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Something around here ain't straight

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Jet has the lead. Sonic is in second place. The bloodthirsty protector of an ancient cursed tomb that the Babylon Rogues accidentally unleashed while trying to get their hands on some ill-deserved treasure is a close third.

The creature’s enormous, spiked, bony tail claps down behind them, sending up a wave of hot desert sand -- and Sonic rides that wave, jumps off at the highest point, and uses the burst of speed to zoom past Jet, all cocky smile, focusing on the gear below him to move with his surroundings, maneuvering flawlessly.

Jet grits his teeth. He thinks he's so cool, doesn't he? No. There's no way Jet is losing to that … That loser!

Jet speeds up, makes a jump to get onto a fallen pillar that he grinds along, kicking himself off at the perfect moment and spinning his Extreme Gear twice before he lands, the pressure from his board sending up a cascade of sand.

With a grin, Jet looks up at Sonic, who's racing right next to him. Sonic is focused on the sand, the pillars, the track -- he's not even LOOKING at Jet!

He'll show that blue bastard.

Jet speeds up, ignoring the warning beeps from the gear below him -- if he can just make it to that next broken wall, he'll get enough air that his board will get to breathe, he can keep going for a little longer.

Behind them, a cascade of sand stands up like water from the blowhole of a whale, the tomb’s guardian diving down below them.

Jet makes it to the wall -- all he needs is to jump on the first broken bit, kick off, and then make sure his leap last as long as possible. After the first spin, the beeping stops, and Jet grins.

Sonic is right behind him, but Sonic is behind him.

Jet lands on a burst of sand, riding it, the speed of his extreme gear getting yet another boost.

He looks over his shoulder at the hedgehog behind him.

“Looks like someone is having a hard time keeping up!" Jet taunts, grinning at Sonic's startled expression, he has finally realized that he's no match for Jet --

The guardian shoots up in front of them. Jet squawks, and more by reflex than by thought, he evades to the side, dodging the massive snake-like body by the breadth of a feather.

He huffs a laugh of exhilaration an excitement. There is no way Sonic didn't see that.

The sand below parts, and the guardian’s tail rises up and hits Jet’s gear, a hard and solid whack, and Jet loses his footing on the board, feeling it slipping below him, and then enormous ivory jaws clap together around the end of his extreme gear, the sudden jolt sending Jet up in the air.

The thing lets the board fall, its head draws back, glowing yellow eyes snapping into focus, directly at Jet.

Its jaws part.

Jet doesn't really manage to think much, other than the split-second realization that ‘this isn’t good’, and his common sense telling him that he should probably panic, but he doesn't really have the time to actually feel any emotion.

Wind rushes past him, then he is swept away, blinking as the sudden change in direction at high speed forces him to take a second to orient himself, to find out what just happened. Behind him, jaws shut closed around thin air with an uncomfortable, clattering clap.

Sonic pulls Jet up to stand on the back of his extreme gear. Jet blinks, feeling his cheeks heat up, and he doesn't manage to say anything about what he thinks about this situation and also Sonic as a person before Sonic exclaims: "hold on tight!", and even though Jet would very much like to tell Sonic where he can stick his advice, Sonic makes a sharp turn to avoid another strike from the heavy tail, and Jet has no choice but to actually do as Sonic says if he doesn't want to fall off and land face first in the sand, and he is NOT giving Sonic that satisfaction.

His arms wrap around Sonic's waist the moment before they hit a wave of rising sand, his feet adjusting on the board and his body automatically balancing out the extra weight from being two on the extreme gear and wow, it really is harder to stay on when you're not the one riding, now he understands why Storm is always so clumsy when he gets overzealous and loses his board and has to hitch a ride with Wave or Jet (Storm is a bumbling fool, but he isn't THAT bumbling, he can handle extreme gear on his own just fine) -- but Jet is a natural, a master of his craft, and they ride the wave flawlessly, gaining extra speed and rushing through the old ruins so fast that the sound of passing air almost hurts Jet's ears. He lets out a shaky breath of exhilaration, his stomach flipping, for a moment forgetting that he is clinging to Sonic, and then, once he remembers, it flips again.

The temple guardian shoots up behind them.

The broken walls of the temple are closing in in what was probably a hallway or entrance once. They will be out of the temple soon. Around them is nothing but flat, sandy land, not much to jump off, the extreme gear is already beeping, warning them about an imminent overheat if the thing has to be the one keeping them off the ground much longer, and the guardian is in its element. If they go out there, they won't be able to outrace the beast.

