My most darling Carol,

So last week, I went out to party with all my friends, and met a fucking beautiful guy who was there with his friends. I ended up spending time with this beautiful guy, and in a moment of beautiful weakness, I invited him to my place. Neither of us drink alcohol (he's a former alcoholic, I’m a Muslim) so we were completely sober, which is even weirder.

We ended up having sex. Almost the entire night. I haven't had sex since last January, but it was almost like it was completely natural and wonderful and the guy wasn't particularly gentle, but he held onto me and kissed me and was into me the entire night. The best part was we spent most of the night cracking jokes and just, you know, being together. We talked about music and our lives and it wasn't like any other one night stand I’ve had (except the one where I lost my virginity, but that dude and I are still friends, so it colours my vision a little).

I woke up pre-dawn to eat breakfast before the sun came up and Ramadan started. He stayed with me for about three hours and I made him breakfast. Just an omelette (which will forever be code for 'blowjob' thanks to this bloke, seriously, it was that kind of night) and tea, but he was appreciative and I was boggled.

This guy was beautiful. I am not at all beautiful. In fact, I’m fat and ugly and sort of a pain. The whole night practically, from when I joined his friends up until he left, it was like we were the only two humans in the entire world. He looked me in the eyes, he held my hand in the taxi back to the flat, and basically made me feel like a damn goddess.

It hurts because this has to be a one night stand. We’re both leaving on Wednesday. We didn't trade numbers; we didn't even say "see you later" or ANYTHING. It was just a perfect confluence of events that will never happen again.

I don't even feel guilty. I feel like I’m a lucky poker chip or a rabbit's foot or the best damn fortune outta a fortune cookie, the one with all the right numbers. It was beautiful and it happened and somehow, when I read this entry again I will only think of how he joked about strippers and omelettes and the Beatles and how desired I felt when he flirted with me.

I can't even believe this guy is real, but somehow, he is, and I am going to smile all day today.

Yours, xx

N.B.: My brain is hard-wired for perfection. I’m self-conscious about everything that is wrong with me, and there is plenty. I’m scared to talk on the phone because I can't see the other person's face, I don't know their reaction. I have to correct every spelling/grammar mistake in my head, I think about what I’m going to say before I say it, and sometimes if I don't know what to say, I just don't say it.

But everything about me is wrong and bad. I have terrible hair and terrible skin and I’m too short and too fat, and my nose is too big and my hands too manly. I stand in front of a mirror and slowly pick myself apart, and it keeps me from smiling.

There are two reasons I miss that one night stand, and here they are:
1. He made me laugh and smile, even with all my teeth.
2. I felt beautiful under his hands.

I feel stupid and a little desperate, and a little lonely. I feel like I should have done more, like get his number or make him stay a little longer.

Once again, one more thing I’m wrong about. xx
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sobota: (green sobota)
( Jan. 15th, 2015 08:42 pm)
Isaac tossed the Ident-ease card at the teller, digging around in his pocket for his Nico-Stick. "How much per hour?" he asked as he pressed down on one end of the 'Stick, waiting for the familiar warmth against his finger.

"Twenty clicks," the teller replied, sliding the UV light over the card. "You have four hundred and twenty five clicks remaining, Mr McCoy." Isaac sucked on the end of the 'Stick, and nodded.

"Give me two hours," Isaac said, and the teller swiped the light again, and the screen lit up briefly: 385 clicks remaining. Thank you and enjoy your stay! Isaac just smirked and took the card back, slipping it back into the supposedly hidden pocket on his coveralls.

He walked into the building and removed the breathing clip from his nose; places like this usually had their own controlled atmospheres, unlike outside. Isaac continued sucking at the end of the 'Stick as he stopped at the bar. "Sugar Deuce, ancient," he said, sliding on the barstool and looking over his fingernails, frowning. Working near the core always left his skin peeling and his fingernails dirty. No wonder he had to come out here for a little bit of fun.

The 'tender slid across his rum & coke on the rocks and Isaac sighed. "Who you picking tonight?" The guy asked. Isaac shrugged and watched the ice float. It wasn't real ice; freezing was a pretty unknown technique nowadays, and there was no ice left anyway.

"No fucking clue. Don't really care." He shrugged and took two big gulps of his drink. Nothing. He'd need at least two more before he even felt anything. "Who's holdin' the aggro tonight?"

"You looking for Joyce. 280-A." The tender refilled him, and Isaac finished it off, his 'Stick cooling. He cursed and pulled out another; Nico-Sticks were expensive.

"Thanks," he said and got up after typing in his number so his Ident-ease would be charged for the drinks. He took the slider up to the next floor, and followed the glowing arrows to 280-A, rapping knuckles on the door.

"Please ring the bell for entrance," a woman's voice informed him, and Isaac rolled his eyes and pressed a grubby finger to the glowing white button next to the door. The door slid open and Isaac walked in.

Joyce was sitting on one of the low seats. He glanced up and nodded. "Hi. IE number?" Isaac gave it to him and Joyce nodded, pushing aside his hair and typing in his number onto the keypad that appeared on the table in front of him.

"Forty clicks remaining," the same woman's voice from outside said. Joyce nodded.

"What do you want?"

Isaac sat down on the sofa with Joyce. "Aggro. The 'tender downstairs said I should come to you. Whatever happens afterward happens." Isaac continued to suck at the 'Stick.

Joyce watched him for a moment, and then got up, leaving the room. He was tall, thin, and pale. Looked like he never left these rooms. Isaac wouldn't be surprised. Only people that could stomach outside anymore were cops and core miners. One look at Isaac and you could guess what he was.

Joyce came back and tossed the small metal box in Isaac's lap. "You a core miner, huh?" He slid close to Isaac and smiled at him, his lips parted and glistening. Isaac shrugged as he opened the box, slipping out the vial with the bright blue liquid inside and a new hypo-needle. Isaac hummed as he tied off his arm. Joyce busied himself with pushing at Isaac's coveralls but Isaac stilled him with a look.

"Yeah. Good money and I don't have to get my jollies off fucking with kids like the cops do." Isaac grunted as the pressed the needle into his skin and released the Aggro into his blood stream. Joyce cleaned him up. "You got a name, Joyce?"

