“We’re gonna scare him,” Jeff said, laughing as he smiled. It felt good to laugh and even better to smile, especially around Nate. Nate was probably the only person Jeff was completely himself around. He hid things for J.D. and although he called Rhea his best friend, his feelings for her were sometimes overwhelming so he held his tongue. Nate was his buddy, his bro. Aside from his brother (who liked to pop in and out of his life) Jeff never really had a male friend. Nate was certainly one of a kind.
Jeff closed his eyes and waited for the transport to be over. Without fail his stomach jumped every time someone else teleported him, like he was in a plane experiencing turbulence. He never understood why his stomach didn’t lurch when he teleported somewhere, but assumed it was another downfall of their powers. “I’m sorry did you say something about me going down on a pizza?” He was a good leader, some might even call him a great one, but that didn’t change the fact his mind was constantly in the gutter. “’Cause that can be arranged.” Food sounded good; talking to Samuel Carver sounded better. “After we gay it up of course.” He reached out to give Nate a love tap in the chest before walking off, winking back at him.
Jefferson passed a group of loud teenage girls on the sidewalk and decided to turn on his telepathy. “Looks like Tommy’s cheating again,” he said, glancing over to Nate. “I don’t know why she’s still with him. After all, she broke girl code to date him.” Jeff left their minds quickly, not wanting them to overhear his reenactment of their thoughts. He knew it was a breach of privacy, but mind reading was his biggest guilty pleasure.
If Jeff wasn’t the most typical mind-in-the-gutter guy, Nate didn’t know who was. At this point he had gotten used to it, and wasn’t even surprised to hear the jokes when they got thrown out. It was all too common, but it was still kind of rare when other people were around. Nate noticed that about they other guy, noticed he seemed a little more open when they were alone and weren’t surrounded by a ton of people back in the Batcave. It wasn’t bad, actually kind of made him feel good about himself, knowing their captain and his friend felt comfortable enough to throw out the jokes or just be himself completely.
He shook his head as a breathy laugh came from him. More typical nature from the guy as they walked by the teenage girls. If he had a guilty pleasure, he would probably say it was telekinesis, but even then it never reached the level of Jeff and reading minds. Oh the things he found out when they went to get a new breakout, just walking around, getting wrapped up in other people’s minds with ease. Nate understood it.
“I think you have a little too much fun with that,” Turning his head, he glanced over at Jeff for a second before throwing his voice behind them, knowing the teenage girls weren’t too far away yet. “Trust me, honey, you’re better off without him.” His shoulders lifted into a shrug as they kept walking, another light laugh passing his lips as they rounded a corner and he looked over at Jeff, seeing the look on his friends face. “Well she does.”
In return for his efforts, all he got was a look and a shake of her head, a partial smile gracing her lips before she straightened out on the couch. She knew it though. How important humor was to people like them. Down here, sometimes it was the only thing they had when things turned for the worst, and though she might not ever say it, he was good for that. For them. Though he’d probably hear her think it if he was to go searching about her mind. Which he knew she hated, so he barely every did.
"I thought you were already doing that. Every day. All the time. 24/7. Don’t tell me you need someone to hold your hand through that now too."
"And honestly, I’m not the worst of us, or the one who needs it the most," she added, nodding over to their fearless leader’s closed office door, probably brooding about yet another mistake or other. There was always something to mull over for him. Both of them knew that well. "Misdirected charity, hon."
Everyone knew who really needed the break yet still would never take one around here, even the new breakouts who were only a few days in to their new life underground. And she was okay. She didn’t have the ever growing itch to run and go give the sunlight a much needed visit, and she didn’t let the mountain worth of stress filing their home get to her. Not like other people. She didn’t show it at least, as best she could. God only knew how much they needed the least stress possible around here, and adding to the bubble wouldn’t do anyone any good.
A slightly uncommon eye roll came from him as he turned his head to look forward instead of looking at her. Every single one of them needed that break at one point or another. Even if it was nothing, barely lasted a minute or two before they went back to what they always did, it was still better than nothing. She knew it, he knew it, they all knew it.
