Chapter 1: Someone Threw Out the Trash
He ended his shift every day doing the same thing -- more out of garnering some additional good will than out of actually caring whether or not the trash was taken out for the next crew. He’d rather not have a purposeful mess in the backroom like the last time he’d left a half empty trashbag for the midnight shift.
Throwing on a baseball cap and slipping into his jacket, Tucker readied for another cold walk home when Kai looked him over. She was still in her apron and visor, a little bit of ketchup caught on her blouse. She threw an accusatory finger his way.
“You always get so dressed up for the trash, Tucker?” she asked, grin all teeth.
“I’m just going to walk my way out through the alley,” Tucker said with a wave of his hand. He grabbed onto the ties of the bag and hoisted it over his shoulder. “Ugh. I hate this thing.” He looked back to his coworker. “Anyway, my shift’s done, the babysitter’s going to have a fucking fit -- as usual -- they couldn’t pay me to come back inside once I’m out that door.”
“Oh, they could and you would,” she said with a flippant wave. “I’ll see you tomorrow, after all! So, ha, joke’s on you.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Tucker sighed on his way out the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow, too.”
His body was already groaning in protest at the bitter cold just outside the restaurant door. He glared out at the gray skies and wondered a little idly how hot Church was allowing Junior to turn up the heater.
“Man,” he groaned as he stopped just by the dumpster. “I’ll be lucky if those two don’t burn the goddamn apartment down.”
Without even having to look at the dumpster, Tucker flipped the lid with his elbow and slung the bag of trash from his shoulder into the bin with a hefty grunt. He was already slamming the lid shut again when he realized that the groaning whine was not from him.
Tucker blinked, staring at the dumpster.
It didn’t seem any different from usual.
Exhaling thickly from his nose, Tucker looked around the alley to check if anyone was around to pull one over on him. Then he gave a stiff kick to the metal bin.
The groan picked up again.
“Oh, holy shit,” Tucker muttered, quickly lunging forward and throwing the lid open. His eyes widened as he looked beneath the trash he had just thrown in and saw a brightly glad man just beneath.
The guy seemed fairly out of it -- sunk into the available trash enough that it was almost hard for Tucker to make out the large gashes and rips across his garish uniform and the smattering of blood out from those. His face was at least halfway obscured by some kind of foreign visor which, for Tucker, submitted the fact that this guy was one of them.
“Oh, fucking hell,” Tucker groaned, shaking his head. “I don’t want to mess with superheroes. I just got my insurance claim back on the last apartment.”
He shut the lid and began to walk away from the dumpster. He had a kid and two other annoyances waiting on him a block away to get concerned with.
Except he came to a stop after just a few steps when he could hear the tangy clanging of the asshole knocking on the inside of the dumpster.
“Fuck me,” Tucker groaned, sluggishly turning back to the dumpster and walking back.
“At least... leave lid... up,” the bastard was groaning, muffled by the lid.
Tucker opened the lid and glared at the man suspiciously.
This time, the guy seemed at least coherent enough to turn his head toward Tucker more this time.
“Are you going to die after I drag your skanky ass all the way home?” Tucker asked seriously. “I don’t feel like dealing with a dead superhero vigil under my window or something. The fire escape is too rusty to use to get out of my apartment.”
The vigilante stared at him, almost as if he was bewildered, but didn’t have time to answer before Tucker was climbing into the dumpster with him.
“Your kindness... is... appreciated, citizen,” the man muttered as Tuckered knelt beside him and began to pull one of the vigilante’s arms over his shoulders.
“Oh, fucking great, one of the cornballs,” Tucker groaned.
“Your home... sounds like... has safety hazards,” the man huffed against Tucker’s neck as they began to ease over the edge of the dumpster.
“What? You mean my fire escape?” Tucker asked, ignoring how the man released a feeble moan with the jarring of them hitting the pavement. “Dude, don’t even start with safety talks. How often does someone -- someone not a jackass in a leotard, by the way -- actually use those things?”
“Not... leotard,” he continued mumbling. “Kevlar.”
“No shit? You still look like you went through a blender,” Tucker said, looking curiously over the vigilante. “I mean... literally. Holy shit, dude. Is this one of those really elaborate death traps they have on the news every now and then? Like is Main Street going to be blocked because your dumbass arch nemesis constructed a skyscraper sized blender for you?”
“No,” he replied, voice sounding strained. “Please... no ambulance.”
“If I was smart I’d call an ambulance,” Tucker responded as they rounded to the backstreet. “Fortunately for you, your blended behind got you all the way to Blood Gulch, where there’s not a whole lot of smart to go around.”
The man made an appreciative hum as he was half drug.
“Have... name, citizen?” he asked weakly.
“Lavernius Tucker,” Tucker said back. “Everyone calls me Tucker.”
“Thank you, Lavernius?”
“Are your ears not working? I said everyone calls me Tucker.”
The man didn’t respond initially. He then turned and looked intently at Tucker. “I... have... concussion.”
“No shit,” Tucker laughed. “C’mon, let’s get you inside, Oscar the Grouch.”
Chapter 2: Bit of a Jerk
I’m just wowed and amazed at the response to this fic. I’m so glad it’s as enjoyable for everyone else as it is for me writing it!
Thanks for the feedback to @ephemeraltea, @ashleystlawrence, @secretlystephaniebrown, JjThereforeIAm, bangles25, BlodwenDobh, @goodluckdetective, Yin, and Beowulfs_Pen on AO3 and tumblr!
The apartment complex was rundown and partially unusable, as would be expected from a neighborhood in the city so terrible it received a monicker like Blood Gulch.
But Tucker supposed it was home all the same.
Not that it helped his mood any when, after wasting so much time dragging the mangled superhero over the sidewalks, he opened the first floor and was met with the ugly OUT OF ORDER sign plastered across the elevator.
“Son of a bitch,” he groaned. Tucker glared toward his shoulder where the increasingly silent vigilante was all but strewn across him. “You are giving me such a work out today, dude.”
The man let out a low mumble, though Tucker couldn’t tell if they were actually meant to be words or not.
“Uh-huh, yeah. Try that again later,” Tucker grunted as began hoisting the man up each step. “I wish that kevlar didn’t weigh so damn much. I also wish that four flights wasn’t such a drag...”
There were many things that Tucker could think to list off at that point that were pretty unfair in life at that moment, as any act of kindness wasn’t all that real until it was properly complained about, but he actually found that his floor and the subsequent apartment were within sight.
“I’m sooo gonna kick Doc’s scrawny ass next time I see him,” Tucker moaned as he got closer to the door. “Shitty landlord can’t even get a goddamn elevator to stay functional for a full week.”
Stopping at the door, Tucker sighed with relief and lifted his freer arm to knock. His eyes narrowed as he realized that the muffled noise of a television was from his door. “Oh, goddammit, Church! Open up!”
“Use your key!” his friend and babysitter snapped back from the other side.
“My hands are full, asshole! So just open the goddamn door already!” Tucker yelled back.
There was a few moments where the sound of the television just seemed to grow louder. Then nothing.
Tucker gritted his teeth and brought his fist down on the door again. “Church!”
Without a second’s hesitation, the door flew open and the ever-disgruntled man glared back at him. “What could your hands possibly be... full... with...”
Church stared at the half-dead man Tucker was attempting to carry in. He was doing his common Church thing where his body rested stock still as his brain rebooted, which was why Tucker figured it was best to just push on through.
Instead of that working, however, Church stood his ground and reached up to shove Tucker’s shoulder a bit more outside the door.
“What?” Tucker asked thinly.
“What the fuck is that?” Church asked critically, pointing a finger toward Wash.
“The restaurant had some leftovers, thought I’d share,” Tucker responded. “Seriously, dude, move out of the way, I’m already sore from carrying this guy. I need to lay him down.”
Face growing red in that very Church way, Church shook his head and pointed even more exaggeratedly toward the vigilante. “Tucker! You picked up a superhero! Off the street!”
“Actually, I got a good deal and picked this one up from a dumpster,” Tucker replied before throwing his head back. “Church! Let me in my own apartment, jesus christ.”
“Out of a dumpster!?” Church’s voice cracked. “Tucker, superheroes like this bum are no good! How many times have I told you that superheroes are no good? This is one of those situations. Especially if you pulled him out of trash!”
Tucker rolled his eyes. “Oh, please. Your stupid anti-hero horseshit is because you’re petty about the stupid personal thing. But, yeah, y’know, you’re right. Next time I save someone I’ll be sure to check if they recycle.”
Having had enough, Tucker shoved past Church completely and headed toward the sofa.
Church was quickly on his heels.
“You know these guys attract nothing but trouble! What about Junior? Are you even thinking about your son here?”
As soon as Tucker heaved the bloody hero onto his couch, he spun around on his heels and glared intently at his friend. “What kind of stupid question is that? You know I’m always thinking of Junior. Always.”
With one wave to the additional company on the sofa, Church seemed to think he was more than making his point.
“Superheroes are bad news, dude! Listen to me. I would know,” Church reminded Tucker darkly.
“You have to get over the Tex thing,” Tucker snapped back as he headed toward the bathroom. “We still have a first aid kit, right?”
“I wouldn’t know. I don’t need that kind of thing anymore. Because of the body thing,” Church reminded Tucker, following him step-in-step. “Which, as I may remind you, had to do with--”
Tucker paused exaggeratedly, looking to Church with feigned, enlarged eyes. “Oh, wait! Is it superheroes, or did the story change this time around?”
“You’re being unreasonable. I’m bringing up excellent points,” Church sniffed, hands on his hips. “But, I mean, continue being an asshole by all means. It’s not like I’m your number one babysitter or something.”
“You’re number two,” Tucker corrected, grabbing the kit from the top of the cabinet and turning back to the room.
“What? Behind who!? Is it Caboose? Because you’re full of shit if it’s Caboose--”
“I actually trust Kai over you,” Tucker said, dropping to his knees next to the sofa and trying to take in all of the hero’s injuries. It was nearly impossible to figure out what required the most attention first.
“The chick you work with?” Church asked skeptically. “The one who thinks he’s your dog?”
Tucker pursed his lips. “I think I need to take his shirt off, but I don’t know how,” he said out loud.
“Ha, well have fun with that,” Church snorted, he waved as he headed toward the door.
Taken a bit by surprise, Tucker looked up baffled. “Are you actually leaving me alone to do this!?” Tucker demanded.
“Hell, I’m definitely not going to be a part of you saving the dude,” Church said with a flippant wave. “Instead, I might sign up for one of the super villain game clubs. What else could these people possibly want just from me? Not like any of them helped me.”
Glaring even after the door had shut, Tucker shook his head.
“What a prick,” he sighed, grabbing some of the antiseptic wipes from the first-aid kit and beginning to look over the top layer of the kevlar to figure out where to get it off in order to start cleaning wounds. “Just so you know, dude, it’s not just you. Church hates everything. And you can’t listen to him because, literally, living to avoid things Church doesn’t like is impossible. You’d kill yourself just trying.”
He pulled on one of the layers of the kevlar, surprised as it followed one of the tears for the gashes rather easily, and then continued on with examining the bruising and bleeding beneath.
“God, what happened to you?” Tucker wondered out loud.
He searched the hero’s face for some sort of reaction only to get nothing -- which in itself was probably not a good sign -- when he heard the creek of the bedroom door.
Tucker looked over his shoulder quickly, feeling a tinge of guilt as his son stood in the doorway, rubbing at his eyes and pulling at the oversized night shirt he was trying to sleep in for the night.
“Oh, man, Junior -- hey, I’m sorry if I woke you up, buddy!” Tucker called out quickly. “Your Uncle Church was being a real shithead, though, so I didn’t have a lot of choice but to meet him at his level.”
Junior took in a deep breath, his mandibles reverberating slightly at the motion as his alien body straightened and leaned back some, adding a few inches of height. His eyes widened some as he continued to stretch and Tucker realized his son was trying to look over him to see who was on the couch.
Looking from the vigilante back to his son, Tucker began to rub at his neck. “Hey, I know this looks weird and stuff, but I’m actually trying to help out this dude. I think he’s one of those real life superheroes -- like on the news all the time. Isn’t that neat?” he asked with a small smirk.
At first, Junior didn’t seem to move from his spot, but soon he threw his hands over his mouth and released a cooing, “BLARGH! HONK!”
“Whoa, buddy, slow down a bit,” Tucker said, scratching at his head. “Now what’re you saying?”
But Tucker was already racing into the bedroom and speeding back out, arms filled with papers and comic books. He raced to Tucker’s side and dropped down to his knees, spilling the comics and artwork all across both of their laps.
“Yeah, I know, I think he’s like one of your superheroes, too, dude,” Tucker responded.
Junior shook his head fiercely before honking and pointing one of hi four fingered hands toward a specific issue of one of the superhero teams Junior loved to read the most -- the Freelancers.
Tucker frowned a bit, peering intently at the team lined up on the cover and noticed that his son’s finger seemed to be specifically on the guy to the far right. Who, Tucker admitted, did seem awfully similar to their present company.
Looking to the team, then to the man bleeding on the couch, then back, Tucker scratched at his head.
“Well, I’ll give you this, buddy, he does look pretty similar,” Tucker responded. “But that guy on the cover’s uniform is all black and yellow, and this guy is, like, blue and yellow and gray. And I think superhero colors are important or something. They’re only supposed to stick to certain costumes and colors or else they get in trouble with the person’s look they stole. Like a union gig.”
Junior frowned, setting his chins on the edge of the couch before looking sadly back at Tucker. “Blargh.”
“No, I agree, it would be cool,” Tucker said, running a hand over Junior’s head. “It’s just... the Freelancers aren’t around anymore, little guy. Haven’t been for a while. I don’t think any of them made it in the Invasion.”
He then grabbed a wash cloth and began to work on the gashes over the superhero’s body. “And if I don’t do something for this guy, he’s not gonna be around much longer either.”
Junior grew quiet, watching Tucker intently, before sitting back.
“Giving me an audience?” Tucker laughed. “Alright, let’s save us a superhero.”
Chapter 3: Tough Love
I’m just wowed and amazed at the response to this fic. I’m so glad it’s as enjoyable for everyone else as it is for me writing it!
Thanks for the feedback to @toaradical, @secretlystephaniebrown, Yin, That_Crazy_Anime_Shipper, bangles25, JjThereforeIAm, Two Four None Ten, Alkeni, @ashleystlawrence, @hayleycreagine, and skyhawk424 on AO3 and tumblr!
Growing up and living in a place like Blood Gulch had made it impossible for Tucker to not learn how to patch up wounds and care for injuries on its own, but the company he kept and giving birth to an alien that required quarts of blood to drink for the first several hours of life had made Lavernius Tucker pretty much a surgeon by comparison.
Not that many surgeons would have approved of him tearing gauze with his teeth or blotting at open wounds with a ratty t-shirt that Caboose had probably left at some point.
He’d blame it on Church later if Caboose bothered to ask about it.
Junior adjusted his position more than a few times depending on what part of the half-dead superhero that Tucker was toiling away on. His head had rested easily enough on the couch cushion by the hero’s legs but that soon gave way to sprawling across Tucker’s lap, then to hanging off of Tucker’s back, elongated neck peering over the top of Tucker’s head.
Tucker didn’t mind. He was more than a little used to his son’s antics.
“I think he’s going to look way better than he did when I found him in the dumpster,” Tucker announced after spitting out some strands of gauze. He looked to Junior’s blinking eyes and shrugged slightly. “Not that it would take much. He was pretty banged up.”
“Bow chicka honk honk!”
Tucker couldn’t hold in his snort, reaching up just in time to keep his glasses from slipping down his nose.
“Good one, buddy,” he said proudly before rubbing his son’s head. He then glanced toward the clock. “Dude, it is sooooo past your bedtime. What kind of parent am I?”
“Oh, right, fucking awesome parent who brings you home a real-deal superhero,” Tucker amended. He looked over the significantly paled hero then pulled at his own ear a little bashfully. “Man. I wonder if he’s kinda shitty? Like. What are the chances that every hero is awesome at what they do?”
Junior gave Tucker and incredulous look, a purr coming from his expanding mandibles before he flopped over toward the couch and hugged the hero’s legs at the knee. He then looked puppishly toward his father.
“Oh, stop, we can’t keep him,” Tucker said, leaning in to check on the ice pack on the man’s forehead. He slowly removed it when he realized it was basically mushed. “Remember when Caboose found a baby bird with a broken wing? And we said after its wing was better we were gonna let it go because it’d be happier flying around than staying in Caboose’s apartment forever?”
A terrified look grew in Junior’s eyes.
“That’s right, the bird died so we didn’t have to worry about all that technical crap like letting it go. But if it had we would’ve let it go,” Tucker continued before pointing toward the kitchenette. “Junior, put this pack in the ice box and grab me one of the steaks. We’ll just use that to ice him down.”
Junior hesitated before scrambling forward to do just that.
Once his son left, Tucker allowed his frown to set more heavily on his features and scooted closer to the couch. The guy wasn’t dead yet, which Tucker believed anyone could take as a positive sign, but there was just something disconcerting about being unable to see someone’s eyes -- or half their face, really -- when trying to patch them up. It was difficult to read when he was adding too much pressure, when something might be receiving more reaction than anything else.
Out of respect -- and knowing how freaky the hero types were about identities and the such -- Tucker hadn’t removed the visor from the man’s face just yet but the paler the man became and the slower he breathed, the more Tucker just felt he needed something else to monitor for any signs of life.
Slowly, he reached toward the side of the visor, wondering how it came off at all, when his fingers barely brushed it.
Immediately, the man’s nearest hand flew up and latched strongly onto Tucker’s wrist.
“No,” the man said more clearly than anything he had said since the moment the dumpster lid had opened.
“What the fuck, dude!?” Tucker demanded, pulling back on his hand to get it free of the vice grip.
Alarmed by the sounds, Junior immediately came rushing in, eyes wide and smiles large across his rows of teeth.
Tucker wasn’t quite done with his own alarm, however. He pointed accusingly at the man. “What the fuck was that? Were you just pretending the whole time or something?”
“Meditating,” the hero murmured. “Conserving... strength.”
“Oh, horseshit,” Tucker responded, eyes only shifting from the superhero once Junior began moving to his side again. Not sure what kind of person he was dealing with still -- and still more than a little concerned that perhaps there was some truth to Church’s constant anti-hero ravings -- Tucker reached out with one sweeping motion and slid his son behind him. “Were you just meditating in the dumpster, too?”
“No,” the hero grunted, his hand and arm moving much more slowly as they blindly padded around his bandaged up torso. “You... didn’t call the... ambulance?”
“You said not to,” Tucker reminded him pointedly.
“I did,” he agreed, finally turning his head in Tucker’s direction. “Thank you.”
Tucker shrugged once. “It’s not a big deal. It’s not like the ambulance woulda drove to this part of town anyway, right? We can’t even get the cops out of the donut shop to respond to a robbery in progress at a bank. I can’t imagine they’d send anyone to help your royally kicked ass.”
“Maybe,” the man groaned, pushing up on his elbows. “Not... first responders’ favorite person... either.”
Immediately, Tucker reached forward and shoved the man back down on the couch. “Whoa, whoa, whoa -- what the fuck are you doing, dude? I just got the bleeding to stop on most of those.”
“I appreciate that,” the hero said, looking up weakly. “But... the city... it needs me.”
Blinking a few times, Tucker turned and looked out the window, then back to the battered superhero. “For what?”
The hero paused, almost baffled. “For... crime?”
“Yeah, you were really putting a dent in that area,” Tucker snorted before throwing a thumb toward Junior. “My son doesn’t even recognize you, and he’s a major nerd about this stuff.”
“Oh, right. He thinks he knows who you are, but I remain unconvinced. Sorry, little man. It just seems like a huge coincidence,” Tucker apologized as he faced Junior.
Junior, in turn, huffed and crossed his arms, scowling at Tucker.
The superhero stopped, stock still, and then looked curiously toward Tucker.
“Did you say... ‘son’?” he asked, then nodded to Junior. “As in... him?”
“Uh, that wold be the clue, yes,” Tucker responded with a raised brow. “Gotta problem?”
The man was rubbing at the larger gashes idly as he looked back and forth between Tucker and Junior. He then shook his head. “No, I suppose I don’t. Especially not anymore. I just... usually expect to see aliens closer to the embassy--”
“Not in the shit part of town?”
“I really don’t... like when you talk for me,” the hero said, looking Tucker in the face finally. “You make me sound... like a jerk.”
“Well, you’re in Blood Gulch, so I can only make assumptions that you’re here for a reason,” Tucker said back, pointing at the hero’s chest. “Everyone in Blood Gulch is a jerk. I’m just trying to see which kind you are.”
“And if I’m not a jerk--”
“You are a jerk, or at least a jackass to be wearing what you’re wearing in public,” Tucker pointed out. He blinked in surprise as the hero began to rise up on his elbows again, only going further. “Dude, what the hell is wrong with you? You almost died and you’re--”
Rising to his feet, the dusty blonde hero looked toward the very window Tucker had been looking out of earlier. “I appreciate your help, citizen--”
“Oh, not the ‘citizen’ crap again--”
“But there is a villain afoot--”
One step forward and the hero collapsed almost immediately into a heap on the floor. He groaned loudly.
Junior peered over Tucker’s shoulder as it happened and immediately began to hide a snicker. Which was better than Tucker did as he just exploded into chuckles.
“Okay, I’m worried about you because I’ve put way too much effort into keeping you alive at this point, but like... I’ve never before wanted so badly for someone to just eat shit and it be delivered upon. So, thank you for that,” Tucker laughed.
The hero grunted, shoving himself up into a sitting position on the floor, just a foot from Tucker, and looked worriedly down to his wounds.
“I can’t believe I got this hurt,” he said, almost bewildered.
“Giant blenders do that--”
“It wasn’t a giant blender, for the last time,” he responded. He dropped his head into one hand and shook. “I’m so tired.”
“Well, there’s only one solution then,” Tucker sighed, grabbing the man’s free arm and hoisting him over one shoulder, then sliding him back onto the couch. “You’re gonna have to stay the night.”
The hero looked seriously toward Tucker. “I can’t impose more than I already have.”
“Oh, shut up, you’re here and you’re staying until you have the Tucker Family seal of approval,” Tucker said with a wave.
The hero looked at him, head tilting back in realization. “Tucker... I’m remembering now...”
“Yeah, you’re welcome,” Tucker snorted. “Gotta name, dude?”
“I’ve had a few names over the years,” he said with a bit of a sigh. “Right now I’m working on finding a new one. But... I guess I was known the most by my last title. I’m Washington.”
Tucker blinked. “That’s such a fucking stupid name for a superhero. I mean, it’s a state name--”
Junior released a loud squeal and immediately dove toward his stack of comic books.
Tucker looked back to Washington, a bit bewildered himself.
“It was you then? You’re one of the guys who disappeared during the Invasion!”
Junior immediately shoved a comic page in Tucker’s face -- opened directly to show the former Washington alongside his many teammates on Freelancers. He then looked over the book to look for a reaction on the hero’s face.
Once more, if he gave one at all, his expression was lost due to the visor.
“It’s a long and complicated story,” Wash responded.
“Yeah, well,” Tucker rubbed his son’s scaly head, “I think everyone’s stories from the Invasion are long and complicated at the end of the day, aren’t they?”
Before the hero could answer, Tucker rose up and walked toward the closet.
“Not that you’d get anywhere even if you tried, but I’m gonna let you know that you’re staying at least until breakfast,” Tucker called out, opening the closet door and grabbing some of the few blankets that Junior had not already thrown into their bedroom. “And probably longer than then because you got fucked up, dude. Majorly. And I’m not about to have wasted my night and morning on you getting yourself killed.”
“Like I said, I don’t want to impose--” the hero tried to excuse himself before a blanket hit him in the face.
“Too late,” Tucker said with a bit of a smirk. “Now you stay there, I’ll be back in a second. I’ve got to get someone else into bed--”
“No excuses, hotshot, get in there,” Tucker said, marching his pride and joy toward the bedroom. And if he noticed the continued confusion and slight appreciation radiating off their house guest, he didn’t mention it.
Not yet, anyway.
Chapter 4: Breakfast of Champions
I apologize for the wait this time around, guys! I’m back in school and taking an average of 2 exams a week again. Which is FUN. But typically only gives me time to write about one or two scenes of any of my projects every day as opposed to my usual average of about 5 scenes a day. So please bear with me! And hopefully my sad sack being self isn’t reflective at least in this story, because it’s way too much of a joy to write!
Thanks for the feedback to @ashleystlawrence, @secretlystephaniebrown, @dremoranightmares, BlodwenDubh, Two Four None Ten, Beawolfs_Pen, Alkeni, @hayleycreagine, JjThereforeIAm, and Yin on AO3 and tumblr!
Even once Junior was settled and snoring away, curled up like a cat in the nest of blankets he’d gathered from around the apartment, Tucker found himself sitting on the bed, trying hard to not go in and check on their patient every few minutes.
One time, back before things were too funky, when he shared a flat with Caboose and Church and occasionally the room’s worth of baggage Church carried around with him in near Job-like dedication, there was a cat that they tried to feed. The thing had a hurt paw, and when Church tried to patch it up he got scratched -- which Tucker liked to think was such a perfect analogy to Church’s overall life it brought tears to his eyes -- and after two days of feeding the damn thing, it never came back. They still debated on what they think happened to it.
That’s how things in Blood Gulch worked, and Tucker kept himself from checking on the stranger in the living room by knowing all too well that the chances of a stray superhero sticking around were low.
He watched the alarm clock tick away, closer and closer to the alarm set, before reaching over and turning it off ahead of time.
With a bit of a grunt, he pushed off the bed, stepped back into his jeans, and started for the door, rubbing tiredly at his eyes.
“Alright, little man,” Tucker sighed quietly, looking over his son’s sleeping form. “Hope you like being a footnote in that guy’s next story, because I don’t think there’s any way in hell we’ve still got a guest in the--”
Stopping short after he pushed the door open, Tucker blinked a bit in surprise to see his couch still occupied. The hero was curled up tightly on his side, bunched up in the blanket to the point only his head and feet could be seen.
Taking a moment to look back at how Junior was curled up, then looking back to this “Washington”, Tucker scratched at his head and huffed a small laugh. “Well, I’d be damned,” he sighed before beginning to pad his way into the kitchen. “Also, it’s totally great that I’m apparently the only one who has trouble getting to sleep. What a surprise.”
Tying back his hair as he went, Tucker maneuvered his kitchen easily enough.
As loathe as he was to cook outside of work, the single parent and hero rescuer extraordinaire in him knew that the two Sleeping Beauties could benefit from the most important meal of the day.
He grabbed the pan from under the cabinet as quietly as he could, used a foot to open the fridge, did a quick inventory of the sad sight before grabbing for the eggs and some hot sauce. The rhythm of making the scrambled eggs was depressingly familiar to the point that Tucker could almost close his eyes as he reached for the salt and pepper.
A few minutes into the routine, Tucker took a few steps to the side, reached into the freezer, and pulled out two saran wrapped steaks, shut the door with his shoulder, and set the second burner on the stove to low before setting a pan and the unwrapped steaks on it.
Satisfied with that, he turned his attention back to the nearly finished pan of eggs.
“The meat isn’t going to get done that way, you should have put it on before the eggs.”
Completely unsuspecting, Tucker nearly jumped a foot and whirled around, arms flailing to face the speaker.
Washington stood behind him, one arm tucked around his midsection to apparently keep the parts of him not wrapped in gauze and bandages together. There was a strange twist to his lips that wasn’t quite a frown and his neck was slightly stretched out to peer over Tucker for a better look at the stove.
“Jesus,” Tucker muttered, running a hand through his hair as his heart tried to get back in pattern. He narrowed his eyes a bit at the shirtless hero. “Dude, what the hell? Are you trying to scare the shit out of me?”
The hero’s head turned slightly, as if he was surprised at the accusation, though it was hard to tell still with the visor on.
“No, of course not,” he said easily enough. “Your eggs are--”
“Not burning, thanks for the concern,” Tucker responded, turning to the stove, lowering the heat on the first burner, and shaking up the pan as he diced with the spatula. “Don’t worry about me cooking. At this point, if there’s one thing I can do, it’s cooking. Just worry about the things you’re good at. Like popping all your stitches and bleeding out on my kitchen floor. You’re an expert on that. Practice makes perfect, right?”
Washington frowned a bit more and looked at the stove top.
“Did you put hot sauce in those?”
“Oh, my god. I just told you to not question my cooking,” Tucker grunted back.
“I was just curious, you need to calm down,” the vigilante responded with a small shake of his head. “You don’t have to be nervous around me.”
Tucker reached above the stove vent and began to open the cabinets. He glared over his shoulder a bit before pulling down two plates. “I am not nervous around you.”
“Actually, you are,” he pressed. “And I appreciate that I’ve put you into an awkward situation, and I am sorry about that, I’ll try to make it up to you--”
Snorting, Tucker began to scoop eggs across the two plates. “Sure.”
“I will,” Washington stressed. “I just need to get my strength back and put an end to the dark siege on this city.”
Tucker stared at him for a moment, opening his mouth to respond before just shaking his head and going back to checking the steaks. “I... What does that even mean?”
“Hm?” Washington looked at him, a little perplexed.
“What does ‘dark siege’ mean? Is Dark Siege someone’s name? Do they have a giant woodchipper you went through?” Tucker asked, trying to sound far less interested in the story than he was.
Washington stared at him a little unnervingly. “You are fixated on elaborate death traps. I did not go through a death trap.”
Frowning a bit, Tucker scratched at his chin. “Are you one of those serious heroes that like... spends every issue talking about drugs and the ‘plague of urban youth’ because I don’t let Junior read those--”
“Every issue? Mister Tucker, I’m starting to suspect you think comic books are accurate to the realities faced by superheroes,” Washington replied flatly.
“Well, it’s not like you get on the morning talk shows and explain why you and Captain Kool-Aid or whatever backed traffic up for days,” Tucker defended.
“There is no Captain Kool-Aid,” Washington snapped back.
“Oh my god, you’re so sensitive. I thought you were some kinda veteran hero--”
“Get tougher skin, dude! Oh, hey, that’d be great all around, because then you wouldn’t be dying in dumpsters all of the time,” Tucker snarked.
“That’s the first time that’s happened to me, alright?” he said, throwing up his arms only to flinch immediately and bring them both back down to his ribs. “Ow.”
“What, are you embarrassed?” Tucker laughed.
“A little, yes. This... It wasn’t how last night was supposed to go. It was supposed... well, it was just supposed to be a good night,” Wash said, rotating one of his hands at the wrist. “Not... end up that way.”
“Oh,” Tucker responded, scratching at the back of his head. “You... got some civilian fling? Damsel in distress waiting for you last night or something? I don’t have a landline, but I’m sure Church has lost one of his burn phones around here for you to use if you--”
“I don’t have anyone,” Wash said back, he sighed. “It was just... supposed to be a good night to come back.”
Tucker’s eyes widened slightly. “Oh. You got the shit beat out of you coming out of retirement? Wow, that’s rough, buddy.”
“I didn’t.... I wasn’t beat up,” Wash muttered, looking off.
“Your body-sized bruise says otherwise--”
“Mister Tucker, I assure you, the criminal mastermind I was in pursuit of did not lay a finger on me. And I still managed to chase him over the rooftops for over two blocks after the incident so--”
Picking up his two plates, Tucker stared at Washington. “What incident, dude?”
Frown growing further, Washington let out a low breath. “I... got hit by a car.”
Washington stared back, expectantly.
“Oh, my god,” Tucker said under his breath before shoving a plate at Wash and heading to the coffee table with his own. “I’d make a better joke, but I’m not even sure where to start.”
“Just give me some time, I’ll think of it,” Tucker cut him off. He set his plate at his usual spot on the couch and then turned back to the kitchen. “Go on, dude, sit down and eat up. I’ll get you some water.”
Washington seemed conflicted on how to respond before moving back toward the couch with a simple, “Thanks.”
“I’d offer milk, but that’s Junior’s, and it’s still expensive as shit, so...”
“No, water’s fine,” Washington said, settling slowly on the couch. “Did you want to save some of these eggs for him, too, or--”
“Nah, that’s who the steaks are for, duh,” Tucker said, seeing the steaks warm but bloody. He turned off the stove. “I give him maybe a minute before he smells them and comes running.”
Returning with two waters, Tucker looked over Washington before sitting down, snickering.
“Oh my god, a car. First night out,” Tucker laughed to himself.
“Please don’t,” Wash muttered, looking down at his plate.
“Sorry, dude, but, I mean, it’s so... human and not superhero at-- Oh, wait! I never asked.”
Washington looked toward him. “Asked?”
“What’s your super power?” Tucker asked, scooping some eggs into his mouth.
“Why would you assume I have a super power?” he asked back.
“Oh, shut up, every superhero I know has super powers, don’t be coy,” Tucker responded. “You don’t have to tell me how you got them -- though, you should to thank me for your life and breakfast and inflating your ego with a hero-worshiping son -- but I think I deserve to know whether or not you can like... electrocute your way through my apartment or make styrofoam explode with your mind.”
“That’s an oddly specific and useless super power suggestion, but alright,” Wash returned. He took a bite of eggs and then hummed, looking to his plate. “I am very good with knives.”
“Knives?” Tucker repeated.
“Throwing knives in particular, but knives, yes,” Wash responded.
“Your super power is ‘good with knives’?” Tucker asked.
“I didn’t say it was a super power,” Wash reminded him. “But you’re more asking me about my modus operandi, in which case that is what I do. I use knives.”
Tucker stared at him. “You’re one of the nuts who doesn’t have superpowers and gets a costume anyway--”
“I didn’t say I didn’t have superpowers, I just said I use knives when I work,” he interrupted before taking another bite. “...Alright, the hot sauce is good--”
“Don’t change subjects! I asked you for super powers and you’re not delivering!” Tucker decried. “But yes, I know what people like to eat. Bow Chicka Bow Wow.”
Washington stared at him. “What was that?”
“What was what?”
“That noise that just came out of your mouth. Did you have a stroke or something?”
“What? No! That’s... it’s my thing,” Tucker said, baffled at trying to explain something as visceral and natural as breathing.
Washington didn’t let up on the staring.
“Dude, what is your super power?” Tucker tried again.
Finally giving up on the blank stare, Washington looked toward the window, his lips pressing to a thin line.
“It’s... It’s something I tend to keep to myself.”
They lapsed into a short silence, Tucker turning his head more and more to the side as he waited for the hero to continue.
When it didn’t happen, Tucker shook his head. “Seriously, that’s all you’re going to give me?”
“It’s not something that would really concern you. My super power isn’t going to burn down the apartment. Or blow up styrofoam.”
“You’re no fun,” Tucker grunted, turning his attention back to the plate of eggs. “I bet it’s super stupid, that’s why you’re not telling me.”
“Well. You’re not wrong.”
Tucker opened his mouth to respond with something snappy when he heard the door to the bedroom fling open. He and Washington both looked to it just to see the small alien child within standing, hands on his hips, brightly colored blanket tied around his long neck and the rain boots Tucker hadn’t worn since Junior nibbled the top off the left boot in teething on his feet.
“Blargh!” Junior announced himself triumphantly.
Unable to look at the sight without feeling an eruption of joy, Tucker grinned from ear to ear and put his plate down on the coffee table before standing up from the couch. “Look at you! Now that looks like a superhero!”
Junior posed and flexed, eyes excitedly fixated on his father before running past him toward Washington.
The vigilante seemed surprised, having returned to his eggs after thinking Junior and Tucker were about to do their own thing. After a moment, and with the surprise soon melting from his expression, Wash set his plate down himself, coughed into a fist, bruised ribs heaving a bit, and smiled back at the child. He held his hands up in salute. “It’s a pleasure to see another grand Cape Wearer willing to protect the good citizens of this complex.”
The squeal of joy that came from Junior was ear piercing. He whirled around to look excitedly at Tucker.
Tucker folded his arms and glared at Wash. “You don’t even wear a cape,” he pointed out. He then looked to Junior and motioned toward the kitchen. “Your breakfast is on the stove, kiddo. Eat up!”
Immediately, Junior ran up to Tucker, shoving on his back pocket.
“Huh? Oh shit! You’re right, it’s check day -- fuck and the bills are taken out tomorrow,” Tucker groaned, smacking at his face. “Ugh. It’s going to be cold as balls. And I need to get Caboose’s ass out of bed if I want him up here--”
Blinking, Tucker turned toward the hero and stared at him.
“Is there... anything I could do to help you?” he asked. “It’s the least I could do--”
“Oh, hellsyes!” Tucker sighed with relief. “Okay, great. Good.” He ran toward the bedroom. “You stay here and make sure Junior doesn’t eat my Xbox, I’ll be back in just a little bit. I’ve gotta run to the restaurant, get my check from Sheila, and run to the bank. It shouldn’t take that long--”
“You want me to babysit?” Washington clarified.
“I want you to sit and not get yourself killed, and while you’re doing that -- which should be simple because there’s no semis on the fourth floor -- just entertain my kid and make sure that, if he plays games, he doesn’t get angry and bite the TV or something,” Tucker explained, coming out of the bedroom as he pulled his sweater over his head. “Think you can handle that?”
Washington was scowling, probably at the car comment. Which was fine because the thought of it was still making Tucker grin. But he took a breath and nodded. “I think I can handle that. Like I said, it’s the least I could do.”
“It really is the least, dude, you owe me. Like majorly,” Tucker replied flippantly. He rushed to the kitchen where Junior was sitting on the floor with half a steak in his mouth already. He kissed his kid’s forehead. “Be good. Or at least decent, Super Junior.”
Junior made a happy chortle around the meat.
Tucker turned and looked at Washington.
“Please be careful yourself out there,” Washington said so seriously it almost made Tucker stand back.
“Uh, no worries. I doubt anything will happen,” Tucker said with a wave. “And don’t call me Mister Tucker, dude. Just Tucker is fine.”
“Alright, Just Tucker.”
“Don’t be a smartass,” Tucker snapped before heading out the door.
Chapter 5: Simple Life
As much as I hate to abandon Wash and Junior for a bit, it’s time to see a little bit more of Blood Gulch and all the other wacky facets of Tucker’s totally normal, was never weird before finding a superhero in a dumpster, absolutely carefree life ; )
Thanks for the feedback to @ashleystlawrence, @secretlystephaniebrown, @goodluckdetective, @autisticdrgrey, @demorannightmares, @godoflaundrybaskets, night_litany, Two_Four_None_Ten, @ephemeraltea, bangles25, Alkeni, Phoeniaquinn, JjThereforeIAm, CharlesMyDarling, Beawolfs_Pen, HappyFunBallXD, ectOghOst, and Yin on AO3 and tumblr!
The snow was picking up again when he first left the apartment, prompting Tucker to pull up his hood and mutter incoherent, angry things into the winter air as he shuffled along toward the restaurant.
Even with the guarantee of payment on the other end of his journey, Tucker found it was never easy to walk back toward his own living hell with a smile. So he settled on chattering teeth instead as he bumped his hip into the front door and drug his feet right on in.
Sheila was already sitting behind the counter, smirking behind her glasses as Tucker shuffled on over.
“Hey-y-y, s-s-sweet thing,” Tucker cooed as best he could around his own shaking. He smoothly slid his elbow onto the counter space and leaned closer to the cash register. “I h-hear you’ve g-g-got something g-good for m-me--”
“Yeah, a coffee to warm yourself up,” she said with a sigh. “I wish you’d get yourself a coat, dear.”
“Y-you’re not m-my mom.”
Sheila smile in that pleasant way that never warned Tucker whether or not she was about to murder him before she reached forward and patted his head. She then looked down toward the cashier box and began rutting around inside of it.
Tucker sniffed and roughly pulled his hood off his head, shaking his shoulders to rid himself of the melting snow.
“How’d your date go last night?” Tucker asked with a final shiver before firmly crossing his arms to keep his hands warm under his pits.
“Romantic beyond compare,” Sheila sighed dreamily as she slid the check across the table. “Stay put, I’m getting you a coffee,” she ordered.
“Sure thing, Boss,” Tucker responded, holding up the check and squinting at the amount. “Last night’s on here--”
“Sundays go on the next pay period, Tucker,” she answered over the sound of their espresso machine warming up. “When’s the last time you worked a Sunday?”
“A while,” he said, shoving the check into his sweatshirt front pocket. He looked over to her. “Caboose works Sundays so I usually don’t have someone to watch Junior. But I had some decent blackmail on my other babysitter.”
“Well,” Sheila laughed, returning to the front with a steaming styrofoam cup, “thank god for blackmail, I guess.”
“Yeah, my sitter would just love to hear you say that,” Tucker snorted, gladly taking the cup. “Man, Sheila, you’re just the best. I hope your new asshole of the week was a great lay!”
Sheila, never crude in commentary herself, just smiled as she always did at Tucker’s remarks and shook her head. “The mouth on you, son.”
“Is awesome,” Tucker completed for her, taking a long sip of his coffee. “Ahhh...”
“How was your night?”
Tucker paused, a little taken aback by the question, then a little surprised at himself for being taken aback by it. He knew it was just natural progression of conversation, after all.
It still led to a few moments of him just staring blankly at Sheila.
While her smile didn’t drop, her brows knit close together, almost sorrowfully. “That bad, huh?” she asked softly.
“Uh... well, it was a long night,” Tucker said with a few more blinks.
“Is he okay?”
Blanching, Tucker jerked back, spilling some coffee on the counter. “What!? How-- I mean. Who?”
Sheila looked at him like he had grown another head. “Junior? I ... thought you had to stay up all night with your son... is everything okay?”
“Oh. OH! Yeah. Okay, wow, yes. Thanks for asking,” Tucker responded, looking down to the counter top and reaching for the napkin dispenser. “Whoo. Yeah, of course. Yeah. I stayed up all night with Junior. Wild and crazy kids and all that. Man. That’s fast acting coffee. I already got the jitters--”
“Tucker,” Sheila said seriously, drawing his gaze up to hers. Her frown stayed firm. “Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, it is,” he replied as soon as he could.
“I know you’ve had money problems recently--”
“Sheila, I swear to you, everything is great, I’m not in any trouble,” he said firmly, hands up. “Scout’s honor.”
