saga/title/fandom: Touched: Loves Company (X-Men)

author: Viridian5

rating/genre:(NC-17) - Drama/Romance

warnings: slash, sexual content, language

summary: Shatterstar struggles with his newfound emotions, while Rictor struggles with himself.

comments/disclaimers: These boys belong to Marvel Comics. No infringement intended, and I'm not making any profit from this. Thanks to the beauteous Amanda for beta.

Packing for a move has sent me looking through my old comics again and brought me back to _X-Force_ #43. The series at that point had a number of promising subplots going on, and the one introduced here really caught my interest. But Ric and 'Star's conversation was interrupted by a call to battle, the end of the world, and the Age of Apocalypse. Once we got back to our regularly scheduled reality, weeks had passed, a ton of things had happened off-panel, team members had disappeared, and I had no idea what was going on anymore. Since I really disliked the book's new writer, artist, and direction, I bailed after five more issues and haven't found a way back into the series since.

This is my What If on what might have happened in a slashier Marvel universe if the Age of Apocalypse hadn't intervened. The beginning of the dialogue is from _X-Force_ #43 but soon goes off into Viridian-land.

Loves Company

Rictor finally caught up with Shatterstar on a stoop a few blocks away from Limelight. The awning overhead kept some of the rain off them, but the wind kept splattering them with water from the sides.

Shatterstar looked more than half-drowned and sat curled in on himself until he looked as small as possible, misery showing in his normally stoic face. Misery didn't make any improvement over the nervousness and fear Shatterstar had shown before he ran from the club and that girl. Rictor knew he felt far more than he ever showed to the world--Ric was probably one of the few people who could read him at all--but seeing him so helplessly open still came as a shock.

//I just wanted you to party for once, loosen up a little. How was I supposed to know it would be this big a mistake? What did I do to you?//

Ric decided to start casual, give 'Star a chance to pretend nothing had happened. "There somethin' you wanna talk about, 'Star?"

"I don't think you would understand." At least Shatterstar's voice remained a monotone; Ric found that reassuring.

"Try me."

"All right. I have never been with someone... like that... in that way. I have never--"

That wasn't so bad. "'Star, that ain't nothin' to be ashamed of, dude. I mean, I talk a good game, but I never hit a home run either."

"No, I am not making myself clear. Until tonight, I had never even felt such stirrings inside me."

"Oh." Rictor felt deeply uncomfortable. He had to be the last person qualified to help on the emotion front. "Listen, you're not from this planet... so maybe, y'know... that's normal. Are you--" This wasn't going to be easy. "Do you... *have*... what it takes?" Brilliant. //I don't think I can squirm any more than I just did. Probably be proven wrong, though.//

"I was bio-engineered to fully simulate human physical interaction. But no one ever bothered to instill the *emotional* requirements which I have learned are attached to such actions."

That was... just sad. //And different from you, how, Julio?// "Okay, that's cool. We'll work it out together. I mean, it's all *social* stuff, right? You can learn that." //From someone other than me, since I'm also the last person qualified on the social front. I make one lousy amigo, that's for sure.// "I have to know, though, why did that girl set you off? I mean, you've been jumped and pawed at before, and by people at least as hot." Of course he'd been jumped; Shatterstar was beyond buff and had a feral beauty that turned heads. If he hadn't been so distant and uninterested, he could have a woman for every day of the week if he wanted. "You always brushed it off."

"It wasn't the girl. I had an immediate reaction to the way she touched me, but it was not her. I wanted... For the first time, I wanted to be touched, but by someone other than her."

Ric smiled. "You have a crush on someone and didn't tell me? You dog." This had to be one of the last conversations he ever expected to have with Shatterstar, but this part felt so normal, so mundane. So completely unlike anything else in their crazy lives.

"I was not aware that what I felt was a 'crush.' Not until now."

"Spill it, man."

Shatterstar stiffened. "I have already said too much. I should have kept my silence."

"Uh-uh. You don't say something like that, then hold back. That's just cruel."

"I can't--"

"You can. I won't stop botherin' you 'til you do."

Shatterstar finally looked up at Rictor. Rain had darkened his long, blondish hair and left it plastered in wild tendrils down his back. His eyes...

Panic struck Rictor as he saw it. "No. Madre de... No."

Shatterstar switched to Spanish to match him. "I have disturbed you. I'm sorry, Ric."

Rictor remembered when his friend had told him about learning Spanish from watching TV, saying it would be useful to have a way to talk that others wouldn't understand, "be it our enemies in the midst of battle or our friends when the topics of conversation are of a highly... personal... nature." It had sounded so damned strange--enemies, yeah, but friends too?--but the news about his family had been too distracting for him to think about it. Now... now it looked completely different.

