The following is a complete work of fiction.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

This is the 2nd story of my "X Universe" series. The story began in "Resolutions." Please read the first book before starting this one; things will make more sense that way.

Disclaimer:

The following story may contain erotic situations between consenting adults. If it is illegal for you to read this please leave now.

Any resemblance between the characters and any real life person is completely coincidental. Please do not copy or distribute the story without the author's permission.

The characters of this story are the exclusive property of their original authors, publishers and production companies. No assumption of copyright has been made in this work.

Important -

If you enjoyed this chapter, you can find more of my art and writing at http://mybistories.livejournal.com.

If you would like to be updated of new stories and chapter releases, please join my yahoo group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/artistic_biguys_library/

Please feel free to send any feedback or comments through the writing journal or you can send it directly to artisticbiguy[at]aol.com. Please just remember to add something in the subject line so I know it's not Spam. Enjoy!



X Universe - Book 2


Ties that Bind - Chapter 1


We exist in many dimensions; not just the three we can sense or the fourth we move through. There are many more layers to existence than most people ever become aware of. Dreams are more than simple replaying of experiences and emotions. It is believed that the soul wanders free while a person sleeps. Dreams are little realities where the soul spends time while the body and mind regenerate. Some believe that the soul can get lost; it is a belief that can be found in many mystical paths. When a soul loses touch with the body and can't find its way back, that's coma - or worse.

I never worried about getting lost from my body when I dreamed. I had a far worse problem; I might get lost from reality entirely. You see, my body came with me. I suppose I should address the fact that I'm a mutant; a dream walker. It's really just a specialized form of telepathy, I think; mutations can be weird. My brother and I were fortunate; our mutations didn't show to normal people. That didn't make living with the knowledge you were a mutant any easier. I hadn't wanted Ben to be an outcast. He was my little brother and it was my job to protect him. Well, younger was really just semantics since our births were only seven minutes apart. Ben was talented, popular and outgoing. It was hard enough carving out a unique identity when you have an identical twin. Mom had loved dressing us alike when we were young, "Brandon and Benton are so cute." Though we loved each other, we hated the artificial attempts to point out our similarities. We knew them already; no reminders were necessary. He didn't need the additional headache and drama of being a mutant.

I'd given him that. I'd given him a life of normalcy where he could be himself and be happy. He was just a talented, popular guy; he was a jock and what everyone wanted to be, even me. Me? I'm Brandon; Ben's quiet, reserved brother. Honestly, I wasn't a total geek. Ben and I had played baseball since little league. By the time of our senior year, he was a star pitcher and I was our primary catcher; no pun intended. I wasn't actually shy, but I knew things that I shouldn't, and it made making friends rather hard. Staying in his shadow was worth it. I loved Ben; we shared everything but two, dark secrets. He didn't know we were mutants, and he didn't know I was gay. I'd spent the time from thirteen till eighteen working very hard to keep everything as picture perfect as I could. Being able to enter people's dreams and make adjustments to their perceptions and memories was a useful skill. I'd even been able to keep Ben's mutant abilities locked down. I wasn't sure what he could do, but it didn't matter; we were happy in ignorance.

All that came to an end last week. Now he knew; now he hated me; and life wasn't a wonderful place any longer. That was why I was here, back in my dreams. I kept looking for something I had missed, something that I could have done to make it turn out right. The problem was I couldn't.

The locker room looked as it had last week. Grant and a few of our other teammates waited around for me after exams. I'd studied so hard for finals that I'd skipped season-end equipment check-in. The coach had been cool with it, so I'd planned on turning stuff in right after school on the last senior day. Seniors got the last full week of school "off" to prepare for graduation.

I stood there, looking at the scene for the hundredth time. I still had the swollen cheek and black eye that Grant had given me. My balls were still tender from being kicked. I'd been able to feel their hate, and their excitement. Grant, more than the others, was excited. He was closet, even from himself, and he'd lusted after Ben for years. I'd known, but I hadn't done anything about it. Now Ben was leaving and Grant had missed his chance; not that there was ever a chance; Ben was into girls. He'd figured me out, at least in part, and knew I was 'a fag'.

