Letting It In-Stuart
I felt like a colossal fuck-up. I had thought-no, let me be honest-I hoped that being with Alana would magically cure me of my desire for Michón and my bond with Mark. I avoided Mark whenever I could, even though it had been nearly a year since Christmas. He made me feel…but I couldn’t feel that. Our past, hadn’t it simply been a friend helping out a friend in need? My self-imposed myopia was fading away at long last as I realized I sucked at considering other points of view. Ever since learning that everyone wanted me, kissing Ripley, exploring Mitchell’s body, and being seduced by Mikassa I had reexamined the past with new eyes. I realized I had never once asked Mark how he’d felt about our arrangement. I’d assumed his “I love you” was aromantic and asexual every time he’d said it. I didn’t wonder how he felt toward me or if he ever saw our relationship differently than I did. I never considered how I really felt towards him. All my life I’d never had such a need to question my sexuality until I met him. I’d never thought a guy could mean as much to me as he’d managed to. I wasn’t completely thick; I knew he’d been with John up until he and Caily left with the Time Faerie. I’d simply seen it as being an arrangement like the one we’d had long ago, with them only referring to one another as boyfriends out of politeness to the kids (who hadn’t needed to know what a “fuck buddy” was just yet and now never would).
I sat on my coffin glaring down at Alana on my bedji, truly processing everything I’d never noticed. Whenever John and Mark had been out on a date I’d made sure to be elsewhere. Whenever they’d touched I’d found something else to look at. Mark knew better than to relay any details of his relationship with John to me. I sobbed as it dawned on me that I’d shut out an entire facet of Mark’s life so easily. I had always ignored it. I hadn’t wanted to see it because it didn’t involve me getting pussy out of it. Long ago we had held hands and I’d told him I wanted to know everything about him. The last hundred or so years had made a liar out of me. But worst of all I knew-I felt-that the reason I’d shut out any possibility of him genuinely wanting me for myself (and not simply because I was available for sex) was a devious one. I had chosen to protect myself. Compartmentalizing our actions let me continue on ignorantly without ever having to process any of my emotions. I had fallen in love with my best friend (well, other best friend. Saje had been my best friend, too.) so, so long ago. I had run from it ever since.
And Michón…that’s why she’d left me after our argument a year and a half ago. She’d seen my cowardice and would not enable it. My heart space tugged at me, urging me toward my fledgling. I blinked and looked away from Alana. I’d made a grievous error. I’d have to make it right. How could I ever reject Michón or Mark? I felt like such a dumbass. Leaving my room, I went searching for the Black Tree. He usually wasn’t too far from Michón or me. He was an odd kid but harmless enough. Well, now, anyway. We’d had some adventures with him out of time. Yet Michón had informed me that this Ripley was fine. As Mark would say, “Fuckin timelines.” I rolled with it now, waiting for my chance to see how the story would finish. I knew some of what went down out of time but not everything. And since I wasn’t on speaking terms with Mark I hadn’t been able to find out more. I sighed as I entered one of the common rooms, where Rip's scent was strongest.
The Japanese boy immediately and eagerly ran up to me. “Are you okay, Stuart?” he asked.
“I…need someone to talk to. Someone I can trust. And who won’t judge me,” I began nervously, running a hand through my hair.
“Let me grab you a drink. Shall I seal the room?” His brown eyes peered at me curiously.
“Sure.” I plopped down in a beanbag chair. He sat on a stool next to me, handing me my drink and gesturing for me to talk. “I need to make up for what a douchecanoe I’ve been. I was really insensitive to Michón and Mark. But I have to find a safe way to talk to them. As well as get Alana out of the way.”
Rip whistled. “Well, what do you want them to know?”
“That I’m sorry. That I ran away because I was scared. That I want to be with them. I…want Mark. He deserves to know. I don’t want Alana,” I admitted.
