Characters: X-Force -- Shatterstar, Siryn, Sunspot, Rictor, Cannonball, Domino, Warpath, Cable, Boomer, Moonstar, Feral, Magma, and Deadpool.
Pairings: Rictor/Shatterstar, Domino/Cable, Sunspot/Magma. Minor Warpath/Siryn/Deadpool and Cannonball/Boomer.
Genre: Alternate Universe, Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Romance
Rated: NC-17 for extreme violence, language, dark themes, sexual situations (het and slash), and character death.
Disclaimer: I don’t own a damn thing; I’m just playing for awhile.
Summary: A well known terrorist organization has made its move, and its dictatorship starts with the fall of the country’s greatest heroes. A few make it out alive, but they are on the run and in for the fight of their lives. Who lives and who dies? And where do you go when there’s no where left to hide?
Chapter Summary: New base, best friends, spaghetti, unnecessary insecurities -- really lame summary. :D
Part: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten,
“You look like something’s eating you,” Roberto observed, as he and Sam walked side by side through the vacant and darkened kitchen of the hotel.
“Ah’m fine, ‘Berto,” Sam replied, narrowing his eyes to see better.
“Ah don’t know how Ah can look like anythin’ considerin’ how dark it is in here,” he responded. “Ya mind uppin’ the light?”
“Sure thing,” Roberto sighed in reply and allowed a brighter orange to engulf his fist. The kitchen lit up dully, and Sam frowned at the sight of it.
“It sure looks like HYDRA did a number on this place. Ah’ll bet they were all just humans here, too! What could a bunch of innocent humans do tah threaten an entire army of guys?” the Kentuckian stepped over a pile of overturned pots and pans.
“They’re monsters, do they need an actual reason?” Roberto questioned and grabbed a couple of bags of dinner rolls. “They’ve killed innocent mutants too, so why not humans?”
“Just makes their plans more unpredictable, Ah guess,” the blonde muttered, and stopped in front of the stove. “Ah hope the boys get the power up soon. Ah’m sure ya and I can get a nice dinner whipped up foah everyone.”
Roberto perked an eyebrow, and tossed his collected bags of bread to the counter before him. “Is that what you do to keep your mind off things, amigo?”
“What do ya mean?” Sam questioned, averting his eyes and keeping himself preoccupied with gathering some veggies that were left out; they still looked fresh. “The others need tah eat. Ah know mah squad ate at an emptied out diner just yesterday, but all y’all haven’t--”
“Stop worrying about us for like five seconds, Sammy,” Roberto sighed tiredly, and grabbed the blonde’s wrist to keep him from moving about anymore. The grip was strong, and Sam found he would not be getting away from it any time soon. “You’re being way too quiet, amigo. You can’t keep hiding your--”
“Ah’m fine,” Sam repeated, trying but failing to pull his arm free.
“You’re not!” Roberto accused. “I can tell and you can’t keep going on and pretending that this isn’t eating you up inside! It’s not fucking healthy, and you would never let me do it. So I’m not going to let you.”
The Kentuckian dropped his gaze down to the countertop and swallowed, knowing that Bobby was right. “Ah’m just trying tah keep myself busy so Ah don’t go crazy thinking about it, ‘Berto. It’s just easier foah me.”
“And just once did Domino sit you down and talk about this?” the Brazilian demanded.
“Don’t lie because I know she didn’t. Dom’s a great leader, but she’s definitely lacking in the emotional well-being department, Sam. Thing is, buddy, you don’t. You suck ass at being cold and hardened.”
The blonde stepped away from his friend the second that he let him go, and grabbed a couple of bags of pasta from the cupboard next to them. “Ah’m not tryin’ tah be cold and hardened. And neither was Dom; we just had to focus on our task at hand without fallin' apart.”
Roberto rolled his eyes. “Yeah well I guess your squad was a helluva lot better than ours was.”
“No one’s better than anyone,” Sam pointed out with a scolding tone.
