“Just got a mission from Copley. Pack up we’re riding out in 10.” Nile blinks up from her book to glance at Andy who's leaning against the doorframe of the porch in their current safe house. After the whirlwind that was Nile's initiation into immortality, it was decided that the group would take time to recover and relax. The last few months in Greece have been a unique mix of sunbathing, reading, swimming, training, and crying. A lot of crying. Yeah, Nile’s needed this time to come to terms with her new reality. And in that time she’s learned that though there will forever be a well of grief at the loss of her family, she may be able to view this misfit group of people desperately in need of therapy as a second family.
But everyone’s been getting antsy, including her, so a mission could do them good. “Where are we going?” Nicky asks, head tilting from where he is stroking a hand through Joe’s curls as Joe naps in his lap. Goddamn are those two adorable.
“I’ll get us tickets,” Joe mumbles, nuzzling Nicky’s stomach lethargically.
“No need. It’ll be an easy drive," Andy grunts.
Nile furrows her brow, trying to pull up a mental map. “I know I’m American but wouldn’t a drive from Greece to Lithuania be like...hours?”
“27 to be exact. We’ve done worse,” Andy replies in a tone that brooks no arguments. Nile is promptly assaulted by flashbacks of the one and only time her family attempted a road trip when her dad was still alive. That drive was only 8 hours and nearly ended in a totaled car, a black eye, and the destruction of Nile’s CD player. And if her music was lost, the vacation would’ve surely ended in at least one death.
Closing her book, Nile silently assesses the group of old as shit immortals who have a concerning love for sharp objects and bullets. Nope. She’s seen how Nicky gets hungry. “I think it’s best for the sanity and wellbeing of all that I veto that suggestion,” Nile announces.
“Seconded,” Joe says, raising a lazy hand and still refusing to open his eyes.
“Thirded.” Nicky turns to Andy with what looks like an apologetic smile. “Sorry Andy. I believe you are outvoted.” Growling, Andy stalks away while muttering what suspiciously sounds like “No respect for your elders.”
Nile turns to Nicky with a raised brow. “What was that about?”
“The boss is scared of planes,” Joe says, lips twitching.
“I am not afraid of planes!” Andy shouts from inside, several suspicious thumps following her pronouncement. “It’s unnatural is all. Cars I getー they’re metal horses.” Andy returns, brandishing what looks like a bazooka. “But if humans were meant to fly we would’ve been given feathers and wings like fucking birds!”
“Scared of planes,” Joe nods solemnly before yelping as he’s pelted with various fake passports and IDs.
“Get to work soldier,” Andy barks, stomping away. Nile hums to herself before resolving to take a quick trip before they head out. Perhaps the baby of the group can teach the old guys something for once.
“Here, take this.”
Andy looks skeptically at the pack of gummies before flicking her gaze up to Nile’s face. “Bribing me with sweets isn’t gonna get me to forgive you,” she claims before turning back to the window, her grip on her armrest tightening despite them still being on the runway. Nile rolls her eyes. When Andy chugged half a bottle of vodka and promptly passed out that first day they met, Nile just assumed that was part of her aesthetic. She’s quickly learning that’s not quite the case.
“It’s not any kind of gummy,” Nile says, nudging Andy again. “It’ll help you relax.”
Andy turns back to Nile, expression unreadable for a moment before a slow smile spreads across her face. “Nile,” she drawls with delight, “Are you giving me drugs?”
“It’s not drugs, it’s just pot,” Nile insists with exasperation. When she gets a blank stare she waves her hand in the air. “You know, marijuana? Cannabis?”
“Oh! Hashish?” Joe interjects, standing from where he and Nicky are seated behind them to peer over Nile’s seat. “I have never seen hashish as a piece of candy though,” he muses.
“Yeah it’s repopularized in recent years now that people have discovered its medical uses including its ability to help with anxiety or sleep,” Nile explains.
Joe scoffs. “The medical capabilities are not a new invention. People have just learned that they can turn a profit and so it has grown popular once again.”
Nile frowns, looking down at the gummy. Huh. A hand snakes out and grabs the pack of gummies. “I miss hashish,” Andy sighs as she studies the package and takes two gummies. Chuckling she stares out into the distance. “Yusuf, Quỳnh, and I used to eat or smoke it under the night sky and try to name the stars until Yusuf inevitably devolved into philosophy. Quỳnh and I would leave him then to whisper to his lover about the turnings of the earth and the moving colors of the universe.” Though Andy’s smirking as she tells her tale, a shadow of sorrow tinges her voice at the mention of her missing half.