“That’s tricky. You can’t just leave her. She’d delete you or worse…” he remarked, folding his legs up and resting his chin in his hands. “I’d say keep most everything out of time for now. If you do anything here don’t let her find out.” He sat quietly for a moment, watching me drink with fascination. Then he snapped his fingers and hopped up. “I can help. I’ve got this power and I’m in humanoid form now, see? I can create realities. It has certain limits, of course. But it’ll buy you time. Meanwhile, I’ll figure out how to extract you from her without her seeking revenge. The only thing is I may need Mikassa’s help.”
“That’s fine. I don’t care. Guess I’ll have to come out to everyone, anyway.”
“Well, er, about Mark, you know. I’m heterosexual but Gangosdamn that sexy bastard. He’s the only guy I’d ever want. I can only hope he hasn’t given up on me,” I gulped.
“Can I hold your hand?” Ripley asked gently.
I nodded. “Yeah. Thanks for asking.”
Taking up my hand and squeezing it, he smiled. “Take your time. Work through your stuff. They’ll both see you changing. Apologize then let it be. This is still new for you, after all,” he suggested.
“It’s going to be weird, that’s for sure. I haven’t been this scared since I confessed my love to Ariel.”
Rip chuckled. “I’m always here to talk. I may look like a young boy but I’ve got thousands, millions of years of memories to draw on. In this new form I can better share it. You’ve each sat and poured out tales of your lives to me. I’m glad I can better assist you now.”
“That gets me thinking. I’d like to know your whole deal sometime. Like how you ended up in a teenager’s body, what went wrong with you out of time, just your life in general. Why us? Out of all the places you’ve been, all the people who’ve touched you, why were we the ones to spend the most time with you?”
“God of Knowledge, don’t you know?” he taunted playfully.
“You know none of us are fully Awake except for Mikassa. Anyway, I think we’d all like to know, really. Feel free to tell us sometime.”
“I’ll consider it,” he promised. “Let me get started. I’ll let them know you’d like to talk.” He released my hand and started out of the room.
I decided to go to the Thinking Bowl while I awaited their reply.
I had managed to fool them all so far. As a courtesy I was pretty much left to my own devices since Mik believed I was completely and entirely his. I had seen about this moment so long ago. Now it was actually here. I had taken care to be ready. I’d made sure Michón’s friend and sister were safely out of the way (by smoothly suggesting to Mik that his purpose was better served without them around). Thank Gangos I’d been the only one to peer at this point in the future. Not even Mikassa could stop what was coming. I thought back to the prophecies Mark and I had read shortly after he’d first touched the Tree. There had been parts I’d held back and had destroyed before Mikassa or Mac could catch wind of it. All of this time I’d had to prepare. It pained me that I’d had to push Mark, Stuart, and Damon away. Yet I had to be able to consort with Becky and Saje in relative privacy. When we weren’t making love Saje and I plotted. Becky acted as master distractor, of course. Finally, we’d managed to contact him. The one who came before. The one who knew how to find the first human. The human who’d be able to find out the truth about Mikassa now that the Black Tree was released. Excitement was an understatement for how I currently felt. Things were about to become extremely interesting. Soon enough I’d be able to make up with each of the men I loved and pray they’d forgive me. I missed them so much.
I glided down the hallway with the colors on the walls morphing into soft blues and bursting golds. I hummed to myself as I strolled along. Almost time, I thought to myself cheerily. Another voice joined mine, humming along as well. Damon waltzed out of Ariel and Disami’s room full of light and love. What a bright person. We continued humming together for a while and then he reached out to take my elbow. “Razi, is it okay if I touch you?” he wondered in his caramel-smooth voice.
“Oh, yes,” I replied enthusiastically.
“Don’t tell anyone. I need a favor. As well as your forgiveness. Can you take Michón on a date in a bit? I need to speak with Mark alone but she cannot be around to bail him out. He’s not going to like it,” I spoke quietly, gazing into his hazel eyes.
“Of course I’ll help. I’ve been wanting more time with her, anyway. What do you need my forgiveness for, by the way?” He peered curiously at me.
