where you don't see me @artemiscrock
Chapter Two

It starts slow, really. He doesn't even notice it happening for a long time.

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When Gar insists that they need to start having team bonding sessions, they're all a little hesitant. They're not sure what, exactly, he means, but they all immediately think of those corny trust exercises that adults do at like, corporate retreats or whatever. But. He is the unofficial team leader - it was his idea, after all, and he may not be the oldest person on the team, but he's definitely been in the hero game the longest. So, despite their concerns, they agree.

It doesn't take long for them to realize that he mostly just meant that they should all play video games together.

It doesn't take long for them to realize that he mostly just meant that they should all play video games together.

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"I swear I won't use my speed. Scout's honor."

"It's semantics," Bart says, waving his hand dismissively.

Virgil rolls his eyes. "Bart, you were never a scout."

"It's semantics," Bart says, waving his hand dismissively.

“It’s really not.”

Ed sits back on the couch, watching the argument unfold with a grin. This happens every time they play games - someone (usually Virgil or Brion) reminds everyone that Bart's super-speed gives him an unfair advantage, and he swears up and down that he's not going to use it. He only ever lasts like, fifteen minutes.

(They've actually started timing him - the longest he's gone without using his speed was twenty three minutes and fourteen seconds.) 

(Everyone places bets on how long it'll take - winner gets their chores done for them for a week. Somehow, Cassie almost always wins.) 

(No one can figure out how, but they’re pretty sure she cheats.)

Bart is pleading his case to the court - Gar and Jaime, this time - and Ed can't help but grin. He’s currently accusing Virgil of making baseless attacks on his character and attempting to use cheap political tricks. It makes absolutely no sense, but that doesn't seem to matter.

Cassie drops down on the couch next to Ed and nudges him with her elbow, leaning in with a conspiratorial grin. "Bart and I marathoned some Law & Order last night to prepare for this," she whispers.

Ed chokes on a laugh, turning it into a fake cough when Bart, Jaime, and Gar turn to look at him. Bart gives him a small smile before returning to his emphatic speech on the fundamental human right that is freedom of video gaming.

"I think your research paid off," Ed mutters back, "he's throwing a lot of fancy words around. You guys do know they're just going to cave and let him play though, right?"

She shrugs. "I mean, yeah, but isn't this more fun?"

Ed chuckles, watching Bart argue animatedly with Virgil, who's barely biting back a smile. "Yeah. Yeah, it is."

Cassie glances from Ed to Bart and back again a couple of times before landing on Ed, brow arched.

It seems like she’s trying to ask him a question, but Ed can’t figure out what it is. 

"What?"

She nudges him again and waggles her eyebrows, throwing a meaningful look at Bart. Ed's still not sure what she's trying to say, so he just shrugs. She sighs, exasperated, and Ed would apologize if he knew what the hell just happened, but he shrugs and turns back to the spectacle.

And that's the thing about Bart.

He's always a spectacle.

He's like - it's weird, Ed thinks, but Bart's presence is kind of like... a gas, almost. That whole rule about how it fills the volume of whatever container it's in He does the exact same thing. No matter where he goes, he fills the space around him.

(Okay, so they've been reviewing physics in tutoring. He can't help it if reading that definition reminded him of Bart.)

He's currently pacing back and forth in front of Gar and Jaime, hamming it up, saying something about isolation from his peers and damaging team morale. Jaime is trying very, very hard not to laugh, but he’s not really succeeding. Meanwhile, Gar is only barely keeping a straight face. He waits for Bart to pause to take a breath to jump in.

"Okay! Okay. We concede. You can play. But normal rules still apply. You use super-speed, you're out of here."

Bart nods eagerly and very solemnly swears that he definitely won’t use his powers this time.

Fifteen minutes later, he and Ed are facing off in Super Smash Brothers - Bart, unsurprisingly, is playing Sonic, and Ed's playing as Palutena. Bart is carefully avoiding using his super-speed, but he's still better at this game than Ed, who's more of a Mario Kart guy. Sonic knocks Palutena off the platform four times, but she gets him back twice, and Ed feels proud of himself for not spectacularly failing.

Three minutes later, Bart has been banned and is sitting in a - Ed doesn't know what it's called. It's smaller than a couch but bigger than a chair - across the room, grinning and unapologetic. He and Sonic had faced off against Gar and the Pokemon Trainer, and he'd pretty quickly slipped into using superspeed. Gar was demolished and Bart was kicked off the couch.

Ed isn't playing right now, and he's kind of bored, so he goes and takes the space next to Bart, who turns to give him a warm, lazy smile.

Ed doesn't really know what to say. He blurts out "Why do you always insist on playing if you know you're gonna wind up using your speed?" and immediately wants to bite his tongue.

Stupid question, Ed. Stupid, stupid question.

Bart looks at him, considering. He seems to come to some kind of conclusion and leans in like he's about to share something very confidential, and oh, his face is very close, and his eyes are serious in a way Ed hasn’t seen before. "Are you sure you want the answer to that?"

Ed can't breathe. "Yeah," he says, swallowing thickly.

Bart hums, thoughtful. "I can control myself, if I really want to," his says, lips quirking up, "but it's fun, pretending I can't. Everyone gets a kick out of it." He leans back into the seat, "I guess I like making people laugh. It's, uh - I didn't really... have that. For a really long time. So, now, I like making it happen.” He seems to shake himself a bit, dropping the seriousness for something a bit closer to his usual demeanor, loose and easygoing. “And I can't say that I don't also like the attention,” he says, shrugging.

