“So what shall it be?”
“Eh?” The Midnighter was sitting on the sofa in their quarters. Behind him lay innumerable stars in the blood-red ether; each of those stars was the mind of a genius of untapped potential burning out in the face of the infinite mundanity of the human condition. And The Midnighter saw none of it, just as he had heard none of the words issuing from the Apollo’s mind; his perfect strategic mind was entirely concentrated on the tactical removal of the sun-god’s sweatpants and the revelation of the Olympian flesh that lay beneath.
“I said,” said Apollo with a slow and meticulous care born of the deep irritation that was beginning to burn, “What. Shall. It. Be?”
“I thought you had this all figured out. I’m off-duty, you’re off-duty, so we’re going to vegetate on the couch and admire Patrick McGoohan’s ass all night.” A small smile danced incongruously beneath the mask.
“Yes,” said Apollo, his radiant glow bouncing off the DVDs in his hands, “but we’ve got a complication here. Do we stick with the plan, or do we watch the mystery DVD Angie stuck in the box instead of Fallout?”
“Well, let’s see, it’s one of those computer-burnt things and it’s got “porn” written on it in magic marker” Apollo waved the disc around wildly and daggers of light danced across the room.
“So it’s do we stare at Patrick’s ass or work out some interrogation techniques that would actually have him begging for his mommy…”
“…or try to work out the rules of Kosho again…”
“Fuck that. There are no rules. They were out of their tiny minds on acid and had access to a trampoline… no mystery there.”
“…or do we watch this handy DVD Angie’s so kindly provided us with?” Apollo smiled that beaming innocent smile that totally failed to take in The Midnighter.
“You’ve taken it straight out of my mouth,” Midnighter leaned forward and his voice changed becoming at once grim and slightly concerned, “but Angie… she’s been kinda frustrated on the sex front lately. Isn’t this a bit cruel. A betrayal. Look, I can think of a dozen ways to get into her quarters and put it back…”
“Lighten up, Mid! You sound like an old woman. Correction; an old spinster woman who blacks out all the rude words in library books… It can’t be a mistake. She has nine pints of intelligent machinery to stop that happening.”
“You should listen to you, sometimes, half a computer in your head, but you still suck when it comes to people. If it weren’t for me, we still would know precisely nada about the mess Jenny Sparks has dragged us into. Sure, you know what some of the team are capable of, but you’ve got no idea what makes them tick.”
“Clockwork. Nanites. A wish for a finer world… I used to work in fucking intelligence so at least credit me with some. Why the fuck would she do it?”
“Why don’t we find out? Nothing bad’s going to happen. Not unless it’s a home-movie of Bendix’s personal midget orgies…” Apollo turned to load the disc into the sleek silver player. They’d got a “real” player and a “real” tv because Midnighter had “security concerns” about using The Carrier’s own systems. Somebody could find out, he had said, what they were watching. As if all-night Buffy marathons were some deeply reprehensible act that would earn them the unending contempt and dark looks of the rest of the team.
“… I didn’t think Bendix was the sort of man to be into midgets…”
“…but then maybe the midgets were into him…”
“Was that meant to be a joke?”
“Maybe. But go on, try it, try imagining Henry Bendix having sex… or even just jerking off… You can’t can you? It’s like trying to imagine your parents having sex…”
“I don’t know. I can’t remember. Having parents. Getting embarrassed by them. Anything.”
“Take me on my word, it’s impossible, the brain just seizes up. But it’s like that with Bendix.”
“They fuck you up, your mum and dad”
“Where do you remember that from?”
“I don’t know. English lesson, maybe?”
“I really doubt it. It’s impossible to imagine Bendix having sex. I’m already disturbed enough about Bendix without half my fucking brain thinking he’s my father.”
“You what?!” The corona of light about Apollo’s head grew momentarily brighter and Midnighter winced.
“You know what I said when I smashed that forcefield? About tools?”
“Took me about half a week of brooding to realise. My dear old dad didn’t say that. Fuck, I don’t even remember my father. That was Bendix.”
“Oh” Apollo was lost for words and he knew Midnighter only wanted him to listen. The alternative was that Midnighter would just keep brooding for the next week or so.
“Precisely: Oh. Fuck. Makes you wonder, what exactly he did to our heads. Did he want to make us love him? What the fuck else did he do?”
Apollo revised his previous opinion; this was getting dangerous. Time to kill the topic, before it killed The Midnighter, or more to the point, killed any chance of sex with The Midnighter for a very long time. How long would it take Midnighter to brood that one out, he wondered, days, months, years even? And if he kept on brooding about what Bendix tuned their minds to do, how long before he started having doubts about them, “Apollo and The Midnighter”, about how well they balanced each other out, how perfectly they were in love, everything.