I replayed the scene, watching him spitting his vulgarities and hitting me. He'd been so hard; you couldn't miss the baseball bat he had tucked down his pant leg. I knew he was going to rape me; being a telepath and knowing what they wanted didn't change the fact I didn't have any way of stopping them.

Something changed, a ripple that might have gone unnoticed, but I felt it. I knew who it was without turning to look. This was my dream; I was in control; he was just visiting. "Hello, Professor."

"Hello, Brandon." He stepped up beside me and looked at the scene. "Replaying it again won't change anything."

"I know, but I can't help wanting it to." I wiped away a tear. The scene sped forward. They never got to the raping part; Ben had made certain of that. I still couldn't remember calling for him, but maybe I did. The locker room doors had been locked, but that didn't stop him. One punch had blown the door off its hinges.

I stopped the scene and looked at him. The rage in his eyes was frightening. Those eyes weren't burning for me; they were on Grant and his friends. I didn't need to play the scene any further. Ben had let loose; the restraints I'd kept on his powers had snapped. He nearly killed Grant and a couple of the other guys before I could stop him.

"I talked with your parents today. They think prep-school would be a good idea."

Letting the scene dissolve, I sat in the distorting energies of the astral plane. Yeah, I knew where we were. The professor had helped bring me back a couple times when I'd gotten lost over the years. I'd refused to let my parents know we were mutants. He'd sent people to meet them twice, and twice I'd altered their memories. I wasn't proud of it, but I'd wanted to protect Ben. I should have known that the longer I kept up the deceits, the worse the truth would come crashing down on us.

"There isn't much point in my fighting it, is there? I can't undo the news reports, fix the school walls and rewrite everyone's memory from here to Lake Michigan." It felt like my world had come to an end. All because of one fucking closet case in denial. I should have taken care of him years ago.

"No, there isn't." The professor wasn't -really- there; his form was just a dream shape he had sculpted for himself to be there. I was physically there. "Would you care to step through, or do you want to go back home?"

I'd never actually stepped through from one dreamer's reality to another's. Ok, that wasn't exactly true. I'd never done so with a target destination. I'd gotten lost once and had to step back in using a friend's dream since I couldn't seem to find my way back to where I had been. That had been weird, and I'd never done it since.

I decided I had nothing left to lose; I stepped through. It was my first time in New York.


Two weeks ago we were two peas in a pod, "Brandon & Benton." Our names were always linked when people mentioned us. We were inseparable; the dynamic duo; the battle brothers. I always took lead but Brandon always covered my back. I was the one everyone knew by name, but Brandon knew everything about everyone. We just clicked. We shared everything but dates. We never double dated, which I suppose should have clued me in that something wasn't quite right between us.

I suppose the fact that, even at eighteen, Brandon still asked to sleep with me when he had nightmares was an example of how close we'd been. How many siblings actually slept together to protect each other? Bran had always had nightmares, ever since we were small kids. That was one reason why we slept together till we hit puberty. Even then, we slept in the same room till we were fourteen. I never minded having to share; we were bros; we loved each other; it was us against the world.

I'd been on student council, and he always did the research for me. I was the star pitcher, he was the perfect catcher. Between the two of us we practically carried the team through junior and senior years. Everyone thought I was "the guy to know", but I wouldn't have been if Bran hadn't been there to keep my ego from expanding too large to get through doors. There was nothing we couldn't tell each other; we had no secrets. Life had been almost perfect.

Life had been a lie; one, long fucking lie, thanks to Brandon. How do you forgive someone for making everything you'd done a total joke? None of our accomplishments meant anything. How did I know it wasn't my "mutant powers" that had allowed me to be good at sports? How did I know that Brandon hadn't "made people like us?" All our hard work, all our plans for the future, were gone.

How do you trust someone you shared everything with, only to find out he's been hiding the truth about you and himself? I didn't matter he was gay; it didn't matter he was a mutant; he'd lied; he'd kept me ignorant, and what hurt worse than anything else was that he didn't trust me. How could someone love you if they couldn't even be honest? It felt like someone had cut something right out of my chest. Maybe it was my innocence, but it felt like something I'd never get back again.

I don't think we'd said ten words to each other the entire trip to the school. Prep-school; what a joke. I'd had scholarships lined up, not that any university would want a known mutant as a pitcher. Even if the "Purity" people weren't boycotting campuses with known mutants, it wouldn't be fair to the normal players. Two years of preparatory work before moving on to college. I always thought that was for geeks; now it was necessary; there was no way I was going to college without having a handle on my powers.

