Some notes. :) this is for Tange, who has the really cool Rictor and Shatterstar archive even though the archive hasn't been updated in like, 4 years, and she probably won't even see this. Le sigh.

Ha! I wrote a story with a sex scene. Er. Sorta. Only not really sex. But graphic. You probably shouldn't read it if you're under 18.(Yeah. Right. Like I ever followed that rule...)

For the uninitiated: slash refers to a story with strong same-sex themes. In this case, it IS the story. If that squicks you... dude. What are you doing on my page?? It’s half of what I write!

Also, if you do the math in the X-books it's possible that Ric and Shatty are, respectively, roughly 16 and 21. (Going on 30, from the way they were drawn in X-Force.) Since Marvel is so often on crack, I’m putting them at 18 and 23.

Also, it's been a long time since I read X-Force (never read New Mutants) and my books are in Cali. I'm sure there will be many discrepancies. So. I’m putting them in Arizona, because I seem to remember they were there once, and the team is: Rictor, Shatterstar, Cannonball as usually-leader, Tabitha, Siryn, Warpath, Dom, Cable, Roberto. Also, this would be before Rictor left and all that.

Oh, and Ric and Shatty? Probably one of my favorite pairings. Mostly because the guy who was writing X-Force at the time said in an interview that, as far as he was concerned, they were a couple. Marvel just wouldn't let him make it obvious. This makes me happy.

Okay. That's all. This story makes me giggle.

Touching 1/1

Tuesday afternoon…

"He took advantage of me," Rictor nearly snarled, enunciating each word with a finger jabbed in Shatterstar's direction.

Domino rubbed the bridge of her nose and looked up at Shatterstar expectantly.

"I did not."

If not for the way his hand kept closing, as if he were looking for a sword that wasn't there, she would have said he was calm.

No one could say any such thing about Rictor.

"He did! And this isn't something the whole team needs to know about!" Rictor shouted, glaring at Domino.

"Good thing I'm not the whole team," Domino said dryly.

And all this just from an overheard conversation. She really needed to start letting the kids work things out for themselves.

Tuesday afternoon, five minutes earlier…

"You took advantage of me!" The voice was nearly a squeak, but the accent identified it: Rictor. Domino stopped dead in the hallway. Just to check. Just to make certain no one was in any real trouble.

"No," came Shatterstar's calm, and slightly confused, voice. "I didn't. I asked you three times if you wanted me to stop. The first time you said, 'Mm. No.' The second time you said 'Madre de Dios, 'Star, don't stop,' and the third time--"

"It doesn't matter what I said! It's still taking advantage!" Rictor sounded almost… panicked. Domino cringed and started toward the doorway of the men's shower room. "I was drunk!"

"Which lowers inhibitions, I know, but doesn't usually make someone do something they are really against." Shatterstar sounded utterly reasonable.

"I am really against it!"

"The responses from your body would indicate otherwi--"

Domino poked her head around the corner. "Hi."

"Madre de Dios, Dom. You scared the shit out of me." Rictor's face was pale.

"Yeah. Well. Couldn't help overhearing your conversation…"

"Madre de Dios." He sounded miserable.

"Yeah," Domino said dryly. "In my office. You've got ten minutes to get dressed before I come find you." Then she turned and left.

Tuesday afternoon, nine and a half minutes after that…

"He got me drunk--"

"I did not force you to drink."

"And that's the only reason anything happened."

Domino wanted to cringe. Rictor looked like he was on the verge of a full-blown panic. All right. One thing at a time. "How old are you, Ric?"

He hesitated. "Nineteen."

"Uh huh. And why were you drinking?"

He rolled his eyes and collapsed into a chair, the fight and panic both giving way to teenaged martyrdom. Just like Domino had hoped. "It's not like I haven't drunk before," he pointed out. "At home--"

"You're not home. I expect to have your fake ID in my hand about five minutes after you leave this room."

He cringed.

"Were you drinking?" she asked Shatterstar.

He drew himself up stiffly. "Drinking slows the reflexes and dulls the mind. I do not drink."

Of course not.

"All right. So, Ric got drunk and you didn't. Then what happened?"

"He - took - advantage," Rictor ground out. "That's all it was."

"I didn't take advantage."

Good lord. This might take all afternoon.

Monday night (the night before, that is)…

Rictor stumbled into Shatterstar. Shatterstar grabbed his upper arm and hauled him straight again. Good old Shatterstar. He knew how to navi--nav-a-ga--n--how to walk across a sidewalk that was lurching.

"That was fun, huh?" Rictor slurred.

"There were many women."

Rictor stumbled again, but it was okay. Shatterstar caught him. A strong arm wrapped around his back, under both shoulders, and lifted slightly. Rictor felt the sidewalk slide, then his whole body was tucked up beside Shatterstar's. He liked it when 'Star half-carried him home. Made life so much easier.

"Does it?"

Rictor blinked. He'd spoken out loud. Damn. "Better than walking," he pointed out. The world spun as his head dropped, then came back up. "I love clubbing."


Why. Now that was a good question. "I like dancing," he said, slowly. The women were nice, although that wasn't the biggest draw. He liked seeing 'Star in something other than combat gear. Yes. That was a safe enough thought. He looked down again. Then back up at Shatterstar. "I like your pants."

Shatterstar glanced down at him, a curious expression on his face. "You may have them, if you like. They're too tight."

Rictor flopped his head back, arching his spine to check out the back of Shatterstar's pants. They were tight. "They're supposed to be tight," he said, letting Shatterstar keep him from falling backwards as well as move him forwards. "They're supposed to frame your ass and make it look even better." With difficulty, he pulled his head back up.

"Is it working?" Shatterstar asked after a moment.

Rictor flopped backward again. "Oh, yeah." That was an okay thing to say. Since 'Star had asked.

"Can you stand up?" Shatterstar asked. The warm support of his arm was sliding away.

Rictor frowned and flopped against a wall. "I guess." If he had to.

Shatterstar unlocked the door, keying in a seven digit code that Rictor had to write down to remember, but 'Star always just knew. The door swung open, and that warm arm was back. Rictor leaned against the other man and staggered inside.

Stairs. Stairs were mighty tricky when it was a moving stairway. Like it was now. Red hair fell in his face as he frowned down at the stairs, trying to aim his feet.

He stopped aiming his feet to play with the hair, instead.

It worked out. Shatterstar got him to the top. He knew Shatterstar would. He was good like that.

"Pretty hair," he sighed, fanning it out between his fingers. It was tangled, now, and slowly Rictor started to work the knots out while Shatterstar tugged him down the hall.

"Thank you," Shatterstar said solemnly. "I should have cut it in the pens. It was a risk. But my fans liked it."

"I like it, too," Rictor murmured. "Feels nice." The lock brushed out, he swept it across his nose and along his cheek. "Soft." Muscles flexed against him, and the door to his bedroom opened. He felt Shatterstar shift, moving him until they stood face to face, and then a wall at his back.

"If I leave you here," came Shatterstar's voice from behind the red hair Rictor still held, "can you make it to your bed?"

Rictor peered around the hair half-tangled in his fingers, around the body in front of him, felt himself sliding, felt strong hands grab his shoulders and keep him from falling, and saw the bed. "I can do that," he said after a minute.

