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Down Time

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They didn’t have much down time, things being what they were. That made their rare leisure moments all the better.

One of Rhodey’s favorite things when they had some breathing space was to show Nebula all the best parts of Earth.

“What is this place?” she asked, staring up at the yellow and red sign outside the blindingly white building. “In N Out? Is the misspelling intentional?”

“Yes, and is this place with the best burgers in the world,” Rhodey told her, holding open the door. “Come on.”

She was dubious, he could tell, but she entered. Taking two steps past the doorway, she stopped, scanning the interior. Looking for all the possible exits, Rhodey knew, and ranking every item in the burger joint for usefulness in battle. When he walked up to the counter, she fell in behind him, still on high alert.

“Hi!” the perky brunette behind the counter said. “What’s your pleasure?”

“Do you trust me?” Rhodey asked Nebula.

“You have never given me any reason not to,” she said.

“Two Combo number ones,” he told the cashier. “Oh, and a chocolate shake.”

She rang him up and handed him two paper cups. Nebula took hers, frowning.

“So first off – soda choice. I recommend Dr. Pepper.”

He demonstrated and she followed suit, filling her cup with ice and then pushing the right combination of buttons on the dispenser. At her first sip, her non-existent eyebrows shot up.

“Good?” he asked.

“I will need further analysis.” She took another long gulp, and then another. A worried expression crossed her face, and then she belched. Her eyes flew open in surprise and Rhodey laughed.

“Don’t worry, it’s supposed to do that.”

She took smaller sips after that, pacing them out. She’d still managed to empty her cup before their combos were ready. Free refills were a thing of the past but it was worth it to Rhodey to up for another one, just to watch her reactions.

When he put the tray in front of them, she stared at the giant, paper wrapped burger in front of her.

“How do you eat this?” she asked.

“Messily. That’s what the napkins are for.” He happily demonstrated, letting out a sign of contentment after the first bite.

“You have liquid on your chin.”

“You will too once you start eating. All part of the experience!”

It wasn’t quite good as it used to be, before the snap, but they still managed. Nebula chewed each bite with a look of concentration on her face, methodically making her way through the burger, taking more sips of her Dr. Pepper every two or three bites. Once she was done, Rhodey pushed the fries in her direction. She mimicked him, dipping one in ketchup before raising it to her lips.

“Well? What do you think?”

“The calorie intake from this meal is excessive.”

“Yeah, you can’t eat like this every day. Or, I guess you could, but you’d have to work out a lot to compensate.”

“Indeed.” Her previous statement notwithstanding, she still helped herself to more French fries.

 

*****

 

They made the rounds as time passed, Avengers business being what it was – Carl Jr’s, Five Guys, Red Robin, Whataburger. When Nebula voiced a preference for the first time, Rhodey clutched at his heart. “What? No! Traitor!”

“The selection is superior, as are the ingredients, and the internal ambiance does not require an adjustment of my optical sensors.” Nebula pointed to the red plastic bird statue behind them. “And they have taken a mighty species as their mascot.”

“That’s not … hey!” Rhodey exclaimed as Nebula snatched a handful of fries out of his basket. “Those are mine.”

“That is a meaningless complaint. The fries are bottomless.” Dipping one in the cup of ranch dressing, she shoved the whole fry in her mouth. “And this dipping sauce is preferable to ketchup.”

“Whatever. Don’t try to steal any of my milkshake.” Rhodey pulled the fluted glass closer, hand cupped protectively around it.

“Your milkshake is safe. The mixture of salt and caramel is an abomination.”

“Yeah, you’re definitely not from this planet.”

Instead of answering, Nebula stole another French fry.