In The Bushes
They're Marvel's. No money. Don't sue.
This is an unofficial sequel to Alicia McKenzie's By the Lake, which was a lovely story in which Nate and Bishop had a tremendously sweet 'moment' out in the woods at Xavier's. Someone made a comment about, "What if Dom had been lurking in the bushes and seen this?" Well, that sounded like a challenge to me... ;-) And since I love Alicia's writing, and I have a soft spot for pieces that portray same-sex pairings sympathetically, I figured I'd try my hand at this.
Don't worry... that's all the explanation you have to sit through. ;) Comments to Kaylee@subreality.com. Send 'em or face the wrath of the tribbles.
It didn't happen.
It couldn't have happened. I've known the man for more years than I'll willingly count. I've been with him through the kinda shit that'd fill an ordinary person's sleep with nightmares.
And even a not-so-ordinary person's, come to think of it...
But the point is that I've seen him at his worst and at his best... needing comfort, giving it, and turning it away. And at the times when he was at his absolute lowest, I dragged his ass up -- and even though it's toned as hell, that's a substantial ass -- and did what little I could do to remind him that there was a world outside of his broody mind.
Damn the man.
I never wanted it to be more than friendship.
Hell, I didn't even really want that.
Co-workers, right? Partners, maybe. People who could trust each other to watch a wallet or a gun or a back.
Didn't think the man had a sense of humor for the longest time. Bastard couldn't crack a smile if you took pliers to his cheeks and pulled. I mean, when they were handing out humor, he was busy memorizing the strategies of all the great war generals of the past... and future. If he had a sense of humor, I was pretty sure it was buried under a few extra kilos of muscle.
Then I found it. Felt like gold for my discovery. He had a sense of humor, and he was sharing it with me.
Hey, we're all stupid kids once, at least.
So partners, then friends, and after a run that brushed a bit too close to the edge of mortality -- and after the drinks that followed it -- lovers. Enthusiastic, extremely physical, energetic lovers.
That was supposed to be it.
Goddamnit, that was all I wanted it to be.
And now... now I find out that maybe that's all it was.
Fuck you, Nate.
And fuck your little friend Bishop, too.
Oh, that's right...
God, Nate... of all the things in this world I wanted to see, seeing you and Bishop in each other's arms had to be about the last. Hell, I don't think it was even on the damn list. Anyone's list!
And you were so... so calm about it. As if you'd done this before. God, Nate, I've seen that look from you before. I know it. Not so much strong emotion as... as a moment of letting strong emotion sit by the wayside. A moment of letting yourself just... be.
You and I used to have those moments. Once upon a time.
Before you started caring too much.
Before I was stupid enough to let myself care back.
Me and my mistakes. You being the biggest one of all.
And now we hardly even look at each other. Too fucking scared of what we'll see when our eyes meet. At least I know I am. What do I do if I look into you and find myself sucked down into waters too deep to swim in?
What do I do if I see that there are no waters there at all...?
Pathetic, isn't it? After all I've been through, the thing that scares me more than anything is the thought of falling for a big stupid thick-skulled over-muscled lug like you.
The night was so beautiful. I went out there looking for you, y'know. Thought I'd find you -- brooding, of course -- and see if perhaps you wanted to talk. I know I can be standoffish sometimes, Nate, but... there was just something about the night...
I thought I could tell you everything.
I thought I could tell myself everything.
And maybe you could drop the walls enough for one night so that we could really talk about things.
Okay, so that's a new thing for me. This "talking" thing, I mean. You think I don't know how much I bury stuff? Believe me, pal, I know all about my charming little psychoses. Kinda fond of 'em, too. Sure, they may get in the way of emotional stability, but hey! Who needs it, right? Highly overrated. It's these little foibles -- you gotta love that word... "foibles" -- that help us keep our edge. We're always balancing ourselves over something unstable and molten inside, and it makes us that much more volatile and dangerous on the outside. Useful thing for a merc.
Christ, that's justification taken to a whole new level, isn't it? Sometimes I can't believe the things I make myself believe...
So I went out there to find you. To talk to you.
You were talking, all right.
I shouldn't have listened. You know I respect your privacy. If I didn't, I'd be a hypocrite, right? I mean, I fought against that whole psi-link thing tooth and nail at first just because I couldn't stand the thought of you having access to my private thoughts. But damnit, Nate, I was worried about you. You haven't really been yourself lately. As much weight as has been dropped on your shoulders, I guess that's understandable. Still, I was concerned. Yeah, me. Keep your eyebrows outta your hairline, Nate. Makes your forehead look all wrinkly when you do that look that I know you'd be giving me if you heard this.
I listened to you telling him things you hadn't told me.
Funny, isn't it? The walls we put up. The windows we leave open and ignore. I wondered sometimes if you wanted me to creep in that back way. It'd be just like you. You can never do things like a normal person. Why go in the front door when there's a perfectly good wall to smash through?
