"Why do men have two heads?"
"I don't care. I give zero fucks. Zero fucks given. Ze-ro. Listen to me. I. Do. Not. Care.”
"So when they jerk off their hand doesn't slip off and hit them in the face!! HA HA HA HA!!"
“That doesn't even make sense.” Alex tilted forward until his forehead banged solidly onto the formica table. His voice, starting on a strained whimper, rose on every word until it was practically a shout. “Please tell me what I have to do, who I have to blow, to get you to leave!”
“I already told you what I want, baby. Peace on earth. And two zero-point-five ounce vials of fairy tears gathered just before the dew.” Wade rooted through the condiments on the table. “You got any sriracha?”
“Don’t you have anybody else to bother? Like Tony, for example? Is he back yet?”
“How should I know,” Wade said, pausing to cram more coffee gelato into his mouth. Good stuff, even if it had Alex's name written on the container with a sharpie marker and the sriracha for topping it was still AWOL. “Do ya think we're like, sleeping together or something? Like, I'm his boyfriend or something? Huh? Cuz if you do, you'd be like, 34.69% wrong, with a margin of error of three.”
Alex turned his head to give Wade a wall-eyed stare. (Technically, Alex didn't have any irises or pupils or whatever they were called so every stare was wall-eyed, but this one made Wade want to jab his thumbs into them just a lick more than usual.) A livid red mark was rapidly fading from the center of Alex's forehead. He didn't respond. Or even blink.
“Oh-kay,” Wade said, just a tad unnerved. Alex had always been a volatile kind of guy, in Wade's private opinion. Unhinged, even. You never knew when he'd go feral on you. “Do I know? No, no I don’t. Should I know? Many philosophers have debated this question, little grasshopper, and –”
“My point being, why don't you go check," Alex suggested, enunciating each syllable with special care. "Somewhere really, preferably, indubitably, not here.”
“Why don't you put superglue on your head and call yourself Pluto?”
Alex slammed his face against the tabletop a second time. “Again! That fucking doesn't make any fucking sense!”
“Guys?” Sandi popped her head into the interrogation room cum break room/kitchenette that was actually the agency's storage closet 99.99% of the time. “Still playing 'whose balls are bigger'? Honestly.”
Alex seemed to be silently begging Sandi for something, straining with every molecule of his being probably for Krispy Kreme donuts with extra chocolate sprinkles for his good buddy Wade who so loved to drop in on him to socialize, mostly because Tony had suggested Alex might appreciate it. Wade was doing his best to be New Wade, and New Wade did these things for Tony even if New Wade thought Alex was a walking douche-canoe and the world would be better served if he were dismembered slowly over a open fire then fed piece by piece to Sandi's cat.
Or. OR. Maybe Wade could skip all the bits involving actual work and just feed Alex to the cat directly. Rope might interfere with her digestion though, so Wade would have to sever Alex's ligaments first to keep him from fighting back or running away. Kitty would do the rest, that fuzzy, cute, gore-loving, psychopathic eating machine who was the bane of the neighborhood's mice, birds, all other cats within a five mile radius, small dogs, and occasionally, sewer alligators. Wade adored her.
“Your phone's ringing, Wade,” Sandi said, holding it out. "What are you smiling about?"
“Hurf?” said Wade, jolted out of his sweet little fantasy. “Oh. Tha's not my phone. Maybe? Well. It's technically not, but kinda is.”
Finally locating the red and green bottle of goodness under his chair, he took a moment to snorf the spicy sauce directly from the nozzle. Alex pantomimed a melodramatic death by auto-asphyxiation at Sandi, hands out as if pleading for mercy. When she ignored him, he collapsed face down on the table again.
Wade burped long and loud. Mm. Tangy. “It's not mine mine,” he continued, thumping himself on the chest. “Not just cuz it's an iPhone 6 and Apple spelled backwards spells devil. Of course it does, Alex, shut your ugly cucumber-muncher face. What else can explain its inexplicable success despite a very limited OS, eye-gouging price tag, and gate-keeper software? Steve Jobs sold his soul to the devil, that's what! Or maybe it was Mephisto, it's hard to tell them apart, except Mephy's got nicer legs.”
Alex appeared to be having some kind of respiratory seizure.