Nile may not know much about Quỳnh beyond her nightmares but she knows that whenever Quỳnh's mentioned Andy looks the same as Joe and Nicky do when they are reminded of the threat of being separated. So of course, Joe and Nicky do what Joe and Nicky always do when someone in their group needs a smile. “The love of my life grows quite talkative after he has smoked some of that disgusting stuff,” Nicky sighs with mock disapproval. (Nile knows what real disapproval from Nicky sounds like and she’d rather not experience that again. That’s the first and last time she suggests they take in rather than cook.)
Joe gasps dramatically. “I thought you loved my ramblings about the universe!”
“Your suggestion that the world might actually ride on the back of a turtle was perhaps a bit too illogical for my taste," Nicky remarks dryly. "Especially since you loved rubbing into my face how much more advanced your people were when it came to science and philosophy.”
“Were you not a fan of hashish yourself Nicky?” Nile asks, twisting in her seat to peer back at them both. She couldn’t help but notice he wasn’t mentioned in Andy’s story.
Given her angle Nile is able to see Nicky’s cheeks redden while the biggest shit-eating grin crosses Joe’s face. “Oh no, Nicolò loves hashish,” Joe states, voice straining to keep down his laughter as Nicky rubs his face with two hands.
Clearly not getting more from those two, Nile turns to Andy who’s wearing a lazy smile. “Our Nicolò would grow...shall we say...quite amorous when indulging,” Andy explains with a smirk.
Eyes widening, Nile stands, gaping down at Nicky’s ever-reddening face as Joe laughs silently. “It’s true,” Joe gasps, nodding. “He was only allowed to have some when Andy and Quỳnh were otherwise occupied,” he adds with a wink.
Shuddering, Nile sits back down. “I didn’t need that visual,” she announces.
“You asked,” Andy snorts as she burrows under her jacket.
“This is the last time I try to help you,” Nile mumbles, popping a gummy herself before settling down for the ride.
“I don’t understand the appeal of...that.” Nile searches the room for what is causing Nicky to speak with such distaste before realizing that he’s staring down at her beaten up iPhone. She had to beg Copley to let her keep it and after removing literally everything but her music app, he finally conceded. But now Nicky is staring at it like it’s insulted his lasagna.
“My iPhone?” Nile inquires with a raised brow.
Shaking his head Nicky gestures to her earbuds. “Music is meant to be listened to live, not through tiny speakers!” he exclaims. “Or through mini computers.” Nile hasn’t seen Nicky scowl so hard since his last attempt at kofta wasn't spicy enough. Considering Nile felt like steam was coming out of her ears, she thinks Nicky might have developed a bit of an extreme tolerance for spicy foods after 900 years.
But now Nile turns to where Joe is sketching on the couch beside her, hoping to get some enlightenment. Pausing to glance up at Nile Joe shrugs. “Don’t look at me. My heart can be an ornery old man at times,” he remarks blithely, whining when his ear is flicked in retaliation. Rolling her eyes, Nile turns back to her music and sketch. The same man who insists on having the latest sniper rifle model refuses to listen to music on an iPhone. Honestly she shouldn’t be surprised anymore.
Nicky has been humming today. And by today Nile means all day. All. Day. Without abate. “Would you like to listen to some music, Nicky?” Nile asks pointedly, still bemused by Nicky’s hatred of smart phones.
Tapping his finger against the counter Nicky shakes his head distractedly. “Noー I’ve just had a tune stuck in my head all day and can’t recall where I’ve heard it.”
“Play it for me love?” Joe hums, coming up behind Nicky and wrapping his arms around his partner. Leaning back, Nicky hums out the melody he’s been playing with all day. Nile furrows her brow. Now that she’s listening closely it does sound faintly familiar.
Digging into her pocket, Nile pulls out her phone and starts thumbing through her music. As she does Joe sways to the rhythm before snapping his fingers with a triumphant grin. “Billie!” he exclaims.
Nicky’s eyes widen and he turns into Joe’s embrace. “Of course! Lady Day,” he says with a happy sigh. “How she could fill the room, si?”
Nile’s jaw drops. Turning back to her phone she taps into the playlist titled “Mama” that has all of her mom’s favorite songs. “You don’t mean this Billie, right?” Nile asks weakly, selecting “God Bless the Child.”