I had to admit: Xavier's looked cool. We'd driven from Michigan to New York over a couple days. Thank God for the bed-topper or our stuff would have been soaked. I hated driving in the rain; Brandon didn't mind. He seemed able to keep up with what was going on, even when the rain was so heavy that you couldn't see to the hood of the truck. Probably was something to do with his mutant powers. The whole idea that he could read people's minds was creepy. That was another issue I had with his hiding shit from me; I couldn't hide shit from him if I wanted to, and I'd never wanted to.

Professor Xavier was waiting for us on the front steps. He'd come to visit Mom and Dad just before graduation. That was why we were here. Brandon looked grim as he shut off the engine and got out. It was unnerving how he had been able to find the place without looking at the maps. Of course, Brandon always seemed to know everything. He'd even known which girls I had chances with and which ones I hadn't. That's why I didn't get how he'd gotten cornered by Grant; how could a guy who could read minds be caught off guard? Had he wanted to get caught? Had he wanted what they were going to do to him? Had he wanted to out us after trying so hard to keep it hidden? It didn't make any sense. And, of course, we weren't talking.

I looked up as I got out of the cab, and was dumbstruck. The girl who'd just come out was the most amazing girl I'd ever seen. Dark skin; long hair; perfect body; the only flaw was the bruising on her face. It looked like she'd recently recovered from a major case of road-rash. I think if I hadn't been so stunned, I'd have boned it right there.

"Welcome to Xavier's, gentlemen. Once you've settled in, we'll show you around." He smiled at the ebony beauty to his right. "Katherine, please show them to their room."

She smiled and came down the stairs as Brandon came around the truck. He shook her hand; I hadn't moved. "Hi, I'm Kate." She blinked with surprise as she shook Brandon's hand. "You're a telepath?"

He nodded, frowning slightly. "So are you."

She laughed. "Damn, cat's out of the bag." They let go and she turned to me. "Hi."

I recovered and took her hand. Her grip was firm but her skin was so soft. "I'm Benton, my friends call be Ben." I nodded at Brandon as he skirted past us to get to the back of the truck. "The asshole who ignored your greeting is my brother, Brandon."

She flinched at that and let go. I'd meant it as a joke, but it came out angry. "I'll help you with your bags." Great, now she thought 'I' was the asshole. It was just my luck: I'd lost my life and my way with girls all at once. At least I wasn't gay; that'd have been too much. I followed her around to the back as Brandon dropped the tailgate.

"We'll get it; it'll only take a couple loads." Brandon started pulling out our bags.

"Men," she said in an exasperated tone and touched the tailgate. All the bags and boxes slid together and came to her. She put her hand against the closest bag and then lifted the whole truckload without even straining. "We're mutant's guys; you might as well get used to girls being just as powerful as the boys."

She stepped back and started up the stairs, leaving us staring after her with our mouths open. She looked back and grinned. "Nice to know I can still leave guys speechless. Come on B 'n B, I'll show you to the dorms."

I was going to have to get to know her better!


Ben and I hadn't roomed together since we were kids. It was weird being in the same room again. If it hadn't been for the fact that Ben hated me and I was feeling like the world's biggest loser, it'd have been great. Instead, I felt like I'd been exiled to Purgatory to await final judgment. To be honest, I was pretty certain that my soul wouldn't measure up. It sucked to think that, if I died, I was going to hell.

I couldn't stay around Ben for any period of time. Every time he looked at me I could feel his hurt and anger. It was like someone was continually yelling at me. We spent our first week taking aptitude tests, power exams, physical exams and such. Because our powers were so different from each other's, we were going to end up being in different classes. That was fine; I was beginning to have problems sleeping and I hoped that staying away from Ben would help. Whether it did or not, I'm not certain, but by the end of our first week at Xavier's, I was running from nightmares.

I was sitting in the lounge, on my third Dew, when I looked up to see this blond kid with the deepest blue eyes studying me. He was so cute; too young for me, but damn. "Hi, I'm Tyler." He stuck out his hand. It was then I realized that I couldn't read him.