"Yes, this is so much fun. Sitting here, watching you torture the new breakouts. I don’t know why I would want anything like fresh air or a pizza or bowling."
Bowling was a little random, but people had fun with that, didn’t they? Either way, it was something to get them out and feel normal, feel less pressured. Normal was something they weren’t, never really had been. They didn’t get the easy things in life, any real sense of normalcy when there was basically nothing too normal about any of them. No, that wasn’t entirely true. They were Tomorrow People, but they were still just people. Sometimes he rode the thin line on that one.
"If you think you can ever get the great one out of there and out of here— be my guest," It would only be slightly impossible and pointless to try when he locked himself away like he did. "I don’t think it’s very likely, but we could spend forever trying if that’s how you want to spend your time."
How did he want to spend his time? He thought as he leaned his head back against the couch again. A little fresh air could do any of them good, that was a proven fact. Get held up down there too long and anyone would start to lose it. That and a little change of scenery for a few minutes never hurt.
"Always," she said with a grinning reply, fully intent on teasing the other man as per usual.
She wasn’t about to be one upped by the joker after all. Maybe she wasn’t known to be fun, and most people doubted she was, but she could joke with the best of them when the opportunity came along. With a lucky few. It wasn’t a side that most people got to see, unless they got close to her, and most people weren’t given the chance to get close to her at all.
Most people didn’t get to see her relax. Even if she could. As much as she chided Jeff on worrying too much, she was almost just as bad. Maybe just not on the little things. She could let the small things slide with ease, but the big things, being refugees in their own country, hunted down by people that wanted to experiment on them or worse, ULTRA, staying alive, it never quite went away enough to call whatever she did in her downtime a break.
"Plus, I doubt that Jeff would really appreciate the opportunity to pop another brain aneurysm if he found out where we were off to." God only knew just how stressed out the dear captain was already.
Acting as if he was hurt, he forced his face to twist in pain as his hand reached up to rest atop his heart. Not many could throw a joke back in his face or tease him quite a quickly, but she could.
Any one of them could be serious when the time called for it, make a joke and laugh when the time was right, though the last part was rare. They could relax and crack jokes when they weren’t be hunted by people who were out to take their powers or worse, end them completely if given the chance. Some of the newer breakouts didn’t know any better, not until they got to see what happened when they joked at the wrong time. Over time they saw, some witnessing first hand what it was like and seeing how little fun it could be.
It was a shame. They had to grow up fast, run and hide to keep themselves safe when they weren’t the bad guys, definitely not the worst people out in the world, but that didn’t matter to Ultra. They were the group that hunted, took what they wanted, ran tests and did research on a person – most of the time without consent – and even left them for dead. Ultra did what they wanted, keeping most of the Tomorrow People from having and enjoying down time.
"And we wouldn’t want that," Everyone stressed out, but no one more than their great leader. "But someone needs to stop and enjoy the moment." Someone meaning all of them.
“Thanks, Nate,” he said, an imperceptible smile appearing across his thin lips. He vaguely remembered the first day they met. Nothing much had changed since then, aside from Nate learning control. That’s what Jeff loved about the Batcave. It was a home, a sanctuary, a safe place for others to grow and explore their new gifts. He wanted to keep everyone sheltered, protected, but he wasn’t an idiot. He knew most, if not all, the tomorrow people – especially the young ones – wanted to go out and test their powers. That’s why he had Rhea, J.D., and Nate, to help chaperon trips topside. He didn’t want anyone feeling caged. He didn’t want the Batcave being compared to Ultra’s prison.
“TIM get me the address,” he ordered, quickly rushing to his desk and flipping through some scattered papers.
“One fifty-three Oak Field Street,” the machine replied. “I recommend telling—”
“TIM, power down. We’re only gonna talk to him,” he said, glancing up at Nate as he continued rifling. “Don’t want to scare him off. Two dudes showing up to ask him about being naked. Kinda gay.” He chuckled and grabbed a menu for the pizza place down the road, in case at some point they wanted to grab a slice. “Want to do the honors?”