“For possibly breaking your heart. Though we only had one night to express it, my love for you expands over so much more time. We don’t have to last forever. I just need you to know I still care about you,” I whispered, as if the words would break if spoken at a higher volume.
He stopped walking and faced me. He reached up to touch my neck and smiled. “Razi, I understand. I know how you loved Saje. I felt free for the first time from her. Maybe I was overexcited. I only wanted to make up for time lost.”
“It seemed too good to be true and I fled because I was terrified. The three men I loved wanting to be with me finally. Yet I was still dealing with processing my rape and Saje becoming a ghost.”
“I know. I know, love. Can I hug you? I’ve missed you,” he said tenderly.
“Yes, please. I love you,” I told him, holding him tightly. God, had he gotten more toned since I last held him? I had to force myself to let him go but my nostrils were flaring. He smelled like cookies and I certainly felt like eating him. I calmed down and suggested, “When this all goes down you and I should talk.”
“I’d like to do several things in addition to talking, Razi,” he lowered his voice and looked me over eagerly. “We can talk about that, too. For now I’m simply glad. I thought we’d lost you.”
I held his hand to my chest, between my breasts. He very nearly melted at the feel of my skin. “For now I’ve still got to get sorted. Let’s just let things be,” I replied.
“Sure, darling. I’ll see you.” He went off toward Mik’s old lab, picking up the song where he’d left off, happy as anything.
Saje appeared beside me. “You two are adorable together,” she cooed.
“Yeah. Did you two ever sit down and go over things? After you died?” I inquired.
“A few times. It feels easier now that we’re not bound to one another. We’re both free,” she sighed.
“That’s great. Do you still love him?”
“Of course I do. I don’t think we’ll ever be romantic or sexual again and that’s perfectly fine. Our time was wonderful and now it’s different. I’m happy with you, sweetie.”
“Me, too. I guess we’ll see how it goes for me, him, Mark, and Stuart. It makes me nervous… Okay, I suppose we should go ahead and bring him here. It’s time to get started.”
“I’ll go get Becky. Wait in the magic-proof room for us,” she instructed.
*Becky’s point of view
It was the weirdest thing to see both Marks in front of me. I had managed to avoid the one I’d been married to up 'til now. I still don’t know what the hell I’d been thinking. How had I ever loved such a creepy person? His double was no better. I prayed to Gangos that neither of them would currently find me attractive. I wanted to get this over with. Mark Blue was glaring at the other Mark. Saje perched in the air as if seated, flushed and barely able to contain her delight. Had she ever been able to do the deed with Mark? Perhaps not, judging by her reaction now. The other Mark was sneering at her, flirting without saying a word. Razi stood between the Marks to keep the peace.
I cleared my throat. “Mark Ulf, we need your help. You’re the only one of us who’s met the first human. We need her to take down Mikassa.”
“The rest of us have lived too many lives to clearly remember her. But we know she’s out there somewhere,” Razi added.
“You seek Lilith. Why do you think she can help?” Ulf asked us, amused.
“She brings the apocalypse. Mikassa could definitely do with some unveiling,” Saje snorted.
“Have you considered the cost?” he questioned.
“Why the hell am I here?” Mark Blue grumbled.
“We have to work together. If you wish to find out who you, who we are, she can help. She can free us all of his thrall,” Ulf explained.
Blue groaned. “Fine. I’ll help. Answer me this: if I’m you then why are you here? How did we die before? I can’t remember.”
“The fact that I’m alive now should show you I don’t know, either. Our death is still coming. I’ve neither dreamed nor seen it,” Ulf shared regretfully.
“Fuck. Oh, well. So how do we get this bitch?”
“She’s nearly as powerful as the gods. She also outranks us because she’s the only being to have drank from the Tree of Life. Have some respect,” Razi cut in, annoyed.
“Like how you could’ve respected me enough to tell me about this beforehand? You had me thinking…” Blue shook his head miserably. “I thought Mik had broken you. You swore you’d never lie to me again.” A wave of his dismay spread across the room, making my knees buckle.
