LB Lee (lb_lee) wrote,
LB Lee
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Infinity Smashed: The Next Adventure

The Next Adventure
Prompt: Stuff100 “dinner,” H/C Bingo “unwanted transformation”
Word Count: 3870
Summary: Raige finally confesses his feelings for M.D.  It goes… different.
Notes: This was supposed to be posted ages ago, but never did.  It comes a day or two before Folie Á Trois.  You probably want to read 6 Times Raige Fell for M.D., Good Boys Go to Heaven, Better Than Space, and A Matter of Taste before you hit this.


It took an hour to say, and then five minutes to turn into an argument.

Raige took M.D. to Tarzan’s Pizza for a medium Jane with pepperoni, as per tradition.  He rehearsed the words in his head while M.D. carried the pan to their table, apparently impervious to the heat and easily navigating the maze of heavy wooden chairs and tables.  When she grabbed the first slice, trailing thick ribbons of melted cheese and bits of onion and green pepper, he opened his mouth… and his mind went completely blank.

M.D. raised an eyebrow at him and grunted inquiringly around her mouthful of cheese.  Raige’s blank brain suggested panic as a matter of course.

“Uh, so, who’d win in a fight, Hermione Granger or Jean Grey?” And then he wanted to smack himself.

M.D. gave him an incredulous look, but she played along.

Raige tried again halfway through the pizza, but then M.D. went, “hold that thought, surprise plumbing inspection,” and dashed off to the bathroom, and by the time she got back, it seemed way too awkward to push, and…

And now M.D. is on the last slice, the sun is going down outside, and dammit, the timing is bad and it’s never going to get any better and why does he even want to mention this anyway…

Because if he doesn’t, he never will.  And lying to a psychic is bad, but lying to his best friend is worse.

“Hey, M.D.?”

She seems completely wrapped up in trying to get as much pizza into her mouth as possible. “Mf?”

“I’ve still got feelings for you.” After all the agonizing, it’s weirdly easy to say. “I’m happy as your best friend, and I want you to know that, but…” He shrugs apologetically.  There’s no non-awkward way to do this. “You don’t have to do anything about it, but I felt like I’d rather… I don’t know.  Let you know.  Even if nothing happens.”

Knowing M.D., he expects a panicked explosion.  She’s like a squid; startle her and she’ll shoot a cloud of verbal ink and bolt.  But not this time.  This time, she just swallows her cheese, puts her slice down, and rests her forehead in one hand with a sigh.  Her expression is aggrieved, and his heart about stops.  He’s screwed this up, he shouldn’t have said anything, he needs to backpedal…

“Look, when I said I was happy with this, I was serious,” he says. “I won’t—”

“I know you won’t,” she says. “There’s a reason you’re my best friend, and that’s not the problem.  The problem is, I apparently am capable of romantic feelings, and now I have to actually do something about them.” She rubs her eyes. “Great.”

Raige didn’t know his emotions could 180 so fast twice.

“Well, yeah, this is great.  Non-sarcastically.”

“No, it’s not!” she says, slamming her fist to the table. “This is terrible!  I’m still asexual!”

“I’m aware of that.  So?”

“So, you’re not.”

Raige looks at her and spread his hands. “So…?”

“So, it’d never work.”

“Oh, come on, how can you say that?  We’ve already been through tons.  Number One, the PIN, bears.”

“You’re never going to forgive me for that, are you?”

“Never, but nevertheless, we remained friends through all that.  I don’t get what the deal is.” If anything, he figured M.D. would freak out saying no, not that she’d actually want to say yes and freak out over that.  He’s supposed to be the easily freaked out one.

“The deal is… look, I’ve been researching, all right?  In case it… ever came up.” She fidgets a napkin between her fingers.

So she thought about it. “They have books on this?  Sheesh, I had to turn to the Internet…”

“They have books on everything, Raige.  You just have to look hard enough for them.  And—look, if you and I got together… it’d be serious, right?  Not some one-time lark roll-in-the-hay thing.”

Oh wow.  She really thought about it. “Sure.  Lord High Romantic, remember?  That’s me.  I didn’t expect you to… to feel the same way, though.”

