Hey, there! Third in the 'contact' series (Touching, Touching Can't Hurt, and this). Won't make too much sense without those.

rated... meh. Maybe PG. The boys get no sex in this. Poor boys. ;) Also, this is pretty much plotless. *thinks* Yeah, totally. :)

Many thanks to Buzzylittleb for the Theban Sacred Band info. ;-D

The Therapy Thing 1/1

He was stunning, even if one only thought of it on an aesthetic level. Stunning in that, "I know you're all looking at me, so watch me make you sweat even while I don't realize I’m doing it" way. More so, because he looked honest and open and guileless.

Those were the dangerous types, Lorenz had found. "Mr. Star, come in." Long, almost orange hair had been swept back into a ponytail and drifted in waves to his tailbone. Blue eyes--blue? Silver? Gray?--one of them framed by a--how apropos--star tattoo. Broad shoulders, and a deadly, somehow flashy, way of moving. He was carrying a long, thin, black case that looked like it had seen better days--or maybe just too many days all together. Someone had drawn a smiley face on it with white chalk.

"I'm sorry," he said with an accent Lorenz couldn’t quite place. English was definitely a second language. "Did you call me Mr. Star?" He looked genuinely puzzled.

Lorenz checked his file. "Gaveedra Star? That's your name?"

The man looked disgruntled. "Shatterstar."

Shatterstar. Rocker, maybe? "All right. Sorry about that."

The man shrugged, his gaze already wandering. "That is an interesting statue."

Lorenz looked. "Mongolian."

"Ah." The gaze had moved on.

"Would you like to sit down?"

"Would you prefer it if I sat?" Silver eyes, pinning him in place.

"Most people do," Lorenz said carefully, "but if you're more comfortable standing…"

When he'd spoken to Sam Guthrie on the phone, the man had given him a very brief description of the situation. Two men, lovers, one of them terrified of being gay, the other one from another culture. The first had been kidnapped and tortured, the second had been a slave. Both mutants. They wanted to undergo counseling together.

Lorenz had only agreed if he could meet them separately, and if they had private sessions every other week. There were things people weren't as willing to say when a love interest was around.

This young man--twenty-three, the file said--didn't seem to fit either of the profiles Lorenz had been given.

"Ah. Then if it is normal, it would probably make you more comfortable. I will sit." And just like that, he'd folded himself gracefully into a chair. He gave Lorenz his full attention. And said nothing.

"So, Shatterstar, why did you decide you wanted counseling?"

"I did not."

That stopped him. "Then why are you here?"

"Because Sam said Julio might have fewer nightmares with counseling, and Julio would only go to counseling if I went to counseling. So I am here."

Lorenz resisted the urge to cringe, and scribbled himself a reminder. These types of things didn't tend to work out well.

"Sam said you weren’t from the States," Lorenz said. "Where are you from?"

"What are you writing?"

The question was unconcerned. Lornez smiled slightly. "Notes. I'm going to make notes throughout our sessions, just for my own reference. You can see them, if you'd like."

"I'd like to see them." And the imperious young man held out a hand.

Lorenz handed his notepad over.

Silver eyes flashed across the page. "There is almost nothing here."

"We've only just met."

"Ah. Then I would like to see them afterward."

"All right."

"Every time."

"All right."

Shatterstar handed it back.

Lorenz settled into his chair. "So. Where are you from?"


"Mojo--I'm sorry?"


Lorenz wrote the word down. "And where is Mojoworld? What is Mojoworld?"

Shatterstar stared at him. Somehow, the stare was different. Before, it had been matter-of-fact. Now Lorenz felt like a rather dense student. Impressive.

"Mojoworld," Shatterstar said clearly, "is another world. I am from Mojoworld, two hundred years in the future."

Lorenz nodded calmly, writing. "Sam said you were from another culture."


He looked up. There was no sarcasm in the man's expression. "So, you're an alien?"


Delusional? If he had been a slave, it was entirely possible he'd made up a world to escape. "What do you think of earth?"

"I believe humans have very strange taboos. And also, some of your expressions are very confusing. For instance, I would not want the hair of the dog that bit me. I would rather have its teeth."

Lorenz smiled. "Well, that makes sense."

"And my hair is never a nest for rats, and it does not look like a nest for rats even when it is tangled, which is not often."

"Have you actually seen a rats' nest?" Lorenz asked, crossing his legs.

"Of course I have. Haven't you?"

"Most people in the States don't generally see rats' nests, no."

Shatterstar stared hard at his knees. Lorenz had the impression he was filing that away for later.

"It must be pretty confusing for you, being in a new culture."

A frown spread across the young man's face. He was still staring at his knees. "Well. Yes."

"How long have you been here?"

"Two years."

"You speak English very well."


No false modesty there. Lorenz wasn't terribly surprised. Shatterstar was still frowning. "Is there something you want to tell me?"

Shatterstar looked up. "Sam said I should tell you what I am thinking and feeling, even if I would not normally."

"That's a good idea," Lorenz said.

Shatterstar exhaled, blowing air violently through pursed lips. "Very well. I do not like being confused. I feel--" he stopped. His hands flexed. Big hands, callused. Used to hard work.

The word Lorenz thought Shatterstar was looking for was 'impotent,' but many men took that the wrong way. "Helpless?"

"Not…No. I was looking for another word." He looked up suddenly. "Impotent."

Fairly certain of his masculinity, Lorenz thought. "In what way?"

Shatterstar gestured without speaking. Then, "For instance. This baring of teeth people call a smile. It makes no sense to me. Baring teeth is a threat." He put his hands down and looked suddenly calm. "But I am learning the customs of this world. Now I know a smile is not a threat."

Lorenz tapped his pencil against his notepad. "Hmm." That was interesting. Separation from people during a crucial age maybe? The neurons that should have learned 'smile' didn’t have exposure to other people during that time? Or maybe a very severe delusion. "Where did you grow up?"


"Yes, but where? What was it like? Did you have a house? A bedroom?"

"I lived in the breeding grounds until I was nine. Then I was moved to the youth arena. Then the adult arena when I was thirteen."

"An adult at thirteen?"

Shatterstar just watched him.

Lorenz rephrased. "Were you considered an adult?"



Shatterstar sat back, crossing his legs. He looked at Lorenz thoughtfully.

"Yes?" Lorenz asked.

"Do you always 'hmm' when someone says something you find interesting, possible, and outside the boundaries of what you would consider ‘normal’?"

Lorenz stared. "You notice a great deal of things, don't you?"

"Of course. To adapt to any situation, I must learn things quickly. I was bred for it."

Lorenz nodded. Interesting. "Tell me about your relationship with Julio."

"We are friends. And we have sex. I enjoy the sex."

Lorenz blinked.

Shatterstar smiled guilelessly.

"I see. Does Julio enjoy the sex?"

The smile vanished. "Most of the time. I try and make sure he enjoys it, too… I don't like to see him upset."

Real concern there. That was good. For a moment, Lorenz had a horrific thought that Shatterstar was taking advantage.

"But you should talk to Julio about Julio," Shatterstar continued. "And then you can tell me if he enjoys it, too." His smile was brilliant.

"Shatterstar, you need to know that I'm not going to share information. If Julio tells me something, it stays with me. Just like if you tell me something, I won't go repeating it to Julio."

"But you can. If it will help."

"I won't. Legally, I can't anyway."

Shatterstar didn't look happy about that. "You should talk to Julio now," he said after a moment. "He is nervous. He is waiting." Shatterstar stood. Lorenz felt like he'd just been dismissed.

"Shatterstar," he said. "What's in the case?"

Shatterstar glanced down at it, as if noticing it for the first time, despite the fact that he'd never let it go. "My swords."


"Swords. I do not go anywhere without them."

Lorenz could only stare. "I would prefer you didn't bring weapons into my office."

"You will appreciate it if a madman breaks in. Given your clientele, I believe that is entirely possible."

Lorenz frowned. "Shatterstar, don't bring the swords."

Shatterstar looked like he was considering and throwing out ideas. Then he walked to the door, opened it, and said, "Julio, he says I may not bring my swords."

An even younger man stood as though he'd been yanked up. "Can't you leave them in the car?"

There was an icy silence.

The young man--a teenager, really, with so many muscles Lorenz suspected steroids--poked his head through the door. "What if he leaves them in the lobby?"

"I'm afraid I'm not in the habit of letting my clients--"

"I cannot come back if I cannot bring my swords," Shatterstar interrupted.

Lorenz looked at him sharply. "And when they're taken by someone with a real problem and used on another person--"

"Another reason you should allow me to keep them by my side."

"Madre de Dios. 'Star, can't you just leave them home?"


"Just for one hour a week?"


"All right. All right. Well, hey, I didn't want to do this anyway--"

"You have to do this." Shatterstar, again.

"I ain't doing it without you, and you can't bring your swords--"

Shatterstar looked at Lorenz. He looked like he was in pain. Like he might have a breakdown. Slave, Lorenz suddenly realized. That was the look of a man who'd lived free and was being told he had to go back. Not just return, but do so willingly.

"Let me see the case," Lorenz said, against his better judgment.

Shatterstar walked to his desk and laid the case on top, still holding onto the handle.

Lorenz looked at it. "May I open it?"

Shatterstar hesitated, then opened it himself.

Two swords, one with two blades, lay in purple lining. They gleamed. Obviously well cared for. Obviously sharp.

"Thank you."

Shatterstar closed the case. His hands were shaking. His knuckles went white when he grabbed the handle again.

"If you are willing to find a way to lock it closed, you can bring it," Lorenz said.

"Lock it closed? But then I will not be able to get to my swords if something happens--"

"Nothing will happen here," Lorenz said, projecting as much confidence as he could. "It's the best I can do."

He looked sick. Then he swallowed, and was suddenly stone again. He nodded once. "Very well. I will lock my swords in their case."

Julio, still in the doorway, looked both relieved and panicked. "So, we're still doing the therapy thing?"

"Yes," Shatterstar said, his voice carrying a ring of finality.

Julio sighed.

"Mr. Richter. Come in."


"So why did you decide to come to counseling?"

The young man--obviously Hispanic, with nearly black hair and eyes, and dark skin that probably tanned obscenely quickly--chewed on a nail and stared at the wall of statues. His legs were crossed. One foot bobbed. "'Star asked."

"That was all? 'Star asked'?"

He shrugged.

"Do you do a lot of things for Star?"

Sharp eyes glanced at him, then cut away. "'Star does a lot of things for me, too. We're friends."

"Friends having sex."

"I'm not gay."

"You're just friends having sex."

"Yeah." Still hadn't looked at him.

"Would it be so bad to be gay?"

That earned him a glare. "Yeah." The boy looked back at the statues. Then picked a bit of nail off his tongue, and went right back to gnawing.

"How old are you, Julio?"

It sounded more like 'Eddeen,' than 'Eighteen.'

"You have family? Parents?"

"Mom in Mexico. Lots of siblings. Dad's dead."

It was like pulling teeth to get anything from him. A person had to want therapy for it to work. "Any of them gay?"

"No." Short and clipped. "I'm not, either."

"I didn't ask you if you were. Though I’m curious as to why it would be so bad."

Julio shot him another dirty look and went back to staring at the statues.

"What's the Right?"

The floor trembled. Lorenz had been warned about that, but it was still unsettling. Someone telling you that the man you’re going to counsel can start earthquakes, and actually feeling the ground move were two different things. He grabbed at a pen that had started to roll off his desk, putting it in an empty mug.

"Don't want to talk about that."

"What would you like to talk about?"


"Then why are you here?"

Julio stopped chewing on his nail and stared hard at Lorenz. "Mostly because it means a lot to 'Star. But I agreed to therapy with him here, and he ain't here."

There was a spine there. Good to see. "We could ask him to come in."

Julio looked around. "There enough seats?"

"I could sit in that chair, and you two can sit on the couch."

Julio looked at it. "Yeah. Okay." He stood and wandered over to the couch, but didn't sit down.

Lorenz buzzed the receptionist. "Could you--"

The door opened. Shatterstar looked worriedly from Julio to Lorenz and back again. "I felt the floor shake and then you called--"

"We were just wondering if you wanted to join us." The sword case, he noticed, was in Shatterstar's hand. It had shoelaces tied around it. Shatterstar's shoes were, Lorenz would bet newly, lace-less.

"He said we should sit on the couch…" Julio trailed off.

Shatterstar sat. Julio sprawled. This was going to be a strange couple to counsel.


Sam knocked on the bathroom door. No response. He opened it. Empty. He went through and knocked on the adjoining door to Rictor’s room.


Sam poked his head through. Shatterstar was on the computer, poking at buttons with his index fingers and staring intently at webpages. His lips moved as he read, slowly and painfully. Sam made a mental note to get him tapes on reading. "How’d it go? With Dr. Lorenz?"

Rictor shrugged.

"He is a talk-therapist," Shatterstar said, not looking away from the screen. "But I do not know what school of thought he believes. I wish to find out."

Sam nodded. "Well, ya’ll could ask him."

That very silver gaze hit him. "Yes. I will."

"Where’d you find this guy?" Rictor asked, flipping through a magazine.

"Dr. Samson--he works with X-Factor--recommended him. Said he was sympathetic to the mutant cause, and took media views on things with a grain of salt." Neither man was looking at him anymore. "So, you’re gonna go back?"

Rictor shrugged.

"Yes." Shatterstar poked another button.

"Right. Good. Well, if you need anything…"

"We’ll get it ourselves," Rictor muttered.

"…Right," Sam said. He wandered back through the bathroom, to his own room.


"So where, exactly, did you grow up? The breeding grounds? Tell me about that."

Shatterstar was staring at the statues. He hadn’t sat down yet. He picked one up, holding it in big hands and turning it slowly. Lorenz bit back the urge to tell him to be careful.

"What do you want to know?"

"Were there other people there?"

He set the statue down and looked at Lorenz out of the corner of his eye, his head cocked. "Other people? Not human, no. In the pens, I was the only human. And I'm not quite human, either."

Interesting. "What were the others like, then?"

A shrug. "I remember one that died early. What you might call a giant beetle. Spoke using sonar so, of course, I couldn’t understand him." Shatterstar looked at him and solemnly said, "I don’t have sonar."

"That would be a communication barrier," Lorenz said, not sure what else he should say. "Were all the others beetles?"

A smile twitched at the corner of Shatterstar’s mouth. "No. Most were humanoid. There was one like Spiral."


Shatterstar paused, hands stilling for a moment. "A human-like woman with six arms. She was…" he shrugged, but not like normal people did. It was a whole body movement and seemed to carry the phrase, ‘Not possible to explain.’ "An assistant, I suppose."

"Did you have friends?"

"No." Shatterstar's gaze stopped moving. He shook his head, eyes intent. He was watching the fall of his own hair in the mirror behind the statues, Lorenz realized with a silent laugh. When his hair settled, he shook it again.

"Why didn't you have friends?" Lorenz asked.

"We were not encouraged to make friendships. The censors had found that people did not fight as hard against their friends. If we made friends, we were separated." He shook his head again, letting it hang forward so that his hair fell over his shoulder. Then he brushed it all back and studied another statue.

"That must have been hard."

Shatterstar moved to the plaques hanging on the wall. "Not really."

"Did you have other things to do?"

"Of course. We trained."

Lorenz tilted his head. "Trained?"

"Yes." Shatterstar straightened a plaque. Then he shifted it back into its crooked position.

Lorenz waited. "For what?" he finally prompted.

"For fighting."

Lorenz watched him intently. "You were a fighter?"

Shatterstar gave him an annoyed look. "I already told you this. When we turned nine we were put into the youth arena, and when we were thirteen the adult arena."

"I’m sorry," Lorenz said. "I didn’t understand what you meant. So, you fought in these arenas?"

"Yes." He'd moved on to examining the lamp.

"Like wrestling?"

Shatterstar looked utterly contemptuous. "No." He gestured to the case, locked tightly up, that held his swords. "Real fighting."

Lorenz remembered how sharp those swords had been. "Did you kill people?"

"Sometimes." He paced to the other side of the room, studying the paintings.

"Did you enjoy it?"

A shrug. "I was bred to fight. I did not like the slavery. Eventually, I freed myself and joined the Cadre Alliance."

"The what?"

"The rebels."

"Oh. What if you were sick, or didn’t want to fight? Injured?"

Shatterstar shrugged again. "If you refused to fight, you died. If you were injured or sick, it gave you a disadvantage. Depending on the warrior, that could improve the ratings." He frowned briefly, then it was gone.

Lorenz wondered what the frown was for. "Were you good at it?"

"I was one of the best. My ratings were high."

Ratings? He shook his head and focused on Shatterstar. "How do you feel about that?"

Shatterstar looked at him.

"Good? Bad? Sad? Happy?" He smiled.

Shatterstar smiled back, but there was still confusion in his eyes. He smiled like he knew he was supposed to, but didn’t know why. "I do not feel any way about it. It is just a fact. I was very good at what I did."

"You must feel some way about it. I mean, on the one hand you beat up a lot of people. On the other, if your ratings were high, I’m guessing you were pretty popular. How does that make you feel?"

Shatterstar kept staring at him. Then, suddenly, he frowned and glared at the floor. His head came up, and he looked at the painting again. "I fought. It was what I was bred to do. You confuse me."

Lorenz nodded. Distancing himself from his feelings. If half of this were true, if he'd been some sort of fighter-slave somewhere, it would have been a survival method. "I’d like you to think about how it made you feel."


"It might make things less confusing. You might be able to find some answers."

Shatterstar shrugged. "Are we done here?"

Lorenz nodded

The young man walked to the desk and held out his hand. Lorenz gave him the notepad. Shatterstar read it carefully, eyes squinting and lips moving. "What is ‘adhd?’"

"I’m sorry?"

"It is spelled A-D-H-D and there is a question mark."

"ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Have you heard of it?"

Shatterstar shook his head, giving him that intense look that made Lorenz think he was memorizing everything.

"It’s usually caught in school. It makes people have a hard time paying attention, sitting still, that sort of thing. If a person is diagnosed with it, it can be treated. Sometimes people need it to be treated for their jobs, or because it bothers their family, or for school."

"I do not have a job that suffers, or a family that cares, or school," Shatterstar said.

"And I don’t know that you have ADHD, either," Lorenz said calmly. "It was just a thought."

Shatterstar nodded and went back to reading. After a moment he handed the pad back. "Thank you," he said formally.

"You’re welcome. Would you mind sending Julio in?"

Shatterstar just nodded and picked up his swords.


"So, you’re from Mexico?"

Julio shrugged. He was back to biting his nails.

"You have family there?"

Another shrug.

"What do they do?"

A flat stare, and another shrug.

"Are you planning on ever actually talking to me?"

"Not if I can help it."

Lorenz couldn’t bite back his laugh.

Julio looked at him.

"Sorry. Not many people are that honest."

Julio stared at the boot he had propped on one knee. "Well, as long as I’m being honest, I don’t really think I need to be here."



"Shatterstar was worried about your nightmares." The room trembled.

"I’m fine. I can handle bad dreams. They’re just dreams."

"Dreams are our subconscious’ way of dealing with events that happen during the day. Sometimes, it’s a way to deal with trauma that we haven’t dealt with yet."

Julio glared at him. "I’m fine. I got rid of them before."


Julio narrowed his eyes. "I stopped thinking about it."

"Why’d you start again?" They hadn’t actually discussed what ‘it’ was, but they’d get to that. Hopefully. Someday.

Julio chewed on a nail and shrugged. "’Star started that whole touching thing and, y’know…"

"I don’t, actually. You haven’t told me."

That earned him a world-class glare.

"It reminded me of other less friendly touching," Julio said, biting off each word.

Lorenz nodded. "Must have pissed you off."

Julio jumped and stared at him. "What?"

"Well, I mean, you finally get some equilibrium, and then this guy comes along and screws it up. Brings back bad memories."

Julio turned red. "He didn’t do it on purpose."

"That’s not the point. Emotions don’t respond to logic. So, it probably pissed you off."

Julio gave him an unwilling smile. He bit into a nail. "Yeah," he said around his hand. "Kinda."

"It’d piss me off," Lorenz said.

Julio looked at him again.

"Maybe worse ‘cause he doesn’t even know he’s doing it, so then you’re angry and feeling guilty about being angry."

Julio’d stopped biting his nail. Thank god. It drove Lorenz nuts. Now, the young man was just staring at him. Like he’d suddenly started speaking French.

"Any of that sound familiar?"

Julio nodded, slowly.

"And he doesn’t know what happened--"

"He knows," Julio said, biting again. "I had to tell him."

The room shook. Lorenz grabbed for his lamp.

Julio’s skin darkened again. "Lo siento," he muttered. "Doesn’t normally do that."

Lorenz set his lamp back up, and ignored it. "Why does it upset you that you had to tell Shatterstar?"

"Not telling him. I’d’a told him. He just--" Suddenly, his nails were very interesting.

"He just what?" Lorenz prompted.

Julio shrugged.

"You didn’t want to tell him?"

"Not right then. Guy doesn’t know how to back off, sometimes," Julio muttered. "They don’t teach ‘back off’ in fight-or-die school, y’know?"

"I can imagine."

Julio went back to being quiet.

"So he pushed you into telling him before you were ready?"

"He jumped me. And not in a good way, y’know? Like, he was frustrated because I--well, we disagreed, and he fucking just bullies me around. Fucking asshole." Julio looked horrified for a moment. "I didn’t really mean that. He’s not an asshole. He just doesn’t know--"

"It’s okay to be angry," Lorenz said quietly.

Julio looked away. "Shake the fucking place apart," he muttered.


Julio just glared at him before examining his nails again.

"Julio, what do you do when you’re angry? I understand you’re a fairly powerful mutant. Can you let that anger out without--" he stopped, unsure how to put it delicately.

"Not through my powers, no," Julio said. "I’d end up destroying a city." Into his hand, he muttered, "Again."

Lorenz tried to pretend like he hadn't heard that. "You ever throw things?"

Julio stared at him, bemused. "Not since I was a kid."


"You’re kidding."

"Ice cubes work pretty well. Nice and hard, so they go a pretty good way, but they're just water, so they melt."

"You’re serious."

"You could hit something, if you’d rather. Get a punching bag."

Julio snorted. "Just makes me more pissed off."

"So you have more anger your body needs to get rid of. That’s okay. Do it until you can’t anymore."

Julio looked at him thoughtfully. Then, finally, "I think my time’s probably up. I should go."

"Sure," Lorenz said, standing. "Good talking to you again."

Julio eyed him suspiciously and slipped out the door.


Tabitha wrapped her arms around herself, picking her way carefully through the desert. She stopped beside Rictor and watched, silent. Finally, she couldn't stand it anymore.

"Ric? What are you doing?"

"Throwing ice cubes," Rictor grunted, whipping another one out over the dirt.

"Any reason?"

"Feels good." Another shot out, swallowed up by the darkness. "You should try it."

Tabitha just eyed him. "You okay?"

"Asi asi. Just couldn't sleep."

Tabitha nodded slowly. "Well, if you need to talk…"

"Doin' plenty a' that," he muttered.

Tabitha eyed him, then turned and picked her way carefully back to the compound.


The door banged open, yanking Lorenz' head up. Shatterstar stormed in. Behind him, the door slammed closed again. "I do not like it," he snarled.

Lorenz stared at him blankly, attention torn from his notes. "I’m sorry?"

"I do not like that I killed those people. But I did like it when everyone loved me. And it makes me angry, all of it, only I do not know why--" hands gripped the back of the chair, and in the next moment he shoved it, hard, to one side. It slid several feet before toppling.

Lorenz watched, eyebrows raised, one hand under the desk and on the button that would call for help.

Shatterstar planted a fist on his desk, the other pointing at him. "You confuse me more. I do not understand this. I do not want to do this talking anymore."

"All right," Lorenz said calmly, doing his best to pretend like this furious young man wasn't frightening him. His heart was pounding.

Shatterstar stood. He started to stalk away, then whipped back around. "I do not know why I am so angry! I do not even know who I am angry at!" His eyes were very silver. The barrel of a rifle. The glitter of a lost button.

"Maybe you’re angry because you didn’t want to kill those people?"

"I didn’t care! I didn’t know them! And I was good at it!" He was shaking.

Just a kid, Lorenz thought. "Maybe you should sit down."

"I am not going to sit down! Why did you do this to me?" Shatterstar whipped toward the door, stopped, dragged both hands through his hair. He was breathing hard.

The door opened, and Julio nearly burst through. "'Star--" he stopped. His eyes widened when he saw the chair. He looked at Lorenz, assessing. Lorenz just sat very still. "’Star, hey, s’okay," Julio said slowly, closing the door behind him. "You okay? Hey. You." He ducked and cocked his head, looking up into Shatterstar’s face.

Shatterstar’s hands came down. "I think he did something to me."

Julio looked at Lorenz.

Lorenz shook his head.

Shatterstar was looking at him now, too. "Maybe he is a mutant." He started forward.

Julio stepped between them. "Hey, relax. He’s not a mutant." He turned and looked at Lorenz. "What did you say?"

"I asked him how killing made him feel," Lorenz said quietly. Obviously, he’d hit a nerve.

Julio looked back at Shatterstar. "And that made you angry?"

Shatterstar’s hands were fists at his sides. He was still glaring at Lorenz. "No. Yes. I don’t know why I’m angry. I don’t know why--" His eyes closed suddenly, his head dropped, the tension vanishing. "I don’t understand. I feel like something is breaking. Julio--do you know why I’m angry?"

Julio shook his head. "No. But I think you should sit down."

"I don’t want to--"

"Hey. Sit." He turned to look at Lorenz, pushing Shatterstar over to the couch. "Could we have a minute?"

Lorenz nodded and stood. "I’ll be just outside. Call me when you’re ready." He got to the door, through it, started to close it before glancing inside one more time.

Julio was sitting on the little couch, Shatterstar’s big body folded up as tight as it could, his head on Julio’s lap. Julio was talking softly, and stroking very red hair.

Lorenz took a deep breath and closed the door.

Shatterstar was one man he did not want angry with him.


After a long time, Lorenz went back into his office. Shatterstar was still laying on the couch, his head in Julio’s lap. He shot a half-angry look at Lorenz, then settled again.

"I don’t think Shatterstar’s going to use his part of our little sessions," Julio said dryly, one hand smoothing over red hair. "Oh, and here." He squirmed, pulled a note out of his back pocket, and handed it over.

Lorenz got close enough to take it, then backed away to sit in the chair his clients normally used. He opened the note and fished his glasses out of his pocket.

"Dear Dr. Lorenz," it said. "I don't know what you said to Shatterstar, nor do I plan on asking. However, if, in the future, it might involve him drinking an entire pot of coffee (or anything else highly sugared or caffeinated) please try not to.

Sincerely, Sam Guthrie."

Lorenz folded the note and put it in his pocket along with his glasses. "You drank a pot of coffee?" he asked.

"I’m not speaking to you. You confuse me," Shatterstar mumbled.

"I promise not to confuse you. I was just wondering, why did you drink a pot of coffee?"

Julio looked pained.

"I researched, and people with ADHD do not react to caffeine like those without. So I drank a pot of coffee to self-test."

"I wondered why you did that," Julio said quietly. "Don’t do it again, okay?"

Shatterstar twisted to look solemnly up at Julio. "I won’t. I am not ADHD."

Lorenz cringed. Shatterstar was always moving at the best of times. He couldn’t imagine the man with that much caffeine… no. He could imagine it. It was painful. "I'm sorry I confused you, Shatterstar," he said.

"I am not speaking with you. Do not try to lure me out of my resolve."

"That's fine. You don't have to speak with me. But it might help. We could figure out why you're angry."

"I am angry," Shatterstar snapped, "because I was a slave. That is what I have decided. I was a slave, and I freed myself, and I am angry because you reminded me. That is all. Do not try to confuse me again. Talk to Julio now."

Julio looked amused.

"Shatterstar, it's not healthy to just bottle this back up--"

Shatterstar sat up. And stared at him.

"You're not gonna win this one, hombre," Julio chuckled. "There ain't no one as stubborn as 'Star. Right?"

Shatterstar nodded.

"All right," Lorenz said, settling more comfortably in his chair. "Then we'll talk about you, Julio."

The smile vanished.

"You feel up to explaining what the Right was?"

Julio crossed his arms over his chest and slouched back against Shatterstar. "No."

"We could talk about your sex life."

"I like that," Shatterstar said.

"Thought you weren't talking," Julio muttered.

"I will talk about our sex life. It isn't confusing."

Julio looked remarkably long-suffering.

"You enjoy your sex life?" Lorenz asked Shatterstar.

"Yes. A great deal."

"That's good. Healthy. What about you?" Lorenz asked.

Julio glared at him. "I'm not talking about my sex life."

"Julio mostly likes it, too."

"Mostly?" Lorenz asked, looking at Shatterstar. Julio was slowly turning red.

"Not the gay-sex parts."

"Isn't all of it gay-sex?" Lorenz asked. "I mean, two men having sex would be--"

"I'm not gay," Julio said loudly.

It didn't seem to bother Shatterstar.

Lorenz looked at Julio. "You're not? Why not?"

Julio opened his mouth. Then he closed it again. "What do you mean, why not?"

"I mean, why aren't you gay?"

He shifted. "I dunno. Why aren't you gay?"

"Because I happen to find women sexually attractive. Your turn."

Julio stared at him. "Because--well--it's wrong to be gay. Men aren't gay." He flinched. "I mean, real m--it's just--stop confusing me, okay?"

"I told you he is confusing," Shatterstar murmured.

Lorenz hid his smile. "I see. So it's wrong to be gay because it makes you confused?"

"No! It's wrong to be gay because it just is!"

Shatterstar shrugged, every line of his body screaming, "Doesn't make sense to me, either."

Lorenz averted his eyes before he laughed. "Julio, I'd like you to do something for me. Go home. Sit down. Think of five reasons why it's bad to be gay. Think of five rebuttals. Think of five reasons it's preferable to be gay. And five rebuttals. Then do the same thing for being straight."

Julio was watching him suspiciously. "That'll take forever."

"Well, you've got a week. I think you'll manage it."


"How come I still have to go if Shatterstar's not going to get counseling about being a slave?" Rictor asked, storming into Sam's room.

Sam looked up. "Mom?" he said into the phone. "Ah gotta go. Somethin's come up. Give everyone kisses for me? Thanks." He hung up. "What's wrong?"

"Shatterstar won't talk to Lorenz but I still have to? That's not fair. That wasn't the deal."

Shatterstar was hovering in the doorway behind Sam. "I talked about our sex life," he said. "And Rictor did not talk about the Right or being tortured, anyway. He only talked about our sex life, too. And not being gay."

Sam wondered if Scott ever had to deal with things like this. "It seems to me that Shatty is talkin'."

"Not about being a slave! I mean, you want me to talk about the Right, he should have to talk about being a slave!"

Sam tried not to sigh. "Ric, Shatterstar's days as a slave didn't leave him with nightmares and touching issues."

"It is because I was bred for it," Shatterstar said.

Rictor turned and glared at him. Then he turned back to Sam. "I do not have touching issues."

Sam just stared at him.

"All right, but nothing that matters."

Sam just stared at him.

"It doesn't! It's not like people are going around wanting to grope my ass!"

Sam looked pointedly at Shatterstar, then went back to staring at Rictor.

Rictor turned quietly red. "I hate all of you." He turned and shoved past Shatterstar.


"When was the last time you saw your family?" Lorenz asked.

Julio glanced at Shatterstar. Lorenz did, too. The man set aside another radio part, and peered into the guts of the machine. "I dunno," Julio said. "Maybe--a few years?"

Shatterstar looked up. "Did you see them when you left the school?"

"Naw, man. I wandered. Headed up to Toronto for a while."

"So it would be many years since you saw them."

Julio gnawed on a fingernail. "Mm. Four years, I guess. Since--y'know."

"Since what?" Lorenz asked.

"The Right took him," Shatterstar said absently.

"You didn't go home after that?" Lorenz asked.

Julio shrugged.

"Why not?"

Julio shrugged again.

Shatterstar had stopped examining the radio and was watching them. "You talked to them?"

"Yeah, sure, I talk to them sometimes. Just didn't go home."

"Why not?" Shatterstar asked.

"I dunno."

"You must know. There must be a reason. Why didn't you go home?"

Julio looked annoyed. "Shatterstar."

"Did you--"

"Shatterstar," Lorenz interrupted. "Why do you need to know?"

The young man stared at him.

"Why is it so important that he tell you, if he isn't ready?"

Shatterstar kept staring at him.

"People don't always want to share things."

Shatterstar's eyes narrowed. "This is another of those human things, isn't it?"

"Yeah," Julio sighed. "It is."

Shatterstar turned to look at him. "Do you not want me to know?" he asked quietly.

Julio flinched. "No. It's just--I don't think it matters."

"But it does. Everything matters."

Julio shifted uncomfortably. "I was just--I dunno. Embarrassed."

"About what?" Shatterstar asked.

"I dunno. What'd happened."

"At Xavier's?"

"No. With--everything."

"What 'everything'?" Lorenz murmured.

"I dunno. The Right, I guess."

Shatterstar frowned down at his wires and knobs.

"You were embarrassed about that?" Lorenz asked.

Julio was chewing on a nail.

"About being caught? Or hurt? Or--"

"Being unable to fight back," Shatterstar said quietly.

Lorenz looked at him. His face was stony.

"Being forced to do something you believe is wrong. Being unable to fight back," Shatterstar murmured again. He didn't look up at them.

Julio nodded slowly, still staring at Shatterstar.

Lorenz looked at Julio. "You were a child." He turned to Shatterstar. "And you were a slave. Neither of you had any choice. You did what you had to survive."

"I know," Julio muttered around a finger.

Lorenz watched him. "Logically," he said. "You know that logically."

Julio smiled ruefully, but said nothing.


"What are you watchin'?" Sam asked, standing just inside the den.

Shatterstar's gaze stayed riveted on the television. "Learning about homosexuality. Did you know there was a military unit called the Theban Sacred Band? It was composed entirely of gay couples. The theory was that a man would be much braver if his partner was there to see."

Sam nodded. "Huh. Interesting. You told Ric that?"

"Not yet," Shatterstar said. 'But I will' didn't need to be voiced.


"So the only reasons you can think of that being gay might really be bad is because people are prejudiced against homosexuals, and your family wouldn't approve."

Julio frowned. "I guess."


Julio looked at him. "Okay? That's it?"

Lorenz shrugged. "That's it. It's up to you to decide if you'd rather live your life easier, but lying, or live it a bit harder, but truthfully."

Julio's eyes narrowed. "You think I'm gay."

Lorenz nodded.

Julio opened his mouth--to deny it, Lorenz suspected--then closed it again. "I'm not comfortable with that."

"That I think you're gay, or that you might be gay?" Lorenz asked.


Lorenz smiled slightly. "Well, as for what I think--you can't control that. People who want to dislike you will, no matter what your nationality, sexuality, or religion. You can't ever control it. As for whether you might be gay--you're comfortable sleeping with Shatterstar. How did that happen?"

Julio glanced at Shatterstar, who smiled slightly. "It's complicated," Julio said.

"We could go back to it," Shatterstar suggested slowly.

Julio just eyed him. "It's complicated," he repeated. Then he looked up, horrified. "What if I'm not gay, but I think I am because of--what happened?"

Lorenz tried not to cringe. "That's not possible. Sexuality is hard-wired into your body. Like the color of your hair, or whether or not you're a mutant."

Julio looked uncertain.

"It's true," Lorenz said. "It's all chemicals."

Julio crossed his arms and thought.


"I don't want to be gay."

Shatterstar had left. Lorenz suspected he was doing laps around the building.

"Why not?" Lorenz asked.

Julio shifted. "It's harder."

"So's being a mutant," Lorenz pointed out.

"Yeah, but I don't have any choice over--" Julio stopped, looked at him, and smiled slightly. "Nevermind."

"Why don't you want to be gay?" Lorenz asked.

Julio shrugged. "It makes what happened--okay. You know?"

"Julio, what happened?" Lorenz asked quietly.

The boy wouldn’t meet his eyes. "Not much. As big a deal as 'Star makes it, you'd think I was taken by aliens and anally probed or something. But--wasn't." He stared hard at his bobbing foot.

"So what did happen?"

He shrugged. "This man--this doctor--got a little fresh."

"A little fresh sounds like he winked at you."

Julio shrugged. "More than a little fresh." He uncrossed his legs, propping them up on the desk, knees bent, shielding himself. "I dunno. He touched me."

"How old were you?"

Another shrug. He bit a nail. "Fifteen."

"Where did he touch you?"

Julio moved suddenly, twisting in his chair and looking around the office. "Lots of places. Arms, chest, shoulders. Face. Ass." He rubbed the side of his hand along the line of his nose, still refusing to look at Lorenz.

"He molested you."

"Nah. Just touching. Touching can't hurt."

"Who told you that?"

"Other guy. One of the guys that was keeping me prisoner."

"Julio," Lorenz said, leaning forward, "you were molested. That's what that is."

Julio shrugged and shuddered all at once. "He maybe raped me. I mean, I was drugged. Maybe not. This guy, this skinny guy who used to feed me, his sister was sick. This doctor said he'd help her if the skinny guy drugged me and left us alone, so… So his sister got better, I guess. Didn't die. That was good. And probably I wasn't raped."

"But maybe you were," Lorenz said.

Julio rubbed his face again. "Yeah. Maybe. I guess."

"It's okay to be upset."

Julio gave a dry laugh and looked around. "Fuck. Get upset and tear a city apart, man."

The door opened, and Shatterstar padded quietly in. He looked at Julio, frowned, and knelt beside the man's chair.

"So go into the desert. Make another Grand Canyon. Tourism'll love it."

Julio barked a laugh and looked at him. "You're serious."

Lorenz just waited.

Shatterstar wrapped his fingers through Julio's, resting his chin on their linked hands and watching the other man intently. Julio didn't seem to notice.

"What happened did not make you gay. It was not all right. It's okay to grieve, even if you're not sure you were raped."

Another face rub. "Shatterstar wanted--" he looked at Shatterstar suddenly, locking gazes. He didn't look away. "What if I can't? Ever? If I'm always just scared? It hurt--"

"That's all right. I don't want you to hurt," Shatterstar said softly.

"What hurt?" Lorenz asked.

Julio closed his eyes. "That doctor and his fucking finger…" He swallowed. "I remember that."

"There's a huge difference between molestation and healthy sex," Lorenz said. "You'd be surprised what hurts during one and not the other. Might be surprised at what you can do with someone you trust. None of that means you ever have to try, but trusting your partner and knowing you would never purposefully hurt each other helps. Knowing you can stop."

Julio smiled slightly. "I know he'll stop."

Shatterstar was still watching him. The redhead murmured something in a guttural language Lorenz didn't recognize, and rubbed his face on their hands.

Julio watched silently, thinking. "How long?" he asked.

"I'm sorry?"

"How long before it stops upsetting me? Before I quit freaking out over it?"

Lorenz shook his head. "Varies from person to person."

Julio gave him a baleful glare. "Fuck."


Sam found Shatterstar in the den, lit by a computer screen. "Shatty? What are you doing up?"

Shatterstar didn't spare him a glance. "Julio couldn't sleep tonight. It is a bad night. Dr. Lorenz said he would have those, that it is normal 'while his subconscious starts to deal with the things that happened.'"

Sam nodded slowly. "But why are you down here?"

Shatterstar looked up. "I did not know that inappropriate touching could hurt a person so much. He hurts more than I can help him with."

Sam sighed and pulled up a chair, sitting down. "Shatty… when someone hurts like that, all you can do is hang on to 'em until they feel better."

Shatterstar nodded slowly. "Yes. That is what Dr. Lorenz said, too."

"All right." Sam hesitated. "Are you okay?"

Shatterstar frowned and glanced back at the computer. "I am fine."


"Where's Shatterstar?"

Julio frowned and shrugged. He no longer looked comfortable in his own skin. Lorenz knew that would pass. "He and Dom went on a road trip. Left yesterday. Wouldn't tell me where they were going."

"And how have you been?"

Julio eyed him. "Bad dreams."

"That's to be expected."

"Weird emotional swings."

"Also to be expected."

Julio bit the inside of his lip. "Huh."

"How are things with Shatterstar?"

Julio thought about that. "He treats me differently."

"Does it bother you?"

He was silent for a long time. "I suppose not. More like…he's just watchful, now."

"Shatterstar's an interesting person."

Julio grinned, as if he'd heard the note of dubiousness in Lorenz' voice. "He really doesn't get people. He is, actually, an alien."

Lorenz just looked at Julio blandly. "Of course he is."

"He really doesn't get our customs."

"That I believe."

Julio grinned. "I think it's why I like him."


Shatterstar sat, patiently. He could hear Domino talking in Spanish with the receptionist in the other room, but ignored it.

"All right then, Juan," the doctor said, striding in. He stopped. "You're not Juan."

"No," Shatterstar said, nearly fluent in Spanish himself, now. "I'm not. Do you remember this boy?" He held out a photo without standing up.

The doctor looked at it briefly, then handed it back. "No, I'm--"

"Imagine him," Shatterstar growled, "shaking the room you're in, terrified while you touch him. Imagine him screaming and begging you to stop."

The doctor paled.

"I see you remember."

"It wasn't like that," he said. "He was a mutant--"

"As am I." Shatterstar bent, gripping the handle of the sword he'd left under his chair. The tip rang loudly across the tile as he stood.

"He--he begged me for it! He was fifteen! That's old enough to know--"

Shatterstar snarled and lunged, pinning the man against the wall, blade to his throat. "How many other boys have you hurt? How many other men have nightmares still because of something you did?"

Wisely, the doctor remained silent.

"You hid. When X-Factor took the other Right members to jail, you were able to hide. No more. You will hurt no one else."


"Where did they go, anyway?" Rictor asked, flipping channels on the television.

Sam tried not to notice. Lord help him, the man was picking up Shatterstar's habits. "Dunno. Dom didn't say."

"What if I am--y'know. That."

Sam looked up from his book. "Ah got no idea what you're talkin' about."

"Gay." The word was practically mouthed.

"Oh. Well, then Ah guess ya'll're gay."

Rictor grunted and glared at the television.


"How did your trip go?" Lorenz asked, watching Shatterstar pace his office.


"You find what you were looking for?"

He glanced over, at Julio, then away. "Yes."

"What were you looking for?"

Shatterstar was quiet for a long moment. "I think I have decided about the killing," he announced.

Lorenz sat back. He'd learned that when Shatterstar changed topics, it was easier just to go with it. "Oh?"

"Sometimes, killing makes me happy."

Lorenz's eyebrows rose. "Really?"

"Yes. Some people deserve to die."

"Do you feel that way because of what's happened here?" Lorenz asked quietly.

Julio shifted, obviously uncomfortable.

Shatterstar nodded. "Yes. I do." He looked at Julio. "I apologize if that makes you feel awkward."

"Hey, man, some people do deserve to die," Julio muttered. "Several times, if possible."

"Shatterstar," Lorenz said slowly, "you understand that it's wrong to kill, don't you?"

"I understand that people in this world believe it is wrong, yes. Unless you are authorized. Like an executioner. Or it is in self-defense."

Lorenz hesitated. Then he nodded. "Right. Just checking."

"Does this mean we get to spend a session talking about his weird freakiness, rather than my weird freakiness?" Julio asked.

Shatterstar smiled and sat down. "We could talk about our sex life. I enjoy that."

"Madre de Dios."


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