Race Relations
by Te
March 10, 2005

Disclaimers: All belongs to JMS, Marvel, and assorted
other people and corporations which aren't me.

Spoilers: Major ones for SUPREME POWER #15,
various vague mentions for earlier moments in the

Summary: Mark doesn't spend much time doubting
himself anymore.

Ratings Note: NC-17.

Author's Note: I could do a whole meta post on
where everything in this story came from, but, for
whatever reason, it really does owe quite a lot to
Jessica Harris' "Wesley's Liberal Guilt."

Various information about the characters and their
interactions available here and here. Scans contain,
of course, spoilers.

Acknowledgments: To Bas for help and
encouragement. To Bas, Jack, Carioca, and LC for


They're nothing this world has seen. This is nothing but the
truth, and a truth he's known for a very long time, besides,
and yet...

There are layers to it, and quite often these days Mark finds
himself examining them like some particularly strange
artifact. Or perhaps an unhealed wound.

This last is spoken in a voice which sounds a lot like Kyle's,
and Mark thinks about it -- and other things -- in the
eternities it takes for Blur (*Stan*) to apologize to the
maitre d' of the restaurant with honest sincerity and

Mark has spent a lot of time doubting himself -- *telling*
himself to doubt himself -- about how well he can read
human emotions from a distance. He doesn't do that

But, he does *think* about it, and while he still hasn't
reached any conclusions by the time Stan catches up with
him, he has made a few decisions. It's a comforting feeling,
though nowhere near as comforting as the sight of Stan
running directly below his flight path, easy and natural

He thinks Zarda would use the word 'perfect.' He also thinks
he knows what would be in her voice when she did, and,
perhaps paradoxically, it makes everything even more

There are things about Zarda which frighten him, but...
not this.

Not this feeling of difference, this *fact* of separation:
there are the people like him, in some way, and then
there's the rest of the world -- currently a mass of blown-
away hats and wind-rippled clothing.

And when the two of them are far enough beyond the
limits of Chicago, Mark lands. An empty field. Wildflowers
and crabgrass and only very *old* bodies beneath the
ground. Nothing which need concern him now.

"Man, I still can't believe you set fire to that bill! Right in
front of the waiter!"

There's no anger in Stan's voice, just more -- genuine --
feelings of shock, confusion. No wariness, but perhaps that's
only a matter of time. Mark smiles, because he thinks it
would work better than a shrug. "'Anywhere he wants,'

Stan snorts. "Fine, okay, whatever. I should --"

He's about to say something about going home (and
shouldn't it be strange that someone like them has a real
home among the humans? Should it be?), Mark knows it,
and he holds up a hand. "Wait, please."


"Do you... there's something I..." Mark trails off, a fraction
more pathetically than he actually feels, and Stan pauses to
look at him.

"What is it, man?" Curious, perhaps even worried. Stan is
exactly as open and sincere as Hyperion was always
supposed to be.

"Do you think you could come back with me? I was hoping
we could continue talking."

Stan has the sort of smile which is absolutely perfect for the
billboards Mark sees it on every day. It's better up close.

"If you don't --"

"Sure, I'll come. Just lemme tell my mama I'm runnin' --
heh, never gets old -- late. And pick up my *wallet*."

"Stan --"

"*Mark*," he says, more mocking his tone than truly stern.
And then he's gone.

More eternities.

When Stan (or Zarda, and he could find her easily, but
there's a part of him which avoids that in the same way he
used to avoid listening in on the discussions Dr. Steadman
and the others had about him, and he chooses not to think
about this very deeply, he *chooses*) isn't close, Mark
forces himself to slow himself down, to remember the
precise rhythms of existence which will keep him closest to

Keep him... safe, at least in their narrow perceptions.

It isn't, actually, any harder to do than it used to be.

Not physically, in any event.


It's another penthouse, though one designed and decorated
more with an eye to his own needs than to a focus group's
decisions about who 'Hyperion' -- or 'Mark' -- should be.

Stan whistles, low and appreciative, moving through the
apartment at speed before coming to a sudden halt.