Joyce shrugged as he returned to continue undressing Isaac. "Joyce's good," he murmured as he pressed his lips against Isaac's. Isaac bit at Joyce's lip and pushed him backwards against the sofa.

Joyce didn't struggle as Isaac pulled at his clothes; Isaac heard a rip but didn't care. Joyce grabbed at Isaac's neck and scratched. Isaac growled and slapped at his hand, pinning it down. He could feel how thin Joyce's wrist was; it was the Aggro, but he wanted it broken.

Joyce moaned as Isaac twisted him around and pressed him onto the sofa, pushing into him. Joyce pushed back against him, gasping. Isaac bit down on the back of Joyce's pale neck, and Joyce groaned, pushing back against him again.

"Fucking slut," Isaac whispered and pushed him harder into the sofa. Joyce whimpered, but nodded and pushed back against Isaac. Isaac smiled against the back of his neck and sat back to pull off the rest of his coveralls, letting them settle around his knees.

The thing he liked about the kids in white was that they always had the slick stuff somewhere in hands' reach. Isaac was cruising on the Aggro, wanting Joyce to break under him, but he wanted his own ride to be smooth.

He pushed into Joyce, twisting his fingers in the kid's hair as he did. Joyce moaned and pushed back as Isaac rocked forward. Isaac growled, leaning in to bite him again, pulling his hair to tug his neck to the side.

Isaac slid against Joyce, his skin sticky against Joyce's. He closed his eyes and continued to rock forward, groaning as Joyce tightened around him. They continued to fuck like that, rocking forward and pushing back. Isaac leaned down to bite at Joyce's shoulder.

"Touch me, please," Joyce mumbled, and closed his eyes. "Fuck, please. Touch me."

Isaac grinned against Joyce's shoulder and reached underneath him, his callused, scarred hands gripping Joyce's cock and stroking him, his thumb pressing at the head as he moved his hand back, and then up, along Joyce's cock.

Joyce pushed into Isaac's hand, and nodded as Isaac continued fucking him, rocking into him, tugging at his hair and biting at his pale, pale skin. Joyce groaned, knowing this wouldn't last forever, wanting it to anyway.

Isaac came without warning, shoving Joyce's face into the sofa. Joyce groaned as Isaac didn't let up on his cock, coming a few moments later. Isaac waited for a few moments and pulled out of Joyce. Joyce stayed still, his eyes closed.

He turned around and ran his fingers through his come, licking it off his fingers as he watched Isaac. Isaac nodded in approval, and leaned down to lick at his lips.

"William," Joyce said against Isaac's lips.

Isaac sat back, and furrowed his brow. "What?" He tugged up his coveralls, but Joyce stilled him, slipping on top of him. They kissed again, and Joyce held onto the back of Isaac's neck. (The thing about core miners, their hair was always in cornrows, or shaven. Isaac's was in tight rows, no chance of it getting caught up in something.)

They pulled away, and Joyce grinned. "You asked for my name. It's William."
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I stand in your shitty kitchen making martinis in panties and we hold hands in the backseat of my dad's convertible and eat ice cream. My legs are in your lap and my feet are bare and the ice cream is cold. You're so pale and your hand looks bright against my dark legs.

I stopped wearing shoes the day I got off the plane and my soles are black and my legs are still adjusting to being completely grounded. I'm still adjusting to being completely grounded. It's like we're starting all over again. Nobody noticed me standing barefoot at the baggage carousel, just like nobody noticed you in your sunglasses, arms spread wide for a hug. Nobody (or everybody?) looked our way when we kissed. You said you didn't check anything, so we walked out into the glaring sun and it was like January never happened, like we were just two kids learning about each other.

You liked my pink toenails and laughed when I put in some Beatles, but 'anything's better than NPR' according to you. We put the top down and I was speeding and we were singing (screaming) along... now you're in the shower, and I can still hear you singing.

Come back to me, and lie with me. Let me be yours again.

Last night we watched some shitty movie and stayed up to watch a rerun of some show I had never heard of before and then we slept together and I'm really sorry about hitting your face trying to reach my phone. No, really. I had no idea that would happen.

& thanks for making me breakfast, and sorry for being such a bitch this morning, but thanks for making me laugh.

If I weren't already in love with you, I would be falling hard.
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The water is deeper than I remember, and colder than I would ever expect. The Pacific Ocean is vast, ancient, much less forgiving than its cold, grey, harmless sister. My strokes are strong and sure, but the board still seems heavy, fibreglass pressed against my sternum and my stomach. The cord attached to my ankle gives me some small confidence.

I grip the edge of the board and fairly fling myself up, wobbling a bit but gaining my balance quickly. The wave that brings my board in is disappointingly weak, but it is still exhilarating to ride it. My instructor Ian praises my stance and my ability to stay upright, giving me additional advice in his fantastically Australian accent--and all Australian accents are fantastic--and promising that the next wave will be 'a great fuck off' wave. Cursing still thrills my thirteen year-old heart, and I swim out strong.

The next wave is a 'great fuck off' one. It engulfs me, swallowing me in foam and salt and a great blue wall of nothingness. My eyes sting, held open by the force of the water, and I tumble and scrape along the floor, my board slipping and catching. I fumble to grip, to pull myself up, but the wave's children follow him, and I am tumbled again like so many awkward bits of flotsam. I finally pull myself up, gasping, clinging to my board. I am sure my eyes are red. My skin feels raw, but nothing is really hurt. I paddle weakly back to Ian, who looks anxious for a second--a whole second!--until he sees I am not hurt. He asks if I would go again, and I look back at the waves, the inconstant, lying waves, and I stretch myself along the board, and swim out once more to meet the sea.
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sobota: (sex pistols + jrm)
( Dec. 13th, 2014 06:19 pm)
[ “The future outwits all our certitudes” ]

There's a café right up the street from me that serves bagels and "New York style hot dogs". And I stand there in awe, wondering if this is what the United States is...pickles and sickly sweet doughnuts and A&W root beer? I have no idea what to believe: you can't believe your eyes; you can't believe your ears; your mouth moves so fast that the words seemed blurred like rain running in ropes down my window.

