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.


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 5

Kate was grinning as she settled down across from me for our daily telepathy practice. She and Ben had bowed out of dinner, leaving Jeff, Dan, Ty and I to fend for ourselves. I think we shared knowing smiles for the rest of the evening. Ben had come back just before curfew, smelling like exhaust fumes and sweat, had taken his shower and come to bed with no more explanation than "Good Night." I was understandably curious.

I focused on Kate and grinned. So, what DID you two do to leave you grinning, Miss Thang?

I could feel her put up her protections, layers of power which kept me from delving into thoughts she wasn't willing to share. None of your business, queer boy.

We sparred back and forth with our talents. Kate was being pretty reserved about digging in with her power but defended her own thoughts with a vengeance. I really wanted an answer, but Ms. Superior-Telepath wasn't giving it to me. I decided to cheat. I sat back, defocused and felt for the unconscious impulses flowing through her. Even day dreams could be tapped into. I mumbled. "Sure, don't let me see your happy thoughts, see if I care."

The gambit worked. Though she still had her primary walls up, even a telepath of Kate's strength had difficulty anchoring down her subconscious. Her mind wandered, only for a moment, but that was all it took. I suddenly felt like I was kissing someone a bit taller than me with soft lips, strong jaw, and soft hair. I couldn't see anything, but from what I felt I was leaning in against a warm motorcycle with my hip while my right fingers were tracing along someone's leg and my left fingers were hooked into his hair. I recognized the cologne, it was Ben's. I grinned at Kate as I released the daydream. "Nice bike, Kate."

Her attention snapped back to me and she frowned. "That wasn't fair."

My smile widened. "You know what they say: all's fair..." I wiggled my eyebrows and she grinned.

"I am NOT going to dish with you, Brandon." I could tell she was dying to tell someone. She was nearly bubbling with enthusiasm.

I sighed dramatically and stretched. "I know. I'm only a gay boy; I wouldn't know anything about -kissing-."

My head snapped up as I heard, "Yeah, but I would." Dan was walking into the room, smiling. He dropped down into the chair near Kate and slid an envelope at me. "These are your tickets and hotel reservations."

I don't think he was amused by my look of dread. "Thanks."

Dan frowned. "Damn, Brandon. I didn't realize that Tyler was such a bother. You could have said 'no'." He reached for the envelope, but I snatched it up. I got a surprised look from Kate.


"Don't throw stones, Kate. You still have an escort to arrange for yourself." I gave her a dirty look and tucked the envelope in my back pocket.

"Yeah, right." She looked at Dan and shrugged. "Ben agreed to take me; satisfied Mr. Busy-body?"

Dan grinned. "I thought he might." He pulled out another couple envelopes. "Here's yours." He slid one to her and then a second to me. "Could you drop that off with Ben, Brandon? Jeff's taking me out to lunch."

"You are such a conceited shit, Dan, you know that?" Kate looked annoyed.

"I thought I was 'Gods Gift'." He shot her a defiant smile and stood up. "I'll let you two get back to your mental foreplay."

"Dan!" Kate swatted at him as he danced out of her reach. He could really move well with those braces.

"Oh, sorry... wrong people." He wiggled his eyebrows at us and left laughing.

Kate frowned. "I really should hurt him for that."

I didn't have a witty response. For a split second Dan had looked at me and I just knew, he knew. That made me really uncomfortable.

Jeff and Dan flew down the last week in July. The rest of us flew down together the first week of August. Ben was completely oblivious to anything that didn't have to do with Kate. I knew that new love could consume most of your time and attention, but Ben was going to an extreme. He ignored the fact that we'd lost our scholarships, not that we were surprised, and the fact that he had never really thought about what he'd do if he didn't play ball. I should have forced the issue long before we'd come to Xavier's. Now I had to sit back and wait till he got the stuffing out of his brain and returned to normal.

