Ah, second chapter. Thanks for the reviews so far!
When Billy returned to the embassy dining room and took his place at the long table, his father had his trademark business-smile on, but Billy knew better.
"I told you," his father murmured discretely, "That if you brought that cell-phone thing to one more public function, I would say something really stern, and, God forbid…take it away, or, or something. Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?"
Billy smirked. Years of living away from home at a private school had left his father, and Billy himself, severely out of practice in father-son etiquette.
"I mean, I don't care," his father continued. "But it's not fair that you get to run off and…textual message, and leave me here to deal with everyone's questions about you. I brought you here to answer those questions yourself."
Everybody wanted to know if this mysterious young man, this William "Billy" Jones was really going to be the next man in charge of Jones Corps., the largest producer of weapons globally since anyone could remember.
Billy shrugged. "It was from school."
"Was it important?"
Billy frowned and tried to remember what the actual call had consisted of. He shrugged. "I guess so."
George Jones sighed. "You need to do better than that. That school isn't your top priority at the moment. Here and now, this is your top priority. Schmoozing with the morons in this room. We've got every country here with open chequebooks. Sell it."
"They're all going to buy more nukes anyway. I don't get-"
"War is never a guarantee. We've got to encourage violence if we want to profit from it," Billy saw his father's face slipping into something a little more tired. George fixed his son with a bedraggled, expectant look. "This is going to be your job soon. Focus."
Billy had never felt so focused in his life. He focused long and hard on the skin of his hand burn under Elliot's cigarette.
Three thoughts crossed his mind:
Elliot is talking, that's unusual.
Elliot is doing something distinctly not nice, cute, or funny.
I finally have a legitimate reason to hit Elliot. Hoo-freaking-ray.
Billy swung a fist back and aimed for Elliot's trademark pretty face. Elliot teleported away just as Billy's fist was about to make impact with his nose. The force he had put into the punch carried Billy sprawling across the seat. He pushed himself up and sat in the driver's seat, fuming.
Elliot reappeared with his cigarette, and blew smoke Billy's way.
Billy inspected his hand. Burns took longer to heal then regular cuts and bruises. He was going to have an ugly little cigarette-sized burn in plain sight for at least a week, which was a short healing time for others, maybe, but an age of ugly scars for Billy. "That was completely unnecessary."
"The next one goes on your face. You are lucky the others are not here."
"Look, can you just tell me what's going on, while you're in the talking mood?"
Elliot ignored the slight about his silent habit. "Where have you been?"
"China, alright? Freaking China! I just got back to the states last week. I just got back to Jump today. I have no clue what's going on."
"You ar a liar."
"You are a liar and a…daddy's boy," Elliot finally decided. When he did talk, he was always choosy with his words. 'Daddy's boy' was a bit low class for his usual vocabulary, albeit accurate.
Billy kicked back in his seat and snorted. "Well, fuck you too."
Elliot tossed what was left of his cigarette in Billy's direction.
The question was buzzing in several parts of Billy's brain, but he didn't want to say it because it made him feel like a little kid.
Elliot stole another cigarette from the pack Billy had left out, and gestured for a light. Billy shrugged and turned away. Elliot shrugged and pretended to smoke his unlit cigarette.
"Um," said Billy.
Elliot blew nonexistent smoke in his direction to indicate he was listening.
It was too much to not ask. It was practically the only reason California had been a good idea. "…where's Angelica?"
Elliot rolled his eyes and tossed the second cigarette away. Then he appeared to regret it and pulled out a third. He gestured for Billy to light it.
"Tell me where Angelica is."
Elliot gestured again with his cigarette stubbornly.
Billy sighed and pulled out his lighter. Elliot snatched it from him. "She is not here," said Elliot.
"Yeah, I can see that. Where is she?"
Billy glared at him. "Well, you left with her."
Elliot shrugged again. "She is…flighty. Do not get your Oedipus complex in a knot, I am sure she is fine, and still screwing someone else who is not you."
Billy took a deep, calming breath. This wasn't the time to get into a jealous, petty fight over Angelica. "That's not why I'm asking."
"Yes it is. By the way," Elliot leaned in conspiratorially and smirked the smug smirk of one who would know, "She is probably the most fantastic shag in the galaxy, and across several dimensions. I highly recommend giving her a try, if you can. But I guess you cannot."
Billy swung another punch. This time it connected squarely with Elliot's jaw.
The teleporter appeared stunned for several moments. He gazed at Billy in disbelief and pointed at his own jaw, as if to confirm that he'd been hit.
Billy nodded. "Yeah. I hit you. You were-"
Elliot swung back.
This continued for about half an hour, all contained inside Billy's car. The HIVE were renowned for their stamina and pain tolerance.
