Title: Tuesday Night
Author: Sol Crafter
Genre: superhero
A/N: This is Part One of Tuesday Night.
Content Warning: Begins with a m/f scene, but the rest is m/m romance.

Summary: What if Ashley never came back? Tony has to continue alone, after a few false starts and a couple of life-changing mistakes.

ONE

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

He cried himself to sleep on the nights like those, 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 he would suddenly come back alive again. It was as though he'd been given the permission he needed to hear to be able 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 awhile, but there was no way he was going to be able to withstand such force for very 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 had to be grateful that Sunfire always seemed to show up just 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 just wasn't in the mood to talk. He just seemed to make allowances in their relationship for times when Tony would be silently moody.

It was kind of funny how such a tragedy could have led to him realizing just how great a friend Sunfire actually was. Always before he had just thought the man was kind of irresponsible. The kind of guy that would forget a birthday and would never be around when he was really needed.

Tony had had his eyes pried open when he realized just how thoughtful a guy Sunfire really was. Sure, he said dumb stuff sometimes, but he always remembered a promise and he always seemed to know what to say and what not to say. 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 just needed that little bit of breathing room.

Which is how Tony found himself lounging on the couch in the common living area with Solar writhing in his lap, rubbing her naked breasts against his lips.

He'd never really had that much of a fondness for 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 just 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 probably one of those chicks that could only make love to another metahuman. Anyone normal, she would probably kill in the heat of passion, which he figured was probably a real deal breaker.

He had to consciously activate his ability. If he didn't do it, he was just a normal human. Which sucked during surprise attacks, but meant that he could have a normal life where he didn't have to worry about accidentally killing someone.

A meta like Solar didn't have the option of shutting her ability off. It was always there, and the people around her were all so fragile that one slip up could be a tragedy.

He didn't really enjoy that he had to hold her back from crushing him. It kind of took away from his enjoyment in the situation.

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 was no chance she would really be able to hurt him.

With Solar he didn't have any kind of guarantee.

Solar came with a ululating moan, then flopped sideways in a curve. Her legs were still splayed wide, her sex 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.

Tony got up from between her legs to walk toward the bathroom.

So it was just his luck that the elevator door entrance slipped open and Sunfire walked in.

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 picked up his shopping bags and put them neatly 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 as the elevator doors shut. He caught Sunfire's eye and for a minute he thought he saw hurt feelings there, but 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 probably get some wash cloths to clean Solar up with.

Ashley had taught him to be thoughtful.

.

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

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 had led to him realizing that Solar had really strong feelings for him, like actual love feelings, which was way beyond the crush he'd just thought she'd had.

All he'd ever felt for her were the emotions of an older brother. But now she was growing up and she wanted more from him than he thought he was willing to give.

Except loneliness and desperation had eaten away at his scruples and he'd let himself do something he probably should regret.

And that was why he felt bad for her. Because she was so insignificant to him that he didn't even feel guilty about taking advantage of her. In fact, he didn't even feel bad at all. She was so pathetic that he didn't have it in him to really even care that he was taking her innocence away from her.

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 dolefully for a moment, 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 really 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 to me."

"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 back on. He could feel her looking at him, and it wasn't as pleasant an experience as it had seemed before.

He just felt like he'd made a big mistake.

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

"Okay," he said dumbly.

He watched her leave the room, completely unselfconscious in her nakedness. She was beautifully formed, tiny and pale with legs that seemed to go on forever, or maybe just 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 nearly 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 just clicking into sudden, horrible clarity.

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

*.*.*

She'd never planned on their ever feeling regrets, 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 even care.

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

I highly 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 all 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 and everyone would forget about Sonic Pulse 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 flexing against the nubby mat.

She calmly 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 completely paranoid that something was going to happen to her, which was utterly 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 walking in and seeing his best friend walking around the Demi Lair naked.

Seth walked down the street, ignoring the admiring glances he received by the people he passed. It wasn't like he didn't know that he was completely gorgeous, in costume and out.

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

Seth sighed heavily. 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.

Never in his life had he wanted something so 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. Hopefully 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 wasn't something he would really mind seeing again.

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

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

No one could ever accuse him of having a lack of bravery.

It was with a sense of relief tinged with disappointment that he found Tony fully dressed and the Lair smelling of cleaning products.

He couldn't help looking around though. "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 down 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 heavily. "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 upholstery. Then he remembered that he didn't really care. "Everything was different when Ashley was alive."

"No it wasn't," Seth disagreed. "You've always been a pretty moody motherfucker. It's like you just can't be happy for any length of time before you decide to totally 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, but 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 just kept coddling him. He would just 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 you would 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 would be scratching at Ashley's door again, desperate to get her back. Why did you always want to get her back?"

