Dancing with the Faeries

DANCING WITH THE FAERIES

 

THE FAERIE GLEN NIGHTCLUB

BOULDER, COLORADO

 

It’s Saturday Night and the Faerie Glen is busy, but not crowded. No special performances are planned for the evening, though go-go kids and oiled-up cuties of all genders and body types flit from table to table, serving drinks and food.

 

Nat is already here, flitting about more literally than the other employees; ey’s literally swooping through the air to give big hugs to regulars and employees ey hasn’t seen in a week.

Continue reading “Dancing with the Faeries”

A Stitch In Time: The Invitation

MONTREAL, CANADA

THE PRESTWICH ESTATE

 

Adam had always loved the smell of White Diamonds. Estelle wore the fragrance, even today, when she should have been focused on work. A woman was allowed a few indulgences, after all. She carefully, carefully, wrote a list of names in looping cursive. It was important to match the card that she had seen in her Vision, after all.

Continue reading “A Stitch In Time: The Invitation”

A Stitch In Time: Estelle

THE PRESTWICH MANOR

THE GUEST ROOM

 

“Come in, come in. Can I get you a drink?” Estelle swept the group into her guest room, a place of upholstered furniture and carefully organized china and a bar up against the wall, stocked with quality liqueur and expensive glasses of all sizes.

“That would be lovely, ma’am, thank you!” Nat said in a slightly pitched-up voice, beaming eir most winning smile. Continue reading “A Stitch In Time: Estelle”

A Stitch In Time: It’s All in the Execution

FOUR HOURS AGO

 

Lights Show had been thinking hard, and he jumped up with his hand in the air like a schoolboy proud of his answer. He flushed, cleared his throat, and started talking before someone could tease him about his opening.

 

“Let’s go to the field where he’ll be. Let’s bring a stripper pole. Nat will do eir thing, I’ll drop the beats… No one could resist a show like that.”

He punctuated his idea with finger guns and an “Ayyyyyy!”

Continue reading “A Stitch In Time: It’s All in the Execution”

A Stitch In Time: A Just Reward

Estelle sat in the largest, most comfortable chair in the guest room, hands pressed together and fingers steepled.

 

“You may have saved the world.” she finally pronounced, a queen on her throne. “Everyone, everyone, on Earth must thank you.”

“Oh goob. Dat’s fantastig.” Fi mumbled from behind a handkerchief. Apparently, kicking an angel into the back of its own mind had consequences, and in this case, those consequences were periodic nosebleeds. “but I meang. I lib on da wurlb?” Continue reading “A Stitch In Time: A Just Reward”

Where There’s Smoke: Smoke and Mirrorballs

Smoke & Mirrorballs

 

THE FLYING FORTRESS

 

Someone had taken the Damselfly.

 

The whole point of the Damselfly, of Nat in the Legion, was to be bait. The problem was that a Legionnaire had given into the lure.


“This shouldn’t be…” Alice said, white in the face. “We screen people. We only recruit heroes. Villains go for Nat.”

Smokescreen, the Legionnaire who had taken Nat, was leaving a trail. She was tweeting as the Damselfly.

 

“It’s not that simple, Alice.” Tabitha said, trying to be reassuring.

Continue reading “Where There’s Smoke: Smoke and Mirrorballs”

Where There’s Smoke: Second Album Syndrome

SECOND ALBUM SYNDROME


Chad listened to the challenge from the loud speakers, took a breath and made to set Fi down. “Okay. I’m gonna…”  

 

Good enough for Fi. She stormed right inside.  

Continue reading “Where There’s Smoke: Second Album Syndrome”

Where There’s Smoke: The Hangover

A pool of flames and boiling blood erupted outside, and a tall figure in plate mail arose from it. He was carrying two figures – one over his shoulder, and another under his arm. He handed the smaller figure over to Gretchen, and then began to walk away with the unconscious Smokescreen.

 

“Drop the rogue agent!” Someone shouted. A poised woman in a flak vest, brown hair done up in a neat bun, ran onto the scene. She raised a stun pistol and fired it several times, but the bolts just bounced off the figure’s armor.

 

Callister ignored the bolts, not even deigning to smile at Tabitha Armitage. His bloody pool bubbled at his feet, and with each step, he disappeared. The bolts ting!ed off his armour, hitting the pavement. And then, he was gone.

 

Sawbones was there, with a kit at the ready. She went to Nat instantly, ignoring everything else.

 

The combat-suited woman holstered her stun pistol, cursing under her breath. She ran to where Sawbones was already attending to Nat. She looked like she was about to say something, but hesitated, nodded, and left her alone. She turned and strode toward Alice and the medic vainly trying to calm her down.

 

“Alice. Please.” Gretchen mumbled, settling Nat onto the ground so Sawbones can do her thing, and returning her attention to the panicky Paladin. “I do not think se-” She trails off, noticing her new company.

 

“It’s ANATHEMA, SHE IS BACK GIVE ME THE PHONE I NEED IT ARE YOU LEGION I AM A LEGION GENERAL GIVE ME THE PHONE -”

 

Alice Elizabeth McGowan,” Tabitha barked sharply, and Alice froze stock-still.

 

“T-T-T-T-T-T-Tabitha!” Alice said, hands frozen in panicked grabby motions around Gretchen, her face transfixed in a mixture of horror and an awkward grin as if it was possible to play this off.

She paused for a moment, thinking about her next line.


“Tabitha!” She repeated, this time less high pitched.

 

“I’ll… take her from here, Gretchen, thanks,” Tabitha shifted the infrequently-worn stun pistol’s holster further to the side and crouched down beside Alice. “Okay first thing, hon, let’s do a hug. Okay?”

 

The sound of music could be heard emanating from the club. Instead of dance music, it was the Sound of Music’s So Long, Farewell. Soapy bubbles carried the club staff, the Damselfly, and eir heroes to the club entrance with the rest of the Legion.

 

Nat stirred, groaning and coughing.

 

Fi ran in her bubble like it was a hamster ball before realizing that she could pop it, then kneeled next to Nat. “Nat?” she asked, cautiously.

 

Ey seemed to react to that.

 

“Nat? Yes?” Fi tried again.

 

With eyes closed, Nat reached out to touch Fiona’s face. “Fi. Fi. Fiona. Fiona, Fiona, Fiona.”