“Then just spill,” Roberto pleaded. “It made me feel better when you made me back at the facility. And don’t tell me I have too much going on to worry about it, Sammy. Shatty practically told us every chick captured by HYDRA was killed, and Tabby was caught by the looks of things.”
“Roberto,” Sam warned, lip twitching up in a glare.
“You can’t tell me that’s not on your mind,” the Brazilian mumbled, tone softer. “I already lost ‘Mara, and there’s no way in hell I’d ever want you to go through the same thing. No way. But not knowing’s gotta be eatin’ you up inside, homem.”
“It is, but there ain’t no sense in thinkin’ the worst,” Sam replied. “If Ah do that then Ah’m lettin’ them win. Ah’m gonna find her, Bobby, and that’s that.”
Roberto sighed, obviously giving up. “All right fine, you wanna play that way, whatever. But then answer me this: why haven’t you said a word about Paige?”
“What?” Sam squeaked, blood running cold at the name.
“Jimmy told me you guys found the rest of Gen X that wasn’t at the Institute. Emma was there, Monet was there, Artie, Leech, Everett, Gaia…they were all at Xavier’s. We saw them all, and they were dead. Jimmy said you found the rest, and I only recall you mentioning Skin and Chamber.”
Sam clenched his jaw and pulled an armful of spices out. “Yeah, we found ‘em.”
“Jubilee was all right. Hurt and shaken, but at least alive. We brought her back to the other boys.”
“What about the rest?”
“Penny took off, and Mondo and Banshee were dead.”
Roberto raised his eyebrows and folded his arms as he leaned against the counter to watch him closely. “And Paige?”
“She was dead too,” Sam whispered, eyes falling to the ground. Images of his sister’s mutilated body invaded his brain, and he had to force back a sob. She had been completely desecrated, and the sight of it would surely haunt Sam Guthrie for the rest of his life. What was worse was the fact that he could not contact his family to tell them. Jay had been at the Institute as well, and no one was picking up back in
“And you didn’t plan on telling me?” Roberto questioned, inching closer to the blonde and placing a hand on his shoulder. “Amigo, you can’t keep that stuff hidden!”
“Look, Ah’m the oldest and Ah’m the leader of this team. Ah can’t let mah problems put the rest of y’all at risk. That would be a cruddy thing tah do and it would be irresponsible. Nate wouldn’t--”
“Fuck Nate!” Roberto yelled at him. “This isn’t about him! This about you, Sam! And stop giving me that god damn big brother lecture of yours. It didn’t work when we were younger, and it sure as hell ain’t working on me now!”
Sam absorbed the sting of the words and stood staring at the countertop blankly as he digested them. He did not want to think about the horrors inflicted on those he loved. It hurt way too much.
“Ah’m dealin’ with it the best Ah can,” Sam promised. “Ah don’t know what else tah tell ya, buddy. Ah think it’s safe to say that the lot of them are gone – mah family, Ah mean –and at this point all Ah can do is wait it out until Ah know foah sure.” He raked a hand through tussled blonde locks and sighed tiredly. “And Ah can’t do that until HYDRA is taken out, Bobby, and ya know that. Ah would only get someone else killed.”
“This sucks,” Roberto muttered, and turned to collect some pots. He refocused his power and brightened up the large kitchen. “Amigo, this sucks so god damn much.”
“Ah know,” Sam agreed.
“We gotta kill them. All of them…it’s the only way,” the Brazilian pointed out, both anger and sadness tinting his tone.
“Ah know,” Sam repeated.
“I’m really sorry about them,” Roberto piped up again after a couple of moments. He was pacing the kitchen and grabbing every bit of food that he could see. “Your family, I mean. Hell, Sammy, they didn’t deserve that! And that’s why we have to take these bastards down and end them once and for all. So it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
The Kentuckian felt his mouth dry out at the reminder, but could not help the massive pang of guilt in his heart. “They were all gonna die before me anyways. Ah just never thought it would be like this.”
“Ah’m not scared foah me because Ah know Ah can’t die. But the least Ah could’ve done is used that tah mah advantage and protected them. Perhaps if Ah’d just gone home they’d all be okay,” he whispered and blinked back that hot stinging behind his eyelids. “Ah’m immortal. Ah could have protected them in ways no one else could.”