"Brandon, Brandon Hanson." It was weird touching someone that I couldn't read. I had been able to read everyone since I was thirteen.

"Trouble sleeping?"

"Trouble not sleeping," I mumbled, downing the last of my Mountain Dew. "Nightmares."

"Oh," Tyler seemed to ponder that, "I've never had a nightmare. Well, not asleep anyway."

I noticed that he had some faded bruises on his face, similar to Kate's. That worried me. 'Tyler, why do you have bruises on your face?"

He flinched. "The last nightmare I had to live through." He looked haunted. "Someone tried to kill my best friends; I tried to stop her, but I couldn't."

I set down the can. "They died?"

He shook his head. "No, Dan saved us." The way he said 'Dan' was so filled of awe and faith that you'd have thought he was talking about God.

"Who's Dan?"

"He's my best friend." Tyler stood up. "Kate's too; I notice you're going to be in some training with her."

I nodded, and then did a double take. "How'd you know that?"

He shrugged. "I run the computers; I know everyone's schedule." He started down the hall. I don't know why, but I followed him.

"So, what are you doing up so late?" It was after one AM and Tyler didn't even look droopy.

"I don't sleep." The elevator doors opened without his touching the pad. That caught me off guard; the doors hadn't done that for me when I went to the labs for my physical. He caught my expression and grinned. "I'm a cyberpath: a technology-telepath. My friends call my Ty, but I'm thinking of going by 'Tech'."

I laughed. "Sounds like a code name or superhero identity." I stepped in with him.

He frowned at me; it was almost a pout. It was adorable how he did that. Flinching, I looked away. What the fuck was I thinking? He was only a kid; I'm not a fucking pedophile. "That's exactly what it is." His frown remained as he went toward the critical care ward. "You just don't understand."

He was offended. I couldn't read him but damn if short-stuff wasn't pissed. I didn't have any problem keeping up. I'm five-foot-eleven; Tyler was at best five-foot-six. He came to a set of security doors and waved. They opened into a dark room, lit only by monitors and scanning equipment. Near the center of the room was a restraint table with a guy on it. He had every kind of support and splinting device imaginable keeping him on the bed.

Beside him, asleep in a chair, was a gorgeous latin guy. He was draped against the bed, his fingers interlaced with the guy's on the bed. Maybe it was because he was asleep, but I staggered from the sudden wave of emotion that hit me. These guys were in love, not the hots, or lust, it was the soul binding, heart stopping shit you read about in books. I'd never actually met someone in love like that. There was so much pain in it, so much desperation, that I had to lean against the doorframe for a moment to catch my breath. I blinked past the tears to see Tyler shaking the guy's shoulder.

"Hey, Jeff..." Tyler smiled at the larger guy as he roused. The waves of emotion faded as he woke. I felt like I could breathe again. "You aren't going to be of any use to anyone if you keep sleeping in the chair." He waited, but Jeff didn't let go of the guy's hand. "It's my shift, Jeff. I'll wake you if anything changes."

Jeff gripped his lover's hand more tightly. "I can't leave him, Ty. I've got to be here when he wakes up." His voice was so tired and raw. He started crying. "I can't even fucking hold him."

Tyler let him cry. Jeff was holding onto Ty like he was Jeff's only life line. When the crying stopped, Tyler took his hand and pulled him to the bed just to the right of the restraint unit.

Jeff caught sight of me at the door. He looked wearily at Ty. "Who's that?"

Ty grinned. "New student, college prep..." He jerked his head for me to come in. "Brandon, this is Jeff, Dan's fiancÚ. Jeff, this is Brandon Hanson, new student."

Jeff wiped his eyes before extending his hand. "Sorry for the scene man."

I smiled and took. "Don't worry about it. If I had a guy I loved in intensive care, I'd be a wreck." It took me a moment to realize I'd just outed myself.

Jeff raised an eyebrow and grinned at Tyler. "Another one, huh?"

Tyler grinned back. "How the hell would I know? My gaydar hasn't kicked in yet."

Jeff mussed Tyler's hair. "You don't need it; you're a gay-magnet."

Blushing, Ty grunted as he looked at the floor, "Asshole."

Jeff slid onto the bed and sighed. "Nurse T is making me take a nap, Brandon."