 

“Shh. Shh,” Fiona says, taking Nat’s hand. “Hey. Hey, I’m here, alright? Not going anywhere. And-” she looked around. “There’s like sixteen people here. You’re safe,” she said, trying to sound soothing.

 

Nat gripped Fi’s hand and practically tried to climb her arm, drawing her close. “The… she said, she—I thought I’d never see you again…”

 

The Legion gathered around, arguments and frustration forgotten. Nat was one of theirs, one of their family, and ey was safe.

 

Bonding Agents: Beat Dropped

THE LAUNCH PAD

ALBUQUERQUE, NM

 

The Launch Pad is a small venue.  The 21 and over entrance is on the street-side, Central, the famed Route-66, and it is a double door that barely looks like it can hold its integrity, the metal is so dinged and dented.  The under 21 entrance is in the alley, with rundown brick building backs, collapsed rear entrances, and the big black metal doors for the venue, which let people in right next to the stage itself.

 

There is an upstairs, but it can barely even be called that. The “spiral staircase” is more like three box turns going up, and leads to a small dance floor and a large bar overlooking the stage.  The downstairs is a long strip next to the stairs for an ATM, bathrooms, and a booth to sell performer merch, leading to the open standing floor and the stage, at the very back of the venue.

 

The walls are all painted black, as are the ceiling and hard concrete floor.  For a lot of bands, this did them no favors, but for Lights Show, it was perfect.  And really, the small venue was an experience, lights and sounds flowing all around the space like the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, just without the floating space baby.

 

Callister, dressed for the occasion in a latex shirt, many leather bracelets, and moderately expert eyeliner and smudged eyeshadow, and his hair in two rough buns down his his head, entered through the under 21 entrance. He’d heard a lot about Lights Show’s performances, and he looked forward to this one. He smiled at some girls, grinned at some boys and got ready to enjoy the night.

 

Lights Show most definitely delivered.  He was in what looked like a black leather motorcycle racing outfit, standing still at the center of the stage, and slowly, slowly, started moving his hands, like dribbling a ball, and instead it was waves of light and sound, bass thudding, picking up in speed, other sounds adding different streams of colors, until the bass dropped and the whole place lit up like a victory parade with Lights Show himself dancing in the middle of it.

 

And though he did throw in a few really cheesy dance moves, he did so with a warm laugh that sounded like he was biting his lip– it was impossible to tell, because the mirror black finish on his helmet showed nothing other than a reflection of the lights.

 

High above, a figure sat on one of the lighting fly bars, looking down with delight at the performance. Ey didn’t notice Callister enter, because there were better things to look at: namely, the fly boy with the sick beats.

 

Callister leaned back, arms crossed, head nodding to the beats. He didn’t go clubbing often, but he liked life shows. His attention on Lights Show, he didn’t notice the Damselfly near the roof.

 

And Lights Show played his heart out.  About halfway through, he paused, and his boyish, amplified voice declared: “It’s too hot in here!.  

 

Off came the helmet. He took a swig or two of water, quickly, then went right back to playing.  His curly hair glistened by what he claimed would be the last song (as he’d claimed for the previous two) and his freckled face shone with sweat too, but he still grinned, enjoying the hell out of it. At some point, he’d unzipped his suit almost down to his navel too.

 

Nat was utterly enraptured by the performance, grinning from ear to ear and sitting further and further forward on the fly rail until ey wasn’t actually sitting on it at all, just floating in the air in front of it then just below it and then just a little lower, had to see the sweat on his brow, had to peek where that zipper was undone, had to get just a liiiiiiittle closer—

 

Oh yes, this was turning out to be a much better performance than he expected. Callister started forward, dancing to the beat. He was so focused on the show that he still hadn’t noticed Nat above head. A pair of girls eyed him and he joined them, the corner of his mouth pulling into a grin as they danced against him.

 

Lights Show did get goaded into one more song, even after saying last one four times, now.  This one, however, he was a bit  smarter about. He did the beat slower, winding down, so by the end of it, everyone wasn’t jumping with their hearts pounding.  His dancing was slowing down too, less jumping, more body waving, because he’d been dancing for a long time and using his powers at the same time, and wow this venue got way too hot inside with so many people dancing.

 

Callister danced with the girls, slowing his beat to match the changing swaying beat. There were pouting lips and wandering hands and Callister grinned and laughed when one of them found his wallet…and the chain that attached it to his belt. He snapped his teeth at them, big bad wolf, little girls and laughed to himself when they scampered. Callister raised his arms and swayed to the music, still grinning like a wolf.

 

The Damselfly had finally lost emself in the music, twisting like some kind of sensuous leaf on an early spring breeze. Some members of the crowd had noticed, by then, gasping and pointing. When Nat realized that eir cover was blown, ey gave a quick grin to Lights Show, then descended to the stage and danced with him for the very last bit.

 

Callister nearly stopped when he saw the Damselfly land on the stage. He instead danced to the beat, turning a circle as he tried to see if there were other Legionnaires waiting in the crowd. It didn’t seem to be so. No sense in wasting a good show. He half closed his eyes and continued to sway.

 

Lights Show nearly forgot what he was doing when Nat joined him on stage.  He turned bright red and laughed, but then got right back into the groove of the show, even showing off a few moves he hadn’t done yet since, y’know, the Damselfly was on stage and heck yeah.

 

But then that last song was over, and like all good New Mexican concert goers, they were already piling out the door as the last notes rang out.  The lights came up in the dingy venue, and Lights Show had to shield his eyes a little bit with an arm, but he was grinning like an absolute idiot.

 

Nat giggled, then leaned in and whispered, “that was so fucking amazing, you were so good. Um, if you’re free do you want to go—” Nat froze as ey saw that Callister was in the audience. Not just in the audience, but not filing out with everyone else.

 

Callister barked a laugh when he was noticed and shrugged broad shoulders, stretching his latex shirt. He walked to the edge of the stage and held out his hand. “Good show, Lights Show.” He turned his head. “Nat. Looking well.” That was that urge but it was controllable now that he knew what to watch out for. fffffffff

 

What was that? Was Elliot Lights Show Anders a total mess right now, bright red from ear to ear and stuttering?  Ha! Call an ambulance, he totes was.

 

“Oh, you ca-ca-came.  Uh… Hey.” He giggled nervously, biting his lip and glancing rapidly between Callister and Nat. When he sent the address for the show to Callister on Twitter, he hadn’t honestly thought he would show up and WOW was this going to be awkward.