It gets dark so quickly here; it's not even one o'clock where you are. What are you having for lunch? What are you writing about today? I get sad thinking about your letters; so many other people read them and somehow it makes them better, knowing that people are trying to figure you out (like me). I get you sometimes, but other times I'm just as lost as you are.

Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry and when you laugh, your heart explodes and you can't help but say yes, over and over and over. I have never been so free as right now, staring down the barrel of a long range rifle, dreaming of first class and pomegranate vodka cocktails. Have this weird sense of vertigo, wrapped up with a side of déjà vu. It'll all end in a crash and then we'll all be a little bit better in the morning (when it doesn't look so bad).
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Hardy very often wonders what would flash before his eyes before he died. He has stopped dreaming a long while ago, but there are moments that send shivers up his spine and spikes through this brain, and he is left grasping at straws, trying to remember.

+++

Hardy feels the crunch of bone before he hears it, and goes down on one knee hard, grunting in pain. He puts his hand to his left shin, and it's slick with mud and blood. He keeps the rugby ball tucked under his arm and rolls onto his back, staring at the grey, pissing sky. He's shivering from shock as his team swarms around him.

"Offa him, you bleedin' idiots!" the coach yells, pushing the team back and letting the paramedics get set up. The player who tackled him stands by helplessly, and Hardy just lifts a thumb, an I'm okay, quit standing around like a git.

They have to put pins in his shin, but he manages to walk just fine, and run even better than just fine. He has to work harder to prove that there's nothing wrong with him.

He still has to present a card that says he has metal inside his body whenever he goes to airports, which triggers an automatic pat-down at most of them. He takes it with a grimacing smile, but will show the scars to whomever asks.

+++

Westminster is as boring as one could imagine. Hardy is not sure what course to follow (he had done so well in is A-levels, he could have chosen anything), and chooses some maths, some physics, three languages. He feels like saying, "More weight," when he speaks to his advisor, but he really doesn't think his advisor would get the allusion.

He takes some literature courses next, a linguistics course. By the end of his first year, he is able to jump ahead to higher levels, and decides to study in America. Yale barely blinks into accepting him.

Hardy is bored there too; he takes more physics, an upper level psychology course.

He can drink anyone under the table, sleeps with way too many girls (and guys, because he is not picky), and still manages to make it to his eight am class. However, he vows never to do it again—it was an art history class, and the professor didn't know his arse from his elbow, in Hardy's opinion.

He finishes at twenty, and returns to England, going to the RAF Careers Office in London. He is recruited, although during psychological evaluation, it is noted that he tends to become bored easily and has a questionable temper.

+++

Hardy collects a series of nicknames throughout his career, starting in the RAF. Because of his tribal tattoos, he ends up getting the nickname of Friday. After their sniper trials, when Hardy receives his first promotion, he gets the nickname One Shot.

When he becomes Corporal, they call him Agent Orange, but he doesn't quite know why.

After he joins the SAS, he gets the name Frankenstein from all his scars and his fucked up pinkie. That pinkie nearly got him passed over for SAS trials, but he fought hard and won well.

And once he joins Company 14, the Intelligence Regiment, he receives his most favoured nickname of all, Bronson, like Charles Bronson. "Don't he look like a violent criminal?"

"Don't you fucking start," Hardy had said. "I'm a kitten, I am."

His closest friends end up calling him Kitten, but only when nobody can hear them. They get kicked, hard, for their troubles.

+++

The glass shatters, tinkling like a thousand small bells. Hardy can't feel the glass cutting into his knuckles, but he feels it slice through the skin and tendons of his pinkie, feels the rush of pain and how it explodes in his brain.

He doesn't even remember why he punched out the window. Just to see if he could, he supposes, but what happens is some twenty-odd stitches and the realisation that he'll never really be able to bend his hand the way he wants, or feel the last two fingers of his right hand.

It's extraordinarily painful to do the fitness tests later, when he joins the RAF, but he lets them bend his hand back, lets them straighten out the pinkie as much as possible, and stares at a wall, the only indication that anything is wrong the jumping pulse in his neck.

+++

"Do you understand all the obligations accorded to a Group Captain?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you understand that you are responsible for not only the training, but ultimate deployment of your regiment?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you understand that you are responsible for the safety, well-being and lives of your regiment?"

"Yes, sir."

"In your estimation, are you capable of the duties accorded to a Group Captain?"

"Yes, sir."

"Congratulations, Wing Commander Hardy. You have now received the rank of Group Captain. Thank you for your astounding and loyal service to the Royal Air Force."

+++
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They entered a dream space of absolute light and insanity, and pounding bass. Daniel looked instantly in his element, a fluorescent drink in his hand in a very tight black shirt and skinny, skinny jeans.

"You would think he went to gay bars in his spare time," Khalid mused as they watched him seduce their mark, pulling him by the hips towards him.

Daniel didn't look like himself, obviously, but with the mirrors everywhere, they caught flashes of his lips curled into that infamous and predatory grin.

Connor took a deep breath and shrugged. "He looks like he's having fun," he said, moving out onto the pulsating dance floor and moving in with Daniel.

They kept the mark enthralled while they kissed, deep, Daniel mussing Connor's hair and Connor pushing up Daniel's shirt.

--

Daniel rolled up in the red and white convertible. "Come on, love," he trilled, and Connor rolled his eyes and hopped easily in the passenger seat. Daniel leaned in for a kiss, but Connor pushed him away with a smirk.

"My dad had a car like this," Connor mused, touching the cracked leather seat.

Daniel turned on the music, bobbing his head easily. His shirt was open at the collar, and Connor spied bright green hightops on his feet.

"Are we back in the eighties or something?"

Daniel just smiled and turned up the music, and they drove off into the sunset. Connor kept his hand on Daniel's thigh.

--

Limbo. What was it, in a man's subconscious?

Daniel had been locked in his brain for 3 days, which was something like 50 years, to hear his doctor. Connor had no idea what he would find as he slowly opened the door of the small cabin; the only one for miles in this desert.

