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 7
How I thought I could have kept Tyler away was a mystery I've never solved. I suppose shock and depression can make you think the most idiotic things. Just a few short months had insinuated him so deeply into my psyche that, in many ways, he was as important as Ben. Oh hell, who was I kidding; he had spots in my heart that Ben would never, and should never, have. We sat out there, in the dark, till I felt Ty shivering.
I lifted my chin from his head and lightly kissed his hair. It was a sudden impulse, and I jerked back from it immediately. Ty felt me stiffen, and he looked up. Even in the dark, I could feel his eyes seeking mine. For a frightening moment, I almost felt him climbing up me and bringing our faces together. He didn't. That, at least, had been all in my head.
I nodded. "Yeah, Ty. Thanks."
Pulling out from under my arm, he stood up unsteadily. "Damn, my leg's asleep."
I laughed. "I think my ass died an hour ago." I certainly couldn't feel it as I tried to get my legs working. "I'm glad it's dark; walking back is going to be embarrassing as hell."
We staggered our way back to the buildings, and were finally walking something close to normal by the time we got to the doors. I looked at Ty again as we stepped into the dorms. He was just so damn cute. "Thanks for being my friend, Ty."
He shot me a killer grin. "I'll make you pay for it eventually."
I could think of a few ways I wanted to pay for it, but those thoughts led me places I really wasn't ready to go. "Well, once I'm all grown up and worth something, you can call in the favors."
Tyler seemed to think about that before he just shrugged. "You're worth something already; I'm not sure if I'll be able to wait long enough for you to consider yourself grown up." If anyone else had said that, I'd have been offended. But he'd said it with such sincere, non-judgmental way that all it really did was make me blink. "I think I'll rack up a few more 'friend-chips' before cashing in; means I can get a bigger prize." He grinned at me again before turning and heading for the elevators.
It wasn't 'til he waved bye and stepped into the elevator that I realized I was straining my jeans. I berated myself as I climbed the stairs. He'd just been being friendly and good humored, and I'd gotten hot and bothered by the ideas. I was such a sick fag. I was still fighting the impulses of just cutting my damn dick off or going into the bathroom and jacking off to the images still wandering around in my head when I got to the room. I opened the door to see Ben trying to get out of his shirt. He was struggling to pull it over his head, and I was in horror. He was bandaged and bruised in so many places that it looked like he'd been in a barroom brawl.
Ben looked at me with a shit-eating grin on his face. "Just worked out some aggression." He winced as he tried to get his shirt all the way up, and then gave me a good humored but strained look. "Think you could help me get the shirt off? I wasn't as stiff when I put it on."
I helped him pull off his shirt. God he looked awful. He almost looked worse than I did when he pulled me back from the nightmare in June. I think he saw the pain in my eyes, because he cupped my cheek and pulled me into a hug. "I love you Bran; no matter what. Don't shut me out any more; it drives me nuts."
I held on and tried not to start crying again. I may have lost my Tyler inspired hard-on the moment I came in, but Ben could just open up my closet doors like no one else. "I'm sorry." I whispered it into his neck; I don't think Ben ever realized how badly I needed him.
He just smiled at me when I finally let go. He didn't make me tell him what had been wrong, or try to convince me things weren't so bad. He just stroked away one of the tears that I hadn't been able to stop, and grinned. "Let's get ready for bed. Your psychic earmuffs are a bit worn, but I think they'll still work right."
We brushed our teeth and stripped down to our underwear as usual. Once we lay down, I found myself snuggled up against Ben as he stretched out on his back. He just kissed me on the top of my head and slowly rubbed my back till I started to relax. I mumbled, "I love you," into his chest as I slipped off to sleep. I didn't even have to worry he'd take it wrong; his feelings just echoed my words back at me before I drifted away.
Brandon and I were having lunch with Kate and Tyler under the oak when Logan came stalking our way. He didn't look pissed, but he did look determined. I saw Brandon flinch as he realized Logan was coming up to us. He looked at me appraisingly. "How're the ribs?"
"They hurt." I looked at him. It wasn't fair that he could regenerate from practically anything. "How's the nervous system?"