Wade took the phone from Sandi. “Nah, this here belongs to my pizza guy. I'll give it back when he shows that he's really, truly sorry for delivering me a pizza yesterday with anchovies on it, can you believe it? But when there's a Golden Girls marathon on ain't nothing can harsh my high, so I just winged him in the thigh and took this phone instead of shooting him in the face, cuz what kind of psychopath does that to a perfectly innocent Hawaiian pizza?!”
“The kind who puts pineapple on pizza,” Alex wheezed.
“Take that back!” Wade shouted, flipping the table over. “You crunchy ass-spatula!” In the ensuing mayhem – two cabinets smashed by forceful application of Alex's head, the faucet spraying water everywhere by dint of being broken off and crammed into Wade's mouth, a lot of condiments hurled across the room – Wade completely forgot about the phone.
“Are you going to answer that?” Alex said at length from the floor. He sounded as if he were crying, which was the bare minimum Wade had hoped for when he'd jammed sriracha and mustard up Alex's nose and into both eyes. Wade himself was nursing at least two stab wounds to the kidneys, because Alex was a cheap motherfucker who supposedly had a sense of honor that he always talked about but Wade had never actually witnessed.
“Oh, right.” Trying to ignore an entrail tickling the back of his left knee, he cast about, then located the phone on top of the algae-infested water cooler. It was bent nearly in half. “Is bendiness the newest thing in cellphones?” he said admiringly. “Man, what will they think of next?” Tilting the screen at different angles, he poked at it until the text opened.
East docks, berth 724, it said. Shipping container A44DC2. Tonight.
“I think my pizza guy's a drug dealer.” Wade scratched his head. “But then why's he a pizza delivery guy? And drives a Pinto? Is he actually a criminal mastermind with the best money-laundering front that civilization has ever conceived, or just the most incompetent drug dealer to ever have dealed?”
Then he saw the follow-up: No really, Deadpool. You're going to want to see this.
This got his full attention. Personalized stalker texts?
R u a gost? He texted back.
There was a pause then. A surprised pause.
Encouraged, Wade added, A sexy gost? :D :D :D *eyebrow waggle*
The answer, when it came, was terse. No.
Well, kind of.
Uh, maybe not the sexy part.
Then, I'm just a friend. Who owes a mutual friend favors.
That is so hawt, Wade texted back. Whatcha wearin? >:3 Hope they're lacy purple undies with a little white bow in the front cuz me too! We can totes be panty buddies!
An even longer pause. Then, PAY ATTENTION. JUST GO WHERE I SAY.
East docks, berth 724. Shipping container A44DC2. GOT IT?
Then, evidently having counted to ten and regained some equilibrium, You're even more annoying than he said.
Well, how was Wade supposed to respond to that?
Adventures, man! His name wasn't Wade Maximus Powerus Betty Danger Wilson for nothing!
“So,” said Sandi. She was still hovering near the door, dodging toilet paper rolls and coffee filters falling out of the broken cabinets. “Are you staying for dinner?” Alex rolled over then, still on the floor, frantically and blindly mouthing No! at her.
Wade was tempted, Sandi was a pretty good cook despite her terrible taste in friends. But he loved cryptic Mission Impossible-esque messages from the afterlife even more than he loved free food, so he stood and patted Alex on the head. “Thanks luvvy, but gotta run. Alex, I always enjoy these little chats, I really do. Macho chest thrusting, jutting chins, people getting stabbed, all that good stuff. Next Tuesday, same time?” Spread-eagle on his back on the dirty linoleum floor like he'd been run over by a garbage truck, Alex's only reply was a broken groan.
Sandi, smiling bemusedly, gave Wade a peck on the cheek as he gathered his stuff to leave. “Say hi to Tony for me if you see him,” she said.
Wade was nearly out the door onto the sidewalk when there was a scrabbling sound and Alex shouted after him: “Hey, wait! Your pants! Don't forget your fucking pants! You left them here last time too! Pants are not optional! NOT! FUCKING! OPTIONAL!”
The shipyards were dark and mostly deserted except for the security guards, who were easily lured with a trail of M&Ms and stashed safely in a maintenance shack near the piers. The container didn't take long to find and even open, after a bit of doing with a crowbar and a lot of swearing. Which was to say, after the crowbar slipped and took out his eye again, he lost his temper just a little and blasted away with a plasma gun until the smoke cleared to reveal a gaping three foot hole in the door.
A large package with a lot of bendy parts fell out like a sack of very squishy rocks and landed at his feet.