Daniel looked up; he looked the same as he always did. Connor stood at the door, and he nodded for him to come in.

"Tea?"

"Daniel?"

Daniel looked past Connor to the open door. "No, I don't think..." He looked at Connor. "Is that my name?"

Connor sat down, and Daniel poured him a mug. "Yes, your name is Daniel..."

---

Connor woke at dawn, every day. He watched the sunrise, went for a jog, and then went back to work.

When he jogged, he would jog by many empty things; empty office buildings, empty malls. He could imagine he was the only person living at dawn.

When he returned, Daniel would always be asleep, and wouldn't wake for hours. The world filled up, and Daniel would leave. He would come back with the sunset at his back, with dinner, sometimes without.

"What happened?"

Connor looked up to see a gun in his face.

"Are you dreaming?"

Connor slowly raised his hand, but Daniel just stared.

"Are you dreaming?" Daniel voice was tight.

"Why would I dream a world where you didn't love me?"

Daniel brought the gun to his own head. "And that's where you're wrong," he whispered, pulling the trigger.

Connor grabbed the gun from his hand and shot himself.

They woke up, staring at each other.

"Do you?"

"Would it make it easier?"

"I'm not sure."

--

Connor tapped his foot along with the band on stage, turning to drink down his Newcastle Brown.

"Would you mind if I bummed a smoke?"

The man who asked was handsome, with straight cut bangs and blue-grey eyes, but when he smiled, his imperfect teeth stared Connor straight in the face.

"Yeah, no problem," Connor said, handing his pack over.

The other man settled next to him, and ordered his own beer, a Fat Tire.

Connor bothered with his cigarettes, and turned his attention back to the band on stage.

"What are you waiting for?" the man said to the back of his head, and Connor turned and blinked at him.

"I'll go home with you, all you have to do is ask."

Connor looked at the man's full lips, at his nervous tapping fingers, at the promise of broad shoulders.

"Do you generally come to dive bars to pick up lonely guys?"

"No, but did it work?"

Connor stood up. "Why don't you come find out?"

--

The day Connor broke Daniel's nose was by any means a normal day. Daniel was a dick, Connor was a bore, and everything was normal.

Until Daniel decided to make a crack about Connor's last girlfriend. In a strange turn of events, Daniel had to forge her for a job that didn't involve Connor.

"The damn town bicycle, she was," Daniel said.

"I'm sorry, what did you say," Connor said, voice soft.

Daniel raised his eyebrow. "What, are you going to protect her virtue or something, Sir Connor?"

And Connor flew across the room, grabbing Daniel by the collar. "Choose your next words carefully."

Daniel smirked. "Your girl was a slut..."

And so Connor broke his nose.

Read more... )
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I've lost trace of what home really means, of my mother's obsession with candles and the bookshelf that towers over everyone. I'm an only child, whatever that means: petulant, pouting, making sure to get my way. (Loudmouthed, obscene, beloved.) I hold no confession, no valid observations, just things I've picked up along the way. No real scars, no real experience. Pretend you 'get' me, pretend you 'understand where [I'm] coming from, really' & I'll pretend to care when you give me advice.

It's not easy hiding, not easy stepping on a plane, running (away) when I never really know what's chasing me. I have 29 more hours until I have to make a real decision, the first one I have ever made. I could make lists; see my options in black & blue, see where my life has decided to take me without me even moving.

Believe me, if I could open my mouth and speak words that would change worlds, I would. If I could change someone's mind or even my own, I would. The world keeps on believing what it wants to believe while the preachers bang their pulpits selling a god that's past its (his) use by date, in a worn out package. Believing that time is cyclical while it marches like ants towards some inexplicable end just means you'll get caught in the rip tide, forward (and backward) motion.

Who gets my lies and who gets my truths? I am no prophet; I bring no message of hope & salvation. But I close my eyes and push play, and there he is. I have had a vision of my future, and I'm scared of saying anything. In case, like everything else I have ever hoped for, it doesn't come true. But it's pretty nice, and for once I'm happy.

My life came tumbling down, like an intricate picture made of dominoes. Or sand paintings that Buddhist monks spend hours on, only to destroy them after a day. Now I'm busy separating the colours and putting them back in their appropriate boxes, watching stupid shows on television and going to sleep at half three.

My mind's eye is ridiculously inaccurate, and gives me hope where there is none. I hate that nobody wonders, and nobody asks, and somehow your unhappiness is all my fault. I don't have anything much to contribute, except that everything slipping through my fingers makes me want to let go that much more.
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You and I have two completely different ways of talking to one another. Graceful long fingers don't ever shake as they describe the feeling of falling as we hold hands and jump into the waves. We walk along the same beach barefoot, but I can't stand the sand between my toes like you can. I run across asphalt as if I were a fire-walker, but you stand on one side and laugh when I step on a rock. I have forgotten what shoes are, and the straps feel like chains around my ankles. My skin browns in the low California sun, and my sandals leave pale marks across the tops of my feet. I cover my breasts, leave my back to collect the heat of the day, and you shrivel away from the sun. We ride with the top up, a waste of open days.

Sometimes I wonder how we became friends. It must have been that one night when we went for ice cream and you kept taking my spoon; as it disappeared from my hand and into your mouth, I could only smile (and steal six dollars from your pocket). After, we watched a movie and we were the only two people in the entire world; suddenly I understood how fragile you were. I felt peaceful around you, and I don't I've ever felt at peace with anything in my life until that night, and I don't think I've been at peace with myself since. I can say I miss you, but I wouldn't know what the truth would be: you are not the same as you were then. Neither, perhaps, am I.

Your text messages are so concise and always kind. You don't spend time with silly platitudes and a well placed bon-mot can always make me laugh. I feel like I've known you since I've known the sky. We speak the same language when we talk. You make my heart do triple axles, you write, and I show it forever, content in the knowledge that somewhere someone thinks of me as I think of them, and the lump in their throat is happy nostalgia.

You have a glass of wine as we sit outside with our feet hanging off the ledge. We sleep in the same bed and your elbows dig into my side. It keeps me awake but I stopped caring a long time ago. We laugh when people ask us if we're dating. I would never date you; I know what you're really like. And besides, we're better off as just friends.