She shook her head. “You were never a scout.”
“I could have been!” he said firmly as he dabbed the spilled coffee with napkins. “Besides, who has money troubles the day they get a new, shiny check from their lovely employers? I just gotta stop by the bank and bam-o. Another two weeks of survivability while the economy’s in the shitter, right?”
Humming, Sheila took to tapping a pin against the tile of the counter top. “I don’t have much business right now, you want me to close up and drive you to the bank?”
Tucker blinked and arched a bit to look over the edge and look at the wheelchair. “Is there room for two...?”
“No, silly, in my van,” she said with a roll of her eyes.
“Oh, well, nevermind. An never close the restaurant to do something for me, Sheila. I’d never live it down from Kai if it cut into her paycheck,” Tucker said with a wave. “You need anything from the ‘real world’ while I venture out? I’ll have to cross by this ugly hole in the wall on my way home anyway, could pick up a li’l somtin’-somtin’ if you need me to.”
Sheila held up a notepad with rows upon rows of numbers and then smacked the register.
Tucker looked to it and saw that the screen still only had lines rather than numbers. He threw up his hands.
“I can’t believe he’s still not come by to fix it! Oh my god I’m gonna kill him!” Tucker growled at the faded ceiling tiles. “Church, you are the fucking worst!”
“I don’t think he can hear you from here,” Sheila said with a shake of her head. “Does he not have the right parts to fix an old machine like this? I can try to find an antique store--”
“No, he’s just being an asshole, Sheila,” Tucker assured her. “Don’t worry, I’ll kick his ass all the way around the block to get him here tomorrow if I have to. And if that fails... fuck, I’ll bring Caboose. He might accidentally fix it.”
“I appreciate it, Tucker,” she said, though her tone seemed far from hopeful that he would be able to deliver. “And if you won’t let me drive you, please, please be careful at the bank. You know the Red Dead Blood Gulch Crew is still out there.”
Tucker felt his eyes roll so hard he almost worried they wouldn’t come back down. “I’m aware. Fucking assholes. I hear a car chase at three in the morning again I might scream and chase them down on foot myself. But I wouldn’t worry about them at the bank. It’s a Monday. They only rob on Tuesdays.”
“Oh, that’s comforting,” Sheila said sarcastically as Tucker turned back toward the door. “Be careful! I’ll see you tomorrow!”
“Yeah, yeah! See you, too!” he yelled back with a wave before sliding his hood back over his head and going out into the snow.
The bank was only another two blocks away, after all. What could happen?
As to be expected for a cold Monday before noon, Tucker’s frigid walk was met with a mostly quiet and empty bank. At least, as a bank, they could afford to pay the heating bill which led to a few long moments of Tucker just standing under the vent right by the door and taking a deep, relaxing breath as feeling returned to all of his fingers and toes.
And even though he had been away from the lineup, the very bored looking teller without anyone to serve held up a hand and waved him over, apparently trying to clear the bank while it was still a possibility.
“I can help you, Sir!”
“I do like it quick,” Tucker said as he shook the cold off one last time and made his way toward the line. He stopped midway, feeling a newfound heat come to his cheek as the girl stared at him.
“Uh... I didn’t mean I like it quick all the time. Just... quick when it’s convenient for both of us.”
She blinked tiredly at him.
“Okay, right, whatever,” he muttered as he stepped up closer and began sifting through his pocket, producing the slightly crumpled check. “I’m gonna need most of this deposited, but a hundred in cash,” he explained as he reached for the pen attached to the counter and quickly scribbled over the endorsement line.
“How do you want the cash?” she asked, taking the check the moment it was offered.
“Twenties,” he responded, looking over her head to the clock. He smirked, just like he had promised, he was making excellent time.
“Mmhmm,” the teller said, bending down in her chair to reach under the desk. “Hold on just a moment, Mister Tucker--“
No sooner had the words left her mouth than Tucker could hear the doors slamming open with a kick and a set of gasps and screams from the few other patrons around the bank.
Tucker whipped around, eyes wide as he saw the brightly clad, armed thieves -- Blood Gulch’s own criminal celebrities.
“Oh, fuckberries! AGAIN!?” he growled, throwing up his hands and specifically glaring at the orange one.
The Red Dead Blood Gulch Crew had anywhere from three to five members at each heist, always wearing full body suits that covered everything, including their faces. One would think that such attire, specifically for thieves, would best be left black, but like everything else in Blood Gulch, the Crew had to be bombastic and outrageous. Each suit was accented according to member.
Tucker would know, considering how many drunken rants he’d heard about the attire’s stupidity.
The orange thief seemed to finally lock eyes on Tucker, turning his head fully toward the man before dropping his chin a bit and shaking his head. “Aw, shit,” the plumper thief muttered.
“Awwww’right here, ladies and gents,” the bright red leader called, pumping his shotgun to the horror of the bank tellers. “This here is what we call a bit of felony fun! We’re all going to play along. My cohorts here are going to pass along some bags, and we’re all going to do a bit of plundering together. Anyone who does so has the opportunity to take a cut. How ya like them apples!”
Almost immediately, all of the bank employees looked to each other and, almost in unison, shrugged, hardly putting up a struggle as the maroon, pink, and brown accented thieves began passing around the sacks.
The orange came immediately toward a very, very pissed off Tucker.
“What the fuck, dude!?” Tucker hissed.
“Look, I don’t like this any more than you do, Tucker, so just shut your goddamn mouth and take the bag,” the orange whispered back, shaking the bag in front of Tucker’s face.
“The money she’s got out?” Tucker said with a jerk of his head toward the money on the counter. “That shit you’re about to take? That’s my goddamn money!”
“Take a cut and shut up--”
“You’re stealing the rest from me!” Tucker howled.
The orange threw back his head and groaned. “Aw, shit.”
The red thief marched over, shotgun held securely in his arms, and stopped short of his crew member and Tucker, his head turning exaggeratedly from one to the other before settling back on the orange thief.
“Don’t I remember him?” the leader growled.
“You don’t remember anything, Old Man,” the orange mumbled.
“Old Man what, Orange?”
“Old Man Sir,” he corrected.
The red clad thief turned his head back toward Tucker, coming a bit closer. Tucker’s eyes shifted to the barrel of the shotgun aimed toward his stomach.
“I know I remember you, but from where?” he asked, a free hand rubbing at his featureless mask’s chin. “Hmm. Say. Weren’t you--”
“I was the guy in the laundromat you tore up all the machines to take the quarters from,” Tucker reminded him with a frown.
“Oh, right! Heh heh. That was a good one. Lightish Red came up with that plan.”
“That was my favorite!” the pink one yelled out.
“You’re the yellow bellied asshole who went all soggy crying about having a kid back home!” the red continued. He laughed, a deep throated, scratchy laugh that almost sounded like it was coming from a movie rather than someone’s actual throat. “Ah, that was fun. I was bettin’ you’d piss your pants. But you didn’t! Got Brown some fancy new dineros out of it!”
The brown thief nodded toward them as he gathered the bags he had handed out. “Gracias.”
Tucker felt his nose curl a bit. “Dude, you made the Spanish speaking member of your group the brown one? That’s a bit fucking racist.”
Orange’s shoulders slumped and he shook his head. “Don’t,” he warned.
“Well, as fun as it is to catch up, fancy bread, we’ve got to get going while we can,” the red said, gun still trained on Tucker. “And I can’t help but notice that there’s still some moolah on the counter, and none in your fancy baggie we handed out. Care to explain?”
“Yeah, it’s my money,” Tucker snapped.
Orange shook his head emphatically.
“You’re going to keep all of it?” the leader said, sounding almost shocked. “You won’t share? Even after we were so grateful to offer you a cut?”
“It’s my money, I came here to get it, I don’t need a cut!” Tucker gritted out between his teeth.
“How much is it?”
Tucker blinked. “What?”
“How much is on the counter?” the robber asked point blank.
“One hundred dollars,” Tucker responded.
“Right, then. I tell you what, normally I’d have just shot that pretty little head of yours straight off for wasting my goddamn time, but I’m gonna assume you still have a kid of some sort back home, right?” the leader said darkly.
Tucker felt his guts twist.
“So I’m giving you this wonderful opportunity to grab your hundred dollars, put sixty of it in my hand right now, and we’ll call it a day. How does that sound?”
“You want to give me just forty dollars for--”
He heard the gun cock long before he realized the pressure on his stomach was from a barrel of a shotgun being held right against it. Tucker had never felt a more sudden, clutching panic take over him before.
“Tell you what, you convinced me,” the leader continued, face focused on Tucker even as the rest of his Crew seemed to grow nervously silent themselves. “You’re going to put twenty dollars in your pocket then you’re going to put the rest of it in my hand with a smile, and then you and everyone else in this bank are going to get on the floor. Is that alright with you?”
His mouth was dry, he could barely even breathe, staring at the blank red face staring at him. Forcing a swallow, Tucker reached back behind him, grabbed the fresh, crisp bills, and brought them up.
Shaking more than he had ever once from the cold, Tucker slid one twenty off the top, nervously shoved his hand into his hoodie pocket, feeling the outline of hard steel pressed against it still, and then moved the rest of the hand toward the robber’s hand.
“Ah ah ah, where’s my smile?”
Somehow, Tucker managed a short flash of teeth before quickly dumping the bills onto the man’s hand.
After a moment, the red thief finally moved the gun. “Thank you,” he said genuinely before lifting the gun up over his head and firing into the ceiling.
Tucker screamed with everyone else and hit the floor, covering his head.
“Thank you all for your time!” the red called out as he robbers all headed out to the exit together.
Still in shock, Tucker flattened out on the floor, unable to bring himself to move.
“W-what the fuck,” he muttered into the floor. “It’s not Tuesday!”
Chapter 6: Getaway Drivers
We’re getting into the bigger plot stuff!!! I’M SO EXCITED TO START TYING THINGS TOGETHER AHHHHH
Thanks for the feedback to @secretlystephaniebrown, @ashleystlawrence, That_Crazy_Anime_Shipper, @ephemeraltea, Adventures_in_Writing, bangles25, Alkeni, HappyFunBallXD, Beawolfs_Pen, and @godoflaundrybaskets on AO3 and tumblr!
Sheila didn’t even ask why Tucker didn’t call Kai first for a ride, as was his usual. And though the concern was clear on her face as she looked at him from the curb of the police station, she didn’t ask too many questions about that either.
Though, of course, news about the Red Dead Blood Gulch Crew moved fast.
He shut the door of the van and glared ahead. “Thanks,” he muttered.
“Guess you just wanna go straight home,” she said, looking to the mirrors before beginning to pull out from the corner.
“Yeah,” he responded, looking ahead.
“Sorry about everything, sweetie,” she sighed.
Tucker hardly registered the comment until they had made their way fully around the block and headed straight toward his apartment complex. It was about then that he noticed the envelope with his name on it.
“Huh?” he uttered as he grabbed it and pulled the flap over. His brows raced for his hairline as he saw the bills stuffed inside. His head turned to Sheila immediately. “What is this?”
“It’s the Tip Jar from the lunch rush,” she said with a shrug. “Kai’s idea. There’s also an IOU in there because she took out five bucks to run over to the dollar store and get us an envelope for it.”
“Envelopes aren’t five bucks at the dollar store,” he pointed out.
“I’m aware,” she said with a smirk. “But we can’t serve alcohol so Kai’s discount doesn’t help her weekend buzzes. You can get it back from her later if you want--”
“She doesn’t owe me anything and neither do you, Sheila. I can’t take this, I’ll get tips tomorrow,” he said only to get flicked on the side of the head. “Ow! Shit, Sheila--”
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
“I wasn’t going to give it back anyway, jesus,” Tucker grunted, rubbing his head. “It’s just nice bullshit to say to people.”
“Just say thank you.”
“Thank you, Sheila.”
“You’re welcome,” she said, pulling to the side of the road across from the apartment. “I’d get closer, but this snow-- I don’t want to risk the turn.”
“It’s cool, Sheila, this is more than enough,” he said, opening the door. He looked at her. “Seriously, though, thanks. Even if I fucking hate smelling like chicken grease all the time.”
“Don’t we all?” she replied wryly.
Waiting for Sheila to drive past safely, Tucker looked across the street to the fourth floor window and saw the blinds shift. He groaned as he rubbed at his face then looked before crossing the road.
Unlike some people, he managed to cross without getting demolished.
The walk up the stairs didn’t take nearly long enough for his wounded pride when the door easily flung open to Junior’s pull.
A bit of Tucker’s heart tugged when his son latched happily onto his leg, shoulders growing more relieved the longer the little guy held on. Tucker smiled softly and patted Junior’s head.
“Hey, kiddo, I made it,” he said before pulling them both on in.
He didn’t get more than a few feet before finally meeting the eyes -- or, well, visor -- of the mysterious dumpster diving hero who was somehow still standing in the middle of the kitchen.
“Dude, do you have something against sitting? Or laying down? Or just... taking it easy on your busted up self?” Tucker asked critically before continuing on through and making his way toward the couch.
“You were gone for five hours,” Washington said critically. “What happened?”
“Why would something have to happen?” Tucker asked, looking to Wash suspiciously. “Are your powers the ability to read minds?”
“Oh, then why would you think something happened?” Tucker asked, taking a few more steps with Junior wrapped around his leg before stopping and sighing in aggravation, “Li’l man, what’s up with you? Wait--” he looked to the hero. “Did you get him scared about me? I was fine!”
“I didn’t mean to,” Wash said, having at least the decency to look regretful. “It’s just... by the third hour, knowing the bank was just a little whiles away, I was growing... concerned. And you didn’t have cable channels, so I turned on a radio--”
“Radio? Who has radios anymore?” Tucker asked, prying Junior’s fingers from his leg.
Washington looked confusedly at him before turning and pointing toward the box under the hood of the stove that always got in Tucker’s way when he had to change the filter.
“What the fuck -- is that what that is? Church, fucking asshole, he told me it was a smoke alarm.”
“Under... a stove hood?” Wash asked, seeming genuinely put off by Tucker’s lack of knowledge on his own appliances.
“Yeah, I was always so confused by that -- the prick, he can’t give me a straight answer for fucking anything,” Tucker mumbled before freeing his leg only to have Junior wrap around his neck. “Oh, for crying out loud!” He straightened up and just accepted that he was carrying his son. “What the fuck did you tell him?”
“It wasn’t me, it was the radio, we heard about the bank robbery--”
Tucker let out an aggravated growl. “Man! I don’t want to talk about it! I’ve had to talk about it with, like, twelve different people and like signed a hundred papers already--”
“So you were there when it happened,” Wash growled, immediately turning toward the window. “This can’t be allowed to stand -- not after everything good you’ve done.”
Cocking his head to the side, Tucker scowled. “What? Took out the trash at the right time?”
“Exactly,” Wash responded, completely serious.
Tucker rubbed at his face. “I don’t know how to deal with this. Dude, you’re a fucking superhero, don’t look up to me! I’m just some asshole in the bad part of town with a shitty apartment. Believe me, I’m not exactly a hero.”
Washington looked at him. “You’re an everyday hero, Tucker.”
Almost subconsciously, Tucker’s gaze turned toward the nook where his laptop was hidden away. “I don’t know about that, dude. I don’t think heroes watch as much porn as I do.”
“What?” Washington questioned, looking utterly baffled. “What does that have to do with-- Why would that be the first thing you think of?”
“Dude, you just proved how little you know me right there,” Tucker snorted.
“That doesn’t matter,” Wash said.
“That you don’t know me, or the porn thing?”
“Either, it’s... we’re both adults here,” Wash said before turning a careful eye toward Junior, “and I’m not qualified to critique parenting and I know that brutal honesty about certain adult things isn’t uncommon these days. But that right there proves my point more than enough. You are a hero, a good man, not only for what you’ve done for me just this past night, but for taking in someone as your own flesh and blood when just a few years past we might have considered them enemies--”
Tucker scowled, hoisting Junior up a little further. “Dude, shut the fuck up, Junior is my flesh and blood. Or. Kind of. I don’t know the biology of it, really. But whatever -- Junior’s mine.”
Wash’s head turned slightly, processing the information. “He’s... your biological son?”
“Yeah,” Tucker said, arching a brow. “Why?”
“Then... you mean you had him. Yourself? During the Invasion?”
“A little after, but sure,” Tucker shrugged. “Why?”
Wash’s face was growing more pale. “You survived it? How-- No one...”
Tucker opened his mouth to fire something back when there was a firm knocking on the door behind him. Immediately, they both turned to face the door. The knocking only increased.
“Fuck, who’s that?” he snapped.
“Dude, you’ve got fucking space goggles glued to your face, don’t even,” Tucker responded, forcing Junior down to the floor. “Junior’ll take you to the bedroom. He knows how to hide when company we don’t know visits. Right, little man?”
Junior latched his hands onto Tucker’s wrist and stared back at his father pointedly.
Washington didn’t make any movements to leave either.
“Okay, that’s enough! Both of you in the bedroom before I kick you both out the window!” Tucker shouted. “I don’t need bodyguards from Mister Roadkill and the Extraterrestrial Kid! Go!”
Reluctantly, Junior let go, sending a growl toward the door before sourly walking toward the bedroom, grabbing onto his pet superhero’s wrist on the way and pulling him along to.
Tucker waited until the door closed before stomping toward the door, feeling his temper increasing with the harshness of the knocking. “Goddamn, I hear you!”
He stopped and looked through the peephole all of two seconds before instantly regretting everything.
“Are you fucking serious!?” Tucker growled before flinging the door open. “REALLY!?”
Grif grouchily glared right back at him. “Well, fuck you, too, dude.”
Tucker pointed at the worst poker buddy in the world. “Do you know how close I was to calling Kai a few hours ago? Do you?”
“Can we talk inside?”
“I should say no.”
“Then you’d lose out on some cash,” Grif said, holding up a wallet.
For a moment, standing there just fuming, Tucker considered just shutting the door. He then shook his head and waved Grif in, which the frumpy man did without another word edgewise. Tucker shut the door.
“Look, I’m s--”
“Hold on,” Tucker said before walking over to the kitchenette, flinging open the drawer, grabbing a few sheets of aluminum foil, then pulling out the blender. He ignored the dumb, skeptical look on Grif’s face as he shoved the sheets into the blender and then turned it on for a ratcheting noise. “Okay, go ahead.”
“I thought your kid didn’t know English--”
“He understands it, he doesn’t speak it,” Tucker said with a wave. “That’s not the point. Now, you going to tell me what the actual fuck happened today? It’s not even Tuesday--”
“Man, tell me about it, I’m supposed to sleep through Mondays,” Grif groaned, scratching at the scarf around his neck just enough to show a bit of the suit beneath his winter clothes. To anyone else it might’ve seemed like an innocuous turtleneck, but Tucker knew it was a very familiar suit.
“I thought hitting up places on Tuesdays was, like, your guys’ thing!” he growled.
“It is, but the new status quo is that ‘it’s Tuesday somewhere today!’ Which is such bullshit. But supposedly it’s more efficient to work from a timeframe of forty-eight hours than it is twenty-four,” Grif explained, shaking his head the whole time. “It’s all such bullshit--”
“Yeah, y’know, it really fucking is.”
Grif looked at him and sighed. “Look, Tucker, I’m sorry. Things got... weird today.”
“Yeah it did! What the fuck was with that?” Tucker demanded. “Last time you held me up, we all went drinking afterwards. What was this shit? And bringing up my kid?”
“He went too far--”
“He was a freaking maniac--”
“Look,” Grif sighed. “Tucker, shit’s not the same anymore, man. There’s someone... new involved.”
“Really? Looked like the same five losers to me today,” Tucker snapped.
“Hey, watch it,” Grif replied darkly. “Look, you know we’re just doing this to get by and, y’know, shits and giggles. Why else hold up a bakery just to take all the best sweets and split?”
Tucker snorted. “Oh my god, I almost forgot that -- the creme de la caper.”
“Exactly,” Grif said, cracking a smile. “And I’m just helping Kai keep in school with some extra cash. I’m not good at any other jobs. None of this is personal or getting people hurt but... the new boss...”
Turning his head, Tucker stared curiously. “New boss? Someone besides Sarge?”
“I don’t know, man... Lopez brought him in first and then...” Grif looked over his shoulder toward the door. “I... can’t talk about it. Not here anyway.”
“What? Why?” Tucker asked, directing a thumb to the blender. “I’ve got this covered.”
“It’s more complicated than being overheard,” Grif said. “And you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. It’s pretty out there.”
Tucker stared at Grif before deadpanning, “Somehow I think I could manage to believe just about anything.”
“Whatever,” Grif huffed. “Just... look, you just might want to watch out for us for a while. Just until this guy moves on to a different crew.” He flipped through his wallet before offering Tucker eighty dollars in crisp twenties.
Reluctantly, Tucker reached out and took the money. “You watch yourself, dude,” Tucker said. “It’s getting to a point where your best case scenario is for Kai to find out about this bullshit.”
“Yeah, I know,” Grif grunted. “Hey, no fun lasts forever. Definitely none that tastes any good. But believe it or not, the bank thing is the least of my worries about the group right now.”
Tucker blinked. “What do you mean? Something with this mysterious new guy?”
“Kind of,” Grif muttered. “Don’t worry about it. Just know that what’s not going to Kai this week’s going to a new car hood.” He frowned, looking to the ground. “Like fuck, anything but my car, but nope.”
Blinking, Tucker stepped back. “Your... car hood?”
“Yeah, seriously, though, sorry about today,” Grif said, holding out his hand. “I’ll make it up to you. You’re the guy watching out for my little sister, after all.”
Staring at the hand, Tucker felt like he was having an out of body experience. He reached and took it, letting Grif handle the actual shaking. He then reached back and turned off the blender.
“Good call, I gotta go crash,” Grif said, nodding toward the door. “Hey, if you need someone to help with your kid, Simmons and I are always just a drive away.”
Tucker nodded. “Uh-huh.”
Grif looked him over for a second, confused by Tucker’s sudden unresponsiveness before shrugging and heading toward the door. “Anyway, let me know when we’re cool again.”
“Uh-huh,” Tucker repeated, watching as Grif headed out.
He stood stock still for a few minutes, trying to figure out what to make of all the information when the door to his bedroom opened again.
“Mister Tucker?” Washington called out seriously.
Tucker sighed. “Aw, fuckberries.”
Chapter 7: Sidekick Syndrome
I’m just so blown away by the support this story has gotten like wow @_@ You guys are really, really awesome and I can’t thank you enough for being so engaged and fun with the story. It makes what was already a really fun story just feel really rewarding to work on as a writer and I can’t thank you all enough for it. It’s a genuine blast and I hope the story continues to be fun for you all as readers! Especially now that we’re getting into the meaty stuff : )
Thanks for the feedback to @doubleodonut, @autisticdrgrey, @secretlystephaniebrown, @ashleystlawrence, @hayleycreagine, @demoranightmares, bangles25, Two_Four_None_Ten, Elizabeeni, Alkeni, @ephemeraltea, @godoflaundrybaskets, Yin, Beawolfs_Pen, HappyFunBallXD, Adventures_in_Writing, JjThereforeIAm, MeltMyHeart2Stone, and @blaze-kitty on AO3 and tumblr!
Tucker watched the banged up superhero carefully as the man half-walked, half-limped his way into the kitchen and walked over to the blender. He looked at Tucker curiously.
“You live in apartments with paper thin walls, you learn how to get inventive with private conversations,” Tucker said, folding his arms. “What, you never heard of it?”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to put a fork in the garbage disposal?” Washington asked.
Tucker opened his mouth and then closed it. It... did sound easier. But it wasn’t what he learned from Church when they were all roommates, so it’d never crossed his mind before.
“What do you care?” Tucker asked.
“I’m trying to figure out what you didn’t want me to hear,” Washington said.
“How do you know it was you?” Tucker asked defensively as Junior came marching out, tugging on the blanket tied around his neck. “Ask Junior, I do it all the time.”
Washington’s arms crossed against his chest, which was a rather impressive look -- Tucker wondered if he practiced posing a lot as one of the caped fools of the city -- but the man flinched at the motion still.
Probably a rib or two broken over that car hood.
“Mister Tucker, I’m starting to think you’re involved with more endemic problems of the city than I initially thought,” he announced.
“What? Like poverty? That’s a problem,” Tucker hand waved to the apartment.
“Who was that?”
“Who was who?”
Tucker and Washington stared at each other intently for a few moments. Tucker could have sworn that one of the veins over the hero’s forehead was beginning to pulse. And, somehow, Tucker felt very accomplished from that.
Rolling his eyes, Tucker shook his head. “Seriously, seriously, dude. Just call me Tucker. I don’t think I’ve ever been called Mister Tucker in my entire life. I don’t plan on starting now.”
“Fine, Tucker,” Washington huffed out. “I just want to know, are you in some kind of serious trouble? Do you need help?”
“No! I’m really not,” Tucker groaned out. “Look, I just... have a complicated life,” he said with a wave to Junior as the kid pulled himself into a chair and made a garbling noise, resting his head on the table.
Without even a second thought, Tucker moved to the fridge and stove to start making his son’s dinner.
“It’s complicated, and there’s a lot of people in it that could be in trouble, but I’m not,” Tucker said. “I actually avoid trouble like a boss.”
Washington glared at him. “You were implanted with an alien embryo and gave birth to it.”
“And that wasn’t trouble,” Tucker replied, opening the oven. “Hey, man, do you like chicken?”
“Tucker, please have a real conversation with me for a minute,” Washington begged, sliding between Tucker and the fridge door. “I’m really concerned about this.”
“Why?” Tucker demanded a little haughtily.
“Because you saved me,” Washington reminded him. “You saved me and you didn’t have to. That says more about you than anything else. And beyond that... I’m a superhero. I’m compelled to help people in trouble.”
Tucker waved around to his apartment. “Not in Blood Gulch you aren’t, dude. Superheroes don’t come in this neighborhood. And when they do, they apparently get chewed up and spit out.” He looked Washington in the eyes. “Good people? They don’t last here.”
“I don’t believe that,” Wash snapped back.
“Well, I mean, that’s the funny thing about reality, it doesn’t really care what you do or don’t believe,” Tucker said with a shrug. He threw a thumb in Junior’s direction. “My friends didn’t believe Doc when he said I was pregnant. And fuck if Junior didn’t come along anyway.”
“Okay, stop,” Washington said, holding up his hands. “You keep dancing around this and mentioning it casually, but this is what we need to talk about.”
Tucker blinked. “Oh, you want to know how I had him. Everyone gets confused -- see Doc was there so--”
“No, Tucker, hold on,” Wash said, putting a hand to his face as he sighed. “Do you even know what Junior being alive means?”
Looking over Washington, Tucker began to cock his head to the side suspiciously. “I know what it means to me, and that’s all that really matters,” Tucker answered firmly.
“I can appreciate that,” Wash responded. “I can, Tucker. And it’s obvious that you and Junior love each other very much. And I just... that fact alone, especially in the years following the Invasion, is an inspiration.”
“Well, it’d be nice if more people took that attitude,” Tucker huffed, looking back to Junior who was chewing on the table edge in aggravation. “Maybe I could get out more with him if everyone felt that way.”
“That... might be harder,” Wash responded lowly. “Tucker, have you ever tried to tell your story to anyone outside of your friends and family?”
“My friends are my family,” Tucker responded, looking back to Wash. “We’re the only ones who know. And fuck, most of them are too fucked up themselves to really get it, y’know?”
“No, I don’t know,” Washington replied dryly. “But all the same, I think this is good. I’m glad you were suspicious of the Embassy and didn’t try to go there. That could have been a disaster.”
Wash turned his head slightly. “You didn’t even think about it, did you?”
“Well, I mean technically it’s a thought now...”
Rubbing at his temples Wash sighed. “It’s... it’s fine. It worked out for the better, because honestly you would have caused war to break out again.”
“Hey, fuck off with your accusatory hypotheticals, man!” Tucker snapped back. “You don’t know that--”
“Yes, I do,” Washington responded, hands on his hips. “Your son was right, Tucker. I was a member of the Freelancers, and we were at the front of the Invasion. Most of us... Most of my team didn’t make it out. I waited for a while, hoping to see some of them resurface after the war had died down, but... I guess I was being too optimistic.”
Tucker scratched at the back of his head, thinking of Church and, well, their previous superhero entanglements.
“Did you know Tex?” Tucker asked.
“Yes, I did,” Wash responded a little quietly. “I knew... Well, I knew everyone in the main team. Besides... well, I guess I never met Georgia or Utah, but that was before my time.”
“Tex was a badass,” Tucker snickered.
“She was something else,” Wash muttered.
“You mean like a bitch?”
“There you go, putting the worst possible statements in my mouth again,” Wash grunted. “Listen, we can talk about Freelancers later, what’s important is that I was there when the peace talks came about, and I know that part of the reason we are at peace at all is because of the lack of successful embryos,” Wash explained with a wave to Junior. “I think your son could be in danger.”
Taking a step back from Washington, Tucker thought his heart was ready to rip out of his chest. He shook his head then looked to Junior and back to Washington. The hero was wearing the same serious expression.
“What... What the fuck are you talking about?” Tucker demanded.
“I think your son’s life has far more value than you could have ever imagined, Tucker. And I’m worried about people wanting to exploit that,” Wash answered.
“That’s bullshit! Why wouldn’t anything have happened before now then?”
“You said it yourself,” Wash waved to the apartment. “No one in Blood Gulch is going to stick their noses into other people’s business, right? And the only people who know are like family to the two of you--”
“And you,” Tucker snapped.
Washington frowned. “And me,” he agreed. “But, and I am swearing this to you right now on everything I stand on, I will do what I can to protect him -- and you -- from any situation that arises.”
“Fuck that, dude,” Tucker growled.
Tucker put his hands on his hips. “You got hit by a car your first night back out. My kid can eat metal and break down doors at four years old. Plus, he’s a Tucker. Bonafide badass genetically speaking. If you’re serious about helping him, I’d rather you just teach him what to do for himself.”
Washington scowled. “I don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what?”
“Sidekicks,” Wash replied. “I don’t believe in them.”
“The reality is that it’s the only solution,” Tucker responded. “I’m not saying I want Junior jumping off rooftops into dumpsters with you, but I am saying that if you’re actually going to pay us back for everything, I’d be more comfortable with you starting with, y’know, actually helping my kid protect himself.”
“I’m just not comfortable with the idea of sidekicks,” Wash continued, looking off. “I mean, I agree that some self-defense could only be beneficial for your son. Especially since the company you surround yourself with tends to apparently find trouble--”
“I didn’t say that,” Tucker grouched, though thinking of Grif and the car did draw some more attention to Washington’s collection of bruises.
“And I do want to sincerely thank you for all your help--”
Tucker held up a hand, stopping Washington. “Dude, I've been doing a lot and you’ll never pay me back for that. But you can totally put a dent in that payback -- and for scaring the shit out of me about my kid -- by teaching my kid how to be safe out there, alright? I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
Going quiet for a moment, Washington lowered his head, rubbing at his neck thoughtfully. He looked back up. “I built a safe house not too far from here. There’s a lot of equipment and supplies there. Maybe... maybe I could rig something up out of it.”
“Show me,” Tucker demanded.
“Right now?” Washington asked. “I was hoping to go back tonight to get a spare uniform...”
“Wearing what? Your strips of kevlar?” Tucker snorted. “Dude, just change into some of my clothes. You’re freezing me to death just looking at you. I’ll make Junior some dinner, call up a sitter, and we’ll go check out your lair together.”
“It’s not a lair, it’s a safe house. And I don’t want to be seen--”
“Hiding in plain sight dude, just put some clothes on and we’ll walk like civilized people,” Tucker responded flippantly.
Washington stared at him for a moment before sighing and nodding.
“Alright, Tucker. That seems reasonable.”
Tucker smirked. “Good.”
Chapter 8: The Wash Cave
Okay I feel terrible because (as is probably very obvious by now) I do not normally do shippy stuff, and especially not long form, but YES. Finally okay. All the world building established we now have Tucker and Wash, together, in a chapter and we can begin the juicy stuff. I’m sure the pacing has felt slow for a fic up to now but I promise! It’s going to pay off : ) Thanks for having faith in me and the story up to now!
Thanks for the feedback to @secretlystephaniebrown, @doubleodonut, alkeni, Yin, night_litany, HappyFunBallXD, @ashleystlawrence, @demoranightmares, @godoflaundrybaskets, Beawolfs_Pen, and JjThereforeIAm on AO3 and tumblr!
Impatient as the knocking was, Tucker knew to expect more than just Caboose on the other side of the door. Still, it was surprising that Church would tag along after having been forced onto babysitting duty just the night before.
“You look pleasant,” Tucker said with a snort as he opened the door the rest of the way.
Church grouched at him before shuffling the rest of the way in. “That how you going to treat me after I go through the snow for you, asshole?”
“You can’t get cold,” Tucker responded with a wave before leaning back against the door and waiting for Caboose to lumber on through. “I’m not keeping the door open forever, man, c’mon!”
“I am not tracking snow in,” Caboose announced, rubbing the bottoms of his boots against the door frame. “Because that would be very, very rude.”
“You know what else is rude? Making the guy holding the door open for you wait. Caboose, get in here,” Tucker ordered, watching with arms crossed as Caboose finally filed all the way through the door.
Not a moment after Tucker had shut the door, Junior knew he was free to jump out from behind the couch, his full ‘superhero’ wardrobe on. “BLARGH!”
Still managing to look haggard against all logic, Church just kept in place and leered at Junior. “That better be a super villain costume,” he snapped.
Junior gave Church one look over before flexing all of his mandibles and letting out a rumbling growl.
Like the mature adult he obviously was, Church leaned forward and bared teeth to growl back.
“Church, you and Junior get into a fight again, I’ll ground you both,” Tucker warned.
Rolling his eyes, Tucker looked more directly to Caboose who was fiddling with the scarf wrapped around his neck one too many times. He snapped his fingers a few time in Caboose’s face to get the man’s attention.
“Hey, Caboose!” Tucker near shouted.
“Yes, I am me. What is it?” Caboose asked, blinking owlishly.
“You know about my rules?” Tucker asked warily.
“No forks in sockets. No socks eaten. No food in the bathtub,” Caboose began reciting, counting off on his fingers. He then huffed and waved a flippant hand at Tucker. “Of course I remember rules, Tucker. I. Am. A very. Very. Good Juniorsitter.”
“I will still debate that to my dying breath, but yeah, okay,” Tucker nodded. “But I mean my big rule. The important one? Do you remember it?”
Caboose frowned then looked down to his feet, twisting them inward. “Oh. Um. Do not break things. No powerups. No super times.”
“No breaking my furniture,” Tucker reiterated. “Yeah, that’s all good. Still do that.”
“It’s really hard sometimes, Tucker--”
“I don’t care, dude! My deposit barely covers Acts of God, I’m not blowing a hundred bucks because of super shit. Never again!” He stopped himself short of going into a full rant and rubbed tiredly at his eyes. He released a long sigh before looking back to Caboose. “Okay, that’s not the point I wanted to get at. It’s just... Caboose. You know that... if there was danger--”
Immediately, Caboose’s head turned up, eyes wide. “There’s danger!?”
“No! Caboose, shut up for a minute!” Tucker groaned. He put a steadying hand on Caboose’s shoulders and forced eye contact. “Caboose. IF -- and this is a huge IF -- something dangerous were to happen, if, say, Junior was in trouble, like people were trying to take him or hurt him or what the fuck ever--”
“Yes, bad people,” Tucker continued. “You know... you know I don’t give a shit about you doing your thing. Junior first. Always, right?”
Caboose straightened a bit, looked over to the tongue flashing match Church and Junior were currently engaged in, then back to Tucker. He nodded. “I’ll never let something bad happen to Junior, Tucker! You can trust me!”
Tucker scowled. “Dude, never tell me I can trust you. Last time I did, you broke a wall.”
For a moment it seemed like Caboose was willing to debate the (very true) claim when there was a click of the bedroom door opening, which made Caboose leap nearly three feet into the air, eyes wide with surprise.
Church also jumped but it almost immediately melted into aggravation as he realized who else could possibly be in the apartment and he rounded on Tucker to give one of his favorite dirtly looks.
Tucker easily ignored it because he had actually been waiting fairly anxiously to see just what his house guest looked like outside of his ripped up super suit.
“Dude, it took you long enough!” Tucker called out toward Washington.
“Oh, my god this is why you needed us to be babysitters?” Church growled. “What’s he still doing here?”
Wash walked out, looking a little perturbed by Church and Caboose’s presence. As expected, Tucker’s jeans were a bit tight on him, but the habit of getting over sized sweatshirts had finally come in handy. The only real issue was that, with the enigmatic visor gone, probably stashed in the rucksack over his shoulder, Washington had actually dug through enough drawers to find Tucker’s only pair of sunglasses and was wearing them.
“What? You afraid of the sun at seven thirty?” Tucker asked critically.
Finally taking his suspicious gaze off of Church and Caboose, Wash looked to Tucker and almost nervously adjusted his bag. “I have my reasons.”
“Do you shoot super hot plasma from your eyeballs and can’t control it?” Tucker asked, raising a brow.
“No,” Wash said clearly.
“Hm,” Tucker returned before being grabbed by Church and pulled toward the bathroom. “Church!”
“I need to talk to you,” his friend said before yanking him in and slamming the door behind them. He immediately threw his arms up and got in Tucker’s face. “What the fuck are you doing!?”
“Dude, chill,” Tucker snapped. “Also I’m pretty sure they can hear you.”
“Why’s he still here?”
“Because he hasn’t left yet?”
“Don’t be a smart ass!”
“Don’t be an idiot!” Tucker pushed back. “Dude, you’ve got to chill about this superhero nonsense. What are you? Jealous?”
“No, Tucker. I’m not jealous. I’m fucking dead,” Church reminded him angrily. “Also, fuck you.”
“I know you’re dead,” Tucker seethed back. “You won’t let us fucking forget it! God you are the most attention whoring ghost ever--”
“Ghosts haunt people. All we do is whore for attention,” Church snapped back. “And apparently I do have to remind you because after all this, you apparently are going out with him!”
Tucker blinked, looked to the door, then back at Church. He shook his head. “What? What the fuck, dude! I’m not going out with him. I’m walking with him over to his Man Cave or whatever. One, so he doesn’t kill himself walking into traffic or something. Two, because I’m going to get him to start training Junior--”
Church’s face, if possible, looked more disgusted. “You’re training Junior to be one!?”
“No!” Tucker paused and thought about it. "Well, not really. It’s just that Washington thinks Junior could be in danger and I want him to be able to defend himself--”
Holding up a hand to silence Tucker, Church lowered his head. He then looked back up, more serious somehow. “Did you say ‘Washington’? That’s his name?”
Already out the door, Church marched out toward where Washington was playing twenty questions with Caboose.
“Have you ever fought a giant lizard?” Caboose asked, Junior excitedly running around his legs.
“No,” Wash answered, arms crossed over his chest.
“Have you ever fought a giant moth?”
“No,” Wash sighed.
“Have you ever fought a giant chicken?”
“No. Wait... Still no, but a giant bird, yes,” Wash replied before turning toward Church. He cocked his head to the side. “You were here last night.”
“Yeah, hi. Glad to see you’re not splattered or whatever,” Church snapped before pointing at Wash. “You knew Tex?”
Wash stared at him. “Why does everyone here keep asking me that?”
“Just answer, man!”
“Yes, I knew her,” Wash responded. “I didn’t know her the best of my teammates, but we were a team at the end of the day.” He watched as some of the tension left Church’s shoulders then did a sweeping look around the room. “Okay, clearly something more is going on here. Am I... not your first superhero?”
“Pfft, fuck no,” Tucker snorted, coming in the rest of the way. He threw a thumb toward Church. “You’re looking at the original Blood Gulch damsel in distress.”
Immediately affronted, Church’s shoulders raised up. “Hey, fuck you, dude. I’m not a damsel.”
“Yes, Tucker. Church is a dudesel,” Caboose said seriously. “Get it right, Tucker. Gosh.”
Washington looked very concerned toward Church. “You... and Tex? But... anyone who dated Tex always...”
Seeing a very intense need for a subject change, Tucker pointed toward Caboose. “Caboose also tried to be a hero for a while.”
“Yeah, I broke things,” Caboose nodded. “They were very happy. City hall gave me papers. Said I did such a good job that I couldn’t do it again!”
If possible, Wash looked more flabbergasted. “What did I fall into?” he wondered out loud.
“A dumpster,” Tucker reminded him.
He stared at Tucker before rubbing at his face. “I walked into that one.”
“Just like you walked into that car--”
“Okay, that’s enough,” Wash grunted. “You wanted to get moving?”
As Wash made his way toward the door, Tucker kneeled down by Junior, bopping him on the nose. “You be a good kid, alright? Only chew on Uncle Church a little bit. And listen to what Caboose says unless it’s really dumb, got it?”
“Honk!” Junior called out before giving Tucker a hug. He then ran toward the couch, jumping over it, arms stretched out like he was flying before belly flopping onto the cushions.
Tucker stood up and shook his head, then looked to his friends. “Yeah, good luck with that. He’s riled up.”
“I’ll set him back on the path to the dark side,” Church claimed before giving Tucker a warning look. “And, uh, call me, dude. if things get... weird.”
“Like, touchy. It’s just a first date. I know you’re repressed and all, but--”
“Fuck you, dude, it’s not a date!” Tucker growled before racing out the door only to find Wash waiting with a very worried expression. Tucker turned his head. “It’s not a date.”
“I didn’t think it was,” Washington agreed as they stepped out and shut the door behind them
“Good, because for the record, I’m like the king of romance. The ladies can’t get enough of me. If it was a date, you would know it. I would have swooned the fuck out of you by now.”
Washington gave him another look. “Tucker, I believe you. It’s not a date.”
“And just because I watch a lot of porn doesn’t mean I’m making up for something--”
“Okay, I think now is a good time to exercise conversation in other subjects,” Wash sighed. “Like, any subject. Really.”
Tucker opened the door to the exit and let Wash take the lead out into the winter air. He himself firmly stuck his hands into his front pocket and followed suit. “Okay, how about ‘how far away is this lair’?”