Shatterstar put him upright again. One hand let go, taking the red hair and pulling it slowly from Rictor's fingers.

Rictor sighed and released it. "It's nice hair," he said again.

"Thank you," Shatterstar repeated.

"And it's a nice shirt," Rictor continued. Black. Black made Shatterstar look even paler than he really was. His skin seemed almost translucent, and his hair fiery red. "Very nice shirt," Rictor repeated softly. It was a soft shirt. That was the only reason he reached out to pat it. Smooth it down over hard muscles.

"Can you get your shoes off?" Shatterstar asked.

Rictor looked down. His feet seemed very far away. "I don't think so." He was still petting 'Star's shirt (not his chest, of course, but just the shirt). Star didn't seem to mind. Rictor was only doing it because the material was soft. That was all. Since 'Star didn't mind, he must be thinking the same thing. It was totally platonic, and therefore all right.

Shatterstar sighed.

"Your breath always smells like mint," Rictor said, leaning his head back against the wall. His skin was buzzing, overly sensitive, and his nerves thrumming. This was why he liked to drink. Not all the time, of course. But sometimes. Sometimes it was good.

"I have mint toothpaste," Shatterstar said.

"Oh." That made sense. Then, suddenly, the bulk of Shatterstar was gone. Rictor frowned and looked down. Shatterstar was untying his boots.

"Can you pick one foot up?" he asked from the floor.

Rictor blinked dumbly. Shatterstar was kneeling in front of him. Kneeling. On his knees. Well, not quite, it was really more of a crouch. But his head was at just that level. That was okay, though, because Shatterstar was just removing his shoes. That was safe.


He swallowed, put a hand on the other man's shoulder for balance (not noticing the play and shift of muscles under that silky material, of course) and lifted his foot. A warm hand was on his calf, gripping the muscle. Then his boot was off, and the other hand was on the arch of his foot, guiding it back to the floor. Fingers slipped up to his knee, steadying him, then pulled softly away.

Rictor closed his eyes as the process was repeated with his other foot. This was just too much. Much too much.


Crap. Talking out loud again. He sighed. "Nothing."

"Can you get the rest of your clothes off?" Shatterstar asked. He was standing again. That was safer. Standing was good.

Rictor eyed the rows upon rows of buttons. There had been only one row when he put the shirt on, he was certain of that…

Shatterstar sighed. "Nevermind." His hands rose, big fingers very careful as he started slipping buttons out of holes. Rictor watched his skin appear, dark next to Shatterstar's pale hands. He could feel his body heating. His heart was pounding in his ribcage. Too much. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall.

It steadied him a bit, helped the world to stop swirling quite so much. He shivered when skin touched his stomach. There was a tug, and his shirt was pulled out of his jeans. Less sensation, then, just the whisper of cloth where it hung, loose, moved by 'Star's fingers still unbuttoning.

There was a pause. Rictor thought, maybe, he should open his eyes. But it was much easier to just stay there, warmed by the body he could sense nearby still. He heard Shatterstar shift, then felt a warm hand press flat against his chest.

"Are you all right?" Shatterstar's voice was soft, very close.

Rictor 'hmm'ed.

"Your heart rate is very fast."

A lazy smile found its way to Rictor's face. "I know. It's okay. Just part of being drunk." Surely that's all it was. He shifted, took a deep breath, felt his skin rub against 'Star's hand. Heat curled through his body. That was just part of being drunk, too. Any sort of sensation was good. That was all. Drunk.

'Star's hand moved, making the same rubbing motion Rictor had produced a moment before. "Like that?"

Rictor 'mm'ed, a sound in the back of his throat that almost didn't make it past his lips. He trusted 'Star to hear it anyway.

The hand drifted slightly, moving a few inches down before going a few inches up. Rictor felt tension drain out of him. That was it. Just a massage. To get rid of tension. He flexed his toes in the plush carpet and moved again, so that 'Star's hand went just a little bit farther.

Because he had tension in his stomach, too. Of course.

"You like that?" Shatterstar asked softly, with none of the seduction the words could have carried. Curiosity, mostly. A little bit of… hope? Nah. That was silly. And since it wasn't seductive, they were doing nothing wrong. Nothing not-platonic.

"Yeah," Rictor sighed.

Shatterstar's hand kept moving. Up the central line of his torso, just the backs of the man's fingers now, tickling what little chest hair Rictor had, to the pulse in his throat. Rictor shifted and tilted his head back farther, ignoring the (very tiny) voice in the back of his head that told him not to leave himself vulnerable. Shatty was his friend. It was all good.

Then fingers drifted back down the central line of his torso, clear down to his belly button. They paused there, circled, and started the slow climb back up.

"Like that?" Still no seduction, though the words were barely above a whisper.

"Yeah," Rictor said again, shifting as fire burned into his stomach, spreading lazily downward.

The hand came up, slid around the back of his neck. He felt Shatterstar come closer, could feel the heat from the man's breath against the pulse in his throat.

"I have seen this on television," Shatterstar murmured, uncertainty entering his voice, "But I have not actually--"

Rictor frowned, eyes still closed. That didn't sound platonic. "Shhh," he said, before Shatterstar could go any farther and make him realize something he didn't want to know.

'Star paused. "Should I stop?"

He felt silky hair drift across his chest, over a nipple, sliding down his ribs. "Mmm," he managed, shifting again to feel the hair slide over his skin once more. "No."

Shatterstar shifted closer. Rictor felt a leg between his, lips hesitant on his neck. He moved, not-writhing, certainly not rubbing his hips against the thigh right there.

Shatterstar's free hand started that slow trek up and down his chest again. Rictor squirmed, felt Shatterstar's leg against his, moved again. He clenched his eyes, trying unsuccessfully to slow his breathing, felt 'Star's hand hesitate at the waistband of his jeans. Then a tug, and his jeans were suddenly loose.

He heard his own breath hiss through his teeth as 'Star's hand slid lower, under boxers. Fingers touched him, and he nearly bucked, losing it right then and there. He grabbed his lower lip with his teeth, some inner voice telling him he needed to be quiet. Not that they were doing anything wrong. Just a little bit of pleasure. That's all it was. Really.

Shatterstar paused. "Should I stop?"

"Madre de Dios, 'Star," Rictor almost-but-didn't-because-it-wasn't-manly whimpered. "no."

Shatterstar's fingers started moving again, aimlessly, stroking and touching, sliding lower to rub over more sensitive skin.

"I don't know what to do." The words were so quiet, Rictor wasn't at first sure he'd heard them. They sank through the drunken haze very, very slowly. Rictor frowned.

"Julio? Tell me what to do?" The voice was almost pleading.

Rictor swallowed hard. Then again. He was going to have to actually take a part in this? A small part. As small a part as he possibly could. That was okay, he was just showing a friend what to do. He wasn't having sex with another man. Not even close. He wrapped his hand around Shatterstar's, showing him the right movement, where to touch and how hard.

He had to give Mojoworld's genetic engineers credit for one thing: they knew how to build quick learners.