(I've repeated this last sentence, as I sit watching your sleeping face, wondering if it's true. How well do I know my own heart, as well as yours, and what can I see in the worried lines of your forehead?)
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He wasn't exactly Neil's type. Too fit, but muscular and blond, with short, gelled-back hair. No moustache, though. Less seventies porn star and more 'former prison' type. But Neil was desperate for a bit of cash and this man looked like he had some to burn.

Neil looked over his body. Dog-tags. So, not former prison, military. Denim grey and green eyes. Thick, gorgeous lips, but wonky teeth.

"You're staring fairly hard, bruv," the man suddenly said.

Oh, English. Neil gripped the bar; English accents made him go weak in the knees.

"Take a picture."

"I would, if I had a camera," Neil said after regaining his voice.

"Aren't you a bit young to be trawling gay bars? Are you here to get off with someone?"

"You, hopefully."

The man snorted. "No, no, my commission is worth more than your undoubtedly fine but probably underage arse." He bought Neil a beer anyway, pushing it over to him.

"You're English, aren't you?"

"Aren't you clever?" the man replied. "What's your name?"

"Neil." He usually lied, but since this man had no intention of fucking him, he didn't see the point in lying. "What about you?"

"I haven't got a name," the man replied, watching as Neil took a healthy swallow of his beer. "But people call me Hardy."

Neil reached out to touch the dog-tags, and Hardy grabbed his wrist before he got there. His grip was strong, on the quiet side of painful--it was a warning, and Neil could see it for exactly what it was. He was also starting to get hard. He'd sleep with this guy for free, but he wasn't even going to get that.

"Hardy!" Someone called over the thumping music, and Hardy turned his head, his mouth pulling into a smile. The man, a skinny man in grey trousers and a blood red cardigan came up to Hardy, touching his shoulder. He had slicked back hair as well, a thin face, but--

"Ah, bloody hell, lookit that," Hardy breathed. "Coulda been a twin."

The man, who did look like Neil; older, shorter hair, but the same face, looked over Neil and shrugged. "Sure, if I were a hooker."

"Ah, Connor, don't be rude," Hardy said softly. "Neil's a clever boy, maybe even a bit of a chameleon."

Neil watched the way Hardy's arm draped around his doppelgänger's waist, fingers possessive on his hip.

Connor tilted his head to one side. They stared at one another for so long that Neil seemed to forget where he was.

"It's always weird to see a different path," Connor said, finally.

"Tell me about it," Neil replied, looking at Hardy. "Thanks for the beer."

The music changed and Neil left; he could feel the eyes of the both of them on his back, and for the first time in his life he felt worried.
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Daniel is always the only person in the room who could pronounce his name correctly at all times.

Daniel wears a heavy, unfashionable gold watch and strange patterns just as well as he wears a thin gold watch and his favourite Dunhill suits.

Daniel jokes through his dying, jokes throughout the battle, even jokes as they stand, after, in queue at the International Arrivals of LAX. His mouth issues forth funny little quips but his eyes are narrowed, sweeping the room.

So when Yoshida calls him six months after the war, it is no surprise when the first words out of Daniel's mouth are, "Yoshida-san, you must be as bored as I am."

"Not bored as such," Yoshida says. "How did you know it was me?"

"Zero-seven-five followed by seven digits is a Kyoto prefecture number. I don't generally have many friends in Kyoto." Daniel says easily. "To what do I owe this very distinct pleasure? Am I to be a soldier for you again?"

"Mister Hardy, really. I could just want the pleasure of your company."

Yoshida hears and feels Daniel's deep chuckle. "The pleasure of my company," Daniel repeats. "Am I coming to Japan then?"

"I will send a plane for you."

And that is exactly what Yoshida does.

//

Yoshida watches as Daniel handles each increasingly complicated entrée with all the finesse of a fine gourmand. Daniel wears his suit well, and his cufflinks are expensive. He still wears that silly heavy gold watch. He drinks his saké carefully, and answers all the silly parlour game questions with aplomb, his English accent never marring his Japanese. Daniel, Yoshida decides, would look good here.

Yoshida touches his elbow, and Daniel's eyes alight on Yoshida's face. "All this for the pleasure of my company?" Daniel demurs, taking another sip of his saké and contemplating his next entrée. "Or are you fattening me up to serve for breakfast tomorrow?"

"It would take too long to cook you," Yoshida replies, sliding his fingers up Daniel's arm and squeezing his expansive shoulder. Daniel shifts his arm, and Yoshida can feel the muscle tense and relax. "It would be...satisfying, however."

Daniel narrows his eyes and reaches out to pick up one of his bowls. The way Daniel handles his chopsticks was almost delicate, careful, and Yoshida watches Daniel's mouth.

//

"I have not been entirely truthful with you," Yoshida says as they sit in Daniel's room, legs akimbo as they play a very fraught game of backgammon. Those who do not think backgammon could be fraught have never watched two hard-wired competitors play.

Daniel contemplates the board. "Mmm?" he says softly before moving his piece. "So there is a reason I'm here as your kept man, then?"

Yoshida sits in still repose at Daniel's words. He can feel Daniel's eyes watching his face, but then he watches Yoshida's fingers on the board.

"I need you to kill someone," comes Yoshida's response, as if from very far away.

Daniel excuses himself, and walks out of Yoshida's flat. Yoshida sits in silence, looking at the board.

Daniel was winning.

//

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Arthur Dent was having a bad day. Of course, it would have been more shocking to say that he was having a good day lately, but..

He was having a very bad day. Very bad days earned the qualifier if any of these three things were happening:

1. The Earth was being destroyed.
2. Arthur's life was in danger.
3. Ford Prefect was in the vicinity.

The first had happened often enough that Arthur had grown used to it. The second happened with such startling frequency that Arthur was considering changing it to something else (being wrongfully accused of murder, for example).

The third, however, was most definitely the reason for every very bad day Arthur had had since the first time the Earth had been destroyed.

