Science fiction and fantasy author

Author: Harper Kingsley
Setting: Universe B/AU
Framework: alternate Pulse of the City
Characters: Sunfire (Seth Payne), Teen Steel (Tony Randolph), Powergirl (Danica Strong), Evan Lee (The Flameburst)
Genre: superhero, sci-fi, m/m



The first time Carrie saw Teen Steel, it felt as though everything stopped moving in her chest. Her heart froze mid-beat and her breath caught in a gasp.

He was beautiful. Just this tall, gorgeous guy standing there, his black mask not hiding that much of his face. His chest was so broad she thought that if she stood behind him she would disappear. Broad shoulders, narrow waist, and long muscled legs.

When she was a little girl she'd had fantasies of her "prince," the man that would sweep her off her feet and that she would marry. He'd always been a rather indistinct figure in her mind, until now.

Teen Steel was the man she was going to marry. She didn't have a single doubt.

Finding out that she was too late had to be the worst feeling she'd ever experienced. To come in one day and and discover that the man of her dreams had already found someone else.

Every smile he gave *HER* made Carrie want to punch throats and rip out still beating hearts. Too bad she always had to be in control of herself, always had to pretend that everything was going to be okay even when she wanted to scream the world down.

Her brother Nathan kept giving her glances out of the corner of his eye like he wanted to ask her what was going on in her head. She ignored him and pretended like her world hadn't been knocked off its axis when she wasn't looking.

She maintained her control for as long as she could. Right up until things got to be too much. And in that moment, when chance presented itself, she'd already acted and there was no taking it back. She had to keep moving forward and if she was lucky it would be like it had never happened.

The blood would dry on her hands and fade away. And with it would go the memory of that *bitch* that had tried to keep Teen Steel for her own.

Because Carrie loved him the most, and she was going to make him hers.

* * *

Sometimes the loneliness ate away at him like a cancer. It made him writhe and scream and more than anything Tony wanted everything to be okay again. But that so rarely happened in life.

He cried himself to sleep on the bad nights. When everything was depressed and gray and so horrible it made him shake in misery, his whole body aching with loss. With every breath he took, he got farther and farther away from his center, becoming something else.

Her name beat the sound of his heart: *Ashley*. The only girl he had or would ever love.

When he got too melodramatic, Sunfire would toss something at him and tell him to "Get over it. I know it's hard, but she's gone and you're still here. You need to live." And it would be like someone had hit a switch deep inside and Tony would come back alive again. He'd been given the permission he needed to get past the death of her.

Loss was a swirling vortex beneath his feet trying to pull him down. He would fight it for a while, but there was no way he was going to be able to withstand such force for long. So one day he would slip and down he would go into the depths that only despair could take him, and who knew what would happen then? What could total loss get him to do?

Tony was grateful that Sunfire always seemed to show up when he was losing control of himself. And just having his friend around lightened the pressure on him, seeming to give him the air he needed to breathe.

Sunfire made him feel that everything was going to be all right, if not immediately, in the future at least.

They played video games and watched movies and Sunfire never seemed to mind when Tony wasn't in the mood to talk. He seemed to make allowances in their relationship for times when Tony would be silent and moody.

It was funny how such a tragedy could have led to him realizing how great a friend Sunfire was. Always before he'd thought the man was irresponsible. He'd seemed the kind of guy that would forget birthdays and would never be around when he was really needed.

Tony had had his eyes pried open when he realized how thoughtful Sunfire was. Sure, Sunfire said dumb things sometimes, but he always remembered a promise and he always seemed to know what to say and what not to say during the emotional moments. It was actually pretty great.

But sometimes Tony wanted something more. He wanted the warmth of physical sensation. He wanted to bury himself balls deep in moist heat and let go of everything that had ever troubled him. Even if it wasn't for forever, he needed that little bit of breathing room.

Which was how Tony found himself lounging on the couch in the common area with Solar writhing in his lap. She rubbed her naked breasts against his lips and her breath came in moaning gasps.

He'd never been overly fond of Solar--she was a little too chirpy for his tastes--but it had been a long time since he'd had anyone to hold onto. So he shrugged his mental shoulders and set about making love to her.

She made a high, keening noise in the back of her throat as he tongued her pussy. He had to use close to his full strength to keep her flexing thighs from crushing his head.

She was one of those people that could only make love to another metahuman. Anyone normal, she would kill in the heat of passion, which he figured might be a deal breaker for most guys. So he could understand why she'd been aggressive in approaching him earlier, her eyes heavy-lidded with lust as her small hands explored his biceps. And when she'd asked, he hadn't seen any reason to say no.

They were two people using each other. He was using her to silence the screaming emptiness inside of him, and she was using him for sex. Though he wasn't enjoying having to hold her back from crushing him. It took away from his enjoyment in the situation, though the sounds she made were almost worth it.

Tony had to consciously activate his ability, otherwise he was basically a normal human. It sucked during surprise attacks, but meant that he could otherwise have a normal life. He didn't have to worry about killing someone in the heat of passion.

Ashley had only had normal human strength, so he'd never had to worry about her losing control. As long as she didn't let one of her sonic vocalizations off in his face, there wasn't much chance that she would hurt him. With Solar he didn't have any kind of guarantee.

The danger wasn't as exciting as he'd thought it would be.

Solar came with a ululating moan, then flopped sideways in a curve. Her legs were still splayed wide, her pussy shiny and wet from his saliva and her own natural juices. Her belly shivered with her shuddering breaths.

"You're kind of beautiful like this," he said.

She blinked heavy-lidded eyes at him. A catlike smile curved her kiss-swollen lips and her tongue flicked out for a second. Her white blond hair had flopped over one eye. She looked wild and wanton.

"I'll be right back." Tony got up from between her legs to walk toward the bathroom. It was just his luck that the elevator door entrance slipped open and Sunfire walked in at that moment.

Sunfire dropped the bags he was carrying and his mouth flopped open in surprise. His black sunglasses slipped down his nose as he stared over the top. "Y-y-you're totally naked."

"Yeah." Tony dropped his hands in front of his crotch. "Sorry you had to get such an eyeful. I wasn't expecting anyone to be here for a couple more hours."

"S-so you want me to leave and come back later?" Sunfire asked.

Tony shrugged, then nodded. "Yeah. Do you think you can do that for me?"

Sunfire's mouth closed with a snap, then he gathered the shopping bags and put them together by the door. "I will be back to put these away later," he said briskly, looking anywhere but at Tony. "Make sure you disinfect the couch and anywhere else you've been."

