El Scorcho (twbasketcase) wrote,
El Scorcho
twbasketcase

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FIC: Our Last Memory 22/23

Category: X-Factor (Volume 3)
Characters: Rictor, Shatterstar, Longshot, Dazzler, Siryn, Domino, X-Factor, Skids, Spiral, and Doc Samson.
Pairings: Rictor/Shatterstar, Longshot/Dazzler
Genre: AU, drama, romance, angst, humor.
Rated: NC-17 for extreme violence, language, and sexual situations.
Disclaimer: I don’t own a thing. I just play in the world of those who can't appreciate.
Story Summary: When X-Factor gets help in defeating Arcade, they get a new member of the team, Longshot. But in return for his assistance, Longshot needs some help with his own problems -- on Mojoworld. What they find there opens up a whole pile of old wounds for other members of the team, and they learn that sometimes memories are all that’s left to hold onto.

Chapter Summary: X-Factor gets back to business as usual, and Shatterstar makes some plans that Rictor isn't particularly happy about. Shatterstar also brings up a few more points about Benjamin Russell's origin.

Chapters: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One,
Prequel Pieces: One, Two, Three, Four.
Extra Scenes: Chap 9, Chap 14, Chap 16.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rictor blinked tiredly as he waited for his computer to start up. The machines X-Factor owned were actually quite good and advanced, and yet the Mexican could not help but feel he had been staring at the start up screen for much too long. He brought his mug of coffee up his lips and took a large mouthful of steaming liquid. The shock of the temperature was not even enough to jolt him from his exhaustion.

“Wow, I didn’t actually think you’d get up.”

Julio moved his gaze toward the entranceway of the office and smirked. “I’ve been up for quite awhile actually.”

Sally stepped inside and took a peek down at her watch. “It’s only 7:45. I thought I would be too early.”

“I’m responsible,” he joked. “Can’t let the new kids get the impression that cutting corners is okay, can I?”

The blonde folded her arms and plopped down in the desk next over. She watched him closely for a few moments before speaking again. “Very funny. You always slept late unless you’re having trouble sleeping. Do you still have those nightmares of yours?”

A strange sort of embarrassment overcame him, and he did not look at her. “I didn’t have any nightmares.”

“My bad, I guess things just change then, huh?”

Rictor sighed and logged into his case files. “There’s no nightmares, no changes, or anything, okay? I just…didn’t go to sleep last night. I stayed awake, now are you ready to work or not?”

She smiled slightly. “You look really tired.”

“Because I was up all night,” he repeated again with an eye roll. “When you reach this screen here just enter the first letter of your first name and then your last name for logon. I’ll start your password off as--”

“What were you doing all night?” she asked with a playful tone.

Rictor clenched his jaw, fighting to keep the smirk off of his face. “Watching movies. I set your password as ‘xfactor’ for now, but you have to change it. When you get onto your desktop, just click on the--”

“Movies, huh?”

Brown eyes slid off of the screen and peered over at the smaller girl. Skids had a huge grin on her face, and it just made Rictor groan. He dropped his head into his hands and sighed. “Yeah, wanna know the names of some real good pornos I watched?”

“Very funny,” she deadpanned.

“I thought it was hilarious.”

“You would’ve fallen asleep if it were just movies,” she nudged his arm, and it knocked his head off balance. He sluggishly caught himself and stared at her; the grin still stretched across her lips. “Did you--”

“Shut up,” he cut her off. “I don’t want to talk about this crap. Especially right now, ‘cause I’ll never be able to focus on this.”

Her expression softened. “Like you want to. You don’t have to even say anything; despite your eyes being bloodshot you look like you just won a million bucks.”

He fought it, Dios, did he fight it, but Rictor could not stop the smile that time. Images flashed through his mind of the previous evening, and even he could not help but be extra aware of his good mood. “Yeah well, I wish. Now can you freaking pay attention? Jamie’ll kill me if I don’t get you through this.”

“What, you think I’ve never used a computer before? Sheesh, Ric, I worked for SHIELD, remember? I had a pretty good computer teacher there, you know.” She folded her arms and stared at the computer screen. “Gee, let me see. Click on the folder that says ‘current case files’ and select the one with the name of the client I’m assisting? It’s basically rocket science; how will I ever figure it all out?”

Ric chuckled and shook his head at her. “Since when are you so sarcastic, huh? Smart ass.”

