Sky Captain and it's world belong to Paramount and their lawyers. No profit or copyright infringement is intended.

 

Idiot Genius

Wounded 2
Notes: in this World of Tomorrow, prohibition is still going on. Historically, pre-Stonewall queer bars were very different from their modern incarnations. Sexual 'perverts' of all types, from transvestites to bull dykes, went to the same bars.

 

No point to fences or rails. Not on a mobile landing station , a big…a big -- airboat. Dex stood where the downdraft wanted to pull him over the edge and stared down at the creep of gray water far, far away. The wind was icy cold and thin this high up and he wondered idly about terminal velocity and if he fell off, whether he would die when he hit the water or before.

"Hundred miles to Scotland," Frankie's voice made Dex jump and stagger until a hard hand pulled him back from the edge. "And base."

Heart pounding, Dex swung around. Frankie's smile was exasperated, like the way Dex felt.

"Watch your step," she said cheerfully. "Look bloody stupid if the inventor of the Albion tossed himself overboard when we're only a half-hour out from port. And thank God for that, because I'm this close to throwing the lot of you off and the animals."

Dex's smile was flat and he scanned the empty deck warily, patting his pockets in a forlorn quest for gum. It was Frankie that saved him though, a pink and blue square of waxed paper appearing in her slim gloved hand. His look was no happier but his gratitude was genuine as he unwrapped the square of gum and let the wrapper flutter over the side and disappear into the air. He kept his eyes on it long after it had gone, feeling Frankie behind him and wishing desperately that she'd go away.

"He's always a little cracked when he's got no plane to fly," she said after a moment. Dex knew immediately what she was talking about; they'd been unable to retrieve Joe's h11O - d from the island; a dinosaur had stepped on it. After about two days of recuperation, Joe had started to pace the decks and drive the manta pilots out of their minds.

"He's flying now," he said distantly. Did that mean Joe had been crackers and drunk before? It hadn't seemed so, then again, he hadn't seemed that drunk either. Dex rubbed his hands unconsciously on his pants, feeling filthy. He'd been so sure. "We're on a huge…plane."

"He'll pull out of his nosedive, Dex," Frankie sounded like she was trying to comfort him and the very idea of it made him turn to look at her, astonished by the stupidity of the thought. Frankie didn't comfort anyone. She was looking off into the blank sky; with the same distant look Sky Captain got when he was tired of the ground under his feet. "And peel the bint off his … arm … soon enough. Don't let him get you down."

"She loves him," Dex blurted with a shrug. Joe had told him it was over but that had been then and that had probably been the whisky and this was now, sober. "And he --"

Dex shrugged again; Frankie snorted.

Who was he fooling? He should be glad that Joe was off chasing skirts again, back in the game, with Polly ready and willing to be caught. Dex had caught far too much a few hours ago and the air wasn't cold enough or thin enough to drive the moment out.

He'd never much worried about Joe's rooms before and paid no mind to the shut door. He hadn't said anything before coming in, and the breathless panting hadn't clued him in quick enough. Polly had been there with Joe; the two of them sprawled on the cabin floor in a welter of clothes.

Polly's camera sitting on the table, enshrined in sunlight, was still caught in Dex's memory as he felt his face heat again hours later. He tried not to think of the rest: blonde hair over the white painted floor--Polly had beautiful hair -- and beneath that her red, flushed wild face, mouth open and gasping in time to the bounce of Joe's hips between her thighs. She'd still had her stockings on, and Joe his shirt.

Dex wanted to hold to the shirt as something significant, that Joe hadn't stripped down for Polly. Probably though, they had just been in a hurry. Dex had stepped back, losing his last wad of gum somewhere between then and now, and was fairly sure neither of them had noticed him.

He started, abruptly, to shiver, feeling vaguely ill and wondering if he was coming down with something. Frankie clapped him on the shoulder and shoved him towards the decks.

"Get on inside, Dex," she said, mouth tight with something like sympathy. "That's an order, no civilians on deck for the approach. Top Secret and all."

2 Weeks later

Dex stared at the pint jar half-full of clear bathtub gin and hoped he wouldn't go blind after he drank it. Actually, it was half-empty, because he'd already drunk the other half. Booze was a wonderful thing. Booze blurred the past and erased the future. From the look in Joe's eyes -- or the lack of one -- that afternoon on the Albion had been erased by Frankie's whisky. Dex was just wondering how much he'd have to drink to get the same thing, so far, it wasn't working.

Dex slammed the shot down with a grimace, tasting nothing but the burn. He signaled for another round, because - while he was in the city on a job - he didn't have to do anything tomorrow except sign shipping manifests and baby the construction equipment back home on the ship. He could afford a hangover.

"Well, well, looking to put hair on your chest ain't you?"

Dex's eyes snapped wide, watering slightly, and his unwelcome visitor took the seat opposite him at the tiny table before he had a chance to say a word. A knee bumped his and he cringed discreetly away.