When they were both tired and bored, Billy lit them both cigarettes and settled back in his seat. It hurt to bite down on his cigarette to hold it in place. Elliot was trying to staunch the flow of his bleeding nose with his hands. "Don't bleed on my goddamn car," said Billy, wincing at the pain it cost him to talk.
Elliot held his cigarette in his hand, unable to even bring it to his mouth unless he douse it in blood. "I cannot believe you hit me in the face."
"Somebody ought to more often," said Billy. "This is why we don't let you talk in public. You say shit like that."
"You mean, such as how you have been lusting after Angelica since-"
The fight renewed itself for a few more minutes, and stopped when Billy noticed that they were indeed getting blood all over the seats. They stepped out, releasing a cloud of pent-up smoke from the inside of the Bentley.
After a moment of misgiving, Billy walked around the car and held Elliot's hair back while he spat blood on the pavement. "It's not my fault you've got a bone structure made out of glass. This is pathetic," he said guiltily.
Elliot pushed him off and glared.
Billy sighed. "It's probably good that we're getting this out of our systems anyway."
"There is more where that came from," Elliot spat.
"Yeah, you and what army?"
"Me and everyone else. Stop pretending as if you do not know." Elliot sat down and rested his back against the Bentley's front wheel.
Billy scuffed a converse shoe on the pavement. "Well, I don't know. Tell me."
"I am not good at that kind of thing."
"I don't need you to tell me good, just tell me."
What Elliot Said...
You disappeared a few weeks before it happened. We did not think much of it, because you tend to do that whenever you feel like ditching class, and you always get away with it since you are the son of such a prominent sponsor, so fine, whatever, as Seymour says.
Brother Blood-oh forget it, Sebastian-had been getting really tight about the progress of the 'project' at school. Jinx, Gizmo, Mammoth, and Stone were always in the gym for extra training. Stone was acting strangely, but no one really had time to think about that.
It was the middle of the day, and there was a low alert going around because someone had spotted intruders…no details included. Jinx and her team were in for some kind of test. Again, no details.
And then the whole school collapsed.
"The end," said Elliot.
Billy just stared at him. "You've got to be kidding me."
Elliot shrugged. "I am not good at this."
"So, to summarize, vague shit happened, the school collapsed, and it's randomly my fault because I just wasn't there?"
Well, it was a weaponary test, was it not? Your father was testing weapons on the school."
Billy felt ice in his stomach as Seymour's words came back to him:
"It figures Daddy would pull you out before things got bad."
"No," Billy said uncertainly. "No, it wasn't."
"You sound awfully confident," Elliot snorted.
"My dad had no reason to test a weapon at HIVE. They use wastelands in the Middle East for that. Not schools."
"Do they have meta-humans in the Middle East?"
Elliot sighed. "I am not good at explaining these things…the theory, according to Seymour, is that your father was developing a weapon to use against meta-humans. People like us, people with powers. The 'project' at HIVE was to make us work to fulfill our full capacity of strength. When the weapon was finally tested, we were all at our strongest, and all that would be left would be to measure the varying degrees of damage the weapon had upon us."
Billy made mouths at the air for a little while before finally saying, "My dad's biggest-selling patent is nuclear bombs. I'm pretty sure those work on everybody. And my dad's a…whatchamacallit, mega-human-"
"He's got powers too. Where do you think I got my powers?" Elliot raised his eyebrows suggestively, and Billy continued angrily, "What, you think he tested stuff on me?"
Elliot shrugged. "You usually make him sound so terrible."
"Fuck you. Fuck everybody. My dad loves me more than life itself. I had a great childhood. He's a great father," Billy said vehemently. By most standards, it really was true, he realized with some misgivings. But being a good father didn't change the fact that George Jones had some ridiculously through-the-roof expectations that Billy didn't want to be caught up in. "He didn't test squat on me, and he didn't test anything on you guys either. Jesus freaking Christ!"
"Well, how did the school come to collapse?"
"Fuck me with a gun if I know!"
"That sounds rather tempting at the moment," Elliot said dangerously.
Billy smacked his head back against the car and groaned. "I came back because stuff here is supposed to be normal and uncomplicated and down to earth." Not schmoozing with the ambassadors of Every-Land. Not dealing with pie-doling drug dealers, or whatever that crazy bitch at the HIVE's lair had been.
Elliot rolled his eyes.
"I mean, as long as everyone we know is alright, it doesn't really matter what happened, right?"
"We never found Stone."
Billy felt ice in his stomach again, with extra sharp chips scraping at his insides. "What?"
"Jinx, Gizmo, and Mammoth could not confirm what happened to Stone. They seemed very upset when they tried to talk about it, so no one has asked them about it again. At least, not since I last checked."
"And when was that? Well, how long have you been away with…Angelica?"
Moving in together had been a mistake.
