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"Out of Character" (1/1) S/L

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  • Minisinoo
    OUT OF CHARACTER Minisinoo (see notes) ... “Logan, what makes you think you know *jack-shit* about me?” Scott’s words. They take me by surprise. I’d
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2003
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      OUT OF CHARACTER
      Minisinoo


      (see notes)
      ----------

      �Logan, what makes you think you know *jack-shit* about me?�

      Scott�s words. They take me by surprise.

      I�d stumbled over him outside on the deck that overlooked the rear
      gardens, alone, drinking something cloudy white, and God it smelled
      like licorice. He was watching the sunset, gorgeous orange-pink
      through the pines, though I don�t think that registered with him.
      His feet were bare and dirty from summer mud, and he was dressed in
      torn jeans and a gray sweatshirt with the sleeves ripped off -- not
      standard Summers wear. His face had frozen into an expression like a
      truck in reverse. �What do you want?� he�d asked without looking at
      me.

      Caught by surprise, I�d gone for the tease. �Cyclops drinking?
      What�s the world coming to?�

      And he�d replied, �Logan, what makes you think you know *jack-shit*
      about me?�

      He was right. I didn�t know much. But I did know a few things. I
      knew he was hurting. And I knew he had good reason. So instead of
      snapping back, I sat down beside him on the back step. �What is that
      stuff anyway?� I nodded at the drink in his hand.

      �Sambuca. It�s Italian. I guess my roots are showing.�

      �You�re Italian?� That, I hadn�t expected.

      �My mother�s mother came from Turin.�

      �I thought Sambuca was a jazz caf� in Atlanta?�

      �You been to Atlanta, Canuck?�

      �I been all over, One Eye.�

      �Been to Italy?�

      �Not that I recall. But there�s a lot I don�t recall.�

      He glanced down, stared at the liquid in his glass. �Sorry.�

      �For what?�

      �Reminding you.�

      I shook my head. �Don�t apologize. I�m used to it.� But that
      didn�t mean I liked it.

      We sat then in silence. The sun went down, lighting the pines on
      fire. I pulled a cigar out of my pocket and bit the end off. I had
      two with me and offered him the other. He laughed at me. �Not one
      of my vices, Logan.�

      �So what are your vices, hot-shot?�

      �None of your goddamn business. We all have vices but we never talk
      about the real ones, do we?�

      It was a more serious turn than I think either of us had intended.
      He covered it with a drink of the liqueur. I covered it by lighting
      my smoke, enjoying the rush of nicotine in my blood.

      �Christ, that stinks,� he said, waving a hand in front of his face
      and moving away from the cloud of cigar smoke.

      �So does that shit in your hand.�

      �It smells like anise, Logan. That�s a spice.�

      �I know what anise is, jackass. I wasn�t born in a barn. That don�t
      make it a normal flavor for alcohol. It�s namby-pamby shit.�

      He snorted. �You ever actually drink any to give an informed
      opinion? And it�s a perfectly normal flavor for alcohol in Italy or
      Greece. Don�t knock what you haven�t tried.�

      �It ain�t whiskey.�

      �Thank God.�

      I don�t know why I did it, but I held out a hand in his direction.
      �Okay, give it over.�

      He stared at me a moment, then passed me the glass. I held my breath
      and took a drink.

      It had more kick than I�d expected. Still tasted terrible. I
      managed to swallow but handed him back the glass. �Okay, so it�s not
      namby-pamby. Still tastes like black jelly beans on speed.�

      He laughed. �I like black jelly beans.�

      �That your worst vice, One Eye?�

      �Not by a long shot.�

      More silence. I smoked. He drank, finishing his glass and going
      back inside to fetch another, but returning with the whole bottle
      instead. The label, I noticed, was printed entirely in Italian. Not
      made for the import market. He saw me squinting at it. �Gift from
      an old friend in Rome. This is the real stuff. It has hashish in
      it.�

      That made me sputter. �And you�re drinking it?�

      �You really do have a cockeyed view of me, don�t you? I went to
      Berkeley, Logan. It�s not exactly a conservative school. I had hair
      down to my shoulders once.�

      The mental image of Cyclops with hair to his shoulders was just . . .
      laughable. I shook my head.