“I know. You see why I did it, though,” she replied, full of compassion. “Nothing else, I swear. It’s up to you whether or not you’ll ever trust me after this.”
“You’ve been fucking with my head since we were kids,” he shrugged. “I’ll deal with this first then get back to you.” To me it sounded like a threat but Razi grinned at him, sensing something I didn’t.
“Lilith is in new form at present. We’ll have to cross into Lombardi’s universe to get her. The splits in the universes are still open. That’s actually useful at the moment. I’ve been priming new Lilith her entire life for this. There’s some work to be done on your end, Blue. However, Mitchell is already there adapting her,” Ulf informed him.
“Wait. Is this Jean’s universe we’re talking about? Do you mean Allison Mae? Queen Aeryn is Lilith,” Blue blinked. “That’s why you need her,” he realized.
Ulf nodded. “You remember your time out of time. Excellent.”
“Mikassa will be awake shortly. We should get moving,” I noted.
“I’ll handle Lombardi. How much time do you need?” Razi addressed the Marks.
“A few days at most,” Blue confirmed.
“Time to distract Mikassa. My specialty. With us headed to Middle Earth it won’t be too difficult. He may not have feelings but I know he’s not looking forward to going back there. That’s why we’re taking the slowest route there,” Saje offered.
“Here goes nothing,” we all chimed then dispersed on our various tasks.
*Mark Blue’s point of view
While waiting for Lombardi to give the go-ahead I ran a few more experiments. Michón was still on her date with Damon so I had time to kill. I wondered how John was doing and when I’d see him again. How lucky I was that we’d been lovers for several decades. I missed it sometimes. Hoping he was okay, I lit a blunt and laid on the floor. My door cracked open and red hair crept into my peripheral vision. “Mark?” came his voice softly.
Shit. I’d forgotten Stuart was stopping by today. Any visit from my former self warped my memories ever so slightly. What would happen if we ever fucked? I laughed to myself. Stuart waited by the door, unsure of himself. “Come in, fucknut,” I invited him. “Michón’s gone with Damon so you’ll have to speak to her later.”
He settled down beside me, nervous as hell. His mind was closed to me still. “One on one is fine right now. This is hard enough.”
“You’re lucky Ripley talked to me first.”
“Yeah, I prob’ly owe him for that. Um, so listen… I’ve been thinking. Really thinking. What I did to you was stupid. I want my best friend back. I broke my promise but it doesn’t change the fact that I still want to know everything about you. That day I made out with you…I wasn’t that drunk. I blocked it out ‘cuz that’s what I always do when I don’t want to understand something. I like you, Mark, as well as love you. I blocked out your relationship with John ‘cuz…I was jealous. Just like when we were kids and you were fucking Damon.”
“I’ve got déjà vu, man. Stu, you want to be my sex toy again?” I teased.
He blushed furiously. “No… No. I want to be…with you. Maybe not immediately but eventually. I want to make this work. I’m not…gay or bi or pan but…I love you. Not as only my friend but romantically…” he trailed off, twiddling his hands.
Placing my hand over his, I prompted him, “Sexually, too?”
“Yes. I’ve been hiding it from the moment we met. I don’t want to hide anymore,” he gulped.
“Good for you. What about Alana?”
“Ripley will help me there. That is, if you want… I mean, I don’t know if you’re…”
“How could I not want you, Stu? By the way, I am bi. Or pan, I guess. I don’t care what sex or gender you are so long as you’re sexy,” I smirked.
“You’ll give me a chance?” he wondered hopefully, brightening.
“I always have. Besides, we’re already boyfriends out of time. It’s why I’ve been so frustrated here.”
“Seriously?” His eyes went super wide.
I chuckled. “Fuck yeah. You’ll remember soon enough now that you’ve admitted how you feel.”
“I need more time to come to grips with this. It’s all so new,” he sighed.
“That’s okay. Things are about to go fucking crazy!”
“Why? What’s happening?”
“We’re about to steal the baddest bitch in the universe,” I grinned.