Because I am just the biggest spoiled brat in the world - I got a laptop for my birthday. I didn't get it yet, but I got a credit card with a limit and permission to pick out my own within that very generous limitation. My dad's computer guy, who built my desktop, is very reliable and nice and seems to know what he's doing, so I hung up between letting him build me a custom laptop - or going Mac.
Mac's are very shiny, and from what I've read they seem just much more stable. But they are pricier - and I have no clue what I'm doing with them.
I know I've got at least two Mac people on my f-list - how hard are they to learn?
I'm going to repost the first of my two yuletide fics now, and natter about it a bit first.
When assignments originally went out, I got another fandom altogether, and was promptly TERRIFIED because it was a very imposing sort of challenge, and something I'd definitely have to bone up on the canon for, which was daunting in and of itself. But then I started to get excited about it. And then we got a second wave of emails saying the first assignments had a mistake, and we'd get new ones - and I ended up with the request for this.
I was disappointed for a bit. Not because it wasn't a good assignment, but just because my brain went OMG! at the first one. But I figured out what I wanted to do right away and started it, and then it just sat there, refusing to be written.
For a while, my brain was COMPLETELY eaten by my Remus/Sirius challenge-fic-gone-mad Map of the Problematique (Part Two - why yes, I am shamelessly pimping again.), and I was terrified that I wasn't going to do my Yuletide justice because I couldn't focus on it.
But once I finished Map, and then moved on to yuletide, it still wasn't working. It was originally just going to be the scene with Ben, but expanded, smuttier, and more banter. But it just wouldn't work. And I got more and more frustrated by it - and then finally I just started over, grabbing for a new concept and coming up with a Five Things.
And then it just CLICKED. My original concept still worked, but it wasn't the whole piece, which was why I had trouble with it - it was a section of it.
Ben/Johnny wouldn't have been my pairing of choice ever, but as I wrote, I started to work out how it happened, how Ben COULD work around it, etc. And I got interested. By the end I was really pretty happy with how it came out. I think I could have benefited from a little more editing time - but I cut it down to four or five hours before the final bell as it was! But overall, I'm proud of it - and most importantly, my recipient enjoyed it.
And now the fic.
Title: A Bottle a Day
Author: SullenSiren (sullensiren(at)gmail(dot)com)
Fandom: Fantastic Four (Movie)
Characters: Johnny Storm, Sue Storm, Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Victor Von Doom, Norrin Radd (The Silver Surfer)
Summary: "So there were guys." Five men Johnny had drinks with.
Word Count: 7500
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Marvel and such own all!
Feedback: Makes my day!
Author's Notes: Written for the yuletide yearly fic exchange for zortified, who wanted Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm. Merry Christmas! I hope this works for you! Thank you to bettef for the beta.
“Here's to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.”
-- Homer Simpson
He was a year into his NASA training, and Johnny knew his way around by now. He knew how to slip out after hours, and which instructors would let him get away with pulling stunts because it made them think of when they were young and everything was still new and full of dreams of going up into space and seeing what no one else ever had. He knew just how many seconds he could be late by before he ended up getting hauled out over it.
There were more than a few old timers and instructors who didn't want to admit it – but Johnny was the best they'd had through in a few years. And he knew it. More than that, Johnny had an eye for talent– he could pick out the ones that wouldn't hack it.
Which was why he picked Doug out from the crowd of newcomers, at first. He was an egghead – smart as hell and a good guy, but he didn't have a feel for the stick. Could do anything with computers, whiz with engines - better than Johnny, even, and Johnny knew his way around an engine block - but he wasn't a pilot. He didn't have the hands or reflexes that would make him a flyer, no matter how much he wanted to have them. He was easy going though, and easy to talk into doing the shit busywork they liked to make them do. Johnny thought most of the book regurgitating and calculation study was just pointless mental masturbation. When push came to shove and you were in the moment, it didn't matter if you could calculate engine differentials to optimize fuel consumption. All that mattered was if you could pull a shuttle out of a flat spin, or land a stealth jet when the landing gear stuck because it was built like shit by some ten year old in Tokyo.
So Doug did Johnny's busy work, sometimes, and Johnny would charm extra simulator time out of the more laid-back instructors and try to give the guy a hand, even if he was pretty sure trying to make Doug a decent pilot was a lost cause. Johnny saw nothing particularly wrong with taking advantage of Doug's willingness, since Doug helped Johnny out more than Johnny helped him, but Johnny wasn't a total asshole.
One night after three hours in the simulator without a single decent landing, Johnny shook his head, running his hands over his face and leaning back, sipping at the bottle of whiskey they'd snuck in. Enough was enough, he decided, and spoke up. "Look . . . you're a good guy, and you'll make a great big, throbbing brain behind the shuttlejocks – but this isn't for you."