“Takes one to know one,” Skids retorted with a grin.

“Oh good one,” Rictor rolled his eyes. He picked up his mug again and finished off his coffee. “If you’re not careful, mujer, you’ll start soundin’ like a little kid again.”

“Well I guess when you hang around them it rubs off.”

“Ha, very funny.”

“I thought it was hilarious,” she mocked him good naturedly, and he finally just laughed at her. It was nice to hear her sound like the old playful Skids. Sally tended to get worried and upset very easily these days, so it was good to hear some of his friend’s old tones again. Of course, those tones had been used when Ric had been the emotional basket case, so in a way it was almost soothing. He lifted his mug and gestured toward the kitchen.

“You want some coffee?”

“I’ll come with you,” she shrugged.

Rictor just nodded as the two stood. As soon as he got to his feet he had to wince at the aches in his legs; being sore from the fight the previous day and not getting any rest was not a good combination. Skids gave him an amused look, and he shot her a glare. “It’s not that. My legs hurt.”

“Whatever, I didn’t even say anything,” she laughed as they walked to the kitchen in silence. Rictor glanced at her through the corner of his eye and considered his words as he put a filter and some grinds in the machine.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“What the hell were you doing hooked up with SHIELD? And more than that, what made you hang around someone like Shatterstar…or even Domino? Are you in some kinda trouble?” he folded his arms and leaned against the counter as he watched her. Surprisingly though, she did not look fazed by his question, so he elaborated. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, those two are very good friends of mine, but they just don’t seem like the type of people you’d--”

“I was an Acolyte, remember? Technically I was also a member of the Mutant Liberation Front. Then there was the Morlocks,” she practically counted on her fingers and sighed. “You know, it might be hard to believe but maybe I saw the same thing in them as you did.”

“At first I didn’t have a choice,” he pointed out. “They were just team mates.”

“And that’s what they were to me at SHIELD – at first,” Sally explained seriously. “I made a mistake going there, I’ll be the first to admit that. But it’s not like that’s much of a surprise, Ric; every place I ever to went was a mistake."

”What about X-Factor? Or the New Mutants? Those weren’t mistakes.”

“No, they weren’t,” she agreed. “They let me be happy maybe for just a little while. But you know just as well as I do that it was those two teams that got us started in all this ‘superhero’ mess in the first place. Sometimes I think if I would’ve just stuck to the streets then maybe I would’ve found a way to pick my life up without the hassle of watching everyone I know and love die.”

“They saved you,” Rictor reminded her slowly. “They saved you just like they saved me, we just got caught up in it and we have no one to blame for that but ourselves.”

“I know that,” she sighed. “But I just want you to understand where I’m coming from and why I’m so apprehensive about joining this team. I’m willing to give it a chance, but…I’m just worried.”

He nodded and grabbed the coffee pot when it was full to pour their drinks. “I know, and there’s nothin’ wrong with that, chica. I joined this outfit right after I lost my powers. It’s funny, I did it ‘cause I wanted to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t wanna off myself, but at the same time I figured I musta been crazy ‘cause I was only gonna wind up dead fighting people I couldn’t defend myself against.”

“Do you ever wish sometimes that you would’ve just stayed in Mexico?” she asked him.

He furrowed his eyebrows. “I didn’t exactly leave Mexico on my own terms…”

“No, I mean after you went back,” she cleared her throat and accepted a mug from him. “You know, with Shatterstar.”

Rictor quickly averted his eyes and started walking back toward the office. Sally followed him, and he watched her as he sat down. “I dunno, haven’t really thought about it.”

“Oh come on,” she rolled her eyes. “I’m not asking you to admit some deep, dark romantic secret. I’m just asking if you had the choice to stay there with him and live your life on your own terms or to stay here and keep working for all these teams, what would you pick?”

He scratched his head and shrugged. “Look at it this way. I went to Mexico with him because I quit X-Force – on my own free will. But I came back to the team gig because I didn’t exactly have anything left in Mexico, if you catch my drift. It wasn’t really my choice.”

Sally nodded and Rictor hoped that she didn’t want any more than that. Lifestyle changes and the reasons for them were always so complicated to him. Every time he had attempted to leave his mutant life behind to attempt a normal one – or as normal as he could get – things just got messy. They got messy financially, emotionally, and physically. Yet when he was on a team he never quite found the energy to maintain a strict training schedule, he never really felt as though he fit in with his team mates, nor did he find himself able to hold a consistent stance on fighting and violence. It seemed like wherever he went and whatever he did was always in contradiction with some other aspect of himself, and for that he could never even make a choice on what he would pick to do and why.