"This is Kyle's, isn't it. He owns this place, right?"

For a moment, Mark wonders what it was about the place
which made Stan realize -- it has the sort of stylishness
which is effectively anonymous, at this point. The 'skylights'
is large and placed more for ease of exit than aesthetics,
of course, but the numerous security measures are quite

Then he thinks about the house far outside of Atlanta,
about its size, and the people who live nearest to it, and he
stops wondering.

"Yes," he says. "I was... homeless."

The expression on Stan's face is tight and sour, almost ugly
for a moment. "Think I'd *stay* homeless," he mutters.

"Stan --"

"Anyway, what did you want to talk about?"

It's the first moment of falseness he's ever seen on Stan. Or
heard. It makes sense for it to seem so strange, then. It
also makes sense for it to seem so familiar, though for
different reasons. Mark smiles ruefully, and means it. "That,

"*Kyle*?" The falseness --  the *lie* -- is gone, just that

"I had... I've been thinking. About what he said earlier, and
about what you said --"

Stan holds up a hand. "Look, I just. There are a few worse
things a brother can call another brother than 'house
nigger,' but there *ain't* that many, okay?"

Mark thinks about protesting the wording -- Kyle hadn't used
*that* word, after all. But then again...

The expression on Stan's face is hard and stubborn. He's
*waiting* for Mark to protest. And... and. Mark knows, full
well, the definition of 'splitting hairs.' He holds up his own
hands (and there's a part of him which wonders again,
thrills again, because the world has changed, so fast,
because he's not alone in any way, shape, or form now,
because one day he might need to surrender for real,
because he still tastes the blood in his mouth from Ledger's
punch). "I get it," he says.

Stan's expression would be hilarious if the skepticism
weren't so honestly meant. If... if they weren't talking about

Mark takes a step back. "Or... possibly I don't. Definitely I
don't. I --"

Stan laughs -- loud, long, and *at* him. "Aw, man, don't...
just..." He reaches up and yanks at a handful of his hair, a
gesture of nerves and frustration. "Look, *I* don't need to
get on your ass for not being born Black, all right?"

He knows. He's just not sure whether it would do him any
good to say it. He nods, instead, and Stan sighs.

"Did you really want to talk about it? I mean, it's not like I
could expect you to have... *any* idea what was behind
that shit."

Because he's not human, or because he's 'White'? It's an
interesting question, and one day he'll ask Kyle. It's entirely
possible he'll get an answer as *well* as an insult. But it's
really nothing he wants from *Stan*.

"I..." Stan laughs again, a little. "I'm pretty sure I can avoid
trying to break your ribs if you do."

Mark pushes at the air between them with his raised hands.
"It's all right. Mostly i just wanted to know... I wanted to
know if you thought you'd still be able to work with Kyle."
And how I could fix things so that you *could*.

Stan stares at him for a long moment. "Are you serious?"

"Well, I --"

"No, are you serious? You think I... look, he's *good* at
what he does, and he's smarter than I'll ever be, and he
has the kind of money -- of *course* I can work with
him --"

Mark pushes at the air again (sometimes, he can feel it
when he does). "No, that's not -- I know you're

"I'm *not* professional, I'm just not an *idiot*, and --" Stan
moves close, punching quickly and lightly at Mark's palms
and smiling. "Look, I know I'm the kid here, but you don't
have to worry about me. Not for... stuff like this."

"All right. I... I just..." It's actually quite different to meet
Stan's eyes than it is to meet Zarda's. Not the speed of
movement, of course.

Zarda, quite often, isn't really looking at *him*.

"'I hate it when mommy and daddy fight?'"

Stan gasps out a laugh, close enough that it's something of
an explosion of warmth and the salmon the man had eaten
for dinner. "You --"

Mark wants to kiss him.

"Do I even want to know where you got *that* pop culture
reference from?"

Several television programs, at least one film, seven
hundred and forty-seven overheard and mostly ignored
conversations, sixty-two of them sincere. The ones which
had replaced 'mommy and daddy' with 'my parents.'