Tony couldn't help laughing. "I promise."

"Hmph." Sunfire snorted, then walked right back into the elevator. "I'll see you later."

"See you!" Tony called. He caught Sunfire's eye as the elevator doors slid shut and for a second he thought he saw hurt feelings there. It must have been a trick of the light.

He shook his head and continued his walk to the bathroom. He still had to pee and get some wash cloths for Solar.

Ashley had taught him to be thoughtful.

When he came back with a couple of damp face towels in his hands, he was surprised to see that Solar hadn't moved. She was still sprawled on the couch, her legs splayed wide.

She'd looked sexy and beautiful while in the throes of passion, but now, in the cold light of sanity, he couldn't help feeling bad for her.

If there was one thing he'd learned since Ashley's death, it was how to read the level of sincerity someone expressed. Which made him realize that Solar had strong feelings for him. Like actual love feelings, which went way beyond the crush he'd thought she'd had.

All he'd ever felt for her were the emotions of an older teammate, but now she was grown up and she wanted more from him than he was willing to give. Except loneliness and desperation had eaten away at his scruples. He'd let himself do something he probably should regret.

And that was why he felt bad for her. Because she was so insignificant that he didn't even feel guilty about taking advantage of her. In fact, he didn't feel bad at all. She'd been the one to approach him; all he'd done was say "Okay."

He should have hated the thought of being a user, but all he wanted right now was something to fill the awful emptiness at his core. The place where Ashley had been ripped from his heart in one act of mindless violence.

"Hey, I brought these," he said, holding up the towels.

She opened one eye to look at him, then closed it and moved her head a little to the side, turning her neck into a long stretch of tendon.

"What's wrong?" he asked. He took one of the cloths and began wiping her body clean.

"You're not into me," Solar said.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

Her large gray eyes opened to look at him. He felt as though he'd been stabbed in the chest. "I'm not stupid," she said. "I can tell that you don't really like me. And I like you enough that it doesn't matter."

"I'm sorry," he said, not knowing what else to say.

She smiled, though it wasn't a happy expression. "It's all right. I'm a big girl."

Tony chewed on his lower lip for a minute, then handed her the other towel he held. "Here, I want to get dressed. It was pretty awkward having Sunfire walk in."

He picked up his clothes and began pulling them on. He could feel her looking at him, and it wasn't as pleasant an experience as it had seemed before.

He felt like he'd made a big mistake.

Solar gave a bitter sounding laugh and stood with exquisite grace. "I'm gonna go take a shower. Why don't you do whatever it is you do?"

"Okay," he said.

He watched her leave the room, completely unselfconscious in her nakedness. She was well formed, tiny and pale with legs that seemed to go on forever, or maybe until they reached the floor.

Tony finished zipping his pants, then stumbled over to one of the recliners. He didn't want to sit on the couch where they had just had their assignation.

He flopped down on the leather chair and gave a heavy sigh.

He'd thought that having sex with her would somehow make him feel better, but that hadn't been the case. He still felt empty inside, drained of everything that had made his life worth living.

"Ashley," he whispered, tasting tears he refused to let fall. He cradled his head in his hands, hunching his shoulders small.

She'd been dead for close to a year and it still felt as fresh and horrible as when he'd seen her limp and broken body cradled in her father's arms. There'd been so much blood and bruised flesh that he hadn't recognized her at first, until all of a sudden she was all that he saw. It was like some strange optical illusion, everything clicking into horrible clarity.

"Ashley," he repeated, the sound of her name bringing him a terrible pain in his chest.

* * *

She'd never planned on feeling regret, but that was exactly what was flooding through her. No guilt, just the horror of disillusioned dreams.

Carrie scrubbed her body clean, wiping away every trace of *him*. The water was hot enough to burn her tender flesh, but she didn't care.

From the minute she'd first seen him, she'd been sure that he was everything she ever wanted. Now she knew that she'd made one of the worst mistakes of her life. Not that there was anything she could do about it, not with Ashley firmly in the grave.

*I doubt her dad's going to accept me just saying "Whoops." There's no way he would ever let it go if he ever suspected what I did*, she thought.

She curled her lip and rinsed the shampoo from her blond hair. Regrets were for losers, and there was no way she was ever going to fall into that trap.

As long as she pretended that everything was all right, eventually her lies would become the truth. Everyone would forget about Ashley and her lonely grave. And Carrie would never have to feel sorry.

Opening her mouth in a silent scream, she allowed herself one single moment of complete despair. Then she shut off the water, wrapped a towel around her body, and stepped out of the shower with perfect aplomb. Her bare toes flexed against the nubby green mat.

She dried off before pulling on her pale blue robe and leaving the bathroom.

She didn't even glance toward the living room as she padded down the hallway toward her bedroom. It was attached to Nathan's, something he'd insisted on. He was paranoid that something was going to happen to her, which was ridiculous.

If anyone tried anything she didn't like, she would have no problem crushing every bone in his or her body. It was all about respect.

* * *

If there was one thing Seth had learned, it was to hide his complete and utter surprise when something crazy happened. Like seeing his best friend walking around the Demi Lair naked.

Seth walked down the street, ignoring the admiring glances he received. It wasn't like he didn't know that he was completely gorgeous, in costume and out. Genetics had been kind to the members of his family.

It would have been easy for him to pick someone up for a wild tumble. Unfortunately, the one person he wanted was completely oblivious and obviously straight.

Seth sighed. It was only strength of will that kept him from slumping his shoulders. He was Sunfire, and Sunfire never looked defeated and sad.

*Especially* when he felt defeated and sad.

He'd never wanted anything in his life as badly as he wanted Tony. The fact that he knew it was never going to happen only made it worse.

He wandered the streets for what felt like hours before he judged it safe enough to return to the Lair. He hoped he wasn't going to walk in on anything truly horrifying. Though he couldn't help the slight quirk of his lips at the thought of naked Tony. That was something he wouldn't mind seeing again.

Sighing, he had to shake his head. Keeping secrets had never been something he was good at.

He paused for a moment in front of the elevator, fighting the urge to run in the opposite direction. He'd never thought he was a coward, but his hand trembled a little when he reached out to push the button.

It was with a sense of relief tinged with disappointment that he found Tony fully dressed. The air smelled of cleaning products, a lemony cleanser mixed with a floral air freshener.

He couldn't help looking around. "Well, at least you did a good cleaning job. I'm not going to have to worry about catching something when I sit on the furniture." He flopped down in his usual chair. "So where'd Solar go? Did she get all embarrassed about me seeing you guys and run off to hide?"

