two a.m. tea
This is for the wonderful @kipskiff , who recently did some fantastic art of Lloyd and Nya and Pixal getting tea at two am together, which is a concept I really wanted to write something on, so here we go! This is...technically an AU, because Lloyd and Nya know about Pixal before season 8, but you know what it’s a good AU that should be canon, because I love these three.
Nya is a lot of things, but one thing she definitely isn’t is blind.
(…most of the time.)
So when the new Samurai X crops up, in her armor, and promptly refuses to answer any questions about their identity, Nya spends a week or two flailing about before she gets serious. If someone’s got her mech, no matter how well-meaning their actions seem (saving Lloyd definitely won them points, but still) Nya needs to know who it is. It’s just a safety thing, and with their track record, it’s better to be safe than ambushed and nearly-slaughtered by someone they thought they could trust in the middle of the night.
So Nya cracks down and really starts studying the new samurai, mentally cataloguing the way they talk and how they choose to fight, what weapons they’re picking and the mannerisms they use, and eventually she’s able to pin down who it is — she’s promptly torn between utter shock and wondering why she didn’t think of that earlier, but she thinks she handles it pretty well.
Ironically, Lloyd figures it out five minutes before she does. (Or at least she thinks he does — he looks suspiciously calm about the whole thing, and he’s been the most unconcerned from the start. And he does have a track record with figuring out the identity of Samurai X, so…)
At any rate, Nya’s pretty sure that her and Lloyd are the only ones to have figured out Pixal’s secret, so by the time they all head off on their Find-Master-Wu missions, it’s easy enough for Nya to stop back into town every once in a while and meet up with them for tea at the hole-in-the-wall shop in the rougher part of town that Lloyd picks out for them.
He claims it’s where his uncle used to go sometimes, but Nya’s still too suspicious that Lloyd never entirely outgrew his past to believe that. He also claims that it’s the only place in town to get a decent cup of tea at two in the morning, which Nya is much more inclined to believe.
“-and then he tried to run, likely because he realized he was outmatched, but he must have forgotten we were on the twentieth story, because he tripped over his own feet and ran straight off the edge of the building, still clutching the money as he went.”
Nya grins as Pixal continues to detail her story to them, her eyes lit up brightly as she gestures, looking as enthusiastic as Nya’s seen her. Lloyd is listening in rapt attention, laughing at all the right parts as he sips at his own cup of tea — which very likely has too many sugars in it to be healthy, but what can you do. He’s in his new gi, the bright green one with the stitching she’d seen him working on a while back. It looks nice — it kinda makes Nya want to change up her own gi design, actually, she’s been feeling blues lately, for some reason…
She spares a brief glance at her current outfit, and shrugs. Sweat pants are comfy, and it’s not like she’s here to impress anyone, anyways. It probably looks pretty funny, actually, Lloyd in his gi and Pixal in her armor, then Nya seated between them looking like she just rolled out of bed.
“I like your glasses, by the way,” Lloyd mentions to Pixal, after they’ve finished with her story (she caught the guy about three flights down, which is less than Nya would have let him fall for).
“Oh!” Pixal’s hand drifts to the large-rimmed glasses she’s wearing. “Oh, thank you, I had forgotten I still had them on.”
“I told you they looked good on you,” Nya says, with an air of satisfaction. “You should keep ‘em.”
“Really?” Pixal says, hesitantly. “But I don’t really need them. My eyesight is perfectly fine.”
Nya shrugs. “Kai doesn’t need hair gel.”
“Jay doesn’t need ten blue jackets,” Lloyd chimes in.
“Cole doesn’t need sleeves.”
“Nya doesn’t need Starfarer socks.”
“Lloyd doesn’t need seven of those extra soft blankets.“
“Yes I do, there’s seven nights in a week,” Lloyd defends.
Nya shakes her head. “The point is, you might not need them, but you can want them. And if you want them, wear them! Simple as that.”
“Oh,” Pixal says, turning this over in her head. She finally nods. “I will keep them, then.”
“Nice!” Lloyd raises his teacup. “To Pixal’s glasses, then.”
