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.

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X Universe - Book 2


Ties that Bind - Chapter 4


Brandon seemed ok after the blowup on the fourth. That was good, because I had my own things to deal with. I'd begun to work with Dan daily. They took me out of standard power practice class and put me into training with him. It was like getting a personal trainer over being in a gym class. He worked my ass off.

While I struggled to master my powers, Dan was struggling to reclaim his mastery of his body. It must have been hard not to just resort to using his powers to compensate for his injuries. That was exactly what they didn't want him to do. It was mid-July when something changed. Dan started working me harder and nothing I did was good enough. He seemed to take extra effort to show me that he could do what I did without half the effort and at twice the power. It was Thursday afternoon when I'd had enough. I'd been unable to get any confirmation that Kate was even interested in me, our scholarships had finally been revoked, and now the guy who was supposed to be training me was acting like the world's most powerful asshole.

"That's wrong, Ben. Why can't you fucking get this?" Dan held up his hands and caused electricity to leap from one hand to the other. "Generate and absorb in one coordinated effort. A child could do this!"

I snapped. "Maybe a child who grew up being trained by a witch can, but I've only had my powers for two fucking months. I'm doing the best I can!"

Dan glowered at me. "I had my powers suppressed too, Ben. Don't use it as an excuse."

I'd been sweating up a storm trying to keep up with Dan's demands. I peeled off my shirt and threw it down before grabbing my towel. "Calm your queer ass down, Dan. What ever has crawled up your butt, it wasn't me so just get off my case!"

He flinched. He also looked at me for a moment with a kind of odd longing. I realized that Jeff and I probably looked pretty similar. Our facial features were different and he was naturally darker skinned, but I was only an inch shorter and was almost as muscular as he was. Something clicked. "This has nothing to do with me, does it?

"Of course it has to do with you, Ben. I'm only here for a couple more weeks. I can't hold your hand forever." He spit it at me, but it didn't have the bite or conviction his words had before.

"Why the fuck should you care, Dan? You've known me what, a month?" He wasn't looking at me now; Dan was never one not to keep eye contact.

"I do care, Ben." Yeah, the fight was going out of his voice. Something was really wrong, and I knew it had nothing to do with me.

I knelt down so he couldn't avoid looking at me. "Why?"

"Because I don't want to fail with you too." His eyes held mine for a moment before he turned away.

"You haven't; this still isn't about me, and we both know it."

Dan frowned at me and looked way again. He'd gotten out of the wheel chair earlier in the week and was using leg braces. He still had no real use of his arm. "Sorry, Ben. I guess I'm taking out my frustrations on you."

I wiped off and draped the towel over my shoulders. "Want to talk about it?"

He snorted. "Yeah, sure. Talk to the straight guy about issues with my fiancÚ."

"Hey, I'm straight but I'd like to think I'm not 'narrow'." I grinned at him. "I've got a pretty good idea what gay guys do." What surprised me was that the thought didn't disgust me; I wasn't turned on by the idea, but it didn't send me running for a place to hide.

"What we don't do is more like it." He sounded exhausted and frustrated.

"Oh."

"Yeah, oh. Oh poor Dan, he's so hurt and fragile." He clenched his jaw. "He treats me like I'm made of glass, Ben. He barely holds me when we go to bed and we haven't done -anything- since I woke up." He looked like he was ready to cry. "It's like he can't stand touching me any more."

"I can tell you that's not true." I shrugged as he looked at me. "The way he looks at you unnerved me at first, but in a way I'm jealous. He's so in love with you that it's impossible to ignore it."

Dan sighed. "I know, but I'd feel better about myself if he'd show it. I'm getting tired of feeling him look at me like I'm out of reach." He was actually crying when he looked back at me. "He wants to postpone the wedding."

That was news. I knew they were both so eager to get married that they itched with it. I was Jeff's workout partner; I noticed these things. "Why?"

"He says he doesn't want to rush me."

I tried to figure out what it would be like. If I were in love with someone who had nearly been killed and was recovering, how would I react? I'd be scared. "You know, he's probably just scared."

Dan snorted. "Of what? We already survived the most frightening thing I'd ever seen... what could he possibly be scared of?"

"You." He blinked at me as I sat down. "I'd be scared of hurting you. I'd be scared to ask you to move on when you're still in the midst of recovery. I'd probably be scared that you'd be taken from me again." Shrugging, I looked back at him. "At least, if you were a girl and I were in love with you."