No. Men with men... no. It wasn't right, wasn't manly. //But the Richter family idea of manhood means gunrunning, and it's not like I'm doing that either. I'm not thinking about this!// Shatterstar was just confused, that's all. //And it has nothin' to do with my feelings.//

"No. 'Star, you just feel for me as a friend. There are a lot of ways to love people." //So I'm told...// "There's love for your family, love for your friends, love for your... for your lover, and they're all different."


Ric almost snorted at the sound of that "perhaps." "But you don't think that's it."

"I have some knowledge of human interaction--"

"From TV."

"A people's art says a great deal about them."

"I wouldn't call TV 'art.'"

Shatterstar gave him a dirty look for such blasphemy, then blandly continued, "While some shows say it is natural to... to..."

"To what, 'Star?"

"You're right, Ric. I *am* just confused. I'll say no more."

Rictor knew what Shatterstar held back. Some shows suggested it was natural for friends to be sexually attracted to their friends, but others didn't. What was an alien looking for pointers supposed to do?

So it wasn't just a crush. Shatterstar was... attracted to him. Wanted to jump his ass. Or something like that.

"You don't want me like that, amigo," Rictor said.

Shatterstar huddled in on himself. "You may be right. It could be that I'm confused."

That would be the perfect point to stop the conversation and change topics, but Rictor couldn't somehow. He always buried things, and he didn't want Shatterstar to do the same. Burying didn't end the problem or question or emotion, just hid it for a little while.

"I can prove you don't want me." //What the hell am I doing?//

"You can?" Shatterstar stood to face him.

Shatterstar was his friend, and true friends did things for one another. Things they wouldn't do for anyone else. Before he had a chance to think about it, Rictor brought his hand up to Shatterstar's face and settled it there. Shatterstar would have taken anyone else's hand off for that, but right now he just leaned into the touch with an expression that suggested he was analyzing what he thought of it. Touching the black, eight-pointed star around Shatterstar's left eye still didn't tell Rictor if it was a tattoo or a brand or some kind of odd birthmark, but the skin there did feel warmer and smoother than the rest. He couldn't help gently rubbing the star with his thumb.

"Is this your proof, Ric?"

//I don't know what the hell this is. Am I gonna do this? Take this further, "prove" it? Do I *want* to do this? Because having my hand near his eye like I'm trying to decide if I wanna poke it out just won't do it.// "No, this isn't it."

"Then show me."

Shatterstar didn't seem surprised at all by the kiss. He also didn't let Rictor get by with a light peck on the lips. Held firmly but gently, Rictor could only shiver as his friend focussed all concentration on him. It was like being the sun at the center of the universe, except he wasn't the one giving off heat. He was the one drinking it in, all the heat and the love. Even if Shatterstar had been confused until tonight about what that feeling had been, the obvious emotion Rictor felt him put into this kiss had to lay any doubts to rest.

Rictor's own response to it, the way he wanted more, brought up a whole new list of doubts.

//I--// Rictor's hands slid through Shatterstar's thick, soft hair, which felt more like a luxurious mink pelt than regular hair. The body against his felt so strange in all its hard muscle. Nothing on it was soft. Nothing at all.

Rictor started to shake, and that only increased his panic. Was it just his body, or...

Shatterstar let Rictor go. "Ric, are you--"

"I'm fine. I just..." If they were going to be all honest tonight... "I just have reasons why I don't let myself do certain things." //Feel certain things.// "Was that--"

"You didn't use your powers."

"Thank God." He hadn't felt this scared in years, not since the Right had tortured him into using his earthquake abilities to devastate cities. //And this is why I never-- Okay, enough self- knowledge for one night.// And how had Shatterstar known when to let go and what he had been afraid of? Rictor refused to let himself think about it. "That k-- what we did just proved the opposite of what I wanted, right?"

"I'm afraid so, Ric." Shatterstar even smiled a little.

Feeling far too raw, Rictor couldn't help snapping, "My misery, my fear, make you happy, 'Star?"

"Not like that. I--"

Rictor sat on the step. "It just means you're not alone. I'm sorry."

"Exactly." Shatterstar sat next to him, and they shared heat. "You're a good friend."

"No, I suck as a friend, and I can't... can't go further with you on this, y'know? Not now, maybe not ever."

"I understand."

That "I understand" sounded too much like a door slamming shut forever, so Rictor said, "But it's a start."

Another almost-smile. "I couldn't ask for anything more, Ric."


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