 

“How could I say no to such a charming invitation?” Well, he could. It could have been a total trap. Like, he didn’t even tell Sin he was coming. In hindsight, that was a bit dumb. “You look hot. Buy you a drink?” Did that line even work? “That includes you, too, Nat.”

 

Nat sighed heavily, then bit eir lip (fuck, it was cute when ey did that) and nodded. “Yeah. I’m down. Thanks.”

 

LS was such  a sucker for bad pickup lines like, it should be considered a major hinderance on his character sheet (not Dungeons and Dragqueens v23, kthanks).  He was already saying yes and hopping off the stage  like it was no biggie.  He was over twenty-one. He was literally the only one in the room who was over twenty-one.  They were all adults. Lol  He would totally get huffy if someone tried to convince him this was a bad idea.

 

“Oh. Um. Wow, my suit is still unzipped. Um…”

 

“We can’t have that.” Callister reached out and very slowly, but very confidently, pulled Elliot’s zip up to his collarbone. “Who knows what would be out there.”

 

Nat flushed. Visibly. Having zero chill was not new for the Damselfly, but it was pretty clear that ey was still way into both of the people present, only one of whom was at all a good idea. Ey floated after them, unsure how or whether to interrupt.

 

Yup, Elliot was just standing there staring at him with his mouth slightly open, and he was sure his ears were on fire.  Wow. Callister was literally covering up more of his skin and it was entirely too smoldering? Was that the right word.

 

“Yeah. Um.  Uh-huh.  However you want it.”

 

Wow that came out wrong and he was entirely too embarrassed to correct himself.

 

Callister reached out and casually smoothed back Elliot’s hair from his forehead. “Is that right?” He looked up at Nat. “Ready? Think there’s a bar around the corner.” He’d already had a possessive hand under Elliot’s neck and he held out a hand to Nat.

 

Nat hesitated for a moment, but took Callister’s extended hand and allowed emself to be led.

 

The bar was, quite literally, just down the street, about a block, and looked really nice. Big glass windows, newly painted walls, a welcoming door– oh wait, that was the other bar right there.  This bar was the creepy door in the alley right next to it, with a dilapidated staircase leading up between two precariously tilting buildings.  Nevermind.

 

Lights Show didn’t seem to mind, though, and hopped up the stairs in twos like he’d been there before (he had), and even waved at the overweight man slouching on the stool at the door right at the top of the stairs, rubbing his bald head, utterly uninterested in them.

 

The inside of the bar was dark. Dark like the Launch Pad was dark, black paint used a bit too much, and where the walls weren’t black, they were dark blue, or covered in heavy bookshelves and trippy artwork that faintly glowed in the dark.

 

The main bar was past a set of u shaped booths– two rows with a wall in between and those bookcases facing them– and wrapped around to face both sides, a glass tower of alcohol in the middle the bartenders could scurry around.  Past that little island of inebriation were the pool tables and the bathrooms, bathrooms on the left, pool tables on the right, five of them.

 

There were a few small groups in the u booths and the far pool table was taken up, but otherwise, the place seemed pretty dead.

 

Callister guided Elliot through the doors, his hand on Elliot’s lower back. His other hand held Nat’s, his rough thumb gently rubbing against eir hand. “Why don’t you guys get a booth and I’ll get drinks. What’re you having?”

 

“Um,” Nat said, “I’ll have a mojito?”

 

Eli blinks for a few moments, then turns red, noticing where that hand was, and stuttered a few incomprehensible syllables before he finally got a sentence together. “Theycan’tmakemojitosherebuttheyhavesomanykindsofrum.”

 

Well, sort of a sentence.

 

“Why can’t they make mojitos?”

 

“Mint.” Eli nods, like this is very, very important and actually explains everything.

 

Callister nodded slowly. Mint was important. “So another cocktail?”

 

“I’ll have a Death Fist!”

 

“Nat?”

 

“Um,” Nat still seemed a little off-guard, hovering over the booth next to Lights Show. “I guess I’ll have a midori sour instead.”

 

Callister nodded and went to get the drinks.

 

The Damselfly turned to Lights Show and whispered, “Elliot, what are we doing?”

 

“Trying not to salivate.” Lights Show watched Callister go– or watched his rear go, rather, “And trying to remember how hard Oathkeeper is going to judge us if we do anything she won’t approve of.”

 

“We’re having drinks with him, dude, and all three of us have really good chemistry!!” Nat hissed. “Like I like to think of myself as someone with—fuck—”

 

Callister returned, then, with the cocktails in hand and his bottle of beer in his back pocket. “Did I tell you it was a good show, Lights Show?” He moved into the booth beside Nat.

 

Elliot was totes about to say something he’d regret Callister hearing, so he was hella thankful Nat very obviously pointed out that he was sauntering back.  The question, though, made him laugh nervously, and the first thing to come to mind rolled off his tongue before he could even stop it.

 

“That a bottle in your pocket or was my show that good?”

 

Oh no.

 

Callister grinned, wide and slowly. “Let’s go with both.” He pulled the bottle out, and uncapped it against the table. “What did you think, Nat?”

 

“I don’t have a bottle in my pocket,” Nat replied, “so I guess it has to be a boner.” Smooth, kid.

 

Callister took a long pull of his beer, his red eyes darkened, then he turned to Elliot. “Looks like we’re all playing the boner vs bottle game.” His voice had deepened, had grown a little husky.

 

“Wait, what?” Elliot blinked a few times, really not entirely sure what that was supposed to mean, but it involved that voice, so, what could go wrong?

 

Nat fidgeted and then took a sip of the drink, almost visibly consulting the devil and angel on eir shoulders.

 

Callister leaned back, his arm resting on the back of the booth and his hand lightly playing with Nat’s hair. His eyes were on Elliot, however, and he was smiling. Nat shivered, and unconsciously leaned into the hair play, glancing between Lights Show and Callister.

 

“Oh hey, look, my drink!” Elliot took a quick sip and turned a bit brighter red, part from the situation really, and part because his drink was literally a kamikaze with chile in it. “Yeah, the show was fun. And. You were both there.  And. Um…”

 

Emboldened  fingers sunk deeper into Nat’s hair, lightly massaging eir scalp. “It was a good show. I think you deserve something for it.” Callister parted his lips, lightly touching them with his tongue, while Nat struggled to keep eir eyes open.