Doug was a tall, lanky guy with sleepy blue eyes and a wide mouth. The sort who always looked like he was smirking, even when he wasn't. So when his face fell, it was almost a surprise. Johnny reached to pat him awkwardly on the back. "Not the end of the world man." The reassurance fell flat though, because Johnny couldn't imagine wanting to fly and knowing he'd never be able to hack it.
Doug knew Johnny was right, and he looked at Johnny and grimaced oddly. "Swap my brain for your hands, Storm," he answered, shrugging.
Johnny remembered later that he'd grinned, pushed at Doug's shoulder instead - tried to tease him out of it. "Hell with you - I've got great hands. Just ask McPherson." McPherson was a year ahead of Johnny and packed a pair of unbelievable Double D's in her flight suit. Johnny hadn't gotten anywhere near finding out how they felt in his palms, but Doug didn't know that.
Doug had laughed, rough and soft at the same time, and Johnny would remember too, that it had sounded weird. Forced. "Rather find out for myself," Doug had said, and then Johnny's hand was slipping to Doug's neck because Doug leaned in and pressed his mouth to Johnny's in a hard, hungry sort of kiss.
Johnny had kissed a lot of girls. Good girls, bad girls - well. Okay. Mostly the latter. But still. He'd been kissed by girls who meant it, and by girls who knew exactly what they wanted and couldn't be called shy by any stretch of the imagination. But it was different, and later he'd say that's why he didn't pull away - he was surprised. The thing was - it wasn't bad. It was pretty good, actually. Johnny liked kissing fine, but he didn't tend to do it that much once he'd gotten things moving toward the naked stage. Girls took kissing as a sign of permanence, he thought. Johnny wasn't big on permanence.
Doug kissed him like he wanted to swallow him, though, like he wanted to turn him on with just the press of his mouth and thick slide of his tongue into Johnny's mouth. And for a second, it almost worked.
But Johnny wasn't gay, and they were in a simulator where anyone could walk in, and he wasn't sure which of those two thoughts was the one that made him jerk away. Doug's eyes were heavier, and he licked his lips and Johnny had the weird thought that he knew what Doug's tongue tasted like and then he was standing - nearly braining himself on the low, rounded ceiling before he remembered to duck down. "Dude. That. Fuck - I'm not-"
Doug watched him, and his face fell again, the same disappointed expression crossing it. Like he'd lost something he'd wanted for a long time. "Yeah. I know. Sorry." He flashed a smile that didn't convince anyone, and then he was ducking out and taking the bottle with him, Johnny was left there, confused, kind of pissed off - and half-hard in the non-uniform jeans he wasn't supposed to have on.
Two nights later he snuck a pair of bikini models into the simulator with a bottle of tequila and a dime bag, proceeding to prove how very not gay he was. He wasn't sure how he managed to actually crash the Simulator into the wall, but the video surveillance was pretty damning anyway.
Last he heard, Doug was still hanging in there, trying to make it as a pilot. Johnny lost track though - turned out, he was the one to wash out.
Sue did this thing after Johnny washed out. He couldn't name it, but it was just a Look she got that made him feel like he was about five inches tall. It wasn't like he didn't make ends meet. He still had a license - he flew rich assholes around, and he raced dirtbikes on the weekends. Johnny had always had a knack for things that go too fast, and he won often enough that he never hurt for money - but whenever he went to see her, Sue got that look.
It'd been a year since he washed out when he finally asked her. She was bent over some book that was bigger than her head, and she was trying not to look at the place across from her at the table, where Reed usually sat to study because they were geeks enough that on "study-dates" they actually studied. She looked at him and then just shrugged. "I just know you were meant for more. And that you're not happy."
The thing that pissed him off, when he thought about it later, was that she was right. He'd wanted to see the stars, not the dirt track in Reno or the cockpit of some personal, luxury jet built for people too rich to mingle with the common folk.
He told her what happened a few weeks later, over a bottle of their mother's favorite white wine, and she blinked her blue eyes and patted his arm. Sue started to tell him about one time, in college, before her and Reed were serious, when her friend Tina and her had a little too much to drink, and how it didn't mean she liked men any less just because she'd thought about women. Johnny stopped her there, because he remembered Tina, and she was entirely too hot to want to think about swapping spit with his sister. It was a shame, because thinking about Tina making out with another woman would normally have made his entire day.
So they hadn't talked about it again, but Johnny wondered, sometimes. He caught himself thinking of some men's lips, or their hands. What they'd feel like. How different it would be.
He never did anything about it until after Sue and Richards were caput - for good this time, she told him, and he believed her because Sue was the sort of girl who knew when to hold 'em, and when to fold 'em. And also because if he pointed out that she still kept all his pictures and slept in his old shirt, she'd probably kick him where he lived. Johnny loved his sister, but he wasn't stupid enough to consider crossing her without a damn good reason.
So he just went back to Richard's place to collect Sue's stuff for her. Not that she lived there - which he gathered had been the problem - but chicks leave stuff behind when they stay more than a night.