He was sure his legs were going to give out. "Madre de Dios," he whimpered and, this time, even he had to admit it was a whimper. His body was tightening, his breath coming in short little gasps, and Shatterstar was all around him, holding him up against the wall. He could feel himself being studied, but somehow that was okay, too. "Oh, fuck," he muttered. His legs really were going to give out.

"Are you all right?" Shatterstar asked, concerned, his hands freezing. "Should I stop?"

"Christ, 'Star, don't stop," Rictor ground out. "Fuck, that's a good noise." The hand started to move again. Rictor's muscles started to give out.

"That's still good?" Shatterstar asked doubtfully.

Rictor barely managed a "Uh huh." His body was trembling, the world was still spinning, his skin sang with every brush and shift of 'Star's body. And those were the bits of him that weren't terribly sensitive.

"Even though you are losing control of your muscles?"

"'Star," Rictor managed to gasp, "that's a good thing."

He felt Shatterstar shift even closer, the man's free hand wrapping around his waist, steadying him. "Oh. Then hold onto me if you can't stand up."

Orders he could follow. If he was just following orders, it wasn't like he was taking part in this. Not really.

Except he was. If he did that, he had to admit to what Shatterstar was doing, and had to admit that he'd helped. Fuck. He should stop. Stop this now.

There was no way that was possible.

He wrapped both arms around Shatterstar's shoulders, digging his fingers into the soft hair, burying his face into the hollow between neck and shoulder. Easier if 'Star couldn’t see him. Because as his heart pounded and his body ached, shame swept through him at what they were doing.

His muscles trembled, awareness spiraling down to a single point in space. His arms tightened as his body did, fingers sinking into hard muscle, his head pressed against flesh. The cry he managed to bury in Shatterstar's chest as his body released, pulsing through him almost violently, leaving him trembling and breathing too hard. He felt Shatterstar freeze.

"Did I do something wrong?" The words were almost lost, but vibrated through the man's chest and into Rictor's ear.

"No," Rictor panted, holding on because he thought he might fall over if he didn't, burying his face because he couldn't bring himself to look at 'Star. Of all the stupid ways to ruin a friendship. Disgust the other person. That pretty much did it.

Maybe he could pretend it was platonic. Get through this, and ignore it. Shatterstar didn't know much about how people related. Maybe he'd just leave it alone. Like that would work. Rictor'd just fucked everything up. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

"You're leaking," Shatterstar said after a moment. Rictor felt one of the man's arms shift, the other one firmly behind Rictor's back to hold him up. He heard Shatterstar sniff. "Is this normal?"

Madre de Dios. Rictor only nodded. Too confusing to try and explore all the ways in which this situation was most certainly not normal.


He buried his face farther and didn't look up. Couldn't look up. Knew what he'd see if he did.


"I need to go to bed," he mumbled against Shatterstar's chest.

Shatterstar was silent for a long time. Then, finally, "All right."

He pulled his head far enough from Shatterstar to stagger into bed, though he kept his face down and let his hair provide shelter. Then he grabbed the comforter and yanked it over his head.

He didn't want to see the disgust he knew would be there. Platonic. It was platonic. He was drunk. Shatterstar had started it. Everything would be okay.

After a long moment of silence, he heard footsteps retreat and his door close.

Back to Tuesday afternoon…

Rictor's constant interruptions thankfully kept Domino from hearing all the details Shatterstar was willing to give. She finally separated the two of them; she was never going to hear what happened like this. Not with Rictor shouting, frantic that nothing be said, and Shatterstar as hurt as she had ever seen him.

Which didn't look like much to most people, but she liked to think she knew him at least a little bit.

Domino said down heavily in her chair, put her elbows on the arms, steepled her fingers, and waited.

Rictor didn't quite squirm. "He took advantage of me," he said at last. Then added, "Because I'm not gay."

Domino took a deep breath. "Okay. Why aren't you gay?"

Rictor bristled. "Because I'm a man."

She smiled wryly and sat back. "That's part of being gay, Ric. If you were a woman it'd be lesbian."

"I'm not gay!" Rictor yelled, pushing up and out of his chair. For an instant Domino caught a glimpse of--panic? Revulsion? Maybe both before they were hidden by anger.

"Rictor, sit down," Domino said at last. She was getting too old for this. Next time, Nate got to handle it. Rictor sat. "Whether or not you're gay--" she held up a hand to forestall his outburst, "--you're at the age where people experiment. It's normal. I'd be more concerned if you weren't." Not quite true, but close enough. "So you and Shatty slept together. If you're going to experiment, best to do it with someone you trust, right?" Domino peered closer. Was he blushing? "You trust Shatterstar. He trusts you. Maybe he did take advantage--" she doubted it, "--but it seems to me that you enjoyed it at least a little. So talk to him. He doesn't understand why you're angry."

Scowling, he nodded and pushed to his feet.

"Hang on."

He sat back down.

"If you decide this is more than just experimentation--" he opened his mouth, and she glared him into silence. "--then that's okay. There's nothing wrong with that."

He gave the floor a very dirty look.

"Either way, would you please talk to Shatterstar?"

Rictor was still giving the floor dirty looks. Domino watched him for a long moment. "What else is wrong?" she asked finally.

He glanced up, then back down. He slouched further in his chair. His hair fell forward, and he didn't bother to brush it back. "He was just using me to learn something new," Rictor muttered at last. "Like live TV. He didn't sound--like--" he trailed off. Between the angle and his hair, Domino couldn't see his face. She could guess he was mortified.

Domino looked away, trying to give him some semblance of privacy. "You can't be sure of that."

Rictor looked up at her, hair falling away. "I was there," he snapped. "It's true."

God save her from young men's injured pride. "I'll talk to him," Domino said at last.

Rictor nodded. "Can I go now?"

"Yeah. Send Shatty in?"

He nodded and walked out the door. It didn't even close fully before Shatterstar walked in, looking more uncertain than she'd ever seen him.

"I didn't mean to take advantage," he said before she could even open her mouth.

"Sit down, Shatterstar," Domino sighed. He sat. The chair was large, big enough to make Rictor seem small, and yet Shatterstar dwarfed it. A sudden image of them like that made her blink and shake her head. Too much information.

"I did not mean to take advantage," he said again, all seriousness and wounded pride and a healthy dollop of uncertainty.

"I know," Domino said. Truthfully, she couldn't imagine Shatterstar taking advantage of anyone. He simply didn't read people well enough outside a battle situation.

"And I did something wrong. Rictor said not to stop, but then he was upset, and today he is angry with me, and I don't know what I did."

Domino cringed. "Shatterstar, do you know what 'gay' means?"

Shatterstar straightened, confidence returning. "Yes. I have seen it on TV."

Domino nodded and opened her mouth, but he continued.

"It is where men talk funny and prance rather than walk, and share a bedroom with other men. Also, they like to dress people."

Domino stopped. She supposed that was a fairly accurate assessment of the gay men on television. "Do you know what homosexual is?" she tried again.

His face clouded. "I am uncertain of that. Is it not the same as gay?"

Good lord. "Yes, it is the same as gay," she said after a minute. "But not all gay men act like they do on TV."

"Ah," Shatterstar said wisely. "It is a case of television disviewing reality. Julio warned me about that."