Dan thought about that for a while. Finally he nodded and pushed off from the wall. It was amazing how fluidly he moved with those leg braces on. I was sure that he was as good a dancer as everyone boasted; no one can be graceful in braces, but he managed it. "So, what would your girl have to do to get you over it?"

I grinned and wiggled my eyebrows. "If she really wasn't fragile?"

He started to grin. "Yeah, not fragile at all."

"I'd say the fastest way to get me over it would be to take matters into her own hands and fuck me senseless before I knew what was going on."

Dan smiled. "You like your women shameless, don't you?"

I laughed. "I like a woman who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to get it."

He grinned. "Yeah, like Kate?"

I choked. Ok, so I wasn't making any secret of my interest in Kate. I looked down. "Yeah, like Kate."

He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed. "I think you're a great guy, Ben. I think Kate would be lucky to have a guy like you."

I smiled. "Thanks. I just wish Kate felt that way." She was never actually rude or mean to me; she just never seemed to like being around me. Sure, she teased me sometimes but it was usually to point out how I didn't measure up to Brandon. I'd have been jealous, but there wasn't any point. He wasn't interested in her, so there was no competition. I'd finally given up on the idea of making a good impression. She'd just done her 'hero thing' when she'd helped bring back Brandon. I had to accept the fact that she thought of me as "a friend" at best and "a classmate" at worst.

Dan smiled. "I'll drop in a good word for you." When I looked up to object, he grinned. "I'll just drop the hint, Ben. The rest is up to you." He pondered for a moment and he grinned further. "How would you like to visit Florida in August?"


I couldn't believe Dan asked me to be Tyler's "escort" for the wedding. Somewhere along the line he'd gotten the bright idea that all his friends, single or otherwise, should be there with a companion. He'd made quite a stir with a few of the other guests, especially Logan and Scott. They either had to back out, take other people to the wedding, or show up as a couple. Apparently Logan was ready to gut Dan for doing it. Theirs was a story I really wanted to hear. Not that I knew Scott all that well, but I was getting to know Logan. Early morning self defense training was a hell of a way to get to know someone. Still, it was giving me more confidence in my own ability to survive. Ty had arranged that. I was still amazed at the first time I'd gotten to meet Wolverine.

Ty had asked me to have dinner with him late because he would be "in training". I was more than happy to have a dinner with him alone; I didn't have to worry about anyone catching on to the fact that I thought he was cute. I hated myself for thinking about him that way, but I couldn't deny the fact that since the fourth I'd had more than a couple dreams of alternate endings to our wrestling scene. It was uncomfortable as hell to think about the fact that a kid could make my dick drip. I kept trying to reprogram myself by jacking off to photos of older guys, eighteen to twenty-four, and totally masculine. The problem was I kept picking guys who looked similar to Ty but were all grown up and muscled out. How Freud was that?

I met Ty at the "danger room". I'd never actually been in it. I'd heard about it, and knew it was some really kick ass training area, but it was way out of my league. He told me to pick him up at seven. It was a quarter past seven and he hadn't come out. I finally touched the pad at the door. "Hello?"

A gruff voice snarled back. "We're in training here; who the fuck is this?"

I swallowed, just the guy's voice sounded dangerous. "Brandon, Brandon Carpenter? I'm here to pick up Tyler?"

"Oh, yeah. The kid mentioned that; come on in, I'm not done with the little shit yet." The door slid open, and I looked into a huge room with weird platforms and systems. The guy in front of me was shirtless, wearing a pair of sweat pants and no shoes. He was built like a furry wall of muscle, but moved with a feral grace. Something about him was raw sexuality and I found myself just staring as he wiped sweat from his brow. "Get in here and close the door; we can't reactivate the practice with it open."

I stepped in and the door swished shut behind me. There was another guy in what looked like a black body suit and funky goggles. He was tall, lean and looked tough as nails. He nodded to the hairy guy. "Ok, Wolverine, let's finish this."

Worlverine snarled and tapped the wall control. "Have it your way, one-eye, the kid and I are going to finish kicking your ass in no time."

There was a poof of smoke above him as a guy with blue skin and a tail clung to the bottom of a platform like Spiderman. His accent was definitely German. "You can boast all you want, Wolverine, but we are still in the lead."