If it were Kyle -- and it almost certainly would never be --
he would smile precisely the way he wants to and say
'Probably not.'

It isn't, and so he just shrugs.

Stan snorts and shakes his head, believing he understands.
"Right, okay," he says, and rubs his stomach and frowns,

In Georgia, Stan's mother is clucking her tongue. There's a
scrape of plastic on metal Mark has learned as 'cooking
sounds.' A spoon in a pot, perhaps. "Are you hungry?"

Stan's smile is guiltily rueful. "My metabolism..." And he
pauses again. "What about you? You ate all your food, but
you didn't really *eat*."

We're not the same, not really. It's my fault you're like this.
I'm glad. "I don't think my body works quite the same way
as yours... anyway, there *is* food and you're welcome to
it." Kyle wouldn't have done anything less, really.

The smile becomes bright and pleased, and Mark follows
him into the kitchen, watching him study the refrigerator.

He's the only one, perhaps, who's ever seen this,
specifically: A human wouldn't realize Stan *was*

In Mark's experience, most humans wouldn't even consider
that he might.

The first thing he tosses out is a package of Wonder Bread.

"Man, you just know that's commentary," Stan says from
half-inside the large -- and stylish -- refrigerator.

Mark smiles. "I do *like* Wonder Bread --"

"So do *I*, and I bet he does, *too*, but it's still

He's probably right. Mark takes a slice out of the bag, and
plays with it, and thinks about saying something and... and
does. "When I was a child, I'd... play with Wonder Bread."

"Man, the government gives out *crappy* toys."

Mark smiles. "Well, no, actually, I..." He pauses, mostly to
see how Stan will react.

He's not disappointed. Stan's arms are full of various
sandwich materials, but he doesn't kick the door shut behind
him when he stands, though it would be easy for him to do.
He's not finished. And his expression is... very open.

His eyes are warm and brown and Mark doesn't touch him,

"What is it, Mark?"

It's actually strange, in a way, to hear Stan call him 'Mark.'
As if it's a name, as opposed to a veiled designation, or
even the most convenient way for Mark to refer to himself.

"Hey, you okay?"

"Yes, I... well. It's just very soft, you know. Fragile."

Stan's expression shifts to something he's grown accustomed
to from humans as he stares at the slice of bread in Mark's
hands. The moment where he stops being 'Hyperion' and
starts being 'the incredibly powerful being, relative to
myself.' "I... wow," he says. "You used it to help you

When he crushes a slice of fresh -- or, well,
preservative-filled -- bread in his hands, it's less meaningful,
less *noticeable* than pushing at air. There's no feeling, no
sense of anything happening whatsoever.

"That's *cool*. And actually really smart, too," Stan says,
smiling at him before dumping the food on the counter and
going back for more. "Hey, did you ever do that with other
things? Balloons, maybe?"

Mark thinks of the man he'd thought was his father, and
then simply wanted to believe was his father, and then
simply wanted to be *something* more than a hired hand,
and the way he'd hardly feel it at all if he reached into the
man's chest and... "Yes. It was... it was helpful," he finishes.
It sounds halting, weak.

Stan doesn't respond for nearly a full second. "I think about
the stuff you said sometimes. You know, the first time we

Good. "Yes?"

"Ah, here it is. I... damn." Stan comes out of the refrigerator
with a bottle of mustard. "I think it's probably illegal to put
Grey Poupon on Wonder Bread."

"I won't tell anyone."

Stan looks at him, expression probably as sharp as it could
ever be on a man with lashes that thick, eyes that naturally
warm. "Yeah. You can tell Kyle I *do* have some class."

It's Mark's turn to blink. "I --"

"Or not." Stan snorts humorlessly. "I'm *not* gonna fucking
*brood* about that asshole all damned night, I swear."


This smile is softer, more... accurate for the man. "Anyway,
I think about what you said, and I just.... I never really felt
alone, you know? I was different, and I had secrets, but...
it was okay."

This seems accurate, too. Otherwise he wouldn't be who he
is, Mark thinks. He nods, and looks attentive.

