The following is a complete work of fiction.
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.
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X Universe - Book 2
Ties that Bind - Chapter 3
The next couple days we didn't see Jeff, Kate or Tyler much. They spent every waking moment with Dan. We were happy for them. It also gave Ben and I time to start reestablishing our relationship. I made sure never to do any "gay" things to him, and he tried his best to be good humored and open. At times the stress of "always being good" was a trial on both of us, but we were never "false" in our sentiments.
I was in a little funk after our first day of "school". We had different classes, all specialty mutant courses to help us get a handle on our powers. They had me in some "remedial" telepathy courses to establish exactly what I could and couldn't do through regular telepathic means. It was exhausting. It was also embarrassing because thirteen year old kids could do psychic circles around me.
Ben had enjoyed his day more than I had. He'd been able to show off some pretty cool shit and was enjoying the possibilities of where his powers might expand to. "It was fucking cool. We started with pitching, and they studied what I was doing till they figured out that I was 'projecting' the ball through an enhancement of kinetic force."
I really wasn't interested but I didn't want to cut Ben off. The fact that he could enjoy his powers was too important. "That's how you catch fast balls too?"
He nodded, holding up his left hand. "Yeah, I seem to be able to 'absorb' with my left and 'project' with my right. Like the ultimate pitcher."
I laughed, and then realized what that meant. "Damn, Ben. I guess you really don't have the option of playing do you?"
Sighing, he shrugged. "It wouldn't matter what my powers were, bro. Now that we're 'out', no one would put a mutant on a team anyway." He looked at me. "What about you? We both had athletic scholarships. You can bet your ass that we'll be getting letters revoking them soon."
I shrugged. I really hadn't wanted to continue with sports. Ben was the major athlete; I'd come along for the ride. "It means we'll have to figure out other ways to pay for college, but I'm glad I won't have to deal with away games and practices while trying to get an education."
Ben slumped down on the bed. "I never really thought about what I wanted to do with my life after baseball."
I knew he hadn't. I'd tried to encourage him to diversify his interests, but he just loved the game. I'd realized early on that if I was going to get to spend time with my brother, I'd have to play the game too. It was one of Ben's strengths and his greatest failing; when he decided on something it was almost impossible to get him to do anything else. It made his focus really strong, but he could be blindsided pretty easily. My problem was I tried to keep track of too much; eventually I couldn't juggle it all, and I'd drop something.
"What do you want to study?"
That snapped me back to the present. I knew, deep down, what I wanted to do. It was one of those things that you might call a "gay" profession. I looked at my feet. "I want to learn hotel management and go to chef school." I didn't want to look at his reaction. "Remember that B&B Mom and Dad took us to once?"
"Yeah, the one in the mountains near the ski slopes?"
"That's what I want to do... I want to run my own B&B." I looked up.
Ben seemed to chew on it for a while and then shrugged. "Cool." He grinned at my surprise. 'That means I'll have a free place to vacation at."
I grinned. "I still get my ass felt up more than you do."
Ben frowned, but didn't say anything. Kate made sure to pat my ass every time she saw us. Ben was jealous as hell. I even noticed that in his last workout he did a lot more squats than usual. If I didn't find it so much fun, I'd have felt sorry for him. It was obvious that he had it bad for Kate. I couldn't understand it really. He'd never shown any interest in colored girls before; the furthest a field he ever went was Sophia: she was half Hispanic. Not that Kate wasn't twenty kinds of hot; I think she could make the Pope throw a bone if she wanted to.
There was a knock at the door and Kate called in. "Is everyone decent?"
I struggled to get my shirt off. "Yeah, but give me a sec... this damn cast makes it difficult to strip!"
Ben scowled at me as Kate pushed open the door, laughing. "Oh, oh, where's a dollar when you need one!" She saw my ribs as I grinned and started pulling the shirt back down. "Oh Bran, that looks horrible."