Sometimes even when they stay for just a night. Johnny had a drawer full of underwear and makeup cases and a dozen other little things this girl or that one had left behind in the hope he'd bring it back to them. He very rarely bothered - hence the drawer. One of his buddies from the track pawed through it once and had been teasing Johnny about being a cross-dresser ever since. Johnny never had really liked that guy much.
So Sue had toothbrushes and frilly underwear he pretended he didn't see, and sappy Meg Ryan DVD's (Also half of his Three Stooges collection, which he made a note to hide from her in the future), and a bunch of other girly things that Johnny threw haphazardly into a bag while Reed hovered in the doorway, looking like a kicked nerd-puppy.
It wasn't that he really liked Reed. He was okay. Boring. Richards lived so far in his own head that Johnny was sometimes surprised he ever got it up for anything. (Not that he'd spent much time thinking about it, considering who Reed was dating.) But the guy looked like he was lost, so Johnny ended up sitting on the couch with him, drinking their way through a case of beer. Light. It figured. Nerds never knew how to drink.
When push came to shove Reed and him didn't have anything in common but Sue, and Sue was a dicey topic, so they talked bullshit, or sometimes not at all. If Richards had been a normal guy, Johnny would have flipped a game on, but Reed would probably just figure the probability ratios or something, so he just flipped through the channels at light-speed every so often before giving up and leaving on an infomercial.
Reed was getting maudlin by the fourth beer, and Johnny was two ahead of him and was pretty sure he was stone sober, except for the part where he kept thinking about Doug. Which wasn't that unusual, even if it wasn't that frequent, either.
Richards was in the middle of a train of thought that started with Sue, and what kind of juice she always bought, and ended in some kind of complex mathematical formula about women and expectations when he tipped over, leaning up against Johnny and looking at him from under his lashes. "You don't look like your sister. Except the parts where you do," Reed observed.
Johnny wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea that someone was searching his face to find his sister's in it, and he rolled his eyes. "Aren't you supposed to be brilliant or something, Richards?"
"You'd think so." Reed sounded morose, again, and Johnny could smell "weepy drunk" coming from a mile away. If he'd been at a bar with one of his buddies, he'd have gotten some girl to go hit on him and cheer him up. But there weren't any girls around.
Maybe he was curious about why Sue kept going back. And it was safe, because it wasn't like he could ever get anywhere with his sister's straight, geek-boy ex. Maybe he just wasn't as sober as he thought. Johnny wasn't really one who questioned his own motives all that often, even when he wasn't drunk so he didn't really worry about it.
He twisted and pressed his mouth to Richard's. And Reed - too drunk or too surprised, whichever - didn't pull away.
Reed tasted like shitty light beer and like the cold pizza they'd been gnawing on, and his mouth was softer than Johnny would have thought. He didn't kiss back though, so after a second Johnny pulled away, just looking at him.
Richards blinked, pupils blown, and licked his lips. "You have Sue's mouth," he mumbled.
Johnny made a face, and just like that it was over. He ended up passed out on Reed's couch after pouring the other man into his own bed. Neither of them ever mentioned it again, and if he told Sue, she never brought it up. It wasn't, in Johnny's mind, worth bringing up. He hadn't wanted Richards and never would. Guy or chick, geek-smart and uptight wasn't his thing.
But it hadn't been terrible, and if it'd been anyone else, Johnny wouldn't have minded keeping it up anymore than he would have with some random girl in a bar. Knowing that, at least, answered a few questions for him.
Johnny wasn't gay. He liked chicks, still. But over the last couple of years, he'd figured out that once in a while, there was a guy. Most of the time, it was dark-haired guys with intense eyes, asses almost better than his own, and the kind of mouth a porn mag would have called "cocksucking lips."
Sue knew, and a few other people. He didn't advertise, but Johnny didn't hide it, either. He went through women the way most people changed socks, and the thing he learned to appreciate about guys was that most of them did the same thing. They wanted a blowjob or a quick fuck and if you met them at a bar the next week, they just waved and went back to what they were doing. No awkward. No dodging phone calls or sweet talking.
Not to mention Johnny had yet to meet a girl who gave head as good as a gay guy. Some were great at it, and some acted like they liked it. But guys - the best ones, anyway - were hungry for it because it made it more likely you'd return the favor. And they knew their way around the equipment in a personal way, so they knew where all the buttons were, and how much tongue or teeth was too much.
So there were guys.
There were even two he thought about sticking around for. One guy, one girl. Emily was tiny and curvy with a temper and incredible tits. She had a wicked sense of humor and she didn't take shit from anyone. Something may have come of it, but she shipped out for Paris, and Johnny didn't, and that was that. She dropped him a call now and then. She dug chicks too, and right after she left she'd get him off over the phone with stories about nude beaches and loose French women, and he'd tell her about the guy he'd pinned against the wall and rubbed himself off against until he heard her moaning in that breathy, stuttering way he remembered as being really damned hot.