"So I start thinking to myself, 'well, shit, Stan, what the hell
was going on with Mark when he was a kid that he *did*?
How do you end up feeling alone like *that*?'" The
sandwiches he makes are relatively small, neat things. It's
just that there are a dozen of them.

Mark sits down on the stool on the opposite side of the
kitchen island and watches Stan's long fingers. There are
scrapes, old scars. His fingernails are trimmed neatly and
clean, with a shine on them which manages to be both
perfectly natural and... he thinks he knows how they'll feel,
if he touches them.

The contrast of the man's skin against the cheese --
provolone -- is. There's a part of him which wants to feel
guilty for the way he doesn't want to look away.

But Zarda whispers in the back of his mind, or deeper, and
he doesn't.

"Anyway, yeah. I thought about it, and asked myself a
bunch of questions, and didn't really come up with
*anything* useful." A shrug.


"Just, well. However Uncle Sam fucked you up and fucked
you over? They ain't the world, you know?"

("He has a heart," one of *them* had said, from deep
within a bunker they undoubtedly thought was safe from
him.) "I do," he says, and looks at Stan until he looks at
*him*, again. "I do know."

There's a certain kind of wariness which Mark has, to date,
only known from the inside. But now it's on Stan's face, in
his eyes, all over him, and Mark knows he's being obvious.

More obvious.

Stan looks away first, and begins eating. Another thing no
one has ever seen. He eats the sandwiches in a clear,
distinct pattern: Biting off the corners, then working his
way around the sandwich until the crust is gone, then eating
the last two crustless bites.

He eats four this way, while Mark watches, before he says
anything else.

"So, uh... what else did you want to talk about?" He doesn't
look up.

And his timing... he has no direct experience with this sort
of thing, of course. With seduction. He doesn't know if this
is the right thing to say or not, but... he'd like to know.
"There's a... well, there's a woman, actually."

*This* makes Stan look at him, confused and blinking.
There's a spot of mustard just to the left of his mouth.

Stan is the only one in the world who would know he's


Mark nods. "Yes. She's like us --"

"Ohhh, *damn*." Stan is... wincing.


"Not that. *Anything* but that. Say 'she's got powers.' Say
'she can do... things with her...'" Stan shakes his head, and
Mark can see the blood rise beneath his skin in a blush
*only* he would be able to see. "Anything but that,

It takes a moment to focus, but when he can it's clear. He'd
made Stan think about Kyle again. "I'm sorry --"

Stan waves a hand. "It's okay. Just..." He eats another two
sandwiches, unconscious of the softness of his mouth, the
promise in the motion of his throat when he swallows.

Clearly accustomed to being able to do such things without
the person or people he's with registering a pause. Mark
isn't sure whether he wants to bring it to the man's
attention or not.

"Anyway, what's up with the woman? Is she pretty?"

"She's beautiful. She's... she was my first."

"I... oh. You. You want to talk about... sex?" Stan's eyes are
wide, and his fingers beat a quiet tattoo on the
countertop -- almost too fast for Mark to distinguish
individual taps.

Mark does want to talk about sex. And he wants to *have*
sex. "I... I haven't had much... opportunity..."

Stan relaxes instantly, and this guilt feels real and true.
Something which has more to do with himself than with
everything he's been taught. He's being... manipulative.

"We don't have to. And I --"

"Hey, it's okay," Stan says, and smiles at him before eating
another sandwich.

Mark watches, and wonders if this is what 'helpless' means.

"It's just. Well. I don't really think I'll be much *help*, you
know? I was sixteen before I felt like I had enough control
of my powers to really relax around other people, as
opposed to being careful all the time, and I still... well, I..."
Another blush.

"You... you haven't?"

Stan smiles ruefully and shrugs. "I think maybe there was a
reason why I didn't get any useful information out of the

He'd heard that. They'd talked to him, and about him. The
whisper of human skin on fabric. He wants to know if Stan
had enjoyed the way it had felt. It's getting more and more
difficult to hold on to anything like focus.