"Fuck you, Nightcrawler." Wolverine crouched down and snarled.

Nightcrawler chuckled, his voice taunting. "Oh, no thank you. I'll leave that between you and my team captain. I know when to keep my hands off of other men's property."

I was shocked at the "schickt" of extending claws as Wolverine roared and launched himself at his tormentor. Nightcrawler vanished in an explosion of smoke before those claws sank into the bottom of the platform. He reappeared on the wall near "one-eye" as the man crouched. "That wasn't nice, Nightcrawler. You know how he gets when someone pisses him off."

Nightcrawler smirked. "Sorry Cyclops. I hope it won't make life difficult for you later."

He grinned. "It will make life 'hard', but I've come to accept that."

I couldn't believe the banter. Were those guys gay? It didn't seem possible. Both Wolverine and Cyclops seemed like the ultimate "Alpha Males". I thought most gay guys were like me; scared shitless.

Wolverine snarled and dropped from his spot under the platform. "You two think you're so funny. Both your bitch asses are mine."

Cyclops laughed. "You know better than that, Wolverine. There's only one ass available to you and you have to earn it." He was looking around, as if trying to find someone or something.

Wolverine sniffed the air and grinned. "Hey Tech, you go'in to help me out here or do I have to take these two assholes down solo? This was supposed to be a gang bang here!"

Cyclops rolled as bursts of energy lanced out at him from somewhere to the left. Nightcrawler vanished, avoiding the burst of bolts that blew through the space he had occupied as another guy leapt down from an upper platform. I could hardly see him because he seemed to blur or be partially transparent. He landed near Cyclops and leveled two arm-blasters at him. "Checkmate!" He let loose, filling the platform with energy bolts as Cyclops dodged.

"Ow! Shit those sting!" Cyclops had taken a couple bolts in the leg as he soared off the platform, spun and let a red blast fly from his visor. It caught "Tech" square in the chest and sent him sailing off the platform to smash into the floor below with a startled cry.

I recognized that voice. Looking again, I saw blond hair above the compilation of cybernetic components and stuff that encased his body. It was Tyler. Wolverine was beside him, covering him as Ty scrambled to his feet. "You ok, kid?"

"Yeah, just my ego got bruised. I thought I had him." They rolled apart as Nightcrawler appeared and tried to take on Wolverine. Tyler let loose a flurry of bolts that caused Nightcrawler to vanish. Wolverine grinned. "Good moves, Tech. You're still green but we'll toughen you up yet." His eyes narrowed as he sniffed the air. "If you can keep that blue jerk off me for a few, I'll show you how to take down a man."

Tyler nodded. "No prob." He looked about, scanning the area. "Want to know where they are?"

Snorting, Wolverine moved away. "I can smell 'one-eye' at a thousand paces kid; I know my man anywhere."

Tyler grinned. "Keep this PG13 Wolverine; I'm just a kid you know." Wolverine chuckled and vanished into the shadows of the various obstacles.

Tyler had taken refuge behind a barricade and seemed like he was just waiting. He didn't wait long; there was a "bamf" like sound and he let loose at the swirl of smoke. Nightcrawler vanished and reappeared almost simultaneously, but Tyler had already blasted toward the area he was appearing into as if he could predict where the man would go. The blasts caught the teleporter across his whole body and he cried out in surprise.

"Acht! Mother of Mary, those things hurt!" Kurt hit the floor cursing.

There was a chiming sound and a smooth feminine voice filled the room. "Nightcrawler: critical hit. Please refrain from further actions until released by a teammate."

Nightcrawler was mumbling at his luck as there was a bestial roar and the sound of Cyclops' energy blast scorching a wall. They came soaring off a platform, red light smashing against the walls and ceiling as Cyclops was sent to the floor by the force of the larger man's body. Wolverine slammed his claws down, pinning Cyclops' hands over his head. He must have used only the two outer claws because there wasn't any screaming of pain.

He growled down at his prey, a feral smile curling his lips. "I got you."

Cyclops' jaw was set in stubborn defiance. "I could still blow your head off."

Wolverine was pressed down against him, holding Cyclops in place with his hard, muscular body. His smile deepened. "I know what you can blow..." He caught Cyclops' retort with his lips as he kissed the man with a passion that had me hard in seconds. It was so hot.