“What?  Oh for—” She makes a sour face, then rolls her eyes. “Fine, okay, I’d like that.  All right?  Happy?”

Well, yes.  More than happy; he’s exhilarated.  Who cares whether she says yes or no, she likes him, and that alone…

“But,” and she holds up a stern finger, “I can’t.”

Raige rolls his eyes and reaches for his Mountain Dew. “Still waiting to hear why.”

She grabs her slice again, tears into it like it’s the embodiment of all her problems. “It’d be cruelly narcissistic of me to start a relationship with you when I could never fill your needs.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Do you need it laid out with a sources cited page?  I could work one up for you…”

“No, I mean—what the hell books are these you’re reading?”

“Books on frigidity, impotence, and sexual disinterest.  Really uplifting topic, let me tell you; my self-esteem has never been better.  We’re just not compatible, Raige.  You’re seventeen; you don’t need a sexually defective partner—”

“Wait, wait, hold on—”

She just raises her volume. “—I’d rather stay friends with you than start something that’s doomed to bitter failure and resentment—”

“—You’re not—”

“—I drive a lot of people off, okay, I’m not losing the one person who’s put up with me all these years just because I can’t boink them—”

“Will you please listen to me?”

Half the people in Tarzan’s turn around in their chairs to look at them, and Raige hastily hides behind his soda.  But M.D. is listening now, because he never raises his voice, and so he keeps talking, at a normal volume.

“Okay, first of all, all that is just bullshit.  Yes, I’m seventeen.  I’ll be eighteen in October.  I don’t see what that’s got to do with anything.  I’m a person, not some demographic lemming, okay, so don’t act like I am.  I can make my own decisions.  And you’re not… you’re not defective.  You’re not.  Damn it, you’re my best friend, I love you, and there’s nothing wrong with you.”

M.D. jolts as though he’s thrown the cold soda in her face.  Then she avoids his eyes. “Wow, you’ve got it bad.”

“Come on.  You knew I loved you years ago.  It’s only the type that’s changed.  And I’m not going to curl up and die from… from sexual starvation, okay?  It’s not a big deal.”

“That’s an admirable sentiment.” M.D. is back to looking tired. “Really.  I appreciate it.  But frankly, I don’t believe you.”

Raige takes a deep breath, counts to ten, and thinks hard about how much he likes Tarzan’s.  He thinks about how nice all the people are, how the waitress knows his order by heart, how much he loves the faded Frank Frazetta prints on the wall and the Galaga arcade machine and the tire treads burned into the floor by a drunk driver in ’95.  He thinks what a shame it will be if he is the one who gets them thrown out by shouting, and he says, “I don’t need it.”

“Oh no, I’m not denying that.  But I have a much harder time believing you don’t want it.”

She gives him a hard stare, and Raige says nothing.  There isn’t anything to say; of all of them, he was always the worst liar.

M.D. shrugs and gnaws on her pizza crust, and he sees it in her face, the resignation and grief. “Right now, sure, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.  But what about after a year?  Two?  Five?  If we even make it that long.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe you’d try.  You’ve always been nice like that.  But eventually, I think it’d start wearing on you.  Eventually, I think you’d want what all normal people want: a chance to divest yourself of your darn virginity.”

Raige winces and coughs behind his hand.  He can feel his face burn. “Um.  That’s… actually kind of been taken care of.”

M.D. abruptly stops chewing. “Really?”

“Uh.  Yeah.  Actually.  Sort of.”

“Sort of?” She squints at him.  He can see her poring through her memory. “But… when?  You never—” Her eyes went wide with horror. “Oh no.  Not that girl!”

“You’re going to have to be a little more specific than that,” Raige says dryly.

“The… the girl!  You know!” She waves her pizza crust around like that will somehow explain it. “The one with the… the thingy!  The anorexic black saxophone thingy!”