"Distorting," Domino corrected absently. "Yeah. What gay refers to is a man who is sexually attracted to other men rather than women. Do you understand that?"

He thought about it for a long time. "I believe so," he said finally.

"Shatterstar, I want you to think carefully about this. Are you gay?"

"Yes." That was faster than she'd expected. "But I do not prance. Nor do I like to dress people."

Fair enough. "Shatterstar, some people--and these people are wrong, just like the people who think mutants are evil are wrong--think that it isn't good to be gay. They think it's something to be ashamed of."

Shatterstar frowned. "Is Julio one of those people? Is that why he is angry?"

And here was where it got sticky. "I think," she said slowly, "that maybe he was raised by some of those people. So he's very confused. I also think that, while what you did last night probably felt good when you were doing it, it also embarrassed him. So now he's angry because he was embarrassed." She didn't think she could break it down any more simply than that.

"Is Julio gay?"

That wasn't a question she really wanted to answer. "It's possible," she said at last, "but I have no way of knowing for sure."

Shatterstar looked thoughtful.

"Shatty? Rictor thinks you only did what you did last night to learn something."

He looked confused. "I learned many things. But I did it because he liked it."

More than she wanted to know. "Did you like it?"

His smile was brilliant. "I made Julio happy. That was good." Then it faded. "But I was very uncomfortable afterwards."

Domino did her best not to laugh. "Were you?"

"Yes." He shifted in his seat, as if just remembering it made his skin itch. "It felt like bloodlust, only I didn't want to kill."

She just bet it felt like bloodlust. "I'll get you some videos on what to do about that," Domino said, managing not to grin. "Do you have any other questions, Shatterstar?"

That look came over his face, the look that said whatever he was about to ask was something she didn't want to answer. "After Rictor lost the ability to stand--" she supposed that was a good sign. Obviously they'd done something right. "--he leaked a white fluid. What was that?"

How, exactly, did she get herself into these things? "The video will answer that," she said at last, hoping it would answer well enough that Shatterstar wouldn't ask her again. "Anything else?"

"How do I make Julio let me touch him?"

Oh, boy. "Go slowly," she said at last. "And talk to him about it. Shatty, he may not want you to touch him."

Shatterstar nodded. He looked like he was memorizing her every word.

"Is that all?" Please let it be all.

"Yes. I believe so. Thank you, Domino. This was very informative." He stood up, every inch the soldier, and left.

Domino sat back in her chair, feeling for the psi-link. Nate? You'll never believe the discussions I just had…

Tuesday afternoon, an hour later…

"He wasn't trying to learn from you," Domino said, leaning against the kitchen table and looking down at the seated Rictor. "He was trying to make you happy. He doesn't understand what he did wrong."

Rictor scowled at his sandwich.

"He also said he had a hard-on, and didn't know what to do with it." Domino shrugged. "Not in so many words."

Red crept up Rictor's neck.

"Maybe you should teach him how to masturbate."

"I'm not teaching him that!" Rictor yelped. "You teach him!"

"I think it needs a guy's touch," Domino said, grinning as she straightened and headed out the door.

"I am not teaching him how to masturbate!" Rictor shouted.

Sam, facing Domino, froze. His eyebrows rose slowly. Domino shrugged, utterly innocent, and kept walking.


Warpath could hear the television playing--not that that was unusual--and headed into the den. Then stopped. "What are you watching?" he yelped.

Shatterstar didn't look away from the TV. His normally intent expression had vanished, replaced with something akin to awe. "Tapes on intercourse. Domino said they would be educational."

Educational. Leave Domino to call porn educational. Jimmy looked closer. Gay porn. "Shatty," he said, closing his eyes, "this is something you should really watch in your bedroom."

"I don’t have a TV in my bedroom. Rictor said I would never come out if I had a TV in my bedroom."

Jimmy still didn't want to look. "Shatterstar. How about we put this TV in your room?"


"Trust me. It'll be better that way." He opened his eyes, walked over to the television, yanked the cord out of the wall and picked both it and the little stand holding the VCR up. "Grab the video box." He saw movement, and realized Shatterstar was gathering several video boxes. Oh, for the love of…

Jimmy carried the television upstairs, and tried not to imagine Shatterstar walking behind him, hard as a rock. Thank you, Domino.


It was Tabitha who brought him the straight porn. Theresa gave him romance novels and said if he was going to sleep with a woman, that was how they liked it. Shatterstar asked if that was how men liked it too, and Theresa said she wasn't sure. He'd have to ask a man. Shatterstar made a mental note to ask Rictor, later.

It took him a few days to go through it all. Then try some of it, though he only had himself to work with. Then go through it again. By Friday, though, Warpath dragged him out of his room and said he needed some fresh air. Rictor was heading out to repair a security outpost, so Shatterstar decided to tag along.

"Tabitha said," he chattered, "that some women like to see men with men, just like some men like to see women with women. So whenever I watch my intercourse videos that have men with men, Tabitha comes in and watches too. But she always leaves right after--"

"'Star," Rictor ground out. "I really don’t want to hear this."

Shatterstar frowned. "Oh." Domino had said to talk to Ric about touching. She hadn't told him what part of it he should talk about. "Would you like to hear what I read, instead? Theresa--"


Shatterstar was silent for several minutes, trying to decide what else to do. "You could join me sometimes," he said at last. "I have many different kinds of intercourse videos--"

"Madre de Dios."

The words carried no heat, but Shatterstar stopped talking anyway. Desert passed by them outside, wind tugging his hair and whipping his ponytail back and away. "Did I do something wrong?" he asked finally.

Rictor rubbed his face with one hand, then laid it across the car door. His other hand moved the steering wheel slightly, avoiding a cactus. "No, 'Star," he said at last. Even Shatterstar could tell he sounded tired. "You didn't do anything wrong. I just don't want to talk about sex with you."

Shatterstar frowned and slouched lower in his seat. "I thought it might be fun to try," he muttered at last.

"I don't want to try and have sex with you," Rictor said through his teeth.

"You seemed to enjoy it when--"


Even he heard the frustration there. He subsided. "I'm sorry, Julio," he said at last, quietly. "I thought it was something we both liked. I won't do it anymore."

They drove in silence. He was aware of the looks Rictor kept giving him; quick little glances he couldn't quite read.

"Won't do what anymore?" Rictor asked finally.

Ah. They'd been curiosity. He filed that away for later. "I won't ask you to have intercourse. Even though I think it would be good. I will pretend like I do not like you in that way, and just be a friend." He couldn't help adding, "Even though we would still be friends if we did like each other that other way."

"It's just not right for two men to be--intimate," Rictor said finally.

"Domino says that's like saying being mutant makes a person bad," Shatterstar pointed out without looking over.

Rictor was silent. "Domino's not always right," he said finally.

"Domino has won many battles."

"And on Mojoworld," Rictor said, "that would make her very knowledgeable, I know. But this isn't Mojoworld."

Shatterstar thought about that for a long time. The outpost came into view--no more than a three foot transmitter, designed to pick up heat and movement and transmit the information back to the compound--and Rictor pulled the Jeep to a stop.

Shatterstar opened the door, got out, and watched Rictor walk around to the machine, kneeling in front of it. "Why is wrong to like other men?" he asked finally.