“It’s not a lair, and it’s about ten blocks,” Wash explained. He looked over his shoulder to Tucker. “Would you prefer to take a bus?”
“Did you care cash in that utility belt of yours?” Tucker asked.
Washington paused and looked forward. “Right, well--”
“You gotta think poorer, dude,” Tucker chuckled. He frowned, reaching up to scratch at his chin for a moment. He then looked warily at Wash’s back. “Wait. If you’re not even a mile from my place... is your hideout in Blood Gulch?”
“I just finished building it up a few weeks ago,” Wash explained.
“So you’re moving here? To Blood Gulch? On purpose?” Tucker asked critically. “You chasing a baddie down here wasn’t just a coincidence.”
“That was the plan,” Wash shrugged.
Tucker kept his focus on Wash a bit longer before shaking his head. “Why? I don’t understand what you’re doing here, man. I mean... It’s Blood Gulch. The people who live here don’t care--”
“I don’t like that,” Wash explained, he stopped, letting Tucker get shoulder to shoulder with him before giving a small wave toward the streets around them. “I was a hero for several years. On a team with the best. And we always talked about making a difference for the world, and about doing absolutely anything we could to ensure humanity’s survival when the Invasion happened.” He paused, looking around. “But... we never went to the places that needed us the most. I never realized it when I was younger, but it seemed like the only times we went to places, like Blood Gulch, that probably could have used a more watchful eye, it was because the fighting was taken to there. We destroyed more than we fixed.”
“Well, I do have experience with that angle,” Tucker responded, letting out a low, aggravated sigh. “Did you know that if a superhero’s powers aren’t magic based, ‘Acts of God’ doesn’t cover it? What kinda bullshit is that? I lost a hundred dollar deposit on that!”
Wash turned and looked over Tucker. He smirked. “It’s some kind of bullshit,” he agreed.
“Yeah it is,” Tucker responded, following in step with Wash as they continued walking. “So you want to help the little people now?”
“Well, I am little people now, so yes,” Wash said.
“Oh, lost your mansion and family millions?” Tucker joked.
“Didn’t have those things so no,” Wash said, scratching at his neck. “But I have come into some... proceeds for my endeavors.”
Tucker gave him a look. Wash blinked back.
“I would like to take a recording of the nonsense that comes out of your mouth and see if you can translate it,” Tucker responded. “Goddamn dude, just tell me if you’re loaded or not.”
“Oh my god, it’s yes or no.”
“Not if it’s complicated.”
They stared at each other as they continued walking, neither of them budging on the subject. Finally, Wash sighed and looked ahead. “I have money that goes to my equipment and supplies, and I have some higher end things that are left over from Freelancer that I inherited. And separate from that I have an allowance.”
“What? So you’re a sponsored superhero?” Tucker asked, confused.
“Uh, the opposite.”
Tucker could almost feel his eye twitch. “What does that mean?”
Washington let out a low, aggravated sigh and then waved to his injuries. “I’m sponsored to... not be a hero anymore.”
“What... like... superhero worker’s comp?”
“No, it’s more... a settlement. The government sponsored the Freelancers, in return we were mobilized for several events in their favor. One of them was the failed initial defense against the Invasion, and because of some... poor decisions,” Wash continued, words growing heavier with the continuation of the story, “they got nearly all of us killed. I lived along with some others, but I opted to not continue taking orders. So I was given compensation for my time.”
Tucker frowned. “Think I could apply for some of that since apparently having an alien was such a rarity?”
“I wouldn’t suggest it,” Wash responded, finally coming to a stop. “Okay, I locked up before I left so we’ll need to go through the back entrance.”
Confused, Tucker looked at the building that Wash was walking toward. He looked to the superhero, then back to the building. Then again. He sprinted to catch up with Wash who was already halfway through the alley.
Tucker motioned to the building. “This is a laundromat.”
“I see your keen powers of observation have been utilized,” Wash responded snarkily, heading to the back door.
“Your secret place is a laundromat.”
“Actually, it’s the loft above the laundromat, yes,” Wash responded, turning his attention to the electric lock on the door. He fiddled with it before popping the control panel open and revealing a clear, white pad beneath. Without hesitation, Washington forced his thumb onto it. The white pad glowed blue. Wash repeated with his other thumb.
Tucker blinked at the technology then glared at Wash.
“So if you locked yourself out and a supervillain cut off your hand, you’d be screwed.”
“If that happened, I’m pretty sure my ability to get into my hideout would be low on my list of concerns,” Wash returned, looking at Tucker. “You alright?” he asked as he opened the door.
“Yeah, I’m fine, just a little... impressed, I guess,” Tucker scowled back.
“Being impressed is a problem?”
“I just didn’t realize who I was dealing with before,” Tucker acknowledged.
“Well, you have only known me for about twenty-four hours,” Washington responded, holding the door open as Tucker came through. “I’m sure I’m still full of more surprises for you.”
Unable to do anything but snort at the comment, Tucker looked over his shoulder at Wash and shook his head. “You think so? Hey, maybe I’m full of surprises, too.”
Washington laughed. “Okay. If you manage a surprise bigger than alien baby and knew Agent Tex, I’ll give you that one,” he said. He then flinched as he took a step slightly wrong and held a hand to his ribs.
Tucker felt a tinge of something at the motion and thought momentarily about Grif. He coughed into his fist.
“Uhh, yeah, I’m sure I’ll manage something,” he muttered. “Hey, uh, about you being hit by the car--”
“I thought we were doing a fairly good job of avoiding this subject,” Wash sighed.
“I’m just wondering. Was the guy you were chasing the one who hit you or...?”
Wash paused on the stairwell. He seemed to actually be thinking back on the subject before shaking his head. “They might have been working together but... no. He definitely wasn’t driving the car. He rarely does the dirty work. This man... he’s a criminal mastermind.”
“And you tracked him to Blood Gulch?” Tucker asked.
“It was a coincidence, but yes. I’ve been following him for awhile,” Wash admitted, stopping at the top step and beginning to key in a code on a door lock.
“So did all your money go into security here?” Tucker asked, looking suspiciously at the cameras in the corner of the ceiling.
“No, not really,” Wash replied, opening the door.
Once the door was open, Tucker turned his head to look in only to feel his jaw drop slightly. The loft constituted enough area to have been the whole floor Tucker lived on in his own apartment.
Astounded, Tucker stepped on in, looking at the modern furniture, the deco art. The kitchen had an island. Tucker barely had counter space around his sink in an apartment for two, and this asshole got an island?
Wash was already on the move toward the living room where a thermostat looking device was on the wall. He keyed in another code which began to convert the items on that wall, flipping hidden shelves open and opening up to a new cabinet space.
Still in a haze, Tucker walked further in, looking at the kevlar suits hanging where Wash was now looking, beginning to pull down some supplies.
“Jesus,” Tucker muttered, finally able to form words.
“Here,” Wash spoke up, walking over to Tucker with a red box. “I know you used a lot of supplies on me last night. I’m still very grateful.”
Tucker looked at him still in disbelief but took the first-aid kit all the same.
“Alright,” Wash said, hands on his hips. “Let’s talk about what we’re going to do for your son.”
Chapter 9: Safety Procedures
There might be a bit of a lull in updates in the next couple of weeks, just a heads up : )
Thanks for the feedback to @secretlystephaniebrown, @demoranightmares, @doubleodonut, @fuckingshisno, @ashleystlawrence, @analiarvb, @tuckalinas, Yin, bangles25, Alkeni, night_litany, Blodwendubh, Overtale, calaminii, @godoflaundrybaskets, Beawolfs_Pen, staninspace, HappyFunBallXD, and JjThereforeIAm on AO3 and tumblr!
"If you would prefer it, I could draft up a plan, maybe an exercise regiment, and run it by you another time. You seem... distracted.”
Tucker looked back at Wash, finally ripping his eyes from the contours of the hidden loft, and gave him a hard glare. “Dude, I wouldn’t have walked all the way out here and put up with your bitching if I wasn’t willing to talk about Junior now. I mean, where’d you even get that--”
Washington, who had pulled up a bar stool from the island -- stupid thing was tiled and not the cheap kind -- gestured over Tucker. “You’re still standing there holding the kit I handed you.”
Tucker looked down to his hands, let out a disgruntled noise, and drug his feet over to the kitchen area, cautiously pulling a stool over himself.
“I think it’s admirable that you’re so proactive about protecting your son,” Wash said as Tucker pulled his seat closer to the island.
“Oh, shut up. I hate it when people butter me up,” Tucker snorted.
When he looked up, he saw that Wash’s lips were pressed together, forming that thin line of discontent.
“Not everything that comes out of my mouth has a double meaning, Tucker,” Wash informed him. “Sometimes it’s just a compliment.”
“I don’t take compliments from other dudes well.”
Wash’s brows knit together, confused. “Why?”
“Do I need a reason?” Tucker asked.
“I just don’t think you’re getting them often enough from women to constitute banning them from men entirely. They’re compliments. They’re just meant to make you feel nice,” Wash replied.
“Well that was some shade,” Tucker said, throwing a thumb to his chest. “I get compliments for the ladies all the time!”
Wash crossed his leg over his knee and hummed. “I’m sure.”
“I get major tail, dude!” Tucker announced. “I’d get double... no, triple if I could save up for a car.” He couldn’t help but grin and wiggle a finger at Wash. “It’d be an easy way to get rid of you, too.”
“I don’t feel like you’re going to be running out of these jokes anytime soon, and I don’t know how to feel about that,” Wash replied sardonically. “I’m really just a man trying to protect your neighborhood, make it safe, and possibly help your child learn how to take care of himself from some very real possibilities of being threatened. I’m not entirely sure I deserve all the comments you tend to throw at me.”
“Oh, toughen up,” Tucker laughed. “This is the kinda shit all of us throw at each other -- Church, Caboose, Kai, Grif, Sheila kind of--”
“You mentioned this Grif guy before,” Wash responded curiously. “Who is he again?”
Tucker opened his mouth, closed it again, and rubbed roughly at his jaw. “Huh. Uh. Well, he’s a friend. Kind of. Not a friend like Church and Caboose or anything. He’s a buddy I drink with sometimes. We uhhh tend to run into each other a lot. He’s my coworker Kai’s brother. And a real piece of shit. Uh. Not that he’s that bad of a guy. Really, I think he’s pretty likable. Just. I don’t know if you’d like him. Not that you would know him. I mean, how could you?” He paused at the blank expression Wash was giving him, coughed into his fist. “Right?”
“Tucker, you’re doing that thing again where I have a hard time believing anything that comes out of your mouth, but at the same time I’m finding it very hard to think it’s of a lot of consequence,” Wash responded.
“Oh, well, that’s relieving,” Tucker responded, looking back to the counter top as he slid the first aid kit onto it. “So. About Junior.”
“Right, of course,” Wash responded, folding his hands together as he leaned onto the island across from Tucker. “Like I said before, I’m not comfortable with the... traditional idea of a sidekick. This wouldn’t really be superhero training--”
“Church would be so relieved.”
Wash’s nose curled a bit at that. “I’m sure.” He then continued, “And I don’t intend on ever seeing him out on the streets with me.”
“GOD no,” Tucker agreed. “People fall into dumpsters out there.”
Washington hung his head and released a long, exasperated sigh, reaching up to squeeze the bridge of his nose while somehow still managing to wear those dumb sunglasses.
“Did I give you a headache?” Tucker asked.
“You’re doing an impressive job of getting us to that point, but no not yet,” Wash responded before looking back up. “My point is just that I don’t want there to be any confusion about why I’m offering to do this. I’m not going to put your son in danger, I’m just concerned about him already being a target for it. And making sure that should that time come, he would be able to care for himself. This is my attempt to be very transparent with you.”
“I appreciate that,” Tucker replied, turning his head slightly to the side. “So is there like... times that you can’t fit working with Junior into your schedule?”
“Nights are off,” Wash responded. “There are very few nights that I don’t plan on being on patrol myself. And I’m not much of a morning person as a result. So from about ten in the morning until nightfall is ideal.”
Tucker narrowed his eyes. “What days do you work?”
Wash frowned a bit. “I’m not supposed to work--”
“What does that mean?”
“Look, don’t worry about it. But I do have... engagements on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays,” Wash responded.
“What kind of engagements?”
“Kinds I can’t reschedule easily,” Wash sighed. “I hate being obtuse with you on that--”
“I don’t know, man, you seem to do it enough that I think you enjoy it at least a little bit,” Tucker snorted.
Wash frowned. “Back on topic, I’m also not as familiar with the anatomy and physiology of Junior’s species as I am, say, our own. But just assuming he grows at any rate similar to humans, I don’t think overworking his body at a young age would be good for him. So we’re going to try to find a good balance between training and play.” Wash brought a hand to his chin. “You mentioned he was strong enough to break down a door before. And that his jaws could chew a television. Have you tested just how strong he is? Do you know how much weight he can carry or--”
Tucker scowled. “Dude, you’re making it sound like doing science projects on my kid here.”
“I need to be familiar with what his physical limits might be,” Wash expressed. “But... I can see how that might feel discomforting. It’s alright. The first time we all get together, I’ll set up a way for us to see for ourselves.”
Watching Wash carefully, Tucker rubbed at his shoulder. “Okay, so what would training him entail, though? Just... running laps? Jumping jacks? Professional diving lessons in the Olympic sized pool that this floor probably opens up to?”
“It doesn’t,” Wash assured him. “And... all of those things are a possibility. I’m just trying to give you perspective here and let you know that you can step up and end this whenever you want, put limits yourself. I’ll run everything by you.”
“Yeah okay,” Tucker nodded. “Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that.”
Wash waited a moment, as if expecting there to possibly be more before straightening up in his seat, hands patting the edge o the island. “Alright, then, Tucker. We can begin tomorrow if you like.”
It took a moment, but Tucker began to straighten up. It took a bit of self restraint to not verbalize the oh in the back of his throat. “So you’re not staying at my place tonight?”
The superhero smirked a bit and laughed. “No. That would be an unnecessary intrusion on you all, which I’m trying to do better about--”
“You know it’s a miracle you can even walk around with what happened to you, you could probably use someone actually looking out for you--”
“Thank you, Tucker, but you did an excellent job of nursing me,” Washington assured him almost flippantly. “I’ve had worse. This will be nothing--”
“You got hit by a car--”
Frowning, Wash crossed his arms. “The fact does not change or become miraculously funnier each additional time you work it into conversation.”
“You being thrown away with the garbage manages to still be pretty funny, though,” Tucker argued.
Washington sighed, shaking his head. “Is there anything else you want to ask me tonight?”
Tucker looked back at Wash as he stood up. “Is your power to heat your body from ninety-eight degrees to an amazing hundred-and-five without killing yourself?”
“No,” Wash responded easily. “Is there anything else I can answer for you?”
“Can I have those clothes dry cleaned by the time I come with Junior tomorrow?” Tucker asked. “And is two too late--”
“Two’s perfect, and yes all of your things will be spotless. Thank you for letting me borrow them,” Wash responded, pulling out a tablet from one of the cabinet drawers behind him. “And before you even get started, I’m calling you a cab. Prepaid.”
Tucker frowned, looking intensely at Wash. “Why are you doing all this great stuff for us?” he asked.
Washington looked back at him, a little caught off guard by the question. He seemed to stew on it for a moment before putting the tablet down. “I just want to help people who need it,” he responded.
Shaking his head, Tucker crossed his arms. “No, that’s why you put on bright colors and run on rooftops. Why do you do all this for us? Me and Junior? I mean... you don’t even know us.”
There was a moment where Wash seemed at a loss, he then shook his head and got up from the stool. “I have a point to make, and a promise to keep to myself,” he explained. “But I do want your son to be safe. He’s a good kid.”
Tucker grunted. “Dude. What is that answer supposed to even mean? Will I ever learn? Or is it like your eye thing -- probably not that big of a mystery but you’ll be a stupid stubborn bastard about it all the same, probably for the lolz?”
“It’s just personal,” Wash responded.
“Yeah, unlike stuff involving my kid which wouldn’t be personal to me at all,” Tucker snorted, rolling his eyes.
Sighing, Washington put his hands on his hips. “I’m sorry, Tucker. I will tell you some day. Just know that it’s important to me. Important to who I’m trying to be now.”
Tucker frowned, giving Wash a careful look over when Wash’s tablet sounded off. “I guess that’s my cab,” Tucker responded.
“It is,” Wash agreed. He stopped, looked to his closet door, and held up a finger before walking to it. Not even looking for long, Washington produced a decent winter jacket and returned to Tucker. “You’re killing me with this whole no-jacket thing, so I’m going to beg you to borrow this for the time being. It’s cold out there.”
Tucker snorted. “You really think I need--”
Sighing, Tucker took it and began to fit it on. “What is this? Real leather? How rich are you--”
“That’s hardly the thing in here that denotes riches, Tucker,” Wash snorted back. He waited as Tucker pulled the jacket on before offering his hand. “Thank you, Tucker, for all your help.”
“Yeah, well, like I said, you’ll still owe me for a while,” Tucker responded sardonically, though he took the hand and gave a firm shake back. “Serious thanks for the cab, though. Appreciate that.”
“You can start showing that appreciation to the driver by not making him wait any longer,” Wash kidded with a jerk of his head toward the door. “I’ll see you at two tomorrow.”
“Yeah, rest up, ‘til then,” Tucker waved him off, grabbing the first aid kit and heading out the door they came from. He tried to ignore the slight disappointment from Wash not fighting to get the final word in as he headed down the stairs and out into the bitter cold of the city.
The cab was waiting, as expected, and Tucker slid in the back seat easily.
“Did your app thingy give you the address?” Tucker asked casually, stretching across the backseats.
“Of course it did! Even this primitive vehicular technology is falteringly competent. Fool.”
Tucker looked toward the rearview mirror but couldn’t make out much of the driver in front. He shook his head and sighed, lounging back. “Whatever,” he muttered. “Just take me home, dude.”
“Of course. Yes. Hmm. Heheh.”
Rolling his eyes as they started off down the road, Tucker looked to the falling snow, muttering, “Cab drivers yeesh,” under his breath.
The man kept cackling nonsense to himself even as they finally arrived at the apartment complex and Tucker all but jumped out to get out of the car. He watched the cab almost angrily speed off behind him and then scratched at his ears. “Man, what the fuck was up with that guy.”
He shook his head and headed back inside. “Whatever, I don’t have time to think about that when I’m opening tomorrow.”
Chapter 10: Back to Normal
Man I’m so happy to manage another update. I know a week’s a bit longer than what the previous update schedule has been but my time table’s been a little screwy messing with finals regardless. So thank you all for your patience!!!
Thanks for the feedback to @tuckalinas, @doubleodonut, @secretlystephaniebrown, @ashleystlawrence, @dremoranightmares, @barsenthor, Loktipus, Two_Four_None_Ten, staininspace, @godoflaundrybaskets, Alkeni, Yin, HappyFunBallXD, JjThereforeIAm, Beawolfs_Pen, and @technicolorhousecat on AO3 and tumblr!
Tying back his hair, Tucker started out into the living room just in time to see Church flick a dry cheerio in Junior’s direction who then swatted it out of the air toward Caboose who sleepily didn’t see it coming and proceeded to overreact and nearly knock the table over. He gave the group a questioning look that went nowhere as the second that Caboose realized what had hit him, he shoved the cereal into his mouth and nothing more was said on it.
Tucker exaggeratedly rolled his eyes and continued into the kitchen area.
“Dude, Caboose, you have to wake up. I’m not going to waste my whole shift worried that you’re going to be asleep and let Junior out the window or something,” Tucker ordered as he pulled at his polo. “Ugh, too much starch.”
By the time he looked down, he noticed that Caboose was roughly rubbing at his eyes, attempting to wake himself up, while Junior let out a low growl and shoveled a mess of bacon into his mouth, the tell-tale crunch of his teeth denting the fork more than noticeable.
Rubbing his face, Tucker just sighed. His son was still upset to no longer have a superhero under their roof but Tucker wasn’t sure exactly what the fuck he was expected to do about it.
Hopefully their afternoon meetup with Washington would solve Junior’s mood. Hopefully.
“Say, I have a great solution to this,” Church spoke up, leaning back in his chair. “How about I stay and watch with Caboose. I mean, give the guy a break, he’s tired as fuck after working at the call center last night--”
“Oh, shut the fuck up, Church,” Tucker snapped back, putting his hands on his hips. “You don’t give a damn about watching Junior, you’re just putting off fixing the stupid cash register. Probably because you can’t fix it.”
Indignantly, Church raised to his feet. “Hey! Fuck you, I can fix anything. You want me to fix the damn cash register, I can fix the damn cash register--”
“Church, if you could fix it, it’d be fixed, and I wouldn’t feel like shit every time I asked Sheila about whether or not it’s fixed yet!” Tucker fired back. “She’s been doing all the math on her own!”
“So? It’s good for her! She’s got the brain of a calculator anyway,” Church waved off. “She always catches me when I try to cheat a few bucks out of my hourly rate.”
“Oh, so you just don’t want to get caught being a terrible person, now it all makes sense,” Tucker snorted, heading toward his closet where he looked curiously at the coat on the hanger. It seemed right.
After a moment, he looked over his shoulder to see the disgusted look Church was giving him along with the curious glances from Caboose and Junior. He roughly grabbed the jacket and shut the door with a thud.
“Anyway, I’ll march you over to the diner if I have to, man. Sheila deserves better than to have to rely on a couple of assholes who don’t get their job done.”
“Well why are you still working there then,” Church snarked as Tucker began putting the jacket on. “You want me to debug that before we go? Or do you like having your every move traced by a guy you don’t even know the first name of?”
“It’s not bugged, it’s his jacket,” Tucker snapped. “And for the record? Not everyone’s as fucked up and controlling as you and Tex were with each other.”
“No, Tucker, everyone on the superhero scene is that way,” Church snapped. “We were just honest about it. Don’t believe me? Pfft. Have fun putting me saying I told you so on repeat for the next couple of months.”
“God, let’s just get going,” Tucker groaned as he walked over to the table and stooped down to Junior’s level.
The gray scaled child let out a chortling growl and turned his head away from Tucker again.
Sighing, Tucker kissed Junior’s cheek. “You’ll see him again soon enough, kiddo. I promised you this wasn’t like the cat, remember?”
Caboose choked on his cereal and began hacking.
Church looked mortified. “Why the fuck would you bring that up again? Oh my god what kind of parent are you?“
“One who uses Caboose as a babysitter,” Tucker reminded him, getting to his feet and motioning for Church to follow him out the door. “C’mon, bolts-for-brains, let’s get me to work and you to a cash register.”
“I expect compensation for all my other work I’m missing today for this,” Church sniffed on their way out the door.
“Pfft, whatever. You still don’t have a name for your job so I don’t believe it’s real,” Tucker responded as he shut the door behind him and led them down the hall. “Remember when we used to work at the hospital cafeteria together?”
“Uh, I try to forget that, thanks for bringing it up,” Church retorted. “It’s amazing that you’re still working with food--”
Immediately, Church’s face grew a snarl and he looked off toward the ceiling, refusing to even turn to face the clattering feet headed toward them. A long string of insults were barely muttered from him.
Tucker ignored his own eye roll and took a deep breath in preparation before turning on his heels.
Doc pattered over and, despite his very scrawny physique, wasn’t winded whatsoever. Tucker would have mentioned something about it if he wasn’t so damn sure that it’d just leave his landlord an opening to talk about the fact that he ran track in high school. Again.
“I bet you guys are in a hurry, given how fast you were heading toward those stairs,” Doc began what seemed already to be a needlessly tedious conversation.
“Well. Yeah. Work and all,” Tucker said gesturing toward the stairs. “I wouldn’t have to be in such a hurry to get to the stairs if we had,” his hand swooped toward the broken down elevator shaft, “other means of getting around in the building.”
“Huh?” Doc turned toward the elevator more directly and had the indecency to look almost surprised by his own ‘Out of Order’ sign hanging. “Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. There’s been a lot to take care of this winter--”
“Apparently,” Church grouched, still not bothering to turn around.
“Oh. Yeah. Hey, Church,” Doc grunted, crossing his arms. “Former tenant Leonard Church, I should say.”
Church’s mouth opened wide, ready to unleash, leading Tucker to hold up his arms fairly immediately and step between the two. “Okay, no fighting--”
“I wouldn’t fight, Tucker. I’m a pacifist, I keep telling you--”
“Doc. No one cares,” Tucker interrupted. “Now what do you want? I really need to open this morning and clock out as soon as I can--”
“Oh, alright, I’ll skip to the good stuff,” Doc signed. “Tucker, your rent’s due in a week and I know you’re really good about paying it and all, which is why I wanted to give you a head’s up--”
“Dude, you say it and I can’t promise I won’t lose it,” Tucker warned.
“But at the next month’s rent might be a bit higher since we’re coming up on a pretty harsh winter and I expect everyone’s going to be using the central heat--”
“Have you been in his closet of an apartment?” Church asked, finally turning enough to jerk a thumb toward Tucker. “He’s not using it, that’s for damn sure.”
“Oh, like you’d know,” Tucker snapped.
“Regardless, it’s a building-wide expense...”
Tucker rubbed at his face and groaned before looking angrily to his landlord. “How about this? Take the money out that you’re not using to heat my apartment, and put it toward fixing the goddamn elevator, Doc. This is bullshit. Why are you bothering me at seven in the morning with this?”
“Well, I just wanted to also take the time to ask about some noise complaints,” Doc continued, a certain glint in his eyes. “I have people saying you’ve got multiple people staying overnight now? Rent free?”
Crossing his arms, Tucker growled, “Complaints from who? Because they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. I’ve had one guy stay the night and--”
“Ohhhh, so that’s how it is. I’ve got you--”
“God what is with everyone lately?” Tucker growled. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, frankly I don’t care, I just know that I’m getting really tired of the rent here, Doc. It’s not really worth it.”
Doc frowned at that, putting his hands together and humming slightly. “Well, I mean. That might be true, Tucker, but I’ve got to remind you... I’m pretty sure I’m the only landlord around who knows about Junior and is worried enough about his well being to not be rash and report it or anything. After all, there’s not that many landlords cool with regular aliens in the city even now...”
Tucker glared at the man before resorting to the one good comeback one always had against Doc regardless of its relevance to a situation.
“Yeah, well, you flunked out of med school,” he snapped before heading toward the stairs.
“Oh, that’s original,” Church snorted, coming after him.
“Alright, Tucker! I’ll come by later to talk about the rent change--”
“No you won’t!” Tucker growled from the stairwell. “God, that guy, Church.”
“I know. That’s why Caboose and me left, remember?” Church responded. “And since when did your neighbors care about noises?”
“He’s just snooping, who knows why,” Tucker countered with a hand wave. He pushed the doors to the outside open and immediately recoiled at the blast of wind. He gritted his teeth. “Yikes! Man, maybe it is a good thing to have a jacket. Shit.”
They were only a few steps out the door when Church shifted almost uncomfortably, giving Tucker a lingering glare as he did so. “Yeah, about the jacket...”
Already scowling, Tucker folded his arms and huffed, leering back at Church warningly. “Dude, just say whatever it is. I’m not here to play guessing games with your dumbass looks.”
“Look, it’s probably nothing. You said it was nothing when you came home yesterday. And your shirt wasn’t on backwards so I believed you--”
“I did that one time...”
“It’s just that I can’t help but raise a few eyebrows at the fact that Mister I-Don’t-Need-to-Spend-Money-on-Clothes-if-I-Save-Up-for-a-Car who won’t even let me give a few spare clothes I don’t need is suddenly all for the fancy leather jackets if they’re from Stupitingon’s closet,” Church said pointedly.
“You don’t run into superheroes every day, Church. What can I say? He convinced me,” Tucker shrugged. “Charisma. Or something.”
“He has the charisma of a wet sock,” Church snapped. “And what do you mean ‘you don’t run into superheroes every day’ -- it’s us. That’s a good thing. I would love to go a day without Caboose barging into my room--”
“You sleep in a closet.”
“I don’t sleep at all, dumbass. I retire this thing,” Church knocked on his chest, “in the utility closet because I’m trying to be decent with space.”
“Decent with space? Church, your shit takes up over half that apartment, don’t even,” Tucker snapped back.
“Think of how much I’m saving for Caboose by not collapsing this thing in the living room.”
“You’re such an ass,” Tucker snorted as they arrived at Sheila’s and pushed through the door. “Hey, everyone. I’m home.”
Looking up from the counter, Sheila blinked a few times in surprise, head rising. “What... Well. Tucker! After yesterday I thought you’d take some time off--” Her eyes fell on Church and a wicked curve grew on her smile. “Well, would you look at that! Our repairman.”
“I’m not a repairman anymore,” Church grumped out sourly as he and Tucker came further inside. “I just fix things for people I don’t hate too much. And when Tucker blackmails me.”
Sheila smiled, leaning toward Tucker as he walked by. “Thank you for playing with extortion for me, Tucker.”
“Hey, anything for you, Sheila!” Tucker responded happily, clapping his hands on her shoulder before allowing an envelope from his pocket to slide into her lap.
“I like the jacket, by the way, dear,” she continued, looking down as she picked up the envelope and opened it. She looked sternly back at Tucker. “Honey, I told you to keep this--”
“I already got reimbursed yesterday,” Tucker explained with a wave of his hand. “Seriously, though, thank you, Sheila.”
Sheila’s face hardened. “Reimbursed from who?”
Before she got another word in, Church was shaking the cash register violently before throwing his elbow into the back of it. There was a sharp CHING before the drawer burst open.
“Church! Be gentle with it, it’s old--”
Sheila scowled. “You said that last time...”
“Hey, the drawer’s opened, it’s fixed,” he said with a shrug.
“Church, I will not pay you again to not even try to figure out what’s wrong with it--”
Sensing a way out, Tucker slipped back behind the counter around Sheila and made his way to the kitchen, pulling the jacket off his shoulders as he headed toward the rack of aprons.
On his way, he passed Kai whistling over the deep fryer as she began the morning’s first grill. Her eyes followed Tucker the whole time, even as she began inspecting her nails -- looked like she got her colors mixed up again halfway through, switching patterns and, on the pinky finger, completely going off the yellow-aqua scheme to have red.
Which meant Grif was probably at poker night rather than at home to stop his sister from fashion disasters and other rough life choices.
And that just made her forlorn gazes all that much more worrisome.
Tucker hung Wash’s jacket up and slipped on his apron and hat, scowling a bit at her. “What?”
“You seem happy--”
“I haven’t said one word to you yet, Kai. Other than What. Which was not happy,” he reminded her, grabbing a scrub bucket. “Did you do the fridge already?”
“Nah,” she waved him up. “And yeah, you’re totally happy. Because if you weren’t, after getting robbed yesterday, you would have totally kicked that bucket over and I would have had to clean everything by myself because you’d be even later.”
“You would never clean everything by yourself,” he laughed. “Don’t even.”
“Okay I’d whine until Sheila made you help. My point still stands, fuckface!” she said, whirling around to near him, hand on her chin. “Something made you happy. And it soooo wasn’t a booty call.”
“You don’t know that it wasn’t--”
“I’m the first one to get texts, and probably the last one. You sooooooo didn’t get a booty call last night,” she said, tapping her lips. “What is it... hmmm...”
“Dude, after I started hanging out with your brother, I can’t booty call you. You’re both under Grif on my phone. That’d be awkward.”
“We have first names--”
“That sounds like a lot of effort,” Tucker snorted back. “Also, stop psychoanalyzing me. I’m not too happy. I assure you. Hell, Junior’s even mad at me.”
“Kids do that.”
“I had to walk here with Church today,” Tucker added.
Kaikaina’s face dropped immediately into despair. “Wow, I’m so sorry, dude. That’s awful,” she responded sincerely. “He’s such a whiny bitch.”
“I know, right?” Tucker laughed just before there was a slam from the front followed by the off tone ringing of the bell. He and Kai both looked toward the front, though being in the kitchen obscured the view quite a bit.
“What’s that all about?” Kai wondered out loud.
“Keep prepping,” Tucker responded, walking toward the front. “I’ll check it out.”
“Pfft. You’re not my dad,” Kai retorted, hot on his heels.
They barely rounded the corner when they could hear Sheila.
“Lopez, I don’t understand-- why are you--”
Kai and Tucker looked to each other immediately, eyes blown wide. They simultaneously let out gleeful noises and half-screams. Lopez -- Sheila’s mysterious boyfriend -- had never been seen by the eyes of any employee, and more than that he had never been by work, earning him the immediate distrust of Tucker and Kai. How were they supposed to feel about the boyfriend they couldn’t check out for themselves?
They both crowded forward, catching a glimpse of the fast moving man as kneeled beside Sheila, holding her shoulder’s fiercely.
Tucker blinked. “Huh. He’s taller than I imagined.”
“Boo. He’s not hot,” Kai snapped off immediately.
Church waved in the background angrily at Sheila. “Hey! I’m not done making my point yet!”
Neither Sheila nor the mysterious Lopez seemed to give him a second thought, their eyes were completely locked on each other.
“Yo hago lo que puedo por ti, mi amor,” he said sultrily. “Pero ni siquiera yo soy un hacedor de milagros.“
“Oh, he’s got another language,” Kai snorted. “Okay, that’s hot. Back five points.”
“Confía en mí. Te lo ruego,” he pleaded before getting up and heading toward the front door.
Sheila, looking stunned, just watched with her mouth dropped open.
Lopez walked to the front door, opened it, slapped a stack of cash into the handle outside, shut the door again and then proceeded to lock it. He then turned off all the lights to the verbal protests of all employees and Church.
Tucker rubbed at his eyes and strained to watch in the darkness as Lopez backed up to the center of the restaurant, looked to his watch, then stood still as if counting down the time.
Narrowing his eyes, Tucker watched carefully, only being caught off guard by a familiar, blaring tune from the streets.
“Well it is Tuesday now,” Tucker muttered to himself as he watched a familiar getaway car pull up to the curb, front wheel popping over the sidewalk.
“Oh wow! This just got neat!” Kai squealed excitedly.
“Oh, fuck,” Church groaned, backing up. “Tucker, I hope your jacket tracker is working--”
“It wasn’t bugged!” Tucker snapped. He focused on the vehicle outside, eyes widening slightly as he realized that, of the three in the vehicle who got out, none of them were wearing Orange.
“Something’s wrong,” he muttered to himself, almost gasping as the Maroon stepped out from the driver’s seat. “He’d never drive... what is--”
“What’re you mumbling about?” Kai asked, hands on her hips.
“Nothing, don’t worry about it.”
Sheila looked worriedly toward Lopez, her face the most fearful that Tucker had ever seen it. “Lopez... what is going on here?” she begged.
He didn’t respond, just glaring at the door as the three members of the Red Dead Gang approached, looked warily at the wad of cash, then grabbed it with a shrug. Lightish Red and Red headed back to the car, mission success, but the last, the Maroon remained.
There was an unsettling way he was looking toward the door, even without any facial features from his mask, Tucker felt like there was something aggressive and snarling just beneath the surface.
Finally, he turned and headed back to the car in a stomp.
“That’s not like him at all,” Tucker mumbled to himself even as the gang drove off and the rest of the restaurant breathed easily. “What is going on?”
Chapter 11: Calling in Backup
Sorry for the long wait, everyone! I got really exhausted over the weekend before Thanksgiving and then spent most of the week getting my house ready for family to visit! Unfortunately, I do think any updates this week will probably be the last until I get through my finals as the last two weeks of finals are pretty much a marathon of 5 exams in 12 days, and that doesn’t leave me with much time to focus on writing. At least I’ll be on break after we’ve weathered through, though ; ) In any case, thank you everyone for your incredible patience and just the tremendous support I’ve been getting for writing this story. I know I keep talking about how taken aback I am by the community for RvB, but it’s true! I just am so flattered and thankful for everything. You guys are awesome!
I feel bad that I won’t be updating too much until finals are over, so hopefully a decently sized chapter can make up for it : )
Thanks for the feedback to @ashleystlawrence, @analiarvb, @i-will-batman-you, @dickrector, @secretlystephaniebrown, @pissedoctahedron, @snugglybrachydios, @cyborg-simmons, @tresa-cho, @dremoranightmares, @vo-kopen, @ambi-deer-ate, @aiyeka, staininspace, That_Crazy_Anime_Shipper, locrianrose, Alkeni, bangles25, @godoflaundrybaskets, Yin, @ephemeraltea, Adventures_in_Writing, HappyFunBallXD, Beawolfs_Pen, Halo_Freak, and JjThereforeIAm on AO3 and tumblr!
In the confusion that ensued, it was easy for Tucker to slip into the back. Church was throwing out curses and waving emphatically for explanations he wasn’t getting, Kai had rushed to Sheila’s side, and the question of contacting the authorities or not was being hotly debated already as Tucker grabbed Washington’s jacket and headed out the back door, only hesitating for a moment by the dumpster and giving it a curious kick before continuing on his way.
There were no mysterious superheroes to be found in the bin that time, at least.
His mind was still a flurry with the would-be robbery, the strange amount of evidence adding up that something was wrong, and the twisting gut feeling that Tucker hadn’t felt since the last time their gang watched Tex turn and head toward certain disaster.
While Tucker’s feet carried him, he looked down to his phone, fingers nimbly braving the cold to send out message after message.
TUCK_MAN: HEy! Where r u???
GRIF: Werk. U???
TUCK_MAN: Oops. Ignore.
TUCK_MAN: FATASS. WHATS GOING ON?
TUCK_MAN: HEY. U got ‘splainin 2 do!
TUCK_MAN: This shit aint funny anymore!
TUCK_MAN: Dude. Ur SISTER was there!
Tucker gritted his teeth. As concerning as it was in the moment to not be hearing back from Grif immediately, he also knew Grif well enough to remember that the man was infamous for not returning texts for whole weeks if he had happened to be sleeping when he got them.
Which was not exactly a rare occurrence.
But this involved Kaikaina, and if there was one thing that would make even Dexter Grif respond to a text message, it was going to be involving his baby sister. Grif could kill a man -- most likely by sitting on them -- for his sister.
Tucker got another block, looking back down to his phone for a response every other step, before letting out a frustrated growl and shoving his freezing hands back in the jacket pockets.
By the time he rounded the corner and headed down the alleyway, his adrenaline was in full rush and he seemed to almost be running on instinct as he skidded to a halt by the alley door.
Without much thought, he grabbed the door handle, jiggling it before shaking his head and looking to the device over the lock.
“Oh, right. That fucking thing,” Tucker muttered before beating his fist against the metal door. “HEY! WASHINGTON! OPEN THE FUCK UP!”
When there was no response, Tucker chewed on the inside of his cheek and backed up, looking around warily for something when he noticed the security camera angled toward the alley.
Rushing over to its field of view, Tucker jumped up, waving his arms sporadically. “Hey! Hey! Wash! It’s me! I need you to get the fuck down here!” Tucker yelled at the top of his lungs, never once thinking of the rest of the neighborhood. “It’s important! Like stupid important!”
Not even a full minute later, his breath collecting in the air, Tucker dropped his arms and groaned, looking toward the still closed door and groaned.
“Ugh, all this excitement is too fucking hard, goddamn,” he muttered before heading back to the door and banging on it a few more times. “Wash! C’mon, man! It’s like life or death! Maybe!”
Tucker looked down to his sneakers and thought over all of his “collected evidence,” and began to wonder if, just perhaps, he was making a mistake when the door flung open right in front of his swinging fist.
Wash deflecting the pounding motion with less than a flicker of his wrist and stared at Tucker almost in bewilderment.
Which was about the expression Tucker had considering Wash was answering the door in compression shorts, sunglasses, and nothing else.
“Do you sleep in headgear?” Tucker demanded.
“I wasn’t sleeping,” Wash responded, rubbing the top of his sweaty hair. “I have a training routine-- nevermind that. Tucker! What are you doing here?”
“Oh, hey, you got my name right,” Tucker said almost gleefully. “Is your superpower X-Ray Vision and you’re really concerned about respecting boundaries?”
“What-- are you still on about that?” Wash asked critically. “And, no. It isn’t. What are you waking the--” He let out a long, irritated sigh before rubbing at his face with one hand and motioning Tucker in with the other. “Hurry inside before someone sees you. I don’t want people to pay much attention to this entrance. It’s bad for secrecy.”
“You know what else is bad for ‘secrecy’ and keeping a low profile?” Tucker asked, walking in. “Thousands of dollars worth of security equipment that people can see.”
“Tucker,” Wash grunted, exasperation reaching his voice in a way that Tucker hadn’t quite heard over the past two days.
“So you do have a mode other than stoic! Bitchy,” Tucker joked. He looked over his shoulder to see a very unamused look from Wash that sent him scratching at his neck nervously. “Eh, nevermind. You don’t seem to be in the mood.”
“That’s... putting things lightly,” Wash responded. “But... it’s okay. I’m here to help--”
“And to have amazing physique apparently. Holy fuck. Is this what you wear in your house all the time--”
“Tucker,” Wash snapped, brushing past Tucker to open the apartment door. “I told you, I was training--”
“Yeah, okay, but considering you want to train my son, I think I deserve to know if this is the kinda outfit I should expect him to--” Tucker paused as he looked over Wash’s shoulder as the door opened. His mouth hung open slightly, completely confused as he saw the majority of the apartment covered in weight racks, high bars, and standing targets after standing targets -- more than a few with knives stuck to the inner rings. “Jesus.”
He watched as Wash crossed into the threshold and grabbed a towel from the nearby table to begin wiping down his shoulders and arms. Tucker shifted, imagining that the hero probably raced from whatever equipment he had been on to the door and wondered, for a moment, if perhaps he was going too far and intruding on something necessary.
Tucker’s eyes studied the various wraps and bandages that seemed fresher and less frayed than anything from his own first-aid kit.
“So is it safe to work out with all those?” Tucker asked curiously.
“I have painkillers,” Wash assured him.
“Wow, that didn’t answer my question at all,” Tucker responded as Wash looked at him. “Also, not sure that’s a good thing--”
“Tucker, what is a life-and-death situation?” Wash asked seriously. “Are you or your son in trouble?”
“No! Dude, I keep telling you, we’re pretty good about not getting in trouble. Promise,” Tucker responded a little too quickly. “I’m talking about one of my friends.”
