By the time I manage to get out the door, I’m awake enough, even without any coffee, to regret agreeing to meet at this absolutely amazingcredible new diner. I mean, I’m sure they do make a fucking mouthwateringly delectable French toast, and it’s nice of Perry and Priscilla to accommodate my schedule change, and I have to eat somewhere. They didn’t have to sound so excited over dragging me to a diner, but it’s nice of them to think of me and find somewhere where I can eat breakfast and they can eat lunch. I don’t exactly need that heavy of food right before a workout, but I always love seeing my friends and I’ll just have to not let them use my sleep deprivation to trick me into ordering extra.

So much for that. When I get there (they’ve already ordered me coffee bless them), I immediately order the chocolate raspberry French toast and hash browns and a salmon scramble, and also more coffee.

The coffee here is shit, but I’ll still order more of it.

“You are aware,” Priscilla says, with a dubious look at my cup, “that you can order something they have to put together. I mean, their drip is…not great, but their maple mocha is pretty damn good.”

I eye her, trying to see if she’s making fun of me. When it doesn’t look like Darren’s got to her (or read her in on something), I agree.

“Drip is for downing; you’re not supposed to taste it,” Perry says. She’s got her darkest sunglasses on, and I smirk at her, because maybe she’s worse off than I am. She catches my look and says, “oh, fuck off, Agent Smartass – some of us have late nights and early mornings for legitimate business reasons.”

“Yup,” I say, “was out late last night.”

They both give me a quizzical look, and, damn, they’re going to grill me as soon as they can get me somewhere private; I can’t believe I made that slip in front of people as avidly involved in the fandom as either of these, let alone where they can share a look to confirm their suspicions. I really need that coffee.

But at least they don’t mention that we’ll talk about it later, just give me that Look. I’m sure I’ll have the awesomest fake name and at least a dozen stories about me by close of business the day I do tell them, though. (I’ll have to give them that pamphlet.)

“So, how are you adjusting?” Perry asks me, “because I’ve got sleep aids if you need them.”

“What kind?” I ask.

Perry rolls her eyes. “Over the counter, Fox, don’t pull your goody-two-shoes bullshit.”

“You know, sugar,” Priscilla says, “for all you’re obsessed with not taking the slightest little illegal substance, you’re pretty decent about not watching anyone else take anything.”

I glare at her over my coffee (still drip, the damn mocha isn’t here yet). “My body is my temple.”

“Oh, please, you take in way too much caffeine – and alcohol – for that to possibly be true,” Perry says, and pokes me in the chest.

“Whatever,” I say, “drugs are not my purview. I give out cards for hotlines and support groups, that’s it.”

“Do you really?” Priscilla asks.

“Sure,” I tell her, frowning, not sure why the hell she’s asking.

“Have you always done that?” she adds, pointedly.

“Since before I was even interning, yes,” I explain, “there was a push for it with student ambassadors and stuff, trying to present a community-conscious image.”

“Doesn’t seem like it stuck,” Perry mutters.

I shrug. “They still get the freshman to do it, most of them do. And, anyway, it’s not like it necessarily helps all that much to hand out contact information, not with the internet.”

“Then why do you bother?” Priscilla asks.

I throw up my hands. “Well, shit, Pris, maybe I don’t like feeling helpless.”

She stares at me for a while. “What cards do you hand out?” she asks, finally, “sometimes I feel like some of the kids who work with us could use a pointer or two.”

“Kids,” Perry snorts. “How charitable.”

I dig through the pockets of my coat, where I’m sure I stashed at least one of them, and pull out a slightly crumpled card for her, with the website of the list and a reminder to order refills.

“That’s a real stupid name,” Priscilla says, looking at the card.

I shrug. “Yeah, but they get a lot of donations, send us all these boxes of cards for pre-vetted organizations to hand out. You can probably get them to send you a kit.”

Priscilla looks like she’s considering it, and Perry looks like she’s going to trash the idea, but the food comes and I get to avoid a fight.

Also, my better coffee drink comes, and I drink it, and it is much better, and everything is much better. I take another gulp of it and groan into my cup.

“Jesus, Travis, save it for the bedroom,” Perry says, giving me a disgusted look, like she doesn’t love her coffee just as much. She thinks she’s better than me just because she’s already been mainlining it for hours and doesn’t have to be uncouth at it.

Priscilla snickers. “And how’s everything going with that business?”

“Don’t remind me.” I bury myself in my coffee.

“Aw, poor baby, schedule change making it hard to slip in anything but a quickie?” She snickers harder, into the exact same drink as mine. I’m debating stealing it.

“Believe me, I’d be at least 31% less stressed if I could slip in a quickie,” I tell her.

“What, really?” Perry says, “I guess they think the promotion’ll get you to put up with whatever fucking trouble they want to dump on you.”

“Mm,” I agree, finally putting down my coffee and falling on my food.

“Unless it’s not the schedule,” Priscilla says. “It’s not, is it?”

“When’s the last time you got laid, Travis?” Perry asks.

I point my fork at them. “You two are far too invested in my sex life.”

“Nah, that’s how you bro-talk with your bros,” Priscilla explains patiently to me, and I’m just waiting for her to start drawing a flow chart or some shit. “We talk about sex and local sports teams.”

“You hate sports,” I tell her.

“I do not hate sports,” Priscilla says, “Perry hates sports, and I don’t try to engage people in the topic in deference to her sensibilities. You just assume I do because you project her feelings onto me.”

“That’s a shitty assumption, Travis,” Perry says, stealing my hash browns, “women are individual people, each with their own unique take on fruitless and mind-numbing play-acted warfare.”

“Yes, yes,” I say, “that all that money goes into and for what, I know.”

“And that is precisely why I’ve never corrected you before,” Priscilla says.

“Do you have to do this before coffee?” I beg Perry.

“You’ve had coffee,” she says, the heartless bitch.

“One,” I say. “I’ve had one.”

She taps my half-drunk cup.

“One and a half,” I amend.

“Well, drink up, sunshine,” Perry says, “because it’s rant time.”

I sort of…gurgle.

“Or,” Perry says brightly, “we could go back to talking about sex!”

“You’ve got to talk about sex with your best bros!” Priscilla says, even more cheerily.

“Darren is my best bro,” I remind them.

“You can’t talk about sex with Darren,” Priscilla says, scandalized. “How would that even work? That would defeat the entire purpose.”

“Of what, you perving on my vast and impressive exploits?” I shoot back.

“And you can’t talk to Hunch,” Perry adds, completely ignoring me, “as he’s far too old and married to give you any useful advice. Good opening for something, though.”

I roll my eyes and ignore that last part. “I can always talk to Vector, then.”

“What? No!” Perry crosses her arms. “We’re way better bros than Vector Analysis. Aw, damn it, Pris, you made me call myself a bro again.”

“Ha,” Priscilla says.

I manage to tune them out for that argument, at least, and pick at my various plates of food.

“Back to getting you laid,” Priscilla says.

“No, thanks,” I tell her.

“Travis,” Perry says, laying a supremely genuine and empathetic hand on mine, “we’re your…best bros, and we’re here to talk to you about your dick problems.”

“Oh my god,” I say, around a mouthful of eggs.

Priscilla proceeds to outline how to be gentlemanly and romantic. It’s over-the-top, but I’m fairly sure she’s trying to be helpful. Or fuck with me, either way. Perry keeps telling me what the best set-up would be if it were porn, and some days I think she went into the wrong industry, but at least I can be certain about her. Somehow, through all of that (and, for a while, a tangent into the optimal amount of background noises in outdoor scenes) I manage to actually finish my breakfast and haul my ass to work.

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