Tony shrugged despondently. "I don't know. I think she's in her room if she didn't go out a window or something."

Seth furrowed his brow. "What's going on with you? Why are you so down?"

Tony sighed and hunched on the couch, his hands covering his nose and mouth. "I totally thought I was having a good time until it was all over and I realized that nothing was real. She's not Ashley. And she's not what I want. So how could I have had sex with her like it was perfectly all right?"

Seth sighed. "Why do you always have to feel things so deeply or whatever? You have to turn every situation into a soap opera, just all this drama and angst. Why do you have to do that to yourself? Why can't you ever just be happy?"

"I wasn't always like this." Tony flopped sideways on the couch, bringing his legs up in a half curl that had Seth wondering if he should yell at him about shoes on the upholstery. Then he remembered that he didn't care. "Everything was different when Ashley was alive."

"No it wasn't," Seth disagreed. "You've always been a moody motherfucker. It's like you can't be happy for any length of time before you decide to wreck everything. Even when Ashley was alive, you guys were so on again, off again that we actually started a calendar listing your relationship status. And say what you will about Ashley--she could be a real, bullheaded bitch--she wasn't the one that was always chafing at you guys having a relationship. That was all you, buddy."

Tony gave him such a hurt look that Seth felt a stab of guilt, but he knew this was something that needed to be done. There was no way Tony was ever going to straighten himself out if everyone kept coddling him. He would keep insisting that he used to be different and he wasn't always such a moody bastard.

"She was the one that broke up with me," Tony said.

"Yeah, that last time," Seth said. "All the times before that were all you. It was like you would reach a point of too much happiness and suddenly feel a desperate need to wallow in misery. So you would wreck everything, spend a few weeks bathing in angst and woe, then you'd be back scratching at Ashley's door, desperate to get her back. Why did you always want to get her back?"

"Because she was the love of my life," Tony said. He seemed shocked that Seth would come back at him.

"I don't think that's true," Seth said. "I mean, sure, you loved her a lot. But at the end of the day, all she was was your enabler. She always came back to you no matter how much of a jerk you were. She'd take all your abuse and still come running when you called her name." He shook his head, giving Tony a sad look. "I'm sorry, but your relationship was the farthest from a healthy one that I have ever seen in my life."

"I can't believe you would say something like that to me," Tony said.

Seth shrugged. "It's been a long time coming. And this whole thing with Solar... that's a super bad idea right there. She's on your team and you and I both know that you don't really feel all that much for her, do you?"

Tony at least had the grace to look guilty. "I can already tell that things are going to be bad."

"What do you mean?" Seth asked.

"She ran off, which isn't a good sign." Tony sighed. "I think I screwed up."

Seth was surprised. He hadn't expected Tony to accept being criticized, but here he was already moving past it as though it didn't mean a thing to him. Which either showed a growing maturity, or more realistically meant that he was going to come back later ten times as hard.

If there was one gigantic flaw in Tony's makeup, it was the way he refused to let things go even when he should. Hopefully it wasn't going to be something that got him killed someday.

"It'll be all right," Seth said. "Solar is a big girl, and I'm pretty sure she'll be able to handle everything. The one you're going to have to worry about is Pulsar. Once he realizes what you've done with his sister... well, it's not going to be too pretty."

Tony grimaced. "I hardly thought of him at all. He's going to try and kick my ass, isn't he?"

"You did sleep with his precious sister." Seth shook his head. "That dude's gonna make you wish you were never born. He seems the type to hold a grudge too."

"Great." Tony scrubbed a hand down his face. "Why can't everything be simple?"

"Because it's never simple when you're trying to replace someone with someone else. There was no possible way that Solar could ever take the place of Ashley, so all you did was end up hurting someone, which was kind of a dick move."

"Well, my apologies your holiness, in the future I'll maintain your crazy strict ideal." Tony leaned his head back against the couch.

Seth couldn't help running his eyes down Tony's bared throat to his muscled chest and all the way down his long legs which were spread in casual abandon. He had to fight to keep from superimposing the image of naked Tony over the clothed one he was seeing now. That way only lay trouble.

"You just gotta be more considerate," Seth said.

"*You're* telling me to be more considerate?" Tony lifted his head to look at him in surprise.

"What?" Seth shrugged. "Have you ever seen anyone get so mad at me over something I've done that they've tried to beat me to death or anything? No. Why? Because I don't mess around with peoples' feelings. If you're going to have mindless sex, stick to people that aren't totally in love with you."

"Wait, so Solar really is in love with me?"

Seth stared at him for a long moment. "You're joking with me, aren't you?"

Tony still looked confused. "You're the one that said it."

"Oh my God, you honestly didn't know that Solar's been panting after you from the first time she saw you? Where have you been living, underneath a rock?" Seth couldn't help a twinge of pity for Solar, even though she wasn't one of his most favorite of people. "How could you not have realized that she's been trying to get into your pants for years? Her jealousy of Ashley could have melted steel with the heat of her passions."

"Well, that's pretty melodramatic."

"Melodramatic, but true." Seth reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of Tropical Fruit Mentos. "Want one?" He offered the roll.

Tony scoffed. "No thanks. I've screwed everything up and you think eating a bunch of candy is going to make things better?"

"Hey, it can't make things much worse." Seth peeled the wrapper and ate the first candy off the roll. "They're tasty."

"Fine, give me one." Tony held out his hand. Seth smiled a little and dropped a couple of candies into his palm. "Just watch everything get worse."

"Who ever thought the great Teen Steel would be such a pessimist? I feel so disillusioned." He shook his head mock-regretfully. "My dreams have been burst like soap bubbles."

"Have you thought about being a poet or something?" Tony asked.

"That's my fall-back job," Seth said, "you know, if the whole being a superhero thing doesn't work out."

"Well, at least you have job opportunities. If things don't work out for me, I'll probably end up flipping burgers or something."

Seth couldn't help laughing, covering his mouth with his fingers.

"It wasn't that funny," Tony said.

"No, no, it was just that I had this sudden image of you in a paper hat slinging burgers. So funny." He shook his head. "You'd be ridiculous."

"Well, I'm glad that at least one of us is having a good time." Tony laughed. "How do you do that?"

"Do what?" Seth asked.

Tony shrugged. "Make even the most God-awful days seem as though they can somehow be all right."

"It's a gift." Seth licked his lips. "Look, I know you screwed up with Solar and all that, but I'm not going to hold it against you. And maybe someday she's going to get over it. You better hope that Pulsar doesn't end up killing you in the meantime."