"You a soldier, honey?" The baritone didn't match the first thing that caught his eye; a very pretty hair clip and brassy blond waves stylishly crimped. The hint of beard shadow on a close-shaved chin, the long face and the big-boned wrists were a better match for the voice than the mix of men's and women's clothes: a soft blouse under a man's jacket and a slash of pink lipstick.

"No," Dex rasped then cleared his throat, eyes darting around the bar afraid of recognition. He didn't like to lie but he knew how to do it; Sky Captain had taught him to lie to everyone else and the last few years had taught him how to lie to Joe. "No a - a mechanic."

"Mmmm - blue collar man then," the man purred, patting Dex's hand and leaving it there. Dex discovered he was tempted. He was horribly, horribly tempted and it had little to do with the man across from him. It had everything to do with the memory of Joe's dick in his hand. It felt like his skin was still imprinted with Joe's body, like an afterimage on celluloid. Dex wanted - needed - to put something between the memories and the reality.

There weren't exactly a lot of opportunities for distraction at the base, especially since the base currently consisted of some tents, some graves, and a bunch of ruined warehouse. But that was no excuse for being here, at Drunken Rosie's. In his work clothes, like any honest joe could walk into one of the most infamous speakeasies in Gotham. He was supposed to be smart. Dex was just grateful that engineers and scientists didn't get front and center page like Sky Captains' did. No one was likely to recognize him on sight.

All the man across from him saw was nice time with a 'blue collar man'. Dex met the dark, interested eyes and saw a chance to put some space between himself and what he wasn't going to have. This was the place where his desires belonged, not in the sun and sky. Not in blue eyes. Heroes didn't need places like this and a moment like this, in a place like this, reminded Dex that he wasn't the hero.

The grip on his hand tightened and there was sympathy in the kohl-smudged eyes across from him. There must have been something on his face he didn't want anyone to see. Or maybe, the stranger had been where Dex was now. Probably, everyone here had. "Don't you worry, honey, Bianca will take good care of you."

"I - " he was tempted. The though of Joe here, in the dark - Dex shook his head because he knew Joe would never be here, then smiled at the man across from him. The alcohol wasn't working but there were other theories to test. "Buy you a drink?"

A little bell rang and the whole bar exploded into motion.

"Sweet Christ!" Bianca bellowed, leaping to his feet and wrenching the clip out of his hair. "It's the police, honey! Get out the back!"

Dex and fifty other men and women stampeded for the only rear exit; many of them tearing off inappropriate clothes to avoid getting charged for cross-dressing. Dex and about 20 other men and women didn't get out in time and he found himself crammed into a crowded cell with the others, under the jeers of the drunks across the way.

Dex leaned against the wall, head pounding and clutching his empty pocket where his wallet used to be. He hadn't thought to drop it and now it was in the hands of New York's finest. He wasn't nameless anymore. They'd even taken his gum.

"Dexter Dearborn," the night sergeant bellowed and, unwillingly, Dex shuffled forward from the line-up. It was nearly dawn before the entire lot from Rosie's had been dragged out to face charges and not only was Dex's life over, now he'd miss the last round of paperwork to sign and the whole shipment to the base would be cancelled.

"Yes," he said as the station quieted - they knew who he was. He stared past the sergeant's shoulder to avoid his look of contempt. They also knew where he'd been.

" - illegal consumption of alcohol," the sergeant drummed out the charges. "Illicit activity in a café in violation of New York health and safety codes."

"W-wait," Dex knew he sounded like a schoolboy in the face of the officer's basso delivery but he couldn't let this go on. He had had hours to realize that he had to protect Sky Captain and the others; this time from himself. "Illicit activity? I - I was looking for a place to drink."

Snickers crept around the room from the police and the other inhabitants of the bar both. Dex flushed and lied. "That's all."

"Oooh, and you should've seen the look on the boy's face when I sat down! Poor lost lamb." It was Bianca, waiting his turn at the bar, the harh lights shone on his brassy blonde curls, making him shine like a hero from some unknown comic as he came to Dex's rescue. More laughter and humiliation burned hot in Dex's face but at least the sergeant had paused in his roster of charges.

"Did you know it was a locale frequented by deviants?"

"No," Dex breathed, wide eyed. "No."

The sergeant scowled at him and looked him up and down. "What are you wearing?"

"What?"

"Unbutton the shirt Dearborn, let's see what's underneath."

Dex fumbled his shirt open, fingers clumsy with shame, under the eyes of half of New York's finest and the catcalls from the others behind him. One of the officers stepped forward to yank at the collar of his undershirt, reading the label as Dex gagged.

"Men's shirt, men's shoes, men's pants," the man leaned forward and sniffed him as Dex reared back in surprise. "No make-up or perfume. Cologne. And gin, of course."