I shrugged. "You were there." I smiled over at Ben. "At least someone got me out of there before it got any worse."
Ben grinned and looked at his feet. That was about the only thing I could do to really embarrass him; let him know how cool I thought having him as a brother was. We had our problems to work through, but I wouldn't have changed him for anything. He looked back up at Kate. "What's up?"
She had been grinning at him when he wasn't looking, but her face went somewhat neutral as he looked up. "Dan wants to meet the new guys." We both blinked. With how 'important' the guy seemed to everyone, it felt like we'd just been summoned to meet the king. Kate laughed at our expressions. "Oh give me a break guys; he's just interested in meeting the twins we've been telling him about." She nodded at Ben, "Especially you."
Ben gulped. "Me?"
"Yeah. Apparently Hank thinks you two have similar powers and thinks Dan might be able to help you develop them better than anyone else." She grinned and wiggled her eyebrows. "He also wants to check out the guy who can knock his fiancÚ on his ass."
I laughed. "This I've got to see." Ben did not look at all enthused.
Dan was out of most of the support gear when we got down to the lab. He didn't look all that bad without all the structure around him. Hell, Brandon looked worse than he did, but his wounds were more recent. The guy was tall and lanky and had the reddest hair I'd ever seen. Jeff was sitting up on the edge of his bed, and was looking as happy as a puppy with a new bone.
"Dan, this is Benton Carpenter, and the cute one is his identical twin, Brandon." Kate grinned at her underhanded comment, and moved over to kiss Dan on the cheek. "Ben, Bran, this is Daniel Jameson... soon to be Daniel Watkins. You can call him -god's gift-, but the rest of us call him Dan."
Dan rolled his eyes and smiled at us. "Nice to meet you guys; I've been hearing nothing but how you're the latest news at Xaviers." He smirked at me. "Don't let Kate get you down; like my horndog fiancÚ, she's into guys with great butts. Personally, I like arms and pecs so you're my preferred twin."
I couldn't believe I was blushing. The guy was nothing if not direct. I suppose once you've seen death, little things like being self conscious goes by the wayside.
Jeff shot Dan a hurt look. "Hey! I thought we already clarified whose body you get to dream about."
Dan laughed and gave Jeff a quick kiss. That was a strange to see; I'd never actually seen guys kiss before. "I've got eyes, Jeff. They may only be for you, but I'm not blind."
Jeff grinned. "Ok. That means I can look at Brandon's ass. Kate says it rival's yours."
I glanced at Brandon and was comforted to know he was blushing too. Dan looked over at Bran, his eyes softening. "I've got to thank you for helping Jeff. He said he was really losing it till you stepped in and helped out with his sleeping."
Bran smiled. "I was happy to help."
We stood there, at the foot of the bed, in an awkward silence. After a few moments, Dan laughed. "Damn, what did these guys tell you two? I feel like you're expecting to have to kiss my hand or something."
I grinned, "Well, we were just instructed to address you as -god's gift-."
"Nah, Kate just likes to tease me because I had the gall to walk on water once." He smiled. "Pull up a couple inches of mattress or a chair or something; this isn't an inquisition." He glared at Kate. "I know this is your fault. No one can inspire fear like you can."
She looked up at the ceiling. "I'm as sweet a honey, Dan. I have no idea what you're talking about."
He glared at her for another moment, and then let out an exasperated sigh. "If you haven't noticed, she's always right."
"We noticed," we said in unison. That cracked everyone up, and the tension broke. There was an empty bed beside his and I climbed up on it, propped a few pillows behind me and patted my chest. Bran and I used to sit like that for hours watching TV. It was something comforting and familiar at an uncomfortable moment. He climbed up and snuggled back against me.
Thanks Ben. Mussing his hair, I grinned.
Dan smiled at us. "I never had siblings."
I wrapped my arms around Bran. "It's pretty cool." I could almost feel him melting. I hadn't realized how much Bran needed to be reassured.