The thanks wasn’t needed, not even in the slightest bit. When it came down to it, Nate would have done anything for the Tomorrow People, even more so for the three who had been with him from when he first started calling the Batcave his home. Truth be told, he probably would have jumped off a bridge if they asked, but that would have just been for fun or for the hell of it. But this? It was nothing. The idea of just the two of them going out, him getting Jeff out and hopefully getting his mind off of the last breakout by maybe bringing in this one. That was more than enough. He knew it would only do so much to help when they still lost someone they could have saved, but it was something and that was better than nothing.
One fifty-three Oak Field Street. He nodded his head at the machine before turning to Jeff again, a smirk tugging at his lips. “’We hear you’ve been waking up naked in someone’s bed that isn’t yours’,” A similar chuckle passed his lips. “Nothing gay about that. But it is a little weird.” Definitely weird. If he was in the guy’s shoes and that happened to him, he wasn’t sure what he would have done. It was enough when a woman came to him, talking about abilities that any normal person shouldn’t have. The naked bit would have done it for him.
He repeated the address in his head, thinking for a short moment before his hand reached out to clasp Jeff on the back. In nearly a blink of the eye, they went from the Batcave to an alley about a block from the address. A dead end alley with them facing the only entrance, no one seeing them showing up out of thin air. His hand falling back to his side, he began walking the only way they could. “About a block to the left,” He turned to look over his shoulder. “I would have gotten us closer but I figured you could use the exercise if you’re going to down a whole pizza.”
Fun wasn’t really a word that got associated with her. She wasn’t the easy going, ‘do-what-you-want’ person, and anyone who looked for that with her soon found that their efforts were going to be wasted. Break wasn’t a word that most people put to her face either. Unless it was closely followed with ‘bones’ or ‘back’. She couldn’t afford that kind of life. The relaxed, easy going one. None of them could, and the most they ever got to see of real sunlight was when they scuttled out of the Batcave, only to scuttle back in with (hopefully) another breakout in tow. The word break, or party, wasn’t allowed to be in their dictionary.
Except it still managed to stick in his.
Watching the group of young breakouts stand up and clear the space they had been taking up for their lesson (the last thing she had ever thought she’d be doing with her life was certainly that, teaching, Xavier’s School for Mutated Teens style), she only glanced at him as he flopped down on the couch.
"And I say in retrospect that’s going to seem like a horrible idea because I’m pretty sure we don’t have the same place in mind," she said as she turned to face him too.
Everyone needed some sort of way to relax and have a good time. A good time didn’t mean fun, it could mean anything at all. Literally doing nothing could be a good time to someone. Sitting down, lying back, floating in mid air, anything at all. Too many people got themselves stuffed by not relaxing, not enjoying the little things. Those were hardly things any of them could have, unless it was on a rarest of occasions and then most of them still didn’t get the chance to grasp it, only catching those little things at the very last moment before they slipped away.
Hearing the young breakouts walk off, only seeing some of them out of the corner of his eyes, he thought even they could use a break. He was one of the very few that thought it, hardly ever thought by the woman to his side, keeping an eye on them as they finished up their lesson. She just kept on pushing them. They needed a good pushing, needed to push themselves, needed to be ready, also needed a moment to live.
"Which is why we think of the same place," He pushed himself to sit up, looked around the space before looking back at her. "Unless you’re thinking about going to different places. You trying to get away from me, J.D?"
Jeff’s cheeks flushed red as Nate spoke. “Well I’ve heard of a few.” When a breakout’s powers started most of them experienced teleportation in their sleep, but every tomorrow person was different. Some could move small objects, like playing cards or a pencil without thinking; others heard random voices in their head and thought they needed medical help. Jeff went through all three, almost at same time. His powers didn’t develop separately, they hit him like a freight train and he went through a week of accidentally being somewhere one second and somewhere else the next. He thought about joining a freak show when Rhea approached him talking about her new abilities. Together they learned how to control them.