Washington made a face. “Is it Tex’s ex?” he asked, as if it was a foregone conclusion.
“Church wishes he was still the center of trouble. No, it’s not him,” Tucker continued, obviously frustrated. “Listen, it’s my friend Grif -- he stopped by the apartment yesterday and I made you and Junior play hide-and-seek for a bit? His sister works at the diner with me... Okay. Admittedly ‘friend’ is a loose term for any of us assholes, but it’s Grif and if he’s hurt or some shit I don’t know who’s gonna look out for Kai, because I sure as shit am compromised in that situation--”
The hero flinched back a bit, as if Tucker’s sputtering was physically bombarding him with the information, and he held up his hands. “Tucker, wait! Stop, I’m not keeping up. Guy from your apartment yesterday... the one I thought was in trouble? He’s now actually in trouble?”
Tucker frowned. “Maybe.”
Wash pressed his lips together until they formed a thin line and put his hands on his hips. “Tucker you’re going to have to give me more to go on than this. Why do you think he’s in trouble?”
With thoughts of car hoods and broken ribs on the mind, Tucker found himself frowning and staring at Wash’s bandages again with a rather different attitude. “Uhhh...”
“Tucker, my eyes are up here--”
“Dude, you cannot fucking say that with those stupid sunglasses on,” Tucker responded, looking up before going into a full body flinch. “I... I wasn’t checking you out! I... okay I made a stupid joke about you being cut, what the fuck ever. But right now, that was not. It wasn’t...”
Wash let out a throaty sigh and put a hand to his face. “Tucker... please let me know what the hell is going on. I’m honestly really tired.”
“And whose fault is that?”
“Not yours, and it won’t be yours no matter how many look overs you do.”
“I’m not checking you out!”
Throwing up his arms, Wash shouted almost shrilly, “WHO THE HELL IS GRIF?”
“He’s my friend! And he’s the big brother to my coworker!” Tucker shouted back. “He is stupid over protective of her, and I don’t think he was home with her last night, even though I saw him yesterday. And when we got robbed today he... Well, it’s hard to explain but he wasn’t there and he’s not been answering my texts even though he would never ignore Kai being in danger. I don’t think--”
Wash’s face dropped immediately into the stoic concern that Tucker had become familiar with. “You were robbed!? When--”
“Like forty-five minutes ago. I ran straight here--”
“You didn’t talk to the police?” Wash asked critically.
“Dude, fuck the police, I came to a superhero! How much more proactive can I get?” Tucker demanded. “Besides, I don’t know if Sheila is going to actually place a call or not. There’s something fishy about the whole set up. They didn’t even really rob us. And they were acting funny. Funnier than they were in the bank--”
Wash’s eyebrows raced for his hairline. “It’s the same gang that robbed the bank? Why are they robbing a diner--”
“I don’t know! I’m not Scooby-Doo!” Tucker groaned. “They just pulled up in their piece of shit jeep for a bit--”
Stepping forward, Wash’s face became even more serious. “What color?”
Tucker blinked twice. Well shit, he thought immediately. “Um. I don’t see how that’s relevant--”
“Tucker, was it orange?”
“I’m not going to say it wasn’t orange, necessarily...”
Wash turned immediately and headed toward the hidden closet Tucker saw last night. “This is fantastic,” he said, almost proudly.
Raising a brow, Tucker followed. “Wait. It is?”
“I thought that all of the strange goings on in Blood Gulch weren’t connected, but I’m starting to see where the lines are drawn now!” Wash exclaimed, grabbing for the untarnished suit. He looked over his shoulder with a smirk. “Your robbers and my hit-and-run seem to be more connected than I ever realized! And I’m willing to bet that if that’s connected then you were onto something last night and the culprit behind the rise in crime across the city is also related to your Red Dead Blood Gulch Gang--”
Frowning, Tucker crossed his arms. “We’re still talking about one of my friends being in trouble here, dude.”
“Then I need to figure out how he’s connected to all of this as well...” Wash muttered, hesitating at he pulled on his suit only for a moment. He brought a hand to his chin, huffing something under his breath before turning to Tucker directly. “You... mentioned that you worked with his sister?”
“Yeah?” Tucker responded, tilting his head.
Wash took a breath, the earlier excitement seeming to have left him. He looked back to his apartment then to Tucker again. “Junior. Where is he?”
Taken aback, Tucker tilted his head up and looked down his nose at Washington. “Uh. Home. Why?”
“Do you have someone with him?” Wash demanded.
“Dude, what kind of father do you think I am? Of course I do!” Tucker snapped. He narrowed his eyes, ignoring the pounding in his chest. “Why? Why are you asking me this?”
“You, you’re connecting all of these incidents,” Wash responded. “It’s too obvious of a connection to not make.”
Tucker blinked a few times. “It’s... really not -- I mean, I’m sure there’s a bigger connection here. Maybe we’re just... not completely aware of how big the connection is until we see it. But I’m pretty sure it’s not me. I’m pretty sure it’s Grif--”
“You helped me after my encounter, you were robbed at the bank, you were approached by your friend, now your friend is missing, and your place of employment was targeted,” Washington listed off, finishing putting on his suit. “No, Tucker, I think the line is pretty clear.”
“Well, maybe from where you’re standing that seems like the obvious connection--”
“Tucker, we have to make sure your son is okay,” Wash spoke up finally, looking at Tucker in complete sincerity.
The very words made Tucker’s heart clench despite all logic. He looked at Washington and shook his head before throwing up his arms. “Why do you keep saying shit like this? You’re giving me a goddamn heart attack, dude!”
“Junior is more important to all of this than either of us could really know, I just feel it,” Wash responded.
“You keep saying shit like that? Then yeah! It will lead to something happening! they kept telling Harry Potter he was the Chosen One and it almost got him fucking killed--”
“He was the Chosen One--”
“Only because Voldemort chose him over Neville!!!”
They both stopped, realizing they were shouting in each other’s faces and backed up, shifting awkwardly. Tucker pulled at his hair and groaned. “I’m fighting Harry Potter logic with a dude in latex--”
“It’s a kevlar body suit. And Harry Potter was a metaphor.”
“You are such a dork,” Tucker snorted. He turned his head and looked at Wash. “Will you stop making prophecies about my son? He’s not... alien Jesus or anything, right? I mean. He’s my kid. Scales and all.”
Washington gave him what almost amounted to a painful look and rubbed at the back of his head. “It’s... not important. What is important is that we make sure he’s okay. And, hopefully, you’re right and this has more to do with your friend and random happenstance than with you or Junior, and I’ll just leave from there to check things out on your buddy.” He tilted his chin up. “Not to mention, I’d be more comfortable with driving you home myself than you waling on the streets while violent robbers liable for hitting people with cars roam the street.”
“So far I think you’re their only injury count,” Tucker reminded him.
“Thank you, it’s comforting to hear that,” Wash said dryly.
Watching as Washington walked to another display table and began to sift through equipment, pouring countless items into his utility pockets, Tucker realized what was going on and stepped forward, a bit angrily. “Hey, you can’t just go in my house ready for war or whatever-the-hell. You didn’t have all that shit the other night!”
“And, as you like to keep reminding me, I got ran over by a car the other night,” Wash said, reaching for the fancy visor from before.
Reaching forward, Tucker grabbed Wash’s wrist to stop him, drawing a curious look from the hero.
“Okay, bring whatever you want, but if you’re really worried about not bringing trouble to my kid, can you try to be a little less superheroy? My landlord already knows someone’s been staying over and he’s being a little fucking creep about it. I’d rather not have to explain breaking the weapons policy.”
Wash looked concerned. “You have a full weapons policy in your building?”
“The guy’s a pacifist.”
“Huh,” Wash remarked before shoveling some more knives into his pocket. “I don’t think we’d get along.”
“Nobody gets along with him. It’s Doc’s curse,” Tucker responded, letting go of Wash’s wrist. “About the superheroiness?”
“I’ll put on some plain clothes over my suit, would that be less conspicuous?” Wash asked.
“Yes. Please,” Tucker replied as he watched Wash walk to another closet. “Wait, how are you taking me home? You have a car? A Washmobile? Is it fucking awesome?”
“I have a vehicle. It’s not going to stick out too much if two regularly dressed men are on it instead of a superhero in full ‘costume’ so I think it’ll do,” Wash replied.
Tucker crossed his arms and watched as Wash put on jeans and reached into the closet form the night before. He hesitated then looked back at Tucker, seeming to concentrate on the jacket for a moment then returning back to the closet.
“I’m glad you’re still wearing that,” Wash announced, pulling out an older looking aviator. “It... looks good on you.”
Looking off, Tucker tried to ignore the uncomfortable squeeze of his stomach. “Whatever. Shut up. Uh... thanks for the jacket and everything, though. Whatever. Shut up.”
“You take compliments as well as you take everything else, good to know,” Wash snorted, zipping up his jacket and looking like an average human being dumbly wearing sunglasses inside of his own apartment. He pocketed his visor and gloves before nodding to the door. “Let’s get to the bike--”
Tucker blanched. “You want to ride a bike with me--”
“It’s a motorcycle--”
“That doesn’t make this less... uh. Intimate.”
Washington looked at him so dully that Tucker thought he might’ve broken something with his commentary alone. Wash rubbed his face. “Tucker, we’re both grown men here--”
“My point exactly. You don’t ride with other dudes. You pick up chicks with bikes. Lots of chicks. Like four or five at a time because bikes are sexy.”
“Tucker, get downstairs or I’ll knock you out and deliver you home bridal style just to get this over with,” Wash snapped.
Heading toward the door, Tucker couldn’t resist squinting his eyes at Wash. “Do you say that to all the ladies you pick up on your fancy superhero motorcycle?”
“I only pick up you on the motorcycle, Tucker. Now move.”
Tucker readied a retort as he headed toward the alley door only to be stopped when Wash’s hand grabbed his shoulder and held him back. Just as Tucker was about to say something, he followed Wash’s gaze to the other side of the floor level and saw a small platform raise in the empty space, revealing the black and yellow striped motorcycle.
Pursing his lips, Tucker folded his arms and glared at the self satisfied look from Wash. “This laundromat is starting to get ridiculous.”
Wash scoffed, almost offended. “Just starting? I’ll have to put more things in.”
“Ha ha, you’re hilairous.”
Tucker waited as Washington approached the vehicle first, looked it up and down, and threw a leg over. Almost automatically, the bike’s engine started up and Tucker almost felt the urge to roll his eyes at the sci-fi aspect of it all. Church would want to dissect the thing if he had been there.
“You can get on now, Tucker,” Wash said almost sarcastically.
“Uh, I really can walk...”
While a large part of Tucker wanted to fly off the handle with the retorts, as would be usual, something about the look Wash was giving him made Tucker feel the need to take a heralding breath and suck it up.
A little cautiously, Tucker approached and came to the side of the bike. He frowned. “Am I going to have to hug you or something?”
“I can go really fast and make sure no one sees you,” Wash joked.
“Wouldn’t I have to hug tighter for that? I feel like I’m being manipulated here to fill the really low quota you have for human-to-human interactions--”
Wash sat up and threw his head back in what Tucker could only imagine was an exaggerated eye roll. “Tucker, I tell you what, if you want, I can dig through my junk and--”
“Bow chicka bow wow--”
“Stop that,” Wash said warningly. “I have a sidecar somewhere in my basement if you really want to waste--”
Tucker flinched back. “Sidecar? Like the little stupid side thingies that look like baby carriages?”
“That’d be it--”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Tucker slipped behind Wash on the bike and wrapped his arms around Wash’s waist which made the superhero cough a bit in surprise.
“You can... you can hold my shoulders... nevermind, let’s just get going,” Wash responded reaching a helmet back to Tucker.
“Uh, yeah, thanks--”
Tucker barely had the words out when Washington revved the motorcycle and looked to what Tucker had just blindly assumed was the wall beside the door before it began to open up for them. I a flurry of motion, Tucker threw his helmet on and returned to hugging Wash’s waist just as they headed back out onto the alley -- Wash was not kidding about the speed.
Tucker glared at the man.
“You hypocrit -- how was me yelling at you less noticeable than this?” he demanded.
Tucker couldn’t see very well over Wash’s shoulder, but it didn’t take too much imagination to see the man smirking to himself as they carried forward on the way to Tucker’s apartment.
There was a thrilling brush of the cold air across them as they raced forward. It was almost enough to ignore the raising concerns for just what it was that Tucker was supposed to be so worried about concerning his own son but not quite.
There was something that Washington wasn’t saying to him and as much as Tucker didn’t like it, only a casual thought back to Grif reminded Tucker that he wasn’t exactly the most innocent party involved either.
Disparaging thoughts aside, they made it to the apartment in what Tucker could only assume was record time, and Wash seemed to almost expertly steer them toward the alley not far from Tucker’s apartment window before pulling into park.
“Put a lot of thought into this?” Tucker asked.
“It’s good to be prepared,” Wash gave his casual non-reply as he straightened up. He looked over his shoulder and raised a brow.
For a moment Tucker just gave him a brow back before realizing he still had his arms around Wash and raised them up with a cough. “Uh, anyway-- let’s check on Junior and then get you to help people that really need it. What do ya say?”
“Ideally that’s how it’ll work out,” Wash said, getting off the bike with Tucker and not looking back as the bike turned itself off.
Tucker shook his head. “Church would have a field day with the shit you have.”
“I’ll be sure to keep him away from it then,” Wash responded as he brushed past Tucker and toward the entrance to the complex. “Do you need to page us in?”
“Nah, we’re not that fancy,” Tucker waved off as he walked through with Wash. “Not all of us are paranoid superheroes with millions to burn.”
“You keep exaggerating details to annoy me,” Wash observed.
“Hey, look! You’re catching on,” Tucker snorted back as they climbed the stairs. His look hardened as they neared his apartment and were met with frantic but familiar shouting. “Ah, fuck.”
Washington stepped ahead of Tucker without warning, body squaring up toward the door, his fists readied.
Realizing what was about to happen, Tucker grabbed Wash’s shoulders and yanked him back, making the superhero sputter in surprise.
“No, no wait -- it’s Church,” Tucker assured him before rushing up to the door and knocking. “HEY! OPEN UP--”
The door to the apartment flung open, hitting Tucker’s foot and making him jump back with a bit of a yelp.
On the other side, Church’s eyes were blown wide open, the robotic eyes sparking with anger as he looked out into the hall.
“YOU MOTHERFUCKER!” Church snarled. “Where the FUCK have you been--”
Wash held Tucker up as the man rubbed his stubbed foot, eyes seeming to lock with Church’s almost immediately.
Church pointed at Wash angrily, body shaking. “I should have known your bullshit was involved!”
“Pardon me?” Wash snapped back.
“Church, shut up and let us in!” Tucker growled. “I’ll explain why I left, okay. I went and got help--”
“You got the cops!?”
Everyone fell quiet at the squeaking interjection and Church straightened up, letting Tucker and Washington see further into the door. Tucker almost swore under his breath when he saw Kai, makeup still smeared down her face, standing in his apartment. She was completely disheveled. For Kai, in any case.
“I didn’t get the cops, Kai. What’re you doing here?” Tucker asked, easing his way into the apartment and ignoring the stand off between Church and Wash behind him.
“I didn’t let strangers in, Tucker!” Caboose called from the living room, holding Junior up as the alien struggled to get to Tucker. “It was Church! He let the mean lady in!”
“HEY!” Kai shouted, turning on her heels toward Caboose. “I’m not mean! I’m hysterical! Stupid... stupid-face!”
“And she calls me mean things!”
“Everyone stop shouting,” Wash ordered as he stepped in, pushing slightly past Church. “We don’t need to attract attention--”
“Stop telling us what to do, COP!” Kai shouted.
Tucker whirled around to look at the stand off between the tiny Kaikaina and the flustered undercover superhero. He glared at Church as the man seemed to be putting his hands together in glee at the match up.
“I am not a cop,” Wash said thinly.
“Yeah? You don’t think I know a cop when I see one, Cop?” Kai hissed, hands on her hips.
“I am not,” Wash stopped himself, pinched the bridge of his nose, and released a long, heralding sigh. “I believe we’ve started off on the wrong foot, ma’am--”
“Ma’am? Did you just fucking call me ma’am? You know who calls me ‘ma’am’? COPS!”
Washington dropped his shoulders and looked to Tucker in confusion.
Junior let out a series of blarghs and kicked Caboose in the face to drop down to the floor, rushing over to Tucker and Wash. He was nearly bouncing on his toes as he grabbed Tucker’s hand, pulling on it as he pointed to Wash.
Tucker patted Junior’s head. “I know, buddy, hold on a minute,” he said softly before turning back to Kai. “Kai, Wash is going to help me look for Grif--”
Kaikaina’s face scrunched, confusion drawing clearly on her brow. “But... how did you know something was wrong with Big Bro...?”
“I can explain later,” Tucker lied, ignoring the pull of his son’s arms. “But I need a key to his apartment so Wash and I can check it -- Wash is good people. That’s why I went to him the second the gang left Sheila’s--”
“Speaking of who, she’s really fucking worried about you,” Church spoke up, whatever glee he head from Kai and Wash’s stand off quickly disappearing into his usual anger and annoyance. “Tucker, you fucking left us without a word back there! What the fuck was with that shit?”
“He was doing something he thought was best at the time,” Wash spoke up defensively.
Church turned, puffing up his chest some to glare at Wash. “You’re not a part of this, Super Zero! Butt. The fuck. Out.”
Wash’s nose curled slightly. “Like it or not, I am a part of this for now.”
“I don’t like it! That’s the point!”
“Everyone shut up!” Kai shouted, drawing all attention back to her. She threw her key ring at Tucker’s face, barely giving him enough time to catch it. “Find my brother, assholes! I don’t care about any of this other shit! Dex hasn’t talked to me since yesterday. And that was cool last night when I could drink all the beer. And this morning when there was still cereal to eat. But it was not cool when I needed him and was fucking scared! So you go out there, find him, and fucking kick his ass for me!”
Tucker blinked a few times before taking a breath and pocketing her keys. “Alright. Any questions anyone?”
Church crossed his arms then looked over to where Caboose’s hand was raised. “Shut up, Caboose.”
Wash scowled a bit. “Ma’am, are you drinking age?”
“Fuck you, Cop!”
Tucker looked down to Junior whose face had become progressively red as he continued to pull on Tucker’s hand. He sighed and rubbed Junior’s head. “Sorry, buddy. I’ll be home for good soon, promise,” he responded before picking up Junior and handing him over to Kai. “Kai, stay here until we’ve made sure your apartment’s safe and shit, okay? Take care of Junior.”
Junior let out a protesting honk as Tucker and Wash headed back to the door.
“How many times does he need to be walked?” Kai asked, bouncing Junior on her hip.
“Ignoring that,” Tucker shouted back. He hesitated as Church grabbed his shoulder.
“Tucker,” Church said warningly. “What the fuck are you getting involved with here?”
“I’m not involved, dude! I promise,” Tucker responded, ignoring the glare Church aimed toward Wash . He slid Church’s hand off of him. “Just... make sure everyone’s not blowing up the apartment. Alright? You know you’re my number one--”
“Oh, don’t butter me up,” Church snapped.
Wash stood in complete bewilderment in the hall as Tucker shut the door behind them. “That was worse than a dysfunctional Christmas,” he announced. “But... I believe you about your friend being the bigger piece of the puzzle now.”
“Thank you,” Tucker replied snootily as they headed toward the stairs. “Hey, at least we got keys out of it. That makes checking his apartment way easier--”
They both jumped as they rounded to the stairs only to see Doc standing in wait.
“Jesus Christ, Doc,” Tucker wheezed.
“Tucker, the noise--”
“It’s under control, look. I’m even leaving with a guest who’s not staying the night, happy?” Tucker asked, waving to Wash.
Doc looked in surprise at Wash as Wash glared back at him, putting a hand to his chin.
“Uh, yeah! Great, actually,” Doc responded. “You guys, uh, continue on your way then. Awesome.”
Grabbing Wash’s hand, Tucker all but pulled him back down the stair as Doc took off up the stairs like a weirdo. “Ignore him, Wash. That’s just my fucking annoying landlord I was telling you about.”
“He’s... familiar.. somehow...” Wash muttered to himself. “Tucker, I’ve seen your landlord before--”
“Yeah, you’ve also been in my apartment before. It’s whatever. I’m not the big picture here, remember? Keep your attention on Grif and the stupid Red Gang, alright? That’s where the answers are. Not me and not your weird obsession with my alien son. We’re totally normal.”
Wash made a face. “To quote you, Tucker, I would love to make a recording of the shit you say and play it back for you.”
Chapter 12: Unexpected Company
First off, I just want to say I cannot thank you all enough for the absolutely awesome and wonderful support I’ve gotten from everyone’s comments. Like just wow – I’m totally blown away by how awesome you all are and how understanding and supportive everyone’s been about my finals. I weathered through them and now I can get back to hopefully updating Hero Time on a regular schedule : ) All thanks to you all!
Thanks for the feedback to @secretlystephaniebrown, @barsenthor, @ambi-deer-ate, @ashleystlawrence, @pissedoctahedron, BlodwenDubh, HappyFunBallXD, Taka, Yin, Alkeni, @godoflaundrybaskets, JjThereforeIAm, and Beawolfs_Pen on AO3 and tumblr!
Relying on Tucker for directions at the very least had Wash taking things somewhat slower with the motorcycle on their way to the Grif apartment. Tucker was certain he only squeezed when they took two curbs that time around, and he wasn’t entirely unconvinced that they weren’t masterfully plotted by the vindictive superhero.
“It’s two buildings down,” Tucker alerted him, digging his heels into the sides of the cycle.
“Good,” Wash called back. “I’m surprised how far you are away from each other. Your... friend has a long drive to work.”
“Yeah, she ain’t allowed to drive, long story,” Tucker joked back. “Grif drops her off most of the time. Sometimes she takes the bus. I keep telling her when I get a car I’ll pick her up some.”
“How noble,” Wash snorted as they came to a stop.
“Hey, there’s no need to be snippy,” Tucker asserted, releasing his vice grip on Wash’s sides. He felt his eyes widen as he watched Wash twitch uncomfortably. “Oh, dude. Fuck! I’m sorry. I forgot about the ribs.”
“It’s alright. Not like it’s the one thing you won’t let me forget otherwise or anything,” Wash grunted back, swinging his legs to one side of the bike. “So. You’re pretty close with the Grifs.”
“Kinda,” Tucker shrugged. “It’s a long story.”
“With you, few things seem not to be,” Wash replied. “Still, there might be something relevant. Especially since you keep being linked to everything in the mess, inadvertently or not.” He stopped at the door of the complex, looked over it a bit then looked to Tucker.
Tucker rolled his eyes and pushed on through. “Dude, there is no place as fancy as your laundromat here. Are you that disconnected from everyday life?”
“Apparently I am,” Wash muttered back. “So... you’re more close to the sister?”
Furrowing his brows, Tucker turned and gave Washington a look. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m assuming you met through her since you work together,” Wash replied. His brows then knit closer together. “Why? Is it more than that?”
“Oh. Uh. No. Yes. Kind of,” Tucker hesitated. “Look, it’s complicated. Kai’s one of my best friends, though. She also has fantastic tits. But that’s beside the point.”
Wash scowled slightly. “I see you place value in all the right parts of people.”
“I place more than value in the right parts of people,” Tucker added before jutting forward. “Bow chicka bow wow!”
“Jesus christ,” Wash muttered, burying his face in his palm.
“Oh, come on, like I was supposed to let that pass me by,” Tucker snorted, walking toward the elevator and calling it down. He stepped back and glared at the numbers as they conveniently lowered to their level. “This is such bullshit. I know Grif doesn’t pay more than me for this shit hole. And they get a working elevator. Fucking Doc swear to god.”
At the mention of Doc, Wash visibly straightened again, looking seriously to Tucker. “About your landlord... it’s unnerving to me that I recognize him.”
“Doc unnerves people. It’s what he does,” Tucker shrugged back. “But he’s harmless. I mean. He’s fucking inconvenient and a pain in the ass. He might lead to injury... but he wouldn’t cause it himself. Pussifest and all that.”
“Pacifist,” Wash corrected.
“Whatever,” Tucker waved back.
“Why’s he called ‘Doc’ anyway? Surely that’s not his name,” Wash continued as the elevator door opened and they stepped on in. “Though, I guess it could be...”
“It’s not,” Tucker responded, pressing five before the door shut. “Honestly, I don’t even remember what his name is half the time. Church called him ‘Doc’ when he first took over as our landlord and... I dunno. It just stuck, I guess. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t call him Doc. Or Shizno.”
Wash turned his head. “Shizno?”
“Yeah, don’t worry about it,” Tucker snickered.
“Believe me, I won’t,” Washington snarked back, folding his arms. “And don’t think I don’t notice how you consistently underplay things that pertain to your own life.”
“I just don’t think it’s relevant,” Tucker shrugged. “And you will, too, after we solve this mystery of whatever and figure out what’s happened to Grif.”
“Sure,” Wash responded, unconvinced.
They stepped out onto the floor and Tucker made an immediate beeline to Grif’s apartment door, fishing in his pocket for the keys Kai had thrown along the way. Wash stood somewhat patiently just behind him, quietly observing as Tucker produced the keys and made quick work of the lock.
“You’re being very haphazard with this when we don’t even know what’s on the other side of that door,” Wash warned as Tucker threw the door open. “Some subterfuge could go a long way to finding your friend... more... effectively.”
They stood just outside the door, staring into the apartment in some horror at the mess that befell them.
“Fuck, this is why Kai never wanted to meet up here. I totally forgot,” Tucker said, aghast, at the collected trash all over the place. “Though... knowing both Grif and Kai, I don’t know what else I would have expected.”
Wash actually looked a little green. “People live like this,” he muttered to himself.
“Not that I want to really agree with you on anything but... yeah, this is pretty rank,” Tucker agreed, continuing on in. “I guess it’s been a while since Simmons came in. Which is weird, too...”
“Simmons-- Tucker, you keep throwing half-information at me that is completely useless,” Wash said as he eased his own way into the apartment, mindful to sidestep most of the junk laying around the Grif apartment. “I probably shouldn’t have to remind you of this but I’m not familiar with your friends and acquaintances. I don’t even know what a ‘Simmons’ is right now.”
“Eh, it’s for the better,” Tucker waved him off. He stopped by the kitchen counter, staring at the stack of money that Grif had just left lying around. Crisp, freshly pressed bills that still had a bank sticker. He could have just about smacked himself in the forehead before remembering to check and see if Wash had noticed it.
For his part, Wash was inspecting a different part of the room, seemingly questioning the sanitation of the stack of pizza boxes in the corner, and hadn’t looked Tucker’s way just yet.
Without much thought, Tucker opened the first drawer and slid the stack of money into it, shutting it quickly. “Nothing in the kitchen!” Tucker called back.
“How can you even tell through all of this mess?” Wash asked critically just before turning to face Tucker. “I’m... going to be completely honest, I don’t know how possible it’ll be to find clues here.”
“Yeah... this was a much better idea in my head,” Tucker admitted lamely, meeting Wash halfway toward the center of the apartment.
“It wasn’t a bad idea, actually. I would’ve suggested something similar myself,” Wash offered, putting a hand on Tucker’s shoulder. “It just... doesn’t always work out for the best. I mean, nothing’s as convenient as the movies--”
The words had hardly left Wash’s mouth when the door jostled, bringing both men’s attention to the entrance as it opened up.
“Grif!? Are you here?”
Tucker would have recognized Simmons’ voice anywhere, which was why he almost had hope that things would be easy enough to deescalate once the door was fully opened. A hope that was quickly destroyed when he saw the distinctive full body, maroon suit standing at the entrance.
“Aw, balls,” Tucker muttered.
He didn’t even have to look to know that Washington was immediately tensed beside him.
The faceless Red Gang member curiously cocked his head to the side as he saw Tucker standing in the apartment rather than Grif. “Huh? Tucker?” Simmons called out just before he was tackled to the ground. “JESUS!”
“Stay down!” Wash roared, landing a little too good of a right hook for Tucker’s taste before flipping the maroon ‘supervillain’ onto his side and tightly pushing his arms into the man’s back. “Tucker! Call the police! We’ve got one of your robbers--”
“Ow! What the fuck!?” Simmons cried out from the floor. He looked up toward Tucker, clearly mortified even through the garish costume. “T-Tucker!?”
Unsurprisingly, while Wash didn’t relinquish his hold, he did join Simmons in looking up at Tucker, confusion clearly drawn on his face behind the thick sunglasses.
“Wash, get off of him, it’s cool,” Tucker pleaded.
“Cool!? He’s one of the robbers--” Wash spat out before scowling. “Tucker, what the fuck is going on? What do these delinquents have to do with your friend?”
“Uh,” Tucker responded eloquently.
“And what do they have to do with the car that hit me!?”
Simmons stiffened more, if possible, and arched back enough to look at Washington. “Holy shit, that was you? Ow!”
Wash pulled back harder on Simmons’ arm. “Quiet. I’m not talking to you.”
“Seriously, Wash, stop it. Simmons can’t hurt a fly,” Tucker continued to defend. “Well. Normally. Dude,” he said, looking to Simmons more directly. “You guys have been crazy as fuck lately! What’s up with that?”
“Get him off me and I’ll try to explain,” Simmons begged.
“Wait, everyone shut up!” Wash cried out, looking angrily at Tucker. “You know each other!? You’ve known who they were--”
“Uh,” Tucker repeated himself with a blink. “I can explain?”
Wash’s scowl deepened. “Are you one of them?”
“Fuck no, dude. I stay out of trouble,” Tucker responded flippantly with a hand wave. He stopped halfway, noticing the visible change in Wash’s stance and expression as he looked somewhat in shock at Tucker. It just made Tucker blink. “What?” he asked, moving his head just enough to have his eye blinded by an unexpected light. “Fuck! What the--“
Without further warning, Washington lunged, knocking the air out of Tucker’s lungs as he smacked into him and knocked them both to the floor just seconds before the ringing of glass breaking in the other part of the room and the zip of a bullet whizzed by them.
Even after hitting the ground, Tucker could hardly gather his breath, looking in horror toward the now broken window, then to the smoldering hole in the opposing kitchen cabinet. It wasn’t far from where his own head had just been.
“Sniper! Stay down!” Wash ordered from over top of Tucker. He was glaring toward the window before, with nearly inhuman dexterity, flipping to the window, grabbing the top seal, and in a smooth dive breaking through the remaining glass to quickly make it to the outside. He was out of sight in an instant.
More from shock than a desire to fulfill Wash’s orders, Tucker laid on the disgusting carpet and stared after the window. It took him a few breaths to even out again and then even more before he was able to raise up to his elbows.
By that time, Simmons had rolled to his feet and was steadily taking cover by the hall wall, looking over his shoulder toward the window and to Tucker.
Tucker stared at him for a moment.
Simmons finally looked back to Tucker and gave a somewhat sheepish wave. “So I’m guessing you’ve not heard from Grif either, huh?”
“No,” Tucker responded almost sourly. “And, dude, I have questions for you--”
“I’m going to be asking questions.”
Both Tucker and Simmons jumped slightly at the dark tone, both turning to look at the window where Wash was crouched on the seal. It wasn’t hard to see how pissed he was -- nearly radiating off of him -- as he looked in.
“And one of the first is getting you two to tell me the truth,” he said pointedly, glaring more toward Tucker. “What does all of this have to do with Wyoming?”
Chapter 13: Bad Company
As always, thank you so much everyone for the fantastic support for this series! It always brightens my day to see so many awesome people having fun with me on this little journey! I’m trying to get more than an update per week but the holidays being the holidays have been a bit crammed. We might just have to stick to weekly updates until I don’t have a million relatives all crammed in one house haha
Thanks for the feedback to @powerfulpomegranate, @secretlystephaniebrown, @ashleystlawrence, @i-will-batman-you, @kryptonitanott, @gavinfreelancer, @analiarvb, @eviltoast, @ambi-deer-ate, HappyFunballXD, Alkeni, killua, Yin, MsDee, meatballlady, Taka, Beawolfs_Pen, and Churbooseanon on AO3 and tumblr!
As Wash stayed crouched on the windowsill, his figure becoming more and more obscured by the shadows, Tucker found himself and Simmons lapsed almost completely into silence.
There were a lot of things running through his head at that moment, but mostly he couldn’t help but wonder how else he expected the truth gymnastics he had been doing to play out. And to answer that, all he could think was Vaguely better.
Wash’s gaze was locked on his face in the kind of way that made it uncomfortable to even think about looking away when he noticed in the periphery how Simmons’ bobbing head was whipping from Tucker to Washington then back again.
“Wait. I’m confused,” Simmons said. “Who’s Wyoming?”
“Interesting,” Wash seethed, gaze still locked on Tucker. “Mind explaining?”
Tucker blanched, pointing exaggeratedly at his own chest. “Me? What the fuck -- you think I know who you’re talking about?”
“You seem to know a lot of things you’ve not enlightened me on yet, Tucker. So yes. I would love to hear what you know about Wyoming,” Wash snapped back.
With a grunt, Tucker pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “Look, dude... you’re pissed. I get it--”
“Do you?” Wash asked critically as he finally stepped down from the windowsill. His arms crossed over his chest. “Do you really understand what the fuck you’ve been doing by giving me incomplete information?”
Tucker blinked, looking at Wash a bit aghast.
Simmons looked like he was watching a tennis match. “Um,” he spoke up finally, “should I be here or do you need some... I don’t know, privacy?”
Without looking to Simmons, Wash pointed to the costumed criminal. “Move and I might break your legs.”
“Whoa,” Simmons said, raising his hands up defensively.
“Wash, what the fuck?” Tucker cried out. “Cool your tits--”
Stepping toward Tucker, Wash’s shoulders seemed to square up. If it was an intimidation tactic... it was working. “Tell me the truth then, Tucker,” he growled. “And stop being such a prick about it.”
“How about ‘not until you’re done being an asshole,’” Tucker snapped back in spite of himself. “Seriously! Where the fuck is this coming from? Have you been hiding Secret Serpico the whole time?”
“I treat people accordingly with how they deserve to be treated,” Wash hissed. “A kind, single-father citizen going above and beyond to help a stranger gets approached quite a bit different from a known criminal element who associates with the worst of the worst.”
Tucker glared at him. “What the fuck are you talking about. Associating with Simmons?” Tucker asked, waving to the maroon man. “He’s not a worst of the worst. He’s an idiot!”
“Hey!” Simmons cried back. “Tucker, you know my IQ is--”
Simultaneously, Tucker and Wash rounded on Simmons and shouted, “NO ONE CARES!”
“Oh my god, nevermind. Assholes,” Simmons grumbled.
“I trusted you,” Wash accused, turning back to Tucker.
“Then trust me now,” Tucker replied in aggravation. “I never lied to you. But I will protect my friends. You want to protect Blood Gulch like some knight in shining armor, fine. But you know a lot less about the shit everyone here’s been through than someone who’s lived here their whole lives. Who’s gone through all this crap themselves. There’s more to people deciding to be a dumb color-coded gang who holds up bakeries and laundromats than being the worst of the worst. But heroes like you wouldn’t know that because you’re not from here. That’s why Church hates guys like you so much, alright? So take a chill pill and listen to us.”
“Having a hard life does not give one an exemption from the law, Tucker,” Wash hissed. “And you guys seemed to be just fine with Tex being a hero here if we’re going by everything I’ve been able to decipher on my own.”
“Tex was one of us, meathead,” Tucker growled. “She understood how things went down in Blood Gulch before she indiscriminately kicked people’s asses.”
Wash scowled. “I don’t play favorites. I won’t overlook lawbreaking, Tucker. Not for anyone.”
“Okay, you sound more like Tex when you say vaguely threatening things like that,” Tucker admitted, rubbing at his neck. He paused, eyes widening. “Wait. Washington. Texas--” he looked back to the expectant hero. “A name as dumb as Wyoming, he’s gotta be one of you guys. You know more about what the fuck’s going on than I do.”
“That’s hard to believe considering how much you’ve been keeping from me,” Wash snapped.
“Okay, fine, play that way,” Tucker huffed. “If you’re going to let me call the shots, then I say we just ask Simmons what he knows. Him and Grif are attached at the hip, and we still need to find out where Grif is--”
“Fine,” Wash said thinly.
Without warning, Wash moved almost too fast for Tucker to keep up -- sidestepping toward Simmons, handcuffing him on one hand, wrestling it back behind Simmons’ back, then forcing the man on his knees as he handcuffed Simmons’ other hand.
“Ow! Fuck! What do you have against my arms? I have carpal tunnel! Ah!” Simmons cried out like a wimp.
Somewhat shocked, Tucker threw up his arms in alarm. “Wash! What the fuck, man!? What are you doing--”
“I am interrogating a criminal, Tucker,” Wash growled before leaning closer to Simmons’ ear. “And Mister Maroon here is going to tell me everything about both your missing friend and the operations of the Red Dead Blood Gulch Gang. Right?”
“Why couldn’t you just ask me?” Simmons cried out. “If you’re friends with Tucker I’d just answer! I swear! I want to find Grif, too!”
“Apparently I’m not friends with Tucker,” Wash snapped back.
Jaw dropping slightly, Tucker put his hands on his hips, aghast. “Well, fuck you too then. Asshole.”
“Ow! Jesus, dude!” Simmons complained.
“What is your gang hiring an assassin for?” Wash demanded.
Tucker’s eyes widened. “Assassin? A former Freelancer is an assassin now?”
“I didn’t know we were! It must be the new guy!” Simmons cried out. “I think he’s the one responsible for Grif missing, too. He’s really mean. And cranky. And he doesn’t seem interested in anyone kissing his ass so I don’t think he likes me that much.”
Recalling his conversation with Grif, Tucker tilted his head back. “Wait... the new leader?”
“What!?” Wash cried out, looking over his shoulder before shoving Simmons down. “You know about this, too!?”
“Uh, vaguely,” Tucker responded. “I didn’t think anything about it until now. When Grif visited yesterday he mentioned that he didn’t like the new guy in charge. That was it, though. I don’t know anything beyond that. I didn’t even think that was important until now.”
If possible, Wash’s scowl deepened. “Why am I even questioning this guy if you apparently have all the intel I needed from the beginning?”
“Probably because we just ended the extent of my usefulness,” Tucker responded, holding up his hands. “Honestly.”
“You really can’t use ‘honestly’ with me right now,” Wash warned. “What’s the name of their leader?”
“I just said we reached the end of my usefulness, Wash,” Tucker responded, crossing his arms.
Together, they looked down to Simmons. He tilted his head in response.
“Oh, is it my turn?” he asked.
“Talk,” Wash ordered in return.
“I don’t know him that well. He’s... really weird. Has powers, I think,” Simmons responded. “Lopez knew him first--”
“Wait!” Tucker called out, grabbing his hair. “Did you say Lopez? Oh, dude. I just put this together. Is your Lopez the same Lopez that’s dating Sheila!?”
Wash glared at him.
“I guess? I don’t know, I don’t understand Lopez,” Simmons responded with a shrug. “And I barely know who Sheila is.”
“Of course, conveniently Tucker does,” Wash growled.
“Hey, fuck you. I’m not smart enough to keep track of all this until right now,” Tucker snapped back.
“What’s the name of your new leader?” Wash hissed at Simmons, completely ignoring Tucker at that point. “Is it O’Malley?”
Simmons looked completely shocked. “Yeah... But how do you know that--”
Tucker stared at Simmons as well. “Wait... I know that name,” he muttered. He looked to Wash. “Why do I know that name?”
Looking even more fed up than before, Wash headed toward the window. “Tell you what, after I call the cops to come pick up your friend, you can take some time to think on that. Maybe you’ll even feel like sharing the information with me this time--”
“The cops!?” Simmons cried out. “I can’t get arrested! Oh, man. Sarge is going to kill me!”
The air nearly knocked out of his lungs, Tucker followed Wash. “Cops? Wash, you can’t be serious!”
“I am,” Wash said, turning back sharply to stand in front of Tucker. “I’m still wondering if I should call them on you.”
“You fucking dick!” Tucker growled. “You can’t do that! What about Grif? Or Kai? Or Sheila? What the fuck about my kid!”
Wash shook his head. “You should have probably thought about those things before you got involved in all of this--”
“I’m not involved! Why aren’t you listening to me?”
“Because I can’t trust you!” Wash shouted back. “Look, Tucker, you might be a good person, but because of you refusing to be straight with me, I don’t know if I can save your friend.”
“I have been nothing but straight with you!” Tucker screamed back. “How many times have I warned you I’m not a good guy? That I’m doing whatever it takes for my kid? I didn’t tell you stuff I didn’t think you needed to know because of this right here! Because you superheroes forget that things happen in between your big, shiny adventures to us everyday bums that make us think it’d be fun to put on the rainbow uniforms and do something silly and harmless like steal donuts from a bakery that doesn’t give a shit anyway!”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Wash bit back.
“That’s life, Wash,” Tucker hissed. “And you kevlar-wearing jerks would do better working with us harmless dorks -- like Simmons -- than putting everyone down in between going after your Shocking Turn To Evil partners.”
Wash glared. “How do you know about Wyoming’s turn to evil?”
“BECAUSE YOU SAID HE WAS AN ASSASSIN!” Tucker threw up his arms. “God, you’re so paranoid!”
“Find a ride home, Tucker, and try not to stumble into any more nefarious plots while I save your friend and take down a former friend,” Wash ordered before taking off through the window. “I’m doing things my way again.”
Tucker stepped next to the window, cupped his hands, and leaned out. “Oh, so even without the wine and dine YOU’RE GONNA FUCK ME OVER!? GOOD TO KNOW, WASHINGTON!” He slammed his fist on the sill. “I don’t have money for a fucking cab!”
He stood back and let out an angry huff of air before kicking over the nearest stack of pizza boxes. “Fucking asshole!” he cried out, dropping his head.
In the ensuing seconds, however, Tucker found his stomach growing cold. He refused to believe that the bitter taste in his mouth could be a tinge of guilt.
Slowly coming back into the moment, he looked over to Simmons only to see the man sitting up and mortified. “What the fuck just happened?” Simmons asked.
“I made an asshole new friend,” Tucker responded. “What a surprise, right?”
