Let's go Meet the Prince!

OOC: Joint post between Blitzen & Esimed
~~~

“Niko! Are you up? It’s the first day of school,” A nine-year-old Theo cried, excitedly! “Third grade! You know what that means? The Big Playground!” Berlin’s Elementary campus was divided into two buildings. The appropriately named Brown Elementary which housed grades K-2 was a brown brick building. Hillside Elementary, right next door on the side of the hill was for grades 3-5. Everyday, she and Niko would stare through the chain link fence at the marvel that was The Big Playground. There were no plastic animals on giant coiled springs; no three-step slides into a sand pit. The Big Playground was made of metal. Glorious, grown-up metal. Monkey bars, teeter totters, some wondrous wheel to run and spin around on. Asphalt courts for kickball and the most coveted of all playground equipment…. Swings.

“You’re gonna make us late!” She chided. “What if I don’t get a good seat? What if they put us alphabetically and I don’t know anyone?”

“We’re both Maximoff.” He replied, pulling the pillow over his head for just five more minutes. “You’ll sit near me.”

Besides you, Niko. I want other people to like me too! I need new friends.” Finding friends was a subject of great importance to her. Niko lucked into an advanced sort of social status, so it was difficult for him to relate. He was delayed a year when he came to the states because he spoke mostly Sokovian and translators in Berlin New Hampshire, surprisingly, were hard to come by. In first grade he was held back again, this time by his own intentional doing. His father had charged him with something important and Niko took his responsibility seriously. Being nearly two years older worked to his advantage. Boys always want to hang around with older boys and the girls, starting in third grade, found him so mature. But Theo, with her talk of magic and mystification had a rougher time of it. The kids thought she was weird and honestly, she was. She talked about things few of them believed in, stared at people and walls for hours on end if left to her own wiles, and just had a way of generally creeping people out, adults included. “Niko, The Big Playground! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”

~~~

“Wake up!” 21 year old Theo said as she threw open Niko’s bedroom door. Her bewitching hands sent a wave of red through the intervening distance and shook the sleeping Niko’s bed. His eye slowly opened as he removed his earbuds, focusing in on Theo and…. His eyes snapped open.

“Bob?” He questioned, snarling his lip and drawing his sheets up around his waist. Boxer briefs didn’t leave a lot to the imagination. “Did he sleep over?”

“Yeah you could say that.” Theo was holding Bob’s wrist and petting the back of his hand like he was a cat. Bob Dylan Wong was standing next to Theo and enduring the platonic pampering with no signs of annoyance. Beautiful soul, that Bob. “He and I stayed up late doing each others hair and talking about Mindingo Montoya. Did you know Birdy’s had his hands in Mindingo’s actual hair? Can you believe it?! He’s touched Mindingo Montoya, in his hair. That’s practically his brain and you know how sexy I find a man with brains.” Theo ran her owns hands through her hair as if she were filming an Herbal Essence shampoo commercial. She lost herself in it for an inappropriate moment before Niko cleared his throat to grab her focus. She was almost blushing as he spun a finger, a silent gesture to indicate she should turn her back so Niko could do his speedster thing and get out of bed and get dressed before she could hardly blink. While Theo chipperly complied, Bob looked on with a bemused smile, resting his free hand under his chin, until Theo spun him around as well. Niko tapped them on the shoulder before Bob had finished turning, to indicate he was set.

“Oh, honey, that’s not what you’re wearing today.” Bob said, more as a statement then a question, as he began to rummage through Niko’s closet.

“Yeah, Niko, that’s not what you’re wearing today,” Theo parroted.

Niko shot her a look of betrayal as he looked down, wondering what was wrong with his track pants and tight shirt. He was muttering something about being able to dress himself without the benefit of another man’s fashion input.

“Oh, and Birdy lives here now,” she said, matter of factly. “He quit his job and the Sanctum loves him. Besides, someone has to clean up after you.”

“After me? Didn’t we find a plate of spaghetti in your room when we moved out? We hadn’t had spaghetti in months.”

“I didn’t find that plate, you did. Angel hair is so much more delicious. Do you like Angel Hair pasta, Birdy?”

“With shrimp and grape tomatoes, but girl, the carbs will kill you.” Bob pointed one hand at Theo’s butt and another at her waist.

“Why are you here?” Niko asked.

She was trying to wrap the fingers of both hands around her waist like it was a football. She’d never been able to do that, but for some reason it worried her after Bob’s statements. “I told you, he lives here. I asked him to take care of the Sanctum. Chances are we’ll be out and about and…”

“No, Miskja Brat; here ... in my room … at 7:30 in the morning.”

“Oh that! We have a lot to do. I was in the TV room this morning and guess who is in town?”

“Kidz Bop?”

“Don’t tease me, Niko. Those children are incredible singers.”

“Terry Crews?”