Jeff grinned. "For a straight guy, you're pretty cool, Ben."
I laughed. "We've already established I don't throw like a 'limp-wristed fag', haven't we?"
Jeff chuckled. "Yeah, that we have." Dan looked confused, and Jeff smirked. "I tried to tease Ben about his pitching, and that's when he hit me with a supersonic throw that put me on my ass."
I grinned. "He was asking for it."
Dan laughed. "Yeah, he would." It was weird to see how he looked at Jeff. There was no denying they were totally in love; I'd just never seen guys in love. It was a little hard to watch. At least they didn't suck face.
Bran must have picked up on my discomfort. "Oh, guys?" They looked at him. "Ben's never seen gay guys in love before... so can we break him in gently?"
Kate looked disappointed. "Damn, and I was hoping for an all male orgy."
Dan snorted. "In your dreams, Kate." He looked back at us. "Yeah, we'll go easy on him. Don't want to scare off a guy I'm supposed to work with."
I looked at him. He was still in casts and didn't look all that strong. "That's cool, but you just got out of a coma. Shouldn't you be on rehab?"
Dan laughed. "Yeah, and I'm not allowed to use my powers during rehab. I've got to rehab my powers too. They said you have some form of energy powers?"
I nodded. "Yeah, I can project from my right and absorb with my left." I waved my hands and then put them back around Bran.
"Cool." Dan smiled and the room dimmed. All the lights seemed to fade and the only light in the room seemed to be an aura around us. "I control energy. They probably want me to see what you're limits are." The room returned to normal a moment later.
"Woah." Bran sounded impressed, and I know I was.
Dan grinned at Brandon and me. "Before I forget: thanks for being so cool with Ty. He's the best guy I know next to Jeff. He won't admit it, but he's going to be really lonely when we head to college. He doesn't have many friends"
I found that hard to believe. Tyler seemed to be a cool kid. "He's a great kid."
Kate, Dan and Jeff looked at each other. Kate grinned. "Don't worry guys; I'll straighten him out on the 'kid' shit."
Bran laughed. "Kate, you're getting us confused again. He's straight; I'm gay. You don't need to 'straighten him out'."
She shot him a mock frown. "Hey, gay boy, your ass isn't visible and you're blocking the view. How the hell am I supposed to know which of you is which?"
I know she was joking, but it kind of stung that she didn't see us as individuals. Bran flinched as if I'd jabbed him. Hey, it's not my fault Ben. You don't have to bite me.
"Sorry, Bran." I mumbled, and realized I was getting tired. "Guys, would it be ok if I headed off to bed? It's been a rough first day." Bran nodded in agreement
Dan smirked. "Yeah, I remember my first day of 'mutant training'. Don't be strangers, ok? It'd be nice to hang with some people who don't think I'm -god's gift-."
We both laughed as we got off the bed. I smiled, "We'll try to keep from being 'awe struck' for a few days at least."
Dan shot me a mock frown. "I was hoping for a little longer than a few days."
We all laughed, and Bran and I went back to the room. We did go to bed pretty soon after that, but I didn't get to sleep very quickly. I realized I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, or even who I was any more. It wasn't Bran's fault; looking back I could see he'd tried to get me to do more things than baseball. Bran had his plans; he always did. I knew that he'd be great at what ever he set his mind to. What I wasn't so sure of was what I would do when it was time to grow up.
We finished up our first week of school just in time for the 4th of July. Ben was having a great time playing with his new powers. In a way I was jealous. Everything for him was new and exciting. All I kept finding out was how limited and backwards I had been with my own powers. I couldn't even project my thoughts to others; except for Ben, since the nightmare incident I'd been able to read and send consciously with him. I was also finding that if he was in a non-active thought moment, like a daydream, I could send to him anywhere on campus.