Of course, I really couldn't talk. I was infatuated with a fourteen-year-old. I refused to ignore or avoid Tyler, even though my natural instinct was to run away as fast and as far as I could. Running away never solved anything. I'd done it before; I wasn't going to do it again. So I sat there beside Tyler on the flight down, chatting away as if there wasn't a problem in the world, and all the while I battled with my conflicting impulses. We had a week of fun and sun at a swanky beach resort planned before the wedding. There would be the rehearsals and such, but all in all there would be nothing to do but spend time on the beach and relax. Yeah right, I'd be able to relax; who the hell was I kidding? If I didn't go insane over this thing with Tyler, I'd definitely go nuts being at the beach having all those nearly naked men wandering around in the sun. It was going to be hell.

Dan, at least, had not been so cruel as to put us all in a room. Ben and I shared a room that adjoined Bobby and Tyler's room. The next room beyond that was Kate and Rogue's. Of course, since we were all guys, it was immediately decided that we should just open the rooms up and hang for the week. I resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to control myself around Ty almost twenty-four hours a day for a week. If I hadn't done something stupid by the end of the week, I knew I'd be fine.

We arrived before noon on Saturday and were checked in by two. Kate, not one to let opportunities slip past, told us all to get our suits, our towels and our lotion and meet her in the lobby at two-thirty. Oh joy. Ben was grinning ear to ear as we changed and dug out our stuff. Neither of us had ever been to the beach. The closest we got was the shores of Lake Michigan. This was all new, and for me, it was intimidating.

We got downstairs with ten minutes to spare. If he could have, Ben would have carried me down to get there faster. We were the first ones down; I wasn't amused. "Ben, the beach isn't going anywhere. What the hell's the rush?"

His eyes wandered to the elevators and I could almost feel the heat wick off his body as he nodded. "That is."

I turned and saw Kate stepping out of the doors with Rogue, Bobby and Tyler in tow. She was wearing a purple bikini that could make a gay man look twice; what she was doing to Ben was anyone's guess. Rogue looked a little uncomfortable. She was wearing a one piece, with a sun hat, sarong and a sheer top with sleeves. Yep, even gloves. Honestly, she looked like a fashion shot for some southern classic style. It worked. Bobby was wearing knee length trunks and was carrying the towels under his arms while the girls "worked it." Ty followed with a couple bags off supplies. Typical; Kate had her entourage and slave labor. I suppose when you look like a Nubian Queen you can get away with it.

She smiled at Ben, giving his bared chest, lifeguard look an appraisal before turning and quirking up an eyebrow at me. "Bran, you aren't going to wear a shirt on Miami Beach are you?"

I shrugged. Ok, so I was still shy about putting myself on display like Ben did. He was just better at it than I was. "It's a T-back, Kate, my shoulders will get sun."

She grinned viciously. "Don't make me send Ty on a mission to get that off you once we're out there."

That pissed me off. "Not all of us dress to impress, Kate. I'm not on the meat market; just leave it alone!"

I think everyone was caught off guard by my outburst. I know I was. That kind of killed the conversation as we trekked out onto the sands to spend the afternoon in the sun. After carving out a spot for our group, Rogue settled down under an umbrella with a book and gave Bobby a very brief kiss on the cheek before sending him off to enjoy the water. Kate and Ben occupied themselves with helping each other spread lotion while Ty and I got the stuff apportioned. Like me Ty wasn't shirtless; he was wearing long swim shorts and a baggy t-shirt. He looked cute as hell. He sat down, set his wireless palm to the side and pulled out some SPF50 lotion.

I grinned. "What do you have to do, spackle it on?" I'd never actually seen fifty rated lotion.

Ty laughed. "No, I just burn pretty bad. Blonde, baby skin... it's embarrassing." I didn't think it was embarrassing; it made him adorable. That made me choke as I pushed the thought aside.

I pulled out my own SPF15. I already had a tan from playing ball over the summer, but there was no reason to take a chance on burning. I had to think about anything other than how cute Ty was. "Yeah, I fell asleep once while laying on my stomach on a fishing trip." I smirked, tracing a line down the center of my face. "I had this domino, two faced look for weeks while I evened out the tan. Damn but the burn was bad."