Tony grimaced, looking around. "Do you really think he's going to come after me?"

Seth snorted. "You don't? He's obsessed with his sister. I doubt that anything would be able to stand in the way of him 'guarding her honor.' Least of all whatever excuses you could come up with."

"Oh crap, I really screwed up, didn't I?" Tony rubbed his face.

"I won't let him seriously hurt you," Seth promised, "but it's going to be pretty awkward around here for a while. There's a reason why you're not supposed to mess around with your co-workers. One night stands are for people you're never going to meet again. It's to keep things from getting too ugly."

Tony groaned. It looked like it was starting to sink in that he had screwed up. He looked so dejected that Seth wanted to reassure him that things were going to be all right. He knew he couldn't, not if Tony was going to learn a valuable lesson anyway.

Seth didn't plan on going anywhere, but sometimes things didn't work out as expected. He wanted to know that Tony could handle himself. It was a lot better than having to scramble around cleaning up his mess afterward. Just because he liked the guy--probably more than he should--didn't mean he was going to let himself be snow jobbed.

Seth sat beside Tony in silence. He knew there was going to be trouble and there wasn't a whole lot he could do about it.

Tony had made his bed. Now they were all going to have to deal with it.


Things had gotten awkward and Tony didn't know what to do about it. He'd screwed things up and no amount of apologizing was going to make things right again.

Every time Solar looked at him, he couldn't help cringing a little. She'd never been his favorite member of the Teen Demis, but she was one of his teammates. He'd known better than to mess around with her, and now things were coming around to bite him on the ass.

He could already tell things were about to blow up. Especially considering the poisonous looks Pulsar kept sending him.

Tony didn't think Solar had said anything to her brother, but Pulsar had a sixth sense about her. And he wasn't the kind of guy to let anything go. So it was kind of a given that there was going to be a giant clash of the "one night stand" and "wrathful brother" variety. There was no avoiding it. He was destined to be guy that messed things up.

Tony found himself spending a lot of time with Sunfire, hanging around and playing video games. It gave him the chance to regain his equilibrium. Ashley was still dead and there was still a gaping emptiness inside where she used to be, but he was starting to think that maybe he would be okay. His life would be able to go on.

He had to keep living through each day as it happened. There was nothing else he could do. At some point all the awkwardness would either come bubbling to a head or dissipate. He couldn't help hoping that it would all slip away. He could live a life with quiet resentment if it kept him from facing such a volatile situation.

There shouldn't have been any surprise when things blew up. It was to happen.

One minute he was playing video games and had managed to forget his problems, the next he was flying headfirst into the large TV screen. All he could do was close his eyes and ready himself for a painful impact.

His ankle was caught by one super strong hand and he was jerked backward to slam against Sunfire's chest. The dude really did have some amazing pectorals. Not that Tony was noticing their niceness or anything.

"Thanks." He tugged his shirt straight, then turned to give Pulsar a hard glare. "What's the deal, man?"

"What the fuck did you do to my sister?" Pulsar's eyes blazed golden fire and he seemed an inch away from going full on meltdown.

Tony felt unease creep through his lower belly, though he didn't let anything show on his face. "So what, you're now the guy that tries to kill people first, then ask questions afterward?"

"You wouldn't have died," Pulsar scoffed. "I'd have to work at it a little harder than that."

"Wow, that is so completely not comforting," Tony said. Sunfire was a line of warmth at his back, just the backup he would need if Pulsar decided to go all homicidal or something.

"Tell me what you did to my sister." Pulsar's hands clenched into fists at his sides. "Tell me, or I pound it out of you."

It was only survival instinct that kept Tony from mouthing off about Solar and "pounding." For one thing, he would never say anything so rude about a girl he'd slept with, and for another, he didn't want to die. And from the look in his eye, Pulsar would definitely kill him, no ifs, ands, or buts.

"Look, she and I considered getting together, but we came to the mutual decision that it wouldn't work out between us. We're too different." Tony felt as though he was tap dancing on some very thin ice, but it wasn't like he had a choice. Not if he wanted to remain unmaimed.

Pulsar gave him a suspicious look before turning on his heel and leaving the room as soundlessly as he'd entered.

"I don't think this is over," Tony said.

"Ya think?" Sunfire rolled his green eyes. "Once he figures out the truth--and he totally will--that guy is going to kill you."

"Thank you for being such a comfort," Tony said.

"I try."

Rolling his eyes, Tony sat back down on the couch and picked up his controller. He didn't feel much like playing anymore, but he didn't know what else he should do.

If Pulsar decided to kill him, well, then he'd be dead. There wasn't a whole lot he could do about it. In the metaphorical power Olympics, Pulsar had a gold medal while Tony hadn't even placed.

* * *

Seth shot Tony a worried look. His stomach felt like it was bound up in knots and he didn't know what he should say.

He hadn't realized Pulsar was there or what the guy was planning on doing. It was only quick reflexes that had let him save Tony--if he'd been even a second too slow ...

He hated how screwed up everything was getting. More than anything he wanted Tony to stop being so damned self-destructive.

Tony had to have known that Pulsar would go apeshit once he realized something had happened to Solar. The guy was pathological and Seth had some serious concerns for him. There was no way his sister obsession was healthy. No way at all.

Tony's willingness to put himself in the middle of such an explosive dynamic made it clear that he really wasn't in his right mind. He was in desperate need for someone to save him from himself.

After weeks of stepping in to be a distraction, Seth had noticed that Tony was beginning to come out of his broody funk. Of course, he'd already fucked Solar, and there was no way Seth was bitter about that. And it wasn't like Seth ever lied to himself at all.

He sighed.

"What's wrong?" Tony asked, not looking away from the TV screen. His thumbs kept working the controller as he killed zombies. "It wasn't like you almost got murked by your own teammate."

"The fact that you're not bothered by what happened is what's wrong." Seth raked a hand through his hair. "He could have killed you and you didn't do a single thing to stop it."

"He kind of took me by surprise. Who ever expects something like that?"

Seth growled in frustration. "You should have been expecting something to happen from the minute you decided to mess around with Solar."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm an idiot," Tony said, "I know. I realized it was a mistake not long after it happened. Probably as soon as I got off. But at this point there's nothing I can do to change what's happened. Done is done."

"At least you're willing to face reality," Seth said. "I guess that's something."

"Sure, just call me Captain Obvious," Tony said.

"And I'll be Captain Hindsight since I saw this coming more than a mile away."