To wit: Ford and Arthur were standing in front of a cash point machine, trying to withdraw some Altarian dollars. The cash point machine wasn't having a very good day either, and decided to make its bad mood known... by not returning Ford's Din-o-Charge card.

"Look here, Mister Prefect," the cash point machine said in a school-marmish voice (Arthur wondered if the Babel Fish did accents as well as translations). "This card is expired."

Ford frowned. "What do you mean, expired?"

"This card is no longer viable for any transactions," the cash point replied.

"It was rhetorical," Ford mumbled. "When did it expire?"

"Two million, six hundred seventy thousand, five hundred thirty-two years ago, last month," the machine replied, and spit out the card. "SFR Enterprises thanks you for your business."

Ford kicked the machine for good measure and sat down, sighing. "Well, that's that," he murmured.

"That's that?" Arthur exclaimed. "We need to be on that shit...that ship! The ship! We need to be on it!"

Ford shrugged, leaning back on his elbows. "Let's be cool."

"I have NEVER been cool in my entire life, Ford," Arthur replied, sitting down next to him. "What are we going to do?"

"We have a few options," Ford said. "You won't like any of them."

"Now you're starting to get to know me," Arthur said, sighing. "It only took you two million years."

"We can sell your blood."

"My...my...my...WHAT?"

"I said you wouldn't like it."

"You said we had a few options?"

Ford coughed politely. "Well, uh. You're technically the last human in the entire universe. At least...this universe."

Arthur frowned in thought, and then sprang up as if he had been bitten. "ABSOLUTELY NOT."

"Blood it is, then!" Ford said, popping up. "Let's go! We have a shit to catch."
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Connor sat uncomfortably in front of the commissioner's desk, hands clasped tightly in his lap.

"It says here you're studying International Affairs at Columbia," the commissioner said.

"Yes sir. It's a new field, you see, just started back in 1946." Connor cleared his throat. He felt he was offering up too much information.

"What are you going to do with that degree, son?"

Connor scratched back of his neck, and then shrugged. "Work for some intelligence agency, fight the Reds?"

The commissioner smiled. Connor did not like the man's smile one bit. "How'd you like to start fighting the Reds now, Mister Browning?"

"I'm not sure I'm qualified," Connor replied.

"Think of it as an apprenticeship. You get hands on experience, and we get some fresh thinking out in the field."

Connor shifted in his seat. "What do I have to do?" he asked finally, and the commissioner nodded.

"That's the spirit," he said, standing up. "Come with me, I've got some people I want you to meet."

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sweep the leg

There would be no William without Charles.

Charles could extract William from many a precarious situation, with tact or with violence, and come out with hands clean. There he would be, in pristine and obnoxious order, his ruby tiepin and ampersand cufflinks always straight and clean, and he would come for William. He would come for William in Thailand, in Mexico, in Russia. He would pay Euros or baht or rubles, but he would come for William.

William would lean against Charles in whatever luxury car he had chosen that time, and mumble, slurred with drink and drugs and sloppy with sex, "My darling Charles, whatever should I do without you."

And Charles would pull out a monogrammed silk handkerchief and wipe William's lips or the crusted blood under his nose, and tuck the handkerchief away. "Well, you would die," he would reply.

Charles stopped smiling a long time ago, and neither of them remembered what it looked like.

William had gone to the poshest schools and taken the poshest courses, and used his father's money, mostly to fuel whatever silly desire he had at the time. He went to America to study at the New York University, though studying was the furthest thing from his mind.

That was where he met Charles. Charles was a student there as well, and while he pretended to be well-bred, William just snorted. "Your suits are all off the rack, you silly poseur," William growled, and took him to New York, to Yves Saint Laurent and Dolce & Gabana, and his own personal tailor, where William dressed Charles like the mannequin he was. Charles was whippet thin with wrist bones like fine porcelain, high cheekbones and dark eyes. The first real suit he tried on, William was startled by the appearance of dimples before Charles settled back into his customary scowl.

William had fallen in love with him then and there, but Charles would have none of it.

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It sometimes took Danny fewer than five minutes to grab Arthur backstage after a show and push him against the wall, pressing his body against Arthur's and kissing him, opened-mouth and ignoring anything else going on around them. It took him fewer than ten to get them to their hotel room/van/whatever and into some reclining, half-naked state.

Danny's fingers were on Arthur instantly, his lips kissing every bit skin he could reach, and Arthur's quiet sounds of protest were lost on Danny's ears. It wasn't as if Arthur minded. Except for...

And Arthur's brain would sometimes stop when Danny sank to his knees, his mouth around Arthur's cock and his fingers digging in Arthur's hips, which was a little ticklish but a little hot, and so... so Arthur forgot.

Danny never said anything when they were finished, when they were sticky and sweaty and quiet. He never asked questions and he never gave an explanation. This was okay, Arthur thought, maybe, before he fell asleep. Maybe one day he would ask Danny.

They once did it sitting in some random hotel room, Arthur straddled on Danny's lap, holding on to him, scared and turned on and just... Danny watched him with those eyes, and Arthur didn't last very long that night. But they did it again later, Arthur's legs aching but his hands clawing at Danny's back.

"My Arthur," Danny would sometimes whisper against the back of Arthur's neck. "Mineminemine." And Arthur would turn around and kiss Danny, and it would start all over again.

Arthur would masturbate in the shower, the water scalding against his skin, and think of Danny. Always Danny. No wonder he had so much fucking trouble with girls. And he would wash it all away, and avoid his gaze in the mirror, wrapping a towel around himself.

Only Danny could see him naked, and watch him undress, and Arthur would still turn bright red, turning his body half-away from Danny's gaze, and Danny would come behind him and touch him and Arthur would stammer out something stupid, and Danny would grin and kiss him and Arthur would forget again.

They had this bond, this really weird bond. Danny would sit near Arthur, and they wouldn't even have to kiss, and Arthur would just imagine what they could be doing, and then his brain would melt out of his ear and he would stare stupidly at whoever was talking to them, which he did anyway. Conversation wasn't Arthur's bag; he was much better singing words than speaking them.