"Rebuilt." He looked from me to Brandon. "Think I can have a word with your brother without having to kick your ass again?"
Brandon looked at me as if I'd been keeping secrets. I shrugged. "You didn't ask." I looked back at Logan. "As long as it's ok with Bran, I'm cool with it."
Brandon looked like he was going to be sick, but he stood up and nodded to Logan. He followed Logan a ways off before the guy stopped and began to talk. I was curious as hell to know what they were talking about.
Kate just rubbed my knee. "It will be fine, Ben. I think the Professor may have clued in Logan about last week."
That made sense. If anyone knew what it was like to be a killer, Logan was one to know. I'd heard stories about how he cut his way through hundreds of military guys to protect the students. I didn't want to be on the receiving end of his claws. When I wasn't going all ballistic over protecting Brandon, I knew that pissing off Logan was a bad thing.
Tyler looked a bit distant, and was not actually looking in Bran's direction. I gave Kate a curious look, and she grinned. "Hey, Ty. What are they saying?"
Tyler frowned, but his eyes stayed distant. "I'm not that good at reading lips when someone is chewing on a cigar, and Brandon has his back to the closest security camera."
I blinked. Tyler was reading their lips from a security camera? "You're shitting me."
Tyler's eyes refocused on me. "No, it really is hard to read Logan's lips when he chews on that damn, smelly thing." Then he realized what I'd meant. "Oh... no, not shitting you. I thought you knew what I could do."
I grinned. "They don't have camera's in the locker rooms do they?"
Tyler laughed. "No. They don't have them in the bathrooms or the bedrooms either."
"Thank God. I'd hate to think I'm giving someone a thrill without knowing it."
Tyler's eyes seemed to focus more on me. "I wouldn't do that, Ben."
"Hey, it was a joke. Honestly, I wouldn't care." Kate gave me an odd look, and I shrugged. "I wouldn't, really. I don't think I have a modest bone in my body."
She shook her head. "That is one of the weirdest things about you two. How can you be such an exhibitionist and Brandon be so body shy? I mean, you two are so close to identical on a physical appearance level; yet your personalities are so incredibly different."
"So are their powers. I'd have expected you two to have related powers." Tyler seemed genuinely curious. "Most twins have similar powers; at least that's what the database shows."
I shrugged. Like I knew why our powers were different? Not likely. "Who knows?"
Tyler looked back over at Brandon as he talked to Logan. "Do you really think I could fill out like you guys? Or were you just joking back in June?"
That caught me off guard. I think Kate had mentioned once that Tyler had a photographic memory. I shrugged. "Would depend on your eating, exercising, and your natural body build."
Tyler pulled out some papers from his backpack, shuffled through them, and handed them to me. "I want to look like that."
I looked at the piece of paper. It looked something like a schematic, but the digital imagery looked like a set of hypothetical body shots of an older, bigger Ty. He even had statistics and probabilities listed down the side of the sheet; that caught my attention. I looked at him. "Where the hell did you get this workup from?" I skimmed over the sheets, photo compilations, and physical statistics of the present and "projected" Tyler.
He shrugged. "I worked with the computers to do a complete genetic probability analysis of my growth potential. I fed in images of guys I wanted to look like, and the computer came back with that compilation of possible me projections."
"That is so fucking cool." I thumbed over the stuff, looking at his medical and athletic statistics. "If we had stuff like this when we were your age, Brandon and I would be in perfect shape."
Ty tilted his head. "You aren't?"
I laughed. "Not even close. Sure, we look good and are fit, but we could be better. Dad gave us a lot of physical potential."
Nodding, Ty looked back at his papers. "So, think you could help me get there?"
I thought about it. I'd always had a good feel for people's physical potential. I'd helped a lot of my teammates, and by senior year the coach had been bringing me in on team workout planning. I'd never really thought about going into that end of sports before; I was an athlete, not a trainer. "Sure, I probably could."
"Cool, when do we start?"