“Hear, hear,” Nya clinks her cup against his. Pixal looks slightly confused, but she clinks her cup against theirs nonetheless. Lloyd snickers, and Nya leans back, sipping at her cooling tea.
“So, how’s it been on your side?” Nya asks Lloyd, nudging him.
Lloyd’s expression falls a bit, though Nya can tell he’s trying to look content about it. “Oh, it’s good,” he says, his cheer sounding forced. “There’s, um. There’s some late nights and stuff, but it’s not…it’s not bad, or anything. It’s good. Good times.”
Nya trades looks with Pixal.
“That was a terrible lie,” Pixal says, turning back to him.
Lloyd buries a hand in his hair, leaning back. “Ugh, fine. It’s a little lonely, that’s all, okay?”
Nya’s heart dips, and she bites her lip. It’s been lonely on her side, too, traveling the countryside by herself, but Lloyd has always taken that sort of thing harder.
“You know you can call us whenever, right?” Nya reminds him. “And Pixal’s here too, if you wanna talk to her,” she adds, as Pixal nods.
“Yeah, I know, it’s just-“ Lloyd sighs. “I dunno, it’s harder to enjoy stuff when it’s just you,” he mumbles, shifting his teacup in a circle on the table. “And like, I love protecting the city, but it’s a little more difficult to do it on your own.”
“I actually miss the guys and their dumb catchphrases, too,” Nya admits. “It is less fun on your own, huh.”
Pixal looks between the two of them. “I’ve never been part of that,” she says. “So I cannot empathize, I’m afraid.” She sighs, brushing a tuft of silver hair from her face. “I do wish to experience it someday, though,” she says, quietly.
“You should join up with us, then!” Lloyd says, eagerly. “When the guys get back, you can be on the team too-“
“Lloyd,” Nya says, quietly. Lloyd looks at her, then at Pixal.
“O-only if you want to, that is,” he says quickly, deflating a bit. “If you wanna…reveal yourself, and stuff. It’s up to you.”
“Thank you for the offer,” Pixal says, smiling slightly. “I’ll consider it. But in the meantime-“
The TV in the shop corner suddenly scratches, warbling out the tinny alert of a news update as a reporter’s harried voice comes through.
“-violent activity in the northwest city quarter again as another bank is hit, suspected to be attributed to the recent rise in biker gangs. Police are on their way to the scene as we speak-“
“In the meantime…” Nya mutters. She meets Lloyd’s eyes, then Pixal’s. She carefully sets her cup of tea down. “Anyone up for a little team bonding right now?”
Pixal and Lloyd look at each other. “Yes,” Pixal replies enthusiastically, standing. “Let’s go kick butt!”
Lloyd’s face splits into a grin. “Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!” he says, shooting up from his own seat. “Let’s show these guys who’s boss. The uh - the bosses. Multiple bosses, ‘cause there’s three of us.”
Nya snorts, but she stands as well, shouldering her katana as she does. Looks like she’s fighting crime in sweatpants tonight.
“Was that too assertive?” Pixal whispers to Nya, as they trail out of the restaurant.
“Nope!” Nya grins proudly. “You’re doing great. Kicking butt is the number one ninja requirement.”
“Oh, good,” Pixal says. “Samurai, as well?”
“Pix,” Nya says, slinging an arm around her shoulder. “Here’s the thing you gotta remember. Ninja kick butt. Samurai? They do it better.”
There wasn’t really a conscious choice, per say, to split their team up like they did — a lot of it ended being convenience, timing, Jay and Cole arguing so much nobody else wanted to deal with them, and that sort of thing — so it’s not like it was a purposeful decision that Nya and Lloyd got stuck on solo missions.
Well, just Nya gets missions, really. At least she gets to travel, and stuff — Lloyd is stuck babysitting Ninjago City on his own, which is slightly funny and even more concerning, because Lloyd should not be babysitting anyone when he’s the one that needs babysitting.
(Look, Ninjago City has never claimed it was “perfectly fine” after taking a crowbar to the head, then tried to double-flip over to the next building and ended up nearly cracking its skull open on the dumpster it fell into instead.)
