say you were jealous.”

Gert scoffs, “jealous? Of who?”

“Hmm. I wonder.”

Eli does a double take at his phone, eyeing the image Kamala sent him. America hanging out with Loki is a hard pill to swallow even with the visual proof. Eli’s never interacted with Loki one-on-one, never interacted at all come to think of it. All he has to go on in terms of Loki interactions are the others’ opinions which, all in all, are not great.

“You’re gonna put a hole in your phone.” Eli glances up at his favorite bartender approaching. Xavin is all smiles, green hair swaying in its ponytail with each step.

“Just looking at something I’m still working on believing.”

Xavin hums, putting both elbows on the bar top. “Isn’t there an old Earth saying: ‘believe half of what you see and none of what you hear?’”

“Can’t say I’ve heard that one before but...” He turns the phone toward Xavin, “tell me what you think this looks like.”

“Hmm. Two people on a fancy date enjoying themselves?” Xavin blinks, tilting their head to the left. “I recognize the curly-haired one. America, right?” Eli nods. “She made costume night pretty popular after wearing that catsuit.” Eli’s not surprised, he saw a number of people in the bar honest to God salivate at the sight. “Not sure who her pretty friend is though.”

“I don’t know the backstory but I doubt anyone who does would use the qualifier ‘friend’ to describe their relationship.”

“Backstory or no, and even if you believe half of what you’re seeing it still looks like they’re having a good time.”

“I guess.” With a shrug, Eli pockets his phone. “Since I’ve yet to hear anything from David or Karolina I’m not gonna worry too much about it.”

“Atta boy.” Xavin licks their lips, “speaking of your cute friends, tell them to stop by whenever they’re free, alright? It’s been, what, two weeks since the gang got together here?”

“Let’s see. Vegas was last weekend so... yeah, about two weeks. I know America’s trying to get us to play paintball on Friday.”

“Yes, I’ve received my invitation.” That isn’t surprising, America’s not exactly subtle when it comes to befriending people she wants to sleep with. What is surprising is that America hasn’t slept with Xavin yet. Well, considering everyone and their mother wants a piece of Xavin, Eli shouldn’t be all that surprised. Xavin hasn’t been on this planet for long but they’ve gotten “Earth style flirting” down to an art, better than a few Earthicans Eli knows – himself included. “So what are you doing drinking alone on a Wednesday night?”

“I couldn’t stop by for the pleasure of your company?”

Xavin gives him a sly smile, “I suppose but we both know that’s bullshit.”

Eli puts a hand over his chest, “you wound me, Xavin, truly.”

Xavin hums, “I’ll bet.”

“The boss wanted me to stop by.”

“Which boss?”


“Boss isn’t here.”

“I know, he told me Jean-Paul would get me up to speed.”

“Huh. The Boss called you down here... on a Wednesday? Are you in trouble?”

“Didn’t think I was until now.”

Xavin pats him on the arm, “if you are in trouble, I will vouch for you.”

Eli raises his glass, “thanks.”

Eli occupies his time waiting for the boss scrolling through recent texts which include a bunch from Alex about clothes America bought when they went shopping this afternoon. As expected, she’s rocking each outfit she’s modelling.

“Ah. Just the attractive gentleman I was hoping to find.” Jean-Paul pats him on the back, taking the empty stool next to him. “How’s your grandpa? Julio’s been asking about him.”

“He sounded okay when he told me he was going off the grid for a while.”

“Glad to hear it. Not the going off the grid part, I meant the him being okay bit. Now, Julio has a proposition for you and your hot friend with the glasses.”

“Which one?”

“Hm? Oh. Right! I forgot you have four separate people who fit that description. Let’s see... he’s well, hot, as I said and about six feet? Maybe taller? Oh and his glasses are yellow?”


“He’s also the super smart one, right? Good with computers?”

“David is good with virtually everything.”

“Even better! A triple threat. I can respect that. Hell, I admire it. Reminds me of... me. Anyway, can you have your friend check out computers? We’re hilariously outdated which I’m sure you realized already.”

“Isn’t Julio a computer technician?”

“Yeah but I doubt he wants to fix his own computers. He co-owns a gay bar for God’s sake.”

“Uh-huh. I bet you two love playing the underestimation card, don’t you?” Jean-Paul winks at him. “And what does he need me to do?”