And so Apollo lightly said, smiling his most irrestisable smile, “Maybe, he is your father.”
“Bendix? My father? Are you sure you’re not taking the Patrick McGoohan emulation too far? You haven’t been pestering The Doctor for some lysergic acid diethylamide?”
Objective achieved, thought Apollo, and people wonder why Bendix put me in charge of the team. Now he just had to brazen this one out, “Yeah, maybe he turned his little boy into his fantasy perfect soldier. Planning to turn him towards the Dark Side of The Force and that, but you were too good and virtuous for that, and what he’d actually done was give you the ability to kick his ass…”
He didn’t get any further. “Too much Star Wars. It’s rotted your brain. That’s it, I’m cancelling your Lucasnet subscription.”
“You can’t!” Apollo cried in mock horror, “George Lucas is my favourite twisted creative genius. If I could choose my own evil genius creator, it would be George Lucas!”
“Does that make you Jar Jar?”
Apollo slumped with his arms folded over his broad chest and a sulky pout on his face. “Take that back! Or I’ll, I’ll… never sleep with you again.”
“Like you’d manage that,” snorted The Midnighter, “Okay, consider that taken back. Now are we going to watch the porn you’ve twisted my arm into seeing, or are we just going to bitch about Episode I?”
“Porn! Porn! We’re going to laugh at ladies with boob jobs and plumbers with dodgy moustaches!”
“I think things might have moved on a bit since then. If you want to laugh at women with breast enlargements, why don’t you go and have a giggle at Shen? I’d like to time how long before she tries to disembowel you.”
“What do you think she did? Held her breath? Invested in a wonderbra? Honestly, tabula rasa has a lot going for you, but an understanding of sex isn’t one of them.”
“Tabula what? Is she like Pamela Anderson or something?”
There was an uneasy silence.
“Hit the play button, Apollo, it doesn’t work by telepathy.”
In a dark, candlelit room, two men stood against a red background, one of them was completely naked except for a slick sheen of baby oil, the other was wearing a pair of tight black jeans. The camera panned out. There was a bed covered in a red velvet bedspread and tightly drawn curtains. They looked furtive, nervous even.
“Are they waiting for the woman with the big boobs? Maybe she’s delivering a pizza to fund her way through college.”
“Apollo, I don’t think there are going to be any naked women in this kind of movie.”
“It’s not porn?”
“I mean this isn’t that sort of porn. Woman-free-porn.” Midnighter laboured, “You know…”
“Oh. That sort of porn. Waitaminute, this is Angie’s DVD, what would she be doing with a disc full of hot, sweaty men?” Apollo paused a moment as reality dawned upon him and his mind found there a possible reason, “Angie’s a fag hag. She’s secretly fascinated by hot gay men. That’s why she’s so nice to you, and tells your all her relationship problems.”
“It’s that, or that because we’re only stable monogamous couple on this interstellar flying gin palace, she thinks, we’ve forgotten how to have sex, what with all the movie nights in and sitting in the observation bay with popcorn, and your Ikea catalogue habit. It’s just a nice, friendly reminder: this is how you do it, boys.”
“So this is not what we thought it was. You still want to watch this?”
“Why not? It’s not as if I’ve never…”
“Yeah” Apollo’s voice sounded rather small
“I forgot. Tabula Rasa. You’ve got less memories than me. Anything beyond the basic isn’t there. Fuck, the only reason I remember is the gayteam getting drunk and having a redubbing porn movies session. It’s filed in with the stealth fighting methods. One moment I was fighting a hundred cloned lackeys, next moment I was fighting a hundred cloned lackeys with a porn movie on rewind in my head. With a soundtrack by half a dozen stoned commandos. It threw me some. Apollo, it’s fine, you said it’ll be a laugh, and there’ll still be dodgy moustaches.”
Apollo looked pensive. Midnighter added, “It’s not as if an old dog can’t learn some new tricks.”
“Old woman, you mean,” smiled Apollo, brightening somewhat and warming up to the idea.
“Hey, I taught you all you know, you fucking know-all!”
“Yeah, tabula rasa, right. And how do you know that?”
“You screaming like a fucking virgin seems to cover it.”
“That’s an oxymoron. Maybe I was faking it.”
The guys on the screen had finally got down to it after a surprising amount of talking.
“Now, that’s what I call faking it. Apollo, I wouldn’t have you any other way.”
“That could get boring, you know, after the novelty wears off.”
“I meant your personality, you moron, not the position!”