Arthur would get frustrated sometimes, because Danny was perfect, and then he would feel guilty that he thought these horrible things about Danny, and then he would go find Danny and kiss him out of the blue. And Danny would smile and say something funny or sexy or just say, "This is nice," and Arthur would forget all his frustrations, because Danny was good about that.

Arthur woke up one morning, at two, his face in Danny's hair and his arm around Danny's waist (ohgod how he loved Danny's waist), and suddenly he remembered. "You've never said 'I love you'," he whispered against Danny's hair, but Danny was asleep and he slept like the dead, anyway.

Arthur tried to remember later, to tell Danny what he said that morning at two, but Danny would kiss him, and touch him and fuck him and Arthur would forget. And it wasn't all that important anyway, just words.

Sometimes Danny would claw at Arthur, and want to be fucked, and Arthur shook so badly and held Danny so delicately and closed his eyes while he did it. But Danny loved it, but never said so, just asked every once and a while, just to see Arthur stammer out "R-r-really," and touch his face.

Danny's fingers had calluses, just like his really, but Danny's hands still felt so differently on his cock, on his hips, holding his hand. Arthur would blush when Danny's fingers slipped into his, but it was a happy 'he's holding my hand' sort of blush, so he didn't mind so much, when Danny held his hand.

Their being together every night didn't change anything. That's what surprised Arthur the most. Their being together didn't make a difference to anyone else but themselves. And it made their lives better. He felt better than he had in a long while, with Danny. Because Danny knew him, and he thought that he knew Danny.

Simple, simple, simple, and happy. Arthur didn't even think of the implications of sleeping with Danny every night. Didn't think of the implications of being fucked by Danny, because Danny was so beautiful.

Danny had stopped seeing other people after they had slept together two or three times. Arthur had asked him once, out of jest, and Danny had looked at him, his brow creased. "You think I would do that," he asked, and left the room. They didn't talk for a week afterwards, but Danny slid into Arthur's bed one night, and kissed his face over and over and over. And Arthur had wanted to apologise, but Danny shook his head. So Arthur never did.

Danny curled around Arthur, one morning at two-twenty-five, and kissed his neck. "You always look like you want to say something to me," he murmured. "Tell me, tell me now."

"Why do you never say 'I love you'," Arthur asked, because he remembered.

"Didn't ever think I had to," Danny replied. "Always thought you knew."
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Danny's father moved them to Mombasa from London the summer before he turned ten years old. It was boiling hot, and Danny, having not started school yet, had no friends. He spent the days darting in and out of shops and tents, chasing after boys and girls his own age, but whether they were wary of strangers or this white boy with a funny accent was particularly frightening, he would never know. Near the end of summer, in August, Danny found shelter in a particularly inviting alleyway, sitting on the bottom step of a tall set of stairs and drinking the only slightly cool can of juice.

"What's your name?" asked a voice above his head and Danny looked up, eyes wide.

"Danny," Danny replied, looking at the boy in front of him. He was tan and stout, with curly hair. He must have been one of the Muslim boys, and if he was, Danny had come a very long way, indeed, because he lived on the north side of Mombasa with the other expatriate families. "What about you?"

"Khalid. Are you hungry?"

And so it was, every Friday after prayers, Danny would arrive at Khalid's house and be fed by Khalid's very kind mother. Khalid's father was a chemist, and they would spend ages listening to him describe his concoctions, even though neither of them really understood what he was saying.

Then school began.

"Why aren't you coming to my school?" Danny asked as they sat together on their favourite step.

"Because you are going to the expat school, and I am a Kenyan," Khalid said, and shrugged. "I am not allowed."

"Well, that's stupid," Danny said. "I want to go to YOUR school then."

Danny tried rubbing the dry clay dirt onto his skin, to make him look 'African', but his father just roared in laughter and told him that he should be happy, being white. Danny wasn't sure what that meant, and it hung over his head every time he ate with Khalid's family.

"Why am I white?" Danny asked his father one day.

"You'd do better to ask why the sun rises in the East," his father replied.

"Because of the rotation of the Earth, of course," said Danny. Danny was always a clever boy.

Danny's being white didn't seem to bother Khalid, and Danny couldn't care one whit that Khalid was dark, so their friendship remained true and strong, right until Danny had to leave Kenya at the tender age of thirteen. The last dinner at Khalid's house was sombre, and they barely talked. Afterwards, Khalid tugged Danny up the stairs to his tiny bedroom and pulled a box out from under his bed. He thrust a box into Danny's hand.

"Don't open it until you get to England." He looked at Danny. "Promise."

"I promise," Danny said, clutching the box to his chest and reaching out to hug Khalid close. "We'll see each other soon."

Khalid smiled. "I don't doubt it."

Danny couldn't help but sneak a peek into the box on the plane; in it was a small scroll written in Arabic and a clear red dice. Danny tapped his father on the arm. "What does this say?"

His father pulled out his glasses, running his finger over the scroll and mumbling the words. "The souls of two friends will meet throughout the day, even if they do not see each other." He looked up at Danny. "That's a nice idea."

Danny took the paper back from him, and hugged it close to his chest, turning his head and looking out the window as the setting sun settled behind them.
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The deal with him...no, that wasn't right. The thing about him...the thing about him. There were many things about him. Long skinny arms, tapered fingers and flat nails. Dark pink nipples that sort of matched the flush of his neck (because he never wore a shirt). His neck, hair sticking to it—-that was another thing.

He was tricky, especially when he was drunk. Those tapered fingers reaching for her wrist and those lips...fuck, those lips. Pink like the inside of a dog's ear, pink like her new favourite shirt. Anyway, the thing about him is that she was never sure what he meant by those fingers reaching for her wrist, by those lips pressed against the soft bit of her jaw, back near her ear.

He could fit wherever he was, tucked away like a foldaway bed or hotel ironing boards. His new favourite place was between her and a wall, his knees somehow up against his sternum. He would wrap an arm around those irrational knees, his elbow pressed into her shoulder blade until she turned toward him (clever ruse). So there was no doubt as to their proximity, he would crane his neck towards her, his lips hovering near her ear. She always felt warm, heat creeping up her neck, like there was a fire deep in her belly and he was stoking the flames.

He spoke in short, declarative statements when he was plastered.