“You, my handsome friend, we need to help with our interior. You’re good with that. Classy, stylish.”

“Also reminds you of you?”

“Damn right. Also, also? I need some assistant managerial duties including coaching Xavin’s ridiculously nice equally adorable cousin on bartending and bouncer-ing?”

“Don’t think bouncer-ing is a thing but yeah, I’ll get on it.”

“Thanks, Eli.” Jean-Paul pats him on the back. “I’ll let you get to it.”

“Wait, you meant now?”

“Nothing major. I just want you to meet him.” He nods at Xavin who returns the nod then disappears behind the door. “I need to see the look on your face.”

“You’re kind of an asshole, boss.”

“I know.”

The second Eli takes a sip from his drink Xavin returns and they’re not alone. Thankfully, he possess a shitload of tact because he would’ve spit out said drink otherwise. Instead, he swallows his cherry soda far quicker than he would’ve liked.

Of all the things Eli anticipated seeing this was not one of them. The guy Xavin is with is breathtakingly gorgeous, almost David level of insanely attractive, at least a foot taller than Xavin with muscles for muscles and—are those dimples? How is that fair? He spares a glance at Jean-Paul who has a smug look on his face.

“This is my cousin, Dorrek.”

You’d think after sleeping with David and being his friend for over three months he’d be used to attractive people popping out of the woodwork. No such fucking luck. Eli shakes his hand, “I’m Eli. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you as well.” If Eli were a lesser man the timbre of Dorrek’s voice alone would’ve given him an erection. Well, he supposes he should be thankful he’s David’s friend then.

“Ugh. I’m never going drinking on a Wednesday again.” America kicks her shoes off then kicks the door closed tossing her purse and keys onto the floor. “I’m back. Damn, I hope we have some food.” Silence. “Libros?” She turns back to the door and picks up her stuff, then walks to David’s ajar door and looks inside. Empty. Empty?! On a Wednesday? “Where the fuck is he?” Frowning, she takes her phone out of the purse and unlocks it. 9pm exactly. No missed calls or texts – from David at least; Alex forwarded her the pictures, there’s a call from Karolina, a video from Molly, and a couple texts from Riri. Hm. Eli might know where David is—unless. No. He couldn’t’ve been...kidnapped? Could he? What did that asshole say? Evan was acting weird before the disappearance? No. David wasn’t acting any different than usual... other than the sudden attachment to his phone but—of course!

Taking a deep calming breath, America dials David’s number. After two rings he picks up, “hey.” Or maybe not him – per se. “You’re the girl that doesn’t like my brother.”

Well, that narrows it down. Surprisingly. “Hey yourself sort-of boyfriend to my best friend.”


“It’s hasn’t even been a week. How’d you even—right, superspeed.”

“He told you. Not surprising given you live together.”

“Every time we have to explain that to people I feel both our IQs dropping.”

“Every time we have to tell people B and I aren’t gonna sleep together because fucking your twin isn’t another form of masturbating I die a little inside.”

“Yeah, okay. You win. You two at the stage of your relationship where you answer each other’s phones?”

“Guess so because he told me to pick up when he saw you calling. Davey’s talking to the librarian who is giving me the evil eye.”

“Well you are talking on a phone in the library.”

“Not even in the library, not anymore. I’m outside and he’s still staring.”

“Outside a—oh, the one across the street from the strip mall? Yeah. My friend you are screwed. That guy has the biggest crush on Libros. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s cursing your existence as we speak.”

“You call Davey, Books?”

“You have met him, correct? And are you or are you not currently spending your date in a library?”

“Fair point. Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if that guy—” Tommy clicks his tongue, “no, wait a minute, there are two librarians glaring now. Shit. Everyone’s looking at me like they wanna put my head on a pike.”

“You are currently banging quite the piece my friend; embrace the jealousy.”

“I think I will and if shit gets tense I can always get us the fuck outta dodge in the blink of an eye.”

“It is smart to have an exit strategy, especially when it involves the safety of my best friend.”


Speaking of my best friend, I didn’t get to say this in Vegas but... te voy a enterrar si tanto como pensar en hacerle daño. ¿Despejado?”

“I didn’t understand all of that but I know a threat when I hear it.”

“Yeah? That’s an impressive talent.”

“I’ve been threatened a lot, in many different languages.”

“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.” Tommy laughs, “you look like the troublemaking type.”