The other wasn't Johnny's type. Marcus was quiet and the kind of art-house guy that usually talked about crap that had Johnny's eyes crossing five seconds in, but Marcus was fun and incredible in bed and etched himself into Johnny's psyche forever as the best head he'd ever gotten. It ended because Marc wanted promises, and Johnny wasn't ready to make them - didn't even know if he wanted to. And he never regretted it, but once in a while he wondered.
It was Sue's idea to get him the job with Doom - flying his rich investors around, and being on call in case he took a genuine mission up to space. Johnny never wanted to let on how excited he was at that idea - he figured he'd blown his chance at the stars when he blew NASA - but he always got the feeling Sue knew.
The thing about Doom was that Johnny had him figured out five minutes into the first meeting. Megalomaniacal - check. Into Sue - check. Asshole - check. God-Complex - well that one was a given. Johnny hadn't met anyone that rich who DIDN'T think they were all-powerful - and he'd met a lot of rich people. So it wasn't like he liked the guy. At all. But he had cash, and a ship, and he paid well - and even if he was too-slick and too-cocky, he treated Susan like a princess. (He was condescending as hell sometimes, but Sue called him on it anyway, and Johnny'd learned years ago that Sue didn't need any brotherly-looking-after. She could take care of herself.)
So he didn't get in the way. Or point out that Doom was a narcissistic freak who stared in every mirror he passed. He also didn't point out that he was pretty sure Victor shopped on both sides of the sexual divide. Johnny'd always been pretty good at picking up on when women were interested and convincing them when they weren't. These days that carried over to men. He knew when he was being checked out, and Doom wasn't even subtle about it. Victor wasn't his type. Johnny thought he'd probably be a rotten damn lay. He was all ego after all - it'd be all about him.
But the guy was hot. Johnny had to give him that, and Sue didn't seem all that interested. So Johnny might have thought about it in the shower, once or twice. But he wouldn't have followed through.
Of course then it became a moot damn point because he got to fly to the stars. Johnny had never been in love, but that first look out of the window at the stars, and he thought he understood what it felt like.
After that, Johnny felt like he was running on a constant adrenaline high. Like he had to jump higher, run faster, or fuck harder just to get a rush because that's all he was - fire and adrenaline.
It wasn't like it was hard to come by, either. The Human Torch thing - not a bad chick-magnet. (Or dick magnet, whatever.) The problem was he ran too hot already. Add in someone's hand on Not-so-Little-Johnny, and there was a high chance of flames. After singeing a pretty blonde's eyebrows off, Sue railed at him on the value of celibacy when you had unstable superpowers. He'd have ignored her, but really - he'd almost hurt that girl. Johnny was a lot of things, but he wasn't the kind of guy who liked hurting anyone.
So he gave in to the tests and crap Richards wanted to run, and he hung around with Grimm - even though the guy reminded him too much of his washout and had less sense of humor than a rabid weasel. (Johnny tried to help him out with that. He figured if a guy was going to live out his life as a moveable rock, he better damn well have a sense of humor about it. Ben didn't appreciate his efforts, though.) And even if his only company was his own hand, he still loved his powers. There was something infinitely cool about fire. And he could fly. He knew he could. He could feel it - even if Sue told him he was probably nuts.
When he watched Sue and Reed starting to drift back together, he didn't get in the way. Egghead love - maybe it was inevitable. Johnny wasn't the only one who noticed. Grimm was happy about it - much as a moveable boulder could be.
Doom wasn't in to it. He dropped by more often than either of them realized, and he looked like. . . Johnny didn't know. Maybe a guy who'd ordered a custom Lamborghini and found out they sold it to some Italian guy who spilled his drinks in it and smoked smelly cigars. Whatever. Johnny wasn't good with metaphors, but Victor looked pissed off. And sort of . . . shiny. Or craggy. Something was different in his face, but no one but Johnny was seeing it.
Doom didn't look at Johnny as often, now, but when he did, it was the same look, mostly. Johnny liked his own hands. He was on good terms with his palms and fingers, and appreciated the many and varied things they did for him. But really. . . other options were good. And Doom had hands too.
So when Doom stopped by while the others were busy, Johnny decided - after an entire eight-pack of those fruity wine coolers Sue always got , which were the only thing to drink in the whole damn place - that getting him into a room alone was a brilliant idea. Victor hadn’t looked surprised. Just lifted an eyebrow and waited as Johnny leaned back against the door. He didn't sweat, either. Which was weird. These days when Johnny was in a room, everyone but the rock-with-no-sweat-glands started to drip. He was getting better, but still. Hard to tone down the temp when you were made of fire. "So - Richards and Sue. Gotta suck to be you," Johnny offered.
Doom just grunted, lifting his chin and shrugging. "Susan is free to do what she pleases. Even when her judgment is lacking. Shouldn't you be flirting with Ben?"