“Yeah. You’re starting to show you have a type,” Simmons responded, wiggling enough to look at the cuffs behind his back. “Um. Still... he didn’t call the police before leaving... so there’s that.”
Tucker hesitated before looking back to the window, then to Simmons. “Yeah. I... guess he didn’t. He might’ve just forgot though. So I better get you out of those before he remembers.”
Simmons cocked his head to the side as Tucker approached. “Do you know how to get out of handcuffs?”
“Do you even have to ask?” Tucker snorted.
Chapter 14: The O'Malley Factor
Woohoo! Another chapter update before the new year! I don’t think I’ll manage another before then but hopefully everyone can take my word that one of my resolutions is to pump out as many chapters as I can over the winter!
Thanks for the feedback to @analiarvb, @i-will-batman-you, @ambi-deer-ate, @secretlystephaniebrown, @kryptonitanott, Dextra2, Churbooseanon, @ephemeraltea, @ashleystlawrence, HappyFunBallXD, JjThereforeIAm, Alkeni, and Yin on AO3 and tumblr!
Getting Simmons into some of Grif’s spare clothes had been a shockingly hard task. It was only with the genuine threats of leaving the man behind to test whether or not their renegade superhero had called the cops or not that Simmons had finally sucked it up and thrown on sweats that were hilariously short on him yet baggy.
“You look homeless, dude,” Tucker snorted as they continued on their way down the street.
“This is all your fault. Ugh. I’m going to smell like old hamburgers for a week no matter how much I scrub, aren’t I?” Simmons asked, looking down at himself in disgust.
“Hey, you’re the dumbshit running around in the highly noticeable super villain costume. Not me,” Tucker said firmly, digging his hands further into the jacket pockets as a gust of wind did its best to knock them over. “By the by, don’t think you’re going to get a free upgrade to my stuff when we get to my home. I am strictly done lending my time, clothes, or patience to assholes on the street for the year. Maybe for life.”
“I’m the same rank as someone you picked up off the street?” Simmons asked, looking a bit shocked.
“Simmons, you’re way lower than some random dude I picked up on the street. I know upfront what an asshole you are,” Tucker joked, pausing before crossing the street to look up to his apartment window.
As always, the tell-tale sign of Junior flicking down the shades let him know his kid had been expectantly waiting on him and, most likely, his newfound and currently location-unknown hero.
“Balls,” Tucker groaned, lowering his head.
“What?” Simmons asked, immediately on edge and looking around for someone to tackle him.
“Ugh. Nothing, c’mon. I need to go get yelled at by Church,” Tucker sighed before leading the way across the street.
“Oh,” Simmons said before following after Tucker. “So... Church still yelling at you, huh? That’s cool. Hey, I feel like we’ve not caught up in a while. Is Caboose still dumb? I wouldn’t know because I feel like I get to talk to you guys way less than everyone else. But I know it’s just because we’re both working, right? It’s definitely not because you guys like Grif more than me or something, right? Haha. That’d be ridiculous. Because who could like Grif more than Simmons... right?”
“Simmons, I am not nursing your neuroses today, man. Okay? There’s too much shit going on in my life right now,” Tucker snapped as he led their way into the apartment and toward the stairs, not even giving the elevator the chance to disappoint him further that day.
“I’m not neurotic. Why would you say that?”
Tucker glared ahead, not even answering.
Truth be told, Simmons was not nearly as bad as normal. Tucker was just having a terrible time understanding how Wash was able to easily get under his skin before all that. Tucker never let anyone under his skin. Not even Church.
For once, by the time he had reached his door, it opened for him without knocking or even bothering to get out his keys and he found himself being tackled by a three foot alien.
“Junior!” Tucker groaned as his head knocked against the floor.
He couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face as he rubbed his son’s back. Not even being tackled could take away that small relief of his son being safe and sound after all the nonsense lately.
Which made it that much harder to ignore both the way Simmons stepped over them to welcome himself the rest of the way into the apartment or how Junior’s eyes immediately searched around the hallway as he sat on Tucker’s chest.
The alien let out a series of clicks from his vibrating mandibles and seemed to only shrink as his gaze was not met with a dressed down superhero.
Tucker couldn’t help but narrow his eyes as he finally shifted Junior more to his lap and was able to sit up.
If he wasn’t pissed at Wash before, he definitely was then.
It was one thing to disappoint Tucker, it was a completely different thing to disappoint his son.
“Tucker, what the fuck!? Stop bringing losers home!” Church yelled from the door as he offered Tucker his hand.
“Hey, I’ve been having trouble with that since the day I moved in with you,” Tucker responded, prompting Junior to stand up before taking Church’s hand and getting hoisted to his own feet. “C’mon, J-man, in the apartment. You know better than that.”
Junior looked around the hall another time before reluctantly turning back and scurrying in, his towel cape fluttering behind him.
“He’s still wearing the superhero get-up?” Tucker sighed as he walked in.
“What can I say? He’s as much of a loser as you are,” Church shrugged before slamming the door shut with absolutely no tact.
They both stood at the entrance, watching in a little bit of amazement as Simmons was being backed up against the refrigerator while Kai’s voice picked up more and more with every sentence.
“You piece of shit! I knew you and the rest of his stupid poker buddies had something to do with all of this!” she shouted right in Simmons’ face.
“You have no evidence!” Simmons cried out, already breaking out into nervous sweating and blowing any semblance of cover they could have possibly had.
“I don’t need evidence to kill you!” Kaikaina yelled before whirling around, grabbing Junior by the shoulders, and forcing the kid to face Simmons in one smooth motion. “Sic him! Sic him!”
"Tucker! Does he still bite!?” Simmons cried out, slightly hysterical.
“Hey! Kai! Stop encouraging my kid to do bad things! He doesn’t need the encouragement! Let him be a bad boy on his own, woman!” Tucker shouted back.
Clearly uninterested in the grown ups’ screaming match, Junior wiggled free of Kai and began running around the room, searching and crying out in Honks and Blarghs all the while.
“I don’t need him! I’ll bite you myself! Come here!” Kai growled before diving for Simmons’ shin only for him to all but jump and trip over her.
“Hey! No roughhousing near my appliances,” Tucker snapped. “Caboose! Do something with Junior!”
Caboose, standing stiff as a doornail looked down. “Oh. Are we no longer playing the Tall Building Game? I too am a monster now!” He threw up his arms and began chasing after Junior while shouting in vague honks and blarghs himself.
“HEY!” Church screamed at the top of his lungs. “EVERYONE SHUT UP! WE’LL GET ANOTHER NOISE VIOLATION!!!”
Tucker whirled around on Church. “ANOTHER!?”
“No! I know you Grifs don’t get vaccinations!”
“Blonk hargh-- Oh wait. Let’s start over again.”
Tucker grabbed onto the sides of his head and pulled at his hair for a moment as he screwed his eyes shut. There was a headache starting just between his eyes and he could already feel it spreading outward.
“EVERYONE JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP FOR A SECOND!” he screamed, halting everyone in their tracks but Caboose.
By the time he opened his eyes even Caboose was slowing to a stop and everyone else was already looking at him with various reactions of surprise and, as usual in Chruch’s case, mild disgust.
“What the fuck is with you then?” Church asked, crossing his arms.
“Uh, what the fuck is with that apparent noise violation?” Tucker asked, hands on his hips.
Immediately, Church snapped his jaw closed and rubbed at his neck with a huff. “Stupid rules.”
“You are the worst,” Tucker said with an unsurprised shake of his head. He then glared at the rest of his company before pointing at Kai specifically. “Kai, we’re still working on the whole ‘Where’s Grif’ thing. Mister Leotard is out and about doing his superhero thing. If we still trust him--”
“Whoa-ho-ho, sounds like I need to be caught back up to snuff,” Church grinned as he rubbed his hands together. “Welcome back to the dark side, Tucker.”
“Shut up, Church,” Tucker grunted without even bothering to roll his eyes. “Kai, seriously, though. We’re gonna find Grif. Until then, and especially since the police might get called to your place--”
“WHAT!?” Kai screamed, throwing up her arms. “Fucking cop! I knew it! Never trust a cop, Tucker!”
“--you can stay here on my couch,” Tucker continued, unphased.
Kai snorted and crossed her arms. “Fuck that. Me and Li’l Man have the bed. You take the couch. Don’t you know how to be a good host?”
“Kai, my couch is fine. Wash just used it. I think you’ll survive.”
She shrugged and looked off. “Pfft. You made him sleep on the couch. No wonder he left you.”
“Oooohhhhhhhhhhhh snap,” Caboose inputed needlessly.
“Holy shit,” Church laughed.
Simmons stared at everyone. “I am so confused.”
“Yeah?” Tucker asked, trying to ignore the heat growing on his face. “You’re also shit out of luck because I’m out of room in here. So you need to find somewhere else to lay low for at least the night. And given how pissed Wash was? Probably not with Donut or Sarge.”
Church was looking more and more intrigued by the minute. “Holy shit, I have to be caught up on everything! How much of an ass was he, Tucker? C’mon, tell me! I could tell just by looking at him that he was a douche--”
“Church, give it a break for like two seconds and I’ll tell you everything, for fuck’s sake,” Tucker groaned.
“Wait!” Simmons raised his hand like they were in elementary school.
“What?” they all snapped.
“Where exactly am I supposed to stay?” Simmons asked, looking around to everyone else in the apartment before stopping on Caboose. “With you guys?”
Caboose blinked before looking over to Church and Tucker. “Um....”
“Abso-fucking-lutely not,” Church snapped. “First off: not inviting cops to my place looking for you. Second off: no. Third off: I have lots of equipment and shit that you will want to touch because you think you know what you’re doing with it and, as always, you’ll prove to know nothing about it.”
Simmons looked back to Tucker. “Wait! Where am I supposed to go then?”
“I don’t care!” Tucker groaned. “C’mon, Simmons. You have to have at least one friend close by. What about Lopez?”
“Uh... I don’t think he’s ever told any of us where he lived. Or if he did it was in Spanish. I don’t fucking know Spanish,” Simmons replied, rubbing at his neck.
Church stared at him. “How the fuck does your gang get anything accomplished?”
“Until lately we weren’t really trying,” Simmons said with a casual shrug.
Caboose tapped his chin thoughtfully before humming. “They do know Doc...”
If possible, Simmons went paler than usual. “But--”
“Oh, fuck that’s right!” Tucker said, smiling as he clapped his hands together. “Caboose, what do you know?”
“Not much,” Caboose shrugged.
“But every now and then that not much comes in handy!” Tucker cheered before pointing at Simmons. “You’re going to go over to Doc’s later and sob story him into letting you raid his kitchen and stay on his couch. How’s that sound?”
“Terrible,” Simmons responded almost immediately.
“Oh, you’ll be fine--” Tucker began to rebut just before he felt a tug on his hand. He looked down to Junior and saw the little alien pointing toward the clock in the kitchen. It was nearly six o’clock. “What?”
Junior held up two fingers and looked pathetically at Tucker.
“Two?” Tucker asked before remembering and smacking himself in the forehead. “Fuck. Your training.” He sighed and looked to the floor. “Look, son. I... don’t really know how to say this. But that’s not happening today. And, right now, possibly never. Turns out that guy is a right-A douchebag. We might be better off on our own.”
“Blargh?” Junior whimpered out.
“I’m sorry, Junior. Not today,” Tucker replied.
Junior’s eyes looked him over before he slowly slipped his hand from Tucker’s and looked away, mandibles quivering.
Tucker watched his son for a moment, mouth opening slightly before he managed to get out, “Junior... look, I’m sorry. It’s just... Wash isn’t...”
Without another word, Junior turned and headed right for bedroom, slamming the door behind himself, and leaving Tucker feeling like a wet noodle.
“Eh,” Church shrugged. “We’ll sign him up for gymnastics or something.”
“Church,” Tucker warned.
Simmons, again raising his hand, stepped closer. “Tucker... look, I think we need to talk about the Doc plan--”
“The Doc plan is fine, Simmons,” Tucker groaned before heading toward the door and waving at Church. “Everyone keep your shit together for ten minutes. Church, c’mon, I need to rant on the roof.”
“Fucking yes finally! Oh my god, I need all the details on what a douchebag mistake it was to not listen to me!” Church responded as he threw his arms up and followed Tucker out the door.
“Church, I swear to god, you say I told you so even once while I’m spilling my guts out to you, I will kick your ass. Like. Not even kidding,” Tucker snapped as he headed to the stairs.
“Oh, I don’t need to. We’ll both be thinking it, and knowing you’re thinking it is, by far, much sweeter than any satisfaction I’d get from me saying it,” Church replied giddily.
“I have no idea why we’re friends sometimes,” Tucker sighed as he turned around and with practiced ease gave Church a dirty look as he leaned back into the roof door to push it open.
“You begged me,” Church responded.
“So not true,” Tucker shook his head.
“Makes a better story that way, though.” Church stepped out onto the roof, kicking the snow out away from his path as he looked around. He spun on his heel to look Tucker over and raise a brow. “Okay. Tell me.”
“Oh my god! He was such a douchebag and attacked Simmons,” Tucker responded, slumping down. “Dude. He acted like it was all some huge conspiracy against him once he found out that I knew Grif was... y’know. Involved with the bullshit? And I thought he was going to break Simmons’ arm!”
Church hummed, looking up slightly in thought before concentrating back on Tucker. “The good hand or the fake one?”
“Does it matter?”
“It matters to me. I might be able to talk him into paying me to fix it,” Church responded with a shrug. “Seriously, though: what the fuck did you think was going to happen? All those douchebag superhero types are always the same. Everyone talks about how compassionate and driven they are, except that compassion ain’t ever for the people on our side of the street and driven is just code for how many more goons like us who are taught to keep our mouths shut and not get involved they’re willing to pummel information out of before they find Sinister Fishstick’s hideout. Welcome to reality, Tucker: no one cares about us because we’re trying to survive.”
Tucker narrowed his eyes. “I’m not delusional about adult life, man, alright?” he snapped back. “It’s just... I don’t know. It’s like Wash is different -- I could tell he was. It’s like he got it but... I don’t know. It’s like he didn’t want to.”
“Um. Apparently he didn’t get it,” Church shrugged back. “Whatever. No big loss.”
“I just thought he was more like Tex,” Tucker replied. “Like... she always knew to not ask too much and all that shit--”
“He is not Tex,” Church growled back fiercely. “Okay? There was only Tex. She’s gone, and now there’s only supervillains, douchebags, and us assholes who make good stooges.”
“He got so mad that I didn’t tell him my whole life story or every little fact I knew,” Tucker said, rubbing at his neck. “It’s like I was personally betraying him. Maybe he just doesn’t get how the neighborhood works.”
Church looked utterly unimpressed. “What? Did he tell you every fact about his life?”
“Dude, I don’t even really know his name,” Tucker shrugged. “I guess I could find out... I know where he lives and he bought a cab for me. But he definitely knows shit he’s not keen on telling me. Stuff about Junior! There’s definitely something he’s not saying.” Tucker paused, looking back at Church. “And all this shit has something to do with one of his old Freelancer buddies, I think. He wouldn’t tell me. Say, Church. Know anything about a Wyoming?”
“Yeah, he was a Freelancer with Tex. Real asshole,” Church responded, tilting his head. “Why?”
“He and a guy named O’Malley are involved I think. They’re both names Wash threw out without explaining anything,” Tucker explained before Church threw up his arms.
“What the fuck!? O’MALLEY!?” he cried out. “Tucker, do you know what that is!?”
Tucker stared. “Uh. No. I just said I didn’t--”
“That was Tex’s archnemesis! Went by... Omega or something. Doesn’t matter. Tucker! He’s bad! Super bad. Like really fucking bad!” Church cried out. He paused. “Wait. Why is Washington mad at you for not sharing stuff if he’s not sharing stuff with you? Especially if it involves your kid. Douche move.”
“Hey... you’re right!” Tucker responded. “What. The. Fuck?”
“Right?” Church snorted. “Superheroes. Fucking hypocrites.” He nodded to Tucker’s chest. “So. Want me to finally take that tracer off your jacket so Mister McDouche doesn’t know where you’re at all the time.”
Tucker rolled his eyes so hard his skull was in damage of rotating. “Church. For the last time, there is no tracer on this jacket!”
“Oh, yeah? Then what’s the glowing red dot?”
Scowling, Tucker looked down to his chest. “Red dot--”
Before he could even register what he was seeing, Tucker felt like someone was punching him hard in the shoulder -- hard enough that in a blink he was in the snow face down.
Rolling over wildly, Tucker sat up screaming, “CHURCH!” just before also seeing that Church was mirroring the same motion, his whole body covered in snow.
“Dude, what the fuck!?” Tucker demanded. “Why’d you punch me!?”
“Punch you!? I didn’t punch you, you punched me!” Church snapped just before looking toward where they stood then tracing back. His eyes widened. “Tucker, someone shot at us.”
“What?” Tucker asked before looking back. His mouth dropped in surprise as he saw a smoldering bullet-sized hole both in the snow and in the tar roofing beneath it. He felt a small tremble through his body before looking over the rooftops.
“Tucker, did you ever find out what your boyfriend’s super powers were?”
“No, and stop saying he’s my boyfriend,” Tucker responded before following Church’s look again and seeing, beside their own tracks in the snow, a third.
“Do you think he can turn invisible?” Church asked seriously.
“Um. If he can, I owe him a punch in the face,” Tucker responded. “Also that’s so not a lame super power. He said it was super lame. Wait... couldn’t Tex turn invisible?”
Church’s mouth snapped shut as he continued to stare at the tracks.
Tucker blinked before reaching for Church’s shoulder and giving it a shake. “Church?”
“Dude, someone’s shooting at us,” Church said, snapping out of the momentary trance. “Let’s get the fuck inside!”
Frowning, Tucker silently followed Church without another word.
Chapter 15: Things are Personal
The first update of the year! And oh my gosh I couldn’t be happier. I’ve wanted to get to a lot of stuff in this chapter for a while now and it’s just such a relief to be here finally! It’s also hilarious to me to be here because it’s only been a week since the last chapter, but I feel so encouraged to try to update more and faster for you guys. You’re so amazingly supportive and everyone’s been coming up with so many fun theories about certain characters’ parts in the AU and certain heroes’ powers -- it’s been a lot of fun watching everyone’s theories and I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with for each update!
Thanks for the feedback to @secretlystephaniebrown, @ambi-deer-ate, @kryptonitanott, bangles25, nota4, @ashleystlawrence, Dextra2, @ephemeraltea, Yin, churbooseanon, Two_Four_None_Ten, HappyFunBallXD, Taka, @autisticdrgrey, @spooky-circuits, @solipsisticwanderer, and @kidicus on AO3 and tumblr!
He hated to admit it, but after a few hours of laying in a completely blacked out apartment, Tucker was beginning to think Kaikaina had been onto something with how uncomfortable the couch was.
The night had come and while during waning daylight Church had been satisfied with leaving the apartment as it was so long as all windows were closed and blinds were down, when it was dark Church then ordered that they keep the lights low so anyone watching the apartment from the outside wouldn’t be able to see in.
Tucker had to admit, he never thought there’d be a time in his life that he would be grateful that his best friend had a unique expertise in all things being kidnapped or targeted for assassination.
Simmons cut out not too long after hearing about the whole possible sniper deal had followed them and was, assumedly, chilling with Doc. Kai made good on her threat of taking the bedroom with Junior -- not that the child had even opened the door for Tucker or anything. Caboose went to work with no worries about handling himself.
Which left Tucker with just Church.
Sitting up on the couch, leaning forward a bit, Tucker squinted through the darkness and could make out the faint glow of some of Church’s more illuminating parts as the android body sat at the table.
“Hey,” Tucker called out softly.
Church flinched a bit at the noise and looked up. Even in the darkness, Tucker could imagine the usual scowl from his loud mouthed friend. “What?” Church demanded with absolutely no tact.
“Any brainstorming on what’s going on yet?” Tucker asked.
“Tucker, I said I’d try to come up with something by morning, alright?” Church snapped back. “It’s definitely not morning, and I’ve not come up with anything. Just let me think about it.”
“Dude, I can’t sleep,” Tucker groaned, pulling his knees up to his chest. “I kissed death twice already today. How am I supposed to not be thinking about that?”
“Eh, it’s not that big of a deal,” Church shrugged.
“How can you say that?”
“Because I kissed death all the time when I was dating Tex,” Church responded, his exaggerated hand motions lost in the darkness. “It’s fine. Until... y’know, it’s not. Then you’re dead and doomed to walk the Earth until who knows when.” He paused, looking off with what sounded like a heavy sigh. “Then it’s just great. Then you get to be annoyed with how much it sucks to actually be dead... and your friends still dragging you into the same bullshit you didn’t want to be involved in during life. Except now you can’t get drunk. And that, Tucker, is the saddest fate of them all.”
Tucker blinked a few times before shaking his head. “What? What the fuck, dude! Are you complaining about yourself again? I’m not talking about Church Problems today, Church! I’m talking about Tucker problems.”
Church let out a snort. “What are Tucker problems? Don’t you pride yourself on never having problems?”
“Yeah, I do. Which is why I don’t know what the hell to do with having them now!” Tucker cried out before rubbing his face. “Fuck. Maybe I should try to get a hold of Wash again. He’s pissed but maybe if I--”
“Wash? Washington? Why?” Church demanded. “He’s a douchebag that didn’t even let you know what trouble was coming!”
“Yeah, but at least he knew about it! That’s more than what I can say,” Tucker groaned. “Fuck. Church, I’m so scared for Junior I don’t even know what--”
“Hold up,” Church said, holding up his hand. “Why the hell are you scared for the abomination of nature?”
Tucker narrowed his eyes. “Church, Wash said that he could be in trouble. And I just about got shot at my own apartment building.”
“Yeah but those were specifically you problems, which we just said you don’t actually have,” Church reminded him.
“No, we said I never had them before, which is true,” Tucker corrected. “My problems have always been your problems that spilled over to me on accident. Now who knows what the hell is happening.”
“Tucker, I think Junior’s fine,” Church said with long suffering sigh.
“Oh, that’s comforting. Because every time you put off stuff, it’s always the right decision,” Tucker grunted back, crossing his arms as he laid back on the couch. “It definitely never led to some of us being impregnated by aliens or, y’know, dying thanks to Caboose’s idiocy. Thanks, Church. I feel all better.”
“Hey, asshole, I’m just saying that no one even knows about your alien progeny except the people who have been inside this apartment. One of them is missing. One of them is more paranoid than both of us combined. Most of them couldn’t find the left shoe fresh out of a shoebox. And the others are you and me,” Church reminded him. “No one knows about Junior. Therefore, no one cares about him or wants to hurt him.”
Tucker thought back on Church’s words and found a strangely calming truth to them. “Yeah... I guess so. But... still. The sniper guy--”
“Yeah, don’t get Washington for that,” Church advised.
“Yeah?” Tucker questioned.
“Yeah, fuck him,” Church said. He paused. “Okay, let me clarify since you might take that the exact opposite way of what I wanted--” he ducked down below the pillow Tucker threw his way before straightening back up. “We don’t need him, Tucker. We’ve never needed him before and we’ve been fine.”
Tapping his fingers against his stomach, Tucker sharply exhaled through his nose. “We always had Tex before, Church,” he reminded his friend.
“Well, let’s just say I’m not convinced we still don’t have someone looking out for us after tonight,” Church said before leaning back in his chair.
Somewhat caught off guard by Church’s sudden and uncharacteristic optimism, Tucker sat up again and gave his friend a curious stare. “I’m starting to think following you after all this time is a terrible idea,” Tucker stated seriously. “Really. Like, what have you done for me?”
“Improved your quality of life?” Church asked with a shrug.
“As far as I can tell, that refers to introducing me to Caboose -- which did not improve anything -- or introducing me to Tex -- which broke even more stuff than Caboose, so didn’t improve anything,” Tucker listed off.
Church stared back. “Well since when were you such a pessimist?”
“I’m worried about my kid,” Tucker groaned, rubbing his face.
“God, Tucker, just chill. We’ll figure this out,” Church groaned back. “God. Or you’ll get shot and then we’ll find out it has nothing to do with you or your kid. It’s going to be because some asshole connected you to that superhero asshole of yours and now wants you dead for some kinda ‘kill his spirit’ routine.” Church paused. “Which is... like scenario three in the Supervillain Handbook.”
Tucker sighed and prepared to battle it out verbally again when there was a noticeable raise in the noise level outside. It was enough to draw Tucker’s attention from Church to his hall door. He slowly begun to get up.
“What?” Church asked curiously, watching Tucker fully.
“You don’t hear that?” Tucker asked, heading toward the door.
“It’s nothing, noise in an apartment’s not abnormal no matter what your landlord thinks,” Church excused without a second thought even as Tucker peered through the peephole. “Dude, it’s not anything to do with you. Let it go. What about the golden rule of not getting involved?”
“I recognize those voices,” Tucker explained before opening the door and heading out into the hall, immediately getting blasted with the sounds of Simmons’ voice and a voice Tucker hadn’t heard since the bank robbery.
“This is starting to sound a lot like treason! Blasphemy! And absolute hogwash!”
Tucker walked toward Doc’s end of the hall and found not only his landlord standing back by his door, but Simmons shrinking under the outraged attention of a thick, old man leering and squinting at him in ways that would make Popeye jealous at the lack of facial changes.
“Sarge, I had to look for Grif! I had no idea that there’d be a superhero there!” Simmons cried out before catching sight of Tucker and beginning to straighten. “Tucker! Look, Sarge, he was there, too! Tell Sarge that it’s not my fault there was a superhero in Grif’s apartment.” He paused long enough to blink before straightening up completely. “Actually... if anyone’s fault, Sarge, it’d be his. Tucker brought a superhero to look for Grif.”
Tucker glared at Simmons before realizing the squatty leader of the Reds had his entire rage filled glare now set on Tucker of all people. He began to step back toward his apartment door again, motioning toward it.
“Um. You see... actually, I don’t get involved with other people’s business... soooooo I’m going to just let myself back inside and go to sleep,” he tried before looking toward Doc, trying to not take too much notice of the way the shadows were laying mostly over him. “By the way, Doc, great job at keeping the noise levels controlled on the floor. Spectacular, really. Glad your favoritism is very obviously not involved at any point.”
He wasn’t sure how a man who looked so old could move so fast, but it wasn’t long before Tucker found his back pressed against the wall of the hallway and Sarge’s nose just inches from his own.
“Just who gives a flying monkey’s bottom about Grif!? Especially enough to look for him?” the old man demanded. “Especially especially enough to bring a goat-kissing superhero along!?”
“Goat-kissing?” Tucker asked before looking to Simmons.
“It’s best to not ask about where his analogies come from,” Simmons offered unhelpfully.
Before he could get another word in back at Simmons, Tucker felt his shoulder getting shook and he looked back worriedly to Sarge instead. The old man’s scowl was still set firm on Tucker which, in its own way, was rather unnerving.
“Son, you better explain to me how you are anything close to an acquaintance with my gang,” Sarge demanded. “Because I’m mighty suspicious of anyone attached to that so-called super zero who interrogated one of my men to the point that he might never be doing the Mambo again!”
Suddenly, Tucker felt like a cold splash of water had sunk to the bottom of his stomach. His eyes widened. “Someone got hurt? By a superhero?” he demanded.
“Your buddy Wash hurt Donut, Tucker,” Simmons informed him, crossing his arms rather angrily. “Makes you wonder what he’s going to do if he gets his hands on Grif.”
“I don’t give a damn about him getting a hold of Grif,” Sarge snapped. “I do care if this Washington character gets to Lopez. Or more importantly to me! I have a mighty nice house. Never had need for tenant or nothing. He starts breaking windows or furniture then I might have to replace things. Fix things. Get new things. Things cost money. I’d have to rent out the attic. Or the basement. Or that spare bedroom. Or the other spare bedroom -- ah, the whole place would go to hell! I can’t let that happen!”
“Maybe you shouldn’t threaten people in a bank then!” Tucker snapped. “This bullshit didn’t ever happen when you guys stuck to stupid pranks and robbing old breads!”
Sarge blinked at Tucker before his frown growing more. “What the fudge are you talking about, buttmunch? I had no part in the bank robbery.”
“You sure as fuck did!” Tucker snapped back.
“Um, Tucker, about that...” Simmons began, looking cautiously over his shoulder.
“You know what, forget it, you all are crazy, and I’m tired of hiding in my apartment,” Tucker yelled, pushing Sarge’s hand off his shoulder. “I’m also sick of Wash turning out to be a real asshole. So I’m sorry for that. Sorry enough I’m calling a cab and going to do something about it,” Tucker growled, heading toward his door. He paused then looked back at Simmons. “Um. I can’t afford a cab. But if you want me to stop Wash before he keeps you from doing the Mabo or whatever--”
"Oh, right, sure,” Simmons said, digging into his pocket before fishing out a familiar stack of money. “Just keep it. I stole it from Grif’s anyway -- consider it your finder’s fee for whenever you guys save Grif.”
Sarge looked more flustered than ever as Tucker took the money and pocketed. “I refuse to let someone accept a reward for finding Grif of all people. Grif’s going to believe he’s worth that stack of money, when really there is no worth of a pile of radioactive crap! Only loss. So I’ll offer you my poker debts if you find Grif.”
Tucker just stared at the old man before heading back to his apartment.
He slammed the door behind him, not even surprised when Church was standing there waiting on him.
“Just what are you doing?” Church demanded.
“Calling a cab,” Tucker responded, heading over to the cabinet where he charged his phone. He ignored how Church kept in step with him.
“No, it sounds like you’re getting involved. Tucker, you know what happens when any of us gets involved with crap,” Church warned.
“Church, believe it or not, I think I’m already involved,” Tucker responded as he dialed up the number.
“Yeah, you are. You stupidly brought home a superhero you didn’t know. It’s like you never listened to an after school special before in your life,” Church said throwing up his hands. “But we’re at the perfect point for getting back uninvolved with this whole bullshit right now. Just... leave it alone. Call it a draw and let things work themselves out. Without us.”
Tucker glared. “I don’t think I can,” he responded before hearing the drone of the cab service. “Hi, yeah. I’m at the corner of Blood Gulch and Three-four-three. I’m going to need a ride to that laundromat at Bungie... No this isn’t a joke. Yes, I already have money.”
Church swatted at him. “Get uninvolved, Tucker! I swear to god!”
Swatting back at Church, Tucker tried to angle himself away from his robotic friend as he finished up the phone call. “Three minutes? Okay. Sweet. I’ll be waiting. He hung up then swung for Church which the other easily dodged. “Would you stop it!? Fuck, dude!”
“What the hell is wrong with you!? You can’t leave -- did you miss the whole being shot at deal?” Church demanded.
“Did you miss the part where if I go, this guy will be far away from you and everyone else held up in this place?” Tucker asked. He could see by the immediate recoil that it wasn’t something that had been on the other’s mind. “Besides, apparently Wash is out of control and I need to stop him from doing something stupid.”
“What, now he’s your responsibility?” Church snorted.
“He is when it comes to hurting my friends, yeah,” Tucker responded before heading toward the window and peering out.
He waited a good minute or so for Church to come back at him with a full explosion, his typical Churchness, but when he got nothing, Tucker finally turned to face him.
Church stood, arms crossed and an angry, grumpy scowl on his face.
“What?” Tucker demanded.
“I don’t think we know enough about what’s going on,” Church reiterated. “So we should butt out.”
“We never know enough about what’s going on,” Tucker groaned before looking back out and spotting the cab. “Wow, that’s fast. Okay, Church, you’re in charge. Just make sure Junior knows I’ll be home soon. Don’t mention Washington because I don’t want to get the kid’s hopes up or something--”
He stopped the moment he felt Church’s hands grasp onto his shoulders and squeeze. He stood, staring in surprise as Church shook his head.
“Tucker, I don’t like this,” Church said lowly.
“You, my friend, don’t like anything,” Tucker reminded him before slowly easing Church’s hands off of his shoulders. “I know you’re the veteran here at dealing with all kinds of crazy bullshit, but you’ve got to let it go. There’s no more Church and Tex adventures. And we don’t have to worry about big, convoluted superhero plots. Just stupid, psychotic regular superhero plots I accidentally unleash on Blood Gulch.”
Church frowned but eased back. “If you die, I’ll raise your only child to believe Washington is responsible. It’ll be the perfect super villain origin story.”
“You are the worst,” Tucker snorted, grabbing Wash’s jacket to wear and heading for the door.
“Exactly,” Church snorted back. “So you better not leave me the opportunity to do it.”
Tucker took some comfort in hearing the dead bolt clicking behind him as he raced down the hall and out toward the cab. He was thinking of the best ways to leave Wash the message and for the hero to actually get it as he jumped into the cab. There had to be something to all of the superhero junk.
“Laundromat,” Tucker said just for conversation as the cab door slammed shut behind him and the car started off without pause. “Though I guess with all that electronic shit these days you guys know that already.”
“Sure do, ol’ chap.”
Blinking a few times, Tucker looked over to the other side of the dimly lit cab and settled back down upon seeing a hearty looking man in a suit and bow tie.
“Oh, hey, sorry. I didn’t realize that there was someone else-- I called a cab,” he tried to explain the confusion before reaching for the door handle only to see that the interior of his door didn’t have one. “What the-- is this a police car? I mean... not that I’d know.”
“The police would be an inconvenience for this particular job, mate,” the man said, literally stroking his mustache as the driver hackled from the front.
Slowly, Tucker began to feel the tempo of his chest pick up. He recognized that hackling laugh from the other night when Wash had called him a cab to get home. He then looked over to the man beside him, then back to the front as he watched the cab not only head the opposite direction of their route but off the street and into an alleyway.
“Oh, fuckberries,” Tucker wheezed out, feeling as if he had literally had the oxygen kicked out of his chest.
Without being able to even think about what to do beforehand, he lunged for the front passenger seat, only for the wide British sounding man beside him to grab his waist full force and throw him back into his seat.
“Sorry for your luck, mate,” the mustached man chuckled somewhat fondly as he adjusted his grip in the time it took Tucker to process what was happening and immediately wrapped his wide palms around Tucker’s neck. “It’s only business, though. I’m sure you’ll understand.”
“W-wait--” Tucker tried to gasp out only to choke back on anything else. He pulled at the hands on his throat, his nails unable to dig into the leather gloves the man was wearing. He tried to squirm and kick out but the man held firm -- pressing Tucker’s back uncomfortably into the seat.
“For him it may be business, but for me it’s an absolute pleasure!” the man in the driver’s seat hackled, his eyes boring into Tucker’s through it all. Tucker couldn’t concentrate but he could almost swear that they were a black void -- not full of any life themselves.
Tucker continued to squirm and kick uselessly. He panicked, unable to stand the burning in his lungs before realizing that all the time his attacker was angling him away so he wouldn’t get kicked, Tucker was instead aimed right for the window.
Without hesitation, he aimed his next kick as hard as he could for the window, amazed at how much power he was able to muster for breaking through it despite his light headedness.
“Good heavens, I do hope that your new friend has insurance,” the attacker joked.
“Fuck if I care! I’m evil after all!”
Tucker couldn’t see past the spots in his vision. He immediately regretted not going in to check on Junior before he left, wondered how much truth was in Church’s threats about turning Junior to a life of Washington hunting when he felt a brush of air sweep past him
Immediately, the grip of his attacker left Tucker’s throat and there was a string of curses as Tucker felt his body slide into the floor of the cab, a splash of wetness across his face.
“Bloody hell -- that would be my trigger hand!”
“Quick, look my way and then get us out of here!”
Gasping, Tucker could hardly put the words into context, his hands were instinctively pulling down all the necklines of his shirts and jacket, sucking in the cold air as much as he could just before he felt a rush against his face and then the lack of a presence beside him.
“What the--” a different voice came from the front of the cab before the driver’s door flung open.
“You made a terrible mistake today,” a low growl snarled before the cab driver squeaked. There was a hard thud and Tucker could see the man slump across his dashboard.
Tucker coughed for more air, head shaking as the door behind him opened and he felt warm hands slide under his own arms, dragging him out into the snow. He looked up in a haze, honestly shocked to see Washington in full uniform.
“Tucker? Tucker! Can you hear me?” he demanded, a worried line apparent over his brow even in the darkness of the alley.
“Ho-how did you...” Tucker wheezed.
“Oh, thank god,” Wash sighed, hanging his head in relief. “It’s a good thing you wore my jacket or else I’d never have found you in time--”
Narrowing his eyes, Tucker found the strength to reach forward and grab Wash’s shoulder back. The superhero looked up, confused just in time for Tucker to pull back the other hand and throw the best right hook he could under the circumstances. Wash fell back on his ass, looking back up almost immediately with a splitting lip.
“Okay...” Tucker coughed. “Now talk.”
Chapter 16: Talk It Out
This update was FAST to write, mostly because I think you guys have waited long enough on some of these answers. ; ) Hope some of you didn’t hype the super lameness up too much for yourselves because, like I said, SUPER lame answers to come!!!
Thanks for the feedback to @secretlystephaniebrown, @solipsisticwanderer, Two Four None Ten, Halo_Freak, staininspace, HappyFunBallXD, Dextra2, and @kryptonitanott on AO3 and tumblr!
Even feeling like he was being yanked by a choker was worth the look on Washington’s face for the near ten straight minutes after Tucker punched him. If Tucker didn’t know better, he could have almost thought that it was the first time in his entire life that Washington had been surprised by anything. Which, in itself, was pretty funny.
He kept that bewildered look and didn’t even bother to wipe the blood from his lip or chin as he tied up the cab driver, checked over Tucker again, and ultimately helped Tucker up toward the rooftops of the nearby buildings thanks to a much less crappy fire escape than what was at Tucker’s own apartment.
Which was when Wash pulled out something form one of the pockets of his belt and began working on Tucker’s throat.
“I can’t believe you punched me,” was the first verbal comment between either of them.
“Are you going to sit me down and explain why you didn’t deserve it?” Tucker coughed as he felt cool relief on his tender skin. “What is that?”
“It’s a coolant, it’ll keep your bruised tissue from swelling and, hopefully, keep your throat from closing up,” Wash explained before looking up to meet Tucker’s eyes. “And, no, I won’t say I didn’t deserve it. I’m sure I did. I’m just not sure about what--”
“Fuck yeah you deserved it,” Tucker snapped sourly. “How about for beating up my friends? Or for putting a tracker on me without my permission? Or how about for getting pissy at me for not sharing information when apparently you know a fucking lot you’re not telling me and it looks like it might actually kill me. How about that?”
“Hm,” Wash responded, looking down to Tucker’s throat as he made some more space between them. “How does that feel?”
Gritting his teeth, Tucker glared at Washington before shaking his head. “Do you actually want to fucking talk or not, Wash?”
“Of course I do,” Wash said, his lips pressed to a thin line. “But I have to make sure you’re physically okay first. Is that alright with you?”
Tucker narrowed his eyes. “Don’t get haughty with me, Mister Badass. I’ve had it about up to here,” he motioned over his head, “with bullshit today. I’m not going to put up with getting it from you right now.”
With a heavy sigh, Wash raised his head and lowered his hands and the seemingly magical medical supplies down.
“You didn’t tell me everything, and I needed to know everything before getting stuck in this situation, Tucker,” Wash reminded him, as if the words from Grif’s apartment weren’t still ringing in Tucker’s ears.
“Yeah?” Tucker snapped back. “Well, guess what, you’ve not told me shit about you, and it’s almost gotten me killed. A lot. And worse than that, you keep bringing up my kid -- you keep saying Junior’s in trouble, that he means something, that he has to be able to defend himself because I won’t be able to... Fuck, dude. Do you have any idea what that does to a parent?” he demanded. “You worried about me physically? How about the fact that every time I think about my kid now you’ve made me feel like I’m about ready to have a goddamn heart attack! And on top of all that, you’ve made me feel like the only person I can trust right now to keep my kid safe is you but I don’t know a goddamn thing about you! I don’t even know what your stupid super power is!”
“It’s not relevant,” Wash defended.
“Because it’s a fucking stupidly embarrassing super power?” Tucker mocked.
“Oh my god, do you not get how hypocritical you’re being about this whole fucking thing?” Tucker demanded. “Yeah, my friends are pieces of shit. We know that. We’re totally cool with the fact that we’re assholes. So much so that my best friend literally isn’t trusted by any of us but Caboose with our pocket change. But we’re good for each other. So much so that they’re watching my kid right now and keeping him safe with absolutely everything in them. And yet Mister Superhero is going around putting guys as harmless as Franklin Donut in the hospital.”
Wash scowled. “So you’re saying it’s my fault you couldn’t tell me something as important as the fact that the guy I’m helping you find also happens to be one of the guys responsible for hitting me with a car. And it’s somehow worse that I interrogate a known criminal than them hitting me with a car and throwing me in a dumpster to freeze to death.”
“No,” Tucker responded. “I’m saying if you took two minutes without growing high and mighty about morality to hear us out, you’d know that those assholes never held up anything outside of a few washing machines. They’re a gag gang Wash. They literally painted all the stoplights in the neighborhood red one night. They usually work at the places they vandalize. For fuck’s sake, I made friends with most of them after they held up a laundromat to get back at the owner for cheating people.”
“What, so they think they’re Robin Hood? That it somehow excuses them from actual crimes?” Wash huffed.
“No, it means that the last few weeks -- hitting someone with a car, holding up an actual bank? That’s not them. It’s against their... modum operations,” Tucker attempted.
There was almost a curl to Wash’s lip when he raised a brow. “Modus operandi?” he offered.
“Look I’m still kinda pissed at you right now, so trying to speak French to me isn’t going to impress me,” Tucker snapped.
“It’s not... nevermind,” Wash sighed before pinching his nose. “Okay. Fine. I am listening to you, Tucker. I get it. You were trying to help your friends without complicating things with me.”
“And I never lied,” Tucker pressed. “Just... y’know. Left out stuff.” He leaned closer to Wash. “Which I’m guessing is your excuse for not telling me that it’s one of your old former superhero buddies trying to kill me right now, right? I didn’t ask the right questions?”
Wash frowned. “I wasn’t expecting Wyoming to be a part of any of this,” he admitted. “So, yes, I did leave that out. Because it didn’t seem important at the time.”