“Like attracts like, right?”

“I think we’ll get along just fine granted you do right by him.”

“I’m not a super-brain like Davey but I got enough sense not to cross you. Especially when I‘m sure I heard you use the word bury.”

“That I did. And I’ll say it again: I’ll bury you if you hurt him but I forgot to mention I won’t do it alone.”

“Understood. Hm? Someone named—oh, it’s that hot bald guy calling. Hold on. Yeah, Davey said to pick up so I’ll have him call you back?”

“Nah. Don’t worry about it. I just wanted to make sure what—sorry who—had him out on a school night. Tell him I’ll see him at home.”

“Will do.”

“Hey, you’re invited to paintball on Friday. Your brother too. But if he tries something—”

“You’ll do something so horrible there aren’t words.”

“I like you. Talk to you later, Pecas.”

“What’s that mean?”

“You’ll find out Friday.”

Impulse—Impulsiveness runs strong in their family (both sides of it), that’s the only explanation for them walking through Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport at 2:37am PDT.

On the plane ride; the five hour, thirty-six minute plane ride. Franklin fed her with random bits of information – non-stop. No headphones and not willing to pay eight dollars for a pair meant Franklin felt the need to fill the silence with idle chatter. It’s a trait he inherited from their father, only he wasn’t just spouting off random science facts. He talked about everything under the sun like how Arizona is the sixth largest state in the US and how their mom won’t kill him because he brought her along. Little does he know she’ll kill them both for this.

The rental car place is 24 hours and Arizona’s minimum age requirement for renting a vehicle is twenty-five. Franklin’s twenty-six and he’s had his license since he was eighteen. However, everywhere in Manhattan is within walking distance so he basically got the damn thing for style points because he barely set foot in a car let alone drove anywhere. And it’s like they say – you lose it if you don’t use it.

Chase Stein from Instagram accompanied his father to meet their parents for some possible partnership Valeria tuned out. Valeria didn’t really interact with the blond but Franklin did. They took a bunch of pictures on Instagram with some girl named Julie who – according to Chase – literally flew there to hang out with him that weekend.

Apparently during that weekend Chase extended an invitation to Franklin to hang out if he ever found himself around the California-Arizona border.

Valeria was hazy on the details.

Especially their reason for visiting Arizona when Chase lives in California.

“Get your feet off the dash, Val, this is a rental.”

Valeria glares but complies. “Since you weren’t willing to shell out $16.50 on an early breakfast are we gonna stop somewhere to eat?”

“How are you hungry?”

“We’ve been on a plane for nearly six hours and I’m allergic to peanuts.”

“You’re also allergic to gluten, which was why I wasn’t about to pay $16.50 to potentially kill you.”

She rolls her eyes, “point is, I haven’t eaten. How are you not hungry? You didn’t eat anything since technically yesterday morning.” As if on cue, Franklin’s stomach growls. “That answers that.”

“Where do you wanna eat? Look it up.”

“Ooh, what’s Jack In The Box? Let’s go there. Make a right at the light.” They spent five full minutes just staring at the menu before ordering from their limited gluten free section. “After we sleep off the jetlag, what’s our next stop? Well, where?”

“I’m open to suggestions.”

“You’re gonna wing it? Did you lose my brother on the plane ride?”

“No. I’m...” He sighs, “I just wanna—”

“Not be us for a while?” He nods, “that’s why you brought me along?”

“I figured if anyone gets sick of being the kid of New York’s most famous scientists slash superheroes it’ll be my little sister.”

“We can think of this as a vacation. Our first without mom and dad.”

Franklin lifts his cup, “I’ll drink to that.” With a smile, Valeria toasts her cup with his.

“What did that drink do to you?”

Mid-stir and sitting on the rickety stools of Smoothie World, America looks up at the gold-skinned blond holding his own Smoothie World smoothie cup. He looks familiar—like Josh only he’s glowing. Literally. It’s actually a bit hard to stare. Thankfully, she’s wearing sunglasses. “It’s grainy as shit.” She gestures to the empty seat in front of her, and the blond takes the offered seat. America pulls a flask out from her jacket’s inner pocket and pours it into the cup. “Good to see you, Rubio. Digging the shine.”

“Right. You’ve never... seen me like this.” The blond rubs the back of his neck, “talking to Karolina made me wanna be... me more, you know?”