Heh. I never told you, but I always thought you looked kinda cute with plaster dusting all over your face. Like powdered sugar. The plaster, not you. I guess that'd make you the donut.
Y'know, once that would've been the perfect opening for me to think something about how much I like nibbling on donuts...
I never took Bishop to be a donut lover.
And I never took Nate to be a...
Now stop that, some part of my mind insists coldly, even while the rest of me wants to ramble on in disbelief and frustrated anger. Think rationally woman. Evaluate the situation. Forget emotion for a fucking minute. Just think.
A laugh bubbles up in my chest, half-hysterical, startling me. I choke it down, surprised at the effort it takes.
Think about Nate and Bishop.
Oh god, I can't handle this...
Think about Nate kissing Bishop.
Oh god, the image...
Another laugh, harder to suppress. I know this isn't really funny. It's not. It's not. I mean, I'm furious and, and livid and, and damnit, how could he do this to me?? I wouldn't have turned him away. He could have just... just told me he wanted to talk... I would've listened...
I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to scream bloody murder and find the sonuvabitch and tell him... tell him...
What do I say? "I saw you." How's he gonna answer something like that?
How are his eyes gonna look when he realizes that I know?
Nate... god, Nate... why?
Why did you share your thoughts... your emotions, Nate!... with him, and not with me? It's not the sex that's hurting so badly, I know that. It's not the fact that you took comfort in his arms. Our 'relationship' isn't about possession. I can forget Bishop and the physical part of what you had with him; I know I can.
But the words...
You gave them to him. Gave them like a gift.
A gift you took from me.
Maybe I'm a selfish bitch. Maybe I want too much of you for me -- and that's not fair either, is it, when I'm not willing to give the same in return...? I can't ask for what I won't offer.
And you won't offer what I don't ask for.
Damn. Damnitall to hell. Is this what we're gonna do? Gonna sit here, locked up tight in our own little worlds, clutching our emotions to us so they don't have a chance to get loose and grow until they're too big for us to handle? Are we scared, Nate? Us? Can we really be scared of ourselves this much?
... could you give Bishop that openness because he'd never ask for it again?
Would I have asked again?
All these damned questions. It's like I don't know what to feel, what to think. Me... who's always been so careful to know myself. That's part of what I hate about you, Nate. That's the thing that drives me farther up the wall than all the rest of your infuriating, arrogant, testosterone-driven habits. I hate that you make me so confused. I hate that I can't think straight around you lately. I hate that I don't know whether to call you "friend" or "lover" or "partner" or "teammate." I hate... I hate...
I hate that my throat hurts because there's a rock the size of my fist sitting in it. I hate that my nose is tingling like I'm gonna sneeze. I hate that my lip keeps wanting to tremble like I can't even control my fucking face.
And crying... god, I hate crying...
How could you do this to me?
How could I let you?
How could I let myself think... believe... that you trusted me enough to tell me these things...?
More questions. That's what I'm left with, isn't it? Everything I'd ask you, if I thought it was my place.
I guess it's not. It's pretty damned clear it's not.
Then whose is it?
Bishop's? Of course not.
Ororo's? You flirted with her once... I remember you telling me about it... but no. Whatever might have been there didn't happen. She probably wouldn't have wanted to put up with your bullshit anyway. So no, not hers...
That's it, isn't it? The only one who can question Nate. The only one who's allowed to challenge you.
You, and you alone.
You sounded... so lonely...
Why didn't you come to find me?
Why... didn't I go sooner to find you?
I know 'alone,' Nate. I know it real damned well. And I guess I always accepted it because I chose it.
I don't know how to choose not to be alone.
But god, Nate... I want to learn...
If it's not too late.
I can hear your feet downstairs. The closing door sounds very, very loud, even though you're being quiet so you don't wake everyone up. Courtesy? Or are you embarrassed...?
No. Not you. You make your choices, and you face them. Damn anyone who'd raise an eyebrow, right?
I'm gonna raise an eyebrow.
With any luck, I'll raise yours, too.
God... my heart is thudding so hard I think it's trying to jump right outta my chest. One more thing to hate. One more thing to be scared of.
One more thing to blame on you.
And this one you're gonna answer for, Nate. This is a question I'm asking you. It doesn't even have words yet... I don't know how I'm gonna manage to talk around this damned lump in my throat.
But I will. I will. I can't put it all on you. I didn't reach out my hand any more than you extended yours.
If we're gonna meet in the middle, someone's gotta take a step in that direction.
And if we're not gonna meet at all... I'd rather learn that now. I'd rather know.
Here we go, Nate... one more bumpy ride. Grab the guns and load the Jeep, 'cause this one's gonna be rough. It's gonna be dangerous. And I'm more scared right now than I think I've ever been before a Situation.
Just wanted to lay that out. Get my head straight. Look at my options.
Now let's see if we can't do something about making things fall into place, shall we?
continued in On The Stairs by DuAnn Cowart
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