Ed studies Bart, who's wearing a self deprecating smile, and there's something behind his eyes that churns Ed's stomach, but he can't figure out what it is. Ed realizes that there's a lot more to Bart than he thought - that he really doesn't know him very well. Even though they've lived together for like, a month, and they work really well as a team, that doesn't translate to… to knowing him.

He thinks about that for a minute, not sure why that realization makes him feel so uneasy.

And then Bart decides to play commentator, and he’s too distracted to keep thinking about it. 

"With this match we see Pac-Man versus Luigi. This is, of course, a grudge match - Mrs. Pac-Man caused a scandal just last month, divorcing her husband to pursue a relationship with Luigi, his long-time rival in the ghost hunting business!” he says, voice lowered his voice in an attempt to imitate a sports commentator, “What will win out? Luigi's raw charisma and unbridled power, or Pac-Man’s revenge fueled blood-lust?” 

Ed is clutching his stomach, laughing, as Cassie and Virgil egg Bart on.

"Luigi is shacking up with Mrs. Pac-Man?" Virgil asks, pressing a hand to his chest like an old southern lady clutching at her pearls.

"Oh, no, he wouldn't. He's a classy man, Virg. He's not going to get with his rival's ex, no matter how in love she is. He's already in a relationship, anyways," Bart replies easily, and Ed marvels, because he has no idea how Bart comes up with this stuff so quickly.

Cassie covers her mouth with a hand and gasps, scandalized. "The drama! Luigi is in a secret relationship? Who with? Zelda?"

Bart shakes his head, somber.

"Bayonetta?" Virgil asks.

Another head shake.

"It's the Wii Fit Trainer, isn't it?" Ed says, accusing, "I always knew she was trying to get at the legendary Super Mario Brothers' fortune."

That surprises a laugh out of Bart, but he quickly schools his expression back into something faux-serious.

(Ed feels a giddy sort of pride at having made him laugh. He maybe sees what Bart was talking about earlier.)

"She did make a pass at him, Ed, but no. You're all missing the obvious," Bart tells them, matter of fact. "He's married to Bowser. They're raising the koopalings together and they're very, very happy."

Virgil sighs, heavily. "You're right, Bart. We’re fools. We should have seen the signs!" He shakes his head, looking ashamed.

"Hey Gar, I hear congrats are in order!" Cassie calls, "Why didn't you tell us that you and Bowser are married with kids?"

Gar turns to shoot them all a quick glare before turning back to the screen, where he’s kicking Jaime's ass. "I'm famous, Cassie! I wanted to protect my husband and children from the stress of the limelight and the paparazzi. I was trying to keep it a secret, Bart ."

"What was I supposed to do? Keep letting you lie to Perdita like this? She deserves an honest man, Gartholomew!"

Jaime sighs, "I'm disappointed in you, Gar. Very disappointed."

"If I were you, I'd be more worried about how badly I was getting beaten at Smash Bros," he grumbles.

Bart has fallen silent. He's smiling, basking in the chaos he's instigated, letting it take on a life of its own. Suddenly, he's shifting in his seat, his legs coming up, and Ed thinks for half a second that he's about to stretch out and rest his feet in Ed's lap, but they keep moving, and suddenly they're hooked over the back of the not-couch, and Bart's sitting upside down, for apparently no reason.

Brion looks at him quizzically, and Bart moves his shoulders in what Ed assumes is meant to be a shrug.

"I was getting restless?" he says, although it sounds like a question.

"So you decide to sit upside down," Brion says, brows raised, grinning a little bit.

Bart tries to shrug again, then gives up when he figures out it's not working. "Yeah. I dunno, I get fidgety sometimes."

Jaime walks over to the seat and taps Ed's shoulder. "You're up, El Dorado ," he says, his tone teasing.

"Hey! It's a cool name," he shoots back, getting up, a little reluctant to leave his seat. "At least I'm not named after a bug."

"It's a bit braggy, is all I'm saying," Jaime says, dropping into the spot that Ed's just vacated. "I mean, ‘The Golden One’ ? Really?"

Ed is about to retort, but Bart cuts into the conversation. "I don't know, I kinda think it fits him," he says, and then his eyes go wide and he snaps his mouth shut. Ed feels warmth blooming across his cheeks, and it looks like Bart might be turning a little pink, too, but that's probably just blood rushing to his head because he's still sitting upside down.

"Oh, does it, Bart?" Jaime asks, with a knowing grin, and Ed can't help but feel like he's missing something as he wanders over to join Gar on the couch and, undoubtedly, suffer crushing defeat. Bart has gone silent and is looking pointedly at the ceiling, even as Cassie, Virgil, and Jaime all watch him closely, like they’re expecting something.

Whatever it is, it doesn't happen, not even when he and Gar start playing. This time, Gar is Donkey Kong - the green version, of course - and Ed considers for a minute before picking Zero Suit Samus. He figures she's strong, and probably his best shot at avoiding in-game humiliation.

As the game starts, he glances over to Bart, finds that he's watching him play, an unreadable expression on his face - although maybe Ed just can’t figure it out because he’s still upside down. When he notices that Ed is watching him back, he quickly looks away. Ed feels something in his stomach tighten at the knowledge that Bart was watching him like that.

The next time Ed glances over, he's no longer sitting. Bart has wandered over to the air hockey table and he's playing. Against himself, of course.

(He’s winning.)

That tight feeling in Ed's stomach shifts, and he's not sure whether it's better or worse now. What he does know is that he's losing much worse than usual, because his head's not in the game.

Shit.

He refocuses, and makes a decent comeback - he gets one KO, knocking Gar off the platform with three seconds left in the game.

He's still gonna get made fun of for getting his ass kicked, but hey, at least it wasn’t a shut-out.

So maybe sometimes Bart is a little distracting. He’s just got one of those personalities. It's not like it's really a problem.

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