Johnny wrinkled his nose. "Shouldn't you be telling your investors that you're not really in the poorhouse?" He paused and then, because really, he didn't like Victor, no matter how horny he was, he added, "Yet."
"Is there something you wanted, or are we just exchanging pleasantries?" Victor answered, jaw tightening enough that Johnny knew he'd scored a hit.
He grinned and shrugged. "Question is, there something you want?" Another pause and then Johnny clarified. "Anything that isn't like, two seconds from going horizontal with Richards again."
"I hardly think there's anything worth the effort here," Victor answered, not bothering to qualify Susan as being the exception. Yeah, Johnny knew the type. He couldn't have her, so he'd pretend he didn't want her.
"You'd be surprised. I mean, who wouldn't want the chance to say they made it with My Pet Rock?" Johnny countered, and he took a step forward, spreading his hands. "Come on, Doom - way you look lately, you're as hard up as me."
Victor flicked his eyes down at that, plainly checking for the 'hard' part of that argument, and then smirked, finding nothing - yet. Johnny wasn't freaking fifteen, after all. "I never lack for company."
"Yeah, but not the one you want." Johnny grinned and, because he was a shameless asshole, sometimes, added, "I've been told I've got her mouth."
Dark eyebrows lifted again and Victor's eyes narrowed. "And you're what? A willing stand in?"
"Not exactly." Johnny's patience was running thin, and really if this wasn't going to work, he was two seconds from saying screw it and heading out to pick someone up. Maybe someone without eyebrows.
Victor just stood there, so Johnny made the move, stepping forward into the other man's space. Victor was taller and broader than him, and that was obnoxious, when he didn't like the guy, but when Johnny kissed him, he kissed back. Johnny was a big fan of no strings, but Doom kissed him almost without emotion - utterly physical, somehow. One big hand slid between them, pressing against the front of Johnny's pants - and that fast Johnny was hard. Damnit. Doom was supposed to be first.
But whatever. He wasn't going to knock it so long as he got off, and Doom's mouth was hard and ruthless on his - bruising, really. More than it should be, like he had steel hidden under the softness of his lips. It was hot, a little, but more than that it made Johnny surge up - battle back against him to take control back.
His clothes were starting to do that thing where they sizzled, right before he started to burn holes through them, but he didn't worry about it for now. Johnny really wouldn't mind if Victor lost his eyebrows. He'd just rather it happen after Victor got him off.
And it might have gone that way if there hadn't been a massive hammer-hand pounding at the door, demanding to know what the hell Johnny had done with his book.
Johnny vowed then and there as Doom stepped away, straightening clothes and hair with instant and utter disinterest, that he'd spend the rest of the week harassing Ben-damned-Grimm.
"Johnny," Doom offered, pleasant, smooth, and unaffected in dismissal.
Johnny really wished he'd burned off the guy's eyebrows.
Doom pulled the door open to leave as Ben came in, pausing mid-tirade to give Victor's back a wary look. Or Johnny thought it was wary. Rocks really weren't all that expressive. "What did he want?"
Johnny shrugged. Didn't answer. Ben stared at him for a long moment and then asked evenly. "What happened to your mouth?"
Johnny still didn't answer, but he touched his lips and ducked out of the room, past Ben and into the bathroom to find he looked as if he'd been making out with an angry mallet, already.
Johnny shut the door in Ben's face, pleading a pressing call of nature, and decided he really, really didn't like Victor-freaking-Von-Doom as he took himself in hand.
He wasn't crazy about wine coolers either.
Chteau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac
Johnny never mentioned Doom to anyone but Ben, and that was pretty much an accident when it happened.
Johnny was pretty sure that if he had to die, this wasn't that bad of a way to go. Aside from the whole busted-leg-bleeding-to-death thing, it wasn't bad. Besides, he had to make the best of things. Unlike some people. Some large, rock-like people who had gotten sick of trying to beat his way out.
Granted, it had been Johnny who decided to set off the explosives. Well, not so much set off as "failed to wait for Reed and Sue to disarm them." But still. If they had to be locked in via minor landslide, at least it was in a nice, cool place. There was even a sofa.
And wine. Lots and lots of wine.
Sue would probably never let him live it down, since Johnny was getting pretty close to blotto drunk, and he'd always said only pussies can get drunk on wine. But they were in a wine cellar, and he was dying, so he figured it was a good exception.
"Superheroes always come back to life, right? I mean, there's always like, a secret time-warp that brings them back," he asked Ben.
Ben gave him that look that Johnny had learned to interpret as "my nose doesn't move because it's made of pebbles, but if it did, it would be sniffing disdainfully". "You're not a superhero."
"Am so," Johnny answered. And then, because if you were going to sound five years old you might as well go all the way, he stuck his tongue out.
Ben chuckled, rough and throaty, and Johnny could tell that he looked smaller already. "You're not going to die, either."
"I might. I'm bleeding."
"I've got a plan," Ben answered, and he shrugged. "You just won't like it."