America nods. “Glad you’re out here being you. The universe needs more of that. Speaking of Iris, she hasn’t been glowing for the past two days because her damn parents are helicoptering.”

“Lucky for me my parents all but gave up on me when my powers manifested.”

“You got that smoking hot mom figure instead and that’s a trade-up if I’ve ever seen one.”

Josh laughs, “you would say that.” He plays with the straw of his smoothie cup, “have... have you talked to Alani recently?”

“About your threeway? I...” America pulls out a notepad and pen from her jacket pocket, “have a list actually.”

“When did you talk to Alani?”

“An hour ago.”

“And you made a list?”

“Do you want my help or not?”

Josh holds up his hands placatingly. “I want it.”

“My first option was Violeta. She said she’s been in a ‘dry spell?’ Not sure what that means—”

“For someone who has sex regularly you wouldn’t know what a dry spell is.”

“That’s what it is? Not having sex? But not like Cómic, right? Where you’re not interested?”


America nods, “if she’d get her head out of her ass she’d get laid regularly but that’s a conversation for another day.”

“I’ll bet.”

America crosses something out on her notepad. “Joyas?”

“Jewel—ah. The blonde from Red Robin? I thought she was dating Gert’s ex? They have pictures together on Instagram.”

“Gert’s—you mean that ass who hit on Iris when he and Violeta were dating?” Josh nods then winces as America cracks her knuckles. “If I ever catch a glimpse of him—”

“You might get your chance. California’s not far, plus if he is with Julie then he’ll probably come out here.”

America clicks her tongue, crossing something out on her notepad – a bit angrier than the first time. “Let’s move on? Thinking about that guy is just making me wanna kick open a portal to give that tool a well-deserved asskicking.”

“It’s kinda making me wanna kick his ass too, and I’ve never met him.”

America laughs, “he does have that effect. Hey, let me ask you something? You and Libros roomed together for, like, the entire time you two were there—”

Josh sighs, “oh no. I know what you’re gonna ask.” America leers at him, and he’s surprised she isn’t waggling her eyebrows. “Yes. We—we messed around.”

“I knew it!”

“He didn’t tell you?”

“I never asked. I knew he argue-fucked Chuckles but I wasn’t sure if he was sleeping with you too.”

Technically, we never... you know.”

Personally, I don’t know and I prefer to keep it that way.” America taps her pen against the notepad, “I was about to suggest Libros but I forgot he has Pecas now.”

“Wait. Sooraya told me David has a boyfriend but I didn’t think you gave him a nickname already! Last I heard it hasn’t even been a week since they got together! I didn’t get to be called Rubio until a month of us knowing each other.”

“In my defense, I only saw you sporadically for that month but I was calling you Rubio before I said it to your face. Anyway, I spoke to him on the phone yesterday and he seems like cool people.”

Josh frowns, “I don’t wanna be that guy but we all once thought Quentin Quire seemed like cool people, then he left us to die.”

“Yeah, our asshat detectors were seriously malfunctioning. Fortunately, mine’s been recalibrated and Pecas doesn’t ping selfish prick.” America sighs, “neither does his telepathic twin.”

“You’re actually saying something neutral about a telepath?”

“I know they never sat right with me but this one? I fucking felt the overprotectiveness surging outta him and I’m far from empathic.”

“Remember what you told me, America: No one is immune to smooth-talking jackasses.”

“Damn, Rubio. What happened to you trusting my judgment?”

“I trust you explicitly, but this? It’s bigger than my trust in you.”

“No se preocupe. I have – what do you call it? – contingency plan. Last resorta sorta thing. If this telepath turns out to be another shitstain willing to sacrifice us for his own gain—”

Josh shakes his head, “if you’re asking what I think you’re asking—”

“You’re the only one I can ask to do this, Rubio. Like literally.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that? Especially if David is sleeping with a twin. I’d rather not have David hating me forever because his boyfriend dumped him due to us—me—killing his twin. Even in self-defense.”


“But, uh, speaking about David’s partner. You actually approve of him? We’re cruising into uncharted territory.”

“I reserve full judgment until I actually have a face-to-face alone with him but you didn’t see the face Libros made at his phone when they were texting. He always had trouble keeping pace with people, fucking a speedster throws that need out the window.”

