“There’s some soup left, if you want it,” Darren says, hanging upside on the couch.

“Shouldn’t you be asleep already?” I ask him.

“It’s honestly not even that late, Fox,” he says, grinning. Still upside-down.

“What kind of soup?” I ask.

“Tomato. Not your horrible kind. The good kind. From the cans. And grilled cheese. With real American cheese.” He shrugs, which looks about as weird as it always does upside-down.

“This,” I say, “this is what you send Jen to the store for.”

“She was there already,” Darren says. “And, anyway, I have to send someone you haven’t gotten to with your organic local mind control. You don’t even feed me. I don’t know why I stick around.”

“I feed you better things than this crap,” I tell him.

“Not my fault your comfort food is bunnies in orange glaze or something.” Darren shakes his head. That one kind of throws me, because it looks normal upside-down.

“I’m not going to eat bunnies,” I tell him, with a half-hearted glare.

“No, but you’re about to say something that sounds even more ridiculous,” he tells me.

“Man, you’re the one who wanted a crepe-maker in the first place. I told you, as long as you’re careful, you can cook them in a regular pan just fine,” I retort.

He snorts into a giggling fit. “Right, like I have enough energy to be careful about breakfast. That thing is like magic, asshole, and you’re just jealous because you wake up at lunchtime now.”

“Crepes are a lunch food,” I say.

He shrugs. “Only if you fill them with weird things that aren’t Nutella.”

“Everything that isn’t Nutella is weird now?” I ask.

“To put on dessert? Yes,” he says, going back to his TV.

“It’s not dessert,” I say, but sit down next to him, instead of pursuing the thought, upside-down and all. “What are we watching, anyway?”

“Some sort of documentary,” he says.

I stare at it. “What sort?”

“Could not figure that out. Figured it couldn’t make any less sense from this direction,” Darren tells me, waving his arms, I don’t know to indicate what.

“This is one of those conspiracy theory things, isn’t it,” I say.

“I think so,” he agrees. “It had aliens a little while ago. And it’s wildly historically inaccurate.”

“Since when do you know enough about history to even guess at that?” I ask.

“Parting gift from Copypasta.” Darren points at yet another thing that’s inaccurate – no aliens this time, though – and scoffs. “Apparently, Ripcord? Total history buff.”

“You had masks going over those things with you?” I ask.

“We had, like, a dozen teams, which was why we needed Copypasta’s support in the first place, you know,” Darren says, “so yeah, I mean, a couple, the ones who’re just subbing in for whoever.”

“A lot of teams,” I say.

“You’re telling me,” Darren agrees. “They’ve got four shifts of surveillance teams, people walking around plainclothes, and research out the wazoo.”

“Bigger than it looks like?” I ask.

“I sure as hell hope so, because otherwise we’re wasting a lot of manpower,” Darren tells me. “Your tax dollars at work.”

“PLC?” I ask. “They’ve been quiet, lately.”

Darren shrugs. It almost looks normal from this angle. “Could be. I mean, you get people going missing, maybe it’s because they’re gearing up for something, who knows.”

I grin. “What’d Copypasta get off you?”

Darren laughs. “A bunch of old O-chem facts, apparently. I didn’t even know I remembered them, but hey, there you go, don’t seem out of place in my head at all.”

“O-chem, really?” I ask, “you nearly failed O-chem, how do you still remember any of it?”

“Flashcards,” Darren says. “No, I don’t know, most people are busy being annoyed by the inundation of baseball stats from, like three different people.”

“Are they friends now?” I ask.

“They’re friends now,” he confirms. “No one’s admitting to the black metal lyrics, though.”

“Oh, well, that’ll be useful before it fades,” I say.

Darren laughs. “Shut up, dickface, you don’t get to pick the music if you insist we’re going to listen to podcasts or something. I want music in my music, not talking heads.”

“Should’ve picked a shorter commute if you wanted music-music,” I say.

“Oh, the commute’s my fault, now, is it?” he says, raising (dropping) a hand to his chest in horror and outrage.

“Admit it, you miss it now that you can play all the incomprehensible screaming you want,” I tell him. “You’re probably on the verge of listening to podcasts of your own volition.”

“Never!” Darren says. “You will not sway me with your sugared lies! You listen to audiobooks and plays and talk radio in your own car. Incomprehensible screaming forever!”

“That would make the worst battle cry,” I tell him.

Darren grins. “For Queen and alt-country!”

“Not there yet,” I say.

He stops to think for a moment, kicking his feet against the top of the couch. “Rock out with your crockpot out.”

“I don’t think that’s a battle cry,” I say, “and, anyway, it’s probably fine if you like crockpots, or whatever the end goal you’re using the crockpots to achieve is.”

“Cheese,” he says, defiantly.

“Doesn’t count if it’s one word,” I remind him. “You can find lots of words it would be weird to run into battle screaming. You’d be hard pressed to find many that aren’t.”

“Let’s steal all their trees!” Darren cries.

I laugh. “They store their morale in the chartreuse tents!”

“I was promised tie-in marketing!”

“Would you like fries with that?”

“Can you hear me now?”

“A stitch in time saves nine!”

“There are plenty of fish in the sea!”

“Are you a dog person or a cat person?”

“Study hard, be evil!”

“Until we get bored!”

“I can has battle cry?”

“Holy battle cry, Batman!”

“Tonight we sup in hell!” Darren says, and falls off the couch laughing.

I see he’s remembered to take his meds.

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