      He was carrying something in a small bowl, took out a couple. Black
      coffee beans. �This is how you drink sambuca the right way.� He
      poured clear liquid into a shot glass, tossed the beans in his mouth,
      bit down and then threw back the shot -- made a face, but the kind
      you make when you like it. He offered me the bowl of beans and the
      glass. �Wanna try?�

      �You�re nuts.�

      He shrugged and took the bowl back, repeated the process with the
      beans and a shot. I watched. �You plan to drink that whole bottle?�

      �Probably.�

      �It won�t bring her back to you, One Eye.�

      �Shut up, Wolverine. She can go to hell, as far as I�m concerned.�

      �You don�t mean that.�

      He stared at me in disbelief. Or I think he did. Hidden behind red,
      it�s sometimes hard to judge. �How the fuck would you know what I
      mean? Or what I feel?� He turned away, faced back towards the pines
      along the yard rear. �If she wants to trade one Jew for another so
      she can fuck kosher, *fine* with me.�

      �You�re *Jewish*, too?� That surprised me even more than him being
      Italian. �Since when is �Summers� a Jewish name?�

      �It's not. But Momigliano is a very good Jewish name over in Turin.
      People forget there are Italian Jews. She fled Mussolini. Jewish
      descent passes through the female line. My mother was her daughter
      -- that makes me Jewish, if I wanted to claim it. In fact, she
      married an Irishman and converted to Catholicism, so I was raised
      Catholic. Good little altar boy turned apostate. I don�t believe in
      God, Logan. If there�s a God, why the fuck did he make me like
      this?� He tapped his glasses, then drank a third shot of the
      licorice stuff. �But Ariel Gershowitz can go take a flying leap.
      Being a Jew -- sort of -- I guess I can say that without being
      accused of anti-Semitism.�

      I shook my head. �You�re drunk as a skunk, Summers.� And vicious.

      �Not yet. But I plan to be. If I run out of Sambuca, will you loan
      me some of your whiskey?�

      That made me laugh. �Don�t you know better than to mix your liquor,
      kid? You�ll be drunk and sick.�

      �I really don�t give a shit.�

      �Yes, you do. You wouldn�t be here with a bottle of
      liquorice-flavored crap if you didn�t care. Your ex-lover is out
      with another man, so you�re getting drunk. It�s a fucking clich�.�

      �So, I�m a clich�. But not a fucking one. She made sure of that.�
      He drank a fourth shot. It was getting harder for him to swallow. I
      wondered how long until it all came back up again. His mutation
      didn�t include rapid metabolization of alcohol. Or rather it did,
      but in the wrong way.

      Reaching across his lap, I removed the bottle from his right side to
      my left. �Give it a rest, kid. I don�t wanna clean up your spew.�

      �Who said I�d ask you to?�

      �Don�t see anyone else around, do you?�

      �Give me the bottle back, Logan.�

      �No.�

      �*Fuck you!*� He erupted to his feet, fists balled, swaying a
      little. It was nearly dark now. Crickets had started their night
      music. Somewhere, a barn owl hooted.

      Slowly, I stood, too. I kept the bottle in hand. �You can have it
      later. Right now, let�s walk.�

      He laughed, leaning over as if he were in pain. �What is this?
      Console-the-jilted-lover duty?� His voice was deep and mean,
      thrumming in his chest. �You always show up when I screw up. I
      killed a guy. There was Logan. With whiskey. Now Jean takes off
      with somebody else, and here�s Logan. But I brought the alcohol this
      time. Is there a merit badge for keeping watch over me? I thought
      you called *me* the Boy Scout.�

      It would have been so easy to snap back but I didn�t. He was hurt
      and striking out at anything that presented itself. �Let�s walk,� I
      said again. He didn�t argue further, just did as I said. He wasn�t
      steady, not by a long shot, but he wasn�t weaving as badly as I�d
      expected. I made sure we stayed on the path, since he was barefoot.
      It meandered, not quite a labyrinth. The roses wafted scent in the
      dark, along with other flowers I didn�t recognize but which I was
      sure Ororo could name down to the color variation. There was a
      gazebo at the maze center, screened from the mansion windows by
      summer honeysuckle and morning glory, the latter�s blue buds closed
      now to the night air. Above, a full moon had punched a hole in hazy
      overcast.

      Benches wound around the perimeter of the gazebo interior. �Sit,
      kid,� I said. He obeyed once more, knees spread and hands grasped
      between them. I sat down on a bench at about forty-five degrees,
      plopped the bottle beside me and leaned my elbows on my knees. But I
      wasn�t sure what to say. This wasn�t a situation in which I�d ever
      have pictured myself.