“It’s almost sunset,” Jefferson said, glancing between Nate and the screen. He hadn’t expected the man to be so gung-ho about a new breakout. It almost made him smile. “We don’t have to wait, just don’t tell the others.” He didn’t want to disturb Rhea or JD. They off doing god knows what but the last thing Jeff wanted was them commenting on his failure. “Just you and me, what do ya think?” With the way Nate had asked about waiting, Jeff hoped he would say yes. A little male bonding sounded like the best way to relieve some stress. He briefly wondered if Rhea would be upset with him for going off without her, but pushed the thought away and extended his hand towards Nate, signaling to shake on it. If the breakout didn’t come home with them no one would even know they went out. They didn’t have anything to lose, unless of course, Ultra got their first.
While some teleported in their sleep, and that seemed to be the known thing, others had the mixed effect. Two of the three ‘T’s thrown together, sometimes even all three of them. His was pretty solid from the start, teleporting in his sleep, waking up in someone else’s house, someone else’s bed. Some people thought sleepwalking was their problem, not being able to stay put in their sleep, but that wasn’t the case for him. Nate had never walked in his sleep a day in his life, so he didn’t even think about it at start. That’s why it was a little extra confusing, he didn’t know what to think of it, not until J.D. found and brought him in. Everything started to fall into place after that.
Raising a brow as he looked out of the corner of his eye at the other man, he was a little surprised. Not that he didn’t want to go out, find the new breakout and hopefully bring them back, because he did, especially now when Jeff was sulking so much from losing a breakout and he was lost in his own thoughts about it. It was just a bit of a surprise, even more so because it would just be the two of them. Maybe that’s what they both needed, a chance to bring someone in by themselves, and just a chance to get out together, just them. “I think,” Looking down at the extended hand, a smile tugged at the corner of his lips as he shook his head, but didn’t think twice before grabbing the hand and shaking. “You’ve got yourself a deal. No one else needs to know.” They didn’t, they wouldn’t, unless the two came back with a third.
Where was the break? Where was the timeout in this life? The pause button seemed to have gotten left behind in a world each of them left in another life. They rarely got the breaks, instead getting the chance to run after a new breakout while being chased by Ultra. Who was complaining? He wasn’t. If he got the chance to save someone like himself from the enemy, it was a good day. But a little break, some kind of fun, that wasn’t too much to ask. Was it?
Maybe it was, and maybe that’s why they rarely ever asked for it, but they all still thought about it. All the time.
“I say we just close our eyes and end up anywhere else.” Plopping down on the couch in the middle of the batcave, he leaned his head back against it and turned to look at her.
Jefferson’s gaze sank to the ground as Nate told him to drop it. “What do you want, Nate?” he asked, voice cracking as he gripped the knob tighter. This time, he shut the door, too scared to leave the office and look his fellow tomorrow people in the eyes. He knew no one specifically blamed him for the failed mission, but he blamed himself, wishing he would’ve moved faster. Being a leader of any sort was difficult and there was time when Jefferson thought he was good at it, but as the months flew away and Ultra grew in power, he wasn’t sure he was qualified anymore. “Thanks for the vote of confidence. Come here to kick me when I’m down or what?” He crossed his arms over his chest, defensive and already on edge.
“TIM, pull up the file on Samuel Carver,” he ordered, leaning against the front of his desk. “New break out. Woke up in his neighbor’s house naked. Sound familiar?” The fastest way to get over losing someone to Ultra was to shut off his emotions – he’d mastered that by now – and move on to the next person. The more people he saved the better he felt, he didn’t have time for fun and games. He knew there was talk around the Batcave of an upcoming pool party. He wasn’t against it, so long as everyone adhered to the rules. “He’s only a few block away. We could get him tonight.”
All he could do was watch their leader, his friend, the guy he trusted as much as he could trust anyone, and only wish he could do something to help. It was a hopeless thought because he couldn’t. There was nothing he or anyone else could do. Once they got into this position, this feeling of being stuck by a loss they couldn’t shake, all anyone could do was wait and let it pass. Either that or force on something else, some other feeling. Just push their thoughts to the side and move on from it because sometimes that was what they all did best. There was nothing anyone could do after losing a breakout, not unless they wanted to do something stupid and get their own powers taken. “I’ve got more than enough confidence in you. We both know that.” It was hard and Jeff took things harder than anyone else, but he knew the guy was meant to lead. There was no doubt about it.
