meh. *shrug* i actually started this one before Tough Baby. it is and isn't what i'd been hoping for.

warnings: some Young Avengers, Earth-339. emo angsty topics. vague sort-of-but-technically-not-twincesty undertones. language: pg-13 (for s***).

pairing: a little bit of the ever-ambiguous sort-of-brother-complex, sort-of-unrequited-love that is Tommy/Billy, plus some background Billy/Teddy and some wistful one-sided Tommy/Teddy.

timeline: 2009-ish, shortly after the first scene in Tough Baby. let's say that Earth-339 splits from Young Avengers canon somewhere before Children's Crusade. obviously, since the 339 Avengers live at the tower again instead of the mansion.

disclaimer: i doesn't owns the movies, comics, or characters.

notes: 1) title comes from the Pat Benatar song "Shadows of the Night," specifically the line "Now the hands of time are standin' still / Midnight angel, won't you say you will." 2) Tommy is the ultimate stray cat. he lives in like five places at once and wanders in and out of them as he pleases. pizza night at Avengers Tower? he's there. ice cream party at the X-Mansion? totally there. fresh cookies at the Kaplans' place? all over it.


Midnight Angel

It's weird.

Before Tommy met Billy, he didn't think he was pretty, or even marginally attractive. Oh, he bragged and preened and pretended to be stuck on himself…he knew other people thought he was good-looking, but he just figured they had lousy taste.

He read in a psych textbook (one of Mrs. Kaplan's) that vanity is a cry for attention. In his case, it's been more like a scream.

But then he met Billy, and he immediately recognized his own face—and suddenly, he saw that he was pretty.

They have long eyelashes (Tommy's are almost white, though, so they tend to vanish at a distance), a good jawline, a great smile.

He finds himself watching Billy a lot—just watching. He compares the way they move, the way they stand. He practices imitating Billy's mannerisms, especially that cute little scowly-pout he does when Teddy teases him.

And Teddy. God, what a poke in the eye.

They're seventeen, but Billy has apparently met his soulmate, who is this sweet, devoted, amazing, shapeshifting alien prince. Tommy, by contrast, has had and lost eight mediocre girlfriends. This year.

So it's not his looks that are chasing them away (he could try hair dye just to be sure). It's some fundamental flaw in his personality.

He's tried everything. He's tried being clingy, he's tried being aloof, he's tried clingy-pretending-to-be-aloof. He's tried cheerful, he's tried emo, he's tried needy-and-suicidal. He's tried good boy, bad boy, everywhere-in-between-boy.

But it's always the same. Stage One: 'Wow, I really like you. You're so [insert appropriate adjective here].' Stage Two: 'Oh. Hi.' Stage Three: 'Listen, Tommy, you're a great guy and I really like you, but you're just too [insert same adjective].' Usually over a period of about a week.

At least Teddy's not staying with the Kaplans anymore (after he got back and the dust settled a bit, Cap put a stop to Billy and Teddy's scandalous life of teenage cohabitation pretty quick by insisting there was plenty of space at Avengers Tower).

That's how it comes to pass that Tommy is thinking deeply on these subjects while sitting across the coffee table from Teddy in the sitting room of the Avengers' suite.

"So, Ted," he says casually.

Teddy's doing homework and looking Very Serious. He doesn't look up, but he's constitutionally incapable of not acknowledging someone who's so far talking to him very politely. "Tommy, I'm really busy."

Tommy hears that a lot, but it makes him feel like some neglected little kid when it comes from a guy whose very nature pretty much requires him to be solicitously nice to everyone. "What d'you like about Billy?"

"Hm?" Teddy says, still mostly focused on his homework. "We've got a lot in common, I guess."

"Liiiike?"

"Well, we geek on the same superheroes…"

"She-Hulk and Scarlet Witch, right? Me too, they're awesome."

"We like a lot of the same music…"

"Screamo and hardcore, I dig that."

"Same taste in food…"

"Kosher franks with sauerkraut 'n honey mustard, cool. But what about sports? What's your favorite sport? Baseball, right? Billy hates baseball. I like baseball."

Teddy pauses, puts his pencil down. "Oh, yeah, and there's one more teeny tiny thing we have in common: we both like guys."

Busted.

Tommy shrugs a little, feet starting to jiggle restlessly against the coffee table. "I think I could be flexible about that. I mean, it's not like liking girls has done me any favors, right?"

When Teddy sets his homework aside and looks up at Tommy, he has this really obvious look of utter concern on his face that cuts right through every defense Tommy has. "Uh…well, I guess I've heard worse reasons to try bisexuality. Tommy, are—are you okay?"

"What?Yeah,ofcourseI'mokay,hah,whyareyouevenaskingmethat?" Tommy laughs in an awkward rush.

"Tommy, c'mon. No bullshit. You're making that 'something's bothering me but I don't want people to worry' face that Billy does."

Tommy laughs again, but it feels hysterical. His feet won't hold still. He wishes he had an excuse like homework, so he could run away from those earnest blue eyes. His stomach does a horrible little flip. "I. Um. Ohhhh, I think there's something wrong with me."

"Wrong like how?" Teddy asks, oozing worry.

"Wrong like defective," Tommy says, and looks at his hands so that he doesn't have to look at Teddy. "The longest I've ever had a girlfriend is a week and a half…and I try, I figure out whatever they want me to be and that's what I am for them, I'm good at it, but…" He shrugs. "But a week later, they're done, and I used to think maybe it was because they were sick of looking at me, but I look like Billy, and Billy's—he's—I mean, look at him." He gestures vaguely. "So, obviously the raw materials are good…it's just me."

"Maybe you shouldn't try to be anything for them," Teddy says tentatively. "Maybe you should just be yourself."

"Right, because that worked out so well with my parents," Tommy says, and gives another little hysterical laugh. He feels like he's about to puke. Or burst into tears.

Damaged goods. Screwed up his parents' marriage, screwed up his high school life, screwed up his high school, screws up everything vaguely resembling a relationship…

"Uh. Wow." Slowly, Teddy stands up and gestures toward the door. "I'm gonna…um…"

Tommy forces his feet to still (before he either goes through the table or blows it up), waves his hands. "Oh," he laughs. "Jeez,sorry,Itotallydidn'tmeantodumponyou." He has to concentrate to slow down his speech. "Don't mind me, Ted, completely ignore this whole conversation, chalk it up to PMS or something. Heh."

"Like I was saying, I'm gonna go to the kitchen and make some hot chocolate. You want a cup?"

"Yes,yesplease,chocolatewouldbeawesomerightnow."

"I know what it's like, you know: being something you're not because you think it'll make people happy. It's not the answer."

Hah. Easy for him to say, he can literally be anything.

As soon as Teddy's out of the room, Tommy flees Avengers Tower at a speed just slow enough to keep from shattering glass. It's times like this that he wonders if he can run fast enough to escape the stupid shit he says. Sure, Teddy seems like a nice guy, but when the chips are down, he'll turn on Tommy like everyone else always does. Someday, he'll be in a bad mood, he'll be mad about something Tommy did or said, and he'll tell people.

Hey, everybody, Tommy's got an inferiority complex the size of Staten Island, and he couldn't keep a girlfriend if his life depended on it!

If he gives them the chance, everybody turns on him.

Except Billy. Billy always leaves before it comes to that.

That's…somehow, it's better.

Tommy spends a long time hiding atop one of the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge. It's late by the time he comes down…sometime past midnight.

Teddy (being the decent guy that he is) is probably worried sick. Probably took every single fellow resident of Avengers Tower telling him 'chill, Tommy's like a stray cat' to keep him from organizing a manhunt.

Tommy runs to the Kaplans' place. Billy's window is open just a little—just a crack, enough for Tommy to get a hand on the ledge and go through.

Billy's especially pretty when he's asleep. It gives Tommy a twinge of simultaneous envy and admiration.

Very slowly, he sits on the edge of Billy's bed. He just sits, looks around at how normal everything is, feels sorry for himself some more.

A sleep-warm hand rubs up his spine. "Hey, wha's wrong?" Billy mumbles groggily behind him.

"Nothing," he lies.

Billy grunts. "C'mere."

When Tommy looks over his shoulder, Billy's holding the blankets up.

"C'mon," Billy presses, scooting over to make space.

So, full of wonder, Tommy kicks his shoes off and snuggles up under the blankets.

"I c'n tell when y' lyin'. Wha's wrong?"

"You are amazing," is all Tommy says.

Billy rolls his eyes. "'Mazing neurotic gay Jewish nerd. You're 'mazing. Dumb, but 'mazing. Brave. Couldn' do what you do."

And Tommy doesn't know why, but it means everything to hear those words from Billy. Billy means everything. "Y'know, I always felt like I was all alone in the world. Until I met you."

Billy gives a sleepy smile. "Know y' welcome whenever, Tommy. You're m' brother." Then he tries to frown sternly (the effect is softened considerably by his droopy, unfocused eyes and mussed hair). "You. Worried Ted half t' death. Said he thought y'might jump off a building or somethin'."

"I wouldn't," Tommy says.

"I know. Y'd never do somethin' y'thought might make me cry."

Something warm and fuzzy flip-flops in Tommy's stomach. "Sure I would," he lies with a grin. "Anyway, what he 'n I were talking about earlier isn't an issue anymore."

Already mostly asleep again, Billy makes an agreeable sort of noise. "M'kay. Long as y' don't need anything, 'm goin' back t' sleep."

"Nope, don't need anything," Tommy says softly.

No. He doesn't need a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend. Or anything. All he needs is Billy.

.End.