Ty smiled and started rubbing the lotion on his face and arms. "Well, I don't have to worry about that."

"Yeah, you don't sleep." I think it was a good thing that Ty didn't sleep or dream. I don't know what I would have done if I'd had access to his inner world. Kate and Ben went for a walk in the surf, leaving the three wall flowers to fend for ourselves. Rogue immersed herself in a book; Ty settled back and seemed to zone; I lay down and enjoyed the feeling of the warm sand, sun and the smell of salt air on the breeze.

Brandon was touchy all week. If I hadn't been in a haze over dating Kate, I'd have sat his ass down and found out what his problem was. His moods had been swinging since his blowup on the fourth. I'd always known that Bran was a bit more conservative about self expression, but he didn't take his shirt off except to go swimming. It made you think he had a skin condition or a deformity. Hell, he's my twin; we had almost identical bodies and I knew for a fact that he was better looking than most of the guys on the beach. Not that I really cared, but all guys, if they're honest, look at other guys to gauge the competition.

The other four were off with Dan, Jeff and their mom doing final preparations for the next day's wedding. That left Bran and me with time on our hands. Brandon was content to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the ocean breeze away from the beach. I came out and sat down in the other chair with a couple diet cokes. I slid one to him. "So, we have the final rehearsal dinner tonight?"

He nodded. "Yeah; suit and tie required."

"What do you want to do with our few hours of freedom?" I grinned at him as I sipped my coke.

Shrugging, Bran took his can and sipped from it. "I'm kind of comfortable here. I'd forgotten what a pain being around a lot of people is like."

I blinked. "What do you mean?"

"I'm a telepath, Ben. Unlike you, I can't just shut off' my powers. They're always there, sort of like your hearing. You can consciously ignore what you're hearing, but you can't actually turn it off." He sighed. "Kate may hate being only a 'touch psionic' but I think she lucked out. It is kind of like having near sightedness when you're stuck having to look at a lot of ugly people naked." He frowned and looked away. "I don't get the option; all I can do is try to ignore what I see, the good, the bad and the ugly."

I'd never really thought about that. I'd always thought it was something telepaths could just turn on and off at will. The thought that Bran was having problems got me worried "You do'in ok?"

He grinned. "Yeah, no sweat. I'm just glad to have some time with only one mind to ignore." For a moment he just looked at me, and I could see the love behind his eyes. I couldn't believe I ever thought he'd do something to deliberately hurt me. I looked away, feeling a pang of guilt over last June. "At least it's someone I know, who isn't ugly."

Damn. I knew he wasn't talking about looks. Struggling not to mist up, I realized it was almost painful to know that someone thought "I" was beautiful; not my body or my looks, but "me." Maybe that's what Kate saw as well. It was a little scary. "Thanks, bro."

I could feel the warmth of him. It felt like he'd wrapped his arms around me and given me a hug, but he was still sitting in his chair. I love you, Ben. I'm sorry I've been a prick lately.

It was still weird when he did that, but I was getting used to it. "Yeah, well, we've both had shit to deal with." Something at the back of my head was nagging me. "Can I ask you a question?"

He shrugged. "Sure."

"What's up with you and Ty?" The response was almost jarring. He'd still been 'holding' me when I asked and the sudden vacancy of that feeling almost sent a chill through me. If I hadn't known any better, I'd have sworn he flinched.

"Nothing, why?" I swear he looked scared; really, down to the bone scared.

Yeah, right. He'd curled in on himself and if he'd had fur it would have been bristling. I wasn't going to let go so easy. He was freaked. "Yo, Bran-man, it's me, Ben?" I gestured between us for emphasis. "We're brothers? Twins? You used to help me figure out girls? I think I can tell when you're lying through your fucking teeth."

"It's none of your business, Ben." His eyes were going hard.