Three inches from the officer's face, Dex could see the cold disgust. He'd had more mercy from world-destroying villains. Most villains had better breath, too.

"Of course -" he jerked free of the man's grip and wrenched his shirt closed, somehow terrified that they would know just by looking at him that he was lying. "What else? What else would I wear?"

All he could think to do - and Dex hated it - was to play dumb. Like he'd never noticed the women in pants at the bar, or Bianca and his lipstick. He wasn't dumb, he had noticed and - he - he was a deviant. Dex blinked hard then jerked his chin up to meet the sergeant's blank face.

"I was just there to get a drink," he said. He wanted to be brash and loud but his voice quavered. "Nothing else. I - people like that - " he gestured back to Bianca, thumb like a gun and Bianca never flinched -"make me sick."

That at least was the truth. Dex felt rather sick now, nauseated with the words coming out of his mouth. The lies. But if he didn't lie, if he told the truth, then what he was would spread like a stain over everyone he knew. Joe, the legion. Everyone. So he lied.

2 hours later

He had a cell to himself now and Dex decided to believe it meant things were looking up. On the other hand, the cell had a window and the morning sunlight shining in told him his time for check-in at the base was long over. He was officially missing and wondered what Joe was doing about it. Sky Captain had gone to the ends of the earth to rescue him and no doubt he'd come here too but, this time, Dex rather wished he wouldn't. He didn't think he could face Joe with a set of bars between them.

The tick-tick of high heels on stone was familiar enough to make Dex drop his head into his hands with a groan. It was Polly. Not Joe. Polly. "This never happens to Captain Marvel," he thought.

"There you are, Dex," Polly Perkins' voice was as cheerfully fake as the bird on her hat as she swooped in for a rescue. Dex knew her almost as well as Joe did and he could see she was furious, the red slash of her mouth curled up in a smile that didn't reach her eyes.

"Hello, Polly," he said, standing and rubbing his hands on his trousers nervously. Behind her one of the officers juggled a ring of keys then unlocked his cell while Polly looked on. "Don't have a piece of gum on you, do you?"

She laughed brightly. "Gum and comic books, no wonder you didn't know where you'd wandered into. Nothing like that in Flash Gordon is there?"

Dex only shrugged, going scarlet, as the cop laughed and Polly, miraculously, had a piece of gum in her purse. Dex unwrapped it and the cop snorted and shook his head.

"My kid chews that gum," he said and when he looked at Dex - this time it was not disgust but a kind of amused condensation, as if Dex had suddenly gone from pervert to puppy. "Pay attention to where you wander, huh, kid? Or maybe you ain't ready to be drinking at all."

"He's worse than a toddler," Polly chatted amiably with the police while Dex's effects were delivered back to him in a manila envelope. "Always putting his nose into odd little corners and getting into messes."

Dex shut out the rest, pocketed his wallet and strapped his watch back on, ignoring Polly's chatter. She was doing her thing, being a reporter in reverse, answering unspoken questions; making a story about a naïve engineer, a dark speakeasy and the silliness of imagining that Sky Captain's best friend would be deviant. Dex didn't have to do anything but keep quiet.

Finally, they climbed into a cab and Dex slumped against the seat. He wanted his cot on the base, cold, whistling tent or not. Except the base meant facing Joe and Dex dug out another square of gum, blessing the sugar and the distraction as he folded the wrapper into perfect eight's. "Thanks, Polly."

He prayed she wouldn't ask any questions.

The cab was silent all the way to the dock but outside, Polly turned on him. "What were you thinking?"

"Nothing," Dex said. "I wasn't thinking of getting arrested."

"Nothing? You? Oh, for god's sake, Dex," she threw her hands up. "There's no way to keep this out of the press, not with Joe still in all the papers."

"I didn’t do anything."

"I don't care! And no one else does either. You were there, Dex, with a bunch of deviants! That's all that anyone cares about. Couldn't you get drunk somewhere else? Anywhere else?" She marched in an exasperated circle then turned on him. "Are you a pervert?"

Dex shifted his gum from one side, then the other, then back. Then, he had to look away; he couldn't look her in the eyes -- and lie -- not again. He was too tired. He turned to the dock where the cargo ship still sat, waiting for him. "Looks like we'd better get on board, if we want to catch the tide. The shipment is late enough already."

"This is wonderful," Polly muttered and stalked ahead of him, heels echoing like a Tommy gun on the gangplank. "Just wonderful."

Joe was standing straddle-legged at the dock and as soon as Dex got onto shore he clapped him hard on the shoulder. The knot below Dex's heart loosened a notch but by the time he could manage a look to Joe's face, he was looking away, off at the supplies. Then it was like some kind of game of reverse tag; he'd look away, Joe would look away and neither of them said a word. But Joe's hand was warm, when Dex had felt like he'd never be warm again, and the rough squeeze was the same as it always had been.

It was Polly who spoke, with that sly smile of hers, "Brought back your stray, Joe."