“Yes he is!” Theo punched Niko in the shoulder. “He’s aging so well and his pecs just keep getting bigger. I’m going to find out at which restaurant he’s having dinner and convince him he wants to meet me.”

Bob tapped her on the shoulder and shook his head no.

“But only I get busy with Terry Crews. No, there’s a representative from Wakanda.” Theo told her cousin after confirming silently with Bob that stalking THE Terry Crews was not a good idea. Niko gave her a blank stare, encouraging her to continue. “Heir apparent. Son of Storm? He’s on my list, remember? He’s speaking at the consulate at nine. We’re going to talk to him. He’s one of us Niko and we need the funding if we’re going to do this thing properly. We don’t even have matching uniforms. Just promise me you won’t parasail him. No turning Royalty into kites.”

“I will give ample warning before I punch him in the face.” Niko replied as Bob set a pair of dress slacks and sports coat on the bed.

“I told you he’d say that, Birdy. Come on, we’ll wait for him downstairs. Good thing about my Niko, you never have to wait for him long. Race you downstairs, Birdy!” And Theo took off like a true cheat before Bob even knew they were racing. The poor Sanctum was torn, it didn’t know who to support in this race. It moved the foyer up to the third floor to keep Bob from winning then it rearranged the stairs to keep Theo from reaching the first floor. This went on for longer than it would have taken them to simply walk to the front door and finally they both stopped running and had to laugh at the absurdity of it.

“Alright, it’s a draw, Birdy!” Theo yelled from the 2nd floor landing which is just about where she’d started from. Bob came walking out of the nearby broom closet with a raincoat on. Don’t ask.

“This house is amazing, Theo.” Bob said as he slipped out of the raincoat and hung it up in the closet behind him. “Is more than a house, you know that, right? I need to read those books down in the library, but I think this house is built on a dimensional crossroads of sorts. What?”

Theo was pointing up at the ceiling and smiling at Bob. “The library is upstairs from here, Birdy.”

“On the fourth floor? No, it’s downstairs on the 2nd floor, Theo.”

“But we’re ON the 2nd floor and there is no 4th floor, Bob.” But Theo didn’t sound quite sure of that and was looking at the stairs as if they’d pulled a fast one on her.

“Maybe we’re both right; I’ll try to see what I can learn while you and your cousin are out today. You should wear your long red coat, it’s very slimming.” Bob pulled said coat from the broom closet behind him and slipped if over Theo’s shoulders. “There’s probably a dress code that you two won’t quite uphold, but there’s no need to show up tits first, Theo. Modesty can be quite becoming.”

Theo sighed and readjusted the coat. Tits first was kind of her thing of late, but she’d be guided by Birdy in this. He had, after all, touched Mindingo Montoya’s hair.

“So, we can’t pay you right now, Birdy. We have money or access to it, but it’s tied up with some strings that we need to look into. There’s a trust fund of sorts setup through Stark Industries, but we’d much rather not jump through those hoops if we can get Wakanda on board. Do you have enough pocket money to get you through the day?” Theo was digging through her pockets as if they’d ever contained money.

“I’ll manage for a while, but not too long, Theo. BD Wong has needs too.”

“I bet he does!” Theo high-fived Birdy like something out of a cheesy Saturday morning kids program. Finally a friend who knew she was weird and still didn’t mind. Her other hand found something in the pocket of her coat and she made a face as she looked to see what it was. It was some sort of fabric, blue and red…… Slowly realization dawned on her as she held the Scarlet Spider’s mask out in front of her. “Niko! What did you do?!”

Niko ran a hand thoughtfully over his stubble free chin, deciding his best defense was to admit nothing. “Oh, no, Miskja Brat, I know better than to answer that question sight unseen. You tell me what I did, I’ll start with the …. Oh.” He stopped short, seeing the mask she was holding. “The Ghost Spider Girl dropped that in the East River. I was just holding it for her. Where did you find it?” Immediately he turned suspicious eyes towards Bob.

Bob held his hands up defensively to say he had nothing to do with it, and he hadn’t. Until a few moments ago Theo’s coat hung from the levitating coat rack in the TV room; the coat rack that looked more like a legless mannequin torso.

“Leave Birdy out of this. No No No I don’t believe you. You weren’t in the East river by accident. You didn’t tell me you unmasked that poor girl. She’s just a child, Niko. Probably.”

“To be fair, I didn’t unmask anyone. Her mask came off when she fell into the East River. I did jump in to save her though. That does count?”

“And she was only in the East River because you flew her like a kite.”