"Fuck that. You fly off the handle when Kate teases you about sending Ty after you about your God damn shirt. You exploded on the fourth when he wrestled with you. What'd the kid do, stick his hand down your shorts?"

He looked away; his anger seemed to melt to a really lost expression. "No."

"Come on, Bran. Talk to me."

He took a deep breath and then looked down at his hands. "I sported wood, ok?"

"So?" I didn't get it. "If I had a girl crawling over me I'd probably throw a bone too."

He looked at me, and I realized it was a lot more than just a simple boinger. "Really? If you had a fourteen year old girl crawling all over you, you'd get it up?"

"No, probably not. She'd have to be pretty damn hot to do that. Even then, if I knew she was fourteen I wouldn't do her." The idea of sexing a kid was kind of gross.

"Exactly." He looked away again and stared out at the ocean.

Oh shit! I just stared at him. "Man, you just need to get laid, that's all. I mean, you're eighteen and you're still a virgin. Any guy would be raging at this point."

"Really," the acid in his tone made me shudder, "is that why you're falling over yourself for Kate? You're 'raging' and need some release?"

That stopped me. Yeah, I'd been a horn-dog in school, and I hadn't been laid in months, but that wasn't why I was hot for Kate. "No. Kate's something more, Bran. I don't want to have sex, I want..."

"To make love, yeah, I know." He got up and pushed away from the chair like it was burning his ass. "You at least can, Ben. You aren't some sick fag who's confused over a fourteen-year-old kid. Don't worry; I'm not going to fuck him or anything. It'll go away." He slipped past me before I could grab him.

"Where are you going?" I got out of my chair as he made it to the dresser.

Snagging a card key, he went for the door. "A walk. Thanks for the talk Ben, but this is something I need to deal with on my own."

I tried to get my mind off of it while I waited for him to return. At four o'clock I took my shower, shaved, changed and sat around nervously until the guys came back. Bobby and Tyler were joking about the final fittings for the tuxes, which they had with them, as I crossed into their room. "You didn't see Brandon downstairs did you?"

That snapped Ty's attention to me instantly. Bobby was less clued in. "No. Was he waiting for us?"

I frowned. "No, he went out for a walk late this morning and hasn't come back yet."

What the fuck was I doing?

I'd made my way down to the "cruising" section of South Beach before I really knew where I was going. George, Jeff's older brother, had taken us on a tour of "Gay Miami" a few nights ago and I'd come back to the area he'd labeled "the meat market". As if that wasn't bad enough, I wasn't on the strip any longer.

I was at some apartment, John and Chris's, and I was between two incredible hunks who were dead set on showing me a good time. I couldn't remember exactly how we'd gotten here. They'd offered me a Gatorade, they'd seemed nice and they were hot. They'd been working out on the beach and had finished up when they spotted me. I'd been staring. Chris looked so much like Ty; well, sort of, he looked like a tall, muscled Ty of about twenty eight. That still didn't explain how I'd gotten back to their place. I remember talking; nervously acknowledging their interest and drinking down the Gatorade to keep my mouth from going dry.

I was feeling really disoriented. Shit they felt good. Where was my shirt? I didn't care; what John was doing to my nipples was causing me to moan. Oh God, someone had gotten my jeans down to my knees. Lips were searing my neck as fingers were sliding between my cheeks beneath my briefs. I was panting. Did I want this? Did I really want to be screwed by two guys I'd never see again? Did I want to be someone's meaningless fuck? Would that really solve my problems?

"NO!" I jerked against them as Chris's finger pressed against my hole.

John gripped my hips, snaking his mouth down to chew on me through my briefs. I whimpered. Why was every touch causing me tremble. Hell, just the air moving across my well played nipples was sending sparks to my brain. I was also feeding off of them. They were imagining what they were going to do to me. Oh, Jesus it was so hot. In their thoughts they were sucking me, fucking me, dragging orgasm after orgasm from me while I begged for more.