"Sometimes I think it would be nice if..." A laugh. "Does
your girlfriend have a sister?"

'Girlfriend' sounds even stranger than 'Mark' in Stan's voice.
"I... I don't think so. I don't know her very well. It's. It was
somewhat confusing."

"I'll *bet*," Stan says, heartfelt and amused. "I mean, it'd
be *nice* if I just tripped over some beautiful woman who
had powers and wasn't a psychotic killer one day, but I
think I would probably..." Stan looks down again, and traces
rectangles around the remaining sandwiches with a finger.
"I ain't never been alone, but lonely is something else, you

"You don't have to be lonely."

Stan's finger doesn't stop moving, and he doesn't look up.
"And that's maybe the other thing I was thinking." His
accent, for some reason, is noticeably thicker. "Because
maybe I'm wrong -- and you should just tell me if I am --
but somehow I kinda think you invited me here for --"

"I want you," Mark says, and Stan's finger stops.

"Ah. I."

"There's a hum, and I don't think it's loud enough for
humans to hear --"

"Don't, hey, don't sound like --"

"-- when you move," Mark says. "I've thought about...
before I had sex with Zarda. Before it made sense. I
wanted to see if I could feel it."

This blush is, maybe, dark enough for humans to see.

"I've. I'd like to touch you," Mark says, and tries to will Stan
to meet his eyes again.

"Yeah? I mean... *is* that why you invited me back here?"

Yes. "Yes."

"Oh. I. I don't think... I mean, I never really thought about.
You know. And I... *damn*."

When Stan *does* look up, his eyes are even wider than
they were before, and there's a tension in his shoulders
which makes Mark wonder what he looks like in the
moments before he starts to *truly* run.

He hasn't seen that, yet. "Mark." There's something
strangled about the quality of his voice.

The voice in his head which sounds like Zarda's is urging
him to remind Stan that they're different, that there's
nothing to be afraid of, that fear is for *humans*. The voice
which sounds like Kyle's isn't saying much of anything, at
all, but is radiating a distinct lack of surprise. "Please," he
says, after an eternity of thought, and Stan begins nodding
well before his expression starts to soften and shift.

"Yeah, I... hey."

And Mark has overheard humans speaking about how warm
Stan tends to be to the touch, and has a moment of honest,
overpowering rage at the fact that he doesn't -- *can't* --
feel what they were referring to when Stan covers Mark's
hand with his own.

But then there's only the fact of it, the *touch*, and the
fact that when Mark moves around the island to pull Stan
against him, Stan's gasp has nothing to do with shock.

He'd seen every motion Mark made, after all.

"Oh. Man."

The kiss is nothing like Zarda's, not even her first one (he's
heard, a lot, that first kisses are often different than
others). Stan's mouth is softer than hers, almost
frighteningly so --


It doesn't matter. Stan isn't fragile, and the heat he'd been
missing with the touch of his hand is there, right *there*
when Mark opens Stan's mouth with his tongue, when he
tastes smoked turkey and mustard, and when he feels --

"I feel it," Mark says. "The hum."

"Aw, *damn*," Stan says and kisses him again, harder.

*Faster*, and this...

*This* is like it was with Zarda, because he can't feel
himself where he isn't touching Stan, and because
everything is abruptly both disconnected and all of a piece,
a moment. The sweat beneath the collar of Stan's uniform,
the harsh, panting breaths, and the way he can't seem to
remember how to be graceful, how to move in a way
which isn't jerky, hungry, *fast*.

The refrigerator is cool under his palm, and maybe cold
against the skin of Stan's back --

"Jesus. Jesus, Mark --"

"I feel..." There's nothing he can finish that sentence with
which wouldn't make Stan shy away, or try to. He knows
this, and still the only way he can stop himself from
saying any of those things is by kissing the man.

His mouth, his jaw. His stubble is rougher, *thicker* than
Mark's own, and together they can move fast enough that it
makes Mark's lips feel raw. (Zarda, down there) And he
understands this, too, now -- the only thing that soothes
the raw feeling is more of Stan's skin, more of his sweat and

It's just that more isn't *soothing* at all.