      After eight months in Canada chasing old leads that had gone to
      ground like frightened foxes, I�d come home to Westchester. Not a
      lot had been different from when I�d left, except there was a new
      adult around named Hank McCoy. He hung from the ceiling and drove
      everybody nuts spouting Shakespeare and chemical formulae in about
      equal measure. Weird dude, completely independent of the blue fur.
      Otherwise, everything was status quo. Ororo still presided over her
      garden and her history classes. Summers taught math, tinkered in the
      garage, and mooned after Jean. The Q-ball was as imperturbable as
      always. And Jean was Jean -- not interested in me. Or rather,
      interested, but not inclined to act on it. I�d accepted that. I
      hadn�t come back for her. I�d come back because wolverines need a
      den, and people here actually seemed to care if I lived or died. So
      I taught kids how to defend themselves, looked after Marie, and tried
      to stay out of Jean and Scott�s way. Whatever tension I�d created
      between them during my first visit had dried up and blown away.
      After my return, it had been Jean who kept a polite distance to make
      a point, while Summers was friendly.

      They were happy. And I was happy for them. I might have pursued
      Jean had she not made it abundantly clear that she wasn�t available,
      and if I hadn�t come to like ol� One Eye. That didn�t devastate me.
      I wasn�t in love with her. I didn�t know her well enough to be in
      love with her. She represented an ideal for me, and I was in love
      with that, I guess.

      Then their relationship fell apart, and a love like theirs doesn�t
      turn indifferent. It goes into friendship, or into hate. Theirs
      took the latter, better-worn track. I think the basic problems were
      there before, but five months ago they went off to some conference in
      Sweden and came home fighting. They�d been fighting ever since,
      though in all fairness, I think they had made an effort to keep their
      private lives private. But the quarrel was too big, she was too
      annoyed, and he was too young. And when you�re getting a divorce �
      in essentials, if not in fact � it can become a war zone. The final
      split had occurred three weeks ago . . . three months before they
      were supposed to have gotten married. He�d moved out of their room
      and things had calmed down at last.

      Until tonight.

      �So,� I said now.

      �So,� he said back, then looked down and away. �Fuck it. What do
      you want me to say to you? Are you my Father Confessor? I thought
      Charles pretended to be that.�

      �You�re pissed at him because he�s not siding with you.�

      �He�s not siding with anybody. And I�m not pissed at him.�

      �Bullshit.�

      �Okay, so maybe I am. But I can�t blame him. He can�t afford to
      pick sides.�

      �You play Wronged Husband very well.�

      �*What the fuck do you expect?* She brought him back to the goddamn
      mansion! If that�s not rubbing my nose in it, what is?�

      �You�re not her fianc� any more, One Eye. If she wants to see
      somebody else, that�s her business. And she didn�t bring him to the
      mansion. He came to pick her up. You walked in at the wrong moment;
      they were on their way out. At least you didn�t cause a scene.�

      �Not in front of the kids.� He ran a hand over his lower face,
      careful not to dislodge the glasses. �Dammit! I was with her for
      four years, but suddenly I�m *not enough*! *Dr.* Jean Grey got tired
      of her pretty boy toy. Jesus fucking Christ!�

      He put his face in his hands, slid fingers up under his glasses to
      rub at his eyes, then laughed. �It�s usually the woman who gets
      dumped after she puts her man through grad school. But this is the
      twenty-first century so I guess we get to reverse the genders. I
      gave up my degree for her, and it didn�t mean a damn thing. Not a
      goddamn thing. She just used me. I am such a fucking *idiot*.�

      He was crying now, bent over, face hidden in his hands under his
      glasses -- and I honestly didn�t know what to do. First, he wasn�t
      even close to the truth, but this wasn�t the time to point that out.
      He wasn�t able to hear it. His relationship with Jean had fallen
      apart for a lot of reasons, and the age difference wasn�t the least
      of them. But he hadn�t been her boy toy, and she hadn�t used him.
      From what I�d seen, she�d genuinely loved him -- loved him in the
      face of unconscious social disapproval aimed at a woman almost nine
      years her man�s senior.

      But that hadn�t meant the relationship was a good one.