“You can’t blame yourself for that,” Roberto scolded him. “That’s not fair. For all we know HYDRA could’ve made it to
“Still,” he muttered. “That don’t ease mah mind.”
“Nor should it, but you still can’t blame yourself, homem! That’ll only make things worse.”
“Ah know that, which is why Ah need to keep mahself busy or else Ah just get thinkin’ about it too much,” Sam admitted, and finally looked up to glance at his friend’s face. The Brazilian was staring back at him with a hurt and sympathetic look, and it only managed to remind Sam once more of what the two of them had lost. “And Ah'll find Tab. Ah couldn’t help mah family, but Ah will help her. Y' can guarantee that.”
Bobby swallowed. “Okay, Sammy. Whatever you say.”
“She wanted tah tell me somethin’ befoah we split into teams,” Sam found himself continuing to talk. “Ah don’t know what it was, but she told me it was important. Actually she begged me tah stay back from mah mission just so that her and Ah could talk. But Ah just assumed that she was bein’ Tab and wantin’ to skip out so we could mess around.”
The Brazilian nodded. “Maybe.”
“And maybe Ah should've this time,” the blonde babbled. “Maybe Ah should’ve just told Nate tah shove it just once in mah life so Ah could’ve been with her. We never would’ve gotten separated and we’d be together right now.”
“If you would’ve stayed at the Institute you would’ve had to deal with HYDRA!” Roberto shouted at him, grabbing his shoulders and trying so hard to make him understand. “No one survived that! Not Cyke, or the Prof, or even Rogue and Monet and they were invulnerable!”
“Ah…Ah know,” Sam mumbled.
“So stop playing the ‘what if’ game, amigo.”
“Ah just-- Ah can’t help but wonder what it was she wanted tah say. Ya know, even if it was bad – like she wanted tah leave the team or break up with me…Ah just wish Ah could’ve been able tah hear her say it.”
Roberto gazed at him painfully before he dropped his view to the ground. “I-I know how you feel.”
A few seconds later the hotel buzzed to life. The whir of the furnace kicked in and the cackle of the electricity surging through the structure filled the boys’ ears, and no soon after the kitchen was illuminated by overhead ceiling lights. The mess that the agents had left behind was even more apparent, and Sam had to ignore some certain fluids spilled on the ground. They had enough food in front of them to make something nice now that they had access to working ovens, so the Kentuckian glanced over at his best friend.
“How long did Dom say we had?”
“Half hour, hour – something like that.”
Sam nodded and began picking up some utensils. “What do ya say we make ourselves somethin’ good, buddy? After all, Ah’d say we could use it.”
Roberto nodded and walked a few pots over to the sink. “Sounds good.”
Domino had been sitting in the pool room with a laptop propped on her thighs as the members of her team began walking back in. Shatterstar and Warpath had returned immediately after gaining some power to the building, and the merc greeted them with a satisfied nod.
“Good work, boys. I managed to pick up an internet signal as soon as you got that going again.”
“You find anything important?” Jimmy questioned as he sat down in a lounge chair.
“Well looks like a lot of shit is shut down, obviously, but there are a few international news reports that have been covering invasion stuff.”
The bigger man nodded, and leaned over her shoulder to peer at the screen. “How bad has it gotten?”
“Any reports on opposition casualties?” Shatterstar questioned from where he continued to stand a few feet away.
“No, but I would bet that they’re keeping all that top secret,” Dom muttered. “And…” she paused when she had a new window flash up on her screen. The merc grinned and turned her head to look at Jimmy. “Looks like our internal servers are still up and running despite the shit that went down back home.”
“Those databases are rock solid,” Shatterstar confirmed, and stepped closer. “That server was created to run externally so that we could access it from wherever – namely if the Institute was to be destroyed. I’m sure you're aware that it happens often.”
Domino snorted. “And thank god for that, kiddo. I just got an email from the X-Men.”
The two boys surrounded her monitor as she opened it up; it was a message from Iceman informing them that the team was safe and taking up operations at an undisclosed location in
“What about Rusty and Skids?” another voice cut them from their focus and Domino looked up to see Rictor and Terry enter in with a giant sized laundry cart full of crap. They had not yet dressed, and were still wearing their hospital gowns.
“They’re alive,” Jimmy informed them happily. “They’re with the X-Men and helping out with the American invasion.”
A smile stretched across the Mexican’s face. “That’s awesome news.”
“Why aren’t you two dressed?” Domino perked an eyebrow.
“Well we figured we’d grab enough stuff for everyone,” Terry shrugged. “We raided all the rooms and found whatever clean stuff we could. Everyone’s uniforms are either destroyed, or…” she eyed Shatterstar’s bloody, tattered attire and scrunched up her face. “…messed. So we figured hypothermia might be good tah avoid. There are sweaters, shirts, pants, socks, and towels. We have some other stuff running in the washing machines right now. It’s kinda gross tah share, but we figured at this point there’s no time tah be picky.”
“We went through all the closets and got soap, shampoo, and tooth brushes and shit like that,” Rictor continued and proceeded to dig through the cart. “There’s like shaving cream and stuff too.”
Jimmy rubbed his hairy chin. “Good; me and Shatty here are startin’ to look like cavemen.”
“Speak for yourself, James, I look fine,” ‘Star spat.
“All right, all right,” Domino chuckled and held up her hands. “Good work, guys. We needed the supplies.”
Before anyone else could comment though, Sam and Roberto finally decided to join them. And with them they brought four rolling carts full of hot food. The other boys practically began drooling at the sight of it, and Dom just shook her head amusedly as they began setting up on the tables around them. Sam and Bobby gathered some bread, made up some salads, and cooked up a massive pot of hot spaghetti.
“You boys read my mind,” Jimmy rubbed his hands together.
“Just don’t pass out in it,” Rictor quipped.
“All right, grab some grub and sit your asses down,” Domino ordered and placed the laptop on the floor underneath her chair. Terry handed her a plate, and she could not help the loud growl that came from her stomach. She was damn hungry, and it was nice to have a home cooked meal again. And damn would it be good; Sam was practically X-Force’s best kept secret when it came to culinary skills. The kid had helped feed a family of ten other siblings for a good chunk of his life, and had learned a thing or two about a good tasting dinner. That was something that Domino had always appreciated, but never as much as she did right then.
“Guthrie, you’re the shit,” Rictor beamed happily as he piled food into his mouth.
“Indeed,” Shatterstar agreed. “I was unaware how much I enjoyed your cooking until I lived off of mushroom soup for a week.”
“Even yuir salads are incredible!” Terry piped up.
“I helped too,” Roberto pointed out with a scowl.
“I freaking love spaghetti,” Jimmy hummed contentedly.
“Animals,” Domino rolled her eyes and twirled her fork through her food. “All right, kiddies, so here’s the deal. We stay here for a few days and recuperate, capiche? We rest up, eat, sleep off whatever remaining injuries we have, and we bring the fight to those bastards at 110%.”
“What do we do in the meantime?” Shatty questioned. “We have no training facilities.”
“Ye can swim,” Terry told him. “There’s a good cardio in that.”
“Whoopde-freaking-do,” Ric rolled his eyes incredulously. “Cardio workouts suck! They’re the worst kind!”
“Just ‘cause you suck at them,” Bobby sneered.
“So do you!” the Mexican scoffed. “All you ever do is cheat with your powers anyhow!”
“Enough children!” Dom tossed a breadstick at the younger boy and glared. “No bitching at the supper table!”
“My ma used tah say that,” Sam could not help but chuckle. “Except she didn’t say the b-word, or anythin’.”
“Don’t compare me to a mom,” the merc warned, pointing a finger. “I may be baby-sitting you brats, but that doesn't make me a mom. Now, back to the plan. We know HYDRA’s got Nate, so we have to start with him at
“You think he willingly gave up all that info on us?” Jimmy asked, voicing the question Domino had been going over and over in her brain for hours. “I mean, those agents knew everything!”
“I don’t know,” the older woman sighed, and raked a hand through her hair. “All I know is that Nate’s gotta be top priority right now. I know the others’ lives are at stake too, but Nate’s the only lead we have on finding them.”
“But what if el jefe turned all evil on us?” Rictor questioned. “We might find him and he'd go and make chop suey with our brains just by blinkin’!”
“We’ll just have to take that risk,” she sighed. “And if it turns out that he turned on us, we’ll just have to end him before he gets a chance to end us. Plain and simple.”
“Ye cannae be serious!” Terry protested. “Dom, it’s Nate! He would nae--”
“It would explain a lot,” Domino snapped irritably. “The agents on our tails, the info they had…HYDRA even said he gave it to them.”
“Why should we believe them though?” Sam inquired.
“Why would they lie?” Dom countered.
“Domino don’t ya think yer bein’--” the Kentuckian trailed off.
“It wouldn’t surprise me,” Rictor piped up. “Cable’s always taking off and dying and screwing us around. I’m with Domino on this one; dude’s got way too much evidence stacked against him.”
“But it’s Cable,” Terry insisted. “He would nae--”
“Enough!” Dom stood from her chair and shouted. “I’m the fucking leader, and this is what’s going to go down. This is the new base for the time being, and once we’re ready to go back out again we’ll go to
“Dom,” Terry furrowed her eyebrows. “How can ye be so unfaithful? Ye love him--”
“Can it! Get some rest and I’ll see you in the morning,” she muttered. “Thanks for the supper, boys.” Without another word, Domino left the lounge with six matching pairs of prying eyes glued to her back.
After the briefing had finished, the team had all gone their separate ways to claim rooms. For the most part, everyone had stuck to where they chose, opting to be alone for rest much needed. They had not showered in weeks, nor had they changed their clothes. The members of X-Force just wanted to go back to some degree of normalcy, and they started by just indulging in the simple things. But one hot bath and a fresh outfit later, Rictor found himself pacing the hallway. His room was much too silent. He shared a room back home at the Institute and the last two weeks had been spent sandwiched between others in the cave. He was glad to be back in a comfortable setting, but there was just too much on his mind right then for him to sit still and alone.
He moved swiftly up the corridor, pant legs dragging beneath his socked feet on the carpet. The ankle was feeling much better; after hours of the transfusion running through his system, all he felt was the pistol shot from the HYDRA base and a bit of a cough from the pneumonia he had. Otherwise he was good. No more burns. No more cuts, no stitches, no puking. HYDRA did not win that time.
Spinning on his heel, he promptly turned around and headed back down the hall in the direction he came. Mind raced with images of needles and prodding hands. Unfamiliar faces surrounded him and overwhelmed him. Did not let him breathe. Stripped him of all modesty and courage in front of his team mates. Screams…room shaking.
He willed the thought from his mind and turned around again, slowing his pace as he passed by the doors. He wondered briefly how the others were faring. Roberto had been dealing with the incidents very badly, while Sam was worried sick for Tabitha. Theresa was trying to keep up an optimistic mask of courage for Wade while simultaneously grieving her father. Domino was fighting to keep a lid on things, while Shatterstar was not betraying a word of his emotions to anyone. What about Jimmy? Jimmy just seemed worried about everyone else, thus ignoring any horrors haunting his own mind.
What happened to their friends? Tabitha was a very close friend to Ric, and it was strange to go weeks without bickering and bantering with her. Even their leader – a man Julio had always fought to learn to trust – was a mystery to them. It was almost like they were directionless without him; Cable would not allow them to fall apart at the seams.
Julio sighed irritably and fisted his hair as he turned and walked back up the hall. He was falling apart at the seams. He had voiced and screamed and bled every possible fear he ever had in the past couple of days – for the whole world to see. Fear of doctors, fear of death, fear of lack of control, fear of deterioration, fear of loss, and fear of not knowing. He had come close to losing all prospective experience and knowledge…losing his very being.
He could have just died and that would have been it.
And of course, he had to have run his mouth too. Not only did he fall apart on himself, but he had fallen apart on ‘Star and babbled emotional words in a most ridiculous manner. He had insulted him and over dramatized his situation. Ric bellowed and whined, and he had pretty much confessed his feelings for ‘Star.
Growling, Rictor spun around once more and slowed past the doors of the hall. Brown eyes falling on the room in the center of the corridor – exactly two away from his own. He slowed his pacing, wondering if he should stop. Should he explain? Would it even be worth his while?
He was stupid! How could he have spouted off that way? There was no way in hell that he could ever go there with Shatterstar. Ever. The guy was a battle thirsty warrior from another planet. All he knew was honour and respect and war and fighting and camaraderie. It was amazing that he had just adjusted to being friends with him! Response to physical interaction was not that great.
But 'Star had touched Rictor. He laid beside him and watched over him while he slept. Snapped him out of bouts of deliriousness and pretty much fought to keep him alive. For a guy who was so quick to kill and not question, such gestures went a long way.
No, it was instinct. Survival only and nothing else.
Rictor stormed past the door and right down to the end of the hall before he turned around and walked back. Stopped half way between the corner and Shatty’s room and just stared.
What the fuck was he doing?
If he wanted to go see his best friend, he could, and the other man would not push him away. They were best friends. Stupid unnecessary babbling or not, Shatty had not distanced away at the medical facility, so why would he do so now? All he would have to do is knock on the door and ask him to watch some television and everything would be fine.
But they would be alone and there would not be interruptions that time.
He scolded himself for even thinking about such complications at a time like then. They were in the middle of an all out war, and there Julio Richter was working himself up over a long time unrequited crush that he should have been over by now. He should have been thinking about living and making it out alive. Fighting for his life.
But then he stopped in front of that door one more time and thought about what life he was fighting for. What did he want? What did he yearn for? What was it that he saw within his reach that he wanted to fight for – to keep him motivated to live? What kind of life would he attempt to live if he even made it out of that war alive?
And those questions alone made it a very appropriate moment to worry about his emotions. It was okay, and perhaps it would help keep his mind away from other unthinkable horrors like death and rape and mutilation.
Courage washed over him and he stepped toward the door and lightly knocked before he could chicken out. There was no going back.
The low voice made him jump, and Rictor had to take a second to just breathe. He ran a hand over his hair quickly and tugged at the stupid button-up mechanic’s shirt that he had found in one of the rooms. Clearing his throat, he placed his hand on the knob. Paused. And pushed it open. The room was still brightly lit even for the late time of night, just like Rictor suspected it would be.
“You busy?” he asked, not quite poking his head in the door.
“No,” Shatterstar replied from his place on the bed, and held up his attempt at a cleaned uniform. “Just fixing.”
The Mexican swallowed and nodded, trying his hardest to ignore the fact that the alien was sitting on his bed in only a black pair of briefs as he ‘fixed’ his other clothes. Recently washed hair fell wet and damp down his back, and his blood stained cargo pants sat pressed on his lap.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Rictor waved his hand awkwardly when ‘Star gave him a questioning look.
“Ah,” he nodded. “I figured you would not.”
“You don’t mind if I…”
“Cool…gracias,” Ric shot him a shy grin and looked around the room. At anything but him. “Look I--”
“Why are you scared?” Shatty cut him off.
“You aren’t even looking at me,” the warrior continued. “And you’re pacing.”
“You’re not even wearing anything!” Rictor defended lamely, feeling his face hot. “I’m not going to just stare at you! Dios, ‘Star, I’m not fucking scared I’m just--”
“I’m wearing something. You cannot see anything that would cause you embarrassment. Besides, I already saw you naked and I’m not acting scared.”
“You said you didn’t look!” Rictor felt a flutter of nerves in his chest and dared move his gaze to the Mojoworlder.
“I said in that way,” Shatty rolled his eyes. “I still saw you naked though.”
“Oh my god!” Rictor threw his arms up in the air and sulked. “How the hell is it I can totally have my mind made up about what I want to say to you, and all you have to do is open your big, stupid mouth and I forget!?”
“I am unsure. That's quite strange,” he muttered and rubbed his chin.
Feeling his face blaze hot, the Mexican tossed his hands up to his temples and glared at the ceiling. “Well that’s just great.”
“It’s not like you have anything to be embarrassed about,” the warrior told him.
“Look, I…” Ric cleared his throat self consciously and stared down at the head of the bed where ‘Star sat. “I just don’t want things to be awkward between us, okay?”
Shatterstar dropped his uniform into his lap, and stared at the wall adjacent to him thoughtfully. “Things were awkward? I do not feel awkward. Are you awkward? You sound like it.”
Rictor blinked and then decided to go over his words carefully in his head. Shatterstar was making things more difficult even if he was not meaning to. That made Ric wonder if, in fact, they were even on the same page here. At the treatment facility, the warrior had hinted at knowing what Ric had been ready to say back at the cave. Just by the way Shatty had said ‘other things’ told the Mexican that he did know. Was Ric misunderstood?! Maybe Shatterstar did not know what he had been trying to tell him after all!
Then again, Ric had only said he cared about him.
…more than ‘Star would ever know.
Frowning, Julio shoved his hands in his pockets. “You’re not-- there’s nothing bothering you? About…me?”
Silver eyes moved from the wall and settled on the Mexican. “Besides the fact that you’re wearing a shirt that is really not your colour and the name ‘Matthew’ is sewn on the front? Nothing at all.”
Rictor bit back his frustration. “Either you’re playing stupid with me or I’m totally overreacting! And for once in my life I’m pretty sure I’m not!” he raked a hand through his hair and sighed. “Look, I fucking hate talking about this shit. Really, really, really hate it! So I’m not gonna try and dig it out of ya, amigo. You’re my best friend – above all else – and I just want to make sure that everything—that we're okay.”
Shatterstar just blinked and did not say a word as he ran his eyes over Rictor’s face thoughtfully. He looked like there was something that he wanted to say, and the thought alone made Rictor nervous.
“Are we okay?” the Mexican repeated with less conviction.
“You almost died,” ‘Star said, so low it was almost a whisper. Fingering the clothing in his lap absently, he refused to look Ric in the eye – which was an immediate indication to him that things were not so peachy keen. “I was uncertain how best friends are supposed to feel about one another in such a situation.”
Rictor furrowed his eyes in confusion. “What?”
“When you were sick…” Shatty shifted his eyes uncomfortably and cleared his throat. “I was…uhm…”
And finally it was the warrior’s turn to look awkward; maybe they were on the same page after all? The hopeful part of the Mexican sparked to life, and he willed his legs to carry him to the bed. He plopped down onto the mattress, but kept a couple of feet of space between them. Ric swallowed. “Were ya scared?”
“I’m not supposed to feel such things,” Shatty replied coolly.
“Perhaps I felt some amount of nervousness, yes. I’m glad you’re okay.”
Ric fought the urge to smile. “And you think that’s the wrong way for a best amigo to feel, hombre? I know you were worried, that’s all right. It’s normal.”
“That’s what Theresa said.”
“You talked to Theresa about that?” Rictor questioned curiously, turning on the bed so that he was facing him better.
“When you were sick she got into a fight with Sunspot and he had told her that she was better off with James than Wade because James cared. And she told him that James was her very best friend, and therefore, her emotions were not the same.” He paused, and glared down at his hands, so obviously trying to piece things together in his mind. “She said that her best friend was the one she could rely on and depend on no matter what – the one who would always be there for her.”
Rictor nodded, wondering where he was going with it. “Yeah, that about sums up best friends.”
“But she said that Wade Wilson made her more emotional. That he made her very happy and sad and mad and excited and a whole range of things that no one else could make her feel.”
Ric’s heart slammed against the wall of his chest as his nervousness grew. “That’s love, amigo.”
“I don’t feel those things,” he confessed, silver eyes intense and penetrating Rictor. “Wide ranges of excitement and happiness and sadness – I don’t feel that…”
“Unless I’m around you, Julio. It’s strange, really, because I did not notice it until I thought you were going to die. Because I couldn’t talk to you and you were ill and could not ‘be there’ for me…” Shatterstar cleared his throat and dropped his gaze back down to his lap, red hair toppling over his forehead as he did so. “I thought perhaps maybe I was suffering from deliriousness due to lack of food, or something. That maybe I had made a mistake.”
Rictor felt his mouth dry out. “But?”
“She told me that some best friends can make people feel that way. That it’s normal – so I guess I was not just delirious.” ‘Star flickered his gaze back up, and for the first time since Rictor had met him he saw apprehension in his eyes. “I promised her I would deal with it only if I was able to get you healthy again.”
“I don’t know.”
“I…” Rictor ran a hand over his hair, struggling with all the words on the tip of his tongue. So much he wanted to say, but felt much too awkward to do so. “You don’t know if you believe that, or you don’t really know how you feel?”
Shatterstar stared back for a few moments, silent and conflicted as the gears in his head turned. Eyes shifted again before he sighed. “I know how I feel. Accepting it is different, but…”
And in that moment a strange wave of curious confidence came over Rictor. They were definitely on same page, but Shatterstar just needed a bit of a nudge in the right direction. Okay, maybe not a nudge, but a shove. The Mexican inched closer to him, not taking his eyes away as he reached out a hand to the warrior’s lap to scoop up his. Their fingers laced together and Rictor felt that stupid blush creep up his cheeks again as he sat against his side. His free hand inched up the bare flesh of Shatterstar’s back and rested on his neck.
“We can work on that,” Rictor told him, voice coming out a lot more shy than he wanted it to. “It’s not so bad to accept either, hombre.”
The warrior shivered slightly at the touch, but he did not pull away. “And what if I fail you?”
“You couldn’t,” Ric assured him, and traced his thumb beneath the locks of hair and along the flesh of the warrior’s neck. “I’ve stuck by your side for this long, amigo. Why would I think that now, huh?”
“But…” Shatterstar looked conflicted. “Are you-- there are many other men who would…I don’t know if I am--”
Self esteem problems were the last thing Shatterstar, of all people, had to worry about. Not wanting to hear one more word of them, Rictor pushed himself forward and pressed his lips against ‘Star’s. For a moment, the warrior’s entire body stiffened beneath his, uncertainty obvious in his demeanour. But Ric just tightened his hold on Shatty’s hand and pulled back, resting his forehead on his.
“You are,” Rictor mumbled in response.
Glossy silver eyes pierced his, uncertainty instantly replaced with curious interest. Shatterstar licked his lips before slowly mirroring Julio’s actions and closing the distance between them again. That time, they both put the effort into it, and Rictor felt his stomach completely flip with excitement. Soft, moist lips moving shyly against his own – lips he wanted to taste for far too long.
They pulled apart a moment later, and Rictor scooted up a foot or so to the head of the bed. “You mind if I hang out here tonight?”
Looking a little flushed, Shatty just shrugged before throwing his uniform to the ground carelessly, not minding his own lack of dress or the company. He pulled the blankets back and crawled under, enveloping both of their bodies in their warmth. “As long as you get rid of that stupid shirt, ‘Matthew’.”
Rictor laughed at that and raised an arm up to pop open the first few buttons on his chest. Shatty’s eyes followed the hand closely before he reached over to finish the job himself, while Ric dropped his hand down to the warrior’s hip to pull him closer. Their lips met once more as the fabric was pushed off of Julio’s shoulders, more things exchanged between them than their stumbling words ever allowed. So much that just a few gestures made him understand that Shatterstar understood how he felt. Admiration and affection radiated from his touch, and Rictor could not help but press himself even closer to him, wanting to feel that contact with every inch of his body.
And Shatterstar gladly accepted it as he reached over to turn out the lamp, enveloping the room in darkness.
Go to chapter twelve.