How could he if he did not even know?

Ideally, he had dreams and wants and desires just like everyone else in the world. Yes, he would admit that trying to be happy may do him some good, but how realistic was it? No one ever got what they wanted, especially him, so he tried his hardest not to dwell on it. Skids, however, was a different story. She had always been a different story.

“You feel better talking about this kinda shit, or something?” he eyed her.

She shrugged. “No, but sometimes I feel better when I know people I care about are doing what makes them happy. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see other people not make the same kind of mistakes I did.”

“You’re going to have to realize someday that what happened to Russ wasn’t your fault,” he murmured as gently as he could. “I know you guys wanted to leave Avalon, and I know that you’re aware goin’ with Mags was a mistake. But how he died--”

“Had nothing to do with me, but was just really unjustified,” Sally cut him off. “I know that. I was only told repeatedly by the others. But when you have the ability to physically protect people from that sort of thing you can’t help but wonder what could’ve happened had you just been there.”

“Take it from someone who knows; sometimes being there when someone you love gets murdered doesn’t exactly make it better. Feeling helpless and guilty ain’t something you can really help, but it doesn’t exactly benefit you either. I feel like I should be takin’ my own advice, but…being obsessed with it just makes it worse. You can play it over and over in your head all you want, but you can’t turn back time, Skids.”

“I know that,” she nodded and flipped on the computer in front of her. She started it up and logged on just like Ric had explained earlier. “Maybe I’m just weird and I feel better by bringing things up that only hurt me. Maybe I’m just happy when I’m sad! Isn’t that weird?”

He snorted. “If it is then every single person I hang out with is weird, that’s for sure. Well maybe except Layla. And Jamie, and maybe Rahne too. But, uh, everyone else.”

Skids sighed. “Are you happy?”

“Right now?” Rictor questioned and popped open his case folder. A picture of some former mutant with a leftover facial mutation stared back at him; a teen that had run away from home was being searched for by his parents. “Uhm, I’d be happier right now if all these cases weren’t so god damn pointless…”

“I mean in general.”

Rictor sighed and stared down at his desk. After everything that went on in the past few weeks he probably should have been borderline suicidal – at least. But his previous night had probably changed most of those feelings for the time being. “Sure.”

She smiled at him. “Then I think you should at least try and keep it that way this time.”

He subconsciously smiled back and leaned in his chair. “I always try.”

“I believe it. It’s just so nice and…absolutely adorable.”

Rictor eyed her suspiciously and quickly pointed to a code on the desk for her to enter into her file. “What is?”

“You’re very obvious the morning after. You’re positively glowing,” she smirked and typed her numbers into her keyboard as the Mexican felt his face heat up. “You’ve been quite miserable since I’ve been here until now. My whole point of this conversation is that it’s wonderful for you to be this way. You should keep at it.”

“I, uhm…”

She laughed and shook her head amusedly. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you, I’m just saying.”

Madre de Dios…” Rictor dropped his elbows to his desk and rubbed his hands up and down his face as she laughed at him. He would tell her to quit being such a jerk if it wasn’t for the fact that she was Skids.

“Hey guys,” Jamie skipped into the room and bounded over toward the filing cabinet behind the desks. “How are things going?”

“I thought you said you were taking the day off,” Sally questioned curiously.

“Yeah, Jamie’s days off consist of him running around and doing stuff in the office rather than going out and investigating,” Rictor rolled his eyes and peered over at his boss. “Fuckin’ guy’s a workaholic.”

“Am not,” Jamie defended and placed his hands on his hips. “I was just coming in to tell you that I’m going to have a quick team meeting in a couple of minutes. We just have to wait for everyone to come downstairs.”

“Well where the hell are Siryn and Longshot? Aren’t those cabrones supposed to be working today too?”

Jamie just stared at him coolly. “They’ll be down in a few minutes. Alison is starting today as well, so you’re just going to have to not act like yourself and at least try to be nice and patient. You know, professional?”

Rictor glared at him and just turned back to his paperwork until the members of the team began piling in the room. Guido showed up first and bantered light heartedly with Jamie until Terry came along with Monet. Longshot and Dazzler showed up a few minutes later, and Jamie sat down in a chair.