I was only a sex toy for them. Even in my sensation filled spasms I knew that. I'd said no, at some point I whimpered "stop, please" or "please, stop" as Chris slid his finger past my ring and caused me to lose the ability to speak. I was losing it; I was losing myself in the sensations. The worse part was inside I was crying; this wasn't what I wanted. I wanted someone to hold me, tell me he loved me, and tell me I was safe. I wanted someone I could give myself to; someone special. God, I was wishing they were Ty.

I couldn't let them do it. I couldn't let them take away what should have been something special. I wanted to wait. I wanted it to be with someone I loved. I was actually crying when I whimpered, "I'm sorry."

Their screams tore at me like a million claws, but at least they'd let go.

South Beach? Why the hell is he in South Beach? I kept my eyes peeled as we searched. Kate had called the Professor. He'd be flying down for the wedding in the morning, but he was at the school today. That meant he could use that cerebro thing to find Brandon. He'd found him somewhere in South Beach. "What did he mean, 'his thoughts are too chaotic to learn his true location'?"

Dan shrugged, his eyes were distant. "Either Ben was trying to block him, which isn't likely, or something's wrong." He shook his head, frustrated. "This is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I've never tried to isolate one person's energy signature in an entire city before."

Kate was beside herself. "What the fuck set him off?"

I choked. Ty was in the car too. "I'm not sure."

She eyed me but didn't push it. "Why the hell would he walk all the way down to South Beach? That'd take hours."

Jeff grunted while trying to keep his eyes on the road. "If he were my brother, I'd say he's trying to get laid. That isn't Brandon's style."

"Oh, shit." I couldn't believe he'd do it. "We were talking, kind of deep shit, and I blurted out that all he needed to do was to get laid."

Tyler shook his head. "He wouldn't. He's not like that." His eyes flashed at me and then back at Dan's seat. "He isn't like, well..."

I snapped at him. "What; not like me? Not easy? Not a slut?"

Ty sounded hurt. "I didn't mean that. I mean, he's just not the kind of guy who'd have sex without there being some emotion involved."

I wanted to hit him. He was the reason Brandon was screwed up anyway. I didn't. I looked at him, and his eyes looked so lost. Shit! I wasn't used to seeing that look on a boy's face, but I'd seen it on girls' plenty of times. He was crushed out on Brandon. I didn't think it could get any worse.

"Found him." Dan's voice jerked my head up.


Dan looked ahead and to the right. "Somewhere over there. He's on a second floor." Dan seemed to focus on someplace I couldn't see. "Man, something's really not right. His body energies are off."

We parked when Dan said we were close, and he trailed Bran's energy to a second floor apartment. The door was closed, but that didn't mean anything. Kate touched the door and it unlocked and opened. I wasn't ready for what I saw.

I couldn't get my fucking pants on. Whatever they'd given me; I was so messed up. I knew they were still in the room, but they weren't trying to do me any more. The damn jeans were tangled around my ankles, caught on my sneakers and I was huddled against something, maybe a couch, trying to get my bearings. I had no idea how much time passed before there were more people in the room.

I panicked. I had had to stop them; I didn't want to. I'd said "no". Oh, God, I couldn't do it again. Just the thought had my brain swimming. Suddenly, I felt like things were coming into focus. I could feel Kate, she was with me, holding me from slipping into the haze again.

Stay with me Brandon. God she was strong. I locked onto her thoughts and held on for dear life. I was so scared. All I wanted to do was curl up someplace and cry.

What did he do to them? The guys looked like someone had scared them to death. They weren't dead; they were gibbering like crazies and twitching. Then again, so was Brandon. It looked like they'd almost gotten him in bed before he struck back. I knelt down beside Kate as she rocked him. He kept mumbling "I said no" over and over.

I lost it. It was a good thing Dan was there, because I didn't realize what I was doing till the power leapt from my fingers at the bastards that'd tried to force Bran. The power wicked away before it made it to them. I had my fists balled in rage and frustration as Dan knelt down beside me and gripped my arm. "I've been there, Ben. I know how you feel. Brandon already did worse to them than you could; he needs us. We can just leave them; they got what they deserved."