Ty blushed further. "Keep it up, and I'll have the computers knock you out."

Jeff frowned. "I wish you could; I wouldn't have the nightmares."

I blinked. He looked so exhausted and haunted when he said that. I knew I probably shouldn't, but I moved closer as he settled back. "They'll go away."

Shrugging noncommittally, Jeff closed his eyes. "Yeah sure, some day."

I couldn't help it, the pain and exhaustion in his voice tore at me. I put my hand on his chest and willed him away. "I promise." He shuddered once and slipped into dreamland. As far as I was concerned, he wouldn't have anything but happy dreams as long as I could manage it.

Ty looked at me. "That's right, you're something weird; a dream-telepath?"

I nodded. "Something like that."

He sat down where Jeff had been and looked at Dan. "He wouldn't admit it, but Dan's a real hero." He had tears welling in his eyes. "He saved everyone, sacrificed himself for us, and we aren't even sure if he'll come back."

I don't know why, but I ran my fingers through his hair. It was like some irresistible force made me want to put my fingers in it. I didn't muss it like Jeff had; it was like petting. I smoothed it out absently as I looked at the mystery man on the bed. So many thoughts and feelings were for him. I realized I'd been feeling them from Kate, Hank, a couple of the teachers, and some other students. What ever else he was, Dan had a strong knit group of people who loved him and wanted him back.

"Sometimes I wish I could dream," Ty wasn't looking at me, "then I could pretend that Dan's ok and none of it happened."

I had a flash of fangs and claws, pale flesh and darkness. Shivering, I looked down at Ty. It hadn't come from him. It was like a memory of a nightmare; one of mine since I'd arrived at Xavier's. I looked down at Ty, my fingers were still in his hair and he didn't seem to mind. "Tyler? Did it have something to do with someone with fangs and a face like a vampire?"

Tyler cringed and pulled out from under my hand. "You're reading me?"

I shook my head. "No, I've been having nightmares that include some woman with fangs and claws and darkness. I thought it was anxiety, but I guess I'm hooking into what other people are dreaming about."

Nodding, he looked back at Dan. "He stopped her. I've never been so scared in my life. She tore everyone up like we were sheep or cattle. I just want it to be over; I want Dan back."

"Dan will return when he's ready, Tyler." We looked up to see the professor at the door. "The mind heals differently than the body; give him time."

Ty nodded. "Yes sir."

He looked up at me. "You should have come to me about the nightmares, Brandon. Keeping secrets should be a mistake you've learned not to repeat."

Flinching, I stepped away from Tyler. Was he referring just to my nightmares, or did he know something else? "I'm trying sir."

The professor had the kindest smile; it was never judgmental or insincere. "Let's leave Tyler to his evening's task, Brandon. Unlike him, you need to sleep; even if you don't want to."


Who do you talk to about your "mutant powers" when you aren't talking with your brother? Most of the other new students were three to five years younger than us. Talk about being a late bloomer. Well, ok, so we didn't bloom late but it sure felt like it. I started making a habit of walking the games field every afternoon. I wasn't ready to talk to Bran and he seemed to want his distance. God it sucked. I wanted to understand why. That was all. I wanted to know why he'd kept me in the dark; why did he lie to me, and why didn't he trust me?

Being gay with a straight brother must have really sucked. I mean, let's face it; I talked with him about girls from about fourteen on. It never occurred to me that he never talked about anyone he liked. He always pointed out girls who liked me and steered me away from the sluts or the clingy ones. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that a lot of my "way with women" had come from Bran's insights. At first they were such a mystery to me; aliens with some irresistible powers of attraction. Bran was like the "universal translator"; he'd let me stumble about and then give me a hint here and there. God damn it; I still loved him. Why was it so hard to get over being angry?

"Penny for your thoughts?" I looked up to see Kate drawing near. I'd sat down with my back against a tree while fighting with my memories.

"Hey, Kate." Damn she looked good in a cut-off T and bike shorts. Why was it that fit black girls always have the best midriffs? I yanked my eyes from the jewel that sparkled from her bellybutton piercing.

"Where's Brandon?"

I shrugged. "Who knows." I looked back at the games field. A couple guys were tossing about a ball. I had a sudden pang of loss and wondered if Bran and I would ever do that again.