Johnny had tied a makeshift bandage around his own thigh, but it wasn't going to do any good. "Do I want to know?"
"Probably not, Hothead."
As it turned out - he didn't. Johnny wasn't the sort who was afraid of pain, really - you couldn't race and be afraid to crash. But as it turns out, waiting for a viral-agent dispensed through the air vents to de-power you enough that you burned, and then letting a guy who was still half-rock cauterize a bullet hole with a book he'd set on fire - it wasn't fun. Even when you were really, really drunk on really good wine.
Johnny's head swam afterward, but another fifteen minutes and a quarter of a bottle more and he barely felt it as more than a dull ache. Ben was normal-sized. Well, normal-for-him, and he wouldn't let Johnny sleep, which was annoying, but Johnny decided to take advantage of it. "You're all pink and squishy. And you have ears."
"Unfortunately, since that means I have to hear you. Just shut up."
"I fall asleep when I shut up. And you won't let me sleep. Because you're a heartless rock."
It was too dim to really see the smile, but Johnny could hear it in Ben's weirdly human-sounding voice. "Not at the moment."
"Richards will fix it right? Because he's like . . . the smartest guy in the world. I mean he's an idiot, but he's the smartest guy, too. Because the whole not-flaming thing is going to get old. I like being flaming."
"Yeah? Need to wear more pink and lisp, if you listen to the movies," Ben answered dryly.
Johnny paused, considering. "Was that a joke?"
"Not funny. I mean the joke was fine, but you're not funny. It's disturbing when you try."
Ben laughed this time and shook his head. "Shut up."
Johnny lost track of time again, but then Ben was shaking him awake with hands that weren't rocks, and that was weird too. "I hate you. I was dreaming."
"Of what?" Ben didn't really sound interested.
Johnny answered anyway. "Alicia, naked."
Ben grunted in annoyance. That, at least, sounded the same. Johnny hadn't dreamed, actually. He hadn't been asleep long enough, and his head ached too much to think, let alone dream. "How's that work, anyway? Alicia naked."
"She takes her clothes off. Then she's naked."
"Hah." Johnny wished he wasn't so fuzzy. Ben was all fleshy now, and much more punchable. "No I mean after she's naked. I mean - giant rock. Hard is good, but she's not giant-sized. You should be like, dating one of those giant steroid-popping Bulgarian women or something. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Except he's ancient and he'd probably give lousy head, much as he talks. Republican."
Ben paused, taking that in and then answering. "You're drunk. And concussed. And an idiot."
"So really. How's that work? I mean, can you even . . . feel? You let CARS run into you. How do you even manage to-"
"We work around it, okay?" Ben answered in his "don't push it, kid" voice.
It was fortunate that Johnny never paid attention to that warning. "Like how?" Ben was silent, and Johnny sighed. "Come on man. I'm drunk and probably dying in a wine cellar with a fleshy rock."
"You're not dying. You're just a pain in my ass." Ben stopped, contemplating, and then sighed. "We. . . work around it, okay? There's things we can't do. Stuff I can't. . . give her. So we have an. . . open relationship."
Johnny sat up at that, and promptly tipped right back over. "Whoa - you let other guys bone Alicia? Really?"
Ben made a pained-sounding noise. Johnny thought it might be at his choice of words, but didn't bother to care. "Sometimes. . . Alicia has . . . open preferences."
Open preferences. "She goes for girls?" Johnny prompted, squinting to see Ben nod and then blinking. Oh. He was so filing that thought away for later perusal. "So you just let her go and sleep with other people?"
There was a long enough silence that Johnny was already working through it in his head, trying to figure out how it worked and what kind of girl Alicia would go for. She was blind, so Johnny figured she'd probably go for someone with a smoking hot body, but maybe not the best face and- "We sleep with other people."
Ben's voice interrupted his thoughts and Johnny squinted again. "But you just said you can't-"
"She sleeps with them. I watch and. . . tell her how it looks," Ben answered, sounding deeply uncomfortable.
Johnny had a strange, almost itchy sensation at the back of his head. "So . . . Alicia brings home other girls. Or other guys. And you watch."
"Watch her have sex with other women."
"Sometimes." Ben was starting to sound annoyed. And when Johnny sat there, stunned, he snapped, "What?"
Johnny shook his head. "Nothing." He couldn't quite wrap his head around that. It was. . . kinky. Sort of. "Kinky" and "Ben" were foreign countries. They just didn't share any borders, or even an ocean, in Johnny's mind.
"You think it's weird? You slept with both of the Maximoff twins." Ben sounded sort of annoyed, really. And something else Johnny couldn't identify. Because he was used to annoyed, even if Ben sounded different when he was normal and not all rockified.
"I did not. Total bullshit rumor. And it's not that." Johnny shook his head. "I'm feeling something for you. . . I don't know how to describe it. . . . I think it's. . . respect."
Ben scowled, and Johnny could barely see it, but he could feel it. "You're such an asshole."