"Your voice is magic."

"You smell good."

"It's hot in here."

"Come back to my flat."

It was difficult to figure out which one he meant, so she just nodded, maybe shrugged. She was used to her awkwardness, but he threw it in sharp relief, like a fire suddenly started in a fireplace, flames licking along the bricks.
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On the Quentulus Quazgar Mountains in the land of Sevorbeupstry on the planet of Preliumtarn, which orbited the star Zarss, which was located in the Grey Binding Fiefdoms of Saxaquine, stood God's Final Message to his Creation.

After the Earth was destroyed for presumably the final time, Arthur Dent was once again the last living Earth male in the entire universe. He had become decidedly fed up with his lot in life, as most immortal creatures do (see Guide entry for Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged for more information). And having lost everyone he could ever possibly even slightly have the notion of caring about, he was feeling reckless.

So, armed with nothing more than the Guide, Mark I (the new one terrified Arthur), the late Ford Prefect's Sub-Etha Sensomatic, some Altarian dollars and a black M&S towel (to hide any stains), Arthur set out to view God's Final Message to His Creation once more.

He was less impressed the second time around, but this time, there was someone standing there who maybe knew a thing or two about Messages from a Creator.

First of all, he had wings. Great white wings with some ridiculous wingspan. They were currently tucked against his back, but they were blindingly white, reflecting the fires of God's Final Message quite dramatically

Second, he had a sign that said I am the Metatron. Arthur sort of recalled that the Metatron was supposed to be the Voice of God, since humans would either explode, become impotent or sprout furry tails if they heard the actual voice of God. Arthur never had a head for fairy stories.

And third, the Voice looked at Arthur and said, "You seem to have come a long way just to be disppointed."

"This is my second time here. The first time I came with someone I loved very much, and very soon after, I lost her." Arthur cleared his throat. "You mind if I sit down? I'm a little tired."

"Please."

Arthur spread out his towel and sat on it. The Metatron joined him on the ground, and Arthur unwrapped his sandwich of Perfectly Normal Beast and took out a bottle of wine from Frogstar World A, a country with the same temperate climate of Napa Valley, California, with the same penchant for decent, if mediocre, wine. He offered the bottle to the Metatron, who conjured two glasses for the both of them.

"So, as I was saying," Arthur said as he finished chewing, "I lost the woman I loved, my daughter, the mother of my daughter and someone who may have been the only true friend I ever had, and was saved. Again." He frowned at his sandwich. "In fact, it seems that every time it looks as though I am about to be well and truly dead, something comes along and says Oh, no, that won't be necessary."

"So you came to see if the Message had changed?"

Arthur shrugged. "Or something. I don't have the knack for suicide."

The wings of the Voice fluttered. "Did you believe in God on Earth?"

"I didn't even have the first inkling of believing in God," Arthur said. He was speaking to the Metatron, it wouldn't do any good to lie. If there was any good to be done, anyway, which Arthur doubted.

"She does exist."

"Well, she's doing a piss poor job--" Arthur looked up sharply. "Sorry, did you just say 'she'?"

"You're going to quibble about a choice of pronouns when you're sat here, trying to determine what your life means whilst speaking with the Voice of God?" The Metatron sighed. "The last time I had to discuss theology with an un-believer, she ended up saving humanity and bearing the next possible Christ child." He eyed Arthur. "And now you're the last of humankind."

Arthur continued eating his sandwich in what he hoped was a pointed silence. "So did God only exist on Earth?"

"That's like asking if alcohol only existed in Australia," the Metatron replied, reclining on his elbows and looking towards the message. "God will cease to exist when faith ceases to exist."

Arthur finished eating his sandwich. "I've stopped believing in faith as well."

"Then you have your answer, and this Message means nothing to you." The Metatron looked at Arthur again. "But don't blame God."

Arthur sort of remembered something someone had told him a long time ago, but he had always had a bad memory for important statements.
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Nobody had ever asked her why she was so unhappy, and she didn't think she could articulate it even if someone did ask. All she knew is that her brain was too old for her body and her body too young to handle her brain.

She clutched at the broken watch, fingers trembling on her gun. There was her father, stood with hands loose at his side. She could hear her mother, or perhaps it was the woman who just looked like her mother would look without all the time and space hopping.

She could hear them, and the wild screaming of the panicked patrons of the club. She could see a man waving his arms. She didn't much like that man, but her father did.

She had killed a man once before, and all that was left was a broken watch, her father looking at her as if she were a curiosity, and this: the sound of screams, the bright flashing green lights of lasers tearing up the city around them, and soon enough, the club, and her heart, beating loudly in her ears.

She held the gun up, training it on each person in turn: father, mother, her mother's opposite, and her father's best friend.

Who would she miss, who would cry if she were dead?

She flung down the watch, finger tightening on the trigger.

And then the world exploded, and it didn't matter so much any more, did it?
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--transmission started--

Choosing funeral music isn't much like choosing music for a wedding, not that I've ever done the latter, and I'm only doing the former because it looks like the Earth is finally about to end for good.

What does one usually have at a funeral, anyway? Is there a processional march for the body? I've never actually been to a funeral, embarrassingly enough. No time for funerals when the Earth is exploded in two minutes or when the green lasers come (and isn't that finally how it happens?).

If it's to set the mood of the thing, perhaps something quiet and peaceful? I never had much of a head for classical music, but perhaps some Schubert? I remember seeing his Impromptu Number 3 in G flat major in school.

If that seems too heavy, and it might, please don't hesitate to play The Beatles, Let it Be or Eleanor Rigby. (And by the way, Arthur, my favourite will always be Ringo.)

This is getting more difficult to write, as I think of all the things I should have done, and perhaps all the things I should have said, especially to my daughter. Arthur, keep her close. May she never know pain after the last time. And don't let her cry too much, as I never cried for for her.

I don't set much store by emotions, and I don't have much time now to be emotional, so I should say choose what you wish, but I feel like this is an important moment, so I must dash it off--

One more toast to greet the morn
The wine and dine have danced till dawn


-- transmission failed--



lyrics from the song 'The Grand Hotel' by Procol Harum
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