Raige rubs the bridge of his nose. “Bass clarinet, kid, and that’s really not a good use of the word—”

“Whatever!  Tell me it wasn’t her, the one with the thingy, I will lose all respect for you—”

“Wendy?  No!  Of course not!  I’m not a dick!” Raige says, taking refuge behind his Mountain Dew. “Jesus, kid, we lasted like three weeks… she’s my friend…”

“What was I supposed to think, I haven’t heard about any other girl…”

“There wasn’t one, okay; it was Thomas.”

Silence.  When he looks up, M.D. has a distant, deeply involved expression on her face, as though she’s pondering the mechanics of the universe.  Raige waits for her verdict, which is…

“Huh.” She apparently sees his hangdog expression, and gives him a comforting wave with the remains of the crust. “Don’t worry about it.  At first I was going to be shocked, but in hindsight, not really.  So when exactly did this happen?  I mean, I realize I’m not the most observant person in the world, but the amount of time I’ve spent in your head…”

Raige hides his face in his hands. “You were distracted.  That was during the period Scorch and Flame were first trying you out for junior healer, remember, you barely had time to eat and sleep—”

Her eyebrows shoot up to her hairline. “Jesus, Raige!”

“Look, I’m sorry, I should’ve been there for you—”

“What?  Don’t be a houseplant, that’s not what I meant!  I just… expected you to put up a little more resistance, I thought it would’ve taken at least a year, but that was—sweet blue dirt marble, you’d barely known me a couple months then…”

“It was an accident!”

She stares at him.  Props her chin on her hand.  Lifts her crust to her mouth.  Chews.

Raige let his shoulders fall. “Okay, fine, it wasn’t an accident.”

“I was going to say, that’s one heck of an accident…”

“He’s persuasive!”

“All right, that I’ll grant you.  And he’s parsecs better than Wendy, at least you never—”

Raige holds up his hands defensively. “Okay, okay, so I was a dick with Wendy.  You really don’t need to remind me.”

“And you didn’t cough up for so long, I’m not sure whether I should be insulted—”

“Look,” Raige says from behind his hands. “It happened, and I decided not to do it again, all right?”

M.D.’s eyes immediately sharpen. “What’d he do?”

“No, nono, he didn’t do anything,” Raige hastens to say, “he… he was a perfect gentleman about it.  Honestly, I felt guilty, because I still liked you at the time, and even though I knew you didn’t like me at the time, I didn’t feel right doing it, so…”

Out of his head, it sounds pretty ridiculous and M.D. is giving him an incredulous look.

“…so I decided it was probably better I not get together with anyone till I got myself sorted out.” He shrugs. “And I didn’t tell you, because I wasn’t even sure how I felt about it, never mind how you might feel about it.”

M.D. looks at him sidelong, but at least she seems reassured.  Then her expression saddens, and she reaches for him and brushes the gloved palm of her hand against his arm. “Hey.  I didn’t mean to go all spiky ball of wrath on you.  I’m sorry you had to keep it bottled up for so long.  I… probably would’ve reacted badly back then.  And that’s my fault.  You shouldn’t have had to…”

Raige waves it off. “Hey.  I wasn’t about to go to you and whine about my angst when you were working high-set and coming home smelling like things unspeakable.  And after that there was the ICU and after that… well, there never seemed a good time, you know?  So I just…” he shrugged. “Left it.  And Thomas let me.”

M.D. sighs. “Yeesh.  All this going on, and I was too wrapped up in my own stupid stuff to even notice.”

Raige smiles. “Hey.  Your stuff was pretty eventful, and I didn’t tell you.  You’re not that good a psychic, kid.”

She pulls her sleeve over her hand to give his arm a squeeze. “Still, keeping your mouth shut on that for so long…”

He shrugs. “It’s okay.  Thomas is pretty laid back.  He wouldn’t let me get awkward about it.”

“Yeah.” He can tell by her face that she is going through her memory, reorganizing things and putting them together. “He would be the type.  I’m glad that you guys stayed friends.  Seriously, now that you’ve mentioned it, I see it, but I never noticed.”

On the whole, Raige has to admit she’s taking it pretty well.  He expected at least one explosion, but—

Suddenly M.D.’s eyes light up. “Have you considered dating him instead?”