“Huh. Another speedster? Can’t say I’m all that surprised. He and Noriko got along pretty well. Still do, in fact. Not to mention he had crushes on both Quicksilver and Northstar.”

“I know about Quicksilver but who the hell is Northstar?”

“The co-owner of ShootingStar. Jean-Paul, uh I think he took his husband’s surname so it’s Jinadu now.”

“You’re not talking about Julio, right?” Josh shakes his head, “so it must be the one with the floofy hair. Never knew his name.”

“He taught us at the institute and he was the first openly gay X-Men so our favorite newly realized bisexual was super into that. Plus, you know, David must have a speed kink.”

“Given how fast he thinks plus his powers that’s not at all a stretch.”

“True. I hated rooming with David at first because I would look at him and think there’s no reason for one person to be so damn handsome. Then he got even more attractive with age.”

“He is like the finest wine.”

“They—well, humans—people from Earth rather, say two attractive people have a really, really low chance of making a cute baby. David is the exception. It was difficult maintaining a conversation with his parents when they visited.”

“Oh! On the subject of pretty people with pretty relatives? Rey.”

“Oh God. You want me to have a threesome with Eli? Are you trying to get Alani to break up with me? Eli’s as hot as David, plus he’s... so authoritative.”

America gives him a strange look. “You’ve thought about sleeping with him before?”

“Not since Alani and I brought up this threesome thing, but I mean Eli was definitely a top choice. But he might be too hot, you know?”

“You two have been together for over five years, right? I’m sure a couple nights in bed with a hottie who is also a friend won’t change up your relationship. Ah! But Gafas might be a better option. He has threeways on an almost regular basis.”



“You mean like—”

America leans over and covers his mouth, “yeah, we don’t talk about that.” Josh nods and America releases his mouth. “There’s also Loki if you wanna be super adventurous.”

“Loki, huh? Yeah, I guess. Gert said she saw you two together?”

“We went to an opera. It was violent. We’re doing it again on Saturday but xe’s trying to make it a double date with Libros and Pecas. Also, not sure who spilled the peas—”



“It’s spilled the beans.”

“Okay. Regardless of what was spilled, someone must’ve told Loki about the magical telepathic twin because xe’s super interested in setting up a meeting.”

“The twin is magical and telepathic? Seems exhausting.”

“I only saw him for like a half hour but he seems like a dramatic bitch.”

“You love dramatic bitches. You get along great with Julian.”

“True. It is a guilty pleasure.”

No one’s sure when America started getting them together for weekend ventures but no one can find it in their hearts to complain. It gets them away from their shitty jobs for hours, occasionally days, plus they can hang out together.

Their group started out with just the seven of them: him, America, David, Kamala, Gert, Karolina, and Nico. Then it expanded as the years went on. The majority of them are associates of David’s when he was at the institute. Given his charm and good looks, Alex isn’t surprised a horde followed him across the US to Arizona. No one ever seems to wanna talk about what went down in the institute, but Alex can guess it wasn’t good and not only because of the pinched expression David gets whenever Charles Xavier’s name is brought up. Not just David either, all of them.

Fully-human Alex grew up with Karolina and knew her well before she knew she glowed without her medical alert bracelet. It sucks that he wasn’t there to comfort her when she found out she wasn’t human, when they’ve confided in each other about everything else growing up. In many ways their relationship is a parallel to America and David’s insurmountable friendship. Actually, since he and Karolina have known each other for over twenty years, almost thrice as many years as David and America, their friendship is the original America and David combo.

It’s that deep, unflappable friendship that had them walking down 7th Ave catching Pokémon. They actually downloaded the app months after everyone got sick of it so he and Karolina are still very much obsessed with it.

They only stopped because America called and cursed them both out for missing paintball.

Meeting up at ShootingStar was a newly minted tradition Alex is certain only started because Eli is an assistant manager here. He doesn’t get them free or discounted drinks but Julio lets them whip up all the snacks they can eat provided they share with his other customers. And since they take up about a third of the bar, it’s not a difficult task.

America, Eli—well Eli is working so that doesn’t count, Kamala, an unfamiliar blonde with multi-colored streaks in her hair, another unfamiliar woman with a pink hijab, Sooraya, and Gert are at the table when he and Karolina arrive. The big surprise is David’s absence.

“So the twins didn’t show up either?” Alex asks as he sits down.