As the first few notes play and Billie Holiday starts singing, Nicky and Joe turn with a gasp and hurry over to where she’s lounging on the couch. “It’s like she’s back in the room,” Nicky breathes, closing his eyes and swaying to the music.
Swallowing down the memories of dancing in the kitchen with her mom, Nile refocuses. “So you’re telling me you saw Billie fucking Holiday perform?” she demands. “You were in Harlem during the renaissance?”
Sandwiching Nile on the couch, Nicky and Joe throw an arm each around her shoulders. “Oh little sister, that was a time to be alive. Remember Langston?” Joe asks with a wistful smile, looking over Nile’s head as Nicky nods happily.
Nile stares at him. Takes a breath. He can’t be talking aboutー “Langston...Langston Hughes?” she chokes out.
Joe’s smile grows even larger. “Yeah, he was a brilliant mind.”
“He and Joe would spend long nights together simply talking,” Nicky remarks with a fond smile.
Joe nods, gesturing enthusiastically. “What it’s like to love another man, what it’s like to be a...what’s the new term? A POC?” Joe asks, turning to Nile for clarification.
Her chest warms as she studies Joe’s open expression. “You read the article?” she asks with a small grin. On a whim she had sent Joe an article on anti-racism but he had never commented on it.
Joe shoots her a puzzled smile. “Of course. You shared it with me. I was actually going to talk to you about it but thenー” he waves his hand through the air carelessly. Part of Nile distantly registers that she probably shouldn’t nod with understanding when a lazy wave of a hand refers to an ambush during a stakeout and at least three deaths between the two of them. But, this seems to be her life now. “Langston and James would have a lot to say about the state of the world right now,” Joe says with a sigh.
"James Baldwin?" Nile squeaks before raising a helpless hand and shaking her head frantically. “We are having a long conversation in which you will tell me everything you saw and heard and learned during the Harlem Renaissance but firstー” collecting herself, Nile turns to Nicky with a triumphant grin and raises her phone as Billie belts. “What was that you said about my phone the other day?”
Grumbling, Nicky settles lower in the couch. “I suppose it has its merits.” Laughing with delight, Nile closes her eyes, surrounded by warmth and the music of her childhood. It’s bittersweet listening to this music but...with two immortals who were actually there when this music came around, maybe Nile can start forging some new memories. Not to replace the old, just...to add another chapter.
Quỳnh’s back. Traumatized as hell, but she’s back. And Andy hasn’t left her side since she stepped through the door, trailing behind Booker with wide hunted eyes. They have barely seen her and Andy since Andy released what can only be described as an agonized sob before colliding into Quỳnh’s frail body.
With the unspoken decision that they’ll be hanging tight and the utter awkwardness and tension that is Booker back in the group, Nile decides she needs some escapism.
She’s watching some dumb cartoons when hissed words in a language Nile hasn’t heard before sounds behind her. Starting, Nile turns to find Quỳnh pressed against Andy’s side, staring at the TV like it’s about to bite her. When Nile turns to Andy with a questioning glance Andy quirks her lips. “She just called it a devil box,” Andy says, fondly pressing a kiss to Quỳnh's cheek. Nile's head spins at seeing Andy so soft. A light has returned to her eyes, one that Nile hadn't even realized had been extinguished.
“It’s um, a TV,” Nile explains weakly. “Um-moving pictures?” she tries when she only gets a blank stare. “Like...theatre! Live performance? But captured onー” Nile frowns. It’s hard to find a shared language with someone who’s been out of the loop of technology for several centuries. What Quỳnh needs is some kind of crash course in pop culture and modern day tech.
Huh. That’s an idea.
After some bribery and coaxing, the first official Old/New Guard movie night is implemented. Booker is lingering on the outer edges of the living room while Nicky and Joe take turns glaring at him from the loveseat they’re curled on. Meanwhile Quỳnh is cushioned between Nile and Andy, leaning forward with wide eyes as Spirit: The Stallion of the Cimarron plays on the TV. When Nile racked her brain on which movie would be best received by a traumatized woman who was trapped in a metal coffin for centuries and her horse-girl life partner, a movie about freedom and escaping the imprisonment placed on a horse seemed slightly fitting.
“Look Yusuf, it is you attempting to court Nicolò,” Quỳnh remarks, pointing at Spirit attempting and failing to impress Rain.
