I step out of the elevator to see Mason, Chen, and Graham kind of just milling around in front of my door. I consider taking three steps back, pushing the close door button, and just noping back on out of the building. Instead, I do the mature and responsible thing, and carry my liquor back to my apartment, despite the fact that it means engaging with these three.
I am so very glad I picked now to restock my liquor cabinet.
I kind of passive-aggressively ignore them, floating my keys out of my pocket and into the door. I pull them out again afterwards, flicking them onto the hook by the coat closet, but I leave the door open, and don’t actually discourage anyone from following me inside.
They shuffle in. And stare at me expectantly.
“Hi,” I say, slowly, putting my dessert wine in to chill.
“So we thought we’d update you,” Graham blurts out. “Breakthrough in the case!”
I sigh. “Really. What’s that?”
“We, uh,” Chen says, “told them how to upgrade their cameras. Turns out he wasn’t invisible, just doesn’t photograph or record? And also how to neutralize powers. If they wanted.”
“They didn’t want,” Mason adds.
“So,” I say, “you caught the guy.”
“No,” Chen says. “We didn’t have any good pictures.”
They stare at me for a while.
“We told them he wasn’t all that likely to come back,” Graham says. “They didn’t figure it was worth pursuing. Since he didn’t take anything or anything.”
They stare at me for a while longer.
“They put out a warrant on his extranormal signature,” Mason says.
I wait for it. Not for very long, but I wait.
“What was it like meeting Klepto?” Graham shrieks.
I manage to take a good long moment alone with my whiskey before the next gawker shows up. And this time, he lands on my deck. At least he’s polite enough to wait for my invitation. Of course, waiting consists of hovering a foot above it, staring patiently while I trying to ignore his almost uncannily quiet breathing despite the fact that he’s like two feet away from me, so it’s a little hard to say no.
“Let me guess,” I say, offering him a seat, “Vector sent you.”
He cocks his head. “Vector? Oh, Vector Analysis.”
“She didn’t send you?” I ask.
He shakes his head. “No. Why?”
I point at my jaw.
He leans in, staring at it for a minute. Looking it over, I guess. He sort of hums as he hovers his hand around it. “May I?”
He draws his hand away. “Sorry. Does it make you uncomfortable?”
“No, go ahead,” I say, “as long as it won’t interfere with whatever Saint did.”
He tenses slightly when he hears the name, but he reaches out, laying his hand as gently as he can over my jaw. It hurts, but not incredibly much, and a lot less once he does whatever it is that he does, which is very immediately helpful in the subjective sense, and probably also long term and more objectively, not that I’m overly invested in long-term health risks from minor injuries.
“It’s times like these,” he says, slowly, “that we need to stick together. I know the agency and I don’t always see eye to eye, but I’m here if you need me.”
“So,” I say, “Klepto?”
He gives a curt nod. “Do you think this is another Big Red Button incident?”
I kind of feel like these meetings might stop occurring if I’m not actually at my apartment to hear them out, so I go to the park. Which is kind of nice, and also effective, until it backfires. I notice the pair walking towards me in their carefully detailed costumes, and reconsider being not at home.
“Shit,” I say, noticing the fancy stitching running down the sides of their legs, and thinking back to what Perry was wearing earlier, which seemed strangely familiar at the time, although I couldn’t pinpoint why, “I think Perry stole my pants.”
Normal Force and Extranormal Force share a look. Then one of them says to me, “what?”
“Nevermind,” I say. “What did you two want?”
One of them – I don’t think they even dress that way on purpose, they’re just deeply confusing people – sighs and says to me, “can’t you at least pretend to be intimidated?”
“Why?” I ask.
“Because we’re supervillains,” the other one says, with an eyeroll.
“Uh-huh,” I say. “Again, did you want something?”
“What is it going to take to get anyone to take us seriously as villains,” the other one says, or maybe the same one, I think they might have switched places.
“You’d have to be remotely threatening to anything at all ever,” I tell them.
“We’re threatening,” one of them pouts.
“You TP Paragon’s house,” I tell them.
“Well, yeah,” the other one says, “he’s our archnemesis.”
“Okay,” I say.
“Look, whatever, he’s a douche,” one says.
“I know,” I tell him, “you spray-painted that on his car.”
“He had it coming,” the same one mutters.
I clear my throat.
They tuck their hands in their pockets and look aimlessly around.
“What are you doing here?” I spell out.
“I mean we just spotted you while we were out fighting crime,” Normal Force – I’m pretty sure it’s Normal Force, because the one elbowing him looks like the more cocky of the two – tells me, “committing crime. Committing crimes.”
“Right,” I say.
“Are you, like, okay?” Normal Force asks me.
“What,” I say.
“You know,” Extranormal Force tells me, “Klepto is afraid of the color yellow.”
I go back home as soon as possible.
Ultraviolet is waiting for me when I get there.
“Not a-fucking-gain,” I say, slamming the door behind me.
“Um, hi,” he says.
I massage my temples.
“Is this a bad time?” he asks.
I make an incoherent noise and lean back against the door. “Look, what do you want? I’m fine, I’ve upped security as much as I can, I absolutely cannot give anyone details about what happened even one more time, and I have no idea why he did or didn’t attack, okay?”
“Well, I mostly figured it was because he didn’t want the entire city coming down on him,” Ultraviolet says to me.
“What?” I say.
He cocks his head. “You know – he knew – if he hurt those kids, he would’ve had the entire agency breathing down his neck, and most of the freelancers, and some of the other villains.”
“Oh, is that all?” I say.
“Or he genuinely didn’t want to hurt the kids,” Ultraviolet offers.
“Yeah, sure,” I say, “he was just coming from his weekly manicure and happened to stumble across us and it was all just a big misunderstanding. Why are you here?”
Ultraviolet shrugs. “Hunch asked me to look in on you.”
“I’m fine,” I tell him.