"Ready to take over, Jet?" Sonic asks, looking over his shoulder with bright eyes beaming from the adrenaline rush, and Jet can't even manage to let out the mass of incoherent noises he feels compelled to make for some reason.

Then Sonic kicks off of the extreme gear, spin-dashing into a wall with enough force to create a rain of dust and stone, and bouncing off of it, into a pillar, kicking off and curling up again, hitting the ancient walls again and again and again.

He lands on the ground, turns his nose towards the entrance, and runs.

Jet has control over the extreme gear the moment Sonic jumps off, getting his balance, taking over, and then speeding up to get to the entrance. He dodges the concentrated mass of razor sharp quills that terrorizes the temple, and when Sonic is done and back on the ground, Jet is it right next to him.

Jet speeds up, throwing a glance at Sonic who is keeping up no sweat, feet a blur, quills swooped back, the light from the cracks in the temple roof flicking over him, so fast that it looks like he is flicking in and out of existence. He's smiling, focused on the path in front of him, on the rhythm of his feet, on himself and the adventure he's in.

He throws a glance at Jet, then grins, and Jet scowls at him while a distracting feeling stirs in his chest.

"Race you to the finish line!" Sonic yells, pulling Jet back into a reality where he is being chased by a giant monster, and, more importantly, Sonic has the lead.

"No way!" Jet says, "there is no way you're winning this time!"

Sonic just grins, as always, and then picks up his pace. Jet scowls again, and then turns his attention to the ground and the extreme gear below him. He gets onto some rubble, giving him just enough air to spin around and give the extreme gear a second to breathe. He's in the lead, then Sonic is, then Jet again, and then the temple guardian crashes into the damaged part of the hallway, The walls around them rumble and the rain of plaster and dust increases, and the moment the two cross the threshold, none of them really have the time to pay attention to who comes in first.

The temple crashes down onto the beast, ancient bones cracking under the weight, a head shooting out after them, and a large piece of rubble hitting the skull and slamming the jaws closed with enough force that the head of the beast cracks.

Both of them skid to a halt, sending out a small cascade of sand.

"Ha!" Jet exclaims, "I won!"

That was probably what happened, right.

"That was a close call," Sonic says, and right, he did just save Jet from being eaten by a giant skeletal snake.

Wait.

“Wh-- hey!” Jet squawks. "Why did you do that?"

"Huh?" Sonic looks at Jet.

"I had it!" Jet says, his feathers poofing up. "I -- I didn't need you to save me! I had it!“

Sonic's face splits in a grin.

"Come on, Jet. You don't take chances when dealing with ancient temple guardians. Don't you know that?” Jet’s face heats up, and he sputters, but Sonic keeps talking. “Besides, wouldn't be much point in racing with me on the gear and you on foot. Had to make sure we finished our race, right?"

"You think I need you?" Jets feathers are standing almost vertically on his head now, "You think I needed you to save me, like some sort of -- prince? In shining armor? Well! I didn't ask for your help! I don’t NEED your help! I HAD it!" Jet hovers over the sand, gliding away ever so slightly as he talks, "and next time! It might be you who needs saving! And then! Won't you be sorry!"

Sonic doesn’t look sorry. More than anything, he looks amused. "Are you threatening me by saying you’ll save me from the next gigantic skeleton snake?”

"NO!" Jet sputters, backing away even further on the board. "I – you! You SUCK!”

Sonic is still rage-inducingly unfazed, watching Jet like he finds the show entertaining.

"Jet, that's my gear."

Looks down at the extreme gear under him, first now remembering that oh yeah, his own is presumably buried under ancient temple rubble and the corpse of a giant stone snake, and the board he is currently on belongs to Sonic.

"Oh!" Jet says, finally regaining his bearings, "well, yeah -- yeah, it, it certainly is, isn't it! Well! The dirt suits you better anyway. See ya!”

"Wha-- hey! Whoa! Jet--!”

Jet just grins and waves, and then he sets the board to full speed and races over the sand before Sonic can even register fully what's going on. Jet grins to himself, at the thrill of adventure and a successful trick on Sonics behalf -- Wave is going to be bouncing up and down to pull Sonic’s extreme gear apart and see how it works -- and he writes off the fluttering feeling in his chest as being caused by that as well, and believes himself.