“Pool. Deadpool,” he said aloud, using his best whiskey-slurred Scottish accent, and bent to have a look. “Powers of observation, activate!”
It wasn't gold or bundles of currency. Wrapped in plastic and bound with duct tape, whatever it was had landed with a distinct squelch. Wade was beginning to suspect that this was going to be less 'pony and a tricycle at Christmas' kind of surprise and more of the 'socks and moldy chocolates from creepy Uncle Chester' kind.
Still, curiosity got the better of him, so instead opting for the sensible choice like getting the heck out of there (he could totally hear Nate's voice, lecturing him about 'good choices' like he used to in that paradoxically cynical yet cautiously hopeful way he had that Wade had found both hilarious and more than a little sexy), he rolled the package over.
Huh. It looked like a body. Felt like a body. He sniffed – smelled like a body.
He was going to go out on a limb and say that it was probably a body.
Last chance to back away and not get any more involved, Wade, Nate told him.
“Life is like a box of chocolates,” Wade told the voice. “You never know if you're gonna get a chocolate or a corpse.”
He pulled the plastic covering up just enough to glimpse white cloth, splattered with dried-out webs of rusty brown blood except where the blood had smeared like gory inkblots.
The plastic parted further to reveal the remains of a mask.
A skull mask.
Now Wade couldn't think of a single clever thing to say.
Now no one was answering the texts.
Back in the old days, Wade would’ve simply chucked any bodies in his possession (that he may or may not have helped create) into the New York harbor or a handy crematorium over in the Bronx, but this was Tony, and he owed Tony at least this much. And if it felt as if a tennis ball was lodged in his throat every time he looked at the limp gloved hand that poked out of the plastic tarp Wade had re-rolled him into, at least no one was around to see or comment.
Actually, Wade kinda wanted someone around to comment, because a little stabbing seemed like it'd be pretty therapeutic right about now.
He stopped shoveling and sat down on the dirt pile next to the hole that was actually a pre-dug grave for somebody else's funeral the next day, now with a few extra feet. He picked up a liquor bottle he'd commandeered from a hoity shop downtown and saluted the lumpy roll lying at the bottom of the hole.
He tried to think of something, anything to say that would make this jive in his head, because 'Tony' and 'dead' did not compute. Of all his friends, not that there were enough to populate even a junior league softball team, somehow he'd thought Tony would outlive them all. Including Wade himself.
Tony had been smart. And efficient, and strategic, and unlike Wade, he would've never ever tried to kidnap someone with a bag of cats and a trash can no matter how brilliant it was, because shit like that got most people who weren't Wade killed, and sensible, intelligent Tony never did things that might get himself killed.
At least, not for free.
Say whatever else you wanted about Tony, but he'd had principles.
“Sorry about this, man,” Wade said somberly to the half-covered body. “You never even had your own solo title an' everybody knows a couple of miniseries isn't nearly enough to keep you safe in the Marvel Hunger Games, but still, you know? They fridged you. That's just lazy writing.” He hoisted the bottle aloft. “Well, they might think you're just a minor supporting character, Tasky, but you'll always be the main protagonist in my heart.”
He launched into a falsetto rendition of O Danny Boy, complete with beat-boxed bagpipes and drums and everything because shit, Tony might've been Irish, why not? Somewhere in the distance, a dog howled.
As he went for a trumpet solo, a voice spoke up behind him. “I'm probably going to regret asking, but what are you doing?”
The voice didn't sound all that interested in the answer, so Wade ignored it until he was finished and had poured the top-shelf whiskey into the grave. Then he turned to face Daredevil, who had an ear cocked at the hole while his eyes stared blankly out into the darkness.
Oh-kay. There was nothing about Daredevil that Wade didn't find creepy, including his truly atrocious sartorial choices (red over red over red, who did that? but Wade supposed it was better than rocking the black onesie over bright yellow a decade or so back; he was all for being loud and proud, but that had been a crime against eyeballs everywhere) but it was especially that thing. Superhuman echolocation powers like a bat, and he still fixed his blank eyes somewhere in the neighborhood of your neck while he was talking to you.
“I can hear you all the way out to Hell's Kitchen,” Daredevil commented, in that controlled dead-calm Dexter voice.
“Heyyyyyyy, long time never see.” Daredevil didn't seem to get the joke. Wade deflated a bit but doggedly tried again. “San Francisco get too cold n foggy for ya? See what I did there? Foggy.”
