Hidden Things and Secrets
The time passed quickly as Max learned his brother's techniques, and soon they were sitting in the Mustang waiting for Cameron. Max kept weaving his fingers through his hair, his anxiety level rising despite how drained he felt after the long day in school. He had to tap into his body focus in order to recover enough strength to walk to the car after the mind expanding sessions with his brother, but the ever present Coke cooler had enough 20-ounce sugar-coated caffeine in it to get him jump started again. Once again, the admonishment about keeping an open body focus hit home with Max. He felt so tired he could barely swallow the vanilla coke his brother handed him.
Cameron came walking up to the car, bouncing slightly to shift his backpack strap into a more comfortable spot on his shoulder. Max had to restrain himself from kissing Cameron on the lips in public. His feelings were becoming less clear and more insistent, after reading Cameron's note and hearing his brother confirm Cameron's own emotional state. But he wasn't ready yet to let everyone know about his feelings. Somehow true to his Scorpio zodiac nature, Max liked keeping secrets to himself.
"Hey, Cam," Michael said from the front seat. "Need a lift?"
"Well, actually, uh…" Cameron said, trying to think of something to say. His eyes had been glued to Max as soon as they got within sight of each other.
"We're gonna tent out at the Watch tonight, Mike. Could you bring us to Market Basket to get some stuff?"
"Jeeze, the things I do for my little brother," Michael grumbled as he closed his door. "Hop in."
Max and Cam got in, this time Cameron riding the Mustang's back seat with Max practically turned around the whole trip from the school to the grocery store. They made a quick list of groceries and other store items they'd need for the trip. Michael quickly added a few items to the list for them, including matches for starting a campfire and buying a few cheap pots and pans from the store so that they could cook with. Max added plastic forks and knives to the list and looked back to Cameron to see if he thought it was a good idea and caught a stray thought from the older boy.
It's like we're setting up a house together, Cameron thought. Our house. In his mind's eye, Cameron was picturing a place where he and Max could be together without prying eyes, loose tongues and accusing fingers. He felt himself falling deeper and deeper in love with Max, although he knew that most people would think he was raping a kid so much younger than himself. In his heart, he loved Max, and he hoped that Max returned that love. If we are in love, than nothing we do together of our own will can be wrong, right?
Max smiled, dropping one corner of his mouth lower than the other, and Cameron couldn't help but smile back, with his full beaming smile. God, he makes me happy, Cameron thought. Max's smile changed into one that nearly matched Cameron's and he winked before turning back around in the seat.
The store was packed, mostly by older people who wanted to get their shopping done before the winds began blowing in earnest. Michael waited in the car, cranking up his stereo, eyes closed, shades on, head tilted back. Michael was one of those who could truly be called a music lover, and under its influence he was transported into his own private world. A world, apparently, where he could play any guitar player's style with an invisible instrument, and seemed to know every note and word by heart… almost.
Max found himself once again finding a reason to thank his brother for all his help. Michael could just as easily have rode herd on the two boys in the store. The fact that he was helping them get ready yet still respected (perhaps enforced would be a better term) their need for privacy just added to a growing list of small debts.
The store was decorated in fall colors, with the costumes, candy and images of Halloween spread about at places designed to catch the eye. For some reason, all of the decorations and costumes seemed to spark all manner of bizarre humor between the boys. Max kept grabbing masks at random and making up odd voices to match. The two of them were making quite a scene, getting more than one reproving glance from a grocer.
After nearly half an hour rummaging through the store, laughing like lunatics at jokes that only seemed funny at the time, Cameron and Max piled their groceries into the trunk of the Mustang. Just as Max was closing the trunk, something in it caught his attention. He opened the trunk again, hearing Cameron opening the passenger door and climbing into the back seat. Max looked around, for what he wasn't certain. He just had a sneaking suspicion that something in there was trying to avoid detection.
And then he saw it. A long black tube of metal with a piece of flat metal sticking out on all sides and some sort of wooden handle opposite the flat piece. Max reached out and touched the handle, its smooth black length nearly 14 inches long. A sensation poured into him at the touch of that handle. A sensation of not only danger, but of some terrific struggle, like two hockey players trying to dig the puck out of the corner and feed it to their separate teams. Only the struggle this handle was involved in was far more desperate than any hockey stick had ever seen.
At once Max knew what it was, but had no idea why his brother had it or why it had been so difficult to find. After all, it's sitting right there, attached to the top of the trunk door, Max reasoned.
Michael came around the back of the car and Max slammed the lid down on the trunk, a little too quickly for Michael's taste. "Something wrong?" he asked.
"No, no, nothing wrong. Just didn't want the Cokes to fall on the bread, that's all." Max said, moving towards the passenger door. Michael eyed him cautiously as he took his own seat and started the Mustang up.