"Good girl, Polly," Joe said briskly.

2 Weeks later

Sky Captain's Pet Engineer Caught in Moral Quandary.
By P. Perkins
Genius and illegal alcohol don't mix ….

Dex collected headlines; he had every article printed about Sky Captain, even back in the early days when he'd been a barnstormer after the Great War. The most recent ones were all by Polly, of course. There never were many about Dex, but he thought it might be a good idea to add the recent bunch to his collection. Most of them made him sound like a child; quotes about his bubble-gum and comic books. He was a genius, darn it, not a grade school kid. But, what they didn't do, was make it sound like he was a deviant. So he answered Polly's questions because he knew it was her work with the press that kept him from being labeled an invert, swallowed the humiliation of being talked about like a little kid and blessed every day that Joe didn't ask him a single question about Rosie's.

"What is it?" Joe took the seat Dex pointed to but reared back at the contraption Dex wanted to put on Joe's head. Dex grunted and put it back on the worktable, it was heavy.

"X-ray vision," he said. "Well, maybe."

"Oh," Joe looked at the helmet with its wires and antenna. Then gave a good-natured shrug. "What's it good for?"

"I was thinking - " or, more accurately, reading Superman, " - with the right kind of filters and lenses, you'd be able to fly in pitch dark, or fog, or any kind of weather. There are X-rays and radio waves all around us -"

Dex waxed poetic about infrared and ultraviolet and how the current theory was that they all were more closely related than first glance indicated. Joe grinned and slouched in his chair, rocking one knee restlessly and Dex could feel the light eyes following him, listening to him. Like always, like nothing had changed, and his step lightened and he gave Joe a grin just because he wanted to as he snapped his gum and talked.

Joe was a pilot and pilots were flighty - Sky Captain was no exception - but Joe had become Dex's rock. He never asked about Rosie's, he never mentioned the embarrassing newspaper articles about Dex. He wandered in to listen, to watch his inventions fail or succeed. They argued over mess about modifications to the Sopwith-Camel. It was just like it had been before Rosie's -- and before the day on Frankie's ship. Losing that day wasn't a small price but Dex paid it anyway; it was the price of staying here, with Joe.

Dex knew Sky Captain was a hero but he'd never seen it quite like he did now. The first few days after he came back to base, Dex felt more like a prisoner than an engineer. The looks from the other pilots, the laughter that stopped when he arrived. Some people stopped talking to him, others came to watch him work like he was an exhibit in a zoo. Everyone except Joe. The clasp of his hand was the same, the grin and the occasional rough teasing was the same. The trust was the same.

Dex watched his hero work, as the whispers faded and stopped, as the snickering laughter disappeared. Everyone watched Sky Captain, and Sky Captain showed everyone that Dex was still - Dex. Once upon a time, Dex wanted Joe to act differently, but now - now he was grateful that Joe didn't. The only negative in the equation, as Joe single-handedly pulled everyone at the base around without saying a word, was that if Dex hadn't loved Joe before, he certainly did now.

"All right Dex," Joe interrupted him just at the good part. "I'll give it a go."

Dex grinned and hefted the helmet with its collection of reflectors and multi-colored lenses. He set it carefully on Joe's head, ignoring his grunt, and checked the wires that lead to the power source. "Just a proto-type."

"Good thing, because I look like a cross-eyed bug."

"Well, it's actually because we couldn't fit the powersource into the plane." Dex stepped back, snapped his gum, and flicked the switch. "I think I can come up with something more suitable to your fame later."

"Well, you know it could be a problem if no one can tell the difference between me and the next set of crazy villain machines we run across."

"I'll put a legion patch on it, promise, Joe."

The machine hummed to life and Joe stiffened. "Joe? What do you see?"

Joe spread his arms out, fumbling like a blind man, head swiveling curiously. "Not sure, Dex. Lights - "

He turned to Dex then burst out laughing so hard, Dex scooped the helmet off, afraid it would get broken.

"What?"

"I knew it."

"What?"

"You do have a decoder ring," Joe said with a snicker. "Frankie owes me 5 bucks."

"Do not," Dex said, blushing.

"Back left pocket," Joe pointed at him and winked. "Shouldn't give me the X-ray eyes if you don't want me seeing your secrets."

Dex couldn't say anything and Joe didn't look away. It was the same look from the Albion and the Albion reminded him of Polly and that made him remember that Joe shouldn't be giving him that look. It made his heart jump, his palms sweat and Dex couldn't stand it. He carefully set down the helmet and walked out, hearing the chair scrape as Joe jumped up, calling his name and - for maybe the first time in his life - ignoring it.