Cyclops moaned into his mouth. Wolverine released his hands and they gripped each other for a few moments. When he began to grind his hips against Cyclops, Cyclops tried to stop it from going further. "Logan... there are minors in the room."

He looked up at me. "You legal kid?"

I swallowed. "Uh, yeah."

He grinned at Tyler. "This anything you haven't seen before?"

He shook his head, eyes wide. "Nope, just not you guys."

He ground his hips a bit more, causing Cyclops to squirm. "Who got whom, boss man?"

Cyclops wrapped his arms around Logan and kissed him deeply. He grinned as he pulled back. "I got you, finally."

That seemed to embarrass Logan and he stood up. His sweats did nothing to hide the monster of a tool he had raging to be let loose. "I've got to give the kid his eval anyway. Room, fifteen?"

Cyclops laughed, taking the man's hand and pulling himself up. "Shower, twenty. I hit kind of hard there."

"Deal." Logan looked at me briefly, then grunted and kissed Cyclops again. This time it was soft and brief. "Sorry about the landing."

Cyclops grinned. "You can kiss my ass later."

He growled a little but let the comment go.

Cyclops went over to Nightcrawler. "You ok?"

"Yah, the blasts sting but the boy has them turned down not to cause any harm." He smiled at Tyler. "It isn't fair that you can track me when I teleport."

Tyler grinned. "I can't."

Cyclops looked at him. "It looked like you'd planned that shot."

Tyler's grin went to a full smile. "I did. I've been studying all the training tapes that have Kurt and did some statistical analysis of his tactics. I had his moves calculated to within a ten percent certainty. I decided that a nine out of ten chance was good enough to gamble on."

Cyclops shook his head. "Why aren't you part of our strategy sessions for mission planning?"

"Because I'm only fourteen and until a month ago everyone thought I was just a brainy kid."

Cyclops came over and mussed his hair. "You're turning out to be a lot like Dan, Tyler. What the hell am I going to do with you when you turn sixteen?"

Tyler beamed. "You'll be saying, 'yes sir', since I'll be running the place by then."

Cyclops laughed and headed for the door. "Why is it I believe you?"

Kurt chuckled as he left. "Acht, because he's right. These kids are getting better than we are."

Wolverine growled at them as they got to me. "Don't tell them that; they'll get over confident and get themselves killed."

Cyclops ignored him and smiled at me. "Hi, you haven't been in any of my classes, I'm Scott."

"Brandon," I took his hand and smiled.

"You're brother is training with Dan, right?"

"Yes, sir." I looked at the floor. I was used to being compared to Ben, but it didn't mean I was fond of it.

"Well, I'll probably be seeing more of you if Tyler has anything to say about it." He looked at me again and then headed for the door. "He's a smart kid, Brandon. Listen to him, he knows his shit."

That was weird. I'd never had anyone tell me to take advice from a fourteen-year-old before. Nightcrawler nodded to me as he left. The way he was moving told me he was aching a bit worse than he'd said. I suspected Tyler's blasts were anything but insect stings.

Logan crossed his arms and looked down at Tyler. "Ok, kid. You managed not to score any critical hits on yourself and you took out blue-bouncing-boy. Your movements are sloppy and you need to learn to attack and defend at the same time."

Tyler nodded, absorbing it all.

Logan looked up at me. "I understand you're interested in some self-defense training; the nasty shit."

I blinked. "Huh?"

He looked back at Tyler, his eyes narrowing. He seemed to sniff at the air for a moment. "Ok, kid, spill."

Tyler blushed. "I didn't know how to suggest it to him so I thought I'd just invite him to a practice." He looked up at Logan. "No one takes me seriously about stuff like that anyway. I'm just the computer nerd boy."

Logan snorted and looked back at me. "Ok, so let me rephrase: Tyler thinks you should get some self defense training; the nasty shit."

I thought about that. Thus far I'd been beaten up by a bunch of team mates and by my own nightmares, and the summer was young. Though it was kind of insulting to have a kid telling me I needed to learn to fight, Ty wasn't an ordinary kid. I nodded. "He's probably right. My powers don't seem to be much good at protecting me."

He looked me over. "Athlete?"

"Baseball."

"Varsity?"

"Yep, first string catcher."