"Oh *fuck*, Mark --"


On his knees, now, and there's something comforting about
the fact that Stan surely saw him move, considering the fact
that he doesn't remember doing it.

More images, more *everything at once* -- the sound of
Stan's uniform pants tearing, the scuff and slide of Stan's
boots on the tile floor as he spreads his legs, the scent of
him --

"God, those *sounds* you're making --"

Yes. Those, too. Muffled with Stan's dick, *humming*
around Stan's dick. He doesn't taste anything like Zarda.
He doesn't taste anything like Mark does, either. He...

He tastes *warm*, and Mark punches through most of the
refrigerator's door to keep from holding on too hard.

He won't hurt Stan. He *won't*.

"Oh God. Oh God oh God I --"

Semen in his mouth, shocking and *hot*, and Mark chokes
and coughs and forgets to be careful --

"*Ow* --"

-- with his teeth, but only for a moment, and there's no
blood, and he can live with being shoved away, with Stan
*holding* him *away*. For a little while.

"I -- *Mark*."

He's also capable of thinking, to some extent. "Yes," he
says, and wants to say it again. There are other things he
*could* say, but none of them seem important. He can't
keep himself from stroking Stan's bare thigh with one

And stroking himself through his clothes with the other.
Because he's hard, and because the hair on Stan's thigh is
crinkly and almost *sharp*, and because the look on Stan's
face makes Mark want to be inside him, and because --

"I'm so. I'm very hard," Mark says, and swallows, and Stan
drops to his own knees, straddling Mark awkwardly until
Mark can translate the push on his shoulders as a request
to move, to lie *down*.

He does, and for several whole seconds Stan only *looks*
at him, hands raised in front of his own chest and eyes,
yes, *wide*, but.

"Please," Mark says again, and Stan leans down and kisses
him again, and lets Mark kiss him, and suck his broad, soft
lips, and lick his tongue.

Stan's hands move over him lightly, too lightly, but they
move everywhere, and Mark can't do more than groan and
arch into it, offer.

A part of him thinks there should be stone beneath his back,
that the ceiling should peel off and blow away and show him
the sky.

A part of him wonders about the security in his penthouse,
and how much of this footage Kyle will actually watch,
and --

He can't.

He holds Stan away from himself with one hand and tears at
his pants with the other --

"Hey, I can help with that, you know," and Stan is laughing
at him, smiling, beautiful, white teeth in his brown face --

"Touch me, please just --"

His hand, his --

"Oh yes, *yes* --"

A rough breath, harsh but still full of laughter, "Hey, I know
how to do *this*," Stan says, and this touch is almost hard
enough, almost *perfect* --

"Yes, oh please, Stan -- *Stan* --"

"God, I. I usually get some lotion on me --"


"No, right, yeah, you're. You're *invulnerable*," Stan says,
and his voice is full of wonder and shock, and he's
*watching* Mark, open and. And *curious*.

I'm just like you, I promise, I promise, but the only thing
which comes out is "Please," and it's far more of a groan
than anything else.

And Stan stares at his mouth, and *squeezes*, and Mark
comes all over Stan's hand.

And reaches down to hold Stan's hand on him, *against*
him until he's shivering with something which isn't really
pain, but which he might have called pain before meeting

It feels like the breathing he can't manage easily, yet.

"Did you want me to... again?"

"Yes. I want... I want you stay here tonight, if you can."
There's a look on Mark's face which feels familiar by the
way he knows he hasn't made it very often. He's

And Stan is... staring. "I meant. Uh. I meant right now,
but. Uh." Stan looks down at himself, and Mark follows his
gaze. And swallows.

"Yes," he says, yet again, and he thinks he can maybe
understand the dreamy *distance* that gets into Zarda's
voice, sometimes. The absent and alien greed.

"I usually go... a few times. Ah. You know."

He does. He wonders if he should let Stan go for long
enough to call his mother again, but it's an idle thought,
and gone by the time he kisses the man again.