Raising his eyebrow, Tucker levied serious judgement on the superhero. Enough so that Wash somewhat flinched back.
“What?” Washington pressed.
“It’s not important to let me know there’s some former superhero trying to kill me?” Tucker demanded. “Or, more importantly, what it has to do with my kid.”
Washington’s mouth opened before he ultimately lowered his head, rubbing his neck and letting out a small grunt. “Okay,” he muttered. “I can see now that... we might be aggravated at each other for the same thing.”
“Fuck yeah we are,” Tucker growled, crossing his arms petulantly. “I mean, fine. If I need to share more with you -- as long as you promise to not go and kill people I like just for street cred -- I guess I should start doing that. But... fuck, man. You’ve gotta let me know important shit if it’s going to hurt my family.”
Wash stood up, shaking his head and muttering something incoherent to Tucker’s ears.
Blinking, Tucker cocked his head to the side. “Wait... so you’re not going to share the super important info with me now?” he asked somewhat worriedly.
“No... it’s just...” Wash dropped his hands to his side and looked out toward the city. “Tucker, what I tell you... it’s not only going to be hard to believe... but it’s going to make you a bigger target. The reason I’m getting paid to not work for the government anymore... the reason Junior could lead to everything imploding in this city... the reason one of the largest criminal masterminds I or any of my friends ever chased before... it’s huge. Alright. It’s so much bigger than any of us that I can’t share it with anyone without putting them at huge risk.”
Eyes widening slightly, Tucker shifted back, watching Washington expectantly.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, the superhero bounced on his feet some nervously and looked back at Tucker. “Also I may have trust issues and an inability to communicate rationally with others.”
Tucker glared. “Uh. Is that supposed to be new information to me?”
“I’m just saying, this is big. Really big. And I barely know where to start, how safe it is to even talk about it out loud or just...” Wash sighed, pinching his nose again. “I’ve been keeping secrets for a long time. Because I didn’t know how much the truth was going to help people.”
“Jesus, are you going to flip out on me because of this?” Tucker asked seriously.
The superhero hummed. “It’s not outside the realm of possibilities.”
“Fuck, I can’t deal with this,” Tucker groaned, rubbing his face. “Why don’t you just... I don’t know, start with something small? Something you won’t get us killed over. Like... I don’t know. What’s your name?”
Smacking himself in the forehead, Tucker sighed. “Your real name.”
He looked at Wash’s face. “Are you being fucking serious right now?”
Tilting his head to the side, Wash repeated, “David Washington. I told you, I’m trying to think of a new name. I’m... not overly creative.”
“This is the dumbest thing in the -- what the fuck, Wash? Washington’s not even a real name. I thought it was a codename like all the Freelancers -- it wasn’t like Tex’s name was fucking Allison Texas!”
Wash stared at him. “It is a real name. It’s not just a state -- Tucker, the state was named after President George Washington. This isn’t me being cute.”
“Oh,” Tucker muttered, bringing a hand to his chin. “Huh. What, are you related--”
“I don’t know--”
“How do you not know if you’re the same Washington family as the President?” Tucker cried out.
“Because growing up with the name you get really tired of being asked that and never bother to find out,” Wash snapped.
“Huh, never thought of it that way,” Tucker said. “Did you get picked on a lot about it?”
“Some,” Wash responded. “But, uh... I got picked on for other stuff instead...”
Immediately intrigued, Tucker got up to his feet. “Oh my god. This is it. You’re opening up -- you were picked on because of your really dumb super powers.”
“I was,” Wash said, rubbing his arm. “But... Wait. You tell me something first.”
“What is this? A slumber party? I don’t have to tell you a secret for every secret you share with me. That’s so dumb!” Tucker groaned.
“It’s fair!” Wash yelled back.
“Okay! Fine. You already know about my delinquent friends,” Tucker responded, rolling his eyes back to think. “Uh. What do you need to know--”
“How did you have Junior?” Wash demanded.
“Huh?” Tucker looked back at Washington.
“How did you deliver Junior,” Wash rephrased. “You were busted out of the capture pods during the Invasion, I’m assuming. Probably by your friends. What happened then?”
Tucker’s mouth opened then closed again. “Huh?” he managed to get out eloquently. “How do you know about those?”
“It’s all part of the big, long truth I’ll explain as soon as I get a frame of reference,” Wash promised. “What was it? C-section?”
“Yeah,” Tucker replied, instinctively rubbing at his stomach. “I was really scared it was like... some kind of Alien shit with the chest bursters? If I hadn’t been passing out all the time, I would’ve really been freaking out. But Church and Caboose got Doc--”
“Your landlord,” Wash clarified.
“Yeah, he flunked out of med school or some shit, so Church started calling him Doc -- anyway, flunkie or not he did the trick,” Tucker explained. “Um. Sort of. Church probably would have killed him because I think he fucked up and let me bleed out or something? I don’t know, I was in a coma for a while. But he was able to deliver Junior safe and sound and as far as I care that’s the important part. So it’s a good thing Church hadn’t learned how to possess anything yet or else I’d be down a landlord.”
Wash’s brow crinkled. “Possess? I thought he was an android--”
“Uh, with that much assholery? Fuck no, dude,” Tucker laughed before waiting a beat. “He’s a ghost possessing a robot. Duh.”
Opening his mouth some, Wash seemed to be trying desperately to respond intelligently before looking down to his feet, then back to Tucker. “Okay. I’ll try to swallow that for now.”
“Right, okay,” Tucker sighed. “But... that’s really it for Junior. I didn’t die so now we’re a big happy family.”
“Do you remember what was done to you?” Wash continued. “If they were alien or human experimenting on you.”
Almost immediately, Tucker felt like everything he understood in their conversation was crashing around them. “Human? How the fuck would they be human?”
“Tucker it’s imperative that you answer this for me,” Wash said. “Do you know it was an alien from the Invasion that captured you, or do you assume it was an alien--”
“An alien knocked me up, dude!” Tucker snapped. “I have the four-year-old evidence and everything! What the fuck kind of crazy shit are you talking right now--”
“I’m very sorry, I’m not trying to upset you.” Wash said lowly. “I just think if you concentrate on the memories--”
“I don’t have any. They drugged me!”
Wash sighed and rubbed his face. “Okay. We need to take this slower,” he acknowledged. “You want to know my super power right?”
“Especially if it’s super lame and embarrassing, yes,” Tucker agreed.
“Okay, fine,” Wash sighed, reaching up to his visor and beginning to unlatch it.
Tucker’s eyes widened. “Oh my god, I didn’t think you’d actually be showing me! I didn’t think you’d... let me... what the fuck.”
Wash stared back into Tucker’s eyes and frowned -- something that looked infinitely more ridiculous now that Tucker saw what was under that visor for so long.
“What, that’s it?” Tucker asked, he tilted his head back. “You... you have cat eyes?”
“I never claimed to have the best powers ever, Tucker,” he reminded him.
“Yeah, but this is stupid as fuck--”
“I’m aware,” Washington replied. “Do you feel better?”
“I feel... empowered.”
“Please don’t make any jokes, I’ve heard enough jokes about the car and trash from you to last a lifetime,” Washington moaned.
“Okay... but now you’re alley cat roadkill,” Tucker said, waving his hands. “It’s a whole new angle on the car and trash jokes.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Wash groaned putting his hands on his hips and rolling his cat eyes. “I’ll also have you know that I have agility and can see at night, so it’s not entirely lame.”
“Can you fit into leather as good as Halle Berry?” Tucker demanded.
Washington narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“No reason!” Tucker almost yelped. “Also, night vision, agility, and other cat shit are not helping the situation be less lame.”
Dropping his shoulders, Wash sighed. “I know.” He shook his head. “This is why I stick to knives as an answer.”
“Yeah, dude. Knives was a way better answer. I take it all back,” Tucker joked. He paused. “Wait. Can you turn invisible?”
“No?” Wash said, raising a brow as he began to put his visor back on. “Why?”
“Did anyone else you know from the big Superhero Country Club have invisibility?” Tucker pressed. “It’s important.”
“Only... Tex. Why?” Wash asked again.
“Uh... we might need to get back to my apartment,” Tucker decided. “Someone invisible saved Church and me earlier today. And I’m a little freaked out if you’re saying your big organization had something to do with Junior. And if it has anything to do with Tex then Church deserves to know, too.”
“I won’t tell him you’re the lamest superhero I’ve ever seen. Like ever. Of all time,” Tucker promised.
“Okay,” Wash answered as he put the visor on entirely. “Then let’s do it--”
“Wait, what about the cab driver you knocked the fuck out?” Tucker asked, looking to the alley.
“Oh... I doubt he’ll be helpful,” Wash responded, following Tucker’s gaze. “Omega -- the villain I’ve been tracking -- he jumps bodies by looking in people’s eyes. Possesses them and makes them do things before leaping out. It should leave his body exposed but I’ve not been able to find it. Or he’s disguised himself since the last time he made it into the records I have.”
Tucker scowled. “Church knows who he is...” He paused as Washington gave him a look. “Hey, don’t look at me like that. I’m telling you now aren’t I? Anyway, Church knows him. From back when he was working with Tex. More reason for all of us to talk, right? And you can tell me how this all connects with my kid.”
Wash took a breath. “Yeah. Yeah I can. Let’s go.”
Chapter 17: Calm Conversation Time
Sorry it took a full week to get to this update, but in my defense I had to drive back to Alabama and go for a few job interviews in that time. Real life’s so time consuming sometimes ; ) This chapter was a lot of fun to write so I hope you all enjoy it because I love when there’s a million people yelling and fighting at once, but they’re a bit tricky to write sometimes
Thanks for the feedback to @ashleystlawrence, @secretlystephaniebrown, @freshzombiewriter, @solipsisticwanderer, @analiarvb, @ambi-deer-ate, @ellie181, SkeletonKey, @dextra2, a_taller_tale, bangles25, Two Four None Ten, nota4, @ephemeraltea, HappyFunBallXD, Yin, and Beawolfs_Pen on AO3 and tumblr!
Breathing wasn’t getting any harder, but riding on Wash’s motorcycle again did seem to test Tucker’s throat with the rush of cold air. And the ride back to the apartment was riddled with awkward silence he really could have done without, even if it did give him time to somewhat process Wash’s information.
In between thoughts like does he have nine lives and can he land on his feet, Tucker had a harder and harder time ignoring more pressing issues, such as why would Wash ask him if he was experimented on by humans?
It was such a dumb question -- there was an alien invasion, there were aliens everywhere, he woke up in some sort of alien-tech space with pods, he had an alien baby right afterward -- but Tucker couldn’t ignore Wash’s point.
He couldn’t remember anything about that day. He had no idea who had been behind everything that happened to him, and when Church and Caboose helped him escape... they never ran into alien guards or, really, anyone else at all.
Those things had never seemed odd until Wash questioned Tucker. And it was starting to tear apart everything he thought he knew.
When they got off the motorcycle and made their way back into the apartment, Tucker couldn’t help but notice the way Washington placed himself between Tucker and the street and other buildings.
Which was also disconcerting, but Tucker wasn’t about to fight it just yet. He had almost been strangled by a dude with an accent and terrible life choices in facial hair.
By the time they were back on Tucker’s floor, his mind was almost buzzing with all the possibilities swimming around, and by the time he knocked he could almost be surprised that Church was immediately there to swing it open.
“What the fuck is wrong with you!?” Church demanded, glaring right into Tucker’s face.
“Uh, lack of motivation and an increasingly bad taste in people to hang out with?” Tucker replied, clueless as to what ticked Church of this time around.
“The cab company called half an hour ago -- you didn’t show up!!!” Church near screamed. “Where have you been!? And--”
“Church, we have information we need to share with you. Like. Important stuff. Stuff not to be said in a hallway screaming at each other,” Tucker tried to explain before motioning toward his apartment. “So if you don’t mind letting me the fuck in my own apartment...”
“We?” Church repeated before his mechanical eyes darted from Tucker to Washington just behind Tucker.
Almost immediately, the robot stiffened and glared at Washington. “Why. The fuck. Are you back!?” Church demanded.
“Well, that would be part of the information that Tucker’s keen on sharing with you,” Wash replied almost as snappishly.
“You are like the worst head cold of all time,” Church mocked. “We just can’t seem to get rid of you. You’re... You’re like a flu. A bad flu that doesn’t know when to leave people the fuck alone because they have actual real lives to get back to.”
Washington scowled more but didn’t seem willing to duke it out with Church again. He might have been learning how to deal with their bunch after all.
Tucker, on the other hand, was in no mood to put up with Church. “C’mon, man, I’m sick and tired of this. Just let us in already.”
When there wasn’t an immediate tongue lashing response, Tucker finally looked into his friend’s eyes and saw that Church was concentrated not on Tucker’s face but on his neck, his brows raising higher and higher before his head whipped around to look at Wash.
Judging by how Wash shifted the weight on his feet, he seemed to have noticed the motion, too.
Rubbing at his sore neck, Tucker shook his head. “Look, Church, it’s not what it looks like--”
“I... I don’t fucking believe it,” Church said, almost bewildered as he pushed past Tucker to get in Wash’s face. “Are you fucking serious right now!? What, hurting Donut of all people wasn’t enough!? You go after the only motherfucker on this planet who wants to give you a chance!?”
Washington went rigid, his upper lip curling as he stalked forward to confront Church head on. “You think I would hurt Tucker!?”
“Church, listen to me, this isn’t what happened--” Tucker tried to interject to no avail.
“Anyone who would hurt Donut of all people would be capable of anything!” Church roared back.
Throwing up his hands, Wash yelled, “WHO THE FUCK IS DONUT!?”
Which was all Church needed to throw a heavy swing at Wash that ultimately missed as Wash ducked under it and lunged, tackling Church to the ground from his waist.
Standing over the brawling men, Tucker glared at them all and rubbed at his face. “Oh, come on! This is ridiculous--”
Once more, the words barely had time to leave his mouth before there was a crashing of a door swinging hard enough to smack the distant wall. And Tucker looked up just in time to see two pairs of feet running at them from Doc’s apartment.
Simmons and Sarge skidded to a halt just a short ways from the floor wrestling going on and Tucker couldn’t help but feel like things were just turning out for the worst when he saw Simmons’ eyes bulge as he looked to Tucker.
“Did someone yell something about Donut!?” Simmons nearly squeaked.
“Uh,” Tucker managed to get out just before looking to see Church and Wash’s progress.
Washington was sitting on Church’s back, folding the robotic arms behind Church and keeping the man pinned. There didn’t seem to be anything more damaging to Wash than the split lip Tucker had given himself earlier. Though Tucker wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not.
Which was probably to Wash’s advantage because almost immediately upon seeing him, Sarge went completely stiff. He stared at Washington before pointing with a shaking hand. “That’s him! That’s the no-good, high and mighty, ass-kicking superhero who broke Donut’s arm! And not in the fun way! If it had been the fun way, he would’ve let me do it!!!”
“Um, yeah,” Simmons said. “He’s also the guy that was in Grif’s apartment--”
“I’m not taking this one lying down! For our ancestors’ ancestors! ATTACK!” the old man shouted before tackling Wash.
“Wait--” Wash got out before being tackled to the ground in a headlock.
Tucker glared at the scene as Simmons joined in and Church got back into the brawl before looking around. His eyes almost immediately went back to his apartment where he genuinely considered just stepping in, shutting the door, and spending his time more productively checking on Junior when he saw Kai wandering toward them with Junior’s hand in her’s.
Somehow, the four-year-old seemed more alert and awake than Kai who was yawning in exaggeration and rubbing angrily at her eyes with her free hand.
“What the fuck is going ooooonnnnn?” she grouched.
Tucker waved to the brawl. “Insanity,” he answered.
“Oh, man! That’s my favorite band!” she cried out, slipping her hand from Junior’s to look around for them only to settle her sights on the grown men punching and kicking each other -- and usually not the intended target -- in the hall.
Kaikaina blinked a few times before letting out a large gasp and straightening up. Her finger pointed immediately at the brawl and, more specifically, the only one in the brawl who looked like he had any idea how to aim, duck, or dodge out of all of them.
“That’s the cop! That’s the fucking cop who’s the reason I can’t go home and wait for Big Bro to come back!” she screamed loud enough even Tucker and Junior flinched at the volume.
Tucker stared at her. “Kai, you do know that he’s not actually a cop. right?” he demanded.
“BONZAI!” she shouted rather than responding to him before flinging herself into the brawl.
Wash barely had time to whirl around before Kai’s punch made contact with his chest and knocked the wind out of him, sending him stumbling back a few feet and giving the Blood Gulch natives the first advantage they had in the petty attack since Church had first swung.
Standing with his arms crossed and head shaking, Tucker glared at all of them as Junior stepped out and looked up to his father curiously.
Tucker waved to them all. “See, this is why we can’t have nice things,” Tucker told Junior.
“Blargh,” Junior responded as he looked back to the supposed adults fighting.
Annoyed, Tucker pinched the bridge of his nose and tried to think of a quick solution to the brawl just before he heard footsteps coming from the stairwell. His eyes widened and he immediately began to shoo Junior back inside before the door opened to the stairwell and there was the tell-tale THUD and “Ouchie” that always ushered in Caboose.
“Oh, man, Caboose is back from work!” Tucker exclaimed before running over to the large man ducking to get in past the doorframe. “Caboose! I need your help!”
Caboose blinked owlishly at Tucker before humming and rubbing his chin. “I don’t know... I don’t usually like to help you, Tucker. Because you’re mean. And smelly. And have babies that drink blood.”
“Oh, you survived, didn’t you?” Tucker snapped back before waving emphatically to the brawl. “I need you to go Superhero and break up that fight.”
The large man’s brows nearly reached for his hairline at the request. He leaned forward in a failed attempt at a whisper and responded, “Um. Tucker, you said not... to do the superhero thing. You said it breaks your furniture. So never do it in, um, your apartment. Pinky promised.”
Forcing a thin smile that was already wearing thin in the corners, Tucker motioned toward the hallway around them. “We’re not in my apartment right now, Caboose.”
The words seemed to click with Caboose automatically and he looked at the brawl of superhero versus delinquents and nodded before charging over. Which gave Tucker hardly any time at all to run froward, scoop up Junior and race for the relative safety of the other side of his apartment door as Caboose literally head first charged into everyone in the brawl, dividing the crowd in half and somehow managing to only pin Church into the wall.
“AGH! Caboose! Fucking-- Why me!? FUCK!” Church gagged.
“Oops. Sorry,” Caboose responded straightening up.
Simmons was laying on the floor completely winded and rubbing his shoulder. Sarge was fuming with a black eye. Kaikaina was sitting on the floor not far from Simmons, looking in disappointment at her broken nails.
Washington was staring at them all, literally shaking with anger but not taking a step toward any of them. Tucker thought that, at least for what it was worth, he didn’t seem worse for wear.
“Stay here,” Tucker ordered Junior before walking into the hall and glaring at all of them. “Are we done acting like complete fucking idiots out here?” he demanded.
Surprisingly, Wash was the first to turn on his heels and stare at Tucker in complete surprise. “They started it!”
“Glad we did!” Sarge howled, spitting out a glob of blood. Simmons flinched in disgust.
“Wash, you started it,” Tucker reminded him. “None of this would be happening if you didn’t hurt Donut.”
“I don’t know who that is!” Washington repeated. “Seriously, who the fuck is Donut?”
“Donut’s the best man I have!” Sarge snarled. “After Lopez. And Lopez is after me. And if we don’t have a math problem to solve, in which case Simmons becomes a better man than Donut for a temporary amount of time.”
His head turning to marvel at Sarge, Simmons seemed to pep up. “Wow! Really, Sir?”
“Shut up, Number Five,” Sarge grumped.
“Five? How am I after Grif!?” Simmons cried out.
“No one’s after Grif. Grif’s number does not exist, because they never found a way to mathematically amount the sum of nothing,” Sarge responded with a wave of his hand.
Kaikaina’s head whipped around to them. “What the-- Why are you talking about my brother? Do you know what happened to him?” She gasped. “Oh my god, I bet it was you guys! You did something to my Big Bro!” She turned to Washington and pointed at Sarge. “Hey, COP! Arrest them!”
Wash glared at her before throwing up his arms. “I am NOT a cop!!!”
“Everyone shut up!” Tucker yelled, drawing all the attention back on him. “Wash, Donut is our friend you put in the hospital because you went all Frontier Justice on him. Which makes you a complete and utter douchebag because Donut’s the only vaguely nice one of any of us.”
He stared at Tucker and snapped his mouth shut, which was at least some progress from the ‘still a criminal’ argument from the rooftops earlier.
Pouting, Kai crossed her arms and sighed. “Who’s supposed to braid my hair now? Big Bro’s missing. Donut’s arm’s broken. This is the worst day ever--”
“All because some people here are violently aggressive masochists who call themselves heroes!” Sarge growled, looking ready to pounce Wash again until said vigilante glared his way.
“This is not how any of this was supposed to go,” he explained.
“Oh, that makes all of this really comforting, thanks,” Church sneered as he finally got free of Caboose and leered at Wash even more suspiciously.
“Look, we came here because there’s some important shit to go over,” Tucker explained. “If you want to know what’s going on or, better yet, how to help out, then get in my apartment.” He concentrated on Church, getting the ghost-robot’s attention fully at last. “And... Church, you’re really going to want to hear this.”
“Yeah?” he asked, angrily marching toward the door and heading inside, taking the time to stare at Wash as he did so.
Kai followed, as did Caboose. Sarge and Simmons stared at Tucker, almost as if they were unsure of what was going on. Tucker took a breath and entered the apartment. He turned and looked at them.
“Sorry about everything,” he said, more to Simmons. “I’ll let you know if we make any headway about Grif.”
“Save it,” Sarge snapped. “We’ll take care of our own.”
“Yeah, well so am I,” Tucker responded before looking to Wash as the superhero approached. He couldn’t help but glare. “Can I take you anywhere?” he asked in exasperation.
“I would say yes, but I’m starting to doubt even myself,” Washington responded with a sigh. He hesitated, looked back to Sarge. “For what it’s worth, I may have gone too far,” he said. “I won’t apologize or anything yet. But I will say that things... things aren’t as black and white as I thought before.”
Sarge crossed his arms. “It’s not worth a donkey licking salt lick.”
Wash stared at him before shaking his head and heading back inside. Tucker just gave the old man a bewildered look and continued on in himself. He barely moved when Junior latched onto his legs. He just looked up to everyone else in the now crammed apartment.
“What would interest me so much?” Church demanded.
“Something I think you’re already thinking,” Tucker responded, rubbing Junior’s head. He then looked suspiciously toward Washington. “And some other shady shit I’m not so sure about but it’s sharing time and Wash is going to help out.”
The hero frowned at him. “Some stuff would be better just between the two of us. That’s what I think anyway.”
Caboose rubbed his forehead. “I don’t like so much thinking stuff in the same room.”
Kaikaina’s gaze was more directed to the clock. “Aw man, can we share shit before I have to get ready for work?”
“I think Tex is still around,” Tucker spat out.
Everyone went silent, including Wash who looked just as surprised by the announcement. Church looked ready to lunge at Tucker that time around.
“I do,” he got out quickly, looking at everyone’s wide eyes. “I know she’s not been seen or heard from since the Invasion, but apparently shit from the Invasion doesn’t add up as much as we thought anyway. Wash is after her main baddie who’s trying to kill me. Someone invisible was on the roof with us and saved us from that sniper... Church... I think she’s still alive. And I think she’s hanging around here.”
Church’s mouth opened but then ground closed. He turned away and rubbed roughly at his head, his breath heavy. He shook his head and turned back.
“Okay,” he said. “But if she is, oh my god, I will so kick her ass--”
“I would like to see you try.”
The room grew immediately quiet, everyone going stiff and whipping around toward the source of the voice just as the empty space by the window began to blur and contour around a darkly clad figure.
Still in her black leather suit, still wearing a visor not so dissimilar from Wash’s own, Tex stood before them like she had been waiting the whole time, her arms crossed and knowing smirk on her face.
“Hello, boys,” she said through the speechless void of everyone in the apartment. “Long time, no see.”
Chapter 18: Old Friends?
We’re in the final stretch!!! But with quite a few surprises still on their way ; ) This chapter is finally answering a LOT of the questions you guys have had for a long time, so here’s hoping you like what we get <3
Thanks for the feedback to @ashleystlawrence, @secretlystephaniebrown, @freshzombiewriter, @ambi-deer-ate, @analiarvb, Anonny, @ephemeraltea, Two Four None Ten, @spooky-circuits, night_litany, staininspace, BlodwenDubh, Yin, HappyFunBallXD, Chasten, NutellaoMutt, JjThereforeIAm, and Alkeni on AO3 and tumblr!
It was such a shock to his system to see Tex standing in his shitty apartment that Tucker almost forgot to take in the fact that there was an entire crowd of people gapping at her with him.
For the first time in days, Tucker’s apartment was completely silent.
Then Kai did a double take at them all and threw a motion toward Tex on her own. “And just who is this hot bitch in leather?”
Tucker regained control of his limbs, the air filling his lung again. He made a mental note to thank Kai for her ice breaking lack of tact later. But first he turned to survey the other reactions in the room.
For reasons beyond Tucker’s comprehension, Washington looked more prepared to brawl than he had in the hall. He was resting on the balls of his feet, shoulders hiked and hands tightened into fists. It also must have been Tucker’s imagination but he could have sworn the hair on Wash’s neck was standing up like, well, a cat.
Church’s reaction, however, was something else entirely. He stood stock still beside Tucker, mouth slightly open. Tucker didn’t think Church could have been more stiff he was a statue. Then, suddenly, Church rubbed his eyes in disbelief before looking at Tex again.
For his part, Tex looked completely amused as she cocked her head to the side. “Wow,” she said. “Tough crowd. I would’ve accepted at least a hello.”
Dissolved of any of his own tension, Caboose waved at her. “Hello, Tex. It is very nice to see you.”
Unable to remain silent, Tucker waved at his former roommate. “Good to see her!? Caboose! We thought she was fucking dead! For years!!!”
As if Tucker’s words were fueling him, Church woke up from his stupor and yelled, “Yeah!” He stepped over to Tex, shaking with anger. “Do you have any idea what I’ve gone through!? Thinking my fucking girlfriend sacrificed herself for the greater good!?”
Even with her visor masking her eyes, Tucker could practically see Tex rolling them. She firmly set her hands to her hips. “What, Church? Should I feel bad for poor little you? No! You thought your girlfriend was dead. My boyfriend actually died.”
Almost hopefully, Church’s shoulders dropped and he looked at her. “You... you were torn up about me dying?” he asked.
Tex looked incredulously at him. “Hell no. Why would I? Death hasn’t made you less annoying.”
Falling back into old times, Tucker grinned at Tex. “That’s what I said!”
Noisily tapping her foot, Kai waved from Tex to herself. “Is anyone gonna answer and tell me who she is?”
“Yeah,” Tucker responded. “Kai, this is Tex. She’s a superhero. Like Wash. But with bad enough tastes to date Church. At least all that used to be true before the Invasion. She was supposed to have died, but apparently she’s now here to add to my alarmingly high number of house guests.”
Junior looked up to Tucker and honked.
“Oh, yeah! We should totally start charging by the head,” Tucker responded. “Good thinking, li’l man.”
Almost too naturally, Tucker glanced to Wash for a reaction but got nothing. The man had barely moved an inch -- still looking like he was getting read to dodge a punch. Which was never an unreasonable reaction to Tex from Tucker’s experience, but it was definitely a worrisome one.
“I don’t understand,” Church went on, eyes still flittering around the room. “You’ve been alive this whole time? You never came and found me!?”
Tex scowled. “You died. What’d you want me to do? Go to your funeral? No thanks. I knew if you were a good person you’d want me to move on.”
Church was seething. “But I’m a terrible person!”
“Oh, I know,” Tex countered. “But I didn’t want to speak ill of the dead.”
Not letting that stand, Tucker moved forward. “Forget Church. You’re a bitchy girlfriend, fine whatever. But what the fuck about me? And Caboose!? Your friends that were still living!?”
He tried to move in closer but found himself held back by a firm hand on his wrist. Tucker turned and gave Wash a confused look but the superhero remained with his eyes locked on Tex.
“What about you?” Tex snapped. “I don’t know if you morons noticed over the years, but without me around things have been pretty good for you. No supervillains. No mobsters out for blood. No kidnappings. And no aliens.”
The room went quiet and everyone gave Junior a casual glance. He gave a fed up “Blargh.”
Tex joined the stares before sighing and shaking her head. “Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“No,” Caboose answered.
“Yeah, I get it,” Tucker snapped. “You were dating Church long enough to take a leaf from his book and think that the world revolves around you two so much that our miserable little lives only get in trouble when you’re around. So you went all mopey and emo and left us behind like somehow going it alone was your big burden instead of just being the sign of a super shitty friend.”
Church glared at him. “I don’t act like that.”
“Well...” Caboose started only to be shut by a single glare from Church. Instead he said, “I like you, Church.”
“Good, I’ll throw a fucking parade,” he glowered.
Refocusing on Tex, Tucker realized she had also locked eyes with Wash. The two of them remained that way, unmoving, until Tex snorted and crossed her arms.
“You’ve not told them shit,” she declared.
Wash’s frown deepened. “I came here to do that.” He nodded to her. “Can’t say I was expecting you to be here.”
“A real hero always expects the unexpected, Washington,” she replied before looking to the rest of the room. “Of course you and I know there’s no such thing as real heroes, right?”
Releasing a frustrated groan, Kaikaina threw her hands up. “What’s this got to do with Big Bro!?”
“If it has anything to do with Omega, then everything,” Tex snapped.
Tucker sorely rubbed at his neck. “Believe me, it does.”
Grabbing at his head, Church let out a long string of incomprehensible curses before exploding with, “Someone start explaining shit right the fuck now or I swear to god--”
“Freelancer wasn’t real.”
The room grew quiet again and all eyes fell on Washington. He took a deep breath, pinched his nose, and continued.
“We thought it was. We... thought we were heroes. We thought all the things that made us, well, us -- unique, weird, special -- were going to be used to change the world for the better.” His eyes locked with Tucker’s. “We really wanted to believe things were.... well, that black and white.”
Tucker frowned back, brows knitting together. “And they weren’t?”
Caboose gasped and rounded on him. “Tucker! No spoilers!”
Church shook his head, not daring to look away from Tex. “What does any of that mean, exactly?”
Tex stalked forward. “Freelancer as an organization was ran by a private backer with government funding. They wanted control over super powered threats and a force capable of responding to superpowers that went against their interests. They made us... and then realized that there wasn’t a lot to lose from exposure and marketing.
Wash frowned at Junior. “Pretty soon superheroes were the greatest market available -- merch, comics, movies -- anything. You name it. But... it wasn’t enough.”
Everyone glanced to each other, but again it was Kai to break the ice.
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“It means, Princess, that superheroes are only interesting to people when they have superhero sized threats,” Tex snapped. “No one cares about the person behind the mask, about what they do most of the day or what color underwear they’ve got on. They want the strongest hero with the most badass costume to punch the strongest villain they can find in the goddamn mouth. That’s it. That’s what sells like hotcakes. And before Freelancer, superheroes didn’t have that level of threat. They didn’t have flashy costumes.” She threw her thumb toward Caboose. “They were just over powered nobodies who broke more things than they fixed whenever they tried to help out.”
Tucker scratched at his head. “Okay, fine. But... how does that make Freelancer not real? And what’s it have to do with you guys becoming so famous. I mean... it’s not like you can make super villains and alien invasions happen, right? And we all know those were real. We saw them! Thousands of people saw them...” he looked to Tex and Wash, his heart picking up in pace at the regretful and pitying looks he was getting. “Right?”
“Tucker...” Wash grunted, rubbing at his neck. “Remember... remember how I said that I was being paid not to be a superhero for Freelancer anymore? How all my money was... to keep me out of the game?”
Staring in shock, Tucker shook his head. “You... you’re taking quiet money?” he asked.
“They don’t know for sure what I know or don’t know,” Wash said quickly. “They just want me out of the picture. The people who knew for sure... the ones who found out...”
“They’re dead,” Tex said, arms folded angrily. “We find out about this shit and suddenly there’s an alien invasion. And suddenly I’m the only one who stood up against Freelancer who’s still walking. And that’s only because they thought I was dead.”
Everyone glanced to Church. Tucker felt his stomach twist as he watched Church shaking his head, his friend was practically boiling.
“No, this is all a bunch of horse shit,” Church growled. He glared back up at Tex. “I... I was a stupid hacker, a guy who made chaos for kicks and stole people’s money. You came into my life, stopped me, fucking recruited me to help you, and... and we became something. You were my superhero girlfriend and converted me from evil and all that shit. You had me work cases with you! I put myself at risk all the fucking time for you--”
“And no one ever heard about that stuff, did they, Church?” Tex said lowly. “No one ever knew how much work you did. Never knew what partners we were. Never heard about all the good done for Blood Gulch and the world. No one ever heard about it, and nobody ever cared. Which made you bitter and jealous. And made you not give a shit about all that good work, that good work you haven’t tried even once to continue without me over your shoulder.”
Church’s mouth audibly snapped shut.
Tex shook her head. “Church... we had no idea. We had no idea that it was fake. And I had no idea that all the good I did outside of Freelancer never made a headline not because we were just that good at working in the shadows, but because we weren’t a set up. We weren’t some narrative for Freelancer. We were real. And that means all we did didn’t matter.”
“It does matter,” Wash defended. “It matters even more. When it’s real. That’s the whole reason I’m trying to be a superhero again -- a real one. I’m going to prove that people can be good in the real world. They don’t need Freelancer setting up super villains and invasions--”
At his limit, Tucker held up his hands and made everyone pause.
“How the fuck was the Invasion not real?” he demanded. His hand fell firmly on Junior’s head. “How the hell could Freelancer have been responsible for that?”
Wash and Tex both grew silent, watching as Junior clutched to Tucker’s leg.
Not liking the radio silence, Tucker looked immediately to Washington. “You promised no more secrets,” he reminded him. “Tell me: are aliens real?”
Frowning, Wash nodded. “Yes.”
“One of our real space missions,” Tex explained. “We brought back things from another civilization. We made allies and...” her gaze fell to Junior, “some enemies.
Tucker gripped Junior closer. “Is Junior an alien?”
The heroes remained silent before Wash took a breath. “No,” he responded. “Probably not.”
“Probably?” Tucker demanded.
“The Invasion ended how?” Tex pressed. “How did we win when all of our superheroes supposedly died? Don’t you idiots remember anything?”
“I was unconscious!” Tucker defended.
“More aliens came and helped,” Kai responded. “Duh. Everyone knows that. That’s why they put up that club on the other side of town. You can get your freak on with aliens.”
Looking at Kai with scrutiny, Wash slowly nodded. “Okay, yes. But more importantly they put up the embassy between our species at the other lifeforms on the other side of the city. Because they wanted to investigate how a rogue force of Sangheili that their plane thad no record of could have attacked us, and killed the only group of humans any of the aliens were familiar with.”
Church looked at Junior then back to the former Freelancers. His teeth gnashed against each other. “Are you fucking serious? Are you saying your fake superhero team grew aliens for a fake Invasion just to kill off your weak ass friends?”
Wash and Tex answered with silence.
“This is fucking stupid,” Tucker muttered, rubbing at his face.
"You know it’s not,” Wash defended. “I can see it on your face, you know it makes sense.”
“No, dude, it really fucking doesn’t!” Tucker growled. “Junior’s an alien. End of story. The simple answers are the best ones.”
“The simple answer to you is that an alien species flew across the galaxy for petty revenge on us, even though we had no advanced technology or resources that would interest them, and decided it was a good time to impregnate as many captured people as they could find?” Wash asked critically.
“Yup,” Tucker snapped back.
Looking again like he pitied Tucker, Wash shook his head. “Tucker--”
“You know what, Wash? I fucking take it back. Your truths suck. Go back to lying. Hating you was simpler back then when you were a nutcase liar I found in the trash,” Tucker hissed.
Washington frowned. “Tucker, that’s not true. I’m sorry this is so upsetting. Maybe... maybe you’re right. I should have told you sooner. I just... I wanted to protect you and Junior from this all coming to a head.”
“What coming to a head!?” Tucker demanded.
“What does this have to do with my brother!?” Kaikaina screamed again.
“Omega possessed him at some point!” Tex roared. “And while he did that, he must have seen your brother’s memories of Junior here and realized what Wash is apparently afraid of.”
Church glared suspiciously at Wash. “Which is what exactly?”
“Someone who knows what we know could take Junior to the embassy,” Wash replied. “The aliens could run some tests, realize how he was made, and officially declare war on the planet for faking an invasion and setting up another species for it.” He paused and looked worriedly to Tucker. “Or... be someone who wants to stop that from happening so badly that... they’d want to take out the complication permanently.”
“Why would anyone want to start an interspecies war!?” Tucker cried out.
“Yeah, and using a kid? That’s disgusting,” Church said. He paused for a beat, letting everyone look his way before glaring back. “What? I’m a piece of shit, but I have standards.”
“Because they have a grudge against an ex,” Tex replied. “An ex-archnemesis who they’ve had more time with than they care to.”
Washington stepped between Tex and Tucker, getting a frustrated yelp from the single dad. “I knew it.”
“Knew what!?” Tucker cried out. “What the fuck is going on!?”
“O’Malley was a supervillain used by Freelancer who had the ability to jump from person to person, taking over their minds by looking into their eyes,” Tex answered. “Used to, his body was left defenseless while he was in someone else. And that’s what happened during the Invasion. Freelancers weren’t the only ones targeted -- so were the villains. They wanted the slate wiped clean. O’Malley was found in a coma and has been hospitalized ever since.”
Wash glared at Tex. “He wasn’t done, though, was he? He just needed to permanently shift to someone else. Someone who he had had the most run-ins with, who was a comfortable host.”
Tex didn’t reply.
Tucker grabbed at his hair. “Tex!? You have a supervillain in you? Well... one that’s not Church.”
Church glared at Tucker.
“Bum chicka bum bum,” Caboose offered at the same time as Tucker’s “Bow chicka honk honk.”
“Not right now,” Tex assured them.
“Then get out now,” Wash demanded. “The second he comes back he’s going to use you to kidnap Junior and ruin everything out of spite.”
“Yeah,” Tex said fondly. “He’s kind of a bastard like that.”
Tucker looked at his old friend in horror. “Tex... what the fuck, you’re endangering my kid!?”
“Hey, shut up, Tucker, I spent four years not doing that,” she responded. “So how about a thank you?”
“How about a get the fuck out now!?” Tucker demanded. “How will we know when he takes over you!? How--”
As if on a cue, the door behind them flung open, causing everyone to turn and look at Doc as he stood there cackling in a voice very familiar to Tucker by that point.
“You will know because I love dramatic entrances! Hahaha!” Doc screamed at the top of his lung before coughing and looking at Tucker. “By the way, the rent’s past due.”
Wash began to grab Tucker just before Tex lunged forward, fist drawn back. “OMEGA!”
“Wait, Tex, don’t!” Church called out, but it was all late.
Tucker watched the way Doc seemed to drop back toward the hall again, limp as a noodle, head shaking in surprise. Tex landed on her feet midway through the lunge and dropped her head, taking a breath before turning back on her heels, a sick grin plastered across her face as she rose to her full height and cracked her neck.
“You have no idea what kind of trouble you are in,” she said darkly as she began to cross over to them.
Without hesitation, Washington pushed Tucker and Junior back, standing between them and Tex with his fists up. He stood at the ready. “Get out of here! Now!” he demanded.
“Can you take her?” Tucker asked, pulling up Junior into his arms.
"She was the best superhero in our entire group and has two fantastic super powers while I have... well, knives,” Wash responded, looking over his shoulder. “Sure. I’ll be great.”
He turned his gaze back to where Tex had been only for them all to realize she’d gone invisible again. “Fuck,” he muttered before there was a resounding SMACK and Wash was flung to the side, only able to recapture his balance at the last minute.
“Fuck,” Tucker repeated before running toward the other end of the room. “Caboose! You’re as strong as Tex! Help Wash out!”
Caboose looked torn. “But, Tucker... Tex is our friend...”
Stopping long enough to throw his arm toward the direction where it looked like Wash was being hoisted into the air by nothing and thrown across the room, Tucker yelled, “CABOOSE! Smash already!”
Eyes lighting up, Caboose turned and grabbed Wash out of the air and set him back on his feet before looking around. “Tex! Tex! Tucker said to play with you-- hey, Tucker. I don’t think she’s over here.”
Tucker was grabbing Kai and heading toward the bedroom when he paused and looked back at Caboose. “What!?” he managed just before feeling knuckles digging into his cheek.
Junior released a squeal as Tucker hit the door frame and floundered to the floor.
Head spinning, Tucker tried to make sense of the world again, unable to figure out what was up and what was down when he felt Junior’s weight leave his arms.
Immediately it was like he was splashed with cold water and Tucker jumped to his feet and reached after Tex and Junior as the former superhero made herself visible again and headed for the living room window.
“Tex! Don’t do this!” Church cried out.
Throwing himself after them, Tucker yelled out, “I won’t let you do this!!!”
Not thinking he tackled Tex and Junior out the window and onto the fire escape, barely processing the screams from inside the apartment, particularly from Wash as he yelled “Tucker! YOU SAID IT WASN’T SAFE--”
Tucker hit the metal cage of the escape, head still spinning, before he fully heard the loud whines and creaks of the metal. In shock, he looked up to see Tex’s body staring back at him, still holding Junior despite the child’s struggling.
It was just like Tucker’s luck when the fire escape gave way beneath them.
Chapter 19: Emergency Plans
So close to the end you can almost smell it :’) I’m going to be so sad (and relieved lbr) when this story ends in a few chapters! But I’m far from done with this AU – I just have to decide if it’s better to do the prequel or the direct sequel to this story next. You guys’ll have to let me know your thoughts! And any predictions you might have for how Hero Time’s going to wrap up now that we’re on the final stretch!
Thanks for the feedback to @ashleystlawrence,@secretlystephaniebrown, @tresa-cho, @hayleycreagine, @analiarvb, @freshzombiewriter, @ambi-deer-ate @eviltoast, Two Four None Ten, nota4, MeltMyHeart2Stone, NutellaoMutt, Skyhawk424, @ephemeraltea, staininspace, Halo_Freak, Beawolfs_Pen, Yin, HappyFunBallXD, and JjThereforeIAm on AO3 and tumblr!