Johnny couldn't help it - he started to laugh. It was too much. "So you don't touch at all? Like at all? Just. . . yourself?" Because really, if he was watching that, what guy wouldn't, Johnny figured? Ben was scowling and Johnny realized he was still laughing - which he didn't mean to do. It was kind of a bummer, really - only having your own hand all the time.
"A little. I have to be careful. And just her. Most other people. . ." Ben shrugged uncomfortably.
Johnny got that. He didn't have the same trouble, for some reason - but he probably should. Ben's power was safer than his, for the most part. If he started to bruise, he could let go and stop. Johnny flared, and people were just burned. No one seemed to care about that though. Johnny couldn't blame them - it was hard to get it up for a rock. "It doesn't bug you? Her with other guys?"
Ben shrugged. "No. Yes. No more than the women. It's not like I mind watching any more either."
"Most guys don't like much cock in their porn," Johnny remarked absently.
Ben snorted. "Yeah well. I've never minded that."
That surprised Johnny. Enough that he managed to actually sit up this time and look at Ben. He started to ask, but he saw the answer in Ben's shrug already. Huh. He'd never gotten that vibe from Grimm. "You and Reed-"
"Ugh. No. You can be friends without sleeping with someone. I never slept with Sue either, you know," Ben answered, sounding disgusted.
"Duh. Sue's picky. She's like, Richards-sexual or something. It's weird. I mean he's not bad and all - but still."
"There was Von Doom," Ben reminded him.
"Nah - she was never really with him. He just wished she was." Johnny was pretty sure about that, even if he'd never come right out and asked her.
"Yeah. . . you're not that picky though?"
It was a question, really, and Johnny caught on. "That room that day? Didn't go anywhere."
"Something like that."
"Tell me about it." Technically Johnny had been the one making the move, but he saw no reason to go into that. And something was nagging him, though he couldn't put a finger on it for a moment. "So. . . no one but you?" Ben just gave him a confused look and Johnny snorted. Clarifying. "So no one's touched you. But you."
Ben shrugged. "Alicia tries. But I can barely feel her hands.' He smiled wryly. "Giant rock, remember?"
Johnny liked Alicia. And when push came to shove - he liked Ben. There was no one he liked to piss off more than Ben, and Ben still had a shit sense of humor most of the time, but he was a good guy. Not Johnny's type, but a good guy.
And he was squishy at the moment.
"Not a rock now," Johnny reminded him. And because he was drunk and concussed - or maybe just because he was absent on the day they taught subtle - he reached over, clumsily finding the front of Ben's now too-big pants.
Ben made a strangled sound and blinked. "You're drunk."
"Yeah but I'm here, and Reed will probably fix us when he saves us, and then it's back to a rock."
"And a Hothead," Ben agreed faintly.
Johnny grinned. "Yeah."
No one agreed, and there wasn't like, a moment when Johnny made a move. Maybe because he was too fuzzy to remember. But a few moments later he was on his back with Ben's mouth on his and his hand down Ben's pants, wrapping around him.
Pretty impressive, even when he wasn't a rock. And Johnny might have given the guy kudos for that, but it was hard with Ben's tongue down his throat.
There was something to be said about making it with a guy that hadn't been able to really get any for years. Johnny's leg was aching like a bitch again, and his head throbbed, but Ben could kiss, and that was surprising.
Johnny'd meant for this to be a friendly thing. Pity, mostly. Maybe give the guy a blowjob since it wasn't like anyone was going to be able to do it when he was a rock. Instead he ended up with a spit-slicked cock inside him and his bum leg stretched as wide as it would go while the other inched its way up Ben's side. Spit wasn't the best way to go, and he'd have one more ache to add to the catalogue afterward - and if Sue didn't bring pain meds when she and Richards rode in on their white horses, Johnny was disowning her - but it was good.
It was really fucking good, actually, and Johnny didn't usually go in for things on this end. Not that he didn't like it, but usually it was just easier to take the other side. Ben was hungry for it, and a little frantic - but still careful. Gentle, almost. Johnny figured that was ingrained after years of being able to crush people's skulls without thinking about it. He came first, deep inside Johnny, and then used his hand to bring Johnny off too. Ben even seemed to get off on that - just being able to really touch someone.
Afterward, Johnny was dazed and still drunk, and it was harder to stay awake. He really was concussed, and without the fire, the damp cellar started to edge toward cold. Ben cleaned him up, redressed him as best he could with the leg, and wrapped around him, trying to keep Johnny awake with old stories about Richards at school or school-time shenanigans.
It was boring as hell, really, and Johnny still kept drifting in and out, but for some reason he didn't have the heart to tell that to Ben.
His watch told him it was seventeen hours later when a drill finally came through the wall, tunneling them a way out, and Richards popped a doofy, hard-hat wearing head through and started talking about "counter agents" and shoving injections into their arms right away.