2 hours later

Dex skipped evening mess and stayed in his new, already cluttered, room in the rebuilt bunker 2. He wasn't hungry. He wasn't quite sure what he was. He'd been angry at Joe lots of times before; like when he dropped the experimental night-scope out of his plane and into the ocean. Or when he came back from a mission without the silent gun or the auto-decoding machine that Dex built for him, or when he came back with a bullet in his shoulder. But this was different. He'd never been angry at Joe before and he didn't know what to do. Staying away from dinner seemed a good start.

So, he was staring at the pulled apart guts of one of the small Totenkopf robots without really seeing it when there was a knock at his door. He knew it was Joe -- it couldn't be anyone else -- and Dex wasn't sure he wanted to let him in.

"Dex?"

"Yeah, Joe, come on in," Dex recognized the inevitable when he saw it. He couldn't keep Joe out, even if he wanted too. He didn't want to, even now. Even if it was the right thing to do.

Joe wasn't looking at him and they played reverse tag until Dex clenched his gum in his jaw and looked hard at him. Joe finally looked back and his eyes were shadowy, unhappy under a level brow and a sober mouth. Dex discovered he couldn't be angry under that look but he could be hurt.

"I'm sorry," Joe blurted and the tone of his voice was as unhappy as Dex felt. "Dex."

"Joe," Dex said helplessly. "You don't need to be sorry."

He wanted it to be true, even if it didn't feel true. It just seemed wrong for Joe to be sorry about anything. Sky Captain didn't make mistakes. He didn't want to be angry either. Or wondering why Joe was here. Or watching his face for something -- he wasn't sure what. Something like on the Albion.

"Why weren't you at mess then?"

Dex gestured to the tangled wires at his feet. "Working. I guess I forgot."

He could see Joe trying to believe him and failing. Joe squared his shoulders and his eyes were Sky Captain brave as he came over to where Dex was sitting on his cot, carefully avoiding stepping on anything, and dropped down next to him. Dex shifted away, flushing.

"About then --"

"You were drunk," Dex interrupted, because that was the explanation that made sense. Joe had been drinking and anything that happened then meant nothing. Except he could still feel Joe in his skin and he could still remember Joe's hand. Joe's eyes looking at him had not been the eyes of a drunk man.

"No."

"Yes."

"Dex."

"I was there, remember?" Dex said sharply, angry again, in that way he never had been before. Why had he been with Polly? Or was it just more of the same: Polly or Frankie or Dex and none of them more than the other? Pilots were flighty, Dex thought glumly, and Joe was no exception. "Do - do you even remember?"

"I do," Joe's voice dropped, wavering in a way Dex had never, never heard from Sky Captain. He looked at Joe and was met with a look -- it was what he remembered from the Albion. The one he was afraid to read. They were silent, except for Joe pushing away the wires at his feet restlessly until Dex picked them up and moved them to safety.

"You were with Polly a day after me!" Dex snapped because Joe shouldn't be looking at him like that with Polly between them. "You never said anything."

"I didn’t know what to say."

"That - that you even remembered, Joe!"

He shoved his pencil behind his ear and scowled fiercely. "I'm not - not going to be a Frankie, Joe -"

"I'm not with Polly."

"Oh?"

"Just that once," Joe admitted to him, flushing, but his eyes were very blue and very earnest and Dex wanted to believe him. He wanted that time on the boat to be real and everything else false. "Look - Dex, look at me. Look at my eyes --. "

"I've heard that before Joe!" The problem was, Dex knew Joe and he knew he'd never been content with one woman when he could have more. Dex wasn't going to be one woman. Or one man - or invert. Or whatever he was.

"I know, I know. But I'm not with Polly - except that once."

"She's here all the time."

"She want's a story, Dex," Joe said and his shoulders slumped. He looked tired suddenly and it made Dex wonder about all those times Polly was at the base; maybe they weren't any more fun for Joe than they had been for Dex. Dex watched him fidget with his sleeves. His long pilot's hands were the first thing that taught Dex what he was; they were the first thing he hadn't been able to forget about. If Joe had been a little different, not a hero, he would have made a great mechanic with those hands. Dex knew how to read his hands; watching them worry at a dangling thread on Joe's uniform shirt. "She - it's Polly, Dex. She doesn't see me. Just - Sky Captain and her next exclusive interview. She talks about her by-line a lot."

"Why?" Dex finally cried out miserably. "Why'd you do it then?"

Joe looked like he wanted to look away but he didn't, expression falling into bewilderment. "I wanted - to know - why - why you and not Polly, Dex."

"I didn't want you to know," he hurried on, then his mouth twisted into a wry smile. "But I stepped in your gum and knew you'd been there. I didn't know what to say then."

"You never do," Dex murmured. "Say things, I mean."

Joe shrugged, abashed. "I'm not a politician, Dex."

Dex had to look away then, shifting his gum restlessly. Joe was a doer, he knew that but - but things would have been so different if maybe, just once, he could be a speaker as well. He turned back, eyes sharp, catching a look on Joe's face - hope and worry - that nearly made him give in again and forget about the words.

