Love is not what makes the world go round; It is what makes the ride worthwhile. – Franklin P. Jones

So...this is not my OTP for this fandom. This is payment for an absolutely gorgeous drawing by Sigma, who requested something with Hotstreak. Since I knew that she was a HotGear fan, I made it HotGear. Hope you like it, Sigma, and sorry it took so long to write!

Worthwhile

There are some things that are obvious. Come in out of the rain; don't swing the cat around by the tail; play nice when you're out numbered. Especially that last one. Play nice especially when your opponent has you by something you would rather he not crush, if you get the point.

Hotstreak was starting to think he had made a mistake recently in his relationship with his boyfriend Richie, but he couldn't pinpoint the cause. Richie knew better to expect mushy shit in this relationship, so it wasn't a lack of consideration that had the blond genius shunning his boy. They weren't sleeping together right now, but that was okay – Richie was working on a new research project at the college, and Hotstreak – never Francis – had taken the time to set up a new sting operation.

That's right, Hotstreak-Hot-Head-Flame-for-Brains pyro was a policeman. Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, honestly. See, the general population of Dakota didn't know that Hotstreak and Gear were an item. In fact, most of the newspapers printed garbage about Static and Gear having the hots for each other, which from the point of view of someone close to both of them, that was absurd. Because most of the population still thought that Hotstreak was on the wrong side of the law, he was useful to the police department in laying undercover operations to catch criminals. In the past four years, he had helped bring petty thieves, drug lords, murderers, and bank robbers to justice. He enjoyed being useful, because it kept him close to Richie.

It was a problem when Richie wouldn't talk to him.

Even when his boyfriend was occupied with a research project, they still spoke to each other. Hotstreak had taken a page out of Virgil's book, and surprised the blond during lunch break with an actual home cooked meal. That was tradition, until recently. The last time Hotstreak had tried to see his boyfriend over lunch, he had been told, "Mister Foley is not receiving visitors, Mister Stone."

Mister Stone. Richie was the one who insisted that he use his original surname when visiting the college. He also had to take a ton of precautions – wear a suit (made of the flame-retardant material Richie had thoughtfully invented one day) complete with a cocky fedora to hide his two-toned hair, and he had to thoroughly wet his hands to avoid accidental fireballs. Made opening doors a real pain, though, because wet skin didn't provide the necessary traction to properly grasp a door knob.

Not receiving visitors was new. Even when in the depths of research, Richie gave the security guards notice that one Mister Stone was to have access to him at all times. It saved them both from anxiety trips and nicely eliminated any inferiority Hotstreak might feel for not having a cell phone. Not that he couldn't afford it, now, because the police department gave him a stipend towards things like housing and cell phones.

"Dammit, Richie, what's going on inside that super-genius skull of yours?" Hotstreak cursed to himself. It was almost eleven o'clock at night, and there were still hours to go until his new contact needed to be met. The current operation was to catch the makers of a new drug before it spread beyond Dakota. The lab hadn't identified it as anything it had ever seen before, but whatever it was had the ability to kill people. Detective Rob Sanders was his direct superior this time around, and he had given Hotstreak a file on the current victims of the drug, which was being called 'Amber X', because it was amber in color, and unknown.

The file lay on the corner of what currently constituted as Hotstreak's center of operations – a tiny computer desk cluttered with a Richie-made computer cleverly disguised as a clunky desktop computer, papers, pens, and, of course, ashes. Several sticky notes were stuck to the front of the folder, detailing any new discoveries that had been made since the data had been printed. Some were in Detective Sanders' handwriting, while some were in Hotstreak's admittedly messy handwriting.

He didn't touch the folder, however, but settled into the uncomfortable wooden chair he'd salvaged from the dump. Richie tried to replace it with a more comfortable, state-of-the-art computer chair, but Hotstreak always wound up coming back to this hard, uncomfortable model. Maybe the reason he picked his chair over the others is because he built it himself, which would be an understandable reason. Unfortunately, it would also be a lie. Hotstreak himself could never explain why he preferred this chair.

"Wake up, Faggot."

No, Hotstreak was not being bigoted. Richie had wanted to make the computer voice-activated, and asked the pyro for a name. When Hotstreak said, "Better name it Faggot," Richie just about burst a gasket from laughing. The pun was perfect – a faggot was a name for a piece of firewood, and also a name for a gay man. What could be a more perfect thing to name a gay pyro's computer than something that commended both of those traits?

The computer buzzed to life, booting up as quickly as Gear's famous robot, Backpack. Unlike Backpack, though, Faggot didn't have an artificial voice, at least not yet. Every once in a while, Richie would begin to talk about giving Faggot a voice, and perhaps a personality to combat Hotstreak's. Every time this happened, Hotstreak would distract his boyfriend with the delightful distraction known as making out, which usually progressed to full-out sex. If he still wanted to talk tech after a few orgasms, Hotstreak did have other ways of convincing him that a basic computer was just fine.

Nothing to be shared with the general public, you know. Decency laws, and all, and wouldn't it just suck for a police department employee to be arrested on indecency charges?

Faggot's desktop background was an animation of a few burning gears, which was his idea, not Richie's. Richie had thought it was funny, though, and very fitting with their relationship. Hotstreak didn't see the desktop often, however, because he only turned the computer on for a few things. Business was one of them – E-mail was how he knew when to turn up for assignments, after all. Instant messaging was another – and not limited to a few people. His IM contact list contained hundreds of names, and that was just as himself. Dating Static's best friend had its benefits, not the least of which was getting in with the Justice League. Hotstreak would never be trusted the way Static was; probably would never be as trusted as Gear, even. Coming from a long criminal background tends to do that, he found.

He found that out real quick. He had decided to surprise Richie at lunch, not knowing that Gear was meeting with Batman and Hawkgirl. He'd waltzed into the room holding two trays – one a casserole, the other three different sides, and been promptly tackled, tied up, and nearly pitched out of the room before Gear interceded.

Dating a genius definitely had its perks, though. For instance, Hotstreak could take classes not normally available to a kid from the street; classes he only took to make Richie happy. Hotstreak did very few things he didn't want to do, but for Richie, he allowed himself to be put through a lot of indignities. Like the fedora suit, for instance. Who in their right mind would put a street fighter in an expensive suit?

Well, who could say that Richie was in his right mind?

"Would you like to chat or check email?"

Faggot's voice was a remixed version of Richie's tenor, with a few more lower tones and not as many high. If he wasn't expecting it, Hotstreak could easily mistake the computer's artificial voice for his boyfriend, which was not a good mistake to make.

Once, he'd called the computer 'Babe' just as Richie walked into the room. The face of an angry blond turns the most interesting shade of red when he becomes angry. File that fact away, in case you ever have to tell whether a blond is angry, embarrassed, or pleased.

"Chat."

The voice-activated program clicked itself open with a whispered crackle. Yes, another joke on Richie's part. The blond was full of fire jokes, which meant it was a very good thing Hotstreak had a sense of humor. One tended to either get a sense of humor, or get very angry at every little thing when faced with an opponent like the wise-cracking Static. Hotstreak had been through the anger – now that he and Static (or Virgil, as he was sometimes able to call his boyfriend's best friend) were friends, he could relax more. That had been an adventure. Let's just say that it involved a lot of hard work on Hotstreak's part, a lot of help from Richie, and a somewhat bemused Virgil who had found himself as an anger management councilor for his number one rival.

Ebon didn't count, the little prick. After the over-concentrated dose of the Big Bang gas, it took a two week stay on the bottom of Lake Dakota, thirteen different dimension hops courtesy of Ebon, and a highly concentrated dose of the cure to so much as separate them. To return them to a more human shape required a dosage that drove Ebon into the rubber room. Literally, the loony bin. Gear had finally managed to eradicate the final traces of Bang Baby gas in the shadow man about two years ago. Hotstreak had proven himself as not a menace to society, and besides, by then he had started dating one Richard Osgood Foley.

"BrainBoy1 would like a word with you."

Hostreak turned back to the computer, and clicked open the chat window that blinked yellow.

BrainBoy1: I missed you today. Weren't you coming over?

Flame4Brains: security kicked me out

Flame4Brains: whats with u not accepting visitors?

BrainBoy1: I was in a meeting at two, but other than that, you should have been able to come in. When did you show up?

Flame4Brains: 12

BrainBoy1: That makes no sense. How's your case?

Flame4Brains: slow

Flame4Brains: meeting the dude at three am

Flame4Brains: wanna meet for dinner before that?

BrainBoy1: Can't. Too pooped to walk.

Flame4Brains: ill pick u up

BrainBoy1: You're sweet, you know that?

BrainBoy1: Tempting, but no thanks.

Flame4Brains: no problem, really

Flame4Brains: ill even make that chicken divan stuff you like

BrainBoy1: Oh so tempting. Okay, you got me. When will you be here?

Flame4Brains: where is 'here'

BrainBoy1: V's house. We crashed after patrol.

Flame4Brains: 5 min

Flame4Brains has left the chat room.

"Go to sleep."

It was a trademark, or something, that Hotstreak left a trail of destruction behind him. In his haste to get to Richie, he knocked over the wooden chair that he really ought to burn instead of sit in, and set off a cascade of papers to join the sea of forgotten paperwork on the floor. No one said he had to be neat.

Chicken divan didn't take long to make, and Hotstreak would feel so much better with Richie in the apartment with him. Having no contact with the man of his affections for so long made the redhead anxious. Not, of course, that he would ever admit that! Anxiety ill-suited the type-A, and besides, it was unmanly.

Hotstreak left his center of operations, AKA the snug little den that had once been a linen closet. It was cramped in there, mostly because of his build, but it was secure.

The hallways of the apartment complex were completely empty, not precisely an odd thing this late at night. Hotstreak made a beeline for the stairs, preferring to shed his excess energy by jogging down the stairs. When he brought Richie in, he would probably take the elevator because his boy would be exhausted. Even from the seventh floor, the journey didn't take that long. Hotstreak's powers had only made him more volatile – he'd been in prime form when he got gassed.

The corners of his mouth curled into a slightly smug smile as Hotstreak approached the car currently his. He'd negotiated with the police department for this lease, claiming that as their contact in the underworld, he needed an appropriately flashy sports car. In the end, though, Static had to intercede on Hotstreak's behalf. The result was the same – Hostreak had his bright red Cougar with leather seats and a stereo system to die for.

This car could go from zero to seventy-five in about four seconds, which wasn't too shabby. Actually, what the salesman had said was 'amazing', considering cars usually went from zero to sixty in about eight point four seconds. But this car was state of the art; only the best.

True to his word, Hotstreak was at the Hawkins' house in five minutes, leaving large skid marks around every corner in his haste. When he knocked on the door, Mr. Hawkins answered even though it was so late.

Hotstreak liked Mr. Hawkins; the man had helped him immensely over the years, and was probably the only adult male who held the redhead's complete respect.

"Evening, Francis," Virgil's father greeted the metahuman with his signature smile. Mr. Hawkins – Hotstreak never did feel comfortable calling him Mr. H like Richie, or, heaven forbid, 'Pops'. Robert Hawkins may have been the only adult male with Hotstreak's respect, but that didn't make him family. It gave him respect, and the protection of one of the scariest criminals on Dakota's street; the only one who controlled fire at will. If being protected vigorously by Static and Gear wasn't enough, the fact that if word got out that you messed with Robert Hawkins you were toast definitely was.

"Hey, Mr. Hawkins. Richie said he was here."

One of the many nice things about Virgil's father was that he had absolutely no qualms with alternate sexualities. Richie had come out to him first, and had received his foster-father's approval to date other men. Anything that let Hotstreak have his boy was a good thing in his book, and even though their relationship had resulted in some raised eyebrows, Mr. Hawkins never stopped Richie from going out with Hotstreak.

"Upstairs. The boys crashed after patrol. Apparently, there's a new guy on the streets, but they couldn't talk much before they collapsed. You and Richie going anywhere special?"

Mr. Hawkins raised an eyebrow as his voice took on a skeptical tone. Hotstreak knew what that meant – Richie was too tired for any strenuous activity. Fortunately, all that was on the agenda for the blond was a nice dinner with his number one boyfriend, and a nice, long nap.

"Just dinner, Mr. Hawkins. Richie's been kinda busy up at the college, so I haven't seen much of him in a while. I'm making him his favorite."

A deep belly laugh there; Richie had about a dozen favorites at any given moment, and would happily inhale vast quantities of all of them at any time.

"Chicken divan," he amended with a small smile. He was glad that Richie had someone like Mr. Hawkins as a father figure. Certainly his own parents were no help, and Hotstreak would give an awful damn lot to ensure that Richie never had to grow up on his own the way Hotstreak had. Even before the Big Bang, he had been a street kid. Never any father, mother the vaguest of memories, it wasn't the way a kid should grow up. Sure, he'd had his grandmother, but his grandmother managed to land him in the hospital for two years – not the best of guardians.

"Head on up, I'm sure the boys won't mind if you just head up. You remember where Virgil's room is?"

How could he not? He picked Richie up from this house more often than the Gas Station, and that was saying something. A decent amount of the time, Richie was nearly comatose, and Hotstreak had to carry him down the stairs to the car. There shouldn't be anything different about this time.

"Of course, Mr. Hawkins. I'll be out of your hair in a jiffy."

Jiffy? Man, he spent too much time talking to Sharon! Not that he spoke to Richie's adopted big sister often, but that was just the sort of language she'd use. Or maybe it was RB Man? The stretchable hero dated Sharon, so maybe that's where he picked it up. In either case, Hotstreak swore then and there to never use the word again.

He was almost at Virgil's door when he distinctly heard Richie say, "No, V, please don't."

And Virgil replied, "I can't help myself, Rich."

The door flew open at that moment to reveal a very jealous boyfriend to a pair of boxer-clad superheroes playing Zombie Hunter 3.

"Thought you two were zonked!"

Hotstreak put surprise in his voice because it was a hell of a lot safer than anger or relief. He had thought....but surely, no. Virgil knew that Richie was claimed, and knew that Hotstreak still had the potential to be very, very dangerous. If Static's electric trail extended nearly seven feet behind him when he flew the Static Saucer, Hotstreak's attempts to fly incinerated three feet in every direction from from his body. That second Bang hadn't been quite as powerful as the first, but the concentration had been much higher.

"V bet that he could still whup my ass at this. I wanted to prove him wrong."

Richie shrugged, giving his boyfriend a wide grin. Hotstreak took a moment to appreciate the toned torso revealed by the other's shirtless state. Not that Virgil wasn't tempting sometimes, but honestly, Static and Hotstreak? Maybe in an alternate universe, but not in this room.

"And who's right?"

The boys looked at each other, then Virgil shrugged with that goofy smile stretched across his face.

"I guess I am, if you're leaving."

Richie started to look up at Hotstreak with that slight quiver in his bottom lip, but stopped abruptly when he saw the slightly wild look in the other's eye. It was the look of a man who had been pushed too far, and needed a break.

"I guess so. Next time, though, next time!"

Richie pulled the long-sleeved gray shirt over his head, followed by a dark green shirt emblazoned with the Alien Ant Farm logo. That was followed by a pair of jeans loose enough to conceal a fabulous figure, held on at the hips with a belt. Hotstreak just watched his boyfriend dress, thinking it was too bad he wasn't stiff or walking with a limp, collecting his clothes from the bedroom floor. He always did love the mornings after certain...ahem...nocturnal activities.

"Later, bro?"

"Later, bro."

Hotstreak waited for Richie and Virgil complete their handshake, then swept Richie off his feet, bridal-style. Richie was always willing to play along, and wrapped his arms around his boyfriend's neck. The Hotsreak-and-Richie entity swept down the stairs, said good night to Mr. Hawkins, and went to the car. Richie knew better than to protest when Hotstreak was feeling chivalrous, or maybe it was jealous anxiety that made him open the door and buckle Richie in before going over to the driver's seat. Once he was in the car, without so much as buckling up, Hotstreak was down the street. He drove much slower this time around, this time having something precious in his car. Make that someone precious.

They didn't talk much until they got up to the apartment, Hotstreak taking more and more of Richie's weight as they got closer. By the time Hotstreak had to swipe his key, he was carrying his boyfriend again. He settled Richie on the couch, and was going to head to the kitchen to start the chicken divan when Richie tugged him back down.

Hotstreak went willingly – cuddling was good too. He wrapped his arms around the lanky blond, and let himself be content with his boy snuggled tightly against his chest. If they both dozed off for a bit, well, Hotstreak could wake himself up in time to meet his contact. Until then, he wanted time with his boy.