 

“Oh, like a cookie. Or a gold star.” Elliot was trying really hard not to stare at Callister’s lips, or Nat for that matter, because ey seemed to be having a blast, and was he really that worried about what Oathke– yes. Yes he was.  This was so bad.

 

“Want to join us over here, Elliot?”

 

Elliot’s honey brown eyes went about as wide as the lowball glasses, and he just blinked at them for a moment, between looking back and forth.

 

Just think about all that rough se–BUT WHAT ABOUT OATHKEEPER–pfft, you won’t moan that loud–

 

And he nodded, looking at the spots on either side of Callister and Nat, not sure where exactly he should slide up.

 

Callister made a questioning noise. It felt like a rumble from his chest. He slid his gaze away from Lights Show and turned to Nat, his fingers lightly tugging at eir hair. He bent his face towards em and made that deep questioning noise again.

 

Nat made this little whimpering kind of sound, then slipped up a little and swung eir legs over Callister’s lap, indicating that ey’d float on the other two, or… near them, at least. Ey shot Lights Show a look that was half oh god please get over here and half HELP ME.

 

And that was invitation enough for Callister to bend his head and slowly lap up the column of Nat’s neck. He used his teeth sparingly, opting for a light touch, and he never took his gaze off Elliot. Nat let out a short, quick moan.

 

Elliot was about to speak up, about morals and don’t threaten our friends and wow, that was his tongue. Huh. How about that.  And like the young, testosterone powered DJ he was, he moved around to the side side of the booth, next to Callister, reaching under the table to give one of Nat’s legs a reassuring squeeze.

 

Nat immediately cuddled up to Elliot, effectively sitting on both their laps without actually putting any weight on them. Ey met the DJ’s gaze for a moment with an expression that possibly read we’re in this together, or possibly we are going to be in so much trouble.

 

And this was very nice too. He reached out and tugged Elliot’s zip down very slightly, enough to brush his fingers against his chest before also paying some attention to Elliot’s neck.

 

Oh no. That look.  Elliot couldn’t abandon Nat. Like, she’d come to his show, and she was amazing and okay.  Bonus points that Callister was totes hot– and reaching into his shirt where there was some pronounced chest scar tissue that Elliot was really nervous about but the dark booth and– oh hey, he’d never had a threesome before.

 

His nerves were never really going to calm down, but he was committed now.

 

“So.” Callister breathed against the pulse point in Elliot’s neck. He pressed his lips there and sucked just a little. “We can stop here, say our goodbyes. Or we can go to the nice little hotel that I passed on the way over.” His hand was definitely caressing Nat’s leg.

 

Nat shot intense puppydog eyes at Elliot. I CAN’T DECISIONS; HELP!!!

 

Elliot shot the same exact look back at eir, chewing at his lip, trying to concentrate, but there was a hand in his suit and his hand was on Nat’s leg and wow did ey smell really pretty right now, and if the heavy looks Callister was giving her did that (okay, his hands were wandering too), then–

 

“Hotel. Hotel is good.”

 

Callister ran his hand through Elliot’s hair as he moved from him to Nat, bending in to capture eir lips. “Then let’s go,” he breathed when he lifted his head back up.

 


Breathing and heartbeat finally slowing down, glowing with a fine sheen of sweat, Nat ran gentle fingers over Elliott’s chest, watching it rise and fall as he dozed. Eir eyes rose and beheld Callister’s muscular form, stretched out and resting against piled pillows on the headboard. His eyes were closed, but Nat knew that he was not sleeping.

“Hey,” Nat murmured, keeping quiet so Elliot didn’t wake, “can we talk for a minute?”

Callister’s nostrils were filled with Nat’s sweet scent. He’d hoped that Elliot’s musk would distract him, but that was faint chance. “Yeah, I’m up.” He didn’t want to risk falling asleep and falling deeper into Nat’s pull. He could control it now, but he wanted to be gone way before morning.

“I know,” Nat said, drawing in a deep breath and letting it out slow, looking back down at Elliot’s serene visage. “He’s so sweet, isn’t he? Just the sweetest face.”

Callister snorted, pushing himself up to rest his back against the headboard. “Yeah, he’s sweet.” Almost too sweet to fuck. Almost. “Whatcha want ta talk about?”

Nat sighed, running a finger through one of Lights Show’s curls, then looked back up at Callister, intense green eyes boring a hole in him. “This is just sex, right? Not some kind of weird ploy to make us vulnerable to your mom’s brainwashing?”

“Fuck. I left my brainwashing dick in my other pair of pants. Wow. I am such a fuck up.” Callister intoned each word lightly as he met Nat’s green gaze with his own red. Then he laughed softly. “Yeah, this is just sex.”

Nat quirked an eyebrow. “You know what my libido does to people. It’s not a stupid question.”

“Yeah, so I fight it. It’s just sex, I can separate it.” He shrugged broad shoulders

“Okay.” Nat looked down at Elliott for a few more seconds, then renewed eye contact with Callister. “Why did you save my life?”

“I was going to let your friends be the heroes, but there was gas in the room, so why not get you out too?” Callister scratched his chin absently.

“Because it would have made your life simpler,” Nat shrugged a little. “Because it’d be one less Legionnaire to oppose your mother. Because it’s one more… ‘trap’ for you disarmed. Because you could have gotten away without being seen, without any of us knowing that you took Smokescreen. Because you didn’t have​ to, and if you were really too cool to care, like you act, why would you?”

“Yeah, it wasn’t the best of plans. Maybe I just wanted to tweak noses, hmm? Hi, hello, I’m here.” Callister shrugged. “Why does it matter?”

Elliot nuzzled into the pillow and rolled over on his stomach.

“Because I ​care about you, and I want to know how foolish that makes me.” Nat whispered.

Callister glanced at Elliot, then up at Nat through his lashes. He reached out and gently cuffed Nat with his knuckles. “Nerd,” he said with affection. “Come meet my boyfriend one day. He’ll love to meet you. We’ll bring you for shaved ice or something.”

Nat smiled in spite of emself, looked down and petted Elliot’s back, then absorbed that statement fully and blinked. “You have a boyfriend? Like. A steady partner? Does he, uh… does your mom…”

“Not yet. Probably tell him soon, but he’s skittish so will leave it a while.” He idly played with Elliot’s hair, eliciting a hum and nuzzle from the still-sleeping DJ.

“What’s his name?” Nat was smiling, eyes on Elliot, running eir hand from his shoulders to the small of his back.

“Benny. Sweet guy, works as a barista. Pulls a mean espresso.”