God fucking damn it.

“Kid, I asked you.  Not him.”

“You like him, don’t you?  You’re still attracted to him, right?”

Raige feels his cheeks burn. “Look, I’m not…”

“Still a rotten liar, just so you know.  Come on, he’d be so much better.  He’s sane, normal, plenty sexual—”

“And, need I remind you again, not the one I’m asking.”

“Yeah.  You sure you thought this through?  I mean, Raige, from where I’m standing, he seems a much better candidate than I am.”

“Would you stop that?  Stop… acting like you’re ruining me for the normal people?”

“Aren’t I?”

Raige rubs his eyes and laughed. “Kid, you’d ruined me for the normal people the moment we crashed in Canandria.”

She salutes him with her drink. “I’m a good role model that way.  Raige, in case you haven’t noticed, I have Issues, capital I.  More baggage than the legal limit.  I’m an asexual castrated alien who goes into violent berserker rages sometimes.”

“Once every six months nowadays, and you deal with them in a responsible, adult fashion.”

“I know, but still.  Raige, I’m a mess.  Thomas is so much more stable, and so much more experienced with this kind of thing, plus he’s the same species as you are.  Also he deals with failure a lot better than I do.”

“I didn’t ask him to date me,” Raige says through his teeth. “I asked you.  Stop hiding behind him.”

“I will when you stop hiding behind me.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

She rolls her eyes. “Seriously, Raige, I’m not that observant, but I’m not stupid either, and now that I know about this and am thinking about it, I get the distinct impression that you’re coming to me as much as running from him.  Don’t tell me you have issues with liking him, people have been giving you grief about being gay for ages—”

“No!  It’s not—goddammit, M.D.!”

M.D.’s voice is getting heated.  Here is the explosion he expected, but he forgot how vicious she could be. “So what is it?  I’m a mess, Raige, but I sure as heck ain’t playing psychological security blanket for you, I’m not that desperate for affection, all right—”

I’m only supposed to like one person at a time!” Raige shouts.

“Surprise!  You don’t.  Now, we can start dealing with it, or—”

“We?  You’re the one not dealing with the fact that I keep saying I want to date you, not him!”

“Is everything okay here?” A waitress has appeared.

Raige didn’t realize how loud they’d gotten, but now he notices that all of Tarzan’s is staring at them, and he quails

M.D. doesn’t appear to notice—or maybe she does and just doesn’t care.  She just glares at the waitress and snaps, “No, go away.”

Admittedly, Raige kind of wants to say that too, but he swallows, regains himself, and forces his volume down. “Yes.  Sorry, we’ll quiet down.” He gives the waitress an apologetic smile, and she gives them both uneasy glances then leaves.  Then, to M.D., he says, “we should take this outside.”

“Yeah.”

The time it takes to split the bill (as much as they can; M.D. can barely scrape up a third of it, and it’s all in singles and change), leave a big tip, and hurry outside helps calm them down.  A brief cool front came in last week, and though it’s almost gone, it’s still comfortable enough to sit outside, so they go to sit on a bench under the shade of an oak tree.

“I’m sorry,” Raige says. “Usually I don’t get mad like that.  I guess what you were saying hit home.”

“Yeah,” M.D. says. “Me too.  Not the not getting mad thing, I always get mad, but… yeah.”

They sit on the bench for a while.  M.D. pulls her knees up and rests her chin on them.

“I’m not doing very well at this girlfriend thing,” she says. “In the movies, the girls are all teary with estrogen-drenched joy right now, not biting your head off.”

“If I wanted a girl like that, I wouldn’t be asking you,” Raige replies. “Though I admit, a little enthusiasm wouldn’t have upset me.”

“I don’t even understand why you want me.”

Raige shrugs. “If it helps, I don’t really get why you like me either.  Feelings are weird like that.  And since when did you start saying ‘ain’t’?”

She grimaces. “Too much time with Biff.  I’ll have to watch it or I’ll start forgetting how to conjugate my ‘to be’ verbs.”

Another few seconds of silence.