Rictor jumped and nearly bashed his head on one of the spokes. "Madre de Dios," he muttered. "It just is."

"But why?"

Rictor sighed and sat down. "My father always said it made a person less of a man," he said at last.

Shatterstar took the screwdriver out of Rictor's hand and started to unscrew the panel. "So am I less of a man?" He supposed he wasn't human, after all. Maybe Rictor was afraid of becoming inhuman.

He heard Rictor laugh softly. "'Star, I don't think anyone could ever call you 'less of a man.' I mean, you're like, huge. And fierce. And what most guys are trying to be."

"Ah," Shatterstar said. The panel came free, and he peered at the wires inside. "So what your father said was a load of horse carts."


"Yes." He turned to look at Rictor, sitting in the dirt behind him. "Do you like me?"

"I'm not--"

"Why is it so important that you're not gay?" Shatterstar asked, confused beyond belief. "If it doesn't make you less of a man, and there's nothing wrong with it…"

Rictor stared at him for a long time. "My family would hate me," he said finally, almost whispering.

Shatterstar dropped his gaze. "Oh." It wasn't something he could understand. He had had no family. In the pens, it didn't really matter if people hated you. Here, it did. "I would like you, though," he said softly. "And our teammates wouldn't mind." He didn't know if it was enough to outweigh this mysterious familial love.

"I know," Rictor said softly. "I mean, I guess I do. No, I don't."

Shatterstar looked up at him. "You think our teammates would not like you if you were gay? Tabitha would, I know that."

Rictor laughed. "Yeah. Great." The smile faded. "It just seems wrong. Like everyone would know, and they'd hate me for it."

"Does it matter what everyone thinks?" Shatterstar asked. He knew many people didn't like them for being mutants. That didn't seem to bother Rictor, though, and this seemed the same. "People already hate you for what you are."

Rictor flinched. "That's different."

Shatterstar just waited.

"They're not disgusted with me for creating earthquakes."

"So you think they would be disgusted with you?" Shatterstar was baffled. There were so many things here that he didn't understand, couldn't seem to understand no matter how hard he tried.

"Weren't you? The other night? I mean, I acted like--like--"

Rictor's face was turning red. Shatterstar wondered if he was sun-burning. As for the other night, he remembered that Rictor had seemed to enjoy it, and that his shoulder was wet afterwards, where Rictor's head had been resting.

"You are very upset about this," he said finally.

Rictor rolled his eyes. "No shit."

"I liked the other night," Shatterstar said. "And I would like to do it some more. But I don't want you to be upset."

"It's unlikely I would ever get used to it and stop being upset, 'Star," Rictor said, smiling slightly.

Shatterstar didn't understand the smile, but 'getting used to' he knew. He grinned. "I could get you used to it, and then you'd be happy," he said, moving closer to Rictor.

"What? Uh, no. It doesn't work that way, 'Star." Rictor said quickly.

"It does. If something hurts, you do it again and again and you get used to it so it doesn't hurt. Touching would be the same." This idea had merit.


He dropped down in front of Julio and put both hands on the man's legs. "This will work."

"Shatterstar!" Rictor pushed back and stood up. "You can't treat me like some kind of wild animal that if you just touch enough will tame down!"

"That sounds like a perfect idea. I will treat you like a wild animal." Shatterstar stood.

Rictor lifted one hand. "No."

"Why not?"

"It doesn't work that way."

Shatterstar considered that. "I will make you an arrangement."


"I will make you a deal. I will touch you, and if you don't get used to it, I will stop. But if you do get used to it, we will try more touching."

A muscle in Rictor's jaw jumped. "It won't work."

"Then nothing will be lost."

"No intimate touching."

"All right," Shatterstar agreed.

Rictor narrowed his eyes. "Do you know what that means?"

Shatterstar shook his head. "No."

"No touching the groin area."

That wasn't as much fun, but he thought he could work with those parameters. "All right."

"And only for a week. If it doesn't work by then--"

"Two weeks," Shatterstar countered.

Rictor was silent. "Two weeks," he agreed finally. "But it won't work."

"Then I will stop, and we will go back to being just friends."

Rictor's chest rose and fell heavily. "Okay."

Friday, later that afternoon…

"Would you stop that?" Rictor hissed, shaking Shatterstar's hand off his arm.

"That was not part of the deal." The hand returned, stroking up and down the back of his arm.

Rictor slammed the front door, turned around, and came nose-to-neck with Shatterstar. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had no one to blame but himself, after all.

A hand drifted across his face. He stepped back. "I'd like to go to the bathroom."

"I'll go with you!"

"No!" He opened his eyes, shot around Shatterstar, and stopped. Sam was looking at them both, eyebrows raised. "I'm not gay!" Rictor snarled.

"All right," Sam said, smothering a laugh. "Was this in contention?"

"I am allowed to touch him as much as I want," Shatterstar said from behind him, sounding oddly proud. Rictor felt a hand on his hair. His hair lifted, sliding though fingers he couldn't see but could imagine. He held himself ramrod straight and glared at Sam.

"Only for a week," he ground between his teeth.

"Two," Shatterstar corrected.

"Two weeks. Just to prove I'm not gay."

Sam just nodded slowly. "Right."

"I'm not!"

"Ah didn't say ya'll were."

Rictor's teeth clicked shut. His hair dropped out of Shatterstar's hand, which promptly shifted to his neck. Rictor took a deep breath and headed toward the bathroom.

Saturday night…

"You comfy?" Tabitha asked on a laugh.

Rictor shot her a glare, then went back to watching television. Underneath him, Shatterstar shifted.

"He is getting used to being touched so that it won't make him uncomfortable anymore," Shatterstar explained. "And then, when touching doesn't make him upset, I will be able to touch him much more."

Rictor said nothing. One good thing about living somewhere where everyone gossiped was that everyone knew what was going on, whether or not he'd told them. Not that it made him any less embarrassed. Better to just ignore it all.

"Makes sense," Tabitha said, nodding. She didn't even try to hide her grin.

"The den is more comfortable," Rictor said. He shifted, moving Shatterstar's elbow out of his ribs. A pale leg rose and draped over both of his. He was suddenly very aware that his ass was between Shatterstar's legs. He shifted. It didn't help. He shifted again. Shatterstar grunted and restrained him when he hit something sensitive.

"There is no TV in the den."

"We could bring it back down from your bedroom," Rictor pointed out.

"Or we could watch TV in my bedroom."

Rictor twisted to stare up at Shatterstar.

"I could chaperone," Tabitha suggested, much too innocently.

"Very funny." He glared at the television, determined, again, to tune everything else out. He felt one of Shatterstar's hands brush against his arm. He looked up. Shatterstar was watching TV intently. Still, his hand drifted down Rictor's arm. Then back up again. And down. And up.

Rictor took a deep, calming breath, and tried to relax.

Jimmy entered the room.

He tensed back up.

"Still touching, huh?" Jimmy asked, grinning at Shatterstar.

"I'm glad you find this so funny," Rictor muttered.

"I do. Hilarious."

Rictor glared at him. Shatterstar seemed not to notice the exchange. Jimmy left, and Rictor relaxed again. Lord, but this was going to be a long two weeks.