Niko started to laugh at the memory, but decided that Theo wasn’t finding it as humorous. “It wasn’t my fault. She could have let go, Miskja. I literally was just walking home, and….” He let out an exasperated sigh, leaning his head back to stare at the ceiling. “I’ll give it back. I’ll apologize.”

~~~

The subway sucked. It was slow and smelly and crowded. But it was the perfect punishment for Niko and that’s why he and Theo were giving one another the silent treatment on the C train. Theo was wedged between complete strangers sitting down on one of the worn wooden benches and Niko stood in front of her fuming in his slacks and sportscoat. The subway was slow and inwardly it was killing him, like being stuck in a line behind someone looking for exact change. His impatience grew with every slow turn of the wheel against the rail, but he refused to give Theo the satisfaction of seeing his rage. Theo wasn’t comfortable herself. She was sandwiched between a man-spreader and someone reading the New York Times, the most unfriendly of all public transportation periodicals. She had to dodge and weave with each turn of the page. Theo was convinced at any moment the reader would flip the page and give her a black eye. She was about to say something to her fellow New Yorker (okay technically Theo hadn’t yet updated her address with the DMV) when she recognized the keyword Wakanda. Because she knew how to read and it was printed in big bold letter:

Wakanda Delegation in Town; Black Panther Sightings on the Rise

Theo reached up and pulled the paper down so she could read it more easily. Her train neighbor did not approve and tried to pull it back.

“Oh get over yourself, you’re reading the right side of the page, I’m reading the left.” The occupant next to her promptly folded up the paper lengthwise, then downward. Niko, still sulking, fought the urge to intervene.

“Are you kidding me?!” Theo stood up and turned around to address those she’d been sitting next to. As the train rocked and moved she bumped up against her resolute cousin who held her in place; her steady rock even when they were pissed at one another. “Alright, listen up you two. You,” she pointed a finger at the man-spreader and his knees rushed together in a brief fog of red, “don’t have balls the size of Central Park and don’t need that much room. Close your legs when you’re sitting next to a lady or on a crowded train.” The man was trying to pry his knees apart but they were bound by some invisible force.

“And you,” Theo held her hands out to the newspaper woman’s head as if she were going to rip it in half. Niko cleared his throat and gave Theo’s hair a soft tug to grab her attention. Theo looked up and saw that many of those nearby were staring and more than a few phones were held up to capture the scene on their high resolution cameras. Theo turned her head to the right and saw more of the same from the rest of the train.

‘…don’t be such a newspaper diva. Try reading something more manageable when you’re in a crowded space.” Theo reached out towards a plastic rack screwed to the wall and a printed C Train schedule zipped up to meet her hand halfway. She snatched it out of the air before dropping it in the woman’s lap and gave her a stern look. “Be kind to one another because one day you will need someone’s help. Don’t be a Bailey Bishop.” The train was pulling into a station, though not the one the Maximoffs had intended to use. Theo turned around and wrapped an arm around Niko’s waist, guiding him towards the exit. As the train stopped and they stepped onto the platform she swept her free hand in a wide arc behind her and red mist settled over the handheld phones before each screen went blank and the doors slid shut.

“I know what you’re going to say, Niko. Yes, this makes us even.” She squeezed him in the middle by way of silent apology and looked up the stairs to the street above. “I hope this block has churros.”

~~~

FOREIGN EMBASSIES & CONSULATES OFFICE

That’s what the sign outside read and the security inside was impressive and intense. Niko and Theo made it past the initial checkpoint without any problems; they’d just had to step through metal detectors after chucking their phones in a bin that went through its own scan. They traveled light so aside from a wad of cash in Niko’s pocket and the blue and red mask inside Theo’s, that’s all they had. Of course, that left them standing in another line to an event to which they had not been invited. As they moved closer to the front of those lines Niko disappeared and showed back up with two press badges. Theo gave the security detail a whimsical smile as they checked the badges and looked down a list in their hands.

“We’re looking forward to hearing what Prince T’Chantem has to say when he sees us in attendance.” Theo’s voice was fleeting, little more than a whisper as she waved her fingers through a dissipating red smoke trail in front of lead screener’s face.

“You think a famous dignitary like the heir apparent of Wakanda knows ‘the Mighty Maximoffs?” Niko teased, straightening the tie he didn’t want to wear to begin with. Seeing the expectant look on her face, he softened and added, “Don’t worry, Miskja Brat, we’ll find a way to speak with him.”

“You two, follow me. I’ll take you to your seats nearest the podium. Do you need any help with your equipment?” The guard was more or less under the spell induced impression that the Maximoffs were reporters and in his mind they had cameras and reporter gear with them. You could call it mind control, but it was more like interlacing one frame over another. Theo wasn’t nearly as adept at neuro-electric interfacing with her magic, but it seemed to have worked. She gave Niko a shrug and told the guard, “Please if you don’t mind, but be careful, it’s fragile equipment.”

The big guard did in fact stoop down and wrap his fingers around the imaginary handles of two imaginary cases then led the cousins through the doors and down the center aisle to a pair of seats near the podium. Niko fit in quite well with his rarely worn slacks, sport coat and even rarer tie, but Theo in her long red leather coat and hair done up by Birdy was not quite as inconspicuous. Still, everyone was there to here the Prince speak, not people watch.

OOC: Gray, the ball is in your court.

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