"Okay, Joe," he made himself go on. "So, words, words, Joe. I need the words."

Joe nodded, not very enthusiastically, and it almost made Dex smile.

"Why not Polly?" Dex had to ask. He didn't want to know and yet he had to know. And he was a little afraid that if he made Joe think about it, Joe would change his mind and leave. It was only because leaving now was better than leaving later that Dex pushed on. "She's beautiful. She - loves you as much as she loves anyone. It's - normal. She's where you belong, Joe."

"You see me." Joe murmured. "That's why. I - like that, Dex. More than Polly. More than Frankie. More than - more than anything."

Dex swallowed. "What do you see, Joe?"

He jerked a thumb at his chest, desperate. What could Sky Captain see in him? What was there besides smarts and a touch of perversion? "What do you see?"

"You, Dex," Joe's eyes held him, like a touch. Like the touch Dex couldn't get out of his skin. His breath caught, he couldn't look away and Joe's hand was on his knee - palm hot and fingers trembling. "I see you. I do."

"A pervert."

Joe shook his head, grip tightening on Dex's knee, an uneasy shadow in his eyes. "No."

"What then?"

"My - my best friend," Joe struggled on, but Dex wasn't going to let him off this time. He wanted the words. He watched him swallow hard, lick his lips and forge on because - even now - Joe was brave. Except he looked terrified and Dex pressed his hand over Joe's, heart pounding, afraid of what frightened him so much. "My partner. My genius. M-my lover? Dex?"

Dex couldn't breathe, his breath catching hard until he was sure he'd inhaled his gum this time. He squeezed his eyes shut because it was too much. All that he'd ever wanted and more and Joe was scared to death and so was he.

"This is - that's not -" he said shakily and dared to touch Joe's face, watching him shiver when he did. "You don't know either, do you? What this is? What we are?"

"No," Joe's voice hesitated but he didn't look away. "No, but I - I'd lose my plane before I'd lose you."

Dex burst out laughing because how many people had someone declare their love by comparing them to an airplane? All of a sudden he didn't feel like an invert. He didn't feel filthy, because this was Joe and Joe lived in the sun and the light. So, he would have to too. He slipped his fingers up under the edge of Joe's sleeve.

"You've never even seen me without -" he paused then forged on because he could be brave too, when he had too. The heat of Joe's skin under his hand made him feel brave - and a little drunk - like he could do anything. "- without my clothes, Joe."

Joe's pulse was fluttering under his fingers like a bird's wing and his blue eyes glittered with excitement and nerves. "Well, we can fix that."

They'd gone off the map, where the world was white and they could find a kingdom no one had ever seen before. Dex held very still as Joe's fingers slipped under his tie, small shivers rising from his stomach as it was tugged free and he felt Joe start on his buttons. He didn't move but watched Joe's face, which was focused and intent, like Dex's shirtsleeves were the most complicated thing he'd ever seen.

Joe pushed Dex's shirt off and flattened his palms against the undershirt while Dex curled his fingers in his blanket and didn't dare move. Joe's gaze flickered, a tease at the corner of his mouth, and he slipped his hand up and stroked his thumb over Dex's speeding pulse.

"Oh," Dex breathed. His skin was alive now, prickling with hunger, and he could feel the hard rise of his dick and for the first time in his life he wasn't ashamed of it. Joe pushed him back and it was like on the Albion, except in reverse. Joe straddling his thighs and Joe pushing his shirt up and Joe's hand sweeping over his chest. Joe caught one of his nipples in his fingers and Dex arched up, hand flying to clamp on Joe's wrist and stare at him in astonishment. Joe smiled and did it again, sending that same rush through him.

"Ah?"

"So far, so good," Joe murmured.

"What - what about the r-rest of me?" Because if Joe could make him feel like that with two fingers and a nipple - and oh, Dex had never known his nipples could feel like that or that a nerve went from them straight down to his dick - what would it feel like to have Joe's hand on his dick? Dex couldn't think of anything else and their hands tangled at his belt.

"Let me," Joe insisted, pushing his hands aside. "I want to - I want this, Dex."

The seriousness in his voice made Dex open his eyes again. Joe's hair had fallen across his forehead and his eyes were as bright as sunrise. "Oh, god, Joe."

"I want you to know I want this."

Dex swallowed and nodded. "Got it, Cap'n."

Joe smiled that patented smile and Dex, heart fluttering, had to smile back. Especially when he felt Joe slip his belt free. Buttons and zipper and then the sense of nothing but thin cotton boxers between him and the world made Dex moan. Joe's hand, a warm pressure, made him moan again, louder, and push his hips up into the uncertain touch. He reached down, eyes half-closed and glassy, and shaped Joe's hand around himself, encouraged him to squeeze, breathed out a sound of delight as Joe pulled gently on him through his boxers.

"Joe, they gotta come off," Dex finally groaned, thighs flexing under Joe's weight and fists tight in his blankets again.