I helped get Brandon's pants back on, and Ty found his shirt tossed behind the couch. We left the men on the floor, whimpering and twitching, and got Brandon back to the hotel. Kate had been brilliant. She'd held his hand and used her telekinesis to make Bran walk slowly but steadily to the elevators. We got some weird looks but no one stopped us. I watched as Dan felt his pulse and such after we got Brandon on the bed.

"He's been drugged. Don't know what type but probably one of those mixes they use for date-rape." Dan sighed. "It will probably be hours before he comes around."

The rehearsal was at seven and the dinner was supposed to be at eight. It was already after seven. "You guys go get the rehearsal done; I'll stay with Brandon."

"Fuck that," Jeff sounded pissed. "You think we give a shit about a rehearsal? One of our friends has been drugged and nearly raped. What does this make, his second time?"

I nodded. "Yeah, but he'll be ok. We've already ruined your evening."

Dan smiled. "Actually, I'm kind of relieved."

I couldn't believe he was relieved by the fact that my brother had almost been raped; for the second time! What, did he have 'rape me' stamped in gay on his forehead? "How could this possibly be a relief?"

Dan grinned at Jeff. "Well, with us here making sure Brandon's ok, we can't possibly go out with George after dinner for what ever it is he has planned."

Jeff started laughing. "Oh, damn, I forgot about that!" He came over and kissed Dan before smiling at me. "Honestly, Ben., you guys are our friends. This isn't going to stop us from getting married tomorrow; it just complicated things tonight. At least we won't have to worry about George trying to get his under aged brothers drunk."

"Ok, but we owe you guys." I meant it. If it hadn't been for them, I'd been searching for Brandon alone and without any luck. He'd have been stuck at some asshole's apartment, drugged of his ass, alone. We ordered in, talked, exchanged horror stories and success stories, and waited for Brandon to wake up.

My head was throbbing. Oh god, what had happened? I was lying on the bed in my room. I could feel there were others in the room. Kate and Ben were curled together asleep on the other bed. Bobby and Rogue were in the other room, and a safe distance from each other. Dan and Jeff were in the other bed.

I slowly opened my eyes. Ty was sitting there, beside me on the bed. His attention seemed to snap back to the room as I moved. "Hey," he greeted quietly, "how are you feeling?"

I couldn't look at him. The concern on his face and in his voice hurt like hell. How could I feel like I'd be cheating on a guy who was four years younger than me and was not my boyfriend? I didn't know, but I managed to anyway. I'd ruined Dan and Jeff's rehearsal and dinner. This was their night, and tomorrow they'd be getting married. I was such a fucking loser. I'd run away again, even though I'd sworn I wouldn't. I couldn't stop myself when I felt Ty's hand brush my cheek. I rolled over and held on, crying. Why was I such a fucking wimp?

He didn't say anything. He just let me hold on and cry out the shame, guilt and fear that were threatening to consume me. He didn't deserve that. None of my friends did. My crying woke Kate and Ben, and after about a million "I'm sorry's," Kate helped me get back to sleep. I didn't even dream.

At least the wedding hadn't been ruined. I still felt like someone had run me down with a bulldozer, but it didn't stop me from attending. I think it was one of the simplest, yet most elegant ceremonies I'd ever seen. I hadn't been to many weddings, but this one was perfect. George, Bobby and Tyler stood to Jeff's right; Kate, Rogue and Janet stood at Dan's left. It had been a toss up who would get the groom's-maids; Kate finally settled it by determining that Dan had known her and Rogue longer than Jeff had so they were his "maids".

I was amazed at how many people had shown up. It wasn't a large church, and it was completely filled. I had to grin as I saw Scott and Logan sitting together in the pews. You could feel their connection; though they weren't displaying any real affection. Scott seemed completely satisfied, but Logan was uncomfortable. Ty had told me about the arguments the men had had about "being out". I had to agree with Scott; after two years of being together, it was time to be open and honest about it. I looked back at Tyler; he was so happy that he was crying when Dan and Jeff exchanged their vows. Being honest about what I felt wouldn't do anyone any good; eighteen-year-olds didn't date fourteen-year-olds.