To Wade's delight, the grim mouth tightened as if in pain. “I'm just visiting. You're burying someone.”
“Ah, him? This here is one of my bestest buddies, whose death I totally, completely, and somewhat surprisingly even to me, had absolutely nothing to do with.” It didn't come out nearly as jovial as he'd intended.
He doubted Daredevil would try to arrest him, emphasis on the try, mostly because Daredevil had the entire city breathing down his neck and the cops looking to beat his head in two, but Wade got ready anyway in case Daredevil was looking to relieve some off-the-books stress. Wade had been on the wrong end of that stick way too many times to count, and not in the fun, kinky way either.
Heh heh. Stick.
That stick. Oh yeah.
"You gonna come at me, bro?"
Daredevil tilted his head. “No. Unless you're going to continue burying that someone alive. Then we will have problems. But I'm hoping not, because that's a level of cruelty that isn't like you, Wilson.”
Wade could actually hear the record scratch in his head. “Alive? Who's alive? Him? You mean like, zombie alive? I'm going to have to stab him through the heart and take off his head alive? That kind of alive?”
“You're thinking vampires, not zombies.”
“That kills zombies too,” Wade pointed out, and got ready to tell him how he knew.
A deep, deep sigh. “Well, yes, but –”
“Are you gonna try to lawyer this up and get all pedantical and stuff?”
Irritation now edged into Daredevil's voice. “That is not a word.”
“What, 'lawyer' as a verb?”
“That too – look. I'm – We– We're getting off-topic here.” He was pinching his forehead. Daredevil didn't have much by way of expressions, just the same stone face for everything, from “I'll buy you an ice cream cone, Wade,” which he'd never said to Wade, ever, to “I am your number one fan, Wade,” which he'd definitely never said to him, ever, even in Wade's wildest daydreams, but his voice sure had a million expressions, which at the moment were, I regret ever starting this conversation, and possibly, I'm having an aneurysm.
“Are you having a stroke?”
“This person,” Daredevil said with heavy patience. “Is not dead. Is, in fact, alive. Alive, as in living, and not as a zombie. And is still breathing, though for not much longer if you keep dumping dirt on his face.”
“Chimichanga says what?” Wade replied, astounded. He whirled to stare down into the hole. The hand was still sticking out of the soil and gravel. It wasn't moving. “How do you know?” he demanded, trying to ignore the hope that flared white hot in his chest.
Daredevil just inclined his ear at the hole again, and – oh, right.
“Fuck me hearty, me wenches!” Wade exclaimed and jumped into the grave, shovel in hand.
So, Tony was alive.
Wade had no idea how he was alive, seeing as the guy had a neat quarter-sized hole in the back of his skull and a hole the size of his fist in the front. Someone had gotten the drop on him, which Wade hadn't thought possible with the exception of himself; magically appearing behind Tony and making him scream like a little girl had been – was – one of Wade's treasured hobbies, even if it usually resulted in a lot of damage to Wade's vital organs. But damned if Daredevil wasn't right. Tony was breathing. His heart was beating, even. Very, very slowly, but steadily. Two hours before that, Wade would've sworn up and down Fifth Avenue and across the Brooklyn Bridge that Tony was dead dead. Wade was probably dumber than when he started by dint of the cumulative loss of brain cells over the years, but he'd spent most of his professional life helping people's insides become outsides. He knew the difference between alive and dead dead.
By all rights, Tony should have been in a grave, not soaking wet in Wade's bed after Wade dumped him in the tub when he'd got him back to his place, because who knew people didn't appreciate apparent corpses covered in gravedirt and smelling of whiskey on the subway.
From what he'd heard, the prevailing medical treatment for 'people who don't die but are not zombies [yet]' – Wade himself, and Wolverine, and Sabretooth, and whoever else the Weapon X program had churned out like sausages from a hyperactive grinder, and oh yeah, Alex – was a whole lot of hurry up and wait. But that didn’t apply to Tony, did it? Unless he'd gotten a healing factor in the one year, two months, twenty-one days, thirteen hours, and forty-seven minutes and nineteen seconds since he dropped off Wade's radar.
Wait, was it just his imagination, or was the gaping hole in Tony's head just a fraction smaller? and was it tinged with silver?