“You’re more right than I’d like.  I was hoping that if you said you wanted to date me, I’d stop feeling it for Thomas too,” Raige confesses. “But it looks like that hasn’t happened.”

“Yeah, somehow I’m not surprised by that,” she replies. “Seeing how it’s been almost two years and all.”

He sighs and cups his chin in his hands. “I guess I was hoping the feelings for one of you would change, but…” He shrugs.

M.D. grimaces. “My feelings are newer, but I admit to hoping the same thing.  I guess karma is pointing and laughing at both of us, huh?  We must be the only two teenagers in the world who love each other and are upset about it.”

She’s never said the word love before.  She’d always claimed not to believe in it.  And sure, Raige knew she loved him anyway, but hearing him say it…

“Yeah.  Well, no.  I mean, I l—like two people.  Not exactly in the rulebook.”

M.D. turns and cocks an eyebrow at him. “Is there any reason you couldn’t date both of us?”

And Raige’s understanding of reality implodes.

“What?”

“Don’t play deaf.”

“It’s just… I can’t do that!  It’s not—”

“Say ‘normal’ and I swear to god I will hit you.”

“I was going to say it’s not ethical,” Raige says. “Give me some credit.”

“Why?”

“I mean… it’s not fair if I’m dating two people and you’re not.”

M.D. shrugs. “Wouldn’t bother me.”

“Seriously?”

“Thomas is my friend.  I like him.  Not only that, he is way more sane than I am.  Between the two of you, you just might balance my chaos out, and frankly, I think we’d be more stable with him than without him.  If anything, I don’t know how I’d be able to live up to him, if he’s as good as he says he is.  Is he?”

Raige flushes and looks away. “Uh…”

“Oh good.  I’d have to do something unpleasant to him if he lied about that.  I mean, come on, Raige, for all you know, he won’t want to date you, so it’s a moot point anyway!”

“Well, yeah.  I guess we’re overplanning this, aren’t we?”

“No such thing, milquetoast.  No such thing.”

Raige looks at her. “You really are okay with this?  You—”

She glances up and her look softens.  She reaches up and pulls off one of her gloves, then holds out a hand, lined with pale scar tissue. “Want me to prove it?”

Raige hesitates.  He knows what she means.  And M.D. is getting better and better at hacking her own mind, but he knows that it won’t lie about this.  He also knows that his mind will show exactly how scared and confused he is.

He takes her hand.

Raige has always perceived M.D.’s mind as music, cynical Dixieland brass with a weird punky beat that he always wishes he can write down but never seems to translate from his mind to paper, like songs from a dream.  It wraps around him like nothing else ever does, a symphony of thought and feeling, and sometimes there are issues with interpretation, but raw emotion has always come through just fine.

M.D. jerks back, and he can’t read her expression before she hides it in her hands. “God.  That felt better than I thought it would be.” Then, in a tortured voice, “Why do you have to be… it’d be so much easier if I could just deal with you like I would an angry bear or something…”

Raige sits on the bench and watches traffic.  The sun has set and everything’s gone blue and indigo.  M.D. doesn’t raise her face from her hands.

“We don’t have to,” he says.

“Yeah,” she says. “Even though we want to.  We could just stay friends.  Never have to worry about this stuff.”

“But we’d always know.”

“Yeah.”

“And we’d still want to try.”

“Yeah.”

Silence.

M.D. doesn’t raise her face from her hands. “We’re going to have to tell Thomas about this now, aren’t we?”

“Yup.”

“God.  I’d rather deal with the bear.”

And he knows he shouldn’t, but Raige cracks up laughing.  She punches him in the shoulder.

“You are such a jerk.”

“I love you.”

She pauses, then sighs like it hurts. “Oh god.  We’re going to do this, aren’t we?  We’re dating now, aren’t we?”

Raige takes one of her hands, the one that still has the glove on it, and kisses it, and he sees her face and that’s the end of it.  They’re moving on to the next adventure.

And it’s just as terrifying as all the other adventures, but that’s okay.  If there’s one thing being around M.D. has taught him, it’s how to deal with his fears.
Tags: infinity smashed, writing
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