After the ceremony and photos, I found myself walking Ty back to the cars. When his hand had slipped into mine I couldn't say, but I realized I wasn't letting go. "So, where are we going for the reception?"

Kate looked back at us with a twinkle in her eyes. "Matrix."

Obviously that was supposed to mean something, but I was clueless. "We're jacking into the mainframe? Give me a clue here, Kate."

Kate laughed. "It's a club we went to when I visited Dan and Jeff over the summer. It was the first place they danced together." Her eyes flickered with a darker memory for a moment before she grinned. "Their dad rented the thing out till eight tonight."

I had to admit, Matrix was cool. They had the whole thing catered, but there wasn't a "sit down dinner". Jeff and Dan hated the idea of having a "formal reception" so they turned it to a buffet and party. That didn't stop them from having the usual toasts, cutting of the cake and such. They even started the first dance; I melted. I was such a closet romantic, and Jeff and Dan moved on the floor like they were two pieces of a puzzle. Kate and Ben didn't move quite as gracefully, mostly due to the fact Ben and I were not well versed at dancing.

Rogue brushed past me on the way to the floor. "Honey, this is where you escort Tyler out. All the maids and groomsmen are supposed to join first." She smiled as she met Bobby and they started out on the floor.

I couldn't believe I was sweating as I crossed the edge of the dance floor and did my duty. "This is where you get to step on my toes," I tried to joke my way around my discomfort as I got to Ty.

Ty grinned back. "Don't count on it; I've been practicing."

I laughed as I offered him my hand. "Ok, then I can step on your toes."

My knees nearly gave out when we got to the floor, he got our hands arranged and smiled up at me. "It's ok; I'm pretty tough; I think I can take having you stepping on my toes."

We wobbled to the music for a few moments before he grinned and raised his eyebrows. "Do you want me to lead?"

I almost fell over myself in relief. "Oh God, please." The change was subtle, but it was so much easier to move around the floor when I didn't have to be the one in control. If Ty had been taller, I'd have probably melted against him and danced with my head on his shoulder. Ty kept me out there for a couple faster beat songs, but I finally bowed out to get something to drink.

I was standing on the second level, watching the dancers, when I felt Logan walk over beside me. He had a beer in his hand and was chewing on an unlit cigar. He seemed far more comfortable with his jacket off and his shirt unbuttoned down to his navel. He wasn't showing much flesh; he had a wife-beater on. He nodded down at the dance floor. "You should be down there kid."

I shrugged. "Not in the mood."

He grunted and took a swig of his beer. His eyes locked on the dance floor, and I followed his gaze. People had begun swapping partners and everyone wanted a chance to dance with the grooms. Scott and Dan were going to town. I wasn't quite certain, but they were definitely closer than "teacher and student". For such a rigid, rules monger, Scott could move.

"Why aren't you down there getting sweating with your man?"

Logan growled. "I don't do public."

I remembered the first time I'd seen them together in the danger room; he hadn't been shy then. His discomfort finally clicked for me. "Ok, so you can rut away in front of the new kid, but showing something deeper amongst friends and family is bad for your image?"

Logan snarled. I could feel the anger wicking off him. "You ain't got the right to talk to me like that kid; you haven't earned it."

I shrugged. Honestly, Logan just didn't scare me. He was fierce, primal and powerful, but all he could do was hurt me physically. I wasn't scared of being beaten, broken and cut up; I was scared of all the other things that could be done to me emotionally and mentally. "Yeah, well, gut me later."

He sniffed at me and grinned viciously. "Ballsey, kid ." He snorted as he saw me flinch as Tyler looked up and waved. "Especially when you've got your own issues."