      �You know,� he went on after a minute, �I can�t believe I�m talking
      to you.�

      �That makes two of us. I can�t believe you�re talking to me,
      either.�

      He laughed at that, took off his glasses and wiped at his eyes. It
      was only the second time I�d ever seen him without them for more than
      a few seconds, and the first time, I�d had other matters on my mind.
      Namely Sabertooth intent on gutting me, and Marie screaming above us
      while Magneto�s machine pulled the life out of her. Now, I studied
      his face. He was pretty, like a girl. Model looks with hollow
      cheekbones that showed sharp in the night shadows. Full mouth.
      Deep-set eyes and long lashes under straight-drawn brows, and a small
      straight nose. It was the kind of face that had absolutely nothing
      wrong with it.

      Unless he opened his eyelids.

      But he looked too damn much like a woman, and not like a woman at
      all. That, if I was honest with myself, was the root of my initial
      dislike of Cyclops. It wasn�t his discipline. I had discipline, as
      well. Too many years I don�t remember in the military. It wasn�t
      even the prep-school attitude, though I found that annoying. He�d
      said to me once, �Some of us are proud of our gifts,� or some such
      ingested-and-regurgitated rhetorical bullshit. But I�d seen him when
      he didn�t think he was being watched, seen him pull his glasses off
      and rub his temples to ease the headaches that resulted from his
      power. I�d heard him swear in the night when he banged his shin on
      something because ruby quartz blinded him in the dark. I�d seen
      stark panic on his face the one time St. John, chasing Bobby Drake,
      had slammed into him in a hallway and knocked his glasses off. He
      hadn�t shut his eyes in time -- open only a second, but long enough
      to blast a chunk of plaster and wainscoting, roughly ten by ten, out
      of the hall wall. Thank God no one had been in front of him. He�d
      sat on the bottom step of the staircase and tried not to show how
      badly he�d been shaking. �It doesn�t happen very often,� Storm had
      told me, later.

      �But it�s happened before?� I�d asked in return.

      �Once or twice. Yes.�

      �Has he ever hurt anyone?�

      �Not directly, no. Once, he knocked down part of the ceiling on
      Francesco and Hank, but neither were really hurt.�

      That had given me new insight into Cyclops� famous control.

      In any case, the truth was that I�d disliked him initially for his
      *face*. He was pretty, and I�d assumed there was nothing else to
      him. That wasn�t fair and I knew it, and I�d learned better since.

      �Who is this guy she�s seeing, anyway?� I asked now.

      �A colleague of hers.� He put his glasses back on and turned his
      head sideways. Distant light flashed off ruby quartz and he slapped
      idly at a mosquito, then sighed and held his hand out. �Logan, give
      me the damn bottle. I�m sobering up too much.�

      I handed it over. He unscrewed the cap and -- now without a shot
      glass -- took a swig directly from the bottle and swallowed. �So,
      okay -- Gershowitz. She met him at the conference in Stockholm.
      Genetics research. She gave a paper on one panel and chaired
      another. It�s no small thing, to get invited to chair a panel when
      you�re only thirty-six.� For a moment, an old pride laced his voice.
      �You remember. We went together; we hadn�t had a vacation in --
      what? -- over a year? It was supposed to be our fucking vacation.�
      And that wasn�t just anger, it was real pain, the kind that curls up
      in your belly and digs in claws.

      �That�s where she met him. He chaired the panel on which she gave
      her paper, and he was in the audience for the panel she chaired. He
      then proceeded to chase her all over the goddamn hotel. Wherever she
      was, there he was. We�d go to dinner, and he�d show up. She�d be
      down by the pool, and he�d show up. He didn�t even take me
      seriously. I was a joke. At least you took me seriously enough to
      fight with me. He didn�t even do that. He just flat *ignored* me.
      I didn�t exist to him. I wasn�t a physician, I wasn�t a researcher,
      I didn�t have fucking �doctor� in front of my name, so I didn�t
      fucking exist. He�s forty, he�s charming, he has money, and he has
      prestige in the field. More, he can talk to her about what she�s
      doing. He understands it. I haven�t got a damn *clue*, Logan. I
      don�t understand any of it. She has to explain it to me like I�m a
      sixth grader. He interrupted our dinner one night, to ask her more
      about her paper, and they just . . . they talked for three hours.
      And I sat there. I didn�t understand a word.�

      He was crying again, drank more of the Sambuca. I was amazed that
      he�d tell me all this, and wondered how much he wasn�t telling.
      Sometimes people could keep others at a distance by seeming to
      confide a good deal. Still, just because he was talking didn�t mean
      he was being honest. He wasn�t above hyperbole, and wounded pride
      could blind a man, make him pull down his shell until he couldn�t see
      what was really happening around him. I should know. Yet for the
      first time, I found myself annoyed at Jeannie. I understood her
      position, but I was angry with her all the same. Maybe this
      Gershowitz�s interest was genuine, or maybe it was just flattery to
      get between her legs, but I�d have expected better of her. She was a
      goddamn telepath; hadn�t she felt how it had hurt Summers? Then
      again, I�d come to realize that telepaths could be as dense as the
      rest of us -- maybe more so because they were schooled into relying
      on that crutch. They didn�t always see what was right under their
      noses.

      �After the conference,� Summers went on, �we came home and he went
      back to Tel Aviv. They corresponded by email. Every damn day. I�d
      go to bed at night and she�d be up writing to him still. Four or
      five letters a day.

      �I read her mail once. She doesn�t keep a password lock on her
      computer in our room, so I opened her browser and I read it.� I
      could feel him watching me, see the faint red glow that came from his
      eyes. �Does that surprise you? I told you I had vices. Curiosity
      is chief among them. Or maybe I just felt like twisting the knife.�

      I was almost afraid to ask, but did anyway. �Love letters?�

      �Actually, no. Mostly, it was about their research -- like she�d
      told me it was -- and some simple chitchat, too. She was writing to
      him about a little spat between Jubilee and Rogue a few months back.
      It blew over. She�d worried about it more than I had. For kids that
      age, everything�s a crisis. Jean has a tendency to get caught up in
      that with them, maybe because of the telepathy. Anyway, there was
      nothing incriminating in the letters, not from her. There were a few
      flatteries from him, but nothing more than I�d heard him tell her in
      Stockholm.� He took another drink of the Sambuca. �She wasn�t lying
      to me then. I never bothered to look a second time, and for a while,
      I thought maybe it�d be okay. Just blow over like the mess with
      Jubes and Rogue.

      �Then about two months ago, he showed up in New York. To do some
      research, or so he said. Bullshit. He came to see her. He came to
      take her away from me. And he succeeded.� The last word cracked and
      he didn�t continue for a long while. Instead, his jaw worked
      helplessly as he struggled to get control of his voice. Finally, he
      went on, �He asked her to help with his work. The professor agreed
      to �loan� her to him, because it involved mutant genetics. Oh,
      that�s the other thing. He knew she was a mutant and didn�t care.
      He found her �fascinating.� Sounds like a bad line from Star Trek.
      So they worked together on research for this major paper they wanted
      to publish. Sometimes she spent days away from the mansion.� His
      mouth had gone hard, full lips thinning to a line.

      �I�m not sure when they started sleeping together. I never asked
      her. She never told me. I don�t think I want to know. I suspected
      it a long time before she admitted to it. She broke up with me
      before she admitted to it. She said the break-up was because we�d
      �grown apart.� Jesus fucking Christ. What kind of idiot asshole
      does she take me for?� He drank again, but spit it out that time,
      screwed the cap on and set it aside. �I can�t drink any more, or I
      will be sick.�

      I rattled around in my brain for something to say. The hell of it
      was that I didn�t think Jeannie had lied to him about growing apart.
      She had a career, research, interests. They coincided with Xavier�s
      dream, but they were *hers*, beyond that. She and Xavier just
      happened to be going in the same direction; it made sense that they
      walk together. But Summers had invested everything in Xavier�s
      dream, and in his relationship with Jean. He was Cyclops, leader of
      the X-Men, Mr. Summers math teacher at Mutant High, and lover of Dr.
      Jean Grey. I wondered what *Scott* cared about, or if he even knew?
      Maybe, at the base of things, he was as rootless as I felt most of
      the time. For all his force of personality, he didn�t have Jean�s
      drive. A woman doesn�t get a medical degree *and* a Ph.D. unless
      she�s got drive. Even before I�d left for Canada, I�d found her down
      in the lab at all hours, playing with this idea or running that test.
      Summers did his job out of duty and loyalty and gratitude. Jeannie
      did it out of love and passion.

      And ironically, while I was drawn to her passion, I better understood
      his sense of duty.