He raised an eyebrow at that and smirked. I blushed. "Ok, that means you've got the dedication to stick with things. I'm not nice to my students, Brandon, I treat them like shit because I want them to survive. If you think you can take it, I'll be happy to add you to my little pack of wolves."

It was weird, but I actually felt excited by the idea. I was being offered something that had nothing to do with being Ben's brother. I smiled. "I can take it."

"Good; here, tomorrow, six AM." He roughed up Tyler's hair. "Get out of your gear, Kid. You've proven your point. We'll get you into the regular team schedule."

Tyler practically jumped for joy. "Whoo Hoo!"

We both stared at him in mock horror. "Woo hoo?"

Tyler was limping a little bit as we went from the danger room to his room. "You ok?"

He nodded. "Yeah, just achy. My leg was broken pretty bad back when Dan was hurt. I use a slim-fit brace most of the time."

He let me into his room, and I was amazed at how neat and clean it was. His bed looked like it was never used and he had a space-age looking chair in the room that seemed to be plugged into power, phone, networking and wiring I'd never seen before. He grinned sheepishly. "It isn't much, but at least I don't have to have a roommate."

"Actually, I'm amazed at how neat it is. You couldn't even see the floor of my room at fourteen."

He started peeling off the gadgets that he had plastered to him and laid them out in rows on the bed. "I'm kind of a neat freak." When he finished removing all the components he asked, "Is it ok if I take a quick shower before we get food?"

"Sure." I looked around for a place to sit. I didn't want to get in 'the chair'. Though it looked comfortable, I wasn't sure that it wouldn't try to hack me into the matrix or something.

"The chair won't bite you, though it is conformed to my body so it may take a moment to adjust to you." He grabbed some clothes and disappeared into the bathroom.

I studied the chair dubiously. I had to admit, I was intrigued. When I heard the shower turn on I decided I might as well not be a wimp and try the chair out. I sat down in it and it seemed to "flow" against me as if trying to adjust to my sitting in it. The angle shifted automatically and the actual shape of the thing flexed. I was almost ready to jump off the thing when it smoothed out and I just sort of "fit". I couldn't believe how comfortable it was. I sat there, reclined back, and fell asleep.

I have no idea how long I slept, but work up to the feeling of someone pulling on my shoe. "Bran, wake up, I'm hungry."

It took me a moment to gather my wits about me. The chair was so damn comfortable. I blushed as I pushed myself out of the demon chair. "Sorry, Ty."

He grinned. "So it's comfy, huh?"

I glared at the evil thing. "Yes, damn thing practically sucked me into sleep before I could do anything about it."

Ty laughed. "Thanks, I made it myself."

I blinked at him. "You did?"

"Yeah, it's a completely ergonomic, personally adaptable comfort system. I use it instead of the bed when I'm resting." That explained why his bed looked unused.

"Fuck, you could make a fortune on that."

He shrugged. "I've got the patents on the technology. Lazyboy bought usage rights. I bet they'll have something out before Christmas."

I just couldn't believe I was hearing a fourteen-year-old talking about patents and such. I had to keep reminding myself that he was smarter than most of the school combined. Something about that had my stomach doing flip flops. I pushed aside the sudden desire to touch him and I went to the door. "Ready to go?"

He smiled. "Sure, I'm starved."


Kate was looking particularly good in her dance tights and cut-off top. If it wasn't for her determined walk and the frown on her face, I'd have appreciated the view. She waited while I tried to ignore the fact that she was standing there, glaring at me as I finished me set of squats. Hot or not, no woman was going to pull me out of a workout unless it was for an emergency or sex. I knew neither of those was occurring. I got the bar back onto the support rack and grinned at her. "Good afternoon, Ms. Brown. You're looking pissed today." The fact that having her mad, possibly at me, made my stomach go sour didn't matter; she wasn't going to see my flinch. I'd been acting like a fucking puppy dog since we got there and she all but ignored me. I was tired of it; the puppy was going to grow up.

"I know this has to be your fault." She was glowering.

"What, 'this' is that?" I groaned, grabbing my towel. "I haven't even been around you in a week, Kate. What could I have done? I haven't looked at Ty sideways, I haven't bitched at Brandon, I haven't skipped classes and I've left you alone."

Her frowned deepened. "Did you know Dan has suddenly required all the guests to have 'companions' at the wedding?"