“Heh. One of my brothers was named Benjamin,” Nat looked up, “he was sweet too. Shy. I wouldn’t have imagined you going for a sweet retail worker, Callister.”

“Yeah? What can I say? He sucks cock like a champion.” Callister smirked like a jerk. “You got a brother named Petey too? He named his cat that.”

Nat froze.

“What?” Callister gave em a blank look. “He doesn’t mind if I brag.”

“That’s—” Nat’s eyes flickered away from, then back to Callister. “If I tell you why I know that name, will you please give me your word never to mention it in front of anyone.”


Callister stared at Nat. The light dawned. “No way. Oh fuck. Shit. Benny is gonna freak.” He looked like he was going to lose it himself.

“Please never—” Nat’s voice spiked in volume a little before ey got it back under control. “Callister please. Please promise that you’ll never deadname me. I left my family for a reason—”

“Yeah, okay, I get it. Benny is gonna kill me. I screwed his little-” He stopped, shook his head, getting his head right. “They left too, ya know. Benny and Buster.”

“Okay. Okay. Thank you.” Nat blinked, breathing hard. At the mention of the other name, ey looked confused. “…Buster? Wait, I don’t have any siblings named Buster. Benjamin had a twin brother named Bartholomew.”

“Yeah, you got a sister now. She’s on Luna with PHALANX.” Callister rubbed his hands on the bed. “Fuck.”

“Holy shit, Bart—Buster—oh my god, and Benny’s…” Nat’s face broke into a smile. “My siblings are queer too. My siblings are queer too!”

“Benny is queer as fuck.” Callister confirmed, his face still suffused with dread.

“Wow,” Nat whispered, then looked up. “Okay so um. I really want to reach out to my sibs but I also realize you kind of just put yourself out there telling me this stuff. How would you like to handle disclosure? I can keep my mouth shut if you want to do it, but if you’d rather I break the news, I’m pretty practiced at this stuff…”

 

Nat’s face seemed to reflect how weird it was to be amicably discussing relationship logistics with eir sworn factional enemy, but also clearly felt more at home in topics like these.

“Hi Benny. Remember when I said I was going to bang Damselfly and Lights Show? I totally did! Then Nat and I got to talking and it turns out Nat is your sibling. Shit. That’s not gonna work.”

“I dunno, that’d work fine for me,” Nat mused. “But maybe it’d be easier if the revelation about his long lost ‘brother’ came first, you know?”

Callister bent over his knees, trying to maintain even breaths. “Yeah, okay. Sounds good. You want me to give him your number?”

“If his—our sister is in PHALANX, I can get in touch with both of them on my own. Um.” Nat’s face was suddenly concerned, as if realizing for the first time that eir glee was not universally shared. “Um. Are you gonna be okay, dude?”

“Oh geeze, I’m fine. Gonna screw my way up and down your family tree. Lots to do, excuse me.” Callister lurched towards the bathroom.

Nat looked genuinely confused. “Cal, why is this bothering you so much? It’s not like you fucked your​ sibling.”

“Yeah? What are the chances? I mean, what if this means I’m screwing around too much? Yeah, anyway, gonna get cleaned up.”

“Too much for what?” Nat asked the now-empty room. When ey didn’t receive a response for a few seconds, ey jostled the comatose DJ in bed with em. “Hey Elliot Elliot! Wake up! I just found two of my siblings!”

 

Fae at Work

‘FAERIE GLEN’ NIGHTCLUB
BOULDER, COLORADO

 

If someone asked you to describe what the owner and operator of a national strip club chain and the largest queer dance parties in North America looked like, you’d probably describe Tommy Varo. He was an aging gay man who acted the part like it was still the nineties, stereotypical swish that you’d never see on television without outcry. He was tall and thin and well-dressed, and he carried about him a sense of authority that he wielded liberally, sending waves of his employees to carry out his whim and will.

 

“All right kids! Listen up!” He clapped over his head several times, and the assorted bustling staff of the Glen looked up. Many of them were cleaning, patrolling, studying, or messing around on their phones, but a few were practicing their dances on the poles and stage, and the Damselfly emself hovered above everyone else, pausing a runthrough of eir trickier aerial moves.

 

“I know you’ve all heard of Lights Show,” Varo said in a conversational tone that somehow still managed to be very loud, “and I know you’ve all been waiting for me to pin him down and make him sign something. Well, mission fucking accomplished! He’ll be spinning for us once every other friday and whenever else he and I agree to put him on the schedule.”

 

Varo gestured to Lights Show, and the staff cheered with genuine enthusiasm.

 

And, like a champ, Lights Show almost missed his cue!  He tapped out a few notes with a finger, a frown displaying on the LED of his mask screen, and then he jumped, spinning around, an exclamation appearing on the screen– he’d obviously gotten an upgraded helmet.  Just like that, he hopped up and over by him, helmet turning this way and that, looking around, then gave a shy little wave, shuffling from foot to foot.

 

A nervous laugh came out of the speakers on the side of his mask. “Uh… hey.”

 

Above, Nat squealed in unsuppressed delight, hands to eir cheeks.

 

“Go ahead and introduce yourself to the family, kid,” Varo gestured (a bit dismissively?). “Adam and Mac are our den parents, but Chris is all right too, I suppose. You know Nat. Our… handler will be by in a bit to discuss your other duties.”

 

Lights Show nodded, taking in the names, assigning them to faces, and giving one of those little wiggly finger waves at Nat with a 😉 on his mask as he did it.  On the ‘handler bit’ he glanced over at Varo, wondering just what he could mean by that but– OH YEAH he was supposed to be introducing himself!

 

There was that nervous laugh again, and he reached up, clicking the wheels around the speakers.  There was a small hiss, and Lights show lifted the top part of his mask off, revealing big honey brown eyes, freckled cheek and button nose, and a messy mop of curly blond hair sticking over to one side, the other side of his head shaved to stubble.  He had a lopsided grin, and was blushing ear to ear. Squealllll

 

“Hey, uh, I’m Elliot. Lights Show. You can call me Eli? Or Elliot. Or Anders. Or LS. Or whatever I don’t mind I promise.” He hugged his helmet top to his chest, shuffling foot to foot.

 

The two very handsome-in-different-ways young men who approached grinned and offered their hands to shake in turn, taking Elliott’s gloved hand without forcing him to let go of the helmet.