Nile snorts as Joe sputters indignantly, though he is unable to hide the grin at his sister teasing him. “Don’t fret my love, you were far more smooth than that,” Nicky reassures him, kissing Joe’s knuckles from where their fingers are linked. “Though I don’t recall you ever jumping into a tree to retrieve the best apple of the bunch for me,” he adds with a pout.
“Oh, how my romantic gestures go unappreciated,” Joe bemoans, earning several eyerolls for his trouble.
Nile does worry that her fingers will break under Quỳnh’s grip when Spirit and Rain are separated though. It probably doesn’t help that the scene involves water. Shit, she didn’t think this all the way through, did she?
“They will reunite, yes?” Quỳnh whispers, eyes unblinking and bright as Spirit fights to remain with his love.
Nile trades a furtive glance with Andy. “Of course Quỳnh,” she says with a reassuring squeeze and smile. “Happy endings only.”
She’s feeling pretty satisfied when the various members of this weird ass family are blinking what suspiciously looks like tears from their eyes by the end of the film. At this point Quỳnh is nearly in Andy’s lap, though Nile’s hand is still held hostage. “They shall run free with their family,” Quỳnh nods firmly, eyes shining as Spirit releases a triumphant neigh.
Nile and Andy trade small smiles. “You know it.”
“What is that?”
Nile raises a brow as she continues to sip her drink. “Sex on the beach.” She smirks as Booker and Nicky choke on their drinks while Joe releases a full-bellied laugh. It took some cajoling but Nile finally convinced Nicky, Joe, and Booker to come out for drinks with her. Things are still tense between those three but hopefully a neutral ground will help a bit. Andy and Quỳnh are still making up for lost time and Nile was almost thinking that Booker was gonna back out before he slid into the booth beside her just as she was getting her drink.
She’s happy to see that Joe and Nicky are distracted enough by Nile’s pronouncement to put their glaring on hold for a moment. “Sex on a beach?” Booker repeats, eyeing the orange-colored drink dubiously.
“Yeah it’s a cocktail.”
“I remember when cocktails were first invented and they looked nothing like that,” Booker claims, still staring at the cocktail with suspicion.
“They’ve come a long way in a few centuries,” Nile says dryly before waving a waiter down. Studying Booker, Nile fluctuates between a few ideas before nodding. “Can we have a cosmo for this man please?” she asks, putting her entire willpower into keeping a straight face. She can see the waiter sizing up Booker before flicking her gaze towards Nile. Biting her lip, Nile gives the waiter a thumbs up so with a puzzled smile, she nods and slip away.
“There is no alcohol in this!” Booker exclaims with disgust a few moments later.
Nile smirks to herself. “If you say so.”
An hour later Nile stares, slack-jawed, as Booker and Joe sing drunken karaoke. “This is the best day of my life,” she breathes, fingers itching to film the two idiots belting “Staying Alive.”
“The love of my life has many talents,” Nicky states, staring at Joe hopelessly. “Singing is not one of them.”
“I’m never letting Booker live this down,” Nile says fervently. “Not for as long as I live.”
Nicky winces as Joe hits a rather ambitious note. Chugging the rest of Booker’s fifth? Sixth? Ninth? cocktail, Nicky sighs. “Perhaps I can begin to forgive Booker. He will be tortured enough by this memory.”
Nile bounces into their latest safe house with a grin, holding her prize. Eyes alighting on Joe from where he’s leaned against the back wall and sketching, Nile beelines to him. “Joe! Check this out!” she exclaims, settling down and booting up her new tablet. Releasing a curious hum, Joe sets his sketchpad aside and leans over her shoulder. Reopening the drawing she had been working on, Nile tilts it towards Joe. “I treated myself and got a drawing tablet. That way we don’t have to worry about always packing materials in every go bag we have,” Nile explains, looking up at Joe with a grin.
Instead of the interest she was expecting though, Nile is faced with what can only be described as horror. “Drawing cannot be electronic,” Joe protests in the same tone of voice she would expect from someone suggesting he kill and eat the stray cat he’s been feeding behind Andy’s back. “You need to feel the scratch of parchment, the roll of charcoal!”
Rolling her eyes as Joe continues to rant, recalling that this weird family has the strangest hang-ups to some modern tech, Nile shrugs and returns to her work. “Your loss,” she mutters.
“I mean, next you’ll be telling me not to read physical books!” Joe exclaims, throwing his hands up.
“Well wouldn’t you prefer to have all your books electronic instead of having multiple copies of the same book in multiple countries?” Nile asks patiently, recalling how Nicky complained for days after they had to make a quick getaway and he left his current book halfway across Asia.