“I’m going to have to start everyone on a new schedule. I know we had it worked out before, but that’s pretty much been screwed since Rahne left. So basically what I’m going to do is have six people on per day. I’m going to stick you all with a partner and the two of you will have the same days off. That way everyone gets equal time and we can also work multiple cases per week.” He quickly grabbed a stack of papers and passed them around. “There’s the new schedule and your work partners. I want to start this after our next mission is completed.”

Mission?” Terry questioned. “Since when do we do ‘missions’?”

Jamie sighed. “Well Longshot and I were talking the other day and we managed to get in touch with Doctor Strange again and we’re working on a way to use his magic to get to Layla. It’s going to take some time to locate her and pinpoint her exact location, but I’m hoping that we can meet up with Forge and work on that. He knows where he sent her.”

“You wanna go time travelling again?” Rictor questioned.

“Only once I know it’s safe,” Jamie assured. “That’s why I need everyone working away at keeping this place running for the next few days while I figure this out. I know it’s been hectic with all the roster changes and whatnot, but I’m really relying on you guys right now.”

“Looks like we’re in trouble already,” Monet muttered.

Jamie just ignored her. “Layla’s been gone long enough, so that’s our number one priority right now. So, yeah. I’m sorry, I know some of you are off today but I just wanted to give you all a head’s up.”

Skids leaned over to Rictor’s ear. “Who’s Layla?”

“A snot-nosed little brat the X-Men kinda dumped off in the future.”

“I’ll let you all get back to work now, but just so you know I’ll be popping back in a little later to let you know when I get a hold of Forge and we’ll go from there. Once we have him we should be ready to work.”

Jamie finished at that and quickly left the room when his cell phone started going off. Monet and Guido wandered off shortly after, but the rest of the team remained in the office to get down to work for the day. Longshot and Dazzler sat at the desk behind Ric, and from the hushed whispers and occasional laughs and giggles coming from back there, he figured they were no longer fighting. That was good; he was never particularly fond of dealing with other peoples’ domestic disputes. Terry sat at her usual desk, while Sally continued going over all the databases on her computer. The room was fairly silent for the most part; everyone minded their own business and accepted Jamie’s announcement as though it were just peachy.

However, Ric wasn’t sure he was ready to go jumping through time again to hunt for Layla. They had only just returned from Mojoworld and that was bad enough; X-Factor was right back to business as usual just hours later. Of course, Rictor figured if they did go wherever it was that Jamie went, he would probably be in the clear anyways. Madrox had mentioned that humans were safe there, so Rictor would probably get some cruddy undercover gig again. A big and important job that would fall on his shoulders; the type of task that actually made him feel useful, but it still put him on edge.

Sighing exhaustedly, Julio rubbed his eyes and pointed at Sally’s screen. “If you go there I’ll show you where to do your case logs.”

She glanced over at him and frowned. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” he muttered and forced a smile. “Dios, just wait ‘til we actually have to go to this dude’s house today.”

“Well you better be on good behaviour, mister,” she smirked and tossed over one of the new schedules to him. “Looks like you and I are going to be partners for now on.”

Brown eyes scanned the paper and he snorted amusedly. “Well at least I got one thing to look forward to.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He just yawned and pointed at the screen. “Nothing. Just put our names there and we’ll get a move on, si?”
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

It was just after three o’clock when Rictor had been caught sleeping on his desk for the third time that afternoon. He and Sally had managed to visit their client between nine and ten in the morning, and were then able to locate their missing teen before noon. Some overdramatized hissy fit was thrown by the kid, the pair was paid, and they made it back to X-Factor headquarters by one pm. Since then, Rictor had shown Skids how to fill out a case report, and had not been able to keep his eyes open. His body ached all over from lack of rest, and he was starting to see colour spots in his vision every time he yawned.

He only had to survive another hour and a half.

“Here,” Skids pushed a mug of coffee toward him and smiled idly. “I’m almost done. Maybe once we log off Jamie will let us finish early.”

“Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem,” the Mexican sighed and tipped his cup back. “He’s not anal on times; it’s just a guideline type deal. We finish when we finish.”

“Well I’d recommend you go take a nap,” she laughed at him.

“A nap? Shit, I’ll probably sleep for the night after this.”

She shook her head amusedly. “Okay I filled in the pay amount and sent it to Jamie’s inbox. Can I print off the rest of this?”