This was not in Wade’s comfort zone. Was, in fact, so far out of his comfort zone that it was practically out of the galaxy, polka dancing in green and purple clogs on the Skrull planet. Tony being a vegetable on Wade's bed was just wrong. He'd always had this amazing vitality – albeit a grouchy and rather stabby one – that seeing him so limp and looking, well, dead dead and strangely naked without his trademark mask and cowl, harrowed Wade up in all of his funny places. Like his coccyx.
Wade squirmed around, pausing in his ruminations. Definitely his coccyx. Or – he shoved a hand under his ass into the couch cushions. Ah. A cheeto, so stale it was practically mummified. So maybe not his coccyx.
Heh heh. Coccyx.
Point was, Wade had no real point of reference for nursing someone who should have been dead but wasn't.
He was chewing the cheeto thoughtfully when the thought struck him. What did norms do when they were sick?
Call a doctor!
Except he didn't know any of the variety who'd take a bloodied merc who in all likelihood had gotten injured and mostly dead dead while doing something extremely illegal. (And yet was not a zombie. Wade was never going to repeat that enough.)
“I'm not helping that asshole,” Weasel said.
“Oh, that – come on, you can't still be holding that against him? It was just a wedgie,” Wade told him consolingly.
“Correction. It was 'just' an atomic wedgie. I had to go to the ER and everything. I was picking cotton out of my crack for weeks!”
“It wasn't personal. Okay, it was pretty personal. I did tell you about not doing that thing that you do, didn't I? In front of him? In front of me? And wasn't the wedgie pretty hilarious? Come on Weaz, don't you know any doctors?”
“No one I hate that much.” Weasel was eating something loudly in his ear. Crunch, crunch, chew. Swallow.
“I'm aware this is a very ironic thing for me to say, but that is disgusting,” Wade told him sadly. “Your momma must be rolling in her grave.”
“One, my 'momma' is still in very good health and therefore, alive. In Hoboken though, so I guess 'alive' is a relative term. Two, she's a horrible bitch and wouldn't piss on me if I were on fire and someone was sprinkling crack and hundred dollar bills onto my burning carcass. Three, don't talk about my goddamn mother. Four, I'm chewing so I don't have to hear you asking me for a certain favor that I will never grant and we shall never speak of again.”
“Wow,” Wade said after a moment. “Uh...huh. Firstly, I gotta say, suddenly many things about you make sense now—” But Weasel had already hung up on him.
Alex laughed at him, long and hard, full belly laughs that Wade could still hear as he glumly pressed End.
Sandi was totally off the list too. He wasn't even going to ask, mostly because she'd kill him for letting Tony get dead, then Alex would kill him again for getting Alex's not-really-girlfriend-because-he-never-had-the-cojones-to-ask-her-out involved, and then Tony, if he stayed alive and woke up, would also kill Wade just on principle, because he hated Alex.
Wade didn't mind all the murderizing, but growing back body parts after the fact was really, really Clive Barker gross. And it itched.
Bob, whispering over a crackly connection at some HYDRA base he wasn't supposed to tell Wade the location of but was definitely five miles north of a small town called Volkov in northern Latveria, reminded Wade that he had no medical benefits, therefore knew no doctors to speak of. And then added, but phrased much more nicely than Weasel, that hail HYDRA, Taskmaster could take a flying fuck at a rolling donut.
“You need to work on your people skills,” Wade said to Tony sadly. Tossing his phone on the bed, he flopped onto the carpet to stare at the ceiling. He made snow angels in the trash as he continued to think.
He was admiring his newest soda-can-and-pizza-box angel when a marvelous idea flew into his funnel.
The Avengers! They knew Tony, maybe didn't hate him, either. He was probably their mascot by now, considering how many times they'd arrested (and recruited) him. And Wade totally had all of them – at least, the hot ones – on speed dial because they secretly liked him and were about to ask him to join their team any day now.
Well. Actually, now he only had one, cuz for some reason Carol and Jessica had changed their numbers and the rest never seemed to answer their phones. Turned out, they weren't a chatty bunch. It was a pity.
Taskmaster opened his eyes. His first thought was: This is not my bed.
The second thought that went through his clouded mind was: This is not my room. Then came the question he perhaps should've begun with, Where the bloody fuck am I?
“Are you – you're talking about a body.”