The trip home had the same jokes and general silliness flying about as before, with Cameron and Max including Michael in on several of the jokes, although he didn't entirely understand what made them quite as hilarious as the other boys thought. Michael instructed Max to get his things together and be waiting when he returned. The plan was that Michael would take Cameron around to his house to get some supplies together while Max pulled the tent out of the garage and assembled his own camping gear.
Cameron had to use the bathroom, however, and didn't think it could wait. While he hustled into the downstairs rest room, Max and Michael went down into the cellar to pull out Max's old camp stools and an old grill from a long thrown out barbecue set so the boys would have something to set pots on in the campfire. As expected, Michael cornered his brother about the incident with the trunk.
"Okay, what's got you spooked?" Michael opened the conversation as he lifted one of the camp stools out of a cupboard.
"Um, nothing really."
"Maxy, don't make me throw the bullshit flag," Michael warned. "Something got you a little upset at the store. What was it?"
"You know I hate how you can always tell when I'm lying."
"It's an older brother thing. So, tell me."
"I… I saw your sword, Mike. I touched it."
Michael's eyes opened wide. He switched to telepathy in case Cameron finished early and came down to see how the search for camp gear was going. *You saw it even though I had it veiled?*
*I almost didn't, but when I realized that something didn't want me to see it, I looked harder. Jeeze, that doesn't make any sense. Things can't not want to be seen. Can they?*
"Almost," Michael said aloud, handing up another camp stool. *I put a sort of telepathic delay effect on the sword so that most people wouldn't see it. Kind of like an area effect hypnotic suggestion placed on the sheath.*
*So I wasn't supposed to see it, right?*
*Well, no one was supposed to see it. I guess I'll have to try it again if you got through it.*
*Mike, no bullshit now, okay. Why do you need a sword in your car?*
"Because I don't always need to wear a trench coat that can hide it," Michael smiled back. *Look, don't worry about it for now. I promise you, one day I will explain everything. Just know for now that I only used that sword twice and both times it was totally necessary.*
*Used it… you mean you actually had to… to _kill_ someone?!*
Michael turned and looked his little brother squarely in the eye. "Now you see why I am so serious about your training, Maxy. I know I told you there are people out there who'd like nothing better than to take us apart to see how we do all these things. Well, sometimes they don't have a problem working from a corpse instead of a living specimen." Max's green eyes grew wide in fright. "Given that option, little brother, would you rather it was them or me?"
Max let the camp stool drop from his hands and stepped forward to hug his brother. He held on tightly, hiding his tears against his brother's chest. An intense sorrow and sense of worry flooded Max, plus a sudden anguish that he had nearly lost his brother forever and hadn't even known about it. Michael let his hands fall on his brother's small shoulders and squeezed him tightly.
*You killed people to protect me and Mom and Dad, didn't you? Because they would have killed all of us and you.*
*Yes, little brother, I did. I'd rather not have, but I did. And given the same circumstances, I'd do it again, but with the same sense of failure. Because if I had been more careful, I wouldn't have had to kill anyone.*
Max snuffed back his tears and let go of Michael. "There's more to it, right?"
"Lots more. But I don't have time to tell you now. One day, okay?" Max nodded. *Just know that I don't go looking for trouble. It's looking for me. And you, likely, now. Answer me this, though: how'd you know I killed anyone with it?*
*It told me,* Max thought, matter-of-factly. *I don't know how it did, but I know everything that's ever happened to that sword since it was made.*
Michael looked down at his little brother with a new awe. For one so young, Max seemed to be far more gifted than any of the Gifted Michael had ever met or heard of before. Exactly what that meant, Michael had no clue. But Michael also felt that there was a deep flush of emotions running through Max at the moment.
"You guys down here?" Cameron said, opening the cellar door with a loud creak. The steps groaned as he descended in a quick two step rhythm. "Ah great, stools! And a grill! Kewl!"
"Yeah, let's get them upstairs and go grab your gear, Cam. Pack it up, Maxy," Michael said, walking around his brother. Max took the opportunity to compose himself before Cameron could see he'd been crying.
"Er, okay. We won't be long, Max," Cameron said, taking the camp stool Michael shoved into this hand.
"Just don't forget anything," Max called back. His head was filled with images that he had "downloaded" from the sword hilt. Of his brother using mental powers and the sword and his own innate athletic ability to escape certain death and capture from shadowy figures. The only clues that Max had as to who the figures were was that they bled red and that they swore in American English as they died.
*Get yourself together, Maxy. I'll slow Cam down long enough for you to get a quick shower,* Michael sent. Max nodded, still trying to gain control over his leaky eyes.
Max's hands shook as he combined the images of his brother as some kind of warrior in a shadowy battle that no one without psychic ability would ever know about. The two images didn't fully mesh, and he suspected that there was much more going on. No wonder he is pushing me to gain control, Max thought. He knows what danger I'm in. I don't, yet.