Kate settled down near me, pressing her back against the tree. "It must be tough blaming him for everything."

"Great," I got up and brushed off the dirt, "can everyone read minds but me?"

"No, and I didn't read your mind." She reached out and touched my calf. I have to touch you to do that.

I flinched away. It was fucking creepy. "Just don't, ok?"

She shrugged. "I was just making a point; just because I'm a telepath doesn't mean you don't have 'I blame Brandon for my life' written all over you."

I sank back down beside her. She was right, of course; it wouldn't take me long to figure out Kate was always right. "Sorry."

"So, what really happened?"

Sighing, I watched the ball flying back and forth and wished that was us out there. "Brandon kept our being mutants a secret from me. He'd known for years and kept me totally in the dark. He even managed to keep mine suppressed." I gritted my teeth. "Hell, according to Dr. McCoy, my powers may be screwed up because of it."

"Nah, I bet it's only temporary." She looked out at the field. "My best friend had his powers suppressed for about five years. He went through some heavy shit while they were kicking into gear later." She laughed. "Hank said that Dan was going through a 'second puberty'." For some reason, she sounded sad about it.

"How'd he deal with it?"

"He tried to hide it from us." Her face seemed to droop. "He always tried to be strong for everyone. His damn Irish stubbornness kept him suffering and alone for way too long." She looked at me, and it was like I was looking at the eyes of someone a hundred years old. Purple eyes; they just cut right through me. "Don't make the same mistake Ben; fix it between you two."

"Yeah... I know." It hurt to know I was so angry. "How do you get over it?"

She smiled. "Talking usually helps."

I looked back out at the field. "I don't have anyone to talk to. I always talked to Bran."

She put her hand on my knee and squeezed. "I'm a good listener; I've had a lot of practice."

I didn't have any better offers, so I started talking.


Ben had spent the afternoon and evening hanging with Kate. I wasn't surprised. It was obvious that he had the hots for her from day one, and Ben wasn't exactly a troll. I'd hoped to spend some time with Kate, being that she was also a telepath, but I wasn't going to intrude. Ben needed to make some friends; he was a people person and being alone wasn't good for him.

I got my dinner and settled down at a quiet table. A week of not sleeping well, drinking too much caffeine, and having nightmares was enough to wear anyone out. I wasn't up to meeting new people. I suppose the idea of mental exhaustion didn't make sense to a super-genius, fourteen-year-old who never slept; Tyler plopped down across from me bubbling with enthusiasm.

"Thanks for helping Jeff last night." He beamed at me and for a moment, I didn't feel so depressed. Ty had the best smile; it was so pure and honest. Not like me; I was anything but honest and pure.

"No problem; glad I could help." I poked at my mashed potatoes. "How's Dan?"

Ty frowned. "Stable, but still in a coma." He sighed. "Jeff's with him now; hell, he's hardly left the infirmary except to get clothes and take showers."

"I can't blame him," I looked back over at Ben, "He loves him so much it hurts to be in there."

"You can feel it, huh?"

"It's twisted in with pain and fear and loss." I looked at Ty briefly before my eyes floated back to Ben. "I know something about that."

Ty turned around and saw Kate and Ben. "I forgot; you're a twin." He looked back at me and cocked his head. It caused his hair to flop to the left in the cutest way. I had to smile at myself when I fought the urge to fluff all that blonde softness. "You two close?"

"We were." Pushing away my tray, I got up. "Sorry, Ty. I'm not feeling very good."

His eyes filled with concern. "Did I do something?"

I smiled and ran my fingers through his hair. Other people may muss it, but to me, it was something to be caressed. "Nah, I'm just not sleeping well. New place, too much caffeine and stress." I thought absently while I rubbed a golden lock between my thumb and forefinger. It took me a moment to realize I was doing it and I let go. "You play ball?"

Ty shrugged. "I've always been too small; I've never been a jock anyway."

"Want to toss the ball around tomorrow? I need to get some sun or I'm going to scream."

Ty looked stunned. "You want to?"

I grinned. "Sure, you're cool."

He beamed. "We can get gloves from the rec-center."

I laughed and picked up my tray. "I've got my own glove, but if you get one for yourself and a ball, I'll meet you after breakfast?"