America empties her glass in one fluid motion then pours herself another, “nope, but Rubio brought a friend and she was interested in meeting Iris.”

“Let me guess, you kept her busy? Made sure she wasn’t too disappointed in not meeting me?” America wordlessly takes a sip from her drink. “I should’ve known. You’re not gonna pass up the chance to talk to a single girl.”

“Like you do?” Karolina scoffs. “That’s not exactly a no.”

“Hey, who is Rubio?” Alex asks.

“Josh Foley.” Sooraya replies, “he came from the institute with us.”

“Ah. The literal golden boy, right?” Sooraya nods.

“Sorry I’m late.” Everyone looks up as Nico arrives, taking the empty seat on America’s other side. She looks around and frowns, “huh. Thought David would be here.”

“That asshole boss of his called him in on his off day. I was already in a bad mood before people—” She glares at Alex and Karolina, “didn’t show up.”

“I heard David’s boyfriend didn’t show up either but I can hardly blame him since David wasn’t there.”

“What’s your excuse?”

“I forgot?” Nico puts a turquoise strand of hair behind her left ear, “it was a bit last minute compared to your usual planning.”

“You mean the usual planning you also didn’t show up for?”

“Walked right into that one.” With a sigh, Nico eyes Gert from across the table. “Huh. I see you didn’t dye your hair.”

Gert glares at her. “I loved that color.” The blonde says, “shame they discountinued Purple Haze. I used it all the time.”

“It’s Zoe, right?” The blonde nods, “and Nakia? The friends that came all the way from Jersey City to visit?” Kamala nods cheerfully, “are they gonna stay with us?”

“Beats staying at a hotel.”

Wait. Wait.” Gert looks between them, “you two live together!?”

“You seriously didn’t know?” America asks, sipping from her drink.

“Does it sound like I knew they lived together?! I figured Nico lived in a batcave like habitat with the rest of her kind. Or, you know, in Salem?”

“Cute. As opposed to the rock you’re living under?”

America elbows Nico, “jugar agradable, Garras.”

Nico rolls her eyes with a sigh, “fine.”

“How are you all doing this evening?” Everyone looks up at the green-haired greek god looming over their table with a smile that actually has its own background music. Gert actually does a spit-take into the table (thankfully away from the food) while the others simply gape. The individual standing before them isn’t as pretty as David or Eli or even Xavin but it’s close.

As America lives with David and has to look at his beautiful face daily, she’s immune to pretty boys and their sunshine smiles. (Though him popping up out of nowhere did surprise her.) “Are you new?” She asks.

“Hm? Yes. I just started yesterday, I’m Dorrek. My boss said I should introduce myself to Elijah’s group.”

“Well let’s go around the table. I’m Alex.” He points to himself, “this is Karolina, America, Nico, Kamala, Zoe, Nakia, Gert, and Sooraya.” They wave as Alex points to them. “David, Josh, Noriko, and—”

“We gotta stop using blue paint, I couldn’t tell what was paint from my dye.” As if summoned, Noriko and Victor pop up. “Oh.” She blinks at the employee. “Hi.” She extends a hand, “Noriko, this is Victor.” Victor shakes his hand next. Noriko looks around, “where’s David? He wasn’t in paintball either.”

“He and Rubio are at work, that’s why they missed paintball. I thought you still had a week left in New York?”

“As far as they know, I’m still there. I just needed a night away from all that crap.” Victor pulls up a chair between Sooraya and Alex. “I need drinks. Anyone else need a drink... or two?”

“Why don’t I accompany you?” Noriko nods dumbly then follows Dorrek to the bar. Everyone minus America looks over until they disappear from sight.

Damn.” Everyone turns to America who has a huge grin on her face, “I wish Libros was here to see this. You guys are over here just salivating at the new guy.”

“I’m interested in his workout regiment.” Karolina muses and Kamala nods in agreement.

Gert does a double take. “Wait. What!? I’m sorry? That’s why you two were staring?”

“We’ve been trying to increase our muscle mass.” Kamala replies. “I don’t wanna be that bulky but I’d like some definition.”

Gert shakes her head, “I can’t believe I—you know what? Never mind. I do believe it. What other reason is there for you two to stare at a hot guy?” Alex holds up a hand, “that’s sarcasm, Alex.”

“You sure?”