Max picked up the grill and walked to the cellar stairs. Along the way, he passed by one of his toy boxes. Several X-Men figures were on top of the pile and he remembered that he once wanted to be a mutant, to be an X-Man. Now, seeing that he was in an analogous position, it didn't look like such a desirable thing. He was different from everyone else now, even from Cameron, and now threatened by dangers he didn't even know about because of it. His world had been expanding over the last three days, but now it seemed a cold distant place, with boundaries much, much further beyond what his senses could perceive, and not the open treasure chest he had at first envisioned.
Max pounded up the stairs, willing himself to stop crying and he set the grill by the side door. He pounded up to his bed room and began packing an overnight bag for the trip. Got to focus on the moment, like Mike does, he thought. Can't let the sorrow overcome… overcome… and he stopped packing, wondering what it was he was actually heading into tonight. He sat down and sighed heavily. With the recent revelations about his brother, Max had a hard time allowing himself to just relax, knowing that even now there was danger unseen. Even Romeo and Juliet had a night together after Tibalt's death, he remembered. Life goes on, and so must I.
He closed his eyes and let thoughts of Cameron flood his mind. Cameron in the school gym shower; his wide, joyful smile; his easy way of talking. He remembered their encounter at the Watch just last night, how they had both felt so close to each other, how they both wanted to feel more. How they had felt so connected. Max felt his cock starting to rise as these thoughts flooded him. He relaxed for a minute and looked at his reflection in his bed room mirror.
"He loves me," Max said, feeling the truth in the words as he spoke them aloud. "He really loves me. And because of that, I can do anything, including accept that my brother has killed someone to protect me. And I'd do the same for him, should it come to that. And for Cam." His voice strengthened as he spoke and he felt his heart behind every word. He quickly got to packing a few things and then went downstairs to ravage the pantry.
The trip back from Cameron's house was something that Michael had thought about and tossed around in his own mind, before settling on the concept that he had to say something. This wasn't a normal circumstance in a whole week full of abnormal circumstances. Cameron deserved to know exactly where Michael stood.
"Cam, I gottah be honest with you. I know about you and Max. I know exactly why you two are going out to the Watch tonight."
"You do?" Cameron said, looking suddenly shocked and scared and petrified all at once. His skin shifted three shades closer to white.
"Relax. If I thought you were going to hurt him or that he had no idea about what was going on I wouldn't even let you ride home with us from school."
"So you're okay with this. With him being gay and being with me?" Cam still sat with tension, trying to press his back against the passenger door. Michael glanced over and back from behind his sunglasses and sent a subtle wave of calm to Cameron.
"Let's not jump to conclusions, okay. I may not understand all of it, but Max is a smart kid and he can make his own decisions. If he is gay, that's for him to say, not me. Not that I would give him grief if he were gay. But he is still young and making up his mind about many things. He has time to decide. He's my brother first and foremost. I only want him to be happy."
"I'd never do anything to hurt him or that he didn't want to do, Michael," Cameron said hurriedly, suddenly afraid that he was about to get pummeled.
"Look, I want you to know my mind on this up front, okay. Max can take care of himself on most things, but this is still new to him. He's experimenting with sex for the first time. It probably wasn't so long ago when you did that too, so keep that in mind. He's a very sensitive kid, so he responds to emotions. He knows you are in love with him. And he knows that I know about the two of you." Cameron audibly gulped. "He also knows that a lot of people won't approve of your relationship or wherever it goes tonight. That takes a lot of guts. I don't want to see him get hurt. So I want you to know up front that if he says no, you'd better respect that no. Get me?"
"Yeah, I get you."
"He's very much infatuated with you, possibly even in love with you. It's his first crush."
"Yeah, so go easy on him." Michael risked a quick look across to Cameron and then concentrated on driving again. "He's going through a lot of changes lately. He also has good taste in people, so don't worry about me pounding you into the dirt. If I thought for a single minute that you were going to just use him or hurt him, I'd tell him and let him decide your fate. I'd just back him up if he needed me."
"He's lucky to have a brother like you," Cameron said timidly, realizing he wasn't going to get pounded.
"He's lucky to have a friend like you, Cam. He needs to learn about love from someone other than his family. We love him, but we are blood. He needs to learn that love isn't just about family, but about choice." Michael pulled the car to a stop at a four-way intersection a block from his house. He gave Cameron a meaningful stare as he turned the car around the corner. "He could have chosen much worse."
"So you are okay with this? With what both of us are planning for tonight?"
"I trust Max. He trusts you. Therefore, you have earned a measure of my trust. Just don't blow it."
"Wow, that's very open-minded of you." Cameron got kind of nervous and looked back at Michael. "Uh, you aren't going to tell people at school about me being….."
"Max and I know the value of secrets and which ones to keep."
"Just remember to keep his secrets, too. He's at a very delicate juncture in his mental development."
"Ah, that no longer a kid, growing up into a teenager stage?"
Michael grinned as he pulled into the driveway of the house. "Something like that."