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

"I don't really think that's true," Seth said. "I mean, sure, you loved her a lot. But at the end of the day, all she really 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 before 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 usually a very good sign." Tony sighed. "I think I really screwed up."

Seth was kind of surprised. He hadn't expected Tony to be so mature about being criticized, but there 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 just let things go even when he should. Hopefully it wasn't going to be one of those things 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 really 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 really 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, his body spread open in false welcome.

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's 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 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 totally 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." Seth 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'd 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." Seth shook his head. "You'd be absolutely ridiculous."

"Well, I'm glad that at least one of us is having a good time." Tony couldn't help laughing though. He stopped and gave Seth a solemn look. "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 totally 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 just 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 or something?"

Seth snorted. "You don't? He's totally obsessed with his sister, and I highly 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."

"Oh crap, I really screwed up, didn't I?" Tony rubbed his face. It just seemed as though every time he turned around he ended up screwing something up. It sincerely had him wondering if he hadn't been cursed somehow.

"I won't let him seriously hurt you," Seth promised, "but it's going to be pretty awkward around here for awhile. There's a reason why you're not supposed to mess around with your co-workers or anyone else that you still have to deal with afterward. One night stands are only supposed to happen with someone you've only met one time and never again. It's to keep things from getting too ugly."

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

Seth didn't ever really plan on going anywhere, but sometimes things didn't work out as expected and he would rather that Tony knew how to handle himself. It was a lot better than having to scramble around cleaning up his mess afterward.

Just because he liked the guy-probably much more than he should-didn't mean he was going to let himself be snow jobbed.

Seth sat beside Tony in silence. He figured the other boy needed the chance to realize just what he'd done.

He just knew there was going to be trouble and there wasn't a whole lot he could do about that.

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

*.*.*

Things had gotten pretty awkward and he didn't know what he was supposed to do about it. He'd really 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. Hopefully no one else had noticed, but he really felt guilty.

She'd never been his favorite member of the Teen Demis, but she was one of his teammates. He knew better than to mess around with her, but he'd done it anyway, 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 directly 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 some kind of giant clash of the "one night stand" and "wrathful brother" variety. There was just no avoiding it.

He was destined to always be the kind of guy to mess shit up.

Tony found himself spending a lot of time with Seth, just hanging around and talking, playing video games, and basically just getting his life back to the way it was supposed to be. Ashley was still dead and he still had a gaping emptiness inside where she used to be, but he was starting to think that maybe his life would be able to go on, even without her in it.

He just had to keep living through each day as it happened. There was nothing else he could do. At some point all of the awkwardness would either come bubbling to a head or dissipate away.

He couldn't help hoping that it would all just slip away. He could live a life with quiet resentment if it kept him from facing such a volatile situation.

There really should have been no surprise for him when everything decided to blow up. It was something destined to happen.

One minute he was playing video games and had actually 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 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 barely 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 were 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 really didn't want to die. And if he said anything like that, from the look in his eye, Pulsar would definitely kill him, no ifs, ands, or buts.

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

Pulsar gave him a very suspicious look before turning on his heel and leaving the room as soundlessly as he appeared.

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

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

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

"I try."

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

If Pulsar seriously decided to kill him, well, then he'd be dead. There wasn't a whole lot he could do about that.

*.*.*

Seth kept shooting Tony worried looks. He had no idea what he was supposed to say and his stomach felt like it was bound up in knots.

He was pretty upset that he hadn't even realized Pulsar was there or what the guy was planning on doing. It was only quick reflexes that had him saving Tony-though if he had 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. Because there was no way Tony hadn't known-even if it was just on a subconscious level-that Pulsar would go apeshit once he realized something had happened to his precious sister.

The guy was practically pathological and Seth had some serious concerns for him. There was no way his sister obsession was healthy. No way at all.

The fact that Tony had been willing to put himself in the middle of such an explosive dynamic made it clear that Tony really was not in his right mind. He was in desperate need for someone to save him from himself.

After weeks of stepping in to be the willing distraction, Seth had noticed that Tony was actually 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 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 probably 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 actually pretty 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 out of the corner of his eye. "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 just 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 playfully. "I'm surprised I can even fit into the room with both you and your ego."

Seth couldn't help smiling 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. It was just so good to see it.

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

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

"Gee, I really 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 actually pretty hungry or I would just 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 were raised so high 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 to eat."

Seth really 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 really 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."

"Whatever."

.

It was kind of a shock to find out Tony was actually 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 pretty much forget what kind of place he was in. And they had some truly delicious chicken wings as an appetizer.

"I was totally 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, the grabbed his cup of Bolt Cola. He slurped it down until ice was all that was left and kept slurping as loudly as possible. "Ah, good stuff," he plunked his cup down with a satisfied grin.

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

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

Seth had to bite 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 really kind of 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 probably 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 just 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 real battle keeping a giant stupid grin off his face.

