“But the real question is, of course, how we break the news to Lee, because he’s sort of used to being the baby of the family,” Hunch says, speeding up when he notices his footsteps breaking pattern.

I tug my jacket closer around me, cursing how fucking windy it is, because the audio pickups aren’t going to get what they might’ve, but at least we’re not in costume right now.

“Isn’t he, like, twelve or some shit, he’ll get over it,” I grouse.

Hunch shoots me an amused look. “He’s fourteen, actually, or he will be by the next time you see him. Are you still planning on coming to the party?”

“The things I do for Sinead,” I mutter.

“Oh, come on, you loved that one,” he goads me, “you were all homesick and lonesome in the big city and she bundled you up in the goodness of her heart.”

“I’m from a big city, Gene,” I remind him.

“Yeah, but,” he laughs, “most people aren’t sad the first birthday they spend in Sally.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I tell him, “every time people call JCity that I think seriously about moving back to Gates.”

Hunch laughs harder. “Only a Golden boy.”

I glare at him. “Only a Golden boy, what, Eugene?”

He claps me on the shoulder. “You’ve just got to go all ‘JCity’ on us, like we’re some sort of fashion brand or something.”

“Bitch, please, ‘us’,” I say, shoving his hand off my shoulder. “You’re from Second City.”

“Ooh,” Hunch says, holding up his hands, “what’s got your boxers in a bunch?”

We both slow down as we pass by a couple tucked into an alleyway. People are a good sign if they’re finding a way to avoid the psycho, or a bad one if they’re so desperate for cash they’ll risk getting carved up over starving, but numbers are up just slightly. Too soon to tell, may be a coincidence.

“Let me guess, someone’s getting the silent treatment,” Hunch teases.

“Oh, fuck me, why does everyone want to know about my sex life today?” I ask him.

“Wow,” Hunch says, with a pointed head tilt, “I said nothing about your sex life. I thought there was maybe a lovers’ spat. I was going to jokingly suggest counseling.”

“And I was going to say ‘when in Reme’ or something, gotcha.” I shake my head.

“Who’s interested in your sex life?” Hunch asks. “It wasn’t Eli, was it, because –”

“Holy shit, you know about that?” I say, pausing for half a beat, and then taking extra long steps, because this adventure is probably timed down to the nanosecond.

Hunch looks at me like I’m an idiot. “He’s not real subtle.”

“Why the fuck would you put him on the same team as me if you knew about it?” I ask.

“If you’ll remember, you were actually the one who joined his team,” Hunch tells me, “which you’ll thank me for ensuring, because you know who the other choice was.”

“If I’d had him as a team lead, I’d definitely have turned down the job,” I mutter.

“I figured,” Hunch says.

“What are we going to do about it?” I ask.

Hunch waves a hand. “It’s just a crush, he’ll get over it. Sooner if he actually has to converse with you.”

I snicker.

“I mean he wasn’t actually asking about your sex life, was he?” Hunch says, “because I will have the harassment talk with him.”

“God, no, kid can’t even look me in the eye,” I say, “he’s going to have a hell of a time if he ever has to relay a message to me. No, it was P&P.”

He stifles a guffaw with his glove. “I doubt they like it that you call them that.”

“I actually think Perry would get a kick out of it.” I shrug. “But I don’t, to their faces.”

“I’ll bet that was an interesting conversation.” He practically looks like he’s whistling.

“They said you were too old to talk to about ‘bro stuff’,” I point out.

He looks affronted. “How the hell am I too old and what the fuck is ‘bro stuff’?”

“Sex and sports, apparently.” I don’t know who makes the rules any better than he does, but I kind of get their point, because it’s a lot funnier from this side.

“You hate sports,” he tells me.

“I don’t hate sports, I just hated how everyone assumed I was going to be all gung-ho over the 49ers when I really don’t give a shit,” I say.

He grins at me. “Like I said.”

“Oh, come on, you wouldn’t care half so much if Sinead weren’t regaling you with details for, what, a quarter of the year? Half?” I shake my head.

“Ha,” he says, “jealous?”

“Of what?” I ask, exasperated.

He marks down the coordinates of someone walking quickly away from us, which may be nothing, except that another pair of people walks nonchalantly across our path moments later, in conversation, but wearing what looks like emergency disguises.

“See, right there, you hate sports,” he tells me.

“Yeah, fine,” I agree, not missing the fact that they glance toward us and away, relaxing when they hear him finish his sentence. “I’d rather talk about sports than sex right now.”

“That bad, huh?” he says. “Do you want advice, or did you get enough of what sells from the marketing department?”

“They paid for breakfast, at least,” I say, because he knows, he’s met them. “Alright, shoot, what’s your advice?”

He frowns, going silent for a minute. I turn my head, slightly, in case he’s seen something else, but he’s just lost in thought. “Fuck, I don’t know, I expected you to say no.”

I shrug. “Well, I don’t know if there’s even a problem to solve, as such, you know. It’s basically come to a head, now, either it resolves itself or everything dissolves.”

“Cheery,” Hunch says, drily.

“It’s not like I want it to end,” I defend myself.

“It doesn’t have to,” he says, “I’m sure there are steps in between. Somewhere on the scale from ‘never see each other again’ to ‘constant sex in public’, there’s a spot just for you.”

“Ugh, god, is that really the other end of the scale?” I ask.

He smirks at me. “Well, I mean, in mixed company you generally go with ‘marriage and babies’, but you know I like to be careful about putting hetero-monogamy front and center.”

I roll my eyes. “I’d think you’d be putting babies front and center everything right now.”

“No, no, got to set a good example for the little one,” Hunch says, very clearly trying not to laugh, “can’t be planning out their whole life before they’re even born.”

“They can’t even understand you for, like, a year or two,” I say.

“If Adam’s anything to go by, they can’t understand you for at least twenty-four years,” he tells me, “especially when the concept you’re trying to explain is ‘government corruption’ or ‘super illegal’.”

We cut through an alley, purposefully ignoring the several people wearing too nice of clothes to actually be homeless (and the couple wearing too few), and trying not to breathe in too much of the acrid smoke.

“What’s he done now?” I ask.

“I don’t think anything too dangerous,” Hunch assures me, “but, you know, he doesn’t have a license to operate his powers indoors, and he gets a little pissy about it.”

I make a face. “Honestly, why he didn’t just get certified years ago, I don’t even know.”

“That’s our Adam,” Hunch says, with a laugh.

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