Not an outright, obvious mistake. The mistake took far too long to reveal itself, and by the time it did the sex was no longer good enough to keep them in the same bed, and the idea of each other's company was no longer enough to keep them in the same room, let alone the entirety of Los Angeles.
The bottom line was that Angelica was fundamentally a nice, caring, giving, good person. And Elliot was not. So he decided to go back to Jump City, where people didn't expect him to talk about his feelings, or take consideration for others, or be anything besides cute, likeable, and distant. At least in Jump City, no one expected him to be committed. No one even expected him to talk.
Finding the new HIVE lair hadn't been easy, but it had probably taken less time than it would have for someone else. Elliot didn't understand how the others lived without the ability to teleport.
His first instinct had been to find Seymour, because Seymour was always more than happy to talk enough for two, and Elliot was afraid of the questions, afraid of having to explain that he, the lucky one that Angelica had taken an interest in, hadn't been up to snuff for her…expectations. It had been a riot, the other boys' jealousy while he and Angelica had been an item. Without her, Elliot was back to being fair game for his friends to attack in a fit of jealous rage, or something. He was completely unprotected.
He decided to find Bailey and Montego and just face them to get it over with. They would be angry, because they had always protected Angelica with their lives, and had probably always secretly wanted to be more than friends with her, so to speak.
He had found Bailey first…
…wearing a bow tie.
And suspenders. And shiny black shoes. With his usually unruly hair slicked into spit curls.
Elliot disappeared in a huff of smoke right then and there. And then reappeared out of curiosity.
Bailey clapped with big, flat hands, the way kids do before they realize that cupping their hands to clap makes a louder, more impressive sound. "Nice trick!"
Elliot shrugged and took a bow. Like it wasn't the five hundredth time Bailey had seen him do that.
There were red stains all over Bailey's white shirt, and at first Elliot assumed Bailey had just been in a fight or something, and that the stains were blood. But it couldn't have been that; Bailey's hair was too perfectly composed in its spit curls to have just survived a fight. Elliot sniffed the air, and, being a natural berry connoisseur, recognized the scent of cherries. He felt his mouth watering. He loved cherries.
"Elly! You're back!"
The voice was sickly-sweet, and Elliot was certain he had never given anyone permission to call him Elly. He turned slowly to look at the woman behind him. He waved at her. She waved her ladle back, and then shushed him with it.
"Let's play the quiet game! I know it's your favorite!" She winked at him. "Follow me, and I'll fetch you a pie."
More scents filled the air. Cherries. Blackberries. Blueberries. Elliot had never thought himself capable of drooling, but he was coming dangerously close.
The little woman with the ladle led him into the kitchen, and Elliot realized that Bailey had followed them as well. On the counter sat pie after pie after pie.
Suddenly Elliot's appetite disappeared. He frowned at the pies.
The woman with the ladle, oblivious to his change of heart, held up a blueberry pie and a fork, and mimed eating it all up. She held the pie and utensil out to Elliot.
He shook his head, no.
Unperturbed, the woman picked up an apple pie and held this out as well. Elliot shook his head again. Cherry, pumpkin, blackberry, boysenberry, and peach were all refused in the same manner.
"If he's not going to eat them, can I have them?" Bailey cried excitedly. Elliot stared at him in horror. Usually, between Bailey's large size and slow demeanor, this level of childish excitement would have been comical. For some reason it made Elliot feel ill instead.
The woman waved her ladle at Bailey disapprovingly, "We're playing the quiet game."
Bailey saluted her enthusiastically. "Ma'am, yes ma'm! Sorry, Mother Mae-Eye!"
Mother Mae-Eye chuckled. "That's my good little soldier. Oh, all right, have a pie."
Bailey gave her another enthusiastic salute, gave a thumbs-up to Elliot, and skipped away with a blueberry pie.
It occurred to Elliot that he had never seen Bailey skip before.
"Now then," Mother Mae-Eye returned her attention to Elliot. "Let's see what kind of pie you'd like instead. Oh, game's over sweetie! You can speak now."
Elliot stared at her dumbly.
Mother Mae-Eye pursed her lips and cooed. "Oh, honey! Elly dear! I know you've always been told that nothing but naughty things come out of your mouth, but nothing you say can hurt me, dear! It's all right! Mother's as tough as nails, and she loves you no matter what you say."
That was all the invitation Elliot needed. "What the fuck are you supposed to be?"
Mother Mae-Eye waved her ladle at him. "Now, I may be tough as nails, but I know that you can do better than that. I'll teach you to speak more gently…with pie!" She held up a rhubarb pie. "Say I love you."
Funnily enough, Angelica had wanted him to say something like that too. Elliot already knew that if he couldn't say it for Angelica, he couldn't say it for anyone.
As he always did when he didn't know what to do, he disappeared.