 

“Hi Lights Show!” This young man was muscular as fuck; developed pectoral muscles straining against the surface of a size-too-small white t-shirt. He had a mop of curly hair like Elliott’s, but his was black, his skin olive-toned. “I’m Adam. It’s great to have you on the team.”

 

“Elliott, it’s great to finally meet you in person!” The slighter and more boyish-looking of the two immediately pinged Elliot’s transdar, and a glance at his collarbone revealed a trans symbol tattoo, confirming it. “I’m Mac. Huge fan, for real.”

 

Was there a way for freckles to turn red and hide? They might have just found a way.  Elliot blinks once, twice, staring a little at Adam as they shake hands– yeah that was a double take on THOSE PECS– and then he sees Mac and the blush fades a bit but those eyes LIGHT UP.

 

“That’s awesome! I, um, uh–” he was going to say something, but lost it.  Where did it– Oh never mind. “Thanks for the great welcome. Y’all are great and amazing.”  Yes, that was a bit of southern twang that snuck into his otherwise plainly mid-western accent.

 

Nat descended from above upside-down, craning backwards like ey was leaning over the back of a nonexistent chair. “Elliott, you are one tough motherfucker to get ahold of. I’m so glad you’re working with us; you’re going to love it here.”

 

“That impromptu performance you gave a few months back?” Mac gushed. “I’ve been following your sets ever since. Just. Your taste is great, your transitions are seamless. We’re super lucky to have you.”

 

Adam just stood there, smiled, and looked pretty. Holy shit were his abs visible through the shirt? Oh my god they were

 

Getting accused of being hard to get a hold of reminded him! Lights patted down where pockets would be on normal jeans, front, then back, then went for chest pockets– nope. No clue where his phone was. Hopefully it was on the Musical Marauder.

 

“I’m stoked to work with you and–” And he’s distracted again because wow Mac is being cute af.  Lights just grins at him, like an idiot, because, like, what is he even supposed to say? If he’s like ‘yeah I’m totes a badass’ he’d sound like an asshole and that’s just rude, but– are Adam’s abs staring at him? They are totes staring at him.

 

They so are. Are they saying something? In a tiny voice? “Touch us, Elliot,” they whispered. “Lick us. Are you kids having fun.”

 

Whoa wait no somebody actually said that last one.

 

Wearing a slight smirk, Tabitha Armitage was looking at him. When did she show up? In spite of Armitage being merely the administrative lead of the Fortress, some people had started referring to her as ‘The Queen’ behind her back, given that she basically ran the entire goddamn earthside Legion.

 

“Hi Nat,” she nodded to the Damselfly. “Adam. Mac. Elliot.”

“Tab-Tab I need to talk to youuuuu,” Nat whispered.

“Not now, bug.”

 

Huh. That was. Wow, was his brain supplying this or did this guy really qualify on his cookie-jar scale?  Wait, kids having– OH NO HE KNEW THAT VOICE.  Elliot let out a little squeak, standing up a little bit straighter and reflexively almost putting his helmet back on, but he fumbled it instead, helmet bouncing a few times and out of his reach.

 

“Hey qu— uh– Mrs. Armitage.” Elliot cleared his throat, fidgeting like a kid in the principal’s office.

 

“At ease, Elliot, you’re not in trouble. I’m just here with a proposal for you, and a little info. Mac, Adam, can you give us a minute please?”

 

“Yes Miz Armitage!” Adam replies with a bad military salute, causing the too-tight shirt to stretch even tighter fuck. He puts a hand on Mac’s shoulder and the two scuttle away.

 

“Thirst. I mean. Um. I’m thirsty. Wow my mouth is dry. NOTLIKETHAT.” Elliot does, however, watch them go (his ASS, oh my god. BOTH of their asses. mmf) before turning his attention back to Tabitha, fingers fidgeting like they needed something to mess with and his fingers had no helmet or stringed instrument or piano for that matter, so there they were, becoming a tangled mess like his tongue right now.

 

“So uh, what’s up?”

 

“Let’s take a seat,” Tabitha gestures to one of the tall bar tables, and strides to it, her mid heels making that decisive click click click sound. “I’m sure you’ve run into my wife Emi at some point. Do you know what she does for the Legion these days? Not everyone does.”

 

Nat gasps and squeals, hovering a circle around the bar table. “Ohh, I know where this is going!!”

 

Lights doesn’t do sitting well. Oh no.  He looks at the chair, then leans against the back of it, because, y’know, compromise and all that jazz. “She’s that shadow ninja right?” He just blurts that out, then pauses, goes bright red again, and clears his throat, looking down.  Oops.

 

“She was,” Tabitha doesn’t seem offended.

 

“But then she took an arrow to the knee!” Nat chirps. “OH MY GOD HIGH FIVE”

 

“Nat, why do you keep saying that. It wasn’t an arrow.”

 

Nat just giggles and high-fives LS.

 

Tabitha sighs, then shakes her head. “Emi hasn’t been field-ready for a while. But her skills are still vital to us. She leads our small but focused Covert Ops department. Nat is our lead black ops agent, actually, and works directly for her. So does Tommy Varo, actually. The Legion has shared ownership of the Faerie Glen, and is bankrolling its remote franchises.”

 

“Whooooaaaaa.” Lights blinks a few times, looks over at Mr. Swishy, then back at Queen and Nat. “THAT IS SO COOL.”

 

For her reputation as a brutal machine, Tabitha’s smile sure looks sincere. “We try. Operation Faerie Ring is our attempt to expand our surveillance network, intended both to aid recruitment operations as well as to keep an eye on and capture hard-to-find Villains and criminals.”

 

She taps both fingers against the tabletop. “We’d like you to join the team.”

 

“Ooo, ooo! Does that mean I can be Double-Oh-YesPlease?” Elliot doesn’t know if he should laugh or be slightly ashamed so rubs the back of his neck instead. “I mean, yeah, that’d be EPIC. Like, dude.  Dude.

 

“We, ah, don’t really have separate designations for our black ops agents. Also, you need to be careful about talking about this to anyone. Obviously. The staff here is briefed and sworn to silence, and we’re slowly putting them all through basic training as well. They’re fairly good, actually. So. You’d be pairing up with Nat for some missions, luring in and pacifying very dangerous people, but sometimes we’d just have you playing gigs across the continent. Do we have your… synth?” Tabs made a face. That reference hadn’t gone as she’d hoped.