(Lloyd has…a questionable track record, that’s what Nya’s trying to say.)
So it’s more than a little relieving that Nya knows Pixal is there to keep an eye on him.
“-I mean, what if she hadn’t been there, Lloyd?” Nya says accusingly, as Pixal carefully wraps Lloyd’s wrist from where she sits across the table from them. “What were you gonna do? Take another twenty fists to the face?”
“Id wasn’ twen’y fisds,” Lloyd mumbles into the napkin he’s got pressed against his nose, which is just barely not broken.
“It was certainly close,” Pixal pauses and frowns, studying Lloyd’s wrist before continuing to wrap it. Nya gives Lloyd a pointed glare, and he wilts into the booth.
They’ve chosen a 24-hour breakfast diner this time, one of those ones that looks like it’s been there since the dawn of time and will likely be there until the end of the world itself. The circular lamps that hang above their table cast them all in an odd yellow lighting, that makes Pixal’s hair look almost blond, and the bright green in Lloyd’s eyes look like it’s glowing. The linoleum floors beneath their shoes are cracked, the walls of the diner coated in plaster layer upon plaster layer that’s been half-heartedly hidden behind old music posters — and this one old picture Lloyd likes that’s got a cat eating a bunch of pancakes.
It’s around four in the morning when they meet there — because that’s when Pixal yanked Lloyd out of the drug bust — so their only other companions in the joint are heavy-eyed truck drivers and half-conscious people who are probably regretting hitting up as many bars as they did. It’s nice, though, because the employees seem like they’ve served hell itself with a bored expression, so no one really looks at the two ninja and a samurai crammed into the vinyl booth twice.
Lloyd pulls another bloody napkin away from his nose, making a face as he replaces it with a new one. “I’m fine, ‘kay,” he says, voice muffled as he winces, trying to stop the blood flow. “Id’s nod a big deal. I had id handled.”
“I hope that isn’t what you all consider ‘having it handled’,” Pixal says, gently tying off the bandages around Lloyd’s wrist. “There. All done. Ah, I believe that ice helps alleviate the pain, if you wish to…?”
“Yeah,” Lloyd flashes Pixal a small grin — Nya cringes at the blood on his teeth — as he takes the napkin-wrapped ice from her and sets it against his wrist. “D’anks, Pixal.”
He finally pulls the napkin away, prodding cautiously at his nose before deciding it isn’t going to bleed anymore. Nya gives him another pointed look, and Lloyd sighs, gathering up the bloody napkins and walking them over to the trash can.
“Thank you, seriously,” Nya mutters while he’s gone, rubbing a hand across her temple. “I was so far out, I don’t know what I would have done…”
“Of course,” Pixal says, patting Nya’s hand a little awkwardly. “I will always help Lloyd if he needs it. And I promised you I would keep an eye on him, right?”
“Yeah,” Nya smiles at her. “Thanks. You’ve been stellar.”
Pixal smiles lightly, and takes another sip of her tea. She immediately wrinkles her nose. “This is…not as good as the other place.”
Nya makes a face at her own cup of tea, which is sitting untouched. “Yeah, it’s not the best,” she says, braving another sip. Ugh, nope, hasn’t gotten any better in the last five minutes. “We’re kinda just here for the food,” she says, apologetically.
Pixal shakes her head. “That’s perfectly fine,” she says, as Lloyd ducks back into the booth with them. “Food is good as well.”
She’s spoken not a moment too soon — a yawning server makes their way to them, flipping at his notepad apathetically.
“You gonna get anything to eat?” he asks, sounding like he couldn’t care either way.
“Hi, yes,” Nya speaks up, before Lloyd can. She cuts him a you’re grounded look, which Lloyd sinks lower into the booth at, sulking. “I’ll have the biscuits with a side of bacon. Pixal?”
“I’ll have the, um, biscuits as well, thank you,” Pixal says.
The server nods, scribbling away. He looks back up. “Anything else?”
Nya is highly aware of the plaintive looks Lloyd is giving her.
“…and we’ll also take two chocolate-chip pancakes, extra whipped cream please,” she sighs. Lloyd beams.