"I'm pretty dumb, huh?" Tony paused the game and looked right at him out of soulful brown eyes.

Seth couldn't help himself and slid across the couch to give him a comforting bro-hug. "Yeah, you are pretty dumb about some things. I'm thinking that's why I'm around. To keep a close eye on you and make sure you don't screw stuff up too badly."

"Thanks, but if that's the case, then you completely dropped the ball this time," Tony joked. He leaned into the comfort of Seth's loose hug.

It took a lot of willpower on Seth's part not to sniff Tony's hair or pop a boner. He was proud of his self-control. "I'd just like to say, when it comes to your latest total screw up, I am but a man, an incredibly handsome man, but a man nonetheless."

Tony snorted a laugh, glancing up at Seth. "Please don't use your hero voice to say stuff like that. I don't think I'll be able to take it."

"What are you talking about, 'hero voice?' I was using my regular voice," Seth protested. "That's how I always talk."

"Sure." Tony sat up straight, his face becoming a forbidding mask. His voice was a few octaves lower when he spoke, "I am but a man. Please, gentle citizens, do not bow down before me, as I am a man like you. An incredibly awesome man."

"I don't sound like that!" Seth yelled. Then he quirked a smile. "You really think I'm awesome?"

Tony shoved his shoulder. "I'm surprised I can even fit into the room with both you and your ego."

Seth beamed at him. Sure, Tony was facing a psychotic Pulsar, but he also seemed to be coming back to life. He'd been in such a dark mood for so long that it was nice to see him going back to normal.

"Whatever, dude," Seth said, standing up. "You wanna go get something to eat?"

Tony chewed his lip, then shrugged. "Sounds like a plan. I think I need to get out of here before things get all crazy."

"Gee, I appreciate being your excuse to get out of stuff," Seth said, going to retrieve his jacket from the hall closet. He figured that if they went out in Joe Normal mode they could eat without being bothered. "You're lucky I'm hungry or I would leave you here."

"That's so hurtful," Tony said.

"Whatever." Seth threw Tony's jacket at him. "Let's get out of here."

He waited by the elevator for Tony to find his wallet and his keys and whatever else he thought he needed. It seemed like he spent most of his time waiting for Tony. It didn't even bother him anymore.

"Okay, we can go," Tony said, trotting toward him.

Seth forced down the bubble of happiness he always experienced when Tony looked at him like that, as though he were important. "You take forever getting ready," he said gruffly.

Tony shrugged and slapped the elevator button. "That's part of my charm."

"Some charm," Seth said.

The elevator doors slid open and Seth gestured Tony in first. "Do you want to hit up that sandwich place?"

Tony made a face. "I want some actual food. Let's go to NSFW."

"A strip club?" Seth's eyebrows rose high enough that he thought he could feel them scraping his hairline.

"They have great chicken wings," Tony said. He laughed at Seth's expression. "Don't worry, I've not become some kind of sex fiend or anything. There's a separate restaurant and we don't even have to see any of the strippers. We're just going there to eat."

Seth wasn't sure, but Tony looked so excited that he didn't want to be the one to break the mood. "All right. But let's stay away from the strippers. I don't think I could deal with the PR nightmare if we were recognized in a place like that."

"Relax." Tony shook his head with a chuckle. "I half expect you to call it a den of iniquity or something. You need to calm down about stuff or you're going to give yourself high blood pressure or something."

"Yeah, I'm really worried about high blood pressure," Seth said dryly. It wasn't like he went out and fought supervillains or anything.

Tony rolled his eyes. "Calm down, I promise to protect your maidenly virtue. Now come on. You'll have a good time, I promise."


It was a shock to find out Tony was right.

He was having a great time.

They were sitting in the safety of the restaurant and it was so normal looking that he could almost forget what kind of place he was in. And they had some truly delicious chicken wings as an appetizer.

"I was right, wasn't I?"

Seth met Tony's cocky grin head on and had to wince away. "God, you're obnoxious."

"Obnoxiously right," Tony said, "like all the time." He gnawed all the meat from a chicken wing and didn't even care that he got hot sauce all over his fingers and mouth.

"You're gross." Seth made a face.

Tony wiped his hands off on a napkin, then grabbed his cup of Bolt Cola. He slurped it down until ice was the only thing left and kept slurping as loudly as possible. "Ah, good stuff." He plunked his cup down with a satisfied grin.

Seth sighed. "That's your real superpower, isn't it? Being disgusting and annoying."

"I'm also incredibly handsome." Tony grinned.

Seth bit his tongue to keep from agreeing with him. That way lay crocodiles.

"This place isn't so bad," Seth offered.

"It's not, is it," Tony agreed. "The first time I came in here, I was nervous. But it's actually pretty quiet and I don't have to worry so much about anyone getting in my business. Plus, it's the one place in the city I can go to get away from the rest of the team."

"Yet you invited me here," Seth said.

Tony looked embarrassed, but refrained from running a hand through his hair as he habitually did. Probably because his hands were covered in chicken wing sauce.

"You're my friend," Tony said, looking at the tabletop. "This place seemed like something I wanted to share with you."

"So it's like *our* place?" Seth asked.

"Well, yeah," Tony said.

"Okay," Seth said, "great." He hoped he didn't look as completely blown away as he felt. It was a battle to keep a giant grin off his face.

"Yeah." Tony shifted, then sat straight upright, his chin going firm. "You wanna split a club sandwich with me? They make an awesome club, but it's way too big after all those chicken wings."


"You can have the pickle," Tony wheedled. He pouted his lower lip out and all of Seth's willpower fled the scene.

"All right," Seth said, "just 'cause you offered me the pickle."

"Awesome!" Tony cheered quietly.

Seth smiled. It was nice seeing his friend come back to life. It made him want to believe that everything was going to be okay.


"What?" Tony asked dumbly.

Powergirl's eyes were like gimlets. "For some reason Solar decided she wanted to switch to Teen Demis West Coast. Pulsar, of course, is going along with her. For some reason I feel like we're losing two of our members because of something *you* did."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Tony said. He imagined he could feel a trail of sweat working its way down the side of his neck. He was definitely the focus of her evil eye and he figured at any moment Powergirl would start sucking the meat from his bones. It was a daunting prospect.

If there was something she'd definitely fly off the handle about, it was the idea of someone screwing up the team dynamic. She took her role as team leader *very* seriously.

Tony had a feeling that when the whole story came out he was going to get his ass kicked. He figured he should enjoy the anonymity as long as it lasted. He would be hating life soon enough.