I think I've mentioned before that I really loved Ben. He was the most important person in my life, bar none. That never changed, even when we had our month apart. He'd spent the whole week helping me dress and wash and just about everything but wiping my ass on the john. Which was fine, that was just a little too personal for me. He also made sure he kept up our old tactile comforts; I could feel he was a little uncomfortable with it, but that just made the fact he was doing it even more special for me. I'd really needed the confirmation that we'd be ok.
We went out for the school picnic on the 4th. When we got to the field, we were pleasantly surprised to see Dan out there in a wheel chair. He gave us an ironic smile as we came up to 'the oak'. Tyler had explained that the particular oak Ben and I had gravitated to also be the one their group had always used for getting together.
"Hey guys!" There was a girl standing next to Dan's chair that we hadn't met. She had dark hair, a pretty face and a white forelock. She also wore gloves in summer, which was odd. "Have you met Rogue?"
We shook our heads and Ben extended his hand. "I'm Ben, the banged up guy is Bran."
I shot him an "eat shit and die" look. She smiled. "You're the new twins."
We looked at each other and grinned. I stepped back, trying to look mortified. "Holy shit! When'd that happen?"
Rogue laughed and extended her hand to me. "Nice to meet you."
I took it and I felt something really weird. It was almost like there were people clawing at the spot between my eyes. Some were angry, some weren't, but they were all fighting to be heard. I think I must have blanked. I found myself slumped against the wheelchair with Rogue looking panicked.
"Oh god, I'm sorry..." She looked like she was about to puke.
Dan grabbed her arm. "Rogue, you didn't drain him. Really!"
My head was still swimming. I'd never felt anything like that before. "No, my fault. I guess I'm still not used to my powers yet." I could still hear the voices coming from her. It was like being in a room of sleeping people. I shuddered. Something about her was really different. I pushed myself up and forced a smile. "Didn't mean to scare you." I put out my hand again.
She looked at it skeptically and then gently took it. I held her hand, looking into her eyes while trying to block out the voices. They were in there, inside her, and they were loud. I didn't flinch and after a few moments I let go. I wondered if she heard them.
There was a cute guy tossing a Frisbee with Jeff, Tyler and Kate. I nodded his way. "Is that the ever elusive 'Bobby'?"
Dan laughed. "Yeah. We'll introduce you guys."
"Shame you can't take part in the game." Ben was sincere.
"I'm cool with it." Dan grinned. "And I can, if I want to cheat." I saw him flick his finger and the Frisbee made a ninety degree turn and soared right at him to a chorus of outraged complaints. He reached out and grabbed it with his good hand. "It isn't much fun for anyone else."
His little display did work to get everyone together. We shook hands with Bobby and were introduced to his signature 'grip of ice'. I kind of felt left out with all the physically powered mutations around. There wasn't' a simple, cool way I could demonstrate my powers. I was still in a cast, so I stayed back with Dan and Rogue while the others went out for another game.
Rogue looked at me for a little while before saying anything. "It sucks doesn't it?"
I blinked. "What?"
"Having powers you can't demonstrate or play with?"
I nodded. "Yeah." I looked back at the game. "You absorb people's powers or something, right?"
She shrugged. "Yeah. I can't turn it off." She looked at me. "When you dropped, I thought somehow I'd done it even without having skin contact."
Shaking my head, I smiled at her. "No, wasn't that."
Her eyes looked worried. "What was it?"
I shrugged. "Voices: a whole bunch of them trying to get my attention at the same time."
She shivered. "Yeah, I hear them sometimes too." I could see a tears building up in her eyes. "Something stays, like an echo, from any person I touch for too long."
Shuddering, I looked back at the game. "That must be horrible."
"It is." She wandered off after a couple minutes, lost in her own thoughts.
I looked at Dan. "Did I do something?"
Dan shook his head. "No. I think you just touched on an area she's still trying to deal with." He grinned and nodded out at the field. "Looks like someone's had enough of being the shortest member of the team."
I grinned as Tyler jogged off the field. "Aren't you going to come out, Bran?"