Rictor opened his mouth to answer her as he scanned the screen slowly, but his attention went to the entryway of the office. The door outside in the hall closed shut and a couple of moments later he caught sight of Shatterstar walking past and toward the kitchen. Rictor shook his head and looked back at the computer with a quick nod. “Yeah, just, uh…print that off and sign it. Then just organize the folder and fill in the time log. I’ll be back in a couple of minutes to show you where all the finished cases are filed.”

She nodded. “Okay, I’ll be right here.”

Julio cleared his throat as he got to his feet and made his way to the kitchen. ‘Star was standing at the counter pouring something into a bowl, and lifted his head when Rictor stepped in the room. He did not look back, but he snorted amusedly. “You’re dragging your feet rather loudly.”

Ric just grinned as he approached him. Resting his head against the span of the larger back, Julio yawned tiredly and brought a hand up to play with the long ponytail against his cheek. “I can hardly move, amigo.”

“I’m fine.”

“Of course you’re fine,” Ric scoffed and lowered his arm to link his hands around the warrior’s waist. “You hardly ever sleep anyhow.”

Shatterstar leaned back against him slightly. “To be honest about it, Julio, I took a nap this morning.”

“Cheater!”

“Whatever.”

Rictor just laughed and rested his eyes as he pressed himself against the larger body. His fingers lightly traced lines up and down the muscles of Shatty’s stomach, and he took in the familiar scent of his hair. He smelled good and he felt good, and Rictor wondered why he even had to get out of bed that morning. Sometimes his life was so unfair. Hugging ‘Star tighter, he sulked silently.

“You’re hugging me backwards,” Shatterstar pointed out.

“I don’t care. I like the back of you as much as I like the front.”

“Hmmm, well I guess that makes it easier for me to eat; I’m hungry,” Shatterstar mumbled as he began digging in his bowl and shovelling whatever it was he was eating into his mouth. Rictor just shook his head amusedly against him, but did not let go.

“Where were you all afternoon?” Julio asked. ‘Star placed his food on the counter and dug around in the front pocket of his jeans for a couple of seconds before pulling something out. He held it around his side for Rictor to look at, and when the Mexican finally found the energy to lift his head and get a glance at it, he furrowed his eyebrows. “Where did you get that?”

Shatty turned around as soon as Ric dropped his arms to look at the card. “Domino. She gave it to me yesterday afternoon before we had started training.”

“It’s a bank card?” Rictor asked confusedly. “How long have you had this?”

He shrugged. “I’m not sure. She had claimed that I had left behind all of my tags, cards, and identification in my locker at SHIELD when I left the last time. Everything in there was in Benjamin Russell’s name. I did not know that I was stealing his name for my own gain.”

Rictor blinked down at the name on the card and looked up at his friend. “Sometimes you did. The guy was an American citizen, so it was easier for you to--”

“Steal his identity?”

“Uhm, no,” Rictor furrowed his eyebrows and handed him back the card. “Amigo, it’s not like that. You guys are…well pretty much the same person…now. At the time you started using that name you still weren’t even completely sure if it was yours or not; you didn’t know if you were Ben or Gaveedra. There’s nothing wrong with--”

“I know,” he shrugged strangely. “But now that I know it just seems…I’m not sure. Dishonest or, perhaps, dishonourable. I am not him, and he is not me. He was my brother, so should I still be allowed to steal his things?”

Rictor blinked and his mind raced for something to say; how the hell did he answer that!? “Okay I’m going to try and explain this as simple as possible. Your body died. His mind died. So they put your alive mind into his alive body and now you’re both still alive but the same person. So unless there’s a little Benjamin voice in your head telling you that you’re not allowed, then I’m sure he won’t mind.” Rictor scratched his head awkwardly and sighed. “Shit, maybe I should just send you to go talk to Monet. Dios, she knows about fucking siblings sharing bodies and stealing hollow ones and evil this and that...shit! My head hurts now.”

Shatterstar raised his eyebrows amusedly and a tiny smile quirked the sides of his lips. “I’m not confused about my identity, Rictor, I assure you. I was asking you a moral question, but that is good enough. This was just a little quirk that I had not been informed of as of yet, and I was just surprised I had been using his name.”

“Oh,” was all Rictor could think to say. “So you aren’t about ready to fall over and go all split personality on me?”