Geez, it’s like watching a puppy, she thinks in amusement, studying him. A puppy with hair that probably needs to get cut pretty soon, she notices, watching the way the blond locks now fall into his eyes.
Lloyd remains oblivious to her stare, too busy stacking the little syrup containers into a geometric-shaped tower.
“You better not be using all of those,” Nya says, narrowing her eyes.
Lloyd shifts. “Of course not,” he scowls, but she notices that he very visibly moves the syrup packets closer to him. Nya snatches at them before he can all but sweep them into his lap, and a muffled battle over the packets ensues, with Nya emerging victorious and Lloyd left with a mere two small packets.
Lloyd gives a miserable sigh.
“Here,” Pixal says, sliding the five — five?! — packets Nya had somehow missed over to Lloyd. “You can have mine.”
Lloyd lights up. “Thanks, Pixal!” he says.“You’re my favorite sister tonight,” he says, shrewdly glaring at Nya.
“Excuse me for not wanting you to go into cardiac arrest at the young age of thirteen,” Nya grumbles.
Lloyd turns pink. “I am not thirteen-!” he yelps — and immediately claps a hand over his mouth as his voice cracks. Nya bursts into snickers as Lloyd sinks back into the booth, pulling the neck of his sweatshirt up over his scarlet face.
Oh, Kai’s gonna be so mad if he gets back and Lloyd’s gotten over his awkward voice-crack stage without him, Nya thinks.
Pixal, however, isn’t snickering, or even smiling bemusedly like she normally does when she doesn’t get something at first. Instead, she’s staring at Lloyd with an odd look on her face, almost like surprise.
“Pix?” Nya asks, her laughter dying off. “Everything okay?”
Lloyd looks up as well, emerging from his sweatshirt a bit, rubbing at his bandaged wrist as he does.
Pixal shakes her head. “Yes, I just-“ she blinks, staring at Lloyd again. “You…you called me your sister.”
Lloyd turns a bit pink again. “Oh, uh, yeah,” he says, hesitantly. “Is that - was that okay? I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, or anything, I just-“
“No, no, that is not it!” Pixal says, hastily. “I just — I didn’t think you…saw me that way.”
Lloyd’s still pink, but he looks a little less hesitant as he shrugs. “Well, yeah, you’re family, right?” he says, in that innocent way he has, like it’s obvious.
Pixal blinks rapidly, but the start of a smile edges its way up her face. “Oh,” she says, looking down as if to blush. “Right.”
Nya feels a grin edge up her own mouth, watching the happy smile that plays across Pixal’s face as she sips at the tea, Lloyd digging in to the pancakes beside her, still sniffling occasionally but otherwise happy.
Fine, Nya decides. She’ll let him off the hook for this one.
The next time they’re able to meet up is barely in passing, crammed into a tiny shop Pixal spots on the riverfront while on patrol one night. Between the three of them they’ve been hopelessly busy — Lloyd and Pixal have had their arms full looking out for Ninjago city lately, crime having picked up drastically. They keep talking about this new bike gang that’s been showing up, which is apparently giving them both a lot of trouble and a few killer headaches. Nya would offer to take a look into it, but she’s supposed to head out for the rural villages later this morning, and it doesn’t sound too concerning. Lloyd and Pixal assure her that it’s probably just a gang on a vicious streak, that’s all.
They can handle it, that’s the message Nya’s getting. She’ll take their word for it, for now.
The riverfront shop is right where the nicer quarter meets the rougher edge of town, and that’s illustrated in the shop’s decor, gold-trimmed wallpaper run with cracks, the dark wood tables nicked and dented with scratches and scrapes. It’s got a nice view of the river, though, and the tea’s pretty good, so they decide it gets a thumbs-up in their slowly growing list of places to get tea without being immediately recognized.
They get there in the early hours of the morning again — the sun is just peeking over the horizon by the time they start on their tea. Lloyd’s finishing up telling them about Jay and Cole’s last check-in, laughing as he recounts Jay’s reaction when he realized the monastery they’re checking out is on top of the mountain, not at the bottom.
“And how are Kai and Zane?” Pixal asks as he finishes, visibly hiding her interest.