Everything was a little hazy at first.
There were stars behind his eyelids and an acute awareness that the rest of his body felt like absolute shit.
All of which served as a decent distraction from the ongoing shouting match going on around him and the background stifling of Spanish music.
“I have you the quickest directions to the fucking hospital!”
“And I told you to leave her fucking alone, stupid robot ghost!”
“Just like I reminded all of you I am the only one of you who can drive!”
“Yes, but your driving is making it hard for me to assess his wounds--”
“Sarge, I told you to not let Doc near Tucker!”
“Simmons, I don’t take orders from you! In fact, it’s the other way around entirely!”
“I DO NOT LIKE HOSPITALS! Or... Tucker...”
Slowly opening his eyes, Tucker couldn’t help but wonder if this was anything like how Wash felt when he went head first into traffic.
The arguing continued, only now proceeding in two languages amidst Caboose’s yells of “I want something to yell about!”
“This is it, then,” Tucker croaked. “I’ve officially made it to hell. It sounds exactly like how I imagined.”
He managed to move his head enough to realize he was laying in someone’s lap. It was an oddly comforting realization right up to the point where he heard Kai audibly gasp and then proceed to drop his head onto the metal floor in surprise when she looked down at him.
“Tucker’s awake!!!” she screamed shrilly.
There was a harmony of relieved sighs and small “thank god”s all around them as Kai and Church took Tucker and easily hoisted him into a sitting position on the floor of the van.
From his new vantage point, Tucker looked around the vehicle and quickly recognized Sheila driving, Lopez at her side in the passenger side with a fierce grip on the radio knobs, Caboose sitting in one of the back chairs strapped in, Sarge and Simmons in costume beside him, and... Doc in one of the most garish and ridiculously over the top purple costumes Tucker had ever seen. It had spikes.
Narrowing his eyes, Tucker tried to wave at Doc and say, “What the fuck’s he doing here!?” but immediately pain shot up his shoulders and Tucker flinched before falling back against the van door.
“Ow,” he said instead.
“We’re taking you to the hospital,” Kai said as she squeezed his shoulder.
Which only madeTucker flinch and say “ow!” again.
“Yeah, you fell four floors on a roller coaster of death and twisted metal!” Kai exclaimed. “It was awesome!”
“It almost earned my respect without me even seeing it! Just the sounds of metal shearing and the beautiful harmonics of your body being crushed from a distance,” Sarge announced bombastically. “Unfortunately you’re a disgusting civilian casualty in a much more interesting battle between real good and evil. Way to get in the way of the real action, you dirty civ!”
“What,” Tucker began to say just before he felt realization hit him like a splash of cold water. “Junior -- Wash! Wait! What happened--”
His attempts to begin struggling were made incredibly short by Church’s steadying hand on his shoulder. So instead, he met his oldest friend’s gaze.
“Tucker, we have no idea how you survived your brief flight of stupidity, so I’m going to calmly walk us through a check up. Got it?” he asked. When Tucker nodded, Church immediately grabbed Tucker’s crumpled right arm as hard as he could and elicited a sharp scream from Tucker. “Did that hurt?”
Looking angrily at Church, Tucker snapped, “Of course it fucking hurt--”
Church wasted no time in grabbing Tucker’s other arm. “How about this one?”
Tucker glared. “The one that’s not bleeding and crooked? Yeah, it’s fine. Thanks for asking.”
“You’ve got a shiner, too,” Church continued, pointing to to the left side of Tucker’s face. “How’s it feel?”
Blinking in confusion, Tucker reached up with his good hand and tenderly pressed on the swollen skin around his eye. It was hot to the touch and a little sticky -- there must have been a cut there as well. “Yeah, hurts I think. But, I mean, no worse than any time I pissed off Tex.”
“Well, good, because that’s exactly where that one came from I think,” Church replied dryly before cocking his head to the side. “And the back of your head?”
He thought the question over and shrugged at Church. “I don’t know, man. I guess it’s fine. I don’t feel bad back there at all--”
There was no warning for Church leaning over him and smacking the back of Tucker’s head with everything in his robotic limb. Tucker almost hit the floor again face first with that one.
“What the fuck, dude!?” Tucker cried out.
“You fucking idiot!” Church yelled. “What the hell is wrong with you!? Were you trying to get yourself killed? Did you have a moment of lunacy? Tucker, goddammit you almost died!!! We almost lost you and your stupid fucking face forever and -- oh my god. I want to hurt you so bad right now. I could strangle you.”
Looking up, Tucker hissed back, “You’re doing a pretty good job of hurting me right now, thanks.”
“You don’t get a your welcome because I’m too freaking angry,” Church snapped. “Fighting with Tex is suicide. Fighting with evil possessed Tex is... is double suicide. I can’t even... I can’t...” He stopped and rubbed at his face before lowering his hands and staring right through Tucker. “I hate you.”
“I hate you, too,” Tucker assured him, using his good hand to rub at the back of his skull as Kai untied the sweater around her waist and began to tie it around Tucker’s bad arm for a sling. “If I’m this hurt... what about Junior!?” His words struck him to his very core. His body felt frozen over at the very thought of Junior being anywhere near as hurt as him making him almost ill.
“Are you kidding? Tex had him,” Church reminded Tucker.
“By the time the rest of us came to the road to check on you, she was already up with him and running the hell out of here,” Simmons explained further.
Tucker felt nauseous all over again. “She got away!? You let her get away with my kid--” When he tried to rise up with his hysteria, the world spun and he found himself falling back against the wall.
“Oh, honey, please don’t dent your head in back there,” Sheila called from the front. “And really don’t dent my van, please. Your friend Church might not be the only one who finds the strength in him to strangle you.”
Lopez chuckled by her side.
His heart still racing, Tucker looked hopefully to Church. “Wash,” he said.
Church’s face screwed together. “What about him?”
“Where is he? Is he going to save Junior?”
Sarge snorted. “Yeah. That’ll be the day, when that sorry sonovabitch lands a punch on your half-woman half-bear half-mechanical shark friend.”
Simmons frowned. “The odds... aren’t really in Washington’s favor on that fight, Tucker. Sorry.”
“He is going after Junior,” Church said more reassuringly. “And... y’know. That’s just the end of it for us. You know the drill. It’s the same as it was for when Tex was, y’know, our guy out there in the colorful spandex parade.”
“Kevlar,” Tucker corrected, looking to his lap.
“Whatever,” Church snapped. “The point is, our job’s done. Not our story anymore. You gotta let the superheroes battle this shit out and come in with all the glory and all that. Maybe cap it all off with a smooch in your hospital bed. Which I can tell you one thing, I will not be there for.”
Tucker stared at his pants, noting the rips and tears, the brown stains of dried blood. He felt his chest grow tight at the prospect of leaving entirely.
“That’s it?” he asked weakly. “I just... sit it out and hope for the best.”
“Yeah,” Church said with a shrug. “It’ll work out. Junior’ll be home, no problem.”
“And... my brother, too, right?” Kai said, squeezing Tucker’s shoulder again.
“Absolutely!” Doc’s voice carried over, bringing everyone to look at him for his interruption. He tossed his head to the side, smiling brightly. “That’s the positive way of looking at it. Which is what we should be focusing on to the point of delusion. It’s way preferable to the very real possibility that everyone’s horribly dead and it’s a losing battle that will lead to our planet breaking out into war against alien species far too advanced for us to handle!”
Everyone stared at Doc in quiet before Tucker turned and snapped at Church, “Really! Why the fuck is he here!?” he yelled over the Spanish music playing. He then whipped his head to glare at the front. “And change that to something else! Holy shit I can’t even hear myself think right now--”
Sheila reached to turn the knob. Lopez held tighter for a moment and the two angrily locked eyes before Sheila smacked her hand down on his hand, forcing him to recoil and allow her to change the channel. Lopez grew the sappiest face Tucker thought he had ever seen in his life.
“--and if my demands are not met, I shall unveil a secret so grotesque, so deliciously EVIL--”
“Ugh, I hate talk shows,” Kai whined. “Change it back--”
“Wait! Don’t!” Tucker yelled out. “Sheila, pull over!”
Not needing another word, Sheila turned the van as quickly as she could, nearly hitting the curb as she pulled them off the terribly broken roads of Blood Gulch. Nearly everyone hit a wall or door as they came to the halting stop, save Caboose in his seatbelt.
Caboose merely held up his arms and grinned widely with a “Woo! Go again!”
“Tucker, what the fuck--” Church growled.
“Shh!!” Tucker hissed, leaning closer to the front as he listened to the radio.
The dark voice over the radio continued, “--when the world thought it needed heroes, it provided only villains. Ones who brought us war and calamity we never needed, but also managed to make another race very, very angry with us. I have the proof they would need to justify all out war with us. And unless the monetary sum I asked your world leaders for is presented to me, I shall be handing that evidence over to them. Isn’t that right?”
That tiny honk was enough to rip Tucker’s heart out.
Despite everything, he pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the warnings from everyone around him. Tucker stared at the radio.
“You have to let me out,” Tucker said.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Church snapped. “I already told you, you’re going to the goddamn hospital. And you’re letting the super losers sort out their own nonsense. You heard it from them -- they’re the ones responsible and all that jazz.”
“I don’t care!” Tucker yelled back, looking around him at all the surprised faces. “I don’t! Fuck, what don’t you all get about that? I don’t give a damn. I don’t care about these superhero shenanigans. I don’t care if they’re trying to start extinction level war to the planet. I don’t even care if my son is an alien or not. I don’t care about who’s good or bad or whatever-the-fuck because... Because it’s my son! That’s my kid. It’s not Wash’s kid. It’s not Tex’s damsel to rescue. It’s... It’s Junior. And that’s what I care about...” he paused. “I... I think right now, and with all that talk about teaching us how to defend ourselves... I think Wash got that a little bit, too.”
Looking back up from his feet, Tucker took a deep breath. “I... I’m going to save my son. Or, fuck, I’ll probably die trying. It probably will be stupid and unnecessary and I’ll get myself killed because I can’t even fall off a building without shaking it off with meditation or using some neat super power but... Not all super powers are even that neat to begin with. And I’m pretty sure meditation is bogus. So when you strip that shit away, when you realize that even iconic heroes really weren’t the good guys to begin with so morals are all fucked to hell, that just leaves you with parents wanting to make their kids safe. And guess what, motherfuckers, that’s exactly what I am.”
The van remained quiet for a long beat. Then,
“Christ, you’ve been around the fucking cornball too long,” Church groaned.
“You don’t even know where to begin looking,” Simmons pointed out.
“And when you’re there, what’re you gonna do? Sneeze blood on Tex and see if she feels bad enough to stop?” Kai snorted. “I mean... I would. Snotty blood would be a bitch to get out of that leather.”
“You might need medical attention yourself,” Sheila warned.
“I’m telling you, I’m doing this,” Tucker said firmly.
“Christ,” Church groaned, pinching his nose. “I have to go, too. Maybe I can talk Tex down.”
“I’m in if Church is in!” Caboose cheered.
Kai rose to her feet by Tucker. “We’ve still gotta find my bro, and I think he might be with that leather chick.”
Sheila revved her engine and smiled back at Tucker. Lopez sighed and nodded his head to her.
“I’ll help look for Grif and stuff, sure,” Simmons said, pulling his mask over his head. “I mean, Red Gang stays together, right?”
“Absolutely not! Not for Grif,” Sarge snapped before pulling over his own mask. “However, to avenge Donut I say we wait out our opportunity and, when all the building breaking action is done between the actual heroes of the story, we swoop in like honorable thieves of the night, and take the Donut-Beater out from behind!”
“Just as Donut would have wanted it phrased, Sir,” Simmons agreed.
“Okay, good,” Tucker said with some relief before dropping his gaze back to Doc. “Except for one thing. Doc. Get the fuck out, dude.”
“Wait! I want to help,” Doc said. “I feel partially responsible for some of this even though I’m not really--”
Doc looked Tucker in the eyes. “Listen, O’Malley was in my head for a long time. We talked a lot! Or I talked a lot and he ignored me. that was usually how it went. I think he thought proper apartment management was a bit boring, but he really shouldn’t have because when done correctly it’s fascinating--”
“Doc, I’m about to kick your ass,” Tucker warned. “Maybe with my broken arm just to make a point.”
“But he did talk on occasion! Or I overheard him saying things I wasn’t supposed to hear -- over... thought them? Hm. There really isn’t proper lexicon for this situation--”
“DOC!” everyone in the car shouted.
“I know where the warehouse is that they’re staying!!!” Doc cried out.
Everyone stared at him.
Tucker sighed and shook his head. “Okay, Doc’s also on the team.”
“YES!” he cried out, throwing up his arms so enthusiastically his cape flared out behind him. “Oh, man! For all these years all I’ve wanted was to feel included in some of these cliques in the neighborhood. And in one short week I’ve joined the Red Dead Blood Gulch Gang and Tucker and Church’s circle of friends!”
Church and Tucker looked at the landlord in horror. “No you haven’t,” they said in unison.
“Okay, we’re wasting time,” Tucker growled. “And I’ve got a headache so let’s just speed this up and go save my kid!”
Chapter 20: Worse Than Monologuing
So I’m not confirming the official chapter count yet, but I am saying it looks like we’re going to finish up on 24 or 25 chapters! So close yet so far away
Sincerely, though, I hope everyone is enjoying themselves as we draw onto a close and I especially hope that in a few chapters I’ll have official word on whether the prequel or the sequel come out next! So many thanks to all of you for your amazing support <3
And special thanks for the feedback to @secretlystephaniebrown, @ashleystlawrence, @ambi-deer-ate, @analiarvb, @freshzombiewriter, @littlefists, @the-anonymous-fangirl, @tresa-cho, @recoveryvone, NutellaoMutt, BlodwenDubh, Yin, Two Four None Ten, Halo_Freak, and Alkeni on AO3 and tumblr!
Doc’s directions left something to be desired. Though, if Tucker felt like reflecting on the situation more than not at all, he might have admitted that he expected nothing less than for Doc to be someone who gave directions by landmarks rather than actual street names.
But Tucker had no interest in that or the mumblings of strategy and planning being argued out by Church and the present members of the Red gang. His head was plagued instead by concern for his son, some anger at Tex for finally coming back only to mess everything up, and for Wash…
Well, Wash was an entire different back of unlabeled emotions Tucker didn’t even know what to name yet.
That was what Wash was.
His mind and heart racing, Tucker found himself staring out toward the dashboard of the van without fully registering as Kaikaina tugged and pulled on his limbs and head.
Until she literally smacked a bandage onto his forehead.
Flinching and hissing at the pain, Tucker looked to Kai. “Ow, shit. Why the fuck are you–”
Tucker felt the air leave his lungs as he saw the thick smears of makeup across his coworker’s face. He suddenly felt his mouth go very dry as the realization of who hadn’t been one of the thoughts plaguing his mind hit him hard.
“Kai…” he started to say hoarsely.
“They said my brother’s memories of Junior started all this, right?” she asked. “That… that’s why they know? And why they came to the diner yesterday?” Her dark eyes looked weakly to Tucker. “They knew we worked there and we could get to Li’l J-dawg because of that. Because I introduced all of us?”
Biting his lip, Tucker shook his head. “Kai… We don’t know if–”
Her piercing looking cut him off.
“Did I do this?” she asked, tears running down her face. “I-I’m so sorry – maybe the cop was right. Maybe I should stop drinking and partying. First it got me pregnant, now it maybe started an alien war by introducing me to you.”
Tucker watched Kaikaina well up with more tears, her breath catching. He used his good arm to scratch at the back of his head before sighing and looking to her.
“Kai, listen…” he sighed. “Believe me, I don’t thinking anyone would even dream of blaming you. For anything. I mean… how could you possibly be responsible for any weirdness going on here? I gave birth to an alien. I think I fall into the category of cause-of-my-own-shit at this point.”
After a sniff Kaikaina roughly rubbed her eyes, further smearing makeup across her face. “Wait…” she hiccuped. “This is… your fault?” she asked.
“That’s not what I said–” Tucker got out before Kai punched the hell out of his good arm’s shoulder. “Ow! Woman! What the fuck!?”
“Stop drinking and fucking aliens!” she cried out.
“Yeah, Tucker,” Church spoke up with obviously no care for context in the conversation. “Honestly, these are such good lessons for you, you should tattoo them to your forehead.
“Idiotas,” Lopez snapped, turning enough to look over his shoulder at them. “Sus insultos no tienen sentido. Él no puede leer lo que sería en su propia cabeza.”
“You don’t have time for a restroom break, El Red-Browno,” Sarge called out. “So stop askin’!”
Lopez sighed and shook his head. Sheila kept driving but she managed to offer him a sympathetic look and a pat on the hand.
“We’re just a block away!” Doc informed them excitedly.
“Doc,” Church said bitingly, “if there is anything to be learned here, it is that you have no idea what a block is.” The robotic man looked around the van. “Either way: moment of truth. Shit’s about to get real. So I as we don’t have any more surprises.”
Everyone took a moment to stare at Church in silence before Tucker squinted at his friend.
“Why would you just jinx us like that?” Tucker demanded.
No sooner had the words left his mouth than there was an enormous crash of glass right ahead of them. Tucker watched somewhat in horror as something hurdled toward the van’s window.
With everyone screaming, Sheila quickly swerved to avoid it. But the very Washington shaped slump smacked into the hood before hitting the glass of the windshield.
When the brakes slammed, Wash let out a surprised yelp and was flung into the snow covered sidewalk.
Again, silence overtook the van as they all stared.
The moment Tucker remembered he could, in fact, move, he got to his feet and scrambled to the door. “Fucking again!?” he shouted out as he burst out into the snow.
Treading his way to Wash’s side as the superhero, Tucker took in how the superhero looked almost crumpled around his ribs and chest.
He rolled Wash over and stared at the man’s face. The only thing he could think to snap was “REALLY!?”
Wash coughed, reaching up and roughly rubbing some blood from Tucker’s cheek. “We need to stop meeting like this. It’s bad for my health.”
“Can’t you land on your goddamn feet or something?” Tucker hissed. “Because, quite frankly, dude, this is sad.”
"One would think,” Wash muttered. He then had the audacity to look slightly surprised. “You’re… alive?”
“Yeah, I’m fucking amazing,” Tucker reminded him.
Wash laughed and leaned his head back some. “I think I’m starting to get that.”
The hero’s smirk dropped and his face turned toward the rest of the van as he watched the rest of the passengers pile out
Returned to the reality of the situation, Wash looked back at Tucker, a new determination apparent. “Tucker,” he said, slowly pushing himself off the sidewalk. “Your son’s in there.”
“Yeah, we figured,” Tucker replied, grabbing Wash’s arm and, working together, got himself and Wash off the floor. “Hence the calvary and all that jazz.”
Worriedly, Wash looked around. “Um. Calvary–”
“Beggars can’t be choosers, Wash,” Tucker reminded him.
“Well, I am willing to beg right now for what it’s worth,” the hero sighed.
“It ain’t worth shit, COP!” Kai snapped, rushing to Tucker’s other side and looping her arm around his despite his yowl of pain when she did so. Her eyes narrowed on Wash. “I’m here for the dog!”
“Dog?” Wash asked, baffled.
“Don’t ask, dude,” Tucker grunted.
“We’re all here for our own, you tight wearing looney bin!” Sarge snapped by Simmons’ side.
Simmons looked very concerned between Washington and Sarge before holding up his hands. “No one is currently speaking for me. I will speak for myself. And, for myself, I will say I’m here for Grif. And maybe Tucker’s kid if it’s not too much additional trouble.”
In unison, Tucker and Wash turned their glares to Simmons and simply stared at him until he backed up slightly.
“Or… hell, maybe the kid’s all I care about here. Fuck Grif. What’d he ever do for me?” Simmons backtracked.
“C’mon, Caboose,” Church huffed, starting toward the building that Wash had just plummeted out of. “We need to save the kid and Tex. Then I’ll let you kick Tex’s ass.”
“Oh, good, I hate taxes. We should kick them more,” Caboose said, bouncing toward the door.
Washington looked suddenly horrified. “Wait! We need a plan, and… for most of you to stay out of said plan!” he yelled on deaf ears. He then did a double take as he realized Tucker was beginning to limp off after his friends and quickly grabbed Tucker, pulling him back. “You’re going nowhere looking like that! I’m calling an ambulance for you and then you stay out here while I get Junior–”
“Oh, shut up, Wash, you look just as much like shit,” Tucker snapped.
Freezing in place, everyone looked up to the broken window Wash had been crashing through. With one boot on the ledge, Tex was leaning over, grinning sadistically over them all.
“I have made it impossible for you to meet your goals. You should end yourselves now to spare the humiliations I shall be reaping upon you the moment you step foot into this lair. I dare you, I dare you to come at me with an ounce of your self-worth.”
Everyone stared as if captivated, except for Washington who shook his head and started moving toward the door himself, shoving past everyone if he had to.
“Wait, Wash!” Tucker called out, moving to keep in foot.
"I have been listening to them monologue for close to an hour,” Washington growled. He stopped by the door and shook his head. “I hate nothing more than monologuing.”
“Wow, that’s pretty funny for a guy who loves the sound of his own voice so much,” Tucker snapped. He waited as Washington stared at the door, tapping his foot angrily. “What’s the hold up?”
Nodding to the door, Wash kept up his scowl. “Look familiar?”
Studying for a moment, Tucker felt his eyebrows raise with the realization. He then looked to Washington. “It’s a lock like the one in your apartment. Wait, so that means only Tex could open it?”
“Unless someone has her fingers or is going to be able to open this without setting off any traps or alarms,” Wash said.
They looked at each other then back to the small crowd that had come with Tucker. Before they could even ask a question, Lopez stepped forward, twirling a wrench he pulled from his coveralls.
“This going to work?” Tucker asked worriedly.
“It has to,” Wash said simply. “We’re the good guys.” He looked back to the crowd then to Tucker. “Kind of.”
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Tucker sighed. “Oh, boy.”
Chapter 21: The Power Inside
The update turn around on these are getting fairly fast which I see as a good thing because my excitement for writing them is HIGH up there. I’m just loving this so much. Also I wanted to thank everyone for the feedback on the question of whether I should prequel or sequel first. With some minor planning I realized that I would need at least some of the prequel published first in order to set up some plot elements of the sequel, so expect a prequel first, but the sequel starting about halfway through the prequel’s completion
Either way I am really excited for this universe and so thanful for the support
And special thanks for the feedback to @secretlystephaniebrown, @ashleystlawrence, @analiarvb, @freshzombiewriter, @the-anonymous-fangirl, Two Four None Ten, bluebird202, Beawolfs_Pen, NutellaoMutt, staininspace, @solipsisticwanderer, HappyFunBallXD and Yin on AO3 and tumblr!
"When my revenge is finalized, all of your pain and suffering here will have been for naught! All you are doing is pressing fast forward, which in the digital age isn’t even fun because it skips frames rather than speeds the playback. Something which is bullshit I shall put an end to in the post-war apocolyptic wasteland of Earth I shall rule after the true alien conquerers have finished devouring the entrails of my enemies!”
Putting his hands over his ears, Wash looked close to having an actual aneurysm.
Tucker pulled his gaze from Lopez and the Reds fiddling with the door long enough to give Wash a worried look over. “Uh... Wash?”
Sucking in a deep breath, Wash looked at Tucker like a man on the edge. “Remember how I started all this because I missed superheroes and past glory and all that?”
Blinking, Tucker tilted his head back. “Uh... if you say so? I guess?”
Wash made a sweeping motion toward the building. “This,” he said bitingly. “I kept thinking there’s something you hated and could live without ever dealing with again. It was this part. The villain thinking I care more about their plans or why they made their plans more than I want to finish and go to bed.”
Tucker tilted his head the opposite direction. “Yeah, I guess? But you should be able to curl up and sleep anywhere after this. I hear without a stupid fire escape, my windowsill is extra sunny for a catnap.”
Washington glared at Tucker. “You’re not charming enough to get away with that,” he informed Tucker.
Shrugging, Tucker just grinned back. “Hey, I could have made it about you being hit again.”
Taking another breath, Wash shook his head before saying, “Fine. You’ve got me there.”
“And how will I survive all the discourse’s discourse? Because, in the end there is... OMEGA! Ha. Like the alphabet, you see,” O’Malley continued overhead.
Tucker groaned. “Oh my god this is annoying!” he yelled.
“Yeah!” Kai agreed. “So someone better shut this bitch up already!”
In a significantly less cartoonish fashion, Tex’s head snapped in their direction. “The fuck you just say to me!?” Tex yelled down, literally raising to look further down on Kai.
For some reason, almost looking relieved, Church ran closer to the building until he was directly below Tex. He waved up emphatically at her. “Tex! Tex! I knew that time would reveal deep down was the real you! I’d recognize your brand of narcissistic rage anywhere! Keep it up!”
Tex looked at him like he was a bug to be squashed. “Shut the fuck up and get away from here, Church!” she yelled.
“That still sounds like the usual Tex rage,” Tucker said. He shrugged at the look Wash gave him in response. “What? It’s better than Bwahahaha Tex, right?”
“Maybe,” Wash said, stepping up to the Reds again. “How close are you to breaking this?”
“Eleven seconds,” Sarge answered despite him and Simmons having yet to even touch the thing. He waited for twelve seconds then threw up his hands. “Oh, now you’re just embarrassing us, Lopez!”
“Yeah,” Simmons said, crossing his arms. “Have you ever even touched one of these locks before?”
Lopez released a low growl but didn’t even look away from the lock as he worked. “Gee. Sólo cuando construyo o instalarlos.”
Wash looked at them cluelessly before shaking his head and moving back to the rest of the group. “Whatever, just keep working.” He looked at Church, Caboose, and Kai. “And you all keep... up... stalling...”
Slowly, as he continued, Wash’s face dropped into an unreadable expression and he began to hols his breath for reasons beyond Tucker’s comprehension.
Watching Wash with a fair degree of scrutiny, Tucker leaned in and raised a brow. “What? Do you have a concussion or something?” he asked critically.
Not really paying attention to the jab, Washington stepped back and looked at Omega-Tex, then spun around wildly looking at all the surrounding buildings. “They’re stalling!” he shouted.
Tucker looked to Tex then back around. “Uh... you sure?”
“Yeah,” Doc spoke up, putting his gloved hands on his hips. “I think maybe O’Malley just learned an appreciation for the dramatics.”
Together, Tucker and Washington stared at the landlord.
“Gee,” Tucker snorted. “Wonder where he got that from.”
“Omega is not in you, he’s in Tex. And I think unless she has had an amazing change in personality, she’s not for unnecessary petty drama,” Wash said simply.
“Wow, that does not sound like our Tex,” Tucker replied before throwing a thumb toward Church. “Not one for petty drama? Dude, she dated Church of all the fuckers around. That’s being practically married to petty drama.”
Turning enough to pass a glare Tucker’s way, Church flipped a finger at his friend. “Hey, fuck you, dude.”
"Oh, calm down,” Tucker snorted back.
“Enough! Tucker, listen to me!” Wash said frantically. “Get in the van and lay low while I handle this.”
Tucker narrowed his eyes. “Hey, fuck that, dude. Have you forgotten that it’s my kid in there? Or that you look like you survived a trash compactor!? I’m going in with you, like it or not!”
“I don’t like it and you’re not going,” Wash said determinedly. “This isn’t a debate and I need to remind you that Omega’s partner--”
Before the next words were out of his mouth, Wash was tackling Tucker to the ground just as the sound of a bullet whizzed by their heads.
Glaring down at Tucker, Wash finished, “--is a sharpshooter.”
Tucker glared right back. “How much do you think hiding in an enclosed van is going to help now, Mister Superhero?”
“Not a lot,” Wash admitted, looking back as the others screamed and scattered, and as Omega-Tex hackled from above.
Well, all scattered but the Reds, and Lopez leaped to his feet.
Beside him, Sarge turned the handle and the door conceded. “Well, great googly moogly! I did it! Turns out you just had to turn the handle the whole time!”
Simmons nodded. “Congrats, Sir! Now let’s get Grif -- er, and revenge or whatever you’re here for!”
Lopez looked absolutely affronted. “¿En serio?”
“We’re coming, Big Bro!” Kai screamed out before daring to race to the door.
“Okay, think, Washington, think,” Wash gritted out between his teeth.
Tucker laughed. “See what I meant about you loving to hear yourself now?”
Wash spared him an annoyed glance before turning toward Church and Caboose. “You two still want at Tex?” he called out.
“Oh, boy!” Caboose shouted.
“What’s it to you!?” Church yelled back angrily.
“I think you’re just annoying and personally involved enough to draw Tex’s psyche out while she’s under Omega’s control,” Wash informed them.
Church sputtered. “You know what, Washington? You’re a fucking asshole!”
“I’ll take that,” Wash said before setting his sights on Tucker. “Go inside with the others. You’ll get cover for yourself and you guys will need the extra help getting your son and friend out. I think if I’m right, Church can draw Omega out and he’ll move to someone who is powerful but easier to control.”
Whipping his head from Wash to Caboose and back, Tucker felt realization dawn on him. He glared at Wash. “You think that’s better!?”
“I think that gets you Tex,” Was said. “And as everyone keeps saying, she’s the best. So get her free, get your son -- I’ll go take care of Wyoming.”
“That’s... actually pretty reasonable,” Church announced, sounding slightly impressed. “And it sounds like you’re going to die. So... Win-win.”
“Shut up, Church,” Tucker snapped.
His friends shrugged off the retort before making a break for it on their own and making it inside. Then Tucker let himself look truly worried for Wash.
“That... isn’t part of the plan, right?” he asked.
“Of course not,” Wash said, daring to look slightly around the van. “Also, obviously everything has gone perfectly according to plan in my life so far so we’ve got nothing to worry about.” The hero then gave a painfully strained laugh.
Taking a breath, Tucker decided against stopping himself and blurted out, “Tex isn’t the best.”
Caught off guard, Wash looked back at him. “What?”
“You said Tex is the best... She’s kinda the reason my son’s in danger. And she’s powerful and awesome, and she’s one of my best friend and always will be but... she’s not here for us today. We kinda need to put one of our other best friends in danger today just to get her to not be the one to kill us,” Tucker reminded Wash reluctantly. “So... she’s not the best. Not today.”
Wash looked at him carefully and took a breath. “So... no best today.”
“God, you’re such a fucking dense -- no, Wash,” Tucker groaned, rolling his eyes. “There’s a goddamn best. You. You are the best today. Alright?”
Washington stared at him for a moment, mouth hanging open in surprise. The superhero could not have looked more floored if he tried. Then, slowly, collecting himself, Wash coughed into his fist. “I... uh... don’t believe this is the time to--”
“Yeah, probably not,” Tucker agreed before readying himself or the closest he could get to a sprint in his condition. He looked to Wash. “Think you can cover me?”
“That’s the part of the plan that is definitive,” Wash reassure din what might have been the least reassuring tone yet.
In the anxiety of the moment and the prospect of finding his son, Tucker let it slide and he took off after one last cold breath.
The moment dragged a second too slow, and by the end of racing to the door, Tucker slid inside of the warehouse to the sound of a single bullet speeding by overhead. As he did so, his skidding ended only after his left foot slammed into the wall inside.
Tucker hissed but in a strange moment, found himself reaching toward his right foot first.
Confused, Tucker blinked and reached for his correct limb then looked above where he had landed. In the wall there were two fresh holes rather than one.
“Dude! What the fuck is going on even?” he cried out loud.
Worriedly, Tucker looked back toward outside when there was loud crashing and a distinctive yell just like Kai coming from deeper within the warehouse.
The decision wasn’t way but it didn’t take Tucker long all the same. It wasn’t like he even saw Wash out there anymore.
He scrambled to his feet the best he could in his battered body and began limping toward the sounds up ahead.
“What’s going on!? Did you find them!?” Tucker was shouting as he pushed through to the larger interior of the warehouse and felt his stomach almost bottom out.
Like reliving a nightmare, there were lines of strangely alien looking machines, like rounded pods with clouded glass in the front, showing the claustrophobic insides covered in wires and lights.
Unlike the Invasion, however, there didn’t seem to be people, like Tucker himself, inside. Rather, they were empty save for the two where Tucker’s friends and Doc were crowded around, looking slightly panicked.
In order to calm himself, Tucker swallowed down a gulp of air and shook his head. When he pressed forward, he could almost believe that everything was going to be okay until Kaikaina turned and looked to him in complete terror.
“Oh god!” she cried out.
Unable to even process the worst possible scenarios, Tucker rushed forward. “What!? What is it. Oh god don’t tell me. Wait do tell me. My son!? Is one of those Junior--”
“One of them’s Grif!” she announced. She grabbed Tucker’s shoulders roughly and brought him down until they were face to face, voice shaky. “A-are they knocking him up?”
Tucker glared at her then pushed off with a shake of his head. “I don’t know! Is that the worst that could happen right now?”
“Have you met Grif?” Sarge asked seriously. “Imagine Grif with the appetite of a pregnant woman. I don’t think there’d be a world left to conquer for these alien scum. Grif woulda eaten it all!”
“You guys know you are actively the worst people right now, right?” Tucker demanded.
“Si,” Lopez said as he squatted behind the two pods in question and sized them up.
“For what it’s worth, guys, I don’t think there’s anything happening in these pods other than... sleeping,” Simmons said as he wiped frost from the glass on Grif’s pod. He stared at the man then back to Tucker. “Maybe they just wanted a way to test them out? Or to get them out of the way while they did... whatever they’re doing in the window right now.”
“Their vitals look good!” Doc contributed.
“Shut up,” everyone said at once.
Ignoring the rest of the babble that ensued, Tucker came to the side of the second pod, looking in on Junior. The pod was just large enough that the glass ended just barely before Junior’s tiny head. Putting his hand on the side of the pane, Tucker was able to lean in and better look in on his child, jaw clenching at seeing Junior’s eyes lightly closed and his body curled up tight.
Tucker’s heart began pounding.
“Get him out,” Tucker demanded.
“We have to make sure everything checks out, they seem fine for now,” Simmons responded calmly enough. Still, he gave Tucker a wary glance. “It’ll be fine. Caboose and Church already said they’d handle Tex--”
“I don’t give a damn about Tex right now,” Tucker snapped before leaning further against the pod. “Get my kid out of here now! He... he hates the cold! He’s only wearing one shirt right now! It’s his night shirt. He’s supposed to sleep with like... like a dozen blankets. In bed! And our apartment’s heater--”
“Aha! So you admit to using the heater--” Doc began, jumping back when Tucker turned on his heels at him.
“Don’t you fucking start!” Tucker roared. He looked at the shocked Reds and Kai. “Get my son out of here! It’s too cold for him! Don’t you get it!? He’s not like us... he’s...” Tucker bit back on his words, feeling sickly betrayed by his own mouth before finally spitting out, “He’s not human, okay? He’s not even alien. He’s... He’s not going to be okay if he’s cold. Get. Him. Out!
The others looked at Tucker somewhat worriedly.
“If we rush this, we could hurt both him and Grif,” Simmons said calmly.
“I don’t care!” Tucker shouted hysterically.
“Yes, you do!” Kai yelled, storming over to Tucker and getting in his face once more. “Now you just shut up with your bullshit and breathe for a minute! Don’t do something dumb. And better yet, don’t make my brother’s idiot poker buddies--”
A string of “heys!” surrounded them.
“--do something stupid either!” Kai finished. Her eyes hardened as she looked at Tucker. “We wanna bring them home, Tucker. Right?”
“I need my son out,” he told her.
“Okay, we’ll get him out,” she said, grabbing his hands and squeezing them. “Just... y’know... stop bitching. Let them work. All that jazz.”
Feeling breathless, Tucker’s eyes widened. “I need them safe.”
“Got it, now you’re wasting time,” Kai said, rolling her eyes.
“They won’t be safe if there’s badguys,” Tucker continued, slipping his hands from Kai’s. “I... I need to help Wash.”
“Yes. Wait, no,” Kai said, blinking. “Who’s Wash?”
“The cop,” Simmons translated for her.
“What!?” she screamed out before turning on Tucker. “The hell you do need a cop!”
“He’s not a--” Tucker pinched the bridge of his nose. “I can’t... I can’t be here and do nothing. So I’m going to help Wash stop the badguy and make things a little less shooty for my son when he wakes up, okay?”
Sarge tilted his head. “I thought the big guy and the shouty guy were handling your all’s loud enemy with a bad temper.”
“They are, I’m talking about the other one -- Wyoming, the guy shooting at us outside,” Tucker explained.
“Fuck, you guys sure know how to piss a bunch of people off at once,” Simmons snorted back.
“Yeah, it’s a gift,” Tucker replied dryly.
“Wait,” Kai said, a worry line growing on her face. “I thought... I thought you said the shooty guy was shooty at you though.”
“Yeah, seems to be that I’m some big common denominator with all the shitty things going on lately,” Tucker sighed. “Who knew?”
Everyone raised their hands.
Tucker sputtered for a moment at the lack of response. “Hey, you know what, fuck you guys, too.” He pointed at Simmons. “Get my kid out of there and give him to Kai. She knows how to warm him up.”
“Yeah, he’s just like his dad,” Kai said fondly and waved to her breasts. “He loves snuggling.”
“Father of the year,” Sarge huffed at Tucker.
“What can I say?” Tucker asked before heading back toward the door. “And, uh, if Church pops up back here and claims his girlfriend killed him, tell him that excuse stopped working the last time he didn’t go into the light to come back and annoy all of us, alright?”
Taking a heralding breath, Tucker turned back to the outside. “Okay... now to figure out how to save a superhero...”
Chapter 22: All that Goes Around
So I ended up shifting around some of the events for the finale around but it all worked out for the better I do believe. It makes the next chapter a bit more explosive, shall we say, and keeps this one’s focus on what matters: idiotic banter that I absolutely love to write between the characters.
And special thanks for the feedback to @the-anonymous-fangirl, @secretlystephaniebrown, @solipsisticwanderer, @freshzombiewriter, @ambi-deer-ate, @analiarvb, @ashleystlawrence, Yin, HappyFunBallXD, Halo_Freak, NutellaoMutt, Beawolfs_Pen, @bigword-sadword, and AriRashkae on AO3 and tumblr!
Leaving his son in the hands of his friends was easily one of most difficult things Tucker did in his entire life, and that alone was what was leaving him winded and dizzy as he made his stumbling way toward the exit of the warehouse again. At least, he would have very much preferred that being the source of it all rather than thinking it could possibly be his prolonged blood loss, the pain of his jostled broken arm, or the reality of a probable concussion.
Those things would have been harder to get over even with the very positive and very forced outlook that his friends could have been totally capable of saving his son and Grif. As well as disarming Tex and saving the day.
Stopping short of the door, Tucker wheezed and leaned back against the wall, staring to the bullet holes from earlier.
“What am I doing?” he asked.
Before his breath was even collected, there was another ring of gunshots followed by a car alarm just outside the warehouse.
Tucker gasped and looked to the van. “Sheila,” he managed to blurt out.
Without much more thought, Tucker busted out of the building and sprinted as much as he could to the side of Sheila’s van. He tossed himself inside the open door and hit the floor of her van hard as another scattering of gunfire went on outside.
Sheila looked at him from her seat with slight alarm.
“Oh, honey, please let me take you to the hospital now,” she begged gently.
“I’m fine,” he coughed. Tucker then looked her over. “You? You’re fine?”
“Of course,” she said, patting her steering wheel. “You think I would sit here if I wasn’t? I’m just waiting to drive you all safely and promptly to the hospital. Although...” Sheila paused, tapping her finger against her lips as she looked to the dented hood of her van and the cracked windshield. “Your very handsome friend did give me some ideas.”
“Please don’t hit Wash again,” Tucker begged as he pulled himself into a sitting position and quivered at the pull of his muscles. “I don’t know how many of his nine lives are used up and I’m pretty sure his dignity can’t handle it anymore.”
The woman grinned at him. “That’s not like you -- caring about someone else’s dignity.”
“I know, right? It’s bullshit. I hate caring about people,” Tucker growled, grabbing the nearby chair and hoisting himself back to his feet. “It just causes me problems.”
“Well, if you really cared you would care more about the fact that it causes the people around you problems as well, dear,” Sheila said in false kindness.
“No one’s asking for a miracle character conversion yet, Sheila. Baby steps,” Tucker said, leaning over her shoulder and adjusting her mirrors.
He watched the mirrors intently, refocusing them again and again until finally Sheila turned fully to give him a look over.
“What exactly are we doing here?” she asked worriedly.
“You’re just sitting here and looking gorgeous, boss,” Tucker assured her before finally catching a glance of quickly moving silhouettes in one of the mirrors. “I’m saving a cranky superhero with worse self-preservation than he realizes.”
Sheila looked daunted by the answer. “Honey, I don’t think this is a good idea at all. Maybe we should rethink this? Maybe send Church or someone not in charge of a minor.”
“Oh, it’s a terrible plan,” Tucker agreed full heartedly before moving toward the door. “But... y’know. That’s just the kind of guy I am.”
Sheila continued to stare at him. “The... guy with terrible plans?”
“That’d be it.”
“I don’t think that’s as profound as you think it is, sweetie,” Sheila said sympathetically.
Already leaning out of the van, Tucker looked over his shoulder at Sheila. “Dude! Get off my back. That’s the other kind of guy I am! I don’t think!”
He didn’t even have to look to know Sheila was shaking her head at him when he jumped out and began to make his way to the other end of the street.
His heart was pounding as he continued to look up and see the battle ensuing on the nearby rooftop. All he could see were the distant blurs, but even then Tucker just knew the acrobatics were pure Wash.
The slashing and knife throwing were fairly helpful hints as well.
Absorbed in the sight of the conflict temporarily, Tucker almost felt like cheering when he saw Wash land a hit. He took a step forward up onto the pavement and--
He watched in confusion as Wash’s punch missed and left him wide open for Wyoming’s elbow. Tucker stepped up a foot too soon and stumbled face first into the snow. He came up for air gasping and completely lost.