Turning back to face the screen, he squinted his eyes and let them adjust to the file and images that TIM showed them both. A smile crept on his face as he kept his eyes on the screen. “I never woke up in anyone’s house naked,” Thinking for a moment, he crossed his arms over his chest. “Maybe once.” Taking a few steps back towards the desk, he leaned against the side of it, his eyes still looking over the file. This was another chance, one for them to not slip up on. “Why wait until tonight?” Turning his head, he could hear the words before Jeff spoke them. “I know it’s better to go when it’s dark out, less worry when people can’t see us. Do you really think Ultra cares about that though? They’re sneaky and they go out during the daytime, they just makes sure they don’t get caught.”
Jefferson sighed in relief as Nate turned his back on him. He wanted to be alone – hadn’t he made that obvious? He knew as well as anyone that losing a breakout affected them – the rest of his crew – but Jeff swore he hated it more. “You’re wrong,” he said, tilting his head up. “I’m studying,” he explained, clicking the pen again. “Their movements. Our movements. Where we went wrong. How they beat us. It’s like sports only when we lose someone loses their powers, or worse.” He looked up at TIM, nodding and waiting for the computer to respond. TIM flickered on silently and Jeff rose to his feet, approaching the other tomorrow person with caution. “You should go. Have fun. Do whatever you guys do.” Jeff forced a smile and held the doorknob, showing Nate out. He didn’t feel like entertaining company in his office, Nate or otherwise.
No matter the case – losing a breakout to Ultra, having a run in with them, having someone get caught and dragged in by them – Jeff always took it harder than the rest of them. Some people didn’t understand it, figured they would all take it just as hard, with it hitting close to home for most of them. That was never the case. It effected everyone, brought them down and shut some of the off, but the leaders always took the hit the hardest. The leaders always took it right to the heart, let it tear at them longer than they should without being able to let it go. That was something he understood, even without being the leader. It was a responsibility that hurt and haunted.
Lifting a brow, turning to look at the door and the guy standing by it with a smile that could only be forced, he shook his head. “Drop the act,” Taking a few steps to close the distance between them, he let his hand reach up and rest on Jeff’s shoulder. “You’re doing extra awful this time and I’m just glad no one else is around to see it.” His hand fell back to his side as he turned to glance at the screen that once held images of the girl they lost, one of many they had lost lately. One was too many. The numbers had been adding up and Ultra had been cracking down more than usual. They were careful and quick, and it still wasn’t enough at times.
Jefferson spun around, pained expression on his face. “I’m not sulking,” he lied, finding a new pen to keep his hands busy. He couldn’t look Nate in the eyes, opting to stare at the messy desk instead. She was so close, he thought, angry at the situation. He looked up and glared, worried Nate would try and sift through his thoughts. “Don’t,” he said, tone dropping low. They were supposed to have a truce – Jeff wouldn’t snoop so long as no one else did – but he broke that rule every time someone refused to talk to him. He was a hypocrite and couldn’t scold Nate if he used his telepathy against him. “I’m just…” He looked at the blank wall, tempted to ask TIM to throw up the images again. “I’m tried of losing people to them.”
A brow cocked at the lie, obvious enough for anyone to see it even without having to read the other guys mind. All Jeff did was sulk when it came to something like this, whenever they lost a breakout to Ultra. They all felt bad about, couldn’t help to feel the loss, but it was worse for him. Jeff was their leader and always took it harder than the rest of them. No matter how many times the other guy tried to fake it or hide the obvious, they all knew. “Oh yeah. Clearly you’re not sulking.” As he spoke, he pushed himself from the desk and took a few steps forward, his back facing their leader as he looked forward at the now blank screen that once showed pictures of the girl they lost. Though he might have thought about it for a short moment, Nate didn’t need to pick through Jeff’s mind to know what was going on there, not when it was clear on his face as he turned back around to face the other man. “We all are.” Crossing his arms over his chest, he kept his eyes on Jeff, even if the guy barely looked at him. “But this–” Making a reference to the sulking. “This isn’t helping anyone. It’s definitely not helping you.”