The words were slightly muffled, as if through a wall. Somebody on speaker phone in another room. Taskmaster couldn't muster the energy to lift his head to verify this, or even to flop himself over. Probably he was captured, maybe he was drugged, but Taskmaster somehow couldn't seem to care, floating in a gray haze of sleepy contentment. That alone should have set the alarm bells ringing in his head, but hey. This was okay. At least the bed was comfortable. The voice on speaker phone sounded familiar. It also sounded like whoever it was, was strangling on a huge wad of data and about five seconds away from the Blue Screen of Death.
“Well, not really a body. Almost a body. Daredevil told me that he's almost definitely not a body.” Now that voice was definitely familiar, Taskmaster mused. Gravelly like a sexy case of laryngitis soaked in whiskey. Only one person on the planet sounded like that.
Did he just use the word 'sexy'?
“Wade?” he said – rather, tried to say. His lips were numb, and what came out instead was a noise very like what a sheep would make if it were stuck face-first in mud.
“Why the fuck are you calling me?” The other person sounded like he was coming more awake with every word, and angrier. “At – jesus christ. Four in the morning. Four.”
“Hawkeye! Hawkeye, good buddy. Can I call you Clint?”
“Fuck you, how did you even get my number?”
“It's okay, 'Hawkeye' is sexier, if a bit on the nose, and anyway 'Clinton' is a terrible name. And paired with 'Francis'? Your parents musta hated you. Anyhoo, I'm calling cuz you're an Avenger? Cuz you avenge stuff? And I have something that needs, uh, avenging?”
“You know, the title isn't really literal.”
“Look Hawkie, I just need a doc, okay, cuz that's what norms do when they get hurt, right? And you're a norm albeit with fabulous biceps, and you get hurt a lot, so I figure you know somebody. And if Tony here really is a zombie, you can come and help me out and then after we can hang out and eat pizza like buds. You like anchovies, right?”
A strangled noise. “Do you even know what Avengers do?”
“Uh – Nobility? Courage and justice? Fuck yeah America?”
“Let me make sure I'm understanding the situation properly here. You are calling me, an Avenger, to help you with a body. A body that's not actually dead, but isn't exactly alive, but is still a body. An Avenger.”
“I never said you were a good Avenger.”
“I'm hanging up now.”
“Eye, you're getting off track here. See, this is why everyone calls Captain America first–” The crash of a phone being slammed down – or thrown against a wall – resounded over the line, before it went dead.
Taskmaster grinned to himself as he faded out again. Deadpool's superpowers of obnoxiousness were universal. That was comforting.
When he came to again, he found himself nose-to-nose with a mask-less Deadpool. Deadpool looked more peaceful than Taskmaster was ever used to seeing him, drooling into a pillow that thank god was his own. A hand was outstretched towards him, as if he'd been touching Taskmaster as they lay together until it had slipped off. There was more light in the room too. He judged it to be late morning.
Somewhere in the back of his mind he was aware that this somnolent contentment that had fused his body into the mattress wasn't normal. He should care, but didn't, and he was starting to care about not caring, except Deadpool was close enough to kiss.
Which he actually gave serious thought to doing.
Then Taskmaster realized what it was that he was thinking so seriously about, which pissed him right the fuck off.
Waking up to Deadpool's stupid face first thing in the morning, and thinking about giving him a little wake-up kiss as if they were anything other than sorta friends with benefits in the loosest sense of the term? As if they were anyone other than who they were?
Fuck this. Fuck that. That was something Taskmaster just didn't do.
Ah, there he was. Feeling more and more like himself, with his limbs back online.
He levered himself up onto his elbows and had a look around the room.
He'd made it a point over the years to never visit any of Deadpool's myriad apartments that were invariably tiny, dingy, and in supremely horrible parts of town if he could help it, but Deadpool's apartment it definitely was – never mind that the occupant was actually lying on the bed behind him – if the Bea Arthur poster with magenta lipstick kisses all over it was anything to go by. That, and the piles of dirty laundry and empty take-out containers on the floor, a truly impressive number of guns and ammunition scattered around, and katanas that Deadpool had probably stolen from a museum heaped in a hazardous pile in the bedroom closet that was missing its door.
Taskmaster's clothes were nowhere to be seen. Neither were -- he groped at his face, at which point his brain vaporlocked, frozen on the word Shit. Except his brain had apparently been switched with some stoner surfer dude's, so the word was more like, Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit.