Johnny faded out entirely to his sister's voice, and Ben's quietly murmuring, "he'll be all right. Tough kid."
Johnny wasn't into Ben Grimm.
He was a giant rock with no sense of humor and a very nice, very blind girlfriend. He could hammer walls with his fists. Not nails - walls. There was a difference. And even when he wasn't a rock, he was middle-aged and paunchy with no hair and a weird face. He wasn't Johnny's type, and Johnny didn't think about him.
Most of the time.
Sometimes in the shower, maybe, because it'd been pretty damn good sex. And when they were out being the Fantastic Four he had to think about him, since he was part of the team. Things didn't get weird. Well except for the thinking about him in the shower. And except for Sue, who was utterly incapable of not butting in sometimes, and was getting that Look that said she had Ideas. Johnny was already looking into some vacation time in somewhere with great skiing and thousands of miles between him and his nosy sister.
There'd been others since that time in the cellar. Johnny healed up fast, and he wasn't an oversized rock, so it wasn't like he didn't have his pick. Flaming-hands-party-tricks never failed to draw a crowd - at least 40% of which were usually willing to drop panties. Or boxers, whatever. There'd been good sex. Bad sex, too, but he blamed that on not waiting until he'd really healed. Pain pills didn't make for staying power, apparently. Who knew?
So it wasn't like he wasn't getting any.
It just wasn’t the same. And Johnny knew it was stupid as soon as he did it, but one night he mentioned what he knew to Alicia. He wasn't sure how it happened, or even if he'd entirely wanted it to, but he found himself invited to one of her and Ben's little "sessions".
It'd been hot as hell, really. Ben's voice talking - telling him how he looked, how they looked, Alicia tight and wet around him, her hands all over him. And then Ben standing, running fingers carefully over Alicia's skin - and then over Johnny's, over his back and ass.
Too careful. And too hard. It wasn't what Johnny remembered, but it was enough to get him there. Alicia liked it because Johnny let Ben touch him, too. If Ben didn't like it, he didn't let on.
Johnny didn't know how the hell he felt about it.
He didn't go back, though he had an open invitation. And for a while, there wasn't anyone else because the world almost ended. Again. Johnny was starting to wonder how it hadn't blown up years ago, really, as often as they had to avert apocalypses these days.
At least they had help, now. Xavier's band of helpful, weirdly dramatic freaks lent a hand, now and then. Good people, mostly. Even if trying to talk to any of them usually gave Johnny a headache. Parker jumped in once in a while to help out, though he usually stuck to just his hometown.
Norrin came back, too. He hung with Sue, sometimes, but once in a while Johnny caught him alone. There was something about the guy that was soothing. He was alien. More alien than Ben even, with his shimmering silver skin and his oddly even voice. Nothing really shook Norrin, and much as that could drive Johnny nuts, it was nice, once in a while.
The guy didn't miss much, either, and one night he shared Johnny's favorite perch, way up on one of the skyscrapers, and sipped at one beer while Johnny drank his way through a six pack of Guinness. The stoic quiet thing was cool, but Johnny couldn't take it for that long, and he broke it first. "Doesn't it bug you, man? I mean you hang around my sister all the time, and she's like your wife or whatever. That died. Right? And you can't have her. Sue, I mean. So doesn't it bother you?"
Norrin shrugged, a human gesture he'd picked up from Sue, Johnny was pretty sure. She did it the same way - same cant to her chin and lift of one shoulder higher than the other. Norrin did that. Mimicked humans to stand out less. Johnny could have told him it wasn't going to work when you looked like the Terminator from T2, but he didn't. "It is what I have. I take what is offered."
"Yeah, but is that enough?"
"We make do. It is all that can be done." Norrin gave a faint, wry smile that might have originally come from Johnny himself, Johnny thought, but was uniquely Norrin's own, now. "It is always better than nothing."
Johnny wasn't so sure about that. But he thought about Ben. About Alicia and how Johnny was pretty sure he couldn't go without being touched by someone else either, but they both seemed pretty happy. Norrin sat, still and un-judgmental, and when Johnny leaned over, kissing him, he barely reacted. "I have her mouth," Johnny explained. "Figured it was better than nothing."
Norrin shook his head. "Some things cannot be given replacements." He smiled that same strange, sad smile. "And your mouth is your own. Your likeness to your sister comes in other ways."
"Yeah? What are those?"
Norrin laughed - Ben's laugh, deep and a little too childlike, somehow. Johnny couldn't help but smile just a little. "You both see more than what is obvious." He paused a long moment and then added, "And you both complicate things."
Johnny thought of himself as an uncomplicated guy, but he didn't argue. Maybe Norrin was right.
He sipped at the last beer, leaning back on his hands. Maybe he'd go over to Ben's, later. Take what he could get, for now, at least. It wasn't like the guy made him see stars - when Johnny thought of love, he still thought of black skies and gleaming gas giants in the distance. But there was something there, maybe.