 

At first Lights pouted. No special secret code names? Like, what’s the fun in– TEAMED UP WITH NAT!  Elliot does the Success Kid pose, and the ‘item found’ sound from Zelda hits the airwaves around him.  “How are you so fucking cute” “Bug, can you wait five minutes to flirt” “haha no” Not to mention–didshejustsayplaygigsaroundthe–OH MY GOODNESS THIS WAS HUGE.

 

“Where do I need to sign? Like, can I just give you an epic guitar riff or like, do I need to press and hold X, like, what’s your deal?”

 

“The pertinent shellwork is in your secure Legion mail account. Complete it as soon as you can, please. You don’t have to do anything special yet, though; get settled in at the Glen. Play a few gigs. Work with Nat on custom choreo song combinations. Do your job, basically. Emi will be in touch about special training.”

 

A thought just struck him, and he got really thoughtful looking, like people could see the thought bubbles practically. “Does this mean… I get new costumes?”  He says it more to himself, but is seriously thinking about it.  Yes, the important questions.

 

“Oh yes, related: go see the Valkyrie sometime this week. Talk upgrades. We’ll fund them.”

 

“Valkyrie? The flying jet lady? I mean– that’s not what– this is a stri– I mean.” Elliot cleared his throat. “Cool, yeah, I’ll do that.”

 

“Well, you don’t have to,” Tabitha shrugs. “I have to get going. Estelle is going to expect me to be there to train her, and–“

 

“Wait! Tab-tab! So like! I heard that you and Alice–“

 

Tabitha slapped the table so hard and decisively that everyone in the room fell silent. She hissed, “come to my office, Mx. Zygoptera. Now.

 

Cowed, Nat floated behind her as she strode away.

 

“Oh shit.” Elliot clapped his hands over his mouth when that accidentally slipped out, staring as Queen took Nat away. Awww, that was sad. He wanted to hang out with eir.  Then again, he was supposed to maybe be working or something like that, figuring out work expectations or, figuring out what people needed for background on routines. He wasn’t really sure.  He was used to DJing house parties and birthdays, like, this was SWEET.

 

So he looked to Mr. Swishy like a deer in the headlights and just STARED.

 

Mercifully, the moment that Tabitha collared and frogmarched Nat away (as much as you can frogmarch a person who does not walk), Mac reappeared at Elliot’s side.

 

“Don’t worry about it too much,” the boyish dancer explained sheepishly, “Miz Armitage is like a mom to Nat. Ey gets in trouble all the time, and they’ll have worked through it within the hour.”

 

“Oh good, I was worried I’d have to like, barge in blaring that theme song I made for Oathkeeper or somethin’.” He laughed, then looked at his feet and shuffled a bit again, then looked up, giving a little nervous bite of his lip before talking, “Um, do you want to give me a tour? I feel like I’d be, SO LOST.”

 

“Yes! DEFinitely!” Mac leapt at the opportunity at once, gesturing for Elliot to follow him across the dance area. “You’ll probably spend most of your time in here in the DJ booth up there on the 2nd level, on that balcony. Though probably you could be way more mobile than our other deejays, which is just. So cool. The booths up there are reservable so our most high-profile clients and our agents or plants are gonna be up there during missions.”

 

“From up there, I could like, project my lights over the ceiling and it’d look SO COOL. I mean, I like being down in front of people, but I don’t want to get in the dancer’s way unless like, we work something out– Am I babbling? I think I’m babbling.” Elliot picks up his helmet while going past it, considers, then sets it on the bar. He’ll be back down after the tour.  THIS PLACE HAD MORE THAN ONE FLOOR. How exciting!

 

“Omigod tho, you and Nat together. Forget best burlesque performance, we’re gonna have the best performance, period in North America. Like I know that we’re a black ops front but this is just so cool. I’m glad I didn’t quit for real during that whole… Downer serial murder thing. Okay so this is the door to the backstage hallway…”

 

Nowhere was the Faerie Glen’s cutting-edge renovation more evident than backstage. A ladder and elevator both led up to a bank of automated lighting controls with multiple flatscreen displays and dozens of switches and sliders. The fly system for setpieces, curtains, and stage lights was mechanical and automated too, though a manual system stood as backup that backstage techs could use to manually raise and lower the fly bars above. Banks of brand-new, expensive, modular lights were arrayed like turrets at a military installation, ready to illuminate the shit out of whatever they focused on, switching from flood to spot and swapping color gels at the touch of a button.

 

It was the most theatre-like club setup that Elliot had ever seen, and put most theatres to shame, to boot.

 

“Badass, huh?” Mac grinned. “I almost can’t believe that when Nat Emerged, we only had two dozen lights. Two followspots, six PAR cans, twelve fresnels, and four cheap as fuck striplights.”

 

“THIS IS SO COOL.” And Lights is like a kid in a candy store, buzzing around from thing to thing, looking, hands close, but not touching because wow, it’s like the Holy Grail of set ups and I’M NOT WORTHY.

 

He did a little spin, taking it all in, then very smoothly moon walked back over to Mac, “Though with the kind of looks around here, don’t need this kind of set up to make y’all hot as fuck.”

 

“Hhhhhh.” Mac’s face went beet red at that, and he seemed to be temporarily unable to speak. He’d probably been about to say something, but that something was gone. Gone forever.

 

“So, what else you wanna show me?” Lights ruffled a hand through his hair, giving Mac a grin. He was trying his hardest to NOT babble on– a few puns about him being the Show, blah blah yeah no don’t blow it STOP– and totes ruin any brownie points he’d just racked up.

 

“I w-wanna show you–” by the look on his face, it was apparent what Mac wanted to show him, but instead he swept them both into the backstage hallway, face still flushed. “Th-this is the backstage hallway. There are um. Changing rooms, and the showers and bathrooms, and. The security office.”

 

“Whoa, you have an actually security office too– I mean, that makes sense with the whole super secret badasses in lace thing but– was that part of the remodel?” Lights is looking around with wide eyes, just taking it all in with wonder.  This. Was. So. Cool.

 

“Yeah, it’s important,” Mac coughed, gradually regaining some vague sense of composure, “and you’re gonna need to learn how to use it, actually. I think Tabitha wants you to figure out whether you can patch into it remotely. You’ll wanna talk to her later, but for now you should at least see it.”

 

Mac led them both into the security office. Wow that was a lot of screens. Not a whole lot of controls; it looked like a single computer controlled most of them, which was currently displaying a screensaver slide show of promo photos from the Glen’s numerous performances.