His mask was gone. What in god's name had happened? Had he been knocked out? Had Deadpool knocked him out? The last thing he remembered clearly was sitting in his own place, watching Youtube vids of Spiderman Cirque du Soleil-ing around Manhattan. And now he was here.
Something niggled at him, some memory, but it slipped away before he could grasp it.
Doing his best not to shake the mattress, he rolled out of the bed onto his feet and promptly stepped on a soda can. It crunched loudly. Now his bare foot was wet and sticky, which meant Taskmaster spent the next few minutes doing a mental exercise in which he recited in his head every variation of fuck in every language he knew and some he didn't, while hopping around as quietly as he could, shaking his foot.
He made quite a lot of noise, accidentally crunching on the landmines of cellophane wrappers and Big Mac boxes. It didn't matter though; other mercs generally slept like cats, always with one eye open for danger, but Deadpool didn't practice anything even remotely resembling basic survival skills so of course he snored on like the Darwin Award contender he was. The whys and wherefores of Deadpool's apparent suicidal ideation fell 100% under Why Should I Care It's Not My Problem, so Taskmaster absolutely did not. Care, that is. He absolutely refused to care, and absolutely refused to give it any thought.
Or any more thought than he'd already given it.
Shut up, he told his own brain.
Goddamnit, was he even thinking like Deadpool now? The crazy was catching.
Shut UP, he told himself again.
“Don't tell me to shut up,” he muttered.
Taking a long look around, it was immediately evident the bedroom wasn't worth searching. Aside from the sheet-less mattress on which Deadpool was currently drooling, there wasn't any actual furniture in the room; just piles of junk and weapons, heaps of dust and dead flies everywhere, cobwebs in the corners occupied by dead spiders who'd apparently starved to death. A roach skittered across the floor.
In his long and interesting life, Taskmaster had been in his share of dumps, but this was sad. Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA levels of sad.
Not my problem, he reminded himself, and went through the door into the living room. It was more of the same, possibly several degrees even worse, and he had to remind himself again and again just whose problem it actually was.
The television was on, whatever brain-rotting crap Deadpool liked to watch given way to the local news. He gave it a only cursory glance as he passed it to search the hallway closet. Something on the screen caught his attention and he froze. A towering mountain of magazines and board games avalanched down on his head when he opened the door, but he barely noticed. Running along the bottom of the television screen was a flashing ticker of the day's headlines, and the date.
The date was over a year later from the one he should be living. It didn't change no matter how hard he rubbed his eyes.
Trying to reconcile the evidence of his eyes to what his brain supposedly knew, now he discovered a disturbing blank in his memory. Not the usual blank he'd had to get used to over the years when his photographic reflexes recorded over his memories; those absences were hazy, somehow. Vague, as if he could recall whatever had been overwritten, residual impressions under the layers of new data, if he only tried hard enough. This, though. This was just a solid white wall of blank.
A more recent memory did emerge then, though it wasn't any more helpful. He'd been held prisoner, about to be auctioned off like livestock. But who his captors were, what happened after that, who the highest bidder had been – that was where the white blank began. Up until about five minutes ago, a year and some change later.
A year. He'd lost an entire year. He needed to sit down.
Mummified cheetos and other things he didn't want to know about crunched and mushed under his ass and he stood up again hastily, cursing. He'd lost time before, entire decades vanishing without his being aware of it, but that was only limited to his memory. Those memories simply went missing, like opening a dvd case to find the disc gone. This was different. Time had never just...slipped.
Taskmaster was perhaps, just a teeny, tiny bit, freaking out.
No. He was absolutely not. Panicking was for other people. He was Taskmaster, and he did not goddamn panic. Period.
Right. Any kind of action was better than standing here amid mounds of trash, trying not to hyperventilate. He needed to get out. Get away, regroup. See what the fuck had happened.
Quickly he rifled through the apartment, which was two flattened dead cats away from being an episode of Hoarders, and came up with zero for his own clothes, zilch for his mask, and negative ten for his boots. Negative numbers because he found them in Deadpool's bathtub, covered in an unspeakable sludge of blood, mud, what appeared to be jelly beans, and some other things that he really didn't want to identify.
Choosing between the lesser of several evils, he grabbed a dubiously-clean sweatshirt and pants off the floor, swiped a pair of Deadpool's red boots – the man apparently didn't own any other kind or color of footwear – and left quietly via the front door.