Gert rolls her eyes. “I’m sure Dorrek will be interested in telling you how he got so muscular... and I’d like to be there when he does. Hopefully, he’ll give you a demonstration that doesn’t require him to wear a shirt.”

“Ooh. If that’s true I wanna be there as well.” Victor adds.

Nico raises a hand, “yeah, I third that notion.”

Zoe laughs, “oh my gosh, why would his explanation require him to go topless?”

“Why shouldn’t it?” Gert replies and Zoe shakes her head.

Noriko and Dorrek return but with Xavin. The table collectively perks up when Xavin shows up. “I trust you have met my cousin?”

“No wonder he’s so pretty.” Noriko gasps.

“Where is David?”

“Of course you’d ask about him.” Alex says shaking his head, “he’s at work.”

Xavin frowns, “I was looking forward to seeing him.”

“Libros has a boyfriend now.” America replies, taking a buffalo wing from the pile.

“Does he? Have you met him?” America, Gert, and Karolina nod. Alex makes a seesawing motion and the others shake their heads. “I am looking forward to meeting him.”

“Yeah? People are usually pissed or indifferent about someone they like being taken off the market.”

Xavin taps their chin, “that is common in Earth customs then?”

“Unfortunately.” Gert replies with a sigh, “it’s called jealousy and it’s a prickly bitch.”

“But your culture practices polyamory, does it not?”

Gert makes a face. “That’s kind of an acquired taste. Something the likes of Alex and America enjoy, as well as David before he got the boyfriend.”

“Why decide?” Alex says with a shrug, “everybody gets something out of it.” America high-fives him. “And anyway, how do you guys know David’s still not doing it? He could have a boyfriend and still be polyamorous. If I’m saying that word correctly. His boyfriend is a speedster so if anyone would get polyamory, it’s him.”

“Yeah. David and I were in a polyamorous relationship.”

Everyone looks at Noriko, “the entire time?” Gert asks.

“Yeah. We were boyfriend and girlfriend but still had, you know, other people we were sleeping with. Julian was a prickly bitch who mellowed considerably because of me and David—”

“You both?” Noriko nods, and Victor shakes his head. “Nobody tells me anything! I knew he and Josh were messing around because, you know, roommates and who in their right mind would keep their hands off that masterpiece? But David and Julian?” Victor frowns, “they were always argu—ah. Yeah, I get it now. How did it take me this long to realize it? Julian was always harder on David than the rest of us.”

“It could’ve been jealousy?” Sooraya begins. “David had the whole damn school pining over him and the fact that he was bisexual meant everyone thought they had a shot.”

“I’m surprised we never had a school wide orgy.” Noriko muses.

“Hope for an orgy aside. Your institute was basically a 90’s rom-com that thankfully wasn’t homophobic?” Sooraya and Noriko nod. “Kinda makes me wish I was a mutant.” Alex says, picking up his drink.

Victor sighs. “Makes me wish I was closer with David if he was just sleeping with all his close friends.”

Sooraya hums, “yeah, you missed out on plenty.”

“Seriously? You too!?” Victor massages his forehead. “I’ll really lose it if you guys tell me David and Quentin slept together.”

Noriko scoffs. “Eww. No. Quentin was so far up Evan’s ass he couldn’t see sunlight. And weren’t you sleeping with Quentin?”

“Eww. No. I was sleeping with Evan, which might be why Quentin hated me so much more than he hated you guys.”

“I think Evan and Quentin did sleep together.” Sooraya says, “not often but I do think it happened. Idie as well.”

Victor does a double take. “Quentin and Idie?” Sooraya nods. “How?”

“Quentin could be charming—”

“When he wasn’t being a spiteful asshole.” Noriko finishes, “then again, the same could be said of Julian.”

Xavin grins. “This institute sounds like fun.”

“We made it fun.” Noriko says with a lazy grin, “mostly because David was as smart as he was sexy and figured out the best escape routes with ease.”

“Plus...” Victor adds, “all the X-Men were banging each other on a regular basis they barely paid attention to their charges once nightfall hit.”

“Did you guys wear the matching uniforms?” Alex asks.

“Only when training, which was all the damn time.” Sooraya, Noriko, and Victor reply with a sigh.

America lifts her glass, “a toast. To the Manhattan Institute Of Carefree Polyamory! It’s the reason we’re all friends.”

“To the institute!” The others cheer.