      But I still didn�t have anything useful to say to him, nothing that
      he was ready to hear, anyway. Instead, I got up and moved to sit
      beside him. I didn�t touch. He folded his hands in front of him and
      stared at the thumbs. Then abruptly, he reached up to tap his teeth.
      �What are you doing?� I asked.

      �Checking to see how trashed I am. Pretty much. I can�t feel my
      teeth. When I can�t feel my teeth any more, I�m trashed.�

      I chuckled. �You don�t lose your sense of humor.�

      �Nope. Never lose that.� He sat up and leaned back against a beam
      of the white gazebo. �Though if you listen to my students, they
      swear I don�t have one.�

      �They know better. But it�s part of the fun to pretend you�re a
      tight-ass, like it�s part of the fun to pretend I�m the Big, Bad
      Wolverine.�

      �And you�re not?�

      �What do you think?�

      He smiled, the first real smile I�d seen on him all night. �I think
      Logan likes to pretend, too.�

      �And what does Scott pretend?�

      �Damned if he knows.�

      �I think he pretends he�s Cyclops and can�t cry because Odysseus
      blinded him.�

      Laughter now. �You know *Homer*, Logan?�

      �You think I�m an uneducated brute. But I read Homer. I remember .
      . . . � I paused, looked off. �I don�t remember a lot. But I
      remember a few things. From before. I remember sitting in a tent,
      with shells going off in the distance, reading the ILIAD -- Achilles
      sulking in his tent. Damn spoiled brat. I remember a Vietnamese
      girl in a red dress, younger than Rogue, trying to solicit sex from
      me so she could feed her family. I remember villages burning, but I
      don�t know if they did it, or if we did it.�

      �You were in �Nam?�

      �I think so. But I was in a war before that, too. I have older
      memories, sounds of buzz bombs going overhead. Artillery guns -- the
      big kind they used then. I remember K rations. And I remember a
      piece of cheese I kept in my helmet while we were doing anti-aircraft
      in Antwerp, shared it with a friend. Damn helmet stank of cheese
      from then on out. I can�t stand the smell of cheese now. And I know
      how to jitterbug.�

      �*Really?*�

      �Yeah. I didn�t realize I knew, until I showed Marie the other day.
      Swing�s back in. I taught her the jitterbug. Marie, Kitty and
      Jubilee.�

      He actually *giggled*. Definitely drunk. �I�d never figure you for
      a dancer.�

      �Good fighters are good dancers. It�s all about balance.�

      �And rhythm.�

      �That, too.�

      �I have rhythm. I may not have Jean, but I still have rhythm.�

      God, he *was* drunk. I just laughed at him. �You�re going to have a
      hangover tomorrow, is what you�re going to have.�

      He sighed and leaned against the beam again. �Probably. So I�ll
      have rhythm, a headache, a hard-on, and no Jean to take care of any
      of it.� He put a hand over his face. �Shit. Sorry. That�s not
      even funny.�

      He dropped the hand and turned his head to face me. Light from a
      distant spot flashed on red and lit half his face, like a harlequin.
      Beautiful boy.

      We stared at each other too long then, and a subtle change raised my
      nape hair, like a charge in the atmosphere before lightning strikes
      overhead. Throat dry, I had no words. I could smell anise strong on
      his breath, and beneath that, half-awake desire. He really did have
      a hard-on. Random alcohol-induced arousal, probably. But it was
      there. I found myself staring at his mouth -- which was way out of
      line. I wasn�t the one who�d drank half a bottle of Italian liqueur.
      But it had also been months since I�d been to bed with anything
      besides my own hand.

      He leaned over, almost overbalanced into me, and kissed me. I didn�t
      jerk away. I didn�t respond -- much -- but I didn�t jerk away. When
      he pulled back, I said softly, �Where in hell did that come from,
      Scott?� But in all honesty, I knew. I�d smelled arousal on him
      before when I�d been around. I�d found it amusing.

      Now, he said, �Like I told you before -- you don�t know jack shit
      about me, Logan.�

      Maybe that was bravado. But maybe it was the truth, too. I didn�t
      know jack shit about myself half the time, either. But I did know
      that, in the sixteen or so years of memories that I did have, none of
      them included kissing a man. Which made the hard on beneath my own
      belt as shocking as his kiss had been, as shocking as the fact that I
      didn�t want to slug him. I wanted to kiss him again. He had a soft
      mouth. So I did kiss him. And he responded like he knew what he was
      doing. Hand on the back of my head, fingers threading through my
      hair. But he wasn�t gentle. He bit my lower lip, and it *hurt*, but
      I liked it. Lips like a girl, but he didn�t kiss like one.