“What do you mean you lost your gear ?”

“It wasn’t my fault!”

“I’ve spend, like, a BILLION hours upgrading your gear, and you LOST IT?

“I didn’t LOSE it, it broke!”

“Well, my gear doesn’t just break, so clearly you had to be the one breaking it, Jet.”

“I got you his gear! You’ve wanted to pick that apart since forever--

“You think that piece of amateur work is anything compared to you losing one of my finest pieces of gear --

Storm adjusts the course of the blimp and looks at the reflection in the window - he can’t see the arguing parties, but he knows they have to be in a nearby room - and wonders if they are going to stop yelling on their own at any point or if Jet is going to lose his voice again before they settle down.

He gets his answer when the yelling turns incomprehensible, and then a door slams, and angry footsteps echo down the hallway.

Jet pushes the door open and starts pacing up and down the floor.

“URGH!” he says. “I go through all that, and THAT’S how she treats me?! Can you believe that?”

“Uhh, yeah,” Storm says, hopefully with enough enthusiasm that Jet will keep going on his own until he’s cooled down, without actually bringing Storm into it.

“This -- this is all Sonic’s fault,” Jet says and crosses his arms.

“Definitely -- wait, is it?”

“YES! Ugh, he ruins everything! ” Jet spreads his arms out dramatically, staring up at the ceiling like an unfortunate peasant addressing an uncaring god. Then he turns around, brushes his feathers back, and lifts a hand in a mock gesture. “Uuuh, look at me, I’m Sonic the hedgehog, I’m the fastest thing alive, I’m soooo popular,” Jet’s mocking parody fades more and more as his impression turns into a rant instead, “I’m so fast and blue and cool and handsome --

Storm looks up from navigating, frowns, and squints.

“-- I think I’m soooo great at everything and --”

“Um,” Storm says. “Boss?”

What? ” Jet screeches, clearly not happy to be interrupted.

Storm, still with a very thoughtful frown, like he’s just found the missing piece to some large puzzle but is still trying to find out where and how it fits, takes one more second to think, and then he asks:

“Do you ... like Sonic?” he asks.

What? No I don’t! Of course I don’t! I HATE him! He’s the WORST! Why would you ask that -- you don’t like him, do you?!”

Storm realizes he has made a mistake.

“N-no,” he says, in a desperate attempt to not get fired, or kicked in the shins, “not at all. I was just, uh. Wondering.”

“Well! GOOD! Because he SUCKS! And I will have nobody on my blimp! Who likes him! Nobody! You got it?”

“Yes, boss,” Storm says and salutes so hard he almost knocks his goggles off.

He can see Jet staring at his back in the reflection on the window. Staring, suspicious, angry, disgusted.

“He’s the worst, ” Jet underlines one final time, and then he turns around and stomps out again.

 

 

Wave and Storm’s relationship is in most cases purely professional. Jet brings them together, and when it comes to any subject that isn't racing or stealing, they either keep to themselves or talk to someone else.

Today, Storm breaks that tradition.

“Wave?” he says as he watches Jet speed after Sonic to challenge him to a rematch for something that Jet lost, Storm’s not sure what. “Do you … Do you think maybe Jet is gay?”

She turns her head to send Storm the most incredulous look she's sent him all month.

“What?” she asks.

“I'm just getting this feeling like maybe Jet is gay.”

“Yeah because nothing screams ‘gay’ like having four girlfriends,” Wave ironizes.

Storm squints, distracted, frowns, counts on his fingers.

“Didn't he break up with one last week?”

“Saw him with that girl from the race track afterwards so we're on four again.”

“Oh. Right -- are they official? Do we know … Her name?”

“Who cares, he'll dump her in two weeks anyway when he gets bored,” Wave says, “and it being three girlfriends doesn't change the fact that that's the dumbest thought you've ever had and that is saying something.

Storm sends her an angry look, he wants to retort, but she is right and her argument is sound and it does sound really dumb now that Storm has said it out loud. Jet has had more girlfriends than Storm has had girls he even liked, and Jet is five years younger than Storm. Maybe it’s because Jet doesn’t really spend more that five hours with each one, in total, at all. Frees up more time. Where was Storm going with this again?

Jet and Sonic are no more than speeding blurs in the distance. Storm watches the green smear, how Jet is completely focused on his opponent, forgetting his surroundings completely in the thrill of the race.

Yeah, he thinks. Jet is probably not gay.