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Best Two out of Three

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“You may not know it to look at me,” Poppa said, cracking his knuckles. “But it wasn’t just speed I was known for in my younger days.”

He didn’t miss the way the armaments truck gave him an appraising look from head to wheels. It was difficult to track the movement of his eyes from behind those shades, but the near-imperceptible bob of his head told Poppa loud and clear that he was being checked out. And judging by the tiny smile that appeared, the truck liked what he saw. Hey, Poppa knew he was a looker for his age.

“I’m not big on speed,” the truck said. He flexed his massive arms and cocked his head to the side with a resounding crack.

“I could tell. A nice big fellow like you likes strength, doesn’t he?”

The truck’s rumble of agreement was deep. Once again, that tiny bob of the head. Poppa would have flexed if he wasn’t trying to play it cool. Judging from the way the truck rolled his shoulders, he was doing the same. Playing it cool, that was.

Poppa slipped into the seat, planting his elbow on the table. It’d been way too long since he’d done this. The freight trucks here were too soft for him. Only Belle matched him, and she hadn’t come around for a while, so Poppa had to find his fun elsewhere.

Enter the electric and his entourage. Oh, the electric looked flashy and fast. But he looked like he’d fold like a leaf under 200 tonnes of pure steam locomotive power. Ah, but his armaments truck…

The truck in question took the opposite seat, his tiny smile growing into something cheekier and fiercer as he planted his own elbow on the table. Armoured exterior plating. Limbs the size of railway guns. Shades dark as coal. Poppa let out a lot whistle as he clasped hands with the truck. It was definitely getting steamier in here.

The truck noticed, tightening his grip around the old steamer’s hand. “I’ll go gentle on you,” Poppa smirked.

The armaments truck smirked back. “It’s not my first time.”

A symphony of straining, sweating and groaning followed. Muscles quivered and the table creaked ominously under the back-and-forth motions. It was fire and electricity and raw power until Poppa ended up on top, slamming the truck’s hand to the table with a mighty groan of satisfaction.

Poppa leaned back in his chair, grinning, blowing out a long puff of steam. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

The truck slumped over the table, panting, cradling his arm, a slightly dazed and awed look on his face. “I don’t think anyone’s ever touched me like that. That was amazing.” He pulled off his dark shades and Poppa raised an appreciative eyebrow at the sight of those baby-blue eyes. “Best two out of three?”

“I thought you’d never ask.” Poppa swept everything off the table, and a second round of wrestling began.

***

Minutes later a long, deafening whistle resounded across the train yard.

Rusty, who was lounging on a siding with Pearl in between bouts of shunting duty, suddenly clasped his hands over his ears.

He knew that whistle. He knew that whistle way too well. He really wished he didn’t know that whistle.

Pearl wisely patted his arm. “Hey, older engines are allowed to have fun too.”

Electra, two tracks away with his Components (with a very conspicuously absent Krupp), rolled his eyes with a sharp crackle of electricity as he too heard the loud, satisfied whistle.

“Ah,” Purse said airily. “So that’s where he is.”

“I swear to Starlight, Krupp,” Electra muttered. “If you’re going to roll around with steamers again, have the decency to shower before coming home this time.”