“Fox, you need to read through this,” Stranglehold says, basically shoving me into a chair.

“I, what?” I say, reflexively taking his tablet, which, no, that is too much like agreement.

“You need to read it through for us,” Sass says, poking at the screen.

Not actually touching it, because it’s already opened up to what I apparently have to read, but pretty forcefully pointing it out to me, which I hardly think is necessary, because I’m already looking right at it, I already agreed to do this thing apparently, so what’s her point?

“You have to read it,” she repeats, “I cannot.”

“No,” Stranglehold agrees, “all the no in the entire world.”

“Uh, okay,” I say, glancing at it, where it’s just, I don’t know, some words, on a screen, there aren’t even any pictures, it’s, like, describing the building (incorrectly).

“Just read it,” they repeat, in perfect unison.

“What,” I ask, “am I looking for?”

“Anything we need to look into,” Stranglehold says, less than helpfully, pinching the bridge of his nose and shaking his head and continuing to make kind of gagging noises.

“Proprietary information,” Sass says, slightly more helpfully, although she also has her hand clamped over her eyes, “or anything classified, anything people shouldn’t know, anything that makes us look particularly bad, although in this case, I don’t even know how you define that, things contrary to the goals or methodology of the agency but only if it implies we’re actually doing it, anything that indicates a sway in public opinion or areas people think we’re lacking in, stuff like that.”

“Okay,” I say, and start reading what seems to be a decently well-crafted, if a little trite, story about some new detective working with us on a case for the first time.

Of course, about three pages in, it devolves into tentacle sex, where I’m almost tempted to say it switched authors or something. It’s, like, the tiniest, tiniest red flag for reality warping (especially since this is not the kind I’d really be afraid of), and it’s not like people don’t adopt out their abandoned fic or let their friends write the sex scenes or any number of other things, but the tone changes. Just slightly. I mark it and send it to patterns, with a bolded apology.

Anyway, it mainly features Sunspot, Artemis, and Apollo in a threeway – although it’s carefully specified that it’s not incest in this version – but Sass and Stranglehold show up fairly prominently (and repeatedly), so I get why it was sent to them. And very much why they don’t want to read it. There’s nothing particularly sensitive in it (well, a lot of things are quite sensitive, but, well, nevermind), but it’s pretty long, so by the time I actually finish reading it, they seem to have relaxed, and Stranglehold doesn’t even look particularly green anymore.

“So?” he asks, refilling my coffee.

“Uh,” I say, “that was. Graphic.”

Sass cracks up.

“Like, I’ve read more graphic,” Stranglehold says, “but. Wow. Anyway.”

“I thought you guys liked it when people shipped you two.”

“I thought I did, too,” Sass mutters.

“I mean, sure, look at us, we’re adorable, we’re the best couple,” Stranglehold says, “the warnings on this brilliant piece of literature were not accurate.”

“Was there anything incriminating?” Sass asks.

“What, like do I think they’re actually into torture?” I ask, “no, or at least nothing to indicate they’re doing it to anyone. I mean, it wasn’t all that accurate, or not specific enough to be, anyway.”

“That’s a little TMI, Fox, thanks,” Stranglehold says, with a straight face.

“No,” Sass says, “well, yes, sure, but I meant about us.”

“Well, after,” I say, “after the part where I’m guessing you decided to conscript me for this, there’s, I think it’s an opium den? There’s a bit of non-specific drug use. And a lot of alcohol.”

“God, if we picked a fight with everyone who wrote about us getting high,” Stranglehold says, and rolls his eyes. “Oh, speaking of, random testing on Monday.”

“Uh-huh,” I say, “there was quite a lot of unprotected sex, though.”

“This is our problem, why?” Sass asks.

I shrug. “I didn’t think it was. I just thought it might be an opportunity for, I don’t know, you guys host writing workshops every now and then, don’t you?”

“Most of which are funded through public schools, so absolutely wouldn’t let us do sex ed, thanks,” Sass says, “and the community programs that are okay with it already have those, so.”

“What, do you want a page up on our site?” Stranglehold asks, “we could make a page probably, link it from the trademarks and defamation section.”

“Would it help?” I ask.

“Oh, shit, no,” Stranglehold says, “no one reads any of that.”

“Okay, it’s just,” I say, “that was, there was a lot of, there were very unsafe practices there.”

“You don’t read a lot of fic, do you?” Sass asks, shaking her head at me.

“Pretty much only what JCitySkiesbyNight recommends, and you know she has that whole thing about safer sex culture,” I say.

“I like her consent comics,” Stranglehold says, at the same time Sass says, “wait, you actually read this stuff for fun?”

“We’ve literally been friends since elementary school,” I tell her, “so I read a lot of her stuff, but I have made clear that I don’t want to read capefic, so, no, I don’t read this stuff.”

“Oh,” Sass says, sounding exaggeratedly disappointed. “I was going to ask who you ship.”

“You and Stranglehold, obviously,” I tell her, “I mean, just look at the two of you.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Arsenal says, dropping his bag on the table, “Stranglehold obviously belongs with Paragon, I mean, just look at their outfits. What are we talking about?”

“Really?” Stranglehold says, “no one ships me with Paragon.”

“Oh, I only ship rarepairs,” Arsenal says, “once everyone likes them there’s not even a point anymore. I can’t get behind the mainstream stuff. I can’t even read about you and Smoke anymore.”

“Gross,” Boomerang says, taking his own seat, “who was writing about him and Smoke?”

“Who do you ship, then?” Sass asks, shaking her head.

“Like, I don’t do any of that girly bullshit,” Boomerang says, “but people draw you with Princess Pom a lot. That’s pretty hot, so.”

Sass gives him a horrified look.

Boomerang sighs, and rolls his eyes, and says very slowly, “because of the whole cat-dog thing.”

“Are we talking about capeships?” Laces asks, far too excitedly.

“No, Laces, no,” Bartok says.

“So I have this headcanon about Hunch and Keller,” Laces says.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Laces, you literally have his file, you have met his family, you know who Hunch is in real life, stop making up secret identities for him,” Bartok says.

“But they do have about the same build, same height, similar hair color,” Arsenal considers.

“You have to admit, you never see them in the same room at the same time,” Laces says.

“Reason for that,” I mutter, but Bartok is busy chasing Laces to clap her hand over his mouth.

“Hunch is not secretly Keller and Keller isn’t even actually with Sid in the first place, so Hunch most assuredly is not secretly with Sid,” she begins, before Laces squirms away.

“That’s why it’s a secret,” Laces says, eyes alight. “You can’t tell anyone about Hunch and Sid –”

“Are we capeshipping?” Hunch says, plonking down a stack of files, “no capeshipping on the clock guys, not in an official meeting, and I’m not dating Sid, Laces.”

Laces laughs. “Yeah, but are you secretly –”

Anyway,” I say, “how much headway are we making with the ghost robberies?”

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