 

Once they were both in the room, Mac gently shut the door behind him. “Here we are,” he murmured.

 

Remotely patch in? Like some cyberpunk wet dream? OH HELL YES.  Elliot hopped inside, looking around with that same glee, and then paused at the screensaver, head cocked slightly to the side.

 

“You in any of these?” Elliot winked with that lopsided grin again, and glanced back at the screensaver, not touching anything just yet.

 

“Well,” Mac smiled and scuffed one jazz flat against the clean tile floor, “yeah. A bunch of ’em. See? There’s me. Just look for the guy in the binder.”

 

Sure enough, there he was. With most of his clothes off, it was apparent that Mac was extremely fit too, even though he didn’t have the same bulging muscles that Adam did. (as if on cue, the screensaver changed to an image of Adam wearing nothing but a thong that left nothing to the imagination.)

 

Elliot lets out a low whistle at that one. “Damn.” He gave the picture a glance over, then looked over his shoulder, giving Mac a very obvious one-up, nodded in appreciation and laughed, “Now I won’t be able to concentrate on the computer. OH WELL.” He laughed again, like it wasn’t really a loss as far as he was concerned.

 

“Ha ha, c’mon,” Mac’s blush deepened, and he wiped a bit of sweat from his brow. “You’re making me– heh, quit teasing! Is it hot in here?”

 

“I dunno, you still in here?” Elliot gave an over the top eyebrow waggle and blew Mac a little kiss with a very unbecoming giggle.

 

Mac looked a little faint. “Holy shit, Lights Show is hitting on me,” he said aloud, then realized he’d said it aloud, and his eyes widened, bright white over his bright pink cheeks.

 

“How do you feel about kissing?” Lights deadpanned that. Like, he was nervous AF inside, but man did being on stage help with stifling that some. “I mean, like, you’re cute, I’m cute, we should totes kiss sometime.”

 

“O-oh my god you’re– kissing? You w-want– yes please kissing. I want to– yes. Please kiss yes.”

 

Yes that was the victory fanfare from Final Fantasy. And a few lights that looked like hearts fireworks. What of it? Don’t judge.  With permission, he went right in for the kiss. Short, sweet, but he really knew what he was doing and might have nipped a bit of lip at the end there for good measure.

 

Mac leaned against the wall behind him in an attempt to steady himself, breathing ragged. He smiled. “Wow. Um. Wow,” he stammered, “please uhm. Forgive me, I should be so much more together than this, but– wow.”

 

Yup, Elliot giggled.  His uber-confidence was spent, and now he went back to shuffling and looking down at his feet and biting his lip. “Ha, um… so computers and stuff? Um?” Elliot did, however, reach out and grab his hand, holding it now with his own gloved one.

 

Mac smiled, looking away and then back up at Elliot. “Computers and stuff,” he said, giggling a little, “yeah. You don’t hafta learn the system right now, and we don’t have an account set up for you yet, but that terminal is what most of us use when we’re on eye duty. We’ve got cameras set up… pretty much everywhere. Even here, tho you can’t see it.”

 

“Well, I guess I should wave for the cameras, or say you’re welcome for the show or something.” Elliot blushed a little at that RESISTING THE URGE TO USE HIS NAME AS A PUN with all his might.

 

“Oh, uhm. Don’t worry too much about that. We all have a kind of. Agreement. That if you’re working security, you don’t share or keep anything you see, and nobody reviews the recordings unless we have to.” Mac shrugs nervously. “I’m… pretty sure that Nat has had sex in every room of this building. Like, methodically.”

 

“I need to high five eir later. Can you remind me to high five eir later?”

 

“I can probably remember that. Nat is pretty much in a constant state of wanting to high-five you. We’re all big fans, honestly.”

 

Oh he’s glowing at that, and gives Mac a peck on the cheek like it’s a reward for being such a sweetheart. “That’s awesome. I mean, I wanna see y’all work ‘cause I know I’m gonna be your biggest fan, like this is so cool.”

 

“Well, we’re… all on the same team, now!” Mac looked delighted, then looked nervous, then looked at the floor. “Look are– are you just being weirdly friendly though, or– I dunno, like. I don’t want to be the creepy fan, but I also don’t– want to–“

 

Elliot frowned, nose wrinkling with it as well. “What do you mean? I mean, like, I’m friendly but what do you mean really friendly?”

 

“Oh come on dude,” Mac stuck both hands in his short, tousled, messy-spiked brown hair, “it’s got to be obvious I have a huge crush on you. Are you actually interested, or just– I dunno, naturally flirtatious?” He leaned against the wall, then, kind of unbelieving that he actually said it.

 

“Oh. Hrmm…” Elliot thinks a moment, kinda sad that he had to let go of Mac’s hand for the obvious frustration hair pull maneuver, but it was what it was. How did he even–”So, you seem like a nice guy, and you’re cute as all hell, so I would enjoy sharing physical space with you and like, getting to know you? I mean, I’m like, pretty poly and whatever, but not really seeing anyone currently and I totes feel like I’m testing in front of a jury and shit can I like, not and just kiss you again?”

 

Mac nodded slowly, and finally said: “Yeah okay that sounds like some kinda interest. I’ll take it.”

 

This time, Mac moved in for the kiss, wrapping his arms around Elliot’s shoulders and pressing their lips together with hungry enthusiasm.

 

Well, this seemed like a perfect opportunity to use that wall that was behind Mac to be a nice stabilizer– and push him up against it, responding with the same enthusiasm, though it was less hungry and more playful.  He was a bit handsy, too, because he’s always been a very tactile learner, he plays a bunch of instruments, no duh, and hey, Mac was right there and sure.

 

Mac must have been some kind of instrument, because he made some Really Nice Noises in response to Elliot’s attentions.

 

“Whoa, nice,” Adam said from the doorway. “Mac, you give killer tours.”

 

Elliot looks up like a deer in the headlights– he is REALLY good at that look– turning bright red like a stripe painted across his face. “Um, uh, I… Um…”

 

“He’s not actually being sarcastic,” Mac whispered, face also bright red.

 

“Let me know if I can give you a tour too,” Adam winked and closed the door, leaving the two alone again.

 

“That also wasn’t sarcastic,” Mac added, giggling a little.

 

Well. That seemed like a seal of approval, and really, Elliot had no intentions of– FUCK IT. Why not?