RATING: PG-13; Rictor/Shatterstar. If m/m interaction bothers you, take a pass on this.
SUMMARY: Shatterstar struggles with his newfound emotions, while Rictor struggles with himself.
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, as long as you ask me first.
FEEDBACK: can be sent to Viridian5@aol.com
DISCLAIMERS: They belong to Marvel Comics. No infringement intended, and Iím not making any profit from this.
NOTES: Sequel to "Loves Company" in the Touched series and even more AU. I start to diverge from the X-Force series midway through the after-nightclub conversation Rictor and Shatterstar had in X-Force #43. The Age of Apocalypse never happened.
Rictor laughed. "This is worse than I thought."
"The dubbing is blindingly obvious. Substandard," Shatterstar agreed.
"They cut out the whole conversation about getting her to sit on his face too. No sex talk and no four-letter words. I guess I should have expected TNT to go this way."
"If this version is heavily edited and badly dubbed, why are you watching?"
"I could use a laugh, and I like the film."
Shatterstar watched Ricís hands. After his recent confession of his feelings, he found it hard to look at Ricís face. "I donít see why you have to hold on to the remote." Or idly caress the buttons.
Neither had said a word about it since then.
"I canít take your channel surfing during the commercials. Iíve never had an epileptic fit, and I donít wanna start now."
"You know Iím fast enough to flip through all 215 channels during the commercial break."
"Yeah, but you never flip through them just once. I donít want to miss anything."
"Most of your worldís commercials are inept."
"Well, yeah. But you donít get the cultural context either. Itís like Tabs trying to make you watch the John Hughes oeuvre. No way you could understand them."
"They were neither funny nor insightful. I also doubt they reflect the adolescent experience."
"And nobody died. Unlike in this film."
Before, Shatterstar had been curious about the movie purely because Ric professed to like it. Now he felt a spark of his own interest. "I thought this was a film about a high school."
"Kind of. But itís also a film about somebody picking off his enemies."
Shatterstar glanced at Ric to confirm that his friend indeed had the "gotcha!" smile he expected. Yes. Instead of admitting defeat, Shatterstar leaned back into the couch and trained his eyes back on the screen. Ric briefly gripped his shoulder, a comradely gesture that made Shatterstarís heart jump.
What practical use did these feelings have? They clouded his mind and reason. They made his body react in unpredictable ways. They fixated him on his friend to the point that he struggled not to stare at or touch Ric. Surely honor should be bond enough without needing this physical pull to cement comrades together. Honor and loyalty would make Shatterstar watch Ricís back, help defend him, and kill anyone who tried to hurt him.
Knowing that Ric knew about his feelings left him with an unfamiliar sense of shame. How Ric must pity him for his confusion and his unrequited emotions.
Yet Ric had gripped his shoulder, so he must not find him too pathetic. That night Ric had stroked the side of his face in a gentle brush of callused fingers over the black starburst pattern he had around his left eye.
Ric had kissed him.
Even the memory of it hit Shatterstar like the adrenaline rush battle gave him. Fingers stroking through his hair, a hard body pressing and melting against his, and surprisingly soft lips brushing against his. And they had belonged to his best friend, the person he cared most for, the only person heíd ever cared for in this way. He knew how to read bodies, and everything in Ricís posture and movements had spoken of reciprocation, of wanting more.
Until Ric had started to shake, becoming rigid in Shatterstarís arms. Frightened. By himself, by Shatterstar, or by what they were doing? Probably all three.
Ric had intended that kiss to be proof that Shatterstar hadnít been feeling what heíd said he was. It hadnít worked out that way.
Ric had said that they couldnít go any further with it.
These thoughts didnít profit Shatterstar at all, so he returned his attention to the movie and found himself drawn into it despite the cultural differences. Was it jealousy that made him so... bitter over the way JD and Veronica immediately acknowledged and consummated their mutual attraction?
Then the deaths started. Shatterstar watched with increasing interest as JD found inventive if underhanded ways to dispatch Veronicaís enemies and realized that he noticed ironies that would have eluded him not so long ago. He shook his head as JD became corrupted from the rush of having the power of life and death--his increasing bloodlust making him forget his cause and intentions--and the madness that had apparently lurked within him all along grew and flourished, to Veronicaís horror. When she refused to help him anymore, he turned on her as well.
The confrontation in the boiler room showed little martial skill on the part of the combatants, but much spirit. The badly injured JD recognizing himself to be a maddened creature, beyond salvation, and immolating himself shocked Shatterstar beyond measure. A warriorís choice, yet what was it doing in a movie from this culture? Veronica saluted him and set about achieving their dream of a school without castes in a non-violent fashion.
And through it all, their love for one another was obvious, overwhelming. It left Shatterstar very disturbed.
Rictor muttered something, drawing Shatterstarís attention. Asleep, Ric had burrowed into the back of the couch a bit, the remote sliding from his slack hand. The recent battle had been a hard one, a test of endurance and strength. As Shatterstar rescued the remote, Ric started to slide sideways himself until he came to a halt, his face against Shatterstarís bare arm.