“This is giving me ideas.”
“I think that was the idea”
Suddenly the guys on the screen stop. And then…
“Nazis with giant dildoes. Now, that’s class. Why the fuck are there Nazis in this?”
“Maybe Angie was trying to guess what turned you on. Sadism, violence, leather…”
“Shut the fuck up,” The Midnighter was feeling more than a little uncomfortable.
“Mid, how many ways have you thought up to kill all the Nazis with one tacky dildo so far?”
“Four hundred and nineteen,” grumbled Midnighter, who was hoping the Nazis were some hallucination bought on by Apollo’s cooking, because this was getting disturbing.
Suddenly all the Nazis were trying to look very very afraid, the one on the left was failing miserably. And the camera swung around then…
“Holy Fuck!” cried Apollo and The Midnighter and they stared at each other.
A guy in a strangely familiar leotard and a blond wig intoned “Aha fascist scum! You didn’t count on A-pole-o and The Allnighter disturbing your fun. We fight for Truth, Justice and Lots Of Sex!” The Allnighter executed a wobbly high kick and the first Nazi fell down clutching his elbow, which was surprising given that the kick was aimed at his stomach.
“I don’t think I can believe this is happening!”
“How hard did they have to search until they found somebody with “porn star” and “martial arts” on his résumé, because they should’ve looked harder. Did you see that kick? A granny on a zimmer frame could do better! On valium! How am I meant to keep my reputation with bollocks like this going round?”
The Allnighter picked up one of the Nazis by the collar of his greatcoat and began to whisper in his ear, “I’ve already thought up a hundred ways to shag you. Before this fight even started, you lost. I’ve already fought you a million times in my head. Are you feeling lucky, Fritzi?”
“Can I sue these bastards? Do you think Jenny will let me go round their houses and beat the shit out of them?”
“It’s just like Saturday Night Live all over again. Calm down, Mid, it’s only a movie.”
“I wouldn’t fuck Nazis, what do they think I am…”
“I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about fucking Nazis…”
The dark haired guy turned to the impostors and asked “Our heroes! How can we ever thank you?”. A-pole-o smirked, “I think we know a way.” Everyone smiled. Even the Allnighter smiled his best attempt at “evil bastard”.
“This is fucking surreal. How did a nice girl like Angelina Spica find trash like this?”
“I said: Fag Hag. Albeit a young and perky one who must have better things to do with her time. Like macramé.”
“What was she thinking?”
“She thought we’d find it amusing. Probably. Mid, it’s only a movie.”
The Allnighter was ditching the spandex, but keeping his mask on.
“I’d keep my mask on too, if I was in this rubbish.”
“You keep your mask on anyway.”
“When have I ever had sex with my mask on?” cried an outraged Midnighter, “I might be a killer stealth soldier and occasional sadistic interrogator, but since when have I kept my mask on with you?”
“Last week in the conference room just before debrief ring any bells?”
“Oh. Fuck. That.” intoned the Midnighter blankly. It was all coming back to him. “I always wondered why it was called debriefing. What if the rest of the team had come in, I’d have felt… naked… without my mask.”
“Do I look like I’m complaining? I loved it.”
“Did you? Then we’re going to have to do that more often.” The Midnighter grinned and leant over to try and grope Apollo.
By the time they looked up again, the Allnighter had ditched his pants. He was still wearing his boots, much to the bemusement of our heroes.
“Not bad. I’ve got no complaints there. Not that he looks much like me.”
“That’s because you’re an ugly scarred monster who hides behind large amounts of black leather.”
“Who needs enemies…”
“When you can have hot sex with me?”
“You offering? I was only doing the movie night thing because you wanted to.”
“I want to see what happens next, first. It’s doing what Angie thought it would do though. It’s kind of educational, in a here’s how not to do it way.”
“I don’t think they’ve put much thought into how to get out of spandex in a hurry. Not that you ever have problem, you just wreck yours. They probably have to get the deposit back on those.”
There was silence.
“Apollo. Apollo. Earth calling Apollo.”
Apollo just pointed at the screen.
“Yeah he’s big isn’t he?”
The Midnighter held Apollo in his arms and with pinpoint precision hit the remote.
“Makes my eyes water really. I mean, that can’t be comfortable. And I bet he has a tough time buying sexy underwear. Come on, Apollo, I like you just as you are. Christ he’s only big, it’s not as if he knows how to use it like you do. And you know what, you’re my guy, not him. We belong together Apollo, we fit together, we’re perfect together. And them, they’re just going to be fucking another guy in the morning, they’ve got nothing on us, lover.”
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