Shatterstar shook his head. “No. While it’s become clearer to me that it is entirely possible that specific actions and behaviours I have may or may not be attributed to the fact that there are two of us, I’m quite aware of what is mine and what is his. I’ve had a few very small and insignificant memories about a Boston childhood, but, as I said, I am very easily able to differentiate that those are his and not mine.”

“Well, that’s good,” Rictor supposed.

“Strangely though my memories as a child and his both concerned Spiral. Skids had informed me that Spiral had been part of SHIELD around the time Benjamin would have hit puberty – which, in turn, would have been the time his powers manifested. Apparently that was when he had gone into a coma.” Shatterstar frowned thoughtfully and rubbed his chin. “Perhaps she spent her time equally between us until she was stranded on Earth and brought to SHIELD. Wouldn’t that be strange?”

“Nothing’s strange with her,” Ric pointed out.

“True,” he mumbled and glanced down at the bank card once again. “Anyways, I went to the financial institution that is in charge of this account and was informed that I had funds in it. I assume this was the money Domino had referred to when she had told me I had been working with her to gain funds when I was trying to pick up my feet.”

“Get on your feet, amigo.”

“Whatever,” he rolled his eyes. “There is not much, but it was enough for me to get some things that I needed.”

Rictor just watched him for a few moments before feeling the need to lean forward and kiss him. It was nice to see him being able to finally figure things out for himself after all that time, and the Mexican could not even help the affection that swam through him as he witnessed it. Shatterstar kissed him back, and peered down at him after a few moments. Rictor just grinned crookedly at him, before going back to the subject at hand. “So, uhm, what kind of things do you need? I’m off work soon, maybe we can…”

“You don’t need to. I already got it sorted out,” Shatterstar explained with a wave of his hand. “I took my motorcycle out today and tuned it up, and then I searched for a place to live.”

Rictor scrunched up his face, and then promptly stuck his fingers in his ears to make sure they were clean; had he heard that right? “Uhm, what?”

“A place to live,” Shatterstar repeated just as casually. He dug into his pocket again and pulled out a wallet, and then searched through it to present a business card. “The woman on this card said I could live above her store for fairly cheap. I just have to do the repairs myself and I do not have to pay a security deposit.”

Rictor yanked the card out of his hand and tossed it over his shoulder. “Fuck off; don’t bullshit me.”

“Bull’s shit? I have no such thing…” he insisted confusedly.

Rictor clenched his fists at his sides and willed himself not to freak out. He could not freak out. No spazzing. No yelling. No begging. Surely it was all just a misunderstanding. “Shatty, you’re not going anywhere.”

“Uhm, Jamie offered me a job, Rictor, I already said no. This is not the type of occupation I can--”

“Well if you can’t do this then what the fuck do you even think you can do?” Rictor cut him off and waved his arms around wildly for emphasis. “You can’t just survive on savings! You aren’t even trained to do anything! You have no school, no job experience ‘sides being an executioner, ‘Star! You--”

“I have a lot of skills,” the warrior stated through clenched teeth. “I’m not looking for some ridiculous retail work, Rictor. I’m quite capable of doing things on my own, as I have always survived on my own as far as I’ve recalled. I need to go out and do things…”

Rictor felt his heart sink. “Yeah, whatever. I’ve heard that speech from you before. I get it.”

“Wait,” Shatterstar grabbed his shoulder and spun him around when he tried to storm off. Rictor just wretched himself free and continued to stomp away. He knew it. Julio knew that this was going to happen. Shatterstar had wanted better things for himself before, and he still did. Ric was just as worthless as he was all those months ago when Shatty had left him the first time. Shit, he should have known it was coming! If he was not even good enough for fucking Rahne, then he sure as hell was not good enough for ‘Star. An annoyed growl sounded behind him, and before Ric could even reach the door, Shatterstar launched himself over his head and flipped until he landed on his feet in front of him. Rictor jumped back startled, and Shatty put his hands out to block his exit. “I. Said. Wait.”

Rictor clenched his jaw and had to practically force himself to not get down on his knees and beg. “You made up your mind…”

“And you never let me finish,” Shatterstar countered with a glare.

“What do you want me to say, huh!? You just told me last night that you wanted to try and make this work, and now you’re telling me you’re leaving? Fine! See if I care! Go away,” Rictor grumbled, and could not will himself to look the warrior in the eye. “You tried, you didn’t like, and now you move on. I get it.”