There were so many things one could learn about Rictor if he let one get in close. One thing was that his body always had a mild vibration running through it....
Shatterstarís self-control could withstand this. He was master of his own body, and he would will the erection away. He would not think about the hot breath or stubble rubbing against his skin.
Ric breathed hard and started to move. "Stop," he whispered in Spanish, sounding panicked and angry. "Iíll kill you if you get any closer."
"Ric. Julio, wake up," Shatterstar answered in the same language. He knew that people often used touch to comfort, but he didnít know if it would be appropriate here. Or if he wanted to touch Ric simply because he wanted to touch Ric and not out of any concern for his friend.
As Ric twisted, sliding down into Shatterstarís lap, his hands started to come together into a familiar gun-like shape, something Shatterstar had to stop immediately. If Ric had ever used his powers in his sleep before, the whole compound would have known about it once the floor started to shake or the building to come down, but that didnít mean he shouldnít intervene here. "No, Ric. Julio, itís okay." He had to strain to keep Ricís hands apart, odd since he was much stronger than Ric was. Fear must have been lending Ric strength.
Of course, Rictor didnít need to use his hands to direct his ability. However, that seemed to be the course the dream wanted to take, so stopping that might prevent it all.
This wasnít working, and he could feel bones grinding beneath his fingers. "Julio!" Shatterstar let go of Ricís wrists, noticing only then that his grip had warped and bent the thin, cheap metal bracelets Ric wore.
But Ricís hands remained separated, and he opened his eyes a little, showing a glimpse of their odd brown against black. "Shatty?" he asked softly, sleepily, as he looked up at his friend.
"You were having a dream."
"Was it The Right you fought?"
"No. Guatemala," Ric murmured before he slipped back into sleep.
On Shatterstarís lap. With his worry ended, he couldnít help being overwhelmed by that. He should move Rictor away.
But he didnít. Instead, his hand, which no longer deigned to follow his brainís commands, started to stroke the back of Ricís neck, trying to work some of the stress out of the tense, bunched muscles, which earned him what sounded like a contented sigh. He missed the long fall of hair that had once tumbled to the small of Ricís back, much like his own in span. One day recently Ric had come back with his hair shorn to jaw length, an abrupt change.
When Shatterstar had asked why, Ric had only shrugged. He didnít understand it himself, and, if it bothered him that he didnít, Ric never showed it. Ric had only a few emotions he ever wanted to show, and doubt and confusion didnít have entries on that list.
The impetuous action and lack of self-knowledge smacked of mental instability, yet emotions seemed to be leading Shatterstar down the same path. Why was he petting his friend? Because he wanted to. Why did he want to? He had no answers.
Shatterstar missed that mane, unhappy that so much of it had been taken off before he had a chance to stroke its length or wrap his hands in it. Instead he had to content himself with Ricís now shoulder length hair. Fortunate that it grew so quickly. And he knew now that it did feel as soft as it looked. The red highlights the Arizona sun had placed in it had begun to darken back to brown now that X-Force had moved its operations to New York.
"If I had hair like yours, I wouldnít ever cut it," Ric said against Shatterstarís knee.
"Hair like mine? Are we referring to color or texture or--"
"It feels like mink. Like really soft fur." Ric turned over to look up at Shatterstar. He seemed troubled.
With Ric talking and awake, Shatterstar realized that he shouldnít have taken advantage of Ricís unconsciousness so. "I apologize for taking liberties with you in your sleep."
"I...." Ric shook his head. "I liked it. I donít want to like it. Iím not used to--" He made a gesture with his fingers that seemed to suggest the depths of his bewilderment. Then he noticed the bracelets.
Before Ric could use them as a distraction, Shatterstar quickly answered, "I bent them a bit in my effort to restrain you from using your powers in your sleep." Bent them "a bit." Some of the once round bracelets were now long, shallow ovals, while others had sharp points where the metal had folded. It wouldnít be easy to return them to their original shape.
It might be impossible.
"I never hurt anybody in my sleep before," Ric said.
"I thought it wise not to give you a chance."
Ricís lips twisted up in amusement. "Gracias."
Ric closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Iím not used to being touched by people who donít wanna hurt me with it. My reactions are all twisted. Iím seriously fucked up, ĎStar."
"I donít mind." Maybe Ric simply needed time and space to talk himself into it. Shatterstar could provide that. "Is high school really like that?"
"Like in the movie. Heathers."
"Dunno. Never went to high school. I was too busy doing my own version of your living weapon thing. But I doubt it."
Shatterstar forgot sometimes that Rictor didnít have what many considered to be the average youthful experiences for an American or a Mexicano.
"You donít mind?" Ric asked suddenly.
"I donít mind." Shatterstar knew a loosening of defenses when he heard it.
Ric took advantage of Shatterstarís distraction to reclaim the remote but didnít get off of Shatterstarís lap. "Conan should be starting on USA in a few minutes. You can critique their swordwork."
A true warrior knew when to strike and when to wait.
The sequel to this story is "Training."