The next Tuesday afternoon…

Rictor splashed water on his face, taking off the last of the shaving cream, then rubbed his hand across the back of his neck. Glancing up, he caught sight of the mirror and Shatterstar heading through the locker room straight toward him. Rictor straightened, grabbing his towel and rubbing moisture out of his hair from the shower he'd just finished. The reflection approached, a towel wrapped around Shatterstar's waist, another draped over his shoulder. An extra foot of red hair spilled out of that one, dripping down his stomach, soaking into the waist-towel.

"I like you like this," Shatterstar said, stopping behind him.

Rictor smiled dryly. "Half naked?" He wore sweatpants, but that was it.

"Yes. Half-naked." Both hands dropped onto his shoulders. He had to admit, he was getting used to it. But he still wouldn't admit that he enjoyed the feel of Shatterstar's skin on his, warm and callused.

"I have noticed," Shatterstar said slowly, bending forward to smell Rictor's hair, "that you are much more relaxed when our teammates are not around."

Rictor said nothing. He closed his eyes, feeling heat brush against his neck. When Shatterstar spoke, he could feel the other man's breath on his skin.

"Maybe we should spend more time alone."

Rictor sighed. "I'm not gay, 'Star," he said softly. Only weaklings and pussies were gay. He wasn't either.

"Yes you are," Shatterstar said calmly.

Rictor's eyes snapped open.

"Or, at least, you are sexually attracted to me."

Rictor's eyebrows rose. "Awfully confident of yourself."

Shatterstar met his gaze in the mirror, and smiled wickedly. "Yes."

"Why do you think I’m attracted to you?" Rictor asked, unable to resist that grin.

"Because I have touched you many times now, and I always stop when your muscles tense." Both hands slid down his arms, then under to his ribcage. "At first, you tensed right away." The hands came around, up his chest. "But already you let me touch you," lips planted a kiss on his shoulder, "in all sorts of places," and another on his neck, "and in all sorts of ways," hands drifted back down, following the edge of his sweatpants but not nicking under, "and you only tense up when someone else enters," pinkies slipped under the material, grazed hipbones, and slipped back out, "or when you feel uncomfortable because you think you like it too much."

His breath caught. Shatterstar was nibbling on his neck. Worse, he could not only feel it, he could see it. The larger body behind his, pale arms against his skin, red hair against his black before it vanished into a towel.

"Your heart rate is very fast," Shatterstar said against his ear.

Rictor swallowed. "I'm drunk." It was the only thing he could think of. "Besides, anyone would--ah--like it too much when you start doing things like that. Even when they're straight."

"That's not true," Shatterstar said reasonably. He ducked. Rictor felt his hair moved off his back, and then a kiss planted on the base of his neck. He shivered. "I convinced Cannonball to let me try on him," Shatterstar said against his skin, "and he never relaxed. His heart rate never sped up, either. He was very uncomfortable." A hand at the small of Rictor's back slipped over the sweat pants, following the line of his body down as far as Shatterstar could reach before trailing a finger back up his spine. He shivered again.

"You did this with Sam?" Rictor croaked.

"Yes. It took me a long time to convince him. And Domino and Tabitha had to talk to him, too."

"I bet." Rictor swallowed as teeth nipped at the heavy muscle joining neck and shoulders. "I'm not gay."

Shatterstar straightened. His hand wrapped around Rictor's stomach, and pulled him close. Rictor's eyes widened. Shatterstar's arousal was obvious, standing like that. His own he couldn't see in the mirror, thank God.

"I, uh, have to go. Get dressed," he managed, and pulled away.


He didn't quite run. And he didn't quite slam out of the locker room doors.

"Easy there, Tex," Domino said, stepping out of his way. Then she glanced over at him, sweeping him with her gaze, and her eyebrows rose. "Been …talking…with Shatterstar, I see."

Rictor glanced down. Turned red. Grabbed a towel off the shelves outside the locker rooms and held it bunched in front of him, glaring at Domino. "This is your fault. You and those damn porn videos teaching him how to do things with his hands--"

Her eyebrows shot upward. Domino smiled wryly. "If you think there's any seduction in porn videos, you obviously haven't seen them. Blame the novels Terry gave him. And enthusiasm."

Rictor glared at her one last time and hurried down the hall.

"Maybe you should find a bathroom and take care of that problem!" he heard Domino call behind him. "Or better yet, find Shatterstar and boink your little brains out!"

Rictor just kept not-running.

Wednesday night…

"Come in," Rictor called.

His bedroom door opened, and Shatterstar peered in.

"Hey," Rictor said.

"Are you all right? You haven't been downstairs today."

Rictor scratched his head and his tangled hair and bent over to shove clothes off the bed so Shatterstar could sit.

Shatterstar entered slowly and perched on the edge of the bed.

"Just been thinking, 'Star," Rictor responded. He plucked at his T-shirt and didn't look up. How to explain what he'd been thinking seemed beyond him. He was barely at the point where he could admit to himself that the idea of--of--doing things with 'Star wasn't repellent. Might actually be fun. There was no way he was going to be able to admit them to anyone else. Not even Shatterstar.

"About what?" Shatterstar asked after a long time.

Rictor almost didn't say anything. Finally, he switched to an aspect of what he'd been thinking; one of the things that was making this easier, making other thoughts possible. "It's been a week. And the others didn't respond like I expected them to."

"About what?" Shatterstar asked.

"About us. Y'know. Touching and all."

"Ah. How did you expect them to react?"

Rictor sighed and pulled his legs up, bracing his arms on them and looking out the window. Night had fallen. The desert was black. "I think I expected them to be grossed out."

"But they weren't."

"No." The only person who even had a reaction anymore was Tabitha, and her reaction was at least open. It was half lust, so that wasn't too bad.

"So that's a good thing?"

Rictor shrugged. "I suppose." The disgust he expected every time he looked someone in the eye hadn't come. He didn't think it was because they believed his protestations that he wasn't gay. "Did you really get Sam to let you feel him up?" he asked after a minute.

"Yes. But he did not appreciate it. My studying did not impress him."

Rictor snorted a laugh. "He's pretty much the straightest guy I know."

"Jimmy is straighter. He wouldn't let me practice on him at all."

Rictor's eyebrows rose and he looked closely at Shatterstar. "How many people did you ask?"

"Everyone. Cable didn't respond. He only looked at me and went back to his computer. But I have learned that when he does that, it often means no." Shatterstar stopped, thinking. "Roberto only let me massage his feet."

Rictor shook his head and looked away.

"Are you still afraid people will be grossed outside if you're gay?"

Rictor smiled. "Grossed out. I don't know."

There was silence. "We could only be gay when there's no one around," Shatterstar said finally. "If that would make you feel better."

"It makes me nervous," Rictor muttered. "I have no idea how to--do that. And some of the stuff I hear about sounds like it might hurt."

"I have educational videos," Shatterstar said brightly. "And I would be happy to teach you. Nothing will hurt."

Rictor laughed. He couldn’t help it. Shatterstar looked so eager. He opened his mouth to say, once again, that he wasn't gay. Then he paused. He liked Shatterstar. He liked 'Star's hands on him even more, though it was taking him time to admit that, even to himself. Finally, he sighed. "'Star, just give me some time, okay?"