I held up my cast. "Left handed, bud."
"Oh," he seemed genuinely disappointed. "I think I'm going to sit out for a while. I'm just a geek anyway."
Dan mussed his hair as he plopped down beside the chair. "Don't worry about it, Ty. If you want, you can be Mr. Buff by this time next year."
He seemed to think about for a while and then looked at me. "What do you think, Bran?"
I grinned. "You're the right age. Ben really started buffing out at fourteen. By the time we were sixteen, he had everyone falling over him."
He scrutinized me for a moment. "Why didn't you?"
I shrugged. "I was in the closet."
"Oh." He looked back at the game. All the guys had their shirts off and were working up a sweat in the summer heat. "Why don't you ever show off like Ben?"
I grinned. "Shy I guess; he's always had a better body than I have anyway."
Dan snorted. "Yeah right."
Sending him an evil glare, I settled on the grass near Ty. "I'm only calling it like it is."
Dan gave Ty a wicked grin and chuckled. "You know, there's only one way to find out."
Ty giggled. "Yeah."
I had no idea what was happening when I suddenly floated from the ground and Ty jumped me. "HEY!"
I'd never been weightless before. Apparently, Ty had. He grabbed for my shirt as we spun in the air. He laughed as we struggled. The wiry little fucker was everywhere. With a triumphant cry, he got my shirt off and tossed it to Dan. We floated for a few moments, Ty grinning at me with his legs wrapped around my waist. He was just looking at me, smiling. He didn't even bother to let his eyes wander. The way he was looking at me made me shudder. It was like something inside me clicked. I became suddenly aware that I was hard as a rock. Ty yelped as I bucked him off. "PUT ME DOWN!"
I hit the dirt and rolled into a stand before anyone could say anything. Snatching my shirt back from a surprised Dan, I held it wadded up in front of me. I glared at Dan; I couldn't even look at Tyler. "Thanks so much for embarrassing the shit out of me. I really enjoy being humiliated by a fourteen year old." I felt like I was going to be sick. I'd thrown a bone for a fourteen-year-old. I was one sick, perverted fuck. "I'll see you guys later." I stalked off, wanting nothing more than to find a big rock to crawl under.
We were having a blast playing full out Frisbee when I heard Brandon yell. Spinning, I saw him drop to the ground from about three feet up, roll up and snatch his shirt from Dan. I couldn't hear what he said, but he left looking ready to kill someone. I jogged back over to Dan and Ty. "What happened?"
Ty looked like he was about to cry. "It's my fault. We were just having fun." His voice was wavering and he just looked at Dan for help.
Dan shrugged. "I've no clue. Ty and I were teasing him about the fact that he never shows off like you do." He waved at my chest. "You know, a jock who doesn't show it? Anyway, he made the excuse that you had a better body anyway. I kind of helped Tyler jump him so he could get his shirt off so we could decide for ourselves."
Ty was nodding. "That's all that happened. Then he got really upset and left." He looked back at Bran's retreating form. "I didn't mean to make him mad, really."
Bran had always been reserved about his body, but he'd never been ashamed of it. He never had problems at the pool or in the locker rooms. He usually wore less revealing clothes than I did; not as form fitting; he preferred beefy tees to muscle shirts and wore relaxed fit jeans instead of ass huggers. Still, taking his shirt off him wasn't something that would normally set him off. "Maybe it was the helplessness thing? He was cornered by our teammates before we graduated. They beat him up pretty bad before I got there." I saw no reason to add that they'd had ever intention of raping him too. The thought still made my stomach crawl.
Dan frowned. "I didn't know."
Tyler kept looking at the doors where Bran had disappeared. He looked like a kicked puppy. I mussed his hair and smiled. "I'm sure there's no harm done. Bran will probably be back later, looking shame faced for his reaction."
Ty wandered off, looking dejected. "I don't want him to be ashamed. I just thought we were friends."