I looked at him. If another fourteen-year-old were to give me a "wish I looked like this" photo and asked me to train him, I'd have given him one in ten odds of success. Something about Tyler told me I had someone on my hands who wouldn't give up. "Monday?" Actually, I kind of liked the idea. I'd get to know the kid who had Bran tied in knots, and I'd be able to do something that would be fun.
He smiled and pulled out his wallet. "Ok, I was looking up trainer rates. Is $25 an hour good to start? I could give you a couple weeks pay in advance. How many sessions will we be doing a week? Four?"
I was blown away. Kate saw the look on my face and started laughing. "News flash about Tyler, Ben; he never does anything he hasn't analyzed forwards, backwards and sideways."
"I can't take your money!" The idea was jarring.
Tyler shrugged. "Ok, but I think you should."
That was so weird. "Why?"
"That way you can put me down as a client reference in the future." He blushed. "Not that I'm ever going to be a really inspiring guy, even if I do get to my projected ideal."
Yeah, I'd way underestimated the kid. "What makes you think I'd need client references?"
Ty shrugged. "Brandon mentioned he was worried that your original career plans were screwed because of the whole mutant thing. After watching how you continually helped out in the gym, I thought maybe you could look into being a personal trainer? I bet you could pass the certification exams in less than six months of study, and if you liked it, you could look into schools that offer a physical education or exercise physiology degrees."
Kate just laughed harder, and I frowned at her. "You're no help."
She kissed my cheek. "If you can honestly say that Tyler hasn't done another of his 'figured it all out' moments, I'll buy you dinner."
"And if I can't?"
She pulled my chin so that our lips were really close. "Well, if you can't... but can admit it, then you get to take me to dinner because I'd love to spend some of those earnings."
The logic of that made my brain hurt. "Ok, I admit, he's probably figured out my future career options." She closed the gap and shut my brain completely down with a slow, lip chewing kiss.
We didn't stop till Tyler made a disgusted noise. "Get a room guys."
Kate turned and grinned at him. "Sure thing. Pay up, and we'll spare your gay-boy sentimentalities."
Tyler frowned, but opened his wallet again. "Why doesn't anyone ever offer to take ME out for dinner?"
Kate laughed and kissed Tyler on the cheek before snagging the twenties. "Because your 'prince charming' is still a frog. Deal."
I snagged the money from her and was rewarded with a pouty frown. "I never said it would be a private dinner." With a wink, I smiled at Tyler. "Want to have dinner out tonight? I think we may be able to get Bran to make it a foursome."
Kate frowned at me, but I just smiled as Tyler practically beamed. "You're so cool, Ben."
Kate sighed and crossed her arms, defeated. "Don't say it too often, Ty; he'll get a big head." She tried to look pissed, but I knew she loved going out as a group.
I wasn't sure what to think as I followed Logan away from the guys. I wasn't happy that Ben hadn't mentioned how he'd gotten hurt. I suppose he was right; I hadn't asked. When Logan stopped, I looked at him. "I'm sorry I let you down."
Logan snorted, and chewed on his cigar. "Fuck that, kid. You're letting yourself down." I blinked, confused, and he continued. "I don't give a shit if you like me, hate me, or what. What I do care about is that you'll be able to protect yourself, or your friends, if something happens."
I looked away. "I can, don't worry about it."
When he didn't say anything, I looked back at him. What shocked me most was he didn't look angry at that moment. There was an understanding behind his eyes that I would never have expected. "I know, kid." He reached out and cupped his hand behind my head, holding me so I couldn't look away. "You've got some heavy shit to deal with. I ain't go'in to lie to you; it never gets easier."
I wanted to pull out of his grip and break away, but he wouldn't let me. His eyes held mine as strongly as any telepath's could. "The Prof told me what happened before the wedding, kid. You ain't a killer at heart, so this shit is probably tearing you up. I just wanted to let you know that if you need to talk, I'm not a complete asshole, ok?"
He let my head go and I almost staggered. "I... don't know what to say."
He shrugged and swapped the cigar to the other side of his mouth. "Unlike you, kid, I am a killer. I don't like it; hell, I fucking hate it at times, but it is what I am. You need to keep training so in the future, when you aren't drugged up, you have the choice." His eyes held mine again. "I know what that's like; been there, done that, still have nightmares."