I frowned. "Yeah, well, it's an issue of right and wrong. You should be down there enjoying the fact you can be with your man. I don't have one, and I'm going to stay that way."

"So you're just going to lead the kid on?" He said it so matter of fact that I almost choked.


"So you're going to ask him out?" His eyes studied mine for a moment.

I looked away. "No."

Logan made a disgusted noise. "Give it a rest. You two are just circling each other like two dogs in heat. The least you could do is be man enough to admit it. The kid deserves that, and not to be strung along by a guy who can't find his ass from a hole in the ground."

"I'm not stringing anyone along. He's fourteen. I'm eighteen. Four years may not mean anything when you're twenty-five or thirty, but right now it's the difference between me and prison." I glared at him. "I may be confused, but I do know the difference between right and wrong. It would be wrong for me to go down there and ask Ty to dance; I'd be leading him on. It would be right if you left me here to watch while you go down there and put your money where your mouth is."

He swigged down the last of his beer and shot me a warning glance. "You realize I'm going to kick your ass in training, right?"

"Yeah, I know. You'll have to earn it though," and I nodded down at the dance floor. "If you can't get your ass out there, then you can't kick mine."

He left me there and snarled as he descended the stairs. If he could have left a wash of steam behind him, he would have. It was with no small amount of satisfaction that I watched him stalk around the dance floor and cut into Dan and Scott's dance. I think Scott was stunned, but he didn't seem to mind when they started grinding together to the beat of the music.

I was still watching them grind away to the music as Dan offered me a cool one. "You really should let it go, Bran."

I took the glass and shrugged. "I will, but it takes a while to get over being so stupid."

Dan grinned. "I didn't mean about yesterday."

This had not been my couple of days. I'd gone from suffering, silently over my issues with Ty to being out on the front page of "gay mutants anonymous". I sighed. "So, which side are you on?"

Dan smirked. "Come again?"

"Are you on the -he's too young, don't be a sick twisted fuck side-, or are you on the -forget about his age and stop being a puss side-?"

Dan's stance shifted subtly, but I noticed. If I hadn't known any better, I'd have thought I'd just told him his little sister was hot. "I'm on the -be his friend and just see what happens side-." Dan looked down at the dance floor. "I love him, Bran; he might as well be blood because I'd kill anyone who hurts him."

I felt a pit forming in my stomach. Dan was telling me to stay away from Ty. I knew I had to, but the fact of it still made my gut clench.

Dan didn't look at me, but he took a deep breath. "I'm sorry I can't just pat you on the back and say, 'hey, I'm cool with it.' I'm not cool with it." His eyes met mine, and it felt like I was looking at someone who wasn't quite human. "It isn't the age thing; that doesn't mean shit to me. You've got a lot of issues to deal with, Bran. Ty deserves better than to get mixed up with a guy who can't even deal with his own stuff." He broke our gaze and took a sip of his drink. "I like you, I really do. I think Ty will be the best thing to happen to whom ever he decides to love; if that turns out to be you, fine. If you hurt him, or lead him on, or make a move on him before he's ready..."

He stopped. I think all the color had drained from my face. Logan didn't scare me, Dan did. He'd been featured in a lot of the nightmares I'd picked up during my first month. I flinched as he touched my shoulder. "Hey, I'm not going to hurt you, Bran. I'm sorry; I'm just really protective of Ty."

He squeezed my shoulder and gave me a sad smile. "Just promise me you won't hurt him, Bran. Friend or whatever, that's all I really care about."

"I won't hurt him."

He studied me for a few moments and then nodded. "Then whatever else happens doesn't matter to me. Just be honest and a friend; the rest will sort itself out."

My gut slowly unwound as Jeff came up and wrapped his arms around Dan from behind. He chuckled into Dan's neck. "Already flirting with other men, huh?"

Dan leaned in, smiling. "Nah, just having a heart-to-heart."

Jeff smirked. "Oh." He reached out and smacked me on the back. "Don't worry, Bran, his bark is much worse that his bite."

Some how, I doubted that.