Dan watched Ty leave and sighed. "Ty's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. He wouldn't hurt a fly. I have no idea how he was able to bring himself to suit up and duke it out with the bitch."
Kate had shared some of the memories of that, but apparently she hadn't been awake for it all. "He did?"
Dan nodded. "He was a fucking little tank. He looks like a geek, but he's tough as nails about everything except the people he loves." Sighing, he shrugged. "I hope Bran figures out that Tyler never just 'makes friends'. When he decides to open up to someone, it's with everything he is. He doesn't hold back." Dan's eyes wandered to Jeff; I could see the love and gratitude in his face. "I hope he meets someone who's like Jeff was for me. I'm worried Ty's going to get hurt because he just doesn't know how to keep his heart out of things."
I had this brief image of Tyler and Bran. It was disturbing as hell and I pushed it away. Bran would never do a kid. Hell, Bran was still virgin. I wasn't ready for him to "have a boyfriend", but I was certain when he did the guy would be someone special. He deserved that.
I found myself sitting out front on the steps. I'd been so angry at Dan and Tyler. They hadn't done anything wrong, not really. It was all fun and games. Hell, I wasn't even upset about the shirt. It felt weird to think someone would -want- to look at me with Ben and Jeff around. Sure, I was a jock, but I'd never really felt like one. All I ever did was squat down behind the home plate for long periods of time and catch balls. That wasn't exactly gymnastics or anything.
I just couldn't get the feeling of violation out of me. I hated feeling helpless. I hated knowing there wasn't a fucking thing I could do to protect myself. I had to use deception and lies because they were my only tools. I didn't want to be like that. I didn't want to retreat to the shadows and watch life from a distance. I'd started enjoying being a real person.
I also couldn't get what happened with Tyler out of my head. I felt so dirty. He was such a cute guy, honest, sweet and so full of life. All he was doing was trying to get me to have fun, and I freaked out on him. I'd rough-housed with our friends and teammates plenty of times and never had that happen. All he did was squirm against me and I had a rage-on. Did that make me a pedophile? I shuddered to think of what other dark secrets were lurking in me waiting to be given a moment of light.
Caught up in my fears and doubts, I completely missed the fact that Tyler had sat down next to me. He was just sitting there, looking out at the driveway, and looking miserable. Clearing my throat, I apologized. "I'm sorry, Ty. I shouldn't have gone off on you like that."
"I didn't know they'd tried to rape you." Did I ever mention that Ty usually went straight for the point? He seldom hedged around a topic.
That had me shocked. We hadn't told anyone about what happened. "Who told you that?"
"No one. Ben mentioned that you'd been beaten up before you guys graduated and thought you might have been reacting to that." Shrugging, he sighed. "I did a quick search and found the news articles and police reports." His eyes were so sad. It was horrible to see such beautiful eyes clouded with worry. "We'd never do that, Bran. We'd never do something to hurt you."
God, how could I stay mad at a guy who just poured himself out like that. It wasn't what he said, it was everything he did. He just sat there, and I could almost feel him committing himself to never hurt me. A fourteen-year-old boy was showing me what it was to be a true friend. I couldn't help myself when I put my arm over his shoulder and pulled him up against me. He just fit right there, almost like he was meant to be there. I pushed aside that thought and gave him a triumphant smile. "I know, Ty. We're friends, right?"
He nodded, his eyes brightening up by the moment. If that was all it took to keep him happy, I was bound and determined to keep him that way. "Yeah."
"Cool." We sat there for a while, just basking in the glow of a new friendship, till our stomachs growled. I chuckled and stood up. "I wonder if they still have burgers left back at the picnic?"
His eyes looked distant for a moment and he smiled. "Yeah, plenty."
Cocking my head at him, I started back to the games fields. "How do you know that?"
He giggled. "I reoriented one of the security cameras to view the grills."
Ok, I'd never really considered what Ty's powers could do. It looked like they were really cool.