I was shaking a little, but I nodded.
"This is the only pep talk you're get'n from me, kid. I'll give you advice if you like, and if you need to talk, I'll listen." He grunted. "I don't do this touchy feely shit; that's Scott's bag, or the Prof's." He looked at me again and grinned. "I'll make you into a man, if you give me a chance, kid. In the end, I just want you to survive."
"I could use the help." All I wanted was a hug at that point; all I got was a rough squeeze on my shoulder.
"You got it kid; from more than just me. Don't be scared to accept it." With a cough, he turned and walked back towards the guys. "Hey, muscle-boy2!" It took me a moment to realize he was calling out to Ben. Ben looked up and Logan held out his cigar. "I could use a light."
Ben laughed and pointed. The end of Logan's cigar began to smoke, and then started turning to ash. Logan took a puff and nodded. "Thanks." He looked at me once more and then walked off the field.
I looked back at the school. I don't hate you, Professor. I'm sorry.
A moment later, I felt him touch me. I know, Brandon. When you're ready, I'll be here.
I smiled and turned back to the guys. I really did have people who thought I was worth the trouble. Tyler was beaming when I got back over to them.
"Ben's taking us to dinner."
I looked at Tyler's excited smile and then grinned at Ben. "That should blow your allowance for the month." It was then that I noticed the bills he had in his fist.
"Nah, I've got it covered." He shot Tyler a sincere smile. "I've got my first training client."
I just laughed. "You're taking money from Tyler?"
Tyler looked offended. "I earned it."
Kate rolled her eyes, and Ben frowned. I realized I'd just taken my size elevens and started chewing on the toes. "Sorry."
Tyler stuck his tongue out at me. "It's a good thing you're good looking, Bran. You need to work on your social skills."
Kate laughed. "Oh, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black."
Tyler shot her a petulant look. "Hey, I'm only fourteen. I don't have to have social skills."
Ben shrugged. "If you're having dinner with us tonight, you'll find some." He reached out and mussed Tyler's hair. "I'm not having a blonde monkey throwing food around while I'm on a date."
Tyler made an icky face. "Great, an evening of watching you two suck face."
Kate laughed. "It could be worse, Ty. You could be watching Rogue and Bobby suck face."
He cringed. "Please, don't make me sick. After the first kiss they do that icing up thing so their skin won't touch. It's gross."
I, of course, just watched Tyler and thought about all the things I wanted to do but would never dare. Sucking face with a short, blonde fourteen-year-old was one of them.
Tyler was as good as his word. Monday afternoon we started with his training. I had to remember that he really was a small, non-athletic guy, because his attitude was as gung-ho as a marine's. He wasn't even discouraged when I put him on smaller weights than he had planned on. We scheduled two days on, break Wednesday, two days again, and then he had the weekend to recover before we started over.
In addition to giving me time with Tyler, it made me really start focusing on my knowledge. I had the natural instincts and good background, but I realized quickly that Tyler actually knew more technical information about training techniques, exercise physiology, and anatomy than I did. He didn't even seem to need motivational help; he was self motivated. By the end of our second week, I was really enjoying the challenge. Tyler would ask me questions I couldn't answer; I think he knew I couldn't, but it drove me to do the research and give him answers later.
Brandon came in after another of his counseling sessions with the Professor, and grinned at me. I was nose deep in physical training texts, trying to find the answers to Tyler's latest questions. The kid was too fucking smart. I was spending most of the money he was paying me just to buy the texts and get scheduled for certification testing. Oh sure, on some deep level, I knew he was leading me down the garden path by my nose, but he never made it feel like that. All he ever presented to me was wide-eyed enthusiasm and dedication to his goals. I just hadn't realized that one of his goals was to set me up in a career.
"I don't think you ever studied this hard in high school."
My eyes were burning anyway, so I sat back and closed the book. "Yeah, I don't remember getting as many headaches either." I looked over at him. "How are you doing?"
His smile wilted, but he shrugged. "Ok, I guess. I think the Professor's blocks are fading; I actually think about doing stupid shit, but I don't really want to do them any more."