"Y- yeah," Joe was breathless and Joe was clumsy as he pulled Dex free of the last of his clothes and Dex loved it. He pulled Joe's shirt free and wiggled it off his shoulders, both of them panting and making noises whenever their dicks - so hard, both of them - pushed against skin. Then, they were both naked and the whole lengths of their bodies touched, skin sparking like electricity.

The cot was narrow and that made them press together and Dex didn't mind that at all. He panted against Joe's neck, smelling cologne and motor oil and sweat. Joe's hands pressed through his hair, mussing it, then traced the lines of his shoulders, touch light as if he was unsure. Dex wasn't too sure himself but he knew he wanted to touch Joe everywhere. Every angle of Joe's body; the lines of his ribs, the turn of his elbow, coaxed Dex's hands on. He ran his hands down Joe's sides, thumb tracing a line from his nipples down.

"Dex," Joe shuddered his name, breath ruffling his hair, and Dex couldn't resist the shape of his throat. He pressed his mouth to skin; tasting salt, tasting Joe, riding the ripple and surge as Joe arched against him with a whimper, head falling back. His hands weren't tentative now, but hard, trying to drag Dex closer. Dex leaned in and licked the hollow of Joe's throat like he'd wanted to do for years. There were so many things he'd wanted to do and now he was trembling with the realization that he could do them. Because Joe would lose his plane before he'd lose him. Because Joe loved him, even without the words.

"Joe," he murmured, biting his collarbone. He shaped the angle of Joe's hips with his hot hands and stroked his thigh, feeling hair slide under his palm.

"Dex," Joe's voice was shaky but his hands were steady, stroking down the length of Dex's back, fingers kneading the muscles of his thigh, and when Joe's hand slid to palm his butt, Dex whimpered open-mouthed against Joe's throat. "So good - feels good. I want this. This -"

It was easier than Dex thought it would be, even in the tiny cot. He wondered though, what it would be like to have Joe in a big bed, fancy like in a hotel or a rich man's house. It would be nice but he really didn't care as much as he cared that Joe was here, now, breathing hard under his hands and touching him like he couldn't stop.

He dragged Joe onto him again, craving the weight and the way it pinned his dick between them. He was pulsing hard, almost hurting, and the feel of Joe's dick rubbing his made Dex thrust up. Joe rocked down and they clung together, breathing in harsh rhythm, moving together like the wind and water did. When Joe's teeth closed on Dex's earlobe, he nearly came.

"Joe - Joe," Dex gasped, and shifted his legs apart, holding on tight as Joe thrust against him, dick stroking over his own dick, balls tightening at the brush of Joe against him. He needed more, closer. He needed it all now and he pulled his knees up, lost for words himself, and stared into Joe's wild blue eyes. "I w - want, Joe, I want you to -"

Joe reared back, still twisting his hips as if he didn’t know how to stop, chewing restlessly on his lip. "I don't know how, Dex."

Dex smiled fiercely, sliding his tongue along his sweaty lip, grin widening when he saw Joe's eyes follow the movement. "We'll just have to experiment, Joe."

"Good thing you're a genius, Dex."

He had to find something slick and Dex climbed out of the cot, scrabbling hurriedly through his things.

"Get rid of the gum?" Joe asked behind him. Dex glanced around and had to stop and stare at Joe - in his bed. Joe in his bed running a hand down his body, watching him. Joe, hard, touching himself, eyes alight, flushed like he'd been drinking - like Dex made him feel drunk. Dex spat his gum into a wrapper because he was going to choke to death if he didn't.

He came back with the Vaseline, the jar chilly in his hand, but Joe was warm and Dex burrowed in next to him, licking his throat, his jaw until Joe fumbled for the little tub with a breathless curse.

"I want to do it," Dex whispered, scooping a dollop of thick paste onto his fingers. He stroked his hand down Joe's dick, smoothing his fingers along the sleek shaft, biting his lip as his own dick throbbed in sympathy when Joe twitched and moaned from his touch. The grease made Joe shine like a monument, like the best thing in the world. Dex couldn't resist pressing his thumb against the tip, feeling the twitch and tickle of liquid seeping from it. He also couldn't resist giving Joe a few more strokes when he made those sounds, when he sprawled limp on the cot, leaving Dex no choice but to lie on him and push his dick against his thigh. It was only because he wanted the rest so badly that he stopped.

"Dex?"

"C'mon Joe," Dex muttered, shifting them both so Joe was lying on him, greasy hand sliding on Joe's scarred back. His heart beat hard, and he pressed his face to Joe's neck, inhaling the smell of him, afraid and hungry. What if it hurt? What if Joe didn't like it? What if he didn't?