      And something dim in the attic of my past opened a chest and climbed
      out. Maybe I hadn�t slept with a guy in the past sixteen years. But
      somewhere back there, I�d known this. The sandpaper scratch of
      five-o�clock shadow on my face, the strength of male hands on my
      head, another flat chest pressed to mine.

      Alcohol and hormones and loneliness. That�s all this was, for him.
      I think. For me? I don�t know. Something strange. He reminded me
      of someone, someone I�d known. Someone I�d loved like a brother,
      like another self. Someone who�d watched my back, and whose back I�d
      watched. Except for once. One afternoon. Then it had been someone
      I�d watched blown apart.

      I jerked away, let out a sound like a sob. My whole chest felt
      crushed. He�d frozen, hands still on my head. Then he dropped the
      hands and moved away. �Sorry,� he said. �Bad idea.� And he got up,
      collected his bottle of Sambuca and half stumbled out the door of the
      gazebo, down the three wooden steps. His face was a study in shame
      and guilt. But I was still too shaken to do more than stare after
      him. He paused, one hand gripping a beam for balance, and looked
      back at me. �*Damn it to hell.* Logan, I�m sorry. Really. That
      was completely out of character. I�m drunk. It won�t happen again,
      I promise.� And he headed up the path, mostly in a straight line.

      He�d said that curiosity was his vice.

      It�s mine, too.

      Getting up, I followed him down the path, grabbing his wrist and
      dragging him along -- mostly unresisting -- until we�d exited the
      back gardens altogether, followed a little well-worn path to the
      boathouse overlooking the lake. It was the place he and Jean had
      meant to fix up after their marriage. It was half-finished. And
      unlocked.

      Shoving the door open, I yanked him inside. He wasn�t resisting any
      more. He seemed fey, like he knew everything was changing, crumbling
      apart around him. I backed him up against a wall, my hands flat on
      the rough-finished wood paneling on either side of his neck. Two
      inches separated our mouths.

      �Where�d you learn to kiss like that? And don�t tell me Jean.�

      �Don�t be an ass. I dated people before I met Jean. And after,
      too.� A pause. �Maybe I know a little more than you think I do.�

      �Jack-shit,� he�d said. It was starting to feel like that was all I
      knew. �You kissed men before?� I asked.

      Twisted smile. �Yes. I�ve kissed men before. The first person I
      had sex with was another guy. Most of them have been women, though.�

      That took me a while to digest. �Spell that out. In plain English.
      No hedging.�

      �I�m bisexual, Logan. Dead in the middle. Most people prefer one or
      the other. I honestly don�t care.� He looked away for the first
      time, off over my left shoulder. I could tell because the direction
      of the dim red glow behind had shifted. �I shouldn�t have kissed
      you. I�m sorry. Will you let me go?�

      �No.�

      He glanced back at that. �Why not?�

      �I want you to do it again.�

      He had no answer for that, but managed to get out, �Why?�

      �Call it curiosity.�

      That won a smile. �Feeling experimental, Logan?�

      �Maybe.�

      So he leaned in and did what I�d asked. Kissed me, with as much
      deliberation as before, as much interest in having me enjoy it. He�s
      generous like that. But not gentle. Not harsh, but not gentle. We
      kissed a while, over all the skin of our faces. He even let me take
      his glasses off, though I could see how it made him nervous. Pretty,
      pretty boy. Fine face, so like a girl. But it was a man�s jaw, a
      man�s chin, a man�s Adam�s apple below it. And much further down, a
      man�s dick, hard against my hip. We were either going to take this
      all the way to its logical conclusion, or we needed to quit right
      now.

      I let him go and stepped away, ran the back of my forearm across my
      mouth. He was all flushed. I could tell even in the dark. �That�s
      far enough for tonight,� I said. �You need to sober up, and I need
      to think about this. We both need to think about this. I�m not
      interested in playing your rebound. And I don�t think you�re
      interested in being my experiment. G�night, Scott.�

      Going out, I looked up at the stars overhead. Some were falling.

      --------------

      No, this will not have a sequel; THE MAN BEHIND RED SHADES will shift
      to follow X2 canon, and this is firmly anachronistic with that.

      FEEDBACK will be doted upon. :-)


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