That still hurt. I'd never, ever, thought about doing something to hurt myself or worse, contemplated ending it. I just couldn't believe Brandon did. For a second, I had the image of finding him dead. I shook it off, but he seemed to pick up on what I was thinking.
"I'm sorry, Ben. I wish you didn't worry about it so much."
I actually started getting mad. "You wish I didn't care?" He looked a little startled; I know I was startled by the emotion behind my words. "That'd make it easy, wouldn't it? You'd be able to just wander away, kill yourself, or burn your brain out, and not have guilt that you'd hurt anyone."
He choked. "You don't understand..."
I couldn't believe how angry I was. I was angry, frustrated and hurt. I wanted my brother back. I stood up and stopped him from getting out of the room. "You're right, I don't understand. I don't understand how I can love someone so much, and have him hate himself the way you do. I can't understand why you try to hide things from me, after all we've been through, and that you don't trust me to be able to be there for you." I felt the tears burning my eyes as I grabbed his shoulders and made him look at me. "I'm scared, Brandon. All I can do is wait and worry, because you won't let me in, and I can't draw you out. I don't know if you're doing better or worse, or need help." I had the image again; it was my most frequent thought over the last couple weeks. "All I know is it feels like I'm sitting on pins and needles because I'm terrified I'll find you dead." He looked like I had hit him, and I let go. "Ok... I said it."
Brandon was crying, but he also looked like he was about to blow. "What do you want me to say, Ben? Want me to promise I won't give up? I can't do that, at least not without lying about it!" His eyes locked with mine and we stared at each other through our tears. "I murdered people, Ben. Not hurt, not injured, but killed. I'm trying to come to grips with that; it's something I hope you'll never have to do. You say I don't open up, but what am I supposed to tell you? I can't explain how it feels; there aren't words to tell you how I feel. There isn't anything that can describe how completely worthless I feel most of the time, and the other parts are usually filled with anger, regret or guilt." He was spitting at me at that point. I don't think I'd ever seen him so mad. "I'm sorry I'm not the perfect brother, Ben. I'm sorry I don't meet up to the ideal I tried to make people believe for so many years. If I was really such a good, capable person, why would I need to do that for so long? I'm not a good person, Ben. I'm not the ideal. I'm a sick, self-absorbed fag who can't even go out and get laid without messing it up."
I couldn't stand him saying that. I could live with him not being perfect. I could live with him having problems. I couldn't live with the venom and self loathing. I hit him. His head snapped back and he hit the floor hard. I was surprised he wasn't laid out. I was standing over him with my fists balled, and was practically yelling into his face. "Stop calling yourself that! You're gay. You've hurt people; mostly yourself. You aren't evil; you aren't bad; you're my brother. God damn it, Brandon, I love you and I just want you back."
"You don't even know who I am." God, he looked so lost. I couldn't believe I'd hit him. He had a busted, bloody lip, but he wasn't crying any more.
I sank down to my knees and brought my hand to his cheek. He flinched for a moment, but didn't pull away. "Then show me."
Brandon just looked at me. I knew he knew what I was saying. I'd thought about it a lot since Kate had shared memories with me back in June. Bran was right; there were things that just couldn't be conveyed in words. I wanted to know who my brother was. I wanted him to know I was there for him no matter what. I wanted what we used to have; I wanted the trust and faith. Not the illusion, and not a dream; I wanted it for real.
"You'll hate me..."
"No, I won't..."
Tears were leaking down his cheeks, but he didn't break our gaze. He didn't lift a finger, but it felt like he'd cupped my head the way I was holding his. It didn't feel the same as Kate's sharing. This was both gentler and more painful. The actual sharing connection was almost effortless; it was like it had been there all along. It was what came through that hurt; Bran was right, I didn't know him. Unlike Kate, Brandon didn't go slow. I don't think he could; he was in too much pain.
I tried to anchor myself by looking into his eyes, but they weren't there. All he had were windows to somewhere else, someplace dark and frightening. I felt myself being drawn in, and it took everything I had not to fight to break away. This wasn't a one-way exchange. By the time we finished pouring into one another, I wasn't sure what would be left.