“What’s this about electronic books?” Booker asks, walking into the room as he fumbles two books, a computer, a gun, and a cup of tea in his arms. God that man is a disaster.
“No one was talking to you traitor,” Joe says vaguely, his glower still trained on something other than Booker for once. Nile rolls her eyes. Since the Karaoke Night that Nile will remember for literal millennia (and no, she hasn’t fully processed her immortality yet thank you), Joe and Nicky have started to defrost towards Booker. It probably helps that Booker’s been cleaning his act up and helping around more if Andy’s dry comments are any indication.
“I’ll get you a nook Booker, I think you’ll appreciate it. At least someone is living in the 21st century,” she says pointedly, raising an unimpressed brow toward Joe.
Harrumphing, Joe picks up his sketch and rises. “I do not need to remain here and tolerate such treatment,” he sniffs, stomping away.
“Whatever you say old man,” Nile calls, snickering as he flips her the bird. Gesturing for Booker to sit beside her Nile brandishes her tablet with a grin. “Here, I bet you’ll appreciate this Book.”
“Where are they?! I know I still had some left!” Nile and Nicky walk into the safehouse to find it practically torn apart, Joe looking like a madman as he overturns a cushion.
“Hayati what’s wrong?” Nicky frets, hurrying over to his distraught partner and drawing him into his arms.
“Ya amar I am missing my charcoals I use to get the perfect shading of your eyes!” Joe moans, burrowing his face into Nicky’s neck. “I cannot finish my drawing without them.”
Nile is mid eye roll when she freezes. Oh. Right. Shit. She had been working on a drawing of the sea the other day and she was planning on replacing the pastels but...whoops. Maybe she can save her ass though. “Wow Joe, it’s too bad you don’t have an unlimited supply of art supplies, perhaps on an electronic program?” Nile prompts, waving her tablet in the air invitingly.
Joe raises his head with a suspicious frown before stomping over to Nile while muttering under his breath. The ensuing moments made Nile wish once again that they didn’t have a strict “no videos” policy because damn. Watching a 900 something year old man poke at a tablet with his tongue sticking out as his lover watches on with the amount of interest one would expect from watching the World Cup finals should not be so endearing.
Humming to herself, Nile picks up the novel she had been in the midst of. She’s deep into a chapter a few minutes later when Nile sees Joe freeze out of the corner of her eye. “Wait a moment...the other day you asked me to borrow my charcoal,” Joe says slowly, brown eyes piercing with accusation.
Glancing up from her book, Nile slowly closes it and readies her escape. “I think the moral of this story is that you don’t need to be such a snob about technology,” Nile claims as she backs up. Yelping as Joe rises like the predator he is, Nile overturns the chair she was lounging in and jumps over the couch.
“Take it outside children,” Nicky calls, picking up his own book and settling into the couch.
“Traitor!” Nile hollers, dodging Joe’s grab and throwing a loose pillow at his head with a grin. Considering he has several hundred years of experience on her, Nile knows she’s just buying time before this chase ends with her pinned under Joe while he gives her a wet willy. Yeah, she’s deeply regretting teaching him that particular modern invention.
“So now that you’ve taught me how to use literally every modern weapon known to man, when do I get my own sword?” Nile says, cleaning the shotgun she had been training with under Joe’s watchful eye. He’s almost as bad with his shotguns as Nicky is with his snipers.
When no one responds Nile glances up to find Joe, Nicky, Quỳnh, and Andy staring at her with unbridled joy, which is only slightly concerning to see in Andy’s face. “You want to learn how to fight with a sword?” Joe asks, clutching his hands to his chest.
“Um, duh, have you met anyone from my generation?”
“Well, not really but the problem child liked to insist that our weapons were outdated,” Joe says with a withering glare at Booker. Booker, to his credit, simply rolls his eyes. After some sparring that only got slightly deadly as well as several tearful (and mostly one sided) yelling matches, Joe, Booker, and Nicky seem to have more or less reconciled to the relief of everyone else.
Nile is about to reply to Joe when she furrows her brow. “Where did Nickyー”
“Okay I think I found all of them,” Nicky says breathlessly, stumbling back outside juggling a handful of sharp weapons and nearly stabbing himself in the eye in the process. As Joe hurries over to his partner to ensure that this doesn’t end bloody, Nile feels a giant grin cross her face. Oh this is gonna be fun.