“They’re good, too,” Lloyd says, brightly. Nya knows it’s because he got to talk on the phone with Kai last night — really talk with Kai the other night, which is always good for the both of them. “I think they’re hitting some of the southern villages, Zane was talking about wanting to double-check on some rumors there about crime and stuff.”
“That sounds like him,” Pixal says, fondly. “Thank you,” she tells him.
Lloyd nods, stifling a yawn as he does and rubbing at his eyes. The gesture makes him look younger, but not by much. He’s looking older every time she sees him, Nya thinks with a pang, baby fat almost entirely gone, his voice pitching deeper by the day. Lloyd doesn’t seem to think much of it, but it pulls at Nya’s heart — Lloyd’s been the family baby for so long (he always will be, regardless), and it’s hard to think that he’s actually capable of doing something like growing up. He’s been living on his own, too, so he’s more independent than Nya remembers him. What’s next? A girlfriend?
Nya wrinkles her nose. She can’t imagine Lloyd dating anyone (much less anyone deserving him, at that, but she’s a bit biased).
But Lloyd isn’t the only one to have changed. Pixal looks different too, her hair pulled into a new style today, glimmering little earrings flashing when she moves. She looks like she’s finding out who Pixal is, something Nya had suggested several cups of tea back, and there’s no bittersweet edge in her happiness as she notices that.
“And there’s still no news about your uncle?”
Nya blinks back to the present at Pixal’s question — it’s something she’s been wondering herself.
Lloyd shakes his head. “Nothing,” he says, looking troubled. “I haven’t even heard from my mother yet.”
Nya twists her teacup in her hands, eyebrows furrowing. Misako doesn’t have…a great track record, but she’s at least been steady at letting Lloyd know how and where she is. The radio silence is probably concerning.
“Hey, I’ll keep an eye out for her while I’m traveling, okay?” Nya says, reaching out and briefly squeezing his hand. “I’ll let the guys know, too.”
“Thanks,” Lloyd says, with a weak smile. “Appreciate it.” He glances over at Pixal. “We’ve got the city in the meantime. We’ll make sure it doesn’t burn down while you’re gone, or something.”
“With Kai abroad, I think we’ll have even better chances,” Pixal says with a hint of a smile, and Lloyd snorts.
Nya chews on her lip as she watches them. Lloyd doesn’t just look older, he’s quieter now, too, more subdued. It’s making her heart hurt — and weirdly, making her feel even more protective. Like she needs to stay here for a little longer, keep a closer eye on things, instead of setting out just yet.
Or maybe she’s just tired.
Nya watches him spoon sugar into his cup, and feels a slight flare of relief. At least he’s not totally grown-up.
She glances at her watch, and sighs. Lloyd notices the action, and his face falls a bit. “That time already?”
Nya nods, heart sinking. “I wish I could stay longer,” she says, regretfully. “I mean, there’s another bus I could take this evening, but-“
“Nah, you don’t wanna get stuck in rush hour traffic,” Lloyd says, with all the wisdom of someone who’s spent too much time on the Ninjago streets.
Pixal nods, looking serious. “They’ve closed a few roads for construction, too. You won’t get out for ages.”
“Alright, alright, I see how it is,” Nya grumbles, draining the rest of her tea. “I’ll get out of your hair and let you two get back to running the city already.”
They both burst into protests, and Nya laughs, half-heartedly swatting them away as they embrace her. She lets them hold on for a second longer than usual, though, and perhaps holds on a bit longer herself.
It won’t be that long, she tells herself. Things can’t change that much more any time soon, anyways.
It’s a while before they’re able to meet after that, to the point that they almost forget entirely about their late-night tea meet-ups. They spend a good deal of time with each other in the early days of the Resistance of course, plotting against Harumi and Garmadon and trying to piece themselves back together, but they’re far too heartsore for any real conversation, and it’s hard enough getting Lloyd to eat or drink anything during that time.