Forgotten with the first time he dares, carefully, to bite the
plush softness of the man's mouth.

"Oh, *man*, Mark..."


The bedroom's design had seemed as unnoticeable and
anonymous as the rest of the apartment right up until he'd
flown Stan to the bed and laid him down.

Now, it's something... else.

Something large and annoyingly vague, loud even though
neither of them have said anything. Something in the way
the room catches every bit of the dawn light. Something in
the way the bed is large enough to seem a bit ridiculous
even with Mark's limited experience -- again, it hadn't truly
been noticeable until Stan was beside him, and the
possibility of space remained.

But... it's *vague*.

He's not sure *what* message he's supposed to take from
the room's design, just that there *is* a message.

And perhaps that sureness has more to do with the fact
that Mark will be examining every kind of food Kyle had
had purchased for him with the knowledge that the
*bread* had been a message than with anything rational
about the bedroom, itself, but...

But Stan feels it, too.

He's awake, even though he's most often asleep at this
time, especially after exerting himself. Mark has listened,
and knows the sound of his soft snores very well. Stan's
awake, and watchful, and very quiet.

And he can't listen to his silence anymore. "Are you all

"Hunh? Oh, yeah. Just. I don't know." When he shrugs the
skin of his arm slides against the skin of Mark's chest, up
and down.

"What... what are you thinking about?"

In the dimness, Stan smiles. "You know, in the movies and
with comedians, that question is always this big joke after
sex. Like it's *weird* that someone would wanna ask."

Mark nods. "Is it?"

Stan shakes his head, and smiles a little wider. "Nah. I'm
kind of wondering if this means I'm gay, or... I don't know.
It's not a weird question."

Mark considers wondering if *he's* gay, but it doesn't really
seem relevant. "I'd like to do this again," he says, and
strokes Stan's chest. The hair on his chest is softer than
that on his thighs, but not by much.

Stan breathes deeply enough that anyone would be able to
see the way it makes Mark's hand rise and fall, and turns to
face him. "I... yeah," he says.

There's a kind of satisfaction which makes Mark aware of his
own skeleton, of the concept of bone as something which
can be alive, in its own way.

"I do have a question, though."

Mark strokes Stan's chest again. "Ask."

"It's... it's kind of important."

It seems like as good a reason as any to move those last
couple of inches closer, and throw his leg over Stan's own.
"I'm listening," he says, feeling the way his lips move
against the skin of Stan's shoulder. The way Stan's shoulder
moves when he shivers, slightly.

"Yeah, I..." Stan sighs, and is silent for long enough that
Mark shifts to look at his face. His eyes are closed.


"You agree with him, don't you? You think he's right.
Because you *don't* think of yourself as a White guy, or of
me as a Black guy, or of that woman as... whatever she
*looks* like."

The thing is, even Ledger doesn't really *look* human or
normal, if you're paying attention. His eyes are too steady,
and the crystal embedded in his body gives him a faint,
vivid aura in Mark's perception at all times. But Stan is
asking about what they -- all of them -- look like to humans.
"Yes," he says, quietly, and wonders if Stan realizes he has
no intention of letting go, just yet.

Stan doesn't try to move, though --  just sighs, again.
"Yeah, I thought so. I couldn't really figure out how you got
along with that asshole, but you *do*. And that's why."

It's some of why. The rest is tangled, at the moment, with
everything he isn't sure whether he wants Stan to know
about him. He nods, instead of saying anything.

"I'm not... if I tried to tell you how to think I'd be as bad as
*he* is. So I won't."

"All right --"

"But I'm a Black man, Mark. I'm a Black *man*. And you...
you're not some freaky other *thing*, not to me, okay?
You've got scary powers and your childhood was probably
something out of a damned horror novel, but you're no
different from anyone else, and neither am I. Not really.
That's what *I* believe. And that's how I live."

Somewhere, Zarda is laughing. The quality of sound
suggests Europe. "It's what I like about you, Stan," Mark

After a moment, Stan laughs, too.

And, eventually, sleeps.