by Te
April/May 2001

Disclaimers: If they belonged to me, there'd be a lot more slash
cliches. Yes, even more.

Spoilers: None, really. If you want to attempt to fit this in
continuity... don't. *snerk*

Ratings Note: R.

Summary: 'Star does some thinking.

Author's Note: My first attempt to get in that *mind*...

Acknowledgments: To Jane, who just keeps on encouraging me,
whether or not she's here. <g>

Feedback, the true aqua vitae. leytelj@gmail.com


At first, there seemed to be many things to consider. My place
on this world, on this team. The shocking, almost crushing loss
of the Audience. The sounds and the silences in which they lived.

I watched them casual, apparently beyond all care of appearance
and readiness. On Mojoworld, my world, a warrior could be called
at any time, even in the strictly designated sleep cycles, when Mojo
was cruel and the Audience roared with his rage and need.

I was raised to be ready, to sleep with the covers carefully untucked
above me, to sleep still, never to muss my hair. No pillows for fear
they would leave unsightly creases on my face.

Valuable and beautiful, as all warriors were, in some way.
Surrounded by perfect beauty, and the oiled sheen of powerful
muscle. I grew up with my need, and my desire became the fire with
which I fought. I never indulged myself in the bodies so close, so
*ready* for the taking, and knew my fire grew from my abstinence.

And when I walked into the ring there was the hush, and then the
cheer. Julio gave me the hush I'd grown to need, but his cheers were
rare, and unfocused. The glory of the team, perhaps.

I came to understand it terms of the Rompusi the Mojo would
throw, when we would come out, eight on eight from opposite of
the stadiums and fight for our right to perform, and thus to live.

The first one fallen always died, forever died -- his or her genetic
patterns tossed to the recycler for the creators to begin again.

Here, when one falls, another carries that one to safety. Chances.
Chances are infinite here, it seems, and there were times I knew not
why to fight. Always before, there was my survival, my future on
the vid scans and the avid eyes of The Audience.

Now, there was only the vague sense of an undeclared war, nothing
clear, nothing simple. Cable attempting to explain a grey existence
to me, so close to what I knew, but in the end incomprehensible.

Julio never tried that, and put it into simple terms. A *communal*
fight, as though there was a Rompus that never descended to the
inevitable free-for-all, and my cohort, my cadre were always mine,
always to be trusted, never to be hurt.

Julio asked me if I would turn on him and... things changed.

A part of me believes that, if our positions were reversed, Julio
would simply pin the confusion on the fact that he was, that I am,
essentially alien. And it is possible, logical given what I've learned
about the psychology of this world.

A man raised only to be a warrior, carefully coached by simple
observation to never become... attached, now faced with an
entirely different and frighteningly irrational code.

The rest of me knows that it is more than that. I was attached
almost as soon as I joined X-Force. Julio has been irritated with me
and my confusions many times, but he has never turned his back on
me, save when he trusted me to protect it during battle.

And that trust... I'm tempted to call it damning, for all its effects on
me, but I do not feel damned.

I feel...

Julio is a fine warrior, with a carefully honed control over his
powers. He is well-formed, and not without a flair I cannot help
but approve of. Whether he is aware of it or not, he has learned
from the entertainers of his world, and will often strut in front of
enemies in the way the Audience, my Audience, would love.

When I pointed this out to him, we argued. He did not understand
that these were *good* qualities, since they never actually distracted
him from the battles at hand. And yet he doesn't want to be known
as someone who "showboats."

It is difficult to fully understand the necessity the mutants of this
world have to keep a relatively low presence in the media. In my
world, obscurity was death. In this, it can be all that maintains
survival, and Julio often asks me to 'tone it down' when we are in

I still want the eyes on me, I still *need* it, and Julio is slowly
beginning to understand that. Sometimes, when I feel the need to
practice late at night, he comes to watch. Feral is gone, and so he is
my lone audience.

(I cannot help but imagine how much the ratings would increase if
Feral's betrayal had somehow been enacted on Mojoworld.)

Julio as an audience is mostly silent, but he is attentive. Sometimes
he will spar with me, and we will learn from each other's mistakes,
but I much prefer it when he watches, when I can feel his eyes on
me, on my musculature and the way I move.

Once, he cheered me when I was forced to execute a kill mid-jump,
with a twist I had not used since Mojoworld, but when I began
leading the battles to the point where I would be forced to show
the full extent of my skill, he became angry with me.

Our relationship was strained for several days before he explained
to me the difference between an unavoidable and avoidable risks.
I should have understood sooner, but I admitted that I had only
looking to please his eyes, and he nodded.

And flushed deeply.

Suddenly, I could imagine exactly how he would look braced above
me in hunger as our bodies moved together, and the feeling was
so intense that I wound up running away as circumspectly as I

Desire. Desire is powerful within me. The combination of years of
abstinence and the wonder that is Julio himself. His skin is gently browned, his hair long and thick. His muscles are strong and neat,
and his penis is long and curved.

I have seen the other warriors together. I know something of the
way of it. I desire him sexually, and after that blush I often find
myself imagining the two of us in the positions of the other

I want to know what a man tastes like. What Julio tastes like,
feels like beneath my hands.

Yet Julio does not want me.

It is a... pain that I never imagined, though at least he hasn't tried
to take me out to the nightclubs anymore. I would dance with him.
He moves with such grace in all things, I know he would dance
well. I know he could teach me.

I want him to, so very badly.

I remember his gasp the first time I touched his body. The center of
his chest, my hand slowly brushing to the side until his nipple was
against my palm through his shirt. I could feel it harden, watch his
eyes dilate. Looking up at me, and I could sense his confusion, and
so I bent to kiss him.

My first kiss, and I was careful. I did not want to be awkward.
When he didn't move, I bent to kiss him again, but then he shoved
me away, hard.

"Julio," I said, and I let all my desire into my voice, and I watched
his face twist into rage, and something like shame.

He spat curses at me in Spanish, words I did not yet know, but
could understand well enough. I have seen this prejudice, too, in
this world, but I had never imagined Julio could feel it. But Julio
never lies to me, and I could not help but believe that what I felt
was deeply wrong.

I had betrayed him.

When he saw my hurt, he apologized immediately. Grasped my
shoulder and explained to me why it was wrong, why we could
not be lovers. I think I would have understood better if it had
something to do with the gods of his people, but Julio is quite
cynical about religion.

A societal objection, then, and I asked him many questions,
protested, but he had an answer for all of my objections, hand
never leaving my shoulder. I could see his care for me, his concern.
He was only protecting me.

He told me that I was confused, that it was just a mistake. He told
me I would find a nice woman someday, and then I would
understand completely.

Julio never lies to me.

We are friends, as we have always been. Julio has never turned his
back to me.

Now, though, there is only one thing to consider, and that is how
my desire continues unabated, now tinged with hopelessness that
threatens to affect my abilities on the battlefield.

As of yet, I cannot seem to learn from this mistake, as I have from
all others... but I know that Julio will help me to learn, given time.

He always does.