"So, they're both leaving the group?" he asked. "Won't that leave us short handed?"

Powergirl gave a sudden, tired shrug. "The only good thing is that this is happening in the off season. We'll be able to start recruiting some new members and get some people trained up before the season starts." She reached forward to grab the bowl of chips Tony had left on the table. She slouched on the couch and cradled the bowl in her arms as she began to snack.

It was a rather incongruous picture she presented: young demigod in her uniform of leather skirt and chest armor. The bowl was green plastic, the chips the bright orange of their cheddar cheese and sour cream flavoring. A figure representing the hope of a generation, chomping on chips and letting her relative youth shine for once.

Sometimes Tony worried that Powergirl would suffer a heart attack due to all the pressure she put on herself to be perfect.

They maybe didn't hang out in their time off, but Tony still saw Powergirl as a friend. He didn't like the idea of her driving herself too far. It didn't seem worth it.

"It's gonna be all right," he said. "Take it from me, Sunfire and I will both help you in whatever. You don't need to think you have to handle everything alone."

She slumped back on the couch. She'd stolen his spot, but he let her have it and perched on an armchair instead. She was not wearing a face he wanted to argue with.

"Why me?" she asked. "I'm pretty sure previous team leaders never had it so hard. I bet they got to have actual days off and could sleep at night without being woken up at all hours."

"Are you regretting volunteering for the job?" Tony asked.

"I should have known better," she said. "When you--a Legacy--practically ran screaming from the job, I should have known it wasn't gonna be all cake and pie."

"Nope, it's also some serious shit," Tony laughed.

"Thank you," Powergirl said. "Thank you for making me feel like even more of a jerk for taking the leadership job. Did you know I gave up going to college for this superhero gig?"

Tony winced. "I'm sorry."

Powergirl--Danica Strong--shrugged like it didn't matter. "What are you sorry for? I mean, this is something I've wanted my whole life. It's a little more work than I thought it would be as a child. Still, *I* think it's worth it."

Tony eyed her for a moment. "Are you trying to make me feel even worse? Is this some super sly guilt trip thing?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

Tony shook his head. "Never mind," he said. "So we're opening up positions on the team. That'll be fun times for all, am I right?"

She grimaced. "You would be wrong. If there's one thing I hate about an open recruitment, it's that all the crazies come out of the woodwork. Every single one of them looking for their chance to be annoying. It gets on my nerves."

"Wow, have you thought about poster work?" he asked. He made a frame with his hands. "I can picture it now: *Powergirl says, 'Get a life, you wannabe losers*.' It's a million dollar idea."

She rolled her eyes at him. "You're kind of embarrassing to be around."

"But you know you love me!" He waggled his eyebrows until she laughed, throwing a chip at him. He caught it with adroit skill and stuck it in his mouth. "Thanks!"

She waved a hand at him. "Whatever. Go do whatever it is you do when you're not playing video games."

He clutched a hand to his chest. "But Dani, it's the middle of the day! Aren't you worried I'm going to end up with horribly hairy palms?"

Powergirl made a disgusted face. "Oh gross, TMI, way too much, for reals."

He laughed and stood up, shuffling toward the elevator door and the freedom of *outside*. "Well, if you don't need me..." He flashed her a bright smile. "I'll see you later then!"

He slapped his hand on the button, then darted into the elevator as soon as it opened. There was no way he wanted to linger and give her a real chance to bust him. That way lay madness and a boring lecture.

When he was finally standing outside the building, he had to wonder where he was going to go. All he'd thought about was *escape*, there'd been no destination in mind.

Tony shoved his hands into his jacket pockets and wandered down the street, his shoulders slumped. He hated when his screw ups came with consequences attached.

He didn't want Solar or Pulsar to quit the group. If he could have, he would have gone back in time and slapped himself for being an idiot jerk. Though knowing his luck, the paradox of having two of him in the same space and time would immediately end the universe.

*Life is hard*, he thought. Then he had to grimace when he realized he was feeling sorry for himself once again. It seemed like every time he lost focus, he fell into an invisible pit of despair. And since he didn't want to be *that* guy, when he caught himself he would feel like a jerk.

Once again he had to admit that Sunfire was right when he called him a doom and gloomer. He spent too much of his life being unhappy.

*I wonder where Sunfire is*, he thought.

The other superhero had left the Demi Lair early in the morning and hadn't answered any of Tony's text messages. It was aggravating as Tony was wandering around with nothing to do.

*You use the guy a lot*, he thought. And it was true that he always seemed to go to Sunfire for help in solving his problems. It was just that the guy was always there for him and never complained or acted like he was too busy.

It seemed natural for Tony to take advantage of that willingness to help. But when he thought about it, he felt like a jerk.

Tony felt new resolve fill him and walked with more confidence as he came up with an idea of where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do.

Sunfire was always helping him out and never asked for anything in return. So he figured he might as well get the guy a gift to show that he appreciated the fact that he was always there. He didn't want Sunfire to ever feel taken advantage of, not when he meant so much to Tony.

There had been a time in Tony's life where he'd had so many people he called friend that he hadn't known what to do with them all. Then he'd discovered the meaning of "fair weather friend" and received a good dose of bitter reality.

Sunfire had become one of his best friends. It wasn't something he'd expected when he'd joined the group and met the handsome superhero for the first time. From his looks and rather extravagant way of acting, Tony had been sure that Sunfire was going to be an arrogant narcissist. Instead, Sunfire was one of the most down-to-earth, generous superheroes Tony had ever met.

The unflinching support Sunfire had given him after Ashley's death made Tony appreciate his friendship more. The sometimes acerbic wit was a bonus as far as he was concerned.

Filled with purpose, he strode down the sidewalk toward a store he'd walked past, but never entered. High fashion wasn't his thing, he was more a jeans and tee shirt kind of guy when it came to the clothes he wore outside his uniform. But he knew that Sunfire appreciated expensive clothes.

Pushing open the door, he had to use his heroic bravery to get himself to step inside. This definitely wasn't his kind of place, he could tell just by the music playing.

"Can I help you find anything?" the salesman asked, appearing at his elbow while he wandered amongst the shirts. He looked like he worked out a bit, enough to keep himself fit and toned so his tee shirt could stretch skintight across his chest. Tony had to fight to keep from looking at the guy's nipples.

"Uh, yeah, I guess," he muttered, then cleared his throat. "I'm looking for a gift for a friend. Maybe a nice sweater or something."