He nodded like an enthusiastic puppy. I walked away with almost a bounce in my step. I wasn't going to make the same mistakes; I wasn't ever going to lie to Tyler, he was too good a kid to hurt. I had no idea that his getting hurt was the least of my worries.

I went to bed before Ben got back to the room. I didn't want to face him. I knew I would eventually, but I was too scared to admit I'd ruined our relationship. At least if I stayed away I could pretend it could be fixed. I had to struggle not to get dragged into some of the anxiety dreams happening around the school. It was hard to sleep with so many people in such close proximity to me. I'd have to learn how to shield myself better or being at school was going to be a real problem.

I found myself back in the locker room again. Why couldn't I get past that scene? I knew that I couldn't go back and change it; no matter how much I wanted to. The scene replayed again, and I relived Grant hitting me and being kicked. This time it was different; there wasn't an explosion that blew the door from its hinges. The guys did stop, but instead of a fight breaking out they just lifted me up as the door opened.

Ben pushed past the door and glared at me. "You stole my life, Brandon."

I could feel the hate coming from him; it had me trembling. I didn't want to face him, but they wouldn't let me go. Tears were running down my face as I tried to get free of my captors. "No..."

"You're a fucking freak." He stalked past them and stood in front of me. "Did you get off those times we showered together to save time?"

I could hear myself sobbing. This was what he thought of me; this was what I'd become. I was a perverted faggot; I was worthless. "No..."

"You used to squirm against me when I let you come to bed; you weren't having nightmares, you were trying to get off." The venom in his words felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife. I'd made him hate me. I'd taken his trust and love and twisted it into something vile and painful.

"No..." I wanted to run and hide, but I couldn't get free of they guys.

He grabbed me by the throat and dragged me toward the shower. "I'll show you what we do to faggots around here." I clawed at his arm, trying to break away, but he just laughed and tossed me against the tiles like a duffle bag. He pulled off his shirt and reached for his pants. "You've been wanting it, bro, now I'm going to give it to you."

I'd violated his life. I'd gone in and forced him to live like a normal person when he wasn't. I'd taken away his choices. I'd raped him as surely as they guys had tried to do to me. I wasn't any better than they were; in fact, I was worse. I couldn't get away. The guys were holding me down and ripping the rest of my clothes off. I was crying out, begging them stop. Ben started punching me, telling me that he'd give me what I deserved. I knew I deserved it, but all I wanted to do was die.


I'd talked with Kate all day. It was like a weight had lifted off my shoulders to talk about my fears and insecurities with everything. I began feeling good again while talking about Brandon and remembering what it'd been like before. Kate was great. She would prompt me when I needed it; she kept quiet when I had to breathe; in a lot of ways she was just like Bran, but she was a girl and a beautiful one at that.

I asked her about her friends and how she'd gotten all cut up. She was hesitant at first, but she told me. I couldn't imagine what she talked about; it was too unreal. Finally, she just asked me if I really wanted to know. I could see something in the back of her eyes; it was like she was haunted by the memory and needed to share it to be free. After letting me vent all day, I couldn't say no to her. I had no idea what I was getting into. I'm sure she only gave me a bit of it, but the part I got scared me shitless. It also filled me with the most incredible sense of awe; she and her friends had been willing to die for each other. No matter what, they'd fought till the end. I realized that if friends were able to do that, I couldn't do any less for Brandon. We were bros, and we'd survive anything.

When I got back to the room I really wanted to wake him up and tell him I loved him. I wanted to clear the air. I couldn't stand the anger and hurt anymore. I realized something was wrong as I got close. I could hear Bran crying even before I got the door open.

He was thrashing about on the bed, twisted up in the sheets. He kept begging someone to stop. I got to the bed and grabbed his shoulders. "Brandon!"

His eyes flew open, and he looked at me in a way that made my gut twist. His eyes weren't human; they were like windows to somewhere else. "NO!" He pushed me away and seemed to swirl in a mist of darkness and stars. The darkness gripped him like a set of claws, and he screamed as it seemed to dissolve parts of his body. Scrambling for the bed I tried to grab him, but my fingers just went through him like he wasn't even there. In a rush of darkness Brandon vanished.

I clawed at the bed and screamed after him. "BRANDON!!!"