“What?!” Shatterstar scoffed incredulously. “I never said I didn’t like it or you! What are you even going on about?”

Rictor heaved a frustrated sigh, and just stared at the floor. “You know what I’m talking about. You’re the one who’s acting like you’re all smart enough to make your own cash and go out there and do your own thing with all your fucking awesome skills. You tell me what I’m going on about!? Because obviously you’re so god damn smart that you should know!”

Red eyebrows pinched inward. “You are one angry little man, Julio.”

“Whatever,” Ric scoffed and folded his arms.

“I told you I wanted to make this work, and I still do. It’s strange to talk about as I get some odd feelings of awkwardness, but…you made me feel, uhm…” he rubbed a hand over his hair and shrugged with one shoulder. “I almost felt as if I learned more with you last night – about my memories, my emotions, and myself – than I have since I came back here. Being with you that way was, uhm, what is that word? It felt like things finally ‘clicked’ for me? Is that right?”

Rictor frowned and placed his hand up on the side of ‘Star’s neck. “If it’s so right then why do you want to go?”

“All the same reasons I said before,” he murmured. “My memories are still tricky and not only do I have this entire life ahead of me to figure out, but I still have an entire life behind me that I need to remember, Rictor. There are many things I have to relearn and experience. I also don’t want to be stuck doing this investigation job. I cannot simply sit back and do idle waiting and deal with ‘customers’.” Shatterstar frowned and mirrored Ric’s action by placing his hand on the other man’s shoulder. “I just want to do things on my own terms for once. I don’t want to be dependent on Multiple Man or my parents. That is what you would call ‘lame’.”

“What about me?” Rictor forced himself to ask.

“I want you around,” Shatterstar confessed. “I know that I made the mistake last time of leaving you behind, and I know now that it was a mistake. I am sorry for it, if that helps.”

Rictor swallowed. “I guess so. It’s not unheard of for two guys to date who don’t live together. It’d just be weird, is all. We always lived together when we were, you know…together.”

“We can live together though,” ‘Star reasoned. He quickly looked back toward the kitchen door, and then gazed back down at the Mexican when he was sure the coast was clear. “You can come with me. We don’t have to leave the city; the woman on the card owns her store right in Manhattan.”

“I can’t leave,” Rictor whispered. “I—I have a job here. Jamie needs people right now, and…Madre de Dios, ‘Star! He’s a freaking dick and I try and run away all the time, but I can’t, güey! I probably woulda killed myself if it weren’t for him! I was eating fucking garbage and living on the streets with nothing and he gave me this job. And now he’s got some big mission he wants to do, and he…chingar. He even helped me get you back from Mojoworld, I can’t--”

Shatterstar nodded and stepped back. “Okay.”

Ric fought the angry shake making its way through his body. “Okay?”

“You feel as though you owe him, and that would be dishonourable for you to not repay your debts, I understand this. It’s noble of you,” he smiled slightly at the notion and shrugged. “Like you said, it’s not unheard of for two mates to be together and not live with one another.”

“‘Star, I…” Ric’s voice hitched in his throat and he frowned. “I don’t want to tell you to reconsider, amigo. As much as it pisses me off, you make a valid case. But I don’t want you to go. I, uh…” he sighed shakily and shrugged.

Shatterstar nodded. “I know you do, and I feel that way as well.”

Ric lifted his hand and pressed it against the side of Shatty’s cheek and let it trail down until he could pull him forward by the back of the head. Their lips pressed together roughly, and Julio clutched onto his shirt with his free hand. Shatty rested his hands on the Mexican’s hips after a few moments, and Ric felt even more miserable at the touch even if it did bring an odd sort of comfort. When they finally pulled apart, the Mojoworlder rested his forehead down on the Rictor’s and frowned. “I made you mad. I’m sorry.”

Julio shook his head. “Nah, just…can you let me think about this, amigo? Maybe we can work something out.”

“I do want you to come, but…” Shatterstar trailed off and traced his hands up Ric’s sides. “I know that prior engagements are important.”

“Just let me think about it, okay?” Rictor brushed his lips against his once more before pulling away entirely. “I gotta get back to work. I’ll see you later.”

Shatterstar nodded. “See you.”

Rictor turned on his heel and slowly made his way out of the room, not giving a second look back. So much for that good mood.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
Go to chapter twenty-three.

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