But they make it through — battered and bruised and slightly worse for wear, but they make it through alive and unbroken. So by the time they’ve made sure all the Sons of Garmadon have been rounded up, and the guys have talked themselves into what’s probably much-needed sleep (Nya hasn’t seen Kai with dark circles that bad in ages), their spirits have picked up enough that they don’t sit in completely depressed and despairing silence at the coffee shop they find that’s miraculously still open amidst the chaos.
They do, however, spend a good few minutes sitting around in utterly exhausted silence, slumped around the battered table.
Nya’s not entirely sure why they’re even here — they haven’t even changed from their Resistance clothes yet, much less slept or showered. And they need it. Nya’s uniform has tearing holes that stretch over her left shoulder and lower arm, and Lloyd’s green uniform is colored black in places where it’s been charred, sporting as many, if not more tears than hers is. Pixal’s armor is dented and dirty, and she’s got her own charred spots from when she crashed the mech into Garmadon.
It’s not like they were trying to escape the recently-returned guys, either — in fact, the only reason they’re not currently with them is because they’re all dead asleep at the moment.
Something, Nya supposes, none of their trio really want to do at the moment.
Lloyd finally stirs, giving a low moan as he stretches, wincing as his shoulder shifts and rubbing briefly at it. Pixal stares into her tea cup as if it holds the answers to the universe, her eyes glassy-looking. Nya herself is about two minutes from face-planting into unconsciousness in her own tea, so she clears her throat, wincing briefly as she speaks up.
“Anyone want food?”
“Mm,” Lloyd hums absently. Pixal shrugs.
Nya tries again. “I was thinkin’ noodles.”
Lloyd gives a loud, sudden snort of laughter, closing his eyes and rubbing his hands over them. “Anything. Anything other than noodles.”
Pixal looks up, less groggy as she smiles ruefully. “I think we’ve had enough of those to last us a lifetime,” she says.
“We’re probably indebted to Skylor for a lifetime,” Lloyd mutters into his hands.
“Nah, those were all on the house,” Nya says. “We can put it on Garmadon’s tab if we want, though.”
Nya wants to bite the words back as soon as they escape her mouth. Bringing up Garmadon is exactly what she’d reminded herself not to do, an error matched only by mentioning Harumi.
Lloyd just lowers his hands though, shaking his head wryly. “Maybe,” he says, quietly. Pixal trades a look with Nya as he goes quiet, and Nya is considering changing the subject to something drastically different when Lloyd speaks up again.
“I think he only eats souls of the innocent right now, though.”
Nya gives a loud snort as Pixal breaks into quiet giggles. Lloyd just grins, an exhausted, weary grin, but one of the more genuine ones Nya’s seen in the last month.
Nya cuts her laughter off just as she feels it turning hysterical, threatening to turn into tears, and Pixal’s dies off soon after. They fall back into silence, but it’s more companionable this time, less horribly tired.
“Thanks,” Lloyd suddenly whispers. Pixal looks up at him, but neither of them really need to ask what for.
“For everything,” he continues, after the beat of silence. “I owe you guys.”
“We only did what you do for us,” Nya says. “Besides, we gotta stick together, us three.”
“That’s what family does,” Pixal adds, and Lloyd gives her a smile that’s only slightly edged in pain.
Their conversation dwindles off again, leaving only the sounds of people crowding the streets outside, sirens and construction and large trucks moving by. The sounds of life are loud in comparison to the unnatural, terrified quiet of the last few weeks, but they blur into a comforting sort of white noise with the soft piano music of the shop. Nya feels her eyes drift shut, bone-deep exhaustion leaving her feeling almost weightless.
“Hey,” Lloyd suddenly says. “D’you think I can still get my car back?”
Nya blinks up at him, opening her mouth then closing it. Pixal frowns, tilting her head.
“Did you get a parking pass?” she says. “I heard they’re strict about that at Kryptarium.”
Lloyd’s the first to give in, bursting into infectious giggles, so terrible as the joke is Nya follows right after, her loud laughter joining Pixal’s. It’s laughter edged in exhausted hysteria and the suppressed emotions of the past weeks, and this time Nya does let a few tears fall, but-
It’s real laughter, the kind that reminds Nya that they’ve won, and that gives the shop a pretty high spot on their list from that alone.
The tea’s not half-bad, either.
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