The First Time
What was he doing. What was he doing? The sad thing about being sassy and gay was that nobody would ever do him the courtesy of dispensing their sassy gay friend advice to him. And Shore Leave felt he could use it now.
Here he was, making out with a short, balding (tonsured my ass!), middle-aged magician.
“What am I doing? You… you’re sitting on my lap for Christ sakes!”
It was either that or strain his back leaning over to kiss him. He was just so short. Scrawny. Pot-bellied. Old. Not Shore Leave’s usual type. At all.
“What? You like me,” replied the Alchemist.
“Pffft. Do not.”
“That is a lie. I can tell – it’s totally one of my gifts.”
“Crappy gift, if you ask me.”
“Mmm, it comes in handy. Did you want to see some of my other gifts?” He teased before leaning forward to kiss him again.
Shore Leave did like him. Even though he wasn’t tall, young, or built. He was no Mile High, that’s for damn sure.
How did he even get into this mess? Guys who looked like Al just didn’t hit on guys who looked like Shore Leave. The SPHINX agent had been so surprised by Al’s bold come-on at the bar that he thought it might be interesting to spend a few minutes with the strange little fellow, just to see what he had to say.
Shore Leave kept meaning to get around to telling him ‘Sorry, you’re really not my type,’ but things kept progressing from there. Who knew the guy would be such a good conversationalist? Or a good dancer? Or, for that matter, such a damn good kisser? Admittedly, he was kind of cute, but not cute enough for Shore Leave to actually want to anyone to see them together.
Luckily (and surprisingly), they were alone in Shore Leave’s apartment now.
For some reason Shore Leave couldn’t imagine telling him to leave. He had a weakness for big noses, and in this case, the wives’ tale turned out to be true.
A few weeks later, despite being horribly razzed by his teammates at the SPHINX, Shore Leave still hadn’t had the heart to break it off. Their relationship was going so well that he was instinctively starting to pull away. Shore Leave wasn’t about to let himself be tied down, and he had to prove it, if only to himself.
The day after, Shore Leave was unaccountably annoyed.
“Are you okay?” asked Al, which only served to annoy him further.
“Yes. I’m fine,” Shore Leave replied testily. “But if you tell me I’m lying I won’t be.”
His eyebrows raised ever so slightly, Al shut his mouth and reached over to grab the salt, careful not to brush his food with the sleeve of those dorky robes Shore Leave hated so much.
“You look tired, that’s all. And grumpy.”
Shore Leave was tired because he’d been out last night with a hot young recruit. He was grumpy because now he felt guilty about it. He sucked down the last of his iced tea and tried to think of a graceful way to leave early.
“Made you work late again last night, did they?”
“Something like that.”
“Hmm. You’ve got a little… ah,” Al gestured to his neck.
Shore Leave craned his neck over to look down at his shoulder, but couldn’t see what Al was talking about.
Al leaned over and touched the neckline of his shirt, pulling it back ever so slightly.
“It’s a hickie.”
“It is not! It’s a, um, birthmark.”
Al put his hands on his hips. “Sweetie, I’ve seen you naked – I don’t need powers to know you’re lying. Was the sneaky sex so bad you don’t even want to admit to it?”
Shore Leave gestured to the waiter to bring their bill. It looked like this was going to be uglier than he thought.
“The sex was great, thanks. I was just trying to be polite by not mentioning it.”
“And lying about it? How is that polite?”
“Oh come on. A little lie never hurt anyone. Where does your boyfriend think you are right now anyways.”
“I told him I was going out for lunch with my hot new fling. What, did you think I was cheating on him?”
“Well, yeah. It was kind of a turn-on, actually.”
“I wouldn’t do that – didn’t I tell you how the truth it kinda like, my thing? And open relationships aren’t just for supervillains.”
Leaning back, Shore Leave crossed his arms. “Well excuse me if I’m not quite so open-minded.”
Al sighed and leaned forward. “Look. I’m not trying to put you on a leash, but if you’re gonna have a hot night with someone else, could you at least do me the courtesy of telling me? I like to know if my partners are sleeping around. You might be too young to remember, but there’s a reason that the second part of my quest is to find a cure for -”
“- fine, gramps! Thanks for the history lesson.” This was getting way too uncomfortable. Fishing a bill out of his wallet, Shore Leave paid his tab and got up to leave.
Lifting the covers, Shore Leave climbed back into bed with Al, curling behind him with is arm draped over his waist. They were both sweating and Al was half-asleep, but Shore Leave didn’t mind in the slightest.
They’d only been apart for about a week before Shore Leave showed up at the bar he knew Al liked to frequent. He was still miffed at Al, and Al was still annoyed at him, and the make-up sex had been fantastic.
“Did you… remember to call your boyfriend?” asked Shore Leave. He was just getting used to the idea of this anonymous third person in Al’s life – someone who was Al’s main focus, which meant that their own ‘relationship’ was more of a fling. It could still be an affair if it was out in the open. For Shore Leave it was definitely more fun that way.
“I didn’t call him. We broke up,” Al murmured sleepily.
Shore Leave’s eyes snapped open. “You what?”
“We’ve been having problems...” Al sighed and pulled Shore Leave’s arm further around himself. “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”
Pulling his arm away, Shore Leave propped himself up to look at Al.
“I thought you said he was cool with our little side-thing.”
Rubbing his eyes, Al pulled himself to sit up against the headboard. “He was. This isn’t about that. He… just doesn’t believe in my quest. Thinks I should get a job. He’s been hounding me about it for awhile, and I just decided enough was enough.” He reached out for Shore Leave’s hand, but Shore Leave pulled it away.
“You broke up with him?”
“Yeah, I did.” Al rubbed his eyes, sounding as though he regretted it already. “I’ll have to move out sometime soon, and I’m trying not to think about it.”
“Well, you’re not moving in here!” Said Shore Leave peevishly.
Al crossed his arms. “I didn’t ask to move in.”
“Where were you planning to go?”
“I don’t know! I’ll find a place. If worse comes