Joe came back to himself a little bit and Dex felt Joe's hand slide along his thigh. That hand was on his balls then, holding him there, and Dex arched and whimpered, dick feeling hungry and neglected so he had to reach down and touch himself. Nervous and eager both, Dex spread his knees again when he heard Joe breathe hard and tell him he loved watching him like that. The gentle tugging sent shocks all through him and Joe's hand slipped under his hip, lifting him. Then a greasy finger slid behind his balls to touch his hole, a cautious stroke, and drew a shocked cry out of him. It felt so good.

Joe seemed to know it and if Joe had never done this before, Dex couldn't tell. His hands were geniuses too; the strange slide of his finger inside Dex made him gasp, and his eyes flew wide to see Joe watching him, blue eyes black with hunger.

"You're hot," Joe said shakily.

"I’m burning, Joe," Dex gasped.

Joe's face was taut with concentration but Dex could hardly focus on that, not when he felt Joe's fingers slip free of his hole and then the hot, tentative pressure of his dick. He groaned in anticipation and Joe froze, eyes wide.

"No - " Dex gasped, desperate. "Don’t stop now."

"You - I'm not hurting you?" Joe's whisper was strained and Dex could feel the tight shivers in his arms and belly. He ran his hands down Joe's back, stroking the base of his spine hesitantly, then again when Joe made a little shocked sound then arched down onto him like he couldn't hold still.

"No, no - s'okay, Cap'n," Dex panted, lying a little because it did hurt a bit, but it felt like something that was going to feel a lot better in some mysterious moment. He didn't know how but he had faith in Joe and he wanted this. Dex pulled his knees up and something changed and there was room now, and heat and the amazing, intoxicating feel of Joe inside him. He moaned, head rolling on the pillow, all of him pliant and willing and open. Why had he been afraid of this?

Joe's head bent against his face, breath hot on his neck. Dex bit at the hair sliding into his mouth and licked Joe's ear. "Oh, yes - that's good. That's good now, Joe."

Joe settled onto his elbows, moving closer, tossing his head back to pant, eyes squeezed shut as Dex watched him, felt him move and saw the echo of what Joe was feeling cross his face like shadows on water. He liked it and Dex's hips angled up in answer. Joe's expression shifted with a gasp and Dex grinned fiercely and did it again.

"It's different," Joe said out of nowhere, sweat streaking his forehead as he settled into a hesitant rhythm. "I thought it would be the same as - you know - but it's not."

"Better?" Dex couldn't help but ask, breathless under him. The ache had passed and now there was this wonderful, full pressure. He felt stretched too far, beyond anything he'd known, like they'd flown off the map again. His hands slid up Joe's braced arms and locked on his biceps. Together. They would fly together.

Joe grinned, a sly smile that Dex felt with a shiver when Joe moved, arching his back and stirring his dick inside Dex like a master chef stirring a pot. "Just different. Better for you though, I guess."

"Well -" and Dex forgot what he was going to say, forgot every word he knew when Joe began to move. And he heard himself - high panting cries - and oh, now he knew why Polly had sounded just like that as Joe rocked above him and his dick slid home inside him over and over and over again. All he could think was, "Oh, god Joe - oh, god - don't stop." And it was pouring out of his mouth and he was begging like he'd sworn he'd never do for anyone but this was Joe and it was more than he could stand and the whole world was Joe. Inside him, around him, his thrusts - growing deeper and stronger - his breath harsh above him. Joe's body trembling against him.

"Better," Joe panted, only half-coherent, and his face was a mask of fierce delight. He moved like a song in the clasp of Dex's legs, which had risen to wrap hard around his waist, and the wiry muscles of his shoulders flexed against Dex's clinging hands as they moved in sweaty rhythm. "Yes - yes - better - Dex."

His name garbled like that. Like he'd never heard before and Dex was flying, jerking hard up, chin jolting into Joe's shoulder as his whole body squeezed around the hard, thrusting shaft of Joe's pleasure and he came. Joe collapsed on him with a shout; Dex grabbed his head, pulling Joe's face to his shoulder, desperately trying to muffle his cries as Joe's hips stuttered, the cot creaking, Dex still shaking and seeing purple lights, still throbbing as Joe surged forward and came in a spasm of shudders and frantic pumping hips.

They parted with a sticky noise and an ache Dex didn't expect, with Joe asking him nervously if he was alright.

"Okay, Ca - Joe," he said breath hitching. Dex wanted a piece of gum but didn't want to walk around just now. Instead he pushed in against Joe's side, inhaling the smell of him while Joe settled down - it was almost as soothing. Joe was tense, as if he was ready to jump up at any minute. Shyly, Dex ran a hand up his arm, loving the flushed warmth of his skin. Dex had done that. In the dimness, Joe's eyes seemed impossibly bright, fixed on his face and Dex wondered if he was thinking the same thing, I did that. He wondered if Joe liked the way he looked now, tumbled and spent because Dex sure liked the way Joe looked now. He wanted to make Joe look that way again. Soon.

END (101104)