“What the fuck just happened!?” he cried out, too loud.
There was a momentary pause in the scuffle above which made Tucker acutely aware of just how loud his outbursts were when Washington’s cracking voice yelled, “TUCKER!? Why the fuck are you here!?”
“Aw, fuckberries,” Tucker managed to get out before ducking closer to the building. Another shot rang out through the air. He looked up to the roof, hearing the heavy thuds of the fight continuing on overhead.
There were several heavy hits and a pained groan from Wash that made Tucker flinch in particular.
Cupping his hand around his mouth, Tucker yelled out,” Are you even trying right now? Like really trying!?”
“Are you--” THUD “--actually asking me that right now!?”
Following the sounds of the fighting around the corner of the building, heart pounding, Tucker tried desperately to think of a way to get Wash out when he found himself going shoulder first into a dumpster.
“Jesus, really?” Tucker hissed.
He came to a complete stop and stared at the at the trash then back up to the roof.
“Wash!” Tucker yelled again.
“Tucker!” Wash roared back. “This man’s job is to kill you. Could you take five minutes and not make his job any easier!?”
“Actually, I’d much appreciate if you could just make it as easy as possible Keep up the good work. Thank you very kindly!”
“Don’t listen to him!” Wash near screamed.
Tucker glared up at them. “How stupid do you think I am, Wash!?”
The struggled continued on for a tense moment before Tucker faintly overheard a, “Yeah, I’m not answering that right now.”
Narrowing his eyes, Tucker debated not even going through with the plan before sighing in aggravation and cupping his good hand around his mouth again. “What, y’know I said I was done with dumpster diving jokes, but you bring them on yourself!”
“Go away! You’re distracting!”
“I’m just saying you’re complete trash and it’s giving me deja vu! Do you get me!?”
There was a series of heavy hits and a choked off yell just before a crash precipitated the image of Wash being hung headfirst over the edge of the roof.
Frozen, Tucker gasped. “Wash! No! Wash!”
Just as Tucker felt like he was able to take a breath again and began moving, Wyoming shoved and Wash came toppling down.
“Wash!” Tucker screamed just before the superhero crashed inside the dumpster. He scrambled to the side of the dumpster and immediately began reaching to turn Wash over but the man coughed and beat Tucker to it.
“Dumpster diving... deja vu... I got it,” Wash wheezed. “What did you want?”
“See, told you you were the best today,” Tucker sighed with relief. “But I needed to get you away. I think Wyoming is able to set back time a few seconds. But maybe only--”
“At a range and interval,” a deep voice said just behind him. “Good show, chap.”
“Aw, fuck,” Tucker hissed at himself as he heard the gun cocking behind him.
“It’s not as personal as strangulation, but I’d like to think proximity is the tip off to my genuine appreciation of doing business with you,” Wyoming chuckled.
Tucker quietly remained still, sweat building on his back when he saw Wash rise up to a prowl from the dumpster, throwing knife at the ready.
“Duck!” Wash snapped just before throwing.
Tucker did so, whirling around just in time to see the knife bury into Wyoming’s shoulder and the gun drop. He held a breath, remembering what had happened the time before and Wash threw the second knife--
Suddenly it was on replay but as Wyoming’s shoulder was hit and his gun dropped, the second knife missed its mark.
Remembering something he wasn’t quite sure would really happen, Tucker threw himself toward Wyoming’s gun and grabbed it before the fallen hero could.
Which, of course, left Wyoming open for the drop kick Wash had in store for him.
Wyoming fell into the pavement chin first, a resounding crack causing both Tucker and Wash to flinch at the same time. Seething, at the pain the man was no doubt going to feel whenever he woke up, Tucker and Wash looked to each other with identical looks of concern.
“Holy fuck you look like you were eaten by a lion,” Tucker said reaching up and poking at Wash’s bloodied face.
The hero square his jaw. “Yeah, it also feels fantastic to be poked like that,” Wash said sarcastically. He then looked Tucker up and down. “Christ, Tucker -- we’ve got to get you to someone that can take care of all this. How are you even standing?”
“I’ll rest when I have my son back, alright?” Tucker demanded. “Right now, though, we need to go help stop Tex -- Omega -- O’Malley, whatever the hell.”
Washington scowled. “We had a solid plan for that.”
The next moment of breaking glass and shouting as a body plummeted from the second story of the warehouse was such a given that neither Tucker nor Wash even bothered to turn and full look at it. They just continued to glare at each other.
“You caused that,” Tucker said plainly.
Wash sighed and shook his head. “I know. I should have known better.”
They turned and started toward the other side of the street again, neither of them looking the least bit surprised to see Church’s robotic body strewn across the sidewalk.
“Your friend didn’t seem to work as well on Tex as I thought he would have,” Wash sighed as they came to opposite sides of Church.
“Hey, you shut the fuck up, asshole!” Church sputtered.
Together, Tucker and Wash turned Church over, his every joint sparking.
Looking directly at Tucker once his eyes were focused, Church sucked in a deep breath and grabbed Tucker with his functional arm. “Your stupid fucking superhero’s plan worked fine!”
“Oh, so Tex did this just to say hello,” Tucker only half joked.
“No! It worked fine until then the bastard was in Caboose. Caboose did this!” Church snapped.
Wash finally looked adequately shocked. “But... he seemed so gentle--”
“He’s also fucking brainless and that means we basically just gave a supervillain free range in a super powered tank!” Church growled. “Where was your planning on that one?”
Wide-eyed, Tucker looked to Wash. “Wash?”
The superhero’s lips pursed to a straight line and he let out an annoyed huff. “Alright, fine. I didn’t see that one coming--”
By the time those words came out, there was a loud clank, and all of them were able to look just in time for metal to begin closing in around all the windows and doors of the warehouse, effectively sealing it closed tight.
Dropping Church’s broken body parts in the snow, Tucker rose to his feet. He was shaking as he looked around.
“No-- NO! I need to get Junior out! And the others!” he turned around wildly to face the superhero. “Wash! What do we do!?”
Washington stared back just as perplexed. “I... I have to admit. I usually have a backup plan but, well,” he waved to all of them. “This was kind of the backup plan.”
“Are you fucking kidding me right now!?” Tucker demanded. “Wash!”
They looked at each other, holding their breaths.
When Sheila turned the lights on and honked, they looked at her in surprise. Then back to each other.
“Do you...” Wash began.
“Don’t look at me,” Tucker said with a mischievous grin. “I don’t think things through.” He turned and limped toward the van. “Grab Church! We don’t need to hit anyone else with the van tonight.”
“Ha,” Wash said, throwing Church over his shoulders despite the robotic man’s protests.
Sheila just smiled.
Chapter 23: Every Story Needs an Explosion
One chapter after this one and I’ll write you guys this big emotional author’s note that will be sappy beyond compare and full of love and joy for just each and every one of you dedicated readers who have put up with so much of my nonsense over the past few months. Until then, I hope we can enjoy some calamity and broken public property together.
And special thanks for the feedback to @freshzombiewriter, @secretlystephaniebrown, @ambi-deer-ate, @ashleystlawrence, @the-anonymous-fangirl, Skyhawk424, Beawolfs_Pen, RazzBerrieCharm, staininspace, Yin, Halo_Freak, Nutella0Mutt, @ephemeraltea, Firelight_and_Rain, nota4, Alkeni, and HappyFunBallXD on AO3 and tumblr!
Even with his adrenaline soaring at the heights that it was, Tucker found himself already succumbing to the warning stretches and pulls of his muscles. The thought pushed to the back of his mind – that he was not going to be a happy camper in the morning – persistently resurfaced.
And if Wash reached to buckle him into his seat one more time, Tucker was going to push himself through all of that again just to kick the would be superhero’s ass.
He aggressively swatted Wash’s hand away again. “Would you stop that!?”
“We’re about to ram a van through a metal wall, Tucker,” Wash said like Tucker required a reminder. “Do you want to die?”
Tucker leaned forward enough to get back in Wash’s face. “Do you?”
Wash remained unflinching until there was an audible click and he stood back up to look Sheila’s way. “Okay we’re ready,” he announced.
“What the–” Tucker looked down and saw the seatbelt strapped against him. Immediately he pulled at it and struggled, growling, “Goddammit – WASH!”
Church held a shit eating grin Tucker’s way as he remained partially sprawled out on the floor. “Hey, Tucker, does he tuck you in at night, too?”
Tucker glared back. “Shut up.”
Sheila revved her van so much as it could be revved and glanced toward her rearview mirror. “Everyone hold onto your butts!” she warned in what might have been the closest to aggressive any of them had ever heard from her.
Without further warning, she floored it. Enough so that even Wash wavered on his hypocritical feet.
They all released various degrees of shouting as they went bull rushing forward into the metal shielding around the warehouse, bursting through in a screeching blur of twisting metal and loud clanging.
At some point, Tucker knew his eyes were closed involuntarily. He only managed to open them after the grinding of tires was replaced by a curious quiet that surrounded them.
Tucker dared to open his eyes so much as to check out the scene and see Tex and Caboose staring back at them in the midst of being locked against one another like UFC fighters.
Everyone remained perfectly still until Tex scowled their way. “Are you fuckingserious!?” she screamed.
“We’re here to seriously help you! If that’s what you mean,” Church replied just a moment too quick to be anything short of pathetic.
Even Wash and Sheila gave his obvious desperation a sideways glance.
“Church!” Tex roared. “You fucking jackasses – do you have any idea what you just ran over!?”
Almost instinctively, Tucker glanced to make sure Wash was in the car and not under it. Wash, in return, was not pleased to notice the glance his way.
For her part, Sheila seemed almost upset. “Oh, no, was it something important?”
Before Tex could respond, Caboose butted his forehead so hard against Tex’s that there was an audible smack. All of them flinched as Tex landed in a heap on the floor.
“Tex!” Church yelled out, trying to rise up to his feet but the broken robot body only stumbled forward and went head first into the back of Sheila’s chair instead.
“Ha Ha Ha,” Caboose laughed in a throaty voice that wasn’t quite his own. His titanic sized self slowly walked toward them. “Fools! The computers you broke were the control panels for the cryogenic pods. Without them the body scans in process cannot be stopped and soon I will have the synthoid’s entire biological blueprint!”
Pulling against his seatbelt, Tucker cried out, “What does that mean!?”
“I know,” Church said, not nearly on Tucker’s level of freaked out. “Hearing that big of words coming from Caboose is… well, quite frankly, terrifying.”
Unable to help himself, Tucker leaned forward and smacked Church over the head. “Be serious, dude! He just knocked your super powerful girlfriend the fuck out!”
Church growled as he recoiled from the smack and glared back. “Do that again and I’ll take your hand. Also… uh, not my girlfriend.”
Tucker blinked in surprise. “What, really?”
“Yeah, turns out Tex’s first priority after being free of four years of mind control and forced villainy is to make it clear she doesn’t see the point in dating dead guys who haunt electronics,” Church informed Tucker bitterly.
“Holy shit!” Tucker laughed.
“I know,” the ghost mumbled.
“Four years and first priority is to make your life hell,” Tucker continued.
“I know,” Church growled out. “Can we just drop it?”
Waiting a beat, Tucker tilted his head at Church. “Hey, if she’s worried about the satisfaction part, just let her know you can possess like a vibrator or something.”
“TUCKER!” Church yelled.
“What? I think it’s genius!” Tucker defended before looking to where Wash had been. “Back me up here, Wash– Wash!?”
Both Church and Tucker looked around the van for the superhero when they finally found him outside the busted vehicle and walking toward Caboose. All the while an abnormally wide and toothy grin spread across Caboose’s face.
“Wash, what the fuck are you doing!?” Tucker cried out, pulling at his seatbelt again.
Wash seemed to be ignoring Tucker, raising his hands to show the possessed Caboose that he was completely unarmed.
“You have the bioscans,” Washington clarified.
“Of course! They should be completed by now!” Omega-Caboose howled.
“You’ve already broadcasted your message to the city, the embassy – everyone knows what to be looking for once you release them,” Wash continued.
Slightly horrified by the eerie calm Wash was giving off as he talked, Tucker looked to Church only to see his friend looking equally perplexed.
“And I’m guessing it was both the convenience of keeping this Grif guy out of your way and from warning Tucker and his friends as well as testing your stolen machines that you kept him,” Wash said.
“Yes, as a surprise to no one your friend is on his way to heart disease and diabetes,” Omega-Caboose crackled.
“And the landlord failed med school but he still had enough firsthand medical knowledge that possessing him helped speed up learning how to read those scans,” Wash explained. “It’s honestly almost genius. Save for the part where gaining access to a criminal gang accidentally blew your cover too early when you ran into an unwitting superhero coming out of retirement.” He shrugged and shook his head. “But I guess you still won. Joke’s on all of us who failed to stop you.”
“Yes!” Caboose cried out before pausing and blinking. He looked curiously at Wash. “Wait, what?”
“What?” Tucker and Church called out in unison.
Sheila stayed quiet, worried lines apparent across her brow.
In response Wash merely shrugged. “You did it all. War is bound to break out between the species. You took out Tex – who was the best. And, honestly, I’d be curious to see if maybe the people we both hate at Freelancer are finally held culpable for everything they did. A big part of me would like to see that. So… you win. Officially. I’m tipping my hat to you on, well, all of this.”
Feeling like his heart was a ten pound weight, Tucker watched Washington completely crestfallen. “Wash…”
The last standing hero then turned his head slightly to leer at Omega-Caboose. “So you have no need for any of us anymore. And you no longer need Grif or Junior. You won. Now it’s time to let all of us go. We can’t do anything to you anymore. Let us go.”
“What the fuck kinda superhero is this guy?” Church demanded in disgust.
Tucker felt his heart thundering as he watched, eyes wide. “The kind who wants to save people, Church,” he said as it dawned on him. “Even assholes like us in Blood Gulch.”
Sheila shushed them stiffly.
Confused, they looked to her and noticed her hand below the dashboard making a visible effort to point forward for them. Their gazes followed and while Tucker at first scratched his head, seeing that it was in the direction of Caboose, he couldn’t help but try to stand in shock when he noticed what was up.
Again, though that time fortunately, the seatbelt kept him down.
Tex was nowhere to be seen.
Caboose, looking like himself for the first time since they crashed into the warehouse, was visibly confused. “Why would I let you go? I hate you. And you’re all here to suffer! Ha. Ha. Ha.”
“I just want to give you options,” Wash said. “Because it could be a lot easier on you than taking on two professional superheroes at once.” He then nodded to the van. “Not to mention I sometimes have to be very specific for some people have taking hints when it comes to self-preservation and it’s reallyannoying to get them to take a hint and leave.”
Bristling, Tucker snapped back, “I know you’re talking about yourself and not me right now. Because you’re the most ridiculous human being I’ve ever met.” He waved around the area. “And you’ve met my ridiculous friends.”
Wash threw up one hand. “Not now, Tucker.”
Caboose squinted at them before blurting out. “Are you stalling?”
No sooner had he said it than a noticeable outline of Tex came up from behind and nailed Caboose’s chin with a highly motivated punch.
“Everyone move!” Wash ordered as he jumped into the fray with Caboose and Tex.
Hardly needing more prompting, Sheila changed gears and sent the van spinning around until it faced the larger area of the warehouse where the others no doubt were.
“Wait! What about them!?” Tucker called out, ignoring how without a seatbelt, Church’s body was flung into the walls of the van trailed by an incoherent string of curses.
“Priorities, Tucker,” Sheila half sung to him before launching them forward. “Let’s get that beautiful baby boy of yours, our lovely coworker, and my sexy mechanic out of this first!”
“Yeah, priorities, Tucker,” Church repeated as he finally righted himself.
No good argument came to mind but Tucker still caught himself worriedly glancing to the mirrors and watching the all out brawl unfoldling in the half destroyed main office.
When he managed to look away, Tucker caught Church’s look of apathy toward him.
“Get used to sitting back and letting the heroes do the real work, Tucker,” Church warned.”You’re about to get stupidly acquainted with the lifestyle.” He then looked Tucker up and down, humming slightly. “And for you, possibly get used to being put on a respirator at this rate. How’s getting pounded feel?” He paused and raised his eyebrows.
Tucker glared back.
“Oh, c’mon, you have to say it,” Church pressed.
“Not when it’s at my own expense I don’t!” Tucker defended. “What do I look like? Donut?”
“You mean do you look hospitalized? Yes,” Church replied.
Opening his mouth, Tucker was prepared to deliver a real zinger when the van came to a slamming halt and Church went flying into the back of the front passenger seat.
Sheila and Tucker looked through the front windshield only to be met with everyone standing in wait, including the sleepy looking child curled in Kaikaina’s arms.
And the moment Tucker saw his son, all the other nonsense going on melted into white noise. He didn’t even have to think to unhook the seatbelt, throw it over his shoulder, and immediately begin pulling himself out of the van.
Likewise, Junior seemed to wake up at the mere sight of his father and all but pushed off from Kai’s body to leap onto Tucker.
“Junior!” Tucker cried out, overjoyed, managing to only just catch the child with his good arm and stumble around twice before someone caught them both.
“God, I leave for a few days and you turned into a complete fucking sap,” Grif’s voice rang gravely in Tucker’s ear.
Jumping back a bit, Tucker looked over Grif, not even making an effort to resist the huge grin spreading across his face. “Grif! You’re okay!” he shouted.
“No, I slept for two days,” Grif replied. “I mean that part was okay, but now I’m absolutely starving and that fucking sucks.” He nodded over Tucker. “Glad you turned out alright, though. I told you you didn’t want to know more about what the fuck was going on.”
Humming slightly as he adjusted Junior, Tucker shook his head. “Actually, it might’ve been better to learn everything up front it turns out.”
Grif blinked. “What, really? Well shit. I thought ignorance was bliss. Shows what the fuck I know.”
“You don’t know shit, Bro,” Kai chipped in.
“Hey! Language!” Grif barked back. “Act like a goddamn lady!”
Kai’s watery smile matched her eyes and she wasted no time diving straight into Grif’s arms for a thick hug.
“Sap,” Tucker snarked as Grif hugged back with all his might.
Without warning, Sarge pushed by all of them, chuckling darkly even as he stepped into the van. Lopez slammed the passenger door as he stepped in as well, and Simmons started pushing their group toward the awaiting van.
“Alright, great! Everyone’s happy! I’m happy, too! Now let’s take the lead out!”Simmons almost yelled as he scooted them toward the door.
“Simmons! What the fuck, man?” Tucker yelled out, settling Junior into the van but resisting going any further himself.
Grif snapped his fingers while his sister all but climbed over him and Tucker to get inside. “Oh, right!” he said before stepping in.
Confused, Tucker threw up his arm. “Oh, right, what!?” he demanded.
“Trust me, Tucker, just get in and let’s go!” Grif said, grabbing Simmons’ hand and hoisting him in as well.
Tucker growled. “Tell me what’s going on!”
“Let’s just say that some of us know how to make truly dynamic exits!” Sarge chuckled.
Doc’s head popped out from the middle of the crowd. “You might want to get in, Tucker. Despite my suggestions, these guys figured the only way to leave this Warehouse of Doom was with a few pounds of C-4.”
Blanching, Tucker grabbed at his head. “What!? From where?”
“The internet,” Simmons responded. “Duh.”
“But why are you using it!?” Tucker cried out.
“Son, you don’t order things from the internet and not use them,” Sarge responded. “That’s just common sense.”
“It’d be like ordering a pizza and not eating the whole box,” Grif added before looking around the van. “No, seriously, though. I am dying of starvation here. We’ve gotta find a buffet or something and do it fast.”
“You guys are fucking idiots,” Church surmised before turning to Tucker. “Still, I’m not here to take a bunch of explosives to the face. C’mon, Tucker, let’s go.”
He stared back at the van’s occupants, his heart strumming strongly in his chest, then he glanced back toward the office.
“Tucker!” Church snapped angrily.
“Wash,” Tucker said, eyes moving back to the van. “And Tex and Caboose–”
“The people with superpowers? Including my ex-girlfriend who survived a city blowing up just so some guys could try to kill her?” Church snapped back. “Yeah, forgive us for thinking that professional superheroes have a good chance of handling this. We quasi-normal people don’t. So how about getting in the goddamn van before you make all of us blow up.”
Tucker swallowed and looked to Junior. The alien-or-not-alien-maybe child’s eyes seemed bright with worry. He tilted his head and let out a quiet honk for Tucker.
“Yeah, okay,” Tucker said, stepping up, holding his hand firmly on the door of the van. “Get going, Sheila.”
“Absolutely, hun,” Sheila said before shifting gear and laying on the gas.
Church’s attached arm reached for Tucker to pull him the rest of the way in and Tucker grabbed it readily, but he didn’t pull himself up. The electric eyes of the robot stared at Tucker’s hand then darted back up to his friend’s face. He shook his head at the apologetic smile Tucker offered in response.
“Don’t you fucking dare,” Church hissed.
“Reconsider the supervillain thing for me, will ya?” Tucker asked somewhat weakly. “Junior’s a good kid. I don’t think he’ll go for it.”
“Tucker! No!” Church yelled just as Tucker let go of his hand and ducked into a fairly painful roll into the warehouse floor while the van continued on its bumpy way off the scene.
“OW! SON OF A BITCH!” Tucker cried out as he landed on his broken arm and rolled into one of the piles of junk piled up around the warehouse.
He blinked at the ceiling before groaning and pushing himself back upright as best he could, refusing to look at his arm even as he unsteadily hoisted himself upright.
Without the noisy van, Tucker could better hear the clash going on between the three superpowered jerks he was about to risk everything to warn and the thuds did not sound overwhelmingly inviting.
Shaking his head, Tucker steeled himself and limped toward the fight.
“WASH!” he yelled out. “HEY! WASHINGTON!”
The fighting continued and Tucker narrowed his eyes, nearing the hole in the wall created by the van to begin with. As he looked in he saw Tex, Wash, and Caboose still at it.
The heroes were moving in a strangely synchronized harmony, like an old dance they were both falteringly familiar with. Wash kept more of a distance, switching sides with Tex each time she alternated fists and throwing his collection of knives. Though even from where Tucker was, he could see there was maybe only a handful left.
Tex was close and personal, her every jab direct. But they didn’t necessarily lead into the next. Rather, each time she landed her hit, she disappeared into thin air and rearranged for the next. There was a bit of a surprise each time one of her hits didn’t knock Caboose completely flat, but then again Tucker wasn’t sure what she expected. Caboose was a freaking tank of a human after all. She should have known that.
And Caboose – Omega-Caboose – didn’t seem all that phased. Just angry, and increasingly excited by the fact that he could take so many attacks and brush them aside.
“Fuck, I told Church we needed to figure out more about Caboose’s powers,” Tucker groaned. He took another step and yelled again, “WASH! TEX!”
Immediately Wash turned. He jumped back enough to be out of range for Caboose and then allowed himself to completely lose the cool composition he had been wearing. His face dropped and his shoulders raised up before he pointed out toward the rest of the warehouse.
“What part of get out of here aren’t you understanding!?” he demanded from Tucker, his voice carrying octaves that tripped all over themselves in the delivery.
“It’s about to blow!” Tucker yelled back.
“What!?” Tex snapped, appearing closer to them before noticing Caboose readying to charge and disappearing again. When she showed back up, the kick she slammed into Caboose’s back sent him barreling toward the ground.
“Those idiots dumped C-4 in there! It’s going to blow any second!” Tucker yelled back.
Wash threw up his arms. “Then why are you still here!?”
“Because no one had told you!” Tucker yelled back.
Tex appeared at Wash’s side. “This is perfect,” she said. “We weren’t able to stop the equipment from being ran on Junior, but if they blow this place the fuck up then it won’t matter anyway.”
He looked at her angrily in return. “This is not perfect, Tucker’s still in here. Andwe have to stop your friend’s body from being destroyed.”
Waving her bloody knuckles as her nose curled in disgust, Tex snapped back, “Have you paid attention at all!? That is not an issue we’re going to have with him. He’s not gone down once since we started!”
Tucker looked at them both before raising his hand slightly. They both immediately glared at him.
“Look, I’m just going to point out that Caboose has collapsed buildings on himself and been alright before. That’s why he’s not supposed to be a superhero,” Tucker reminded them. “I mean, all it did las time was knock him out.”
Tex stared at Tucker for a moment then back to Wash, only flinching slightly as Caboose began to push himself back up off the ground. “If we knock them out and get them to the hospital where O’Malley’s real body still is, we might be able to make him jump back. That’d be the end of that.”
Washington took a breath and nodded to Tucker. “We’ve got to clear the area. I’m not letting Tucker jeopardize himself while we do this–”
“Too late, he’s here,” Tex replied. “We have to save everyone else as best we can. Tucker signed up for this. Didn’t you?”
Her piercing gaze turned on Tucker. He nodded.
“I refuse,” Wash said clearly.
“Too bad, Wash! Here he comes and he’s fucking pissed!” Tex yelled in response as Caboose’s body lowered himself into a charge and then he came right at them.
Tucker’s mouth opened slightly to yell just before Wash grabbed him and slung him over the hero’s shoulder. They dove to the side just as Tex leaped up and over Caboose, leap frogging before shoving him with his own momentum forward.
“DUCK!” Tex screamed in warning just before Caboose stumbled headlong toward the pods the Reds had been messing with.
“I’ve got you!” Wash roared in Tucker’s ear as they ducked behind what remained standing of the office wall and shielded Tucker’s head with his arms and body.
“Can’t breath,” Tucker coughed out petulantly into Wash’s chest.
It was all he could manage to get out before there was a crash of what was no doubt Caboose bumbling into the mysterious pods. Tucker felt his heart stop as it was followed almost immediately by a deafening pop – the noise hitting him like a train before anything else. A pop and then a roar pushing through air behind them and the wall.
He found himself clutching Wash back, ears ringing as a gust of hot air burst around them.
Though he was pressed so tight against Wash, he could see a flash of light across his vision and soon enough it was matched by a weightlessness in the air that all came crashing down as they hit the ground rolled out.
Wash’s arms left Tucker, but before they were completely brushed past him, Tucker grabbed them back.
They hit the broken ground together and skidded across the debris before coming to a halt.
Tucker breathed in the hot air and smelled the burning fire before he really processed his sights or really heard anything past the ringing again.
His grip on Wash’s arm tightened and, frightfully, for a moment he couldn’t help but think that he wasn’t feeling anything back. But then a hand closed around his wrist as well and gave a reassuring squeeze.
“Ow,” Wash mumbled with a flinch but he didn’t let go.
“Heh,” Tucker coughed back, flinching at the pain in his ribs from the laugh. “Ow.”
Wash huffed, a small laugh caught in his breath as well. He flinched. “S-stop making… making me laugh.”
“I-I can’t,” Tucker laughed, curling slightly toward his ribs. “Ow, fuck it hurts.”
He turned to his side, knees curling in, and he looked at Wash – suit all in tatters and mask long gone. The hero was on his back, smirking with his all black and blue and bloodied face at the sky as he reached up and covered his face dramatically with his arm.
“It hurts to laugh,” he grunted. “But… we’re alive.”
“Yeah,” Tucker snorted. “Guess so. Heh.” He flinched. “Ow.”
“Hospital… this time,” Wash offered.
“Yeah, definitely.” Tucker breathed and relaxed. “Just… let’s catch our breath for a sec.”
“Okay with that,” Wash laughed, flinching with every chuckle.
They didn’t even budge when Tex appeared in front of them shaking her head.
“Dorks,” she said. “I’ll scoop you two off the pavement later. Let me restrain Omega while he’s down.”
“It’s okay, we’re not bleeding or anything,” Tucker snarked which made Wash laugh and flinch again, which made Tucker laugh and flinch more.
Tex just shook her head and went back to business.
The other heroes laid in the debris until a certain van came back around.
Chapter 24: The Hero's Reward
So a few months ago, I saw this amazing picture by @ashleystlawrence based on a vigilante-esque RvB AU she and @goodluckdetective were talking about, and in my enthusiasm and a reblog, I got involved and was given the free range to develop a story behind the picture. And from that awesome moment, and many other exciting storyboarding conversations, I was able to build an entire AU that I just fell in love with writing for.
What I wasn’t expecting at any point of this journey was to make so many amazing friends in the fandom nor garner the enormous support I have felt over the duration of publishing this fic.
When I say that pumping out this story was a blast, I absolutely mean that it was a BLAST. I have met so many of you, gotten fanart and prompts and just excitement and comments from so many of you -- I have honestly had no idea what to do with myself for a good portion of the time I’ve been publishing because honestly words fail to really capture how absolutely grateful I am to this fandom for making me feel at home and for making this story so monumentously fun to write.
It has been a lot of silly fun, but more than that it’s really felt like it’s had a heart of its own. And it’s because of that, even though our journey here in Hero Time is coming to an end, I can very excitedly let you know that the prequel -- Texas Time -- and the sequel -- Double Time -- will be coming out very soon. And due to some awesome support from people like @texelations, I will also be putting up an Hero Time playlist tomorrow.
Thank you all very much, and I hope this ending is as much a reward for you as it is our favorite heroes <3
And special thanks for the feedback to @secretlystephaniebrown, @ashleystlawrence, @tresa-cho, @the-anonymous-fangirl, @analiarvb, @freshzombiewriter, staininspace, Firelight_and_Rain, skyhawk424, NutellaoMutt, Yin, and HappyFunBallXD on AO3 and tumblr!
He hated being asked a hundred questions.
Tucker had a lot of things he didn’t like, honestly.
There was the stagnant smell that reminded him all too much of mop water in the back of the diner. There was the constant murmuring of hospital staff simultaneously aware and not aware at all of what the newest patients had gone through. And there was that one detective who was really barking up the wrong tree until Tex’s relative credibility saved Tucker from further annoyance by him.
Mostly there was the fact that a halfway reconstructed Church was babysitting Junior in what was left of Tucker’s apartment. That really annoyed the hell out of him.
But Tucker weathered through such things with some ease.
What wasn’t so easy after physical check ups and radiographs and general pokes and prods was dealing with the total non-answers he was getting every time he asked about Wash.
The excuses were rather obnoxious -- can’t release information about other patients, the police needing to talk first, the incompetent I don’t knows. And Tucker was completely done with hearing any of them.
So stitched up, bandaged up, and slightly drugged up, Tucker sat in his bed stewing as he waited for answers of any kind. From anyone.
“Caboose is awake.”
Taking a breath, Tucker decided that perhaps any answers and anyone weren’t exactly what he wanted after all.
He glared at his sheets and waved his good hand. “Hooray.”
Tex stood in the door, leaned to the side. She was an intimidating sight even years after not seeing her.
"Yeah, O’Malley had had his ass kicked enough in enough bodies that his old one was probably a sight for sore eyes,” Tex continued, walking in the rest of the way and shutting the door behind her. “You’re probably going to be pretty bored with how safe you and your alien kid are going to be now.”
Tucker couldn’t resist scowling at her. “Yeah. Real safe after learning at any moment a new nut job could either want to kidnap him to start a war or kill him to prevent one. My life’s really looking pretty vanilla after this,” Tucker snapped back with a ferocity he would have never thought himself capable of turning on Tex.
He was halfway worried about retaliation until he saw Tex’s head tilt. She almost seemed amused by Tucker’s vitriol.
“You always like shooting the messenger these days, Tucker?” she asked.
“You wouldn’t know either way,” he reminded her testily. “And you’re not even a messenger. You’re like... the guy who got drunk and came to the Super Bowl party a day late but managed to drink all the leftover beer anyway.”
“I only did that once,” she dismissed easily. “What? Are you pissed I had the mental stamina and fortitude to keep the guy who was controlling me for years away from you and your brat?” she demanded, quite a bit harsher. “Tough shit, Tucker. You know I don’t make apologies for myself, and I definitely don’t apologize for this.”
“I wouldn’t want you to, anyway,” Tucker growled back. “I mean, fuck, just give me a break. I have the right to being a little pissy at this point.”
He looked to her face more fully. He was expecting all harsh lines, barely concealed anger, and some flare from enjoying any kind of fight -- even with an old friend.
He wasn’t expecting how sleepless and tired she looked. So worn, more than anything else.
Tex could have used a break herself.
It knocked Tucker’s own need for vindication down a peg.
“Yeah,” he said, pulling his eyes away from her. “I guess there really wasn’t anything more than short straws for all of us. Huh?”
She hummed some to that. “Something like that,” she agreed. “Listen, I’m not sorry or anything, but I do want you to know... I’m back and stuff. You know. For everyone who’s medically living.”
Laughing, Tucker finally turned a smile Tex’s way. “Hey, that’s fun and all, but if you’re worried about continuing your relationship because of intimacy--”
Immediately, she raised her hand and stopped him in his tracks. “Church has already offered. And no. For fuck’s sake, what’s wrong with you two?”
He shrugged too casually. “Eh, probably too much time together.”
“Whatever it is, stop it,” Tex warned. She then turned back to the door. “You need anything? I won’t get it, but I’m sure I can flag a nurse down on my way out or something--”
“Yeah, Tex...” Tucker took her up, raising in his bed. “Wash. How bad is he? No one’s going to tell me anything and they said they’re going to keep me overnight because of my dumb arm and I don’t think I can take waiting until tomorrow to know if everything’s alright or not--”
“Yeesh, breathe,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Is that why you’ve been pouting? Damn, Tucker. That’s pathetic even for you.”
“See, I always thought the important part of our friendship was that I really didn’t judge you for your relationships,” Tucker replied.
“Calm your tits,” Tex groaned. “If you’re not going to put up with teasing, you need to stop being friends with the likes of Church. Because that’s a disaster waiting to happen. And if you’re really worried about how Wash is doing, just ask him yourself,” she said with a nod to his window.
"What?” Tucker questioned before turning to see Wash precariously balanced on the windowsill outside, using a knife to pop the lock. He blinked in surprise before hearing the door click open. Looking back at Tex, Tucker called out, “Hey! Tex!”
She paused but didn’t look back. “What?”
“I’m glad you’re alive and shit,” he told her. “You’ll have to tell me the story sometime.”
Tex snorted and shook her head as she carried herself the rest of the way out. “Like you’d deserve to hear it.”
Tucker smirked after her and looked back to Wash as the superhero slid the newly unlocked window open and crawled through.
“There’s nothing wrong with your legs. You could’ve walked over and opened the window at least,” Wash said, the smile on his face too big and goofy to really work in his tone’s favor.
“You could’ve used that perfectly good hallway outside my door,” Tucker countered. “You know, like a normal person. So I’m thinking you were showing off a bit, right? I’d hate to intrude on that.”
Wash didn’t have the decency to look a little bashful about it as he admitted, “There was some intent of showing off. Yes.” He sat at the foot of Tucker’s bed. “Also I’m avoiding reporters. There’s a surprising number of them interested in the return of the superheroes or something.”
Raising his brows, Tucker couldn’t help ut snark off. “What? And you’re worried they’ll capture your bad side?”
Almost jokingly, Wash reached up to his bruised and cut up face and felt around. “Well, I haven’t really had the chance to shave recently.”
“Ah, gotcha,” Tucker humored him in return.
Wash’s hand dropped back to his side and an even more serious look crossed his face than usual as he looked Tucker over. “How bad is your arm?”
“They’re thinking about surgery,” Tucker sighed. “Which will be awesome to pay for on top of a new apartment and paying for all the shit broke over the last few days. And man I’m going to miss work now and--” Tucker stopped himself and sighed. “Guess that’s what we silly civilians get for interfering with official superhero business, huh?”
“You probably are a lot more banged up than an average citizen,” Wash hummed thoughtfully as he glanced to Tucker’s IV. “But I’d far from call you an average citizen.”
“Yeah, I’m real super,” Tucker replied dryly. There was a somewhat strained laugh from his throat. But Wash didn’t seem to match his bitter sentiment.
“You laugh, but I’m being serious here,” Wash continued. “None of the ‘superhero’ stuff would have been possible here today without you. And there’s a good chance that Tex and I wouldn’t have been able to use that setup in the warehouse if you hadn’t tipped us off.”
Tilting his head, Tucker blinked at Wash. “What? Does that make me a superhero now?”
The hero hummed and leaned back a bit. “Let’s see... can you make styrofoam explode with a thought?”
Tucker gave Wash a look. “No.”
“Ah. Well, can you electrify things with a touch?” Wash continued.
“No. Wash, what’re you--”
“I’m thinking you don’t have any super powers,” Wash said mockingly, sounding not too unlike Tucker of a few days before. “Unless they’re lame and embarrassing so you don’t want to own up to them.”
Rolling his eyes, Tucker tried to move away with the limited range he had. “Hardy har. I get it--”
He stopped as Wash’s hand firmly gripped his good shoulder and kept Tucker still. He met Wash’s eyes curiously.
“So it’s my professional opinion that you’re just the regular, old fashioned, good kind of hero,” Wash said with a smirk. “Who apparently also makes friends with a superstitious, cowardly lot, lets his son stay up way too late at night, and watches porn. The everyday kind of hero. For better or worse.”
Tucker laughed. “I almost sound noble.”
Wash’s smirk seemed almost fond when he egged Tucker on with a, “Do you?”
“Yeah, especially from an old cornball like you,” he said, putting his good hand behind his head. “So... what about you? What’s next?”
Taking a breath, Wash scooted closer. “Well. I hear this town is looking forward to having some restrained, decent heroes again. Especially a crappy part of the town with a decent sized laundromat.”
“I think I’ve heard of this place,” Tucker humored him.
“I also hear that there’s this fairly decent guy with some medical bills that could use a bit of a helping hand with them,” Wash continued, looking more intently at Tucker. “I hear he could use a place to stay, too. If he’s really desperate and could deal with a roommate who has a few... obnoxious quirks.”
Somewhat amazed, Tucker blinked a few times before raising a brow at Wash. “Would one of those obnoxious quirks be asking someone to live with them before the first kiss?” he asked pointedly.
Almost sheepishly, Wash scratched at his chin. “One of many endearingly backwards traits, I’m afraid,” he replied.
Rolling his eyes, Tucker raised up. “God, you are so thick -- it was an invitation, Wa--”
He still somehow managed to be surprised when Washington ducked forward and met his lips.
There was a heat to it -- the kind that started from the other person and spread across Tucker’s face, warming him from the inside out.
There was so much earnest and hopeful and new energy behind it that Tucker honestly wasn’t sure if he’d felt anything like it before. And then, even more quietly, he could feel the surge that told him very certainly that he hadn’t ever felt it before.
It was the sort of feeling that made him forget to breathe until it was over and he was left staring at a very red faced superhero who might have been working himself into a panic attack if his expression was to say anything about it.
There was a shared moment of catching breath and the undercurrent of laughter between them.
“God, we’re like stupid fucking teenagers,” Tucker huffed as he looked at Wash.
“I... yeah. That’s accurate,” Wash agreed in a snort.
They looked at each other again and Tucker could simply feel the warm twisting in his stomach as he leaned forward again.
He could almost sense the door bursting open before it even happened.
Tucker looked to the door expectantly and was more surprised by the volume of people on the other side than with the fact that the moment was being somewhat spoiled at all. Everyone was there.
“Coming through, excuse me,” Sheila sang out as Church pushed her chair through the line of bumbling members of the Red Gang -- all of which looked incredibly awkward in civilian wear now that Tucker could see them outside of their suits.
“See! This is why I believe we should finally replace Grif with a new driver, even if she is technically a woman,” Sarge called out. “That woman has been a drivin’ machine since the moment we met her. I might even find myself slightly aroused by her skills.”
“Oh god,” Grif groaned.
Lopez bristled. “Manténgase alejado de la mujer que amo!”
“Sarge, please don’t,” Simmons muttered. “We’re just lucky Donut’s still down the hall and didn’t hear any of that.”
Tucker blinked at them all and couldn’t help but notice how there was a thick blanket over Sheila’s lap that was far too pushed up and lumpy to not be something besides her legs.
"Church?” he questioned.
“Look, wasn’t my idea, I was perfectly happy powering down and not waking up until tomorrow,” Church said as he stopped with Sheila by the side of Tucker’s bed. “But they kept annoying the fuck out of--”
The ghost stopped and glared at the sight of Wash and Tucker for a moment before letting out a disgusted noise.
“Seriously? It’s a hospital. You two shouldn’t be getting lovey dovey here -- that’s like... unsanitary,” he said, shaking his head. “Ugh. My brain needs scrubbing. Thanks.”
Wash sighed and straightened up some, only to slightly jolt back into alertness when the lump on Sheila’s lap moved.
Sheila smiled at them before pulling off the blanket and revealing Junior. “Sorry, hun. He was just so worried about you and wasn’t going to sleep a wink without knowing his daddy was okay,” she said before looking back to the rest of the room’s occupants. “None of us could.”
Despite himself, Tucker brightened up at his son’s reaching arms. “Hey, little man! You weren’t worried about me, were you?” he asked as he leaned forward enough to have Junior wrap his arms around Tucker’s neck.
He pulled his son into his bed with him and buried his nose into Junior’s shoulder.
There was a certain completeness he could finally feel having his son right there in his arms.
With a calm breath, he finally opened his eyes and met Washington’s stare. It was soft, maybe even a little fond.
“You do realize, of course, that I’m not a single deal,” Tucker warned. “I come with this full package.” He nodded to the rest of the Blood Gulch denizens. “All of it. No matter how convoluted or annoying any one of us get, we all stick together.”
Washington laughed. “In all honesty, Tucker? I don’t think I would expect any less.”
“We’re going to get you into some wild shenanigans, Wash,” Tucker continued to warn. “Maybe more trouble than all the crime fighting in the world.”
“Well, I guess that’s just the good thing about being a superhero then,” Wash replied, putting a hand on Tucker’s knee. “I’m used to our stories never really being over.”
A smile forced itself across Tucker’s face as he looked back at Wash and held his son close.
It felt so right he could almost ignore the way Church’s head whipped from one of them to the other before he threw his hands up in the air.
“That’s it. I’m becoming a supervillain again,” he announced before waving to the two of them. “This is my supervillain origin story.”
Wash laughed first, which of course made it entirely too hard for Tucker to not laugh, heaving broken ribs aside. They wheezed as they put their heads together and held onto their moment a little longer, ignoring the usual chaos from the peanut gallery around them.
And right then, Tucker thought that maybe this thing could work. Even for them.