I shrugged. I didn't see her point; it wasn't like I'd been invited. "Yeah, Brandon was complaining about that earlier this week. Someone got the bright idea that he'd make a good escort for Tyler. I don't see why he's complaining; it gets him a free trip to Miami."

Her eyes narrowed. "So Dan didn't ask you to 'escort me' at the wedding?"

I rolled my eyes. "Why the fuck would he do that, Kate? You don't even like me."

She was startled. "What the hell does that mean? Who says I don't like you?"

"Well you certainly don't act like it." I grumbled. Ok, I sounded childish, but it really did hurt my feelings. "The only smiles I ever get are when you're rubbing my nose in something; hell, you spend more time with Brandon than you do with me." I finished wiping down. I was getting angry. All I wanted was a fucking chance.

"Brandon and I are telepaths, Ben. I'm working with him with his powers."

I sighed. "I know that, Kate. It doesn't change the fact that 'no, Dan did not ask me to escort you'." I held out my hand. "Read my fucking mind if you want."

She flinched. "No, I believe you." She sighed. "I'm sorry Ben. I should have known this was just a 'Danism' and wasn't you."

I shrugged. "He and I had a relationship discussion last week. He said he'd 'put in a good word', even though I told him I didn't want him to."

She looked at me curiously. "Didn't want him to?"

I grunted as I sat down at the bench. "No, I didn't want him to. I'm not desperate enough to ask a gay guy help with asking a girl out."

She leaned back and watched me do my presses. Kate was used to the gym, and knew that you really shouldn't hold conversation when pressing heavy weights. When I put the bar back after my last set, she studied me for a moment. "So why don't you just ask?"

I shrugged. I suppose Bran had always made it easy. He just kind of hinted at which girls I should keep my eye on. Since we got to Xavier's, he hadn't been "guiding me" any more. At times I missed having him be "big brother". I got off the bench and moved to my next workout station. "Brandon, all good intentions aside, played mind games for years. I'm tired of feeling like I'm the last one to get in on the joke. If you'd be interested in going out some time, Kate, let me know; maybe we can hit town and get a burger or something."

"Is that what you call asking a girl out?"

God I was so frustrated. How could a telepath be so dense? Or may be she was just enjoying watching me squirm. I snapped. "What do you want me to do, Kate? Beg? Did I just come off as 'Mr. Insensitive Asshole' when we met or something? I'm sorry, but I've never tried to ask out a supermodel-telepath-telekinetic who can break me in two if I piss her off. It's just a little intimidating." My workout was shot; I grabbed my towel and went for the door.

Kate caught me between the recreation building and the dorm. "I'm just like anyone else, Ben."

I couldn't take it. I spun on her, dropping my stuff and caught her right behind the ear. "You aren't to me." Fuck it, I wasn't going to get anywhere with her anyway; I stopped her surprised response by kissing her. God I'd wanted to do that since the first time I'd seen her. Any other girl who'd blown me off I'd moved past without a second thought; maybe all I had was one massive crush, but I couldn't get past her. I may have only lusted for her when we met, but I think she walked away with my heart when she helped me bring Brandon back. Honestly, she scared me to death.

I didn't stick my tongue in or anything. It was only a quick, desperate kiss, but it sent a jolt right through me. I could feel the tingling of her telepathy, and I didn't care. She could read me for all that it mattered. She didn't pull away, and I lingered a lot longer than I'd intended. When I pulled back, she just looked at me, puzzled. Yeah, I'm one hot stud; I can confuse grown women by kissing them. Yay for my mutant powers!

After a moment, her eyes softened and she smiled. It was almost a shy smile. "You could have just asked."

I hadn't moved my hand. I found myself brushing her ear with my thumb. I just wanted to kiss her again, but the frustration had dissolved the moment I realized she wasn't pulling away. "So... want to get a burger some time?"

She grinned. "You know how to ride a motorcycle?"

That caught me off guard. "Uh, no."

"Ok, then I'm driving. See you out front at six." She paused when she realized I hadn't let go. "Ben?"

I blinked. "Yeah?"

"Can I have my head back?" She sounded amused.

I let go, but I could still feel the texture of her hair on my fingers. "Six?"

"Yeah, don't be late." She brushed past me, giving me her -I'm the queen of the world- smile, and walked into the dorms. All I could do was watch her go; I swear she was moving her hips in time to the beat of my heart.