"Yeah." Tony shifted uncomfortably, 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."

"Well..."

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

*.*.*

"What?" he 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 brashly. 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 rather 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 fully 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 really didn't like the idea of her driving herself too far. It just 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 basically stolen his spot, but he let her have it and perched on an armchair instead. She was not wearing a face he really wanted to argue with.

"Why me?" she asked. "I'm pretty sure previous team leader's never had it so hard. I bet that 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 dryly. "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 really matter. "What are you sorry for? I mean, this is something I've wanted my whole life. It's just a little more work than I thought it would be as a child. Still, I think it's totally 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 quickly. "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 looking for their chance to be annoying."

"Wow, have you thought about poster work?" he asked. He made a frame with his hands. "I can just 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 really 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 horribly boring lecture.

When he was finally standing outside the building, he seriously 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 really hated when his screw ups came with consequences.

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 just kind of fell into an invisible pit of despair. And since he didn't really want to be that guy, when he caught himself he would feel like a complete jerk.

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

I wonder where Sunfire is, he thought.

The other superhero had left the Demi Lair pretty early in the morning and hadn't answered any of Tony's text messages. It was minorly 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 just always seemed to be there for him and never complained or acted like he was too busy.

It just seemed natural for Tony to take advantage of that willingness to help. But when he really 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 really didn't want Sunfire to ever feel taken advantage of, not when he actually 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 mean 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 his rather extravagant way of acting, Tony had been fairly sure that Sunfire was going to be an arrogant narcissist. Instead, Sunfire was probably one of the most down-to-earth, generous superheroes Tony had ever met.

Ashley's death and the way Sunfire had given him unflinching support made Tony appreciate his friendship more. The sometimes rather acerbic wit was just 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 really 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 really 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 alone.

"Can I help you find anything?" the salesman asked politely, just kind of 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 seeing 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 really nice cashmere stuff over here." The guy tugged on Tony's arm, pulling him toward a middle display.

Tony wasn't quite sure about the casual contact-some stranger touching him without permission seemed like something he probably 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 so casually take over his life 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, but the salesman firmly steered 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, but 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 ever realized.

He started walking back toward the Demi Lair, his wallet much poorer than when he'd started the day. He just 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 just this sense that everything was about to blow up.

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

"No clue," Seth answered.

She sighed heavily 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.

Danica looked pissed as she stomped around in her Powergirl outfit, pausing every once and a while to shoot a glare at Solar, who was busily 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 and 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 just for one night.

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

Seth narrowed his eyes at her. 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 very important members of the group if they don't even 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 probably 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 be bothered 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 happily 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 around. The only one he even cared about was Tony, and that was because he had the hots for him.

Seth glanced at Queen Midnight and had to feel a bit bad for her. Other than the goth clothes and the rather freaky supernatural powers, she was pretty bland. It was part and parcel with the whole "sold half her soul for superpowers" type of thing.

He guessed that the half of her soul she'd gotten rid of was the part that had most of the personality. The rest of her was all angst and woe about the possibility of ending up in hell when she died. It was actually a pretty sad story. But she was still a downer to be around for too long.

So really the only member of the Teen Demis he was close to was Tony, which made it hard for him to care that the twins were leaving. They were just coworkers, not any kind of friend.

They'd stopped some crime and been rewarded, but it was all part of the job. He'd also done a rather slick spread with the two of them for Super People Magazine, but they barely had any contact otherwise. Team meals didn't really count.

When it really came down to it, the twins had barely been a blip on his radar. They were his teammates, but when the job was done for the day that was it. He told them goodnight and that was that.

Seth crossed his arms and watched everything 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 out from under her nails.

"I don't care." Seth watched Carrie 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.

It was impossible to say that he wasn't jealous when just 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 thinly 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 that terrible to be around.

She was just an angst-filled bundle of woe, that was all.

"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 really 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 very 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 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 rudely. "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. She was dressed down in a pair of skinny jeans and a sleeveless white peasant blouse. Her long blond hair had been caught up in a high ponytail and with her mask on she looked more like a Dress Up than an official hero.

She was pretty and perky and a scheming little viper. She'd always gotten what she wanted and would do whatever to keep the status quo.

"We're really sorry to be leaving like this." She smiled, showing off her pearly white teeth. "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 a door slamming angrily.

"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 was focused on his game, the controller clacking under his fingers while characters died horribly on screen amongst the explosions. "I called to arrange the locks 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 really 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 mildly.

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

Sunfire sighed loudly, 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.

.

Somehow they'd managed to amass a collection of empty Thunder Bolt energy drink cans and the city outside the windows had grown dark. 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, even for a just reason.

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 really 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 just have to deal with the guilt he felt at running them off.

Thus began his closer than usual friendship with Sunfire.