"All right. Well we have some nice cashmere stuff over here." The guy tugged on Tony's arm, pulling him toward a middle display.

Tony wasn't sure about the casual contact. Some stranger touching him without permission seemed like something he shouldn't put up with. But the salesman had done it so naturally that he thought he might come across like a total jerk if he objected.

"What color are your friend's eyes?" the salesman asked, already beginning to sort through a pile of bright crew-necked sweaters.

"Green," Tony said, watching him bemusedly. He'd never had someone take over his life so casually before.

"Well, these are what we have--the ones I like the best anyway." The man held out three sweaters.

Tony brushed his fingers across one and found it to be so soft his fingers tingled. "Wow, these are nice." He took the one he thought most resembled the hue of Sunfire's eyes.

"I think I'm gonna take this one." He looked around. "And do you have cologne? He said something about running out of the stuff he normally uses."

"Of course." The salesman tucked the discarded shirts back on the shelf, then led Tony across the store to a glass display cabinet.

Looking at all those little bottles and boxes trapped behind glass, Tony felt a bit out of his element. He was happy to let the salesman steer his choices.

Soon he found himself standing in front of the trendy boutique, blinking in the sunlight with the handle of a bag clenched in his fist. He felt a bit as though he'd been spit out by a whirlwind.

He'd gotten the sweater and cologne for Sunfire. He'd also been talked into a pair of expensive jeans and a couple of tee shirts for himself. He wasn't quite sure how it had even happened.

Tony shook his head. Either that sales guy had the most subversive metability he'd ever come across, or Tony was more of a sucker than he'd realized.

He started walking back toward the Demi Lair, his wallet much poorer than when he'd started the day. He hoped Sunfire liked what he'd bought him or he'd feel like even more or a tool.

* * *

There was definitely a weird vibe in the air. It made him kind of glad that Tony had used his day off to go out. There was the sense that everything was about to blow up.

"What the hell is going on?" Queen Midnight whispered, her eyes flicking around.

"No clue," Seth answered.

She sighed and leaned against the wall next to him. Whatever was going on, they'd both taken the opportunity to duck out of the line of fire.

Powergirl looked pissed as she stomped around. She paused every once and a while to shoot a glare at Solar, who was busy bossing Pulsar around.

The twins looked like they were packing up everything they owned. Though no one had even said why.

He glanced at Queen Midnight out of the corner of his eye. He wondered if she'd even noticed the tension that had filled the place ever since Tony hadn't been able to keep it in his pants around Solar. She always came across as happily oblivious, but he knew a lot more went on behind her heavily kohled eyes than she bothered to show.

Looking at Solar, he couldn't help the resentment he felt. She was tiny and pretty and she always had one eye turned toward Tony. And she'd gotten him too, even if it was only for one night.

There was no way Seth was going to say that Tony was completely innocent. He'd definitely known what he was doing when he had sex with her. But the way she was playing it off to her brother...

Seth narrowed his eyes. She was folding a bunch of towels while Pulsar hefted large boxes out of their rooms and stacked them on the floor next to the elevator.

"So, where the hell are they going?" Queen Midnight asked.

Seth shrugged. "I have no idea. We're obviously not important members of the group if they don't feel the need to tell us what's going on."

She snorted, her silver bracelets jangling as she rubbed the tip of her nose with the back of her hand. "So I guess they're leaving the group permanently. I wonder who we're gonna get to replace them."

"We'll find out a week after we get our new members. And it's not like I'm bitter about that or anything."

"Heh, you sound pretty bitter," she said. "Are we supposed to be helping these guys pack up or anything?"

"No way," Seth scoffed. "If they can't bother to let us know they're leaving, then we don't have to help them with their shit."

Pulsar paused in carrying an overlarge box to give him a rather nasty look, but Seth didn't care. He was tired of all the crap and was to the point where he could vaporize the jerk twins without a single regret.

He'd spent the bulk of his life trying to be the nice guy, and he honestly was very laid-back, but he was quickly reaching his breaking point. Mostly because everyone kept trying to drag him into the middle of their drama whether he wanted to be involved or not.

He didn't know how it had happened, but at some point he'd stopped thinking of his teammates as friends or even people he wanted to make a good impression on. The only one he really cared about was Tony, and that was because he had the hots for him.

Seth glanced at Queen Midnight. Outside of the goth clothes and the freaky supernatural powers she was usually a rather normal girl. She did have a tendency to fall into depressive moods. For months at a time she would wallow in angst and woe as she brooded about the possibility of ending up in hell when she died. It was part and parcel with the whole "sold half her soul for superpowers" deal she had going. Hers was a sad story, and he really *did* sympathize with her, but she could become a downer to be around for too long.

Still, even at her most depressed and gloomy, he'd feel worse about Queen Midnight leaving than he was about the twins. They were just coworkers, not any kind of friend. Sure, they'd stopped some crime together and been rewarded, but it was all part of the job. The nearest they'd ever come to hanging out was when he'd done that rather slick spread with the two of them for Super People Magazine. They'd barely had any contact otherwise, and team meals didn't count.

When it came down to it, the twins were rarely a blip on his radar. They were his teammates, not his friends. When the job was done for the day he told them goodnight and that was that.

Seth crossed his arms and watched what was happening around him.

"I wonder where they're going to go," Queen Midnight mused. She'd pulled a blade out from somewhere and was using the sharp point to clean under her nails.

"I don't care." Seth watched Solar pick up a small box and carry it for herself into the elevator. Her long blond hair had been pulled back into two side-by-side ponytails and she wore a green tee shirt and dark wash denim shorts. Her legs were long and bare and there wasn't a single hint of a sock creeping out of her black sneakers.

She was pretty and perky and it was a battle to keep from clawing her eyes out. Every time he saw her, all he could think about was Tony wrapped up in her arms, pressing his lips against hers as he slipped between her legs.

He couldn't say that he wasn't jealous when the sight of her made him want to push her out the door. Her presence put him on edge, and he wasn't that upset about her leaving the team.

Seth sighed and pushed away from the wall to head into the kitchen. He pulled open the fridge and grabbed a package of lunch meat, a package of cheese, a bag of spinach, a plump tomato, and the squeeze bottle of mayonnaise.

"Do you want a sandwich?" he asked Queen Midnight, popping open the lid of the mayonnaise before grabbing up a sharp knife. She looked completely lost as she watched the twins packing up their stuff.

She blinked at him, her eyes flicking down to the tomato he was slicing. She shook herself. "A sandwich, sure. That would be nice."

He offered her a smile that she hesitantly returned. There was a shine to her eyes that had him thinking that maybe he should spend more time with her as a friend. She wasn't his favorite person, but she was a teammate, someone he depended on to keep him alive when he went out to fight the baddies. And it wasn't like she was terrible to be around or anything.

"All right, that's everything," Pulsar announced, standing in the middle of the room. He was wearing a tight orange tee shirt and dark washed jeans. Even with his mask half covering his face he managed to look like a douchebag. It was one of the few things Seth liked about Pulsar. He was honest to a fault, never hiding the fact that he wasn't a nice guy.

"If you contact the usual cleaning place, we'll pay the bill. I've left our keys in the bowl there. Hold onto any mail that comes in and I'll send for it later." Pulsar was matter of fact. He was treating them as though they were strangers.

Seth grit his teeth and finished assembling the sandwich he was making before starting the next. "Hand me a plate," he told Queen Midnight.

She bit her lip a second, then hurried to the cupboard behind him. She seemed shocked by Pulsar's behavior.

Seth could have told her that Pulsar was a jerk. He was so wrapped up in his sister that there wasn't room for anyone else in his world. There was a more than good chance that he'd never had a date in his life.

Solar wanted to leave, so that's what the twins would do. And as easy as that, Pulsar went from trusted teammate, to just another costumed hero they might work with someday in the future.

Seth made a mental note to have all the locks and codes changed. He didn't trust anyone.

He gave Queen Midnight a small smile when she set two plates down in front of the cutting board. He plopped a sandwich on one plate and pushed it toward her with his finger.

"Thank you," she whispered, taking her plate and backing up until she could lean against the counter behind him. She was trying hard not to look at Pulsar, her face kept studiously downturned as she took small bites.

"Well, don't you have something to say, Sunfire? You always have an opinion on everything."

Dropping his sandwich on his plate, Seth pushed up his sleeves and went to wash his hands at the sink. He squeezed the thick, orange smelling soap into his palms and rubbed them together before rinsing them under the hottest water the faucet could produce. He wiped his hands off on the kitchen towel, then turned and calmly faced Pulsar. "I don't know what you expect me to say. We were comrades and now we're not. Good luck in all your future endeavors."

Pulsar snorted. "I always knew you were a class act." He shook his head and announced to the rest of the room, "We're leaving."

"Don't be so rude, Nate," Solar said, stepping out of the elevator. "We're really sorry to be leaving like this." She smiled, showing off her pearly white teeth. She'd always gotten what she wanted and would do whatever to keep the status quo.

"I know it leaves you all in the lurch, but we felt like it's time for us to move on. We'll really miss you though." She held her hand out to Pulsar, her bangle bracelets clinking together. "Let's go. We have a long drive ahead of us. Goodbye!"

With that, they were gone. If the elevator could have slammed, the sound would have been a loud one.

"Can you believe those guys? Really!" Powergirl flung up her hands and stalked toward her room. There was the sound of her door slamming.

"Well, that went well," Seth said, taking a big bite out of his sandwich.

* * *

There was a weird vibe in the air when he got back to the Demi Lair. It set Tony's skin creeping and he was immediately on high alert, his powers activating. He felt better with his invulnerability wrapped close around him.

"What's going on?" he asked, carrying the shopping bags to the L-shaped couches.

Sunfire was sitting on his recliner playing a video game on the big screen. He didn't even look at Tony. "The twins left."

"Where to?" Tony asked, flopping down next to the bags and propping his feet on the coffee table. He didn't want to think about Solar, not when he was full of so many regrets over what they'd done. He'd never been that fond of playing the bad guy, especially when he felt as though he'd done wrong.

"They're leaving the group." Sunfire focused on his game. The controller clacked under his fingers while on screen characters died amongst the explosions. "I called to arrange for the locks to be changed and for the cleaning service to come through. I figure we should have the whole place cleaned while we're at it. It's more cost-effective."

Tony groaned and covered his face with his hands. "Why does this keep getting worse and worse?"

"Is this a bro-moment?" Sunfire asked, tossing a plasma grenade. "Am I supposed to be all supportive and 'Dude, bitch is crazy' just because you weren't smart enough not to screw a teammate? Yeah, that's not happening. You done wrong *bro*."

"Wow," Tony said, "you know how to make me feel like a piece of crap."

"The crappier you feel now," Sunfire said, "the less likely I'll catch you sexing up our last two female members. I don't want to have to beat you up. That'd be lame."

"I don't think I'd enjoy it that much either," Tony said.

Sunfire had always been the closest to him in the Teen Demis after Ashley. Now that she was gone--*dead*--Sunfire was the only real friend Tony had in the group. He didn't know what he would do if Sunfire turned from him.

"God, you're such a dick." Tony thumped his fists against his forehead, then leaned forward to grab the red game controller from under the table. He activated it and chose his usual guy.

"Did I say I wanted to play with you?" Sunfire asked.

"Shut up and let's play," Tony growled, lobbing some grenades of his own.

Sunfire sighed, but went back to playing.

They fell into a companionable silence, the only sound the game. For a little while, even if everything wasn't all right, it was bearable. And that was good enough.

By the time the city had grown dark outside, they'd managed to amass a large collection of empty Thunder Bolt energy drink cans. Tony lifted his head and experienced a long moment of disconnect. When he glanced at the clock, he was surprised to find that they had been playing for close to three hours.

"Holy crap." He rubbed his hand over his face. "I'm going to take a piss, then order the world's biggest pizza. I'm starving."

"Yeah, food sounds good," Sunfire said, straightening his long legs out and pointing his toes. "And pizza with you seems like the best thing ever."

"Nice." Tony ran off to the bathroom.

He still felt bad about Solar and Pulsar leaving the Teen Demis, but there wasn't anything he could do about. The twins had already left and there was no forwarding address for them. So he would go on with his life and he would never make that same mistake again.

Having sex with a coworker was messy. Especially when one person got totally butthurt that things didn't work out.

It had taken him a long time, but he knew now that Solar--Carrie--was in love with him. And knowing or not, he'd taken advantage of her for his own selfish desires. He'd hurt her doing it too, and that made him an asshole.

So it was good that she was gone. He wouldn't constantly be hurting her with his presence and she would be able to get a fresh start. It wasn't like there's been much holding the twins in the area. And once they'd been in the Teen Demis, they could hire on to any supergroup they wanted or go solo.

The twins had made a smart choice for *them*. And he would have to deal with the guilt he felt at running them off.

Thus began his closer than usual friendship with Sunfire.