Shatterstar sighed. "All right. Can I still touch you?"

Rictor squirmed. His first inclination was to say no. But just the thought of it made his heartbeat pick up. "Some."

Shatterstar hurried to the top of the bed and squished in between Rictor and the wall. He looked around thoughtfully. "We're going to need a bigger bed."


They stood on the building, the enemy surrounded. Rictor caught Shatterstar's eye and quickly looked away.

The telekinetic finished his monologue--talking over Cannonball, who was trying to reason with him--and jumped.

It wasn't until the man landed that Rictor understood what the jump had been for. The mutant's arms swung, his head thrown back, and at the peak of their swing, Rictor felt a shove.

"Fuck!" he yelped, his body skidding over the roof. The low wall at the edge caught his knees, and he went over.

Rictor closed his eyes, spread his arms and legs, and hoped two stories was enough time for one of the fliers to catch him.

It was, but barely. A hand grabbed his wrist, yanking him out of his fall. Rictor screamed as pain lanced through his shoulder. Then they were landing on the ground, his feet taking the weight off his arm. The pain didn't subside. Rictor kept screaming.

"Deep breath, deep breath," he heard Jimmy chanting. Rictor breathed as deeply as he could, hissing air between his teeth. He opened an eye. He had, apparently, been out of it for a while. The mutant was unconscious and trussed, the hostages were fleeing, and the rest of his team was standing around him, looking at him in concern. Shatterstar looked halfway to panicked.

"Ric?" he heard Jimmy say.

He blinked water out of his eyes and looked at the large man. "Brace yourself."

Rictor realized where Jimmy's hands were lying on his arm and shoulder, and had just enough time to turn his head and close his eyes. He felt another body suddenly, arms wrapped around him, pressing his head into a strong chest, words whispering in a language he was only beginning to understand, and then more pain.

When he woke up, he was in a hospital.

"Hey," Sam said, looking up and blinking sleepily. "How ya feelin'?"

Rictor groaned and closed his eyes. "Where's 'Star?" That had to have been the body he felt.

"Arguin' with Terry over whether or not he needs a bandage."

Rictor frowned and opened both eyes. "Is he okay?"

"Oh, yeah. He's just got some teeth marks from where ya'll bit him when Jimmy re-located your shoulder."

Rictor cringed. "How's my shoulder?"

Sam smiled and sipped coffee. "Ya'll be fine. The worst part's over. Doc says no major damage was done. You're to take Advil and keep it in a sling for a week."

That wasn't bad. "We seriously need to train people on how to stop a fall without dislocating shoulders," he muttered.

"Terry didn't exactly have a lot o' time. Y'd almost hit the ground."

Rictor cringed. "Well, then, thank her for me."

Shatterstar burst into the room just then, looking like nothing if not a very angry man with too many weapons.

"The hospital must just love you," Rictor said with a weak smile.

"No," Shatterstar corrected. "They dislike me greatly right now. Are you all right? I would not have left, but Theresa--" he shot her a dirty look, "--insisted I have a bandage."

"It's all right. I survived without you," Rictor said on a chuckle. "Thanks, Terry."

She just nodded.

"You are in my seat," Shatterstar nearly growled.

Sam moved.

Shatterstar sat down. He looked like he might as well have been sitting on a child's chair.

"Can we go?" Rictor asked.

"Just waitin' for you to wake up," Sam said cheerfully.

Rictor sat up, cringed as his shoulder protested, and then realized Shatterstar was practically lifting him. "I can walk, 'Star," he said wryly.

"I just wanted to be sure," Shatterstar answered.

"Ya'll ain't gonna get outta his sight for days," Sam laughed.

Shatterstar sniffed. "I do not see the amusement in this," he said stiffly.

Rictor sighed. "He's not laughing at you, 'Star. He's laughing because he knows you're about to try and smother me."

"I would not smother you. I want you alive."

Sam laughed again. Rictor glared at his back.


Rictor settled carefully on the couch. Shatterstar propped his feet up on the coffee table for him. Got him a pillow. Gave him the remote--but only temporarily, so that Shatterstar could go get him a drink and some pain medication. He left. Rictor sighed.

Sitting on the other couch, supposedly reading a book, Sam chuckled. Rictor glared at him. Sam ignored it.

He watched the other man, slender and wiry, probably one of the skinniest people on the team. "You actually let Shatterstar feel you up?" he asked after a minute.

Sam turned the page on his book. "Only when Tab threatened chastity and Domino threatened bathroom duty."

Rictor snorted. "Still. Man."

Sam looked at him over the top of his book. "It was probably one o' the most embarrassin' experiences of mah life." He thought about it for a minute. "Except Tab really liked it. That was okay. Ain't gonna happen again, but that part was okay." He looked back at his book. "The things Ah do for mah team," he said under his breath.

Rictor chuckled. They sat in silence for a moment. "I'm not gay, you know," Rictor said.

Sam didn't look up. "Uh huh. Ric, Ah really don't care."

Rictor's eyes narrowed. "But aren't you from Kentucky? Aren't you supposed to be more homophobic than the pope?"

Sam's book snapped shut and he gave Rictor a very hard look. "Do all gay men lisp?"

Rictor squirmed. "Okay. Sorry."

Sam went back to his book.

"We are out of Coke," Shatterstar announced, coming into the room. "I brought you Pepsi, and I will go out and buy Coke--"

"'Star, just relax," Rictor laughed. "Sit."

Shatterstar sat gingerly.

"I've been injured before. I'm not going to break," Rictor muttered.

Shatterstar leaned back against the couch. "I will get you some snacks," he said, and jumped up again.

"At least he's laid off wrapping around you every chance he gets," Sam said, still reading.

"Yeah. Temporarily." Though, if he were honest with himself, Rictor wasn't sure how he felt about that. He'd gone for almost three days without Shatterstar's wandering hands. He missed them.

Not that he was often honest with himself.

He sighed and set the remote down. "If 'Star comes back, I'm upstairs."

He was in his bedroom, wrestling with his shirt when Shatterstar walked in.

"Julio!" Shatterstar yelped. "You're not supposed to move your shoulder."

Rictor glared at Shatterstar, the shirt wound around his neck and one arm. "'Star, did you used to treat your wounded teammates like this on Mojoworld?" he snapped.

"I didn't have teammates."

"The people you lived with," Rictor ground out.

"No," Shatterstar answered finally.

"Then cut it out. I'm a warrior, too, y'know. At least, as close as we get, here." He struggled with the shirt for a moment more, then stopped, finally, panting. "Okay. You can help me with this." Shatterstar was there instantly, pulling his head free and unwinding the sling from the material.

"What are you doing?" Shatterstar asked softly.



"I'll deal." He walked into the half-bathroom he shared with Sam and started to run water.

"I could do that," Shatterstar said, standing behind him.

"I ain't trusting no one else with a razor at my throat but me."

Shatterstar crossed his arms over his massive chest and glared. "I do shave. I imagine that me shaving you would be safer than you shaving left-handed."

Rictor couldn't really disagree with that. "Yeah," he muttered. "Okay."

Shatterstar stepped into the closet-sized space. Rictor watched while he checked the razor, then picked up the can of saving cream. He looked at Rictor. Rictor looked at him.

"Maybe you should sit on the sink," Shatterstar said at last. "To make us even."

He couldn't jump up onto the sink with only one hand. He tried not to be embarrassed when Shatterstar lifted him. He looked anywhere but at 'Star when the man rubbed lather on his face, being very careful and studiously thorough.

"Move your legs," he said after a moment.

Rictor shifted them to one side. Shatterstar frowned, put a hand on each knee, and pulled his legs apart. Rictor didn't yelp, though he really wanted to. Shatterstar stepped up to the sink, between his legs--Rictor wasn't embarrassed, really, just one friend helping another--and carefully started to shave.

It was an entirely unsettling experience. Every nerve in his body screamed at him to get the sharp thing away from this throat, and every bone told him it was okay, this was Shatterstar.

"Have you thought enough about us just touching in private?" Shatterstar asked. "Now that you seem comfortable with touching."

Rictor pulled away from the razor so he could speak, swallowed, and said, "No."

Shatterstar's hand on the back of his head brought him forward again, and held him steady while the razor pressed against his skin. "I know you like being touched by me," Shatterstar said softly. "Is it that you don't want me as something more than just a friend? Do you dislike my personality?"

Rictor pulled away again and stared at Shatterstar. 'Star just looked back at him, calm, non-judging, waiting. Rictor took several deep breaths. He missed Shatterstar's hands. His gaze dropped. He could admit that to himself, now. He wasn't sure he could admit that to anyone else, yet. "No," he managed. "Your personality's great."

Shatterstar wrapped his big hand around Rictor's neck again and started shaving. "Our friends do not mind, so I do not think that is why you desire to be left alone. What else is there?"

This time, Shatterstar pulled the razor away, but left his hand where it was.

Rictor could feel a thumb rubbing the back of his skull, soothing. "'Star," he said slowly, trying to find words to explain it, "I grew up thinking this was wrong. And, okay, maybe that was wrong. But it's not so easy to just change. My parents… I don't even know what they'd do if I told them I was--" nope, couldn't say that. He tried to say something else, couldn't manage that either. Licked his lips and tried again. "--sleeping with you." Even that, he stuttered over.

Shatterstar picked up a towel, wiping stray lines of shaving cream off Rictor's face. "Don't tell them," he said.


"Don't tell them yet. Wait until you're ready." He put the towel down, braced a hand on the sink on either side of Rictor's hips, and leaned forward.

Rictor leaned backward.

"Maybe we will discover we're not right for each other, anyway," Shatterstar said reasonably. Then he kissed Rictor's chest.

Rictor leaned back far enough to brace himself on the mirror.

"Maybe it will be that you are not gay." Shatterstar kissed his stomach. Rictor bit his lip as he felt a tongue peek out and brush his navel. "Maybe you will be gay, but you still won't like how other people look at you, and so we'll stop touching." Very talented lips moved over ridges of muscle, interrupted by a very soft tongue. "Or maybe we'll like each other very much."

Rictor swallowed again. Goosebumps were flourishing on his skin. He could feel his body responding, heat curling in his stomach, his feet braced against the cupboards, his breath coming faster. He had definitely missed this in the past three days. He wanted more of it. But, still…"'Star…"

"Please, Julio." Another feather-light kiss. "Just the two of us." A tongue. "Only where no one can see." Teeth. "We don't have to let anyone else know." Hands sliding around his waist. "Please."

Rictor's fingers tried to dig into the porcelain of the sink. No one would have to know. They could be normal for everyone else, still. His breath caught. It didn't make him gay if they weren't dating. He shivered. "Okay. That part where we're just friends around other people, and only--do things--in private?" Shatterstar made a noise that was mostly muffled by Rictor's skin. He felt teeth nip, and clenched his jaw against a moan. It took him a moment to speak. "Let's just try that for a while." Shatterstar made another noise, this one sounding much more excited. He looked up.

"Does that mean I can take to back to your bed and teach you some of the things I've learned?"

Nerves flared in his stomach. "Um. Some of it. Nothing that involves my ass."

Shatterstar grinned. "Right." An arm wrapped suddenly around the small of Rictor's back, another just under his hips, and the next thing he knew Shatterstar had picked him up.

"'Star! Not terribly manly, here!" Rictor yelped.

Shatterstar let him fall onto the bed. "Your shoulder?"

He thought about lying. "It'll survive."

Shatterstar nodded, a gleefully determined look coming over his face. "I learned many things."

Rictor laughed nervously. "Great. And we're gonna go slow. Right?"

Shatterstar grinned. "Anything you want."

That Friday, an hour later…

Shatterstar was playing with his hair idly. That was good. His body still tingled pleasantly, though he thought he might sleep for three days. Shatterstar was very athletic. He'd never really appreciated that before. Rictor felt himself starting to slip off the bed, and scooted back up. A hand wrapped around his stomach and pulled him closer.

He screwed up his courage and finally voiced the words he'd been rehearsing in his head. "That was fun." He doubted he'd be able to say that to Shatterstar's face without stuttering and dying of embarrassment. But he'd managed to say it. Score.

"I have many other things to teach you still. When you're ready," Shatterstar answered.

Rictor looked up at the man sitting against the wall. Shatterstar grinned, but the half-manic edge had been lost, replaced by satiation. Rictor smiled and lay back down on the pillow. "Right. When I'm ready."

There was another moment of silence. Rictor closed his eyes, half-dozing, the heartbeat throb of his shoulder a minor annoyance, the drift of Shatterstar's hand running through his hair much more important.

"But we definitely need a bigger bed," Shatterstar said.

Rictor laughed. "Yeah." He scooted himself away from the edge again. "That'd be good."

The next Friday…

Sam walked into the little bathroom he shared with Rictor, and stopped. "Oh, by my Grandma's grave," he muttered, snapping his eyes closed and whacking a hand over them just for good measure. "Would you two post a sign on the door or somethin' when ya'll're gonna do your shavin' routine?"

"Good idea," he heard Shatterstar say brightly. "I'll go find one."

Sam spread his fingers and looked through them carefully. Rictor was still sitting on the sink, neatly shaved, bright red. He was trying to cross his legs.

"Ah'd like to use th' bathroom," Sam said.

"Oh. Right." Rictor jumped to his feet, still red, one hand held awkwardly in front of him, as if that might hide what they were doing, the other still in a sling. "I'm not gay," he said.

Sam just looked at him. "Great," he answered, deadpan.

"We're just fucking." A pause. "That's all."

"I don't care!" Sam nearly shouted. "Wouldja just get outta the bathroom so Ah can use it? Lord a' mighty…"

Rictor vanished, and the door closed. Sam was happy for them, though he didn't think this insistence on pretending they weren't involved was healthy. But small steps. They'd gotten this far, and that was good. It meant, among other things, Shatterstar wouldn't keep asking him awkward questions such as, "Can I try this on you to see if it works?" But Lord, would he ever be glad when they had their own bathroom.


WHAT? I never said it had a HEALTHY ending! But I think it could happen. :D

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