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Avenger Assembled

Bananaphone (IC)

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Date: June 2010

 

 

A few days before Avenger returned to the Interceptors' brownstone, the telephone rang at the Espadas apartment during one of those times Erik was there. Ellie picked it up and after a short, "Yes, he's here. May I say who's calling please?" exchange, handed the phone to her brother with an eyeroll. "For you."

 

The voice on the other end was warm, friendly, and very familiar. "Hey, Erik. It's Jack. Taylor and I wanted to meet with you and make sure we had the ground rules in place for the game over the weekend. Are you busy now, or should we get together another time?"

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Erik pulled the phone away from his ear and looked at it as though betrayed. After a long moment he returned it to the side of his ear to speak into it. "Jack? Ol' buddy? Ol' pal?" he began with the utmost calm and understanding. "How did you get this number? Wait, backing up for a moment, how did you get my name?" The swashbuckler kept his tone polite, but his normally smooth voice cracked slightly with stress as he ran a hand through his dusty brown hair. Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap... He might have gotten on well enough with Avenger, but the blood drinking undead wasn't anywhere near the top of the list of people he was comfortable knowing where his family lived.

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Jack thought about antagonism and comradeship, about the times Erik had annoyed him versus the honest fear in the other man's voice. In the end, for once, he picked the answer he thought Erik would prefer. "The number is on the record. As for your name, I got that the same way I do everything else, my sword-wielding friend. With style." He chuckled, then added, "I take it you'd rather not meet at your place, then?"

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One of Erik's eyes half closed in an incredulous wince. "With...? Do you seriously talk like this?" the younger man asked, bemused. "'Cause I just got used to the 'grr, argh, vengeance from the shadows' thing and this is kind of disturbing. I swear, I taste terrible with fava beans." His tone and words were light, but Erik had simply put his mouth on autopilot while his mind raced. Argh, what do I do? How did I let this happen? Stupid! He turned his attention briefly back to the conversation. "Uh, yeah, somewhere else would be good, sure, yes. Please."

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"Excellent." Glad they hadn't gone into some killing fit , one way or another, Jack moved on. "Taylor and I will meet you at that little cafe down the street?" It was the sort of ethnic place that catered more to people from outside the neighborhood with money: in short, people like Jack and Taylor. "In half an hour or so?" Offering to meet in daylight was quite a concession for him, but it was worth doing for something this important.

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"...yes," Erik managed, "that would be... fantastic. See you then." Thumbing the button to hang up the phone, he placed the heel of each hand against the sides of his head and squeezed his eyes shut. "Nnnngh..."

His sister gave him a look, one eyebrow raised as she sat on the kitchen table and swung her feet back and forth. "What's your problem?"

Looking up, Erik stood and clasped her on the shoulders. "Ellie, I want you to get the cross off the wall in Mom's room and... I... have no idea." Turning about abruptly, he smacked his fists into his forehead. "Locking the doors won't do any good. We could... could... Argh!" Looking back at Ellie he grimaced. "Just don't let any tall, dark and handsome strangers in, okay?"

She regarded him flatly. "...riiight."

Running a hand down his face, the fencer stalked out of the room, grumbling, "I gotta go out..."

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It was possible that Jack had called from that cafe, as they were already set up in the corner furthest from the windows when Erik arrived. They even had the baby with them, although he was awfully swaddled for such a nice summer morning to keep the sun from getting to him. Taylor was busy getting him out of the layers as she took the seat in the corner. Except for the glittering amulet at her throat, she looked like any mother trying to soothe a surly infant, in jeans and a tunic style top that was wrap belted at the waist.

"I swear, he's the happiest baby until we try and go out," she muttered to Jack as she hid one hand under the table to search through the Void for the latest favorite teething toy to pop in his mouth. Of course, it was only when they went out during daylight that this little 'problem' cropped up.

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Jack was uncomfortable himself, wearing sunglasses, but glad Taylor was there to help keep the baby happy. He wasn't a huge fan of the sunshine, but he could live with it, if only so Taylor and Jack Jr. got what they needed. He scanned the cafe streets, keeping an eye out for Erik. "He'll be okay. The sun's awfully bright today. Does he need his bottle?" They normally breast-fed, but kept a bottle out in public, so no one would see Jack Jr. latch on, and into, his mother.

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Erik walked into the cafe, hands shoved into the pockets on his faded jeans, removing the usual easy grace of the acrobat's movements and he made his way over to corner booth and sat down. He offered the shorter of the seated pair a charming if shaky smile. "Taylor. You look fantastic. Glad to see the little guy's doing well. Strong and healthy?" Turning to Jack, the young man's expression shifter abruptly to poorly contained irritation, pointing an accusatory finger at the vampire. "You, sir," he announced, careful to modulate his tone in the public space, "are an ass-hat." Glancing over to the baby, he gave Taylor and apologetic look. "Sorry."

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"He ate just before we left. I don't think he's hungry, just cranky." She managed to block as much of the sunlight as she could from his eyes and provided something to gnaw on. Not only did it at least momentarily placate the cross infant, it also helped hide the small sharp fangs. At least until the latest toy was destroyed by a multitude of tiny pin pricks.

"Thank you! He's doing great. Its alright, he's too little to understand what you're saying just yet. Just don't call Jack names when he's old enough to repeat them. It undoes all the work I put in with my personal restraint," Taylor had agreed that this was necessary a hundred percent when Jack had first suggested the idea. She empathized still with the obviously disconcerted young man, "Why don't you join us?"

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"I've heard worse," Jack replied with that same smile, giving Erik's annoyance about as much weight as he thought it deserved. He did his best to remind himself that he and Erik were in similar situations, and the other man had ever reason to be uncomfortable, but empathizing with other people had never been easy. He shot for charm, the better to keep himself from ruining the moment. "I ate before we came, but are you hungry?" he asked Erik. "Anything the two of you want is on me."

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Erik gave Jack an uncertain look. "Is... that like a vampire joke thing?" He placed his hand in front of his face, two fingers extended like fangs, and dropped his voice a few octaves. "'I ate before we came, but I can always do with a... light snack. Bwa ha ha ha.'" Letting the hand fall to the table, he leaned back in the booth, dejected. "Man, I have been so careful. Do you know how much flack I take from Lynn over the wig?" he asked Taylor. "A lot, is what I'm getting at." Turning back to Jack, the athletic young man sighed. "My sister answered the phone. Such a party foul."

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"First rule, Jack never-ever makes vampire jokes." Taylor said, looking up at Erik. Both brows arched up, "Or even oblique references if he can help it. He ate before we came because its complicated to cover for that in public. We also fed the baby and did a bunch of other completely normal things before we headed out of the house, too. None of them likely interesting or note worthy. Not everything is a joke or an attack."

She sighed and reached for the glass of water by her plate, although she paused before picking it up, "And of course he knows that's upsetting. That's why we called. If he'd been wanting to upset you, he just would have shown up in a room when you turned around. That happens to me a lot too."

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Reminding himself that he wasn't in competition with the man, Jack concentrated, studying Erik intently. Would I be so different, if I was him? It was a tough question to answer, especially since he had a feeling the 'right' answer wasn't actually correct. "For the record, I generally don't sneak up on my wife...on purpose." Except when he was in the mood, but that was a different matter entirely. "As for you, Erik, I don't really know what to say. If I was trying to frighten or offend you, we'd be having a very different conversation, and I certainly wouldn't have my partner and my son here." He studied Erik again and added, "So this weekend, do you think your team can handle it? I'm not talking about me, I'm talking about the personality side of things."

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Erik conceded the point, grumbling, "Alright, alright, 'vampires, what vampires?'" The younger man rolled his eyes in Jack's direction. "Well, duh. If I thought that, I'd be trying really hard to stab you with something glowy right now. It's kind of my go-to response to stress," he sighed, his expression a mixture of annoyance and chagrin. "All I'm saying is that if you need me for something, call the brownstone or go trough Doc or something, okay? Your family can take care of themselves," he told Jack with a deferential nod to Taylor, "but mine aren't part of... this." Erik gestured to everyone gathered in the booth.

Rubbing his face wearily, the fencer sighed. "As for the team... well, Grim's ticked, and so is Vince. Fulcrum's pretty mad but I think that's more at Doc than anybody. You could blow Colt's bike out from under him and he probably wouldn't bat an eye, so that's kinda tough to say, and Dynamo.... well, he's not the sharpest tool in the shed, so he doesn't really get everything that's going on one way or the other."

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"I'm sorry to say that the threat level simply ratchets up as one's power does. And Jack Jr. is entirely helpless. We do understand just how important it is to have the ones you love out of this. You're not the only one with a sibling." Taylor's eyes went bleak for a moment as she remembered just what her life had led Jackson into and she bent her head to hide her face. She was never comfortable with showing that much emotion in public and it was a topic that even a year later she found distressing. So she let Jack handle the conversation for a few moments while she took a sip of water and bent her head down to fuss over the baby for a minute or two.

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Jack patted his wife lightly on the arm and resisted the urge to glare at Erik. Erik hadn't known there was an issue there...and for some reason it seemed faintly hypocritical somehow. "Yes, that sounds close to what I'd imagined. Our friend the pixie took finding out my nature very badly. I understand she was considering hunting in the past, but fortunately she seems to have dropped that notion." His mouth crooked up faintly in an honest smile. "As for Doctor Archeville, you'll be glad to know that I've returned his hundred bucks. Since I'm no longer acting as his agent, I wanted to make sure you were all comfortable with my fulfilling your other friend's invitation."

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Erik's mouth fell open is a look of vague horror at Taylor's reaction. Why does that keep happening?! he groaned inwardly. The acrobat struggled to remember the last time he'd gotten through a conversation with a woman without upsetting her in one way or another. It was becoming a truly frustrating pattern. Following the couple's cue and leaving it uncommented upon, he snapped his jaw closed and turned to Jack. "Good? I guess?" He raised eyebrow. "Lynn was seriously going to go all Buffy? That's... kinda dark for her." Erik might not have been the world's biggest fan of vampirism, but if Avenger was any indication, the blood suckers were still basically human.

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"She makes some off hand threats but it's just the way she is. I don't think she ever means most of it, or we wouldn't still be friends." Taylor spoke up when she'd had her composure firm once more, reaching up to cover Jack's hand and give his cool fingertips a squeeze of thanks. Although, it was true that Taylor'd been less close to the faeling since she'd been quite so yicked over the whole vampire issue. "Although when the cards are down, all of our associates have been on our side for the big battles, the fact of what Jack is has been a struggle for a lot of heroes. The little jokes aside, now that the awareness is out there of exactly what his nature is, Jack has concerns about where the line is for what would be done, not just to him, but to his family."

Taylor's expression grew troubled. Compared to Jack's urbane calm, her face was an open book. There were more reasons than one that Taylor favored a deep cowl when super heroing. "As you said, there's the perspective out there that Jack's family can protect themselves but our apartment isn't a super-base. Its just our home. We don't do trainings and secret meetings. We have a baby nursery and movie nights."

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"Because I respect you, Erik, I understand that what I'm about to say is unnecessary for you to hear. I just want to make sure that your colleagues are aware of it as well." When he spoke it was absolute assurance, as if the personality he affected around humans was gone entirely. "There will not be unfriendly visitors to our home." With the smile snapping back on, he added, "That said, we need to work out the ground rules for what'll happen over the weekend. Would you prefer capture the flag, or flag football?"

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"Well, yeah, and the library of forbidden tomes and the magic sigils and..." Erik trailed off and looked incredulously between Jack and Taylor upon seeing their faces. "Guys, c'mon. You don't seriously think anybody in our, y'know, 'circles' would try to hurt your kid, do you? I mean, that would... be..." The swordsman's mouth curved deeper into a frown. "Dios, you're serious."

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"I don't think they'd try and hurt the baby, or they wouldn't be in my circle any longer," Taylor said, her brow still furrowed in distress. She knew Jack felt differently on the matter but she left that for him to bring up, "But I think he's very easy to forget or overestimate because he happens to have a few... quirks. He's still just a baby. Our baby. Our home has all that security so that we know there's someplace that will always be safe for him no matter what happens outside."

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"I've seen superheroes kill my friends in front of me," said Jack suddenly, his voice quiet and low so it wouldn't carry, his eyes flicking around behind his glasses to make sure no one was listening. This was something Taylor knew about, though it was rarely something he discussed. "Some of them died like monsters, hissing and growling in their rage. Some of them begged for the mercy their murderers thought they were giving them." He looked down at the table, and for once couldn't quite meet anyone's eyes, before he looked back at Erik. "Lynn doesn't frighten me. It's what she, and people like her, represent for my family."

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Erik looked back and forth between the married couple, jaw working as the upper half of his face churned through different expressions while he tried to think of what to say. "...right. Yes. Well." The younger man drummed his fingers loudly on the table. "I think," he declared, "I'll have the pancakes." He turned to Taylor. "Do you like pancakes? Of course you do, everybody likes pancakes. Pancakes. Are. Delicious," he informed the child in her arms emphatically before half rising out of his seat at the booth. "Can I get some pancakes over here please?!" he called out to the staff of the cafe. There was a beat of awkward silence before he sat back down, hands planted firmly in front of him, lips slightly pursed and eyes looking conspicuously anywhere but across the table.

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It was Taylor's turn to reach out with her free hand to rest it on top of Jack's, giving it a little squeeze. She blinked at Erik's rather desperate need for a topic change - pancakes it was - and said in a conversational tone to Jack gently, "I think that mean's that there's not going to be anyone showing up at house after the game, honey. I'm pretty sure Erik agrees that there's nothing to worry about."

As the waiter came, Taylor placed an order for herself as well although her appetite was slowly dying after the baby was born. Still she could eat and that might seem less weird than just Erik having a giant stack of pancakes. Once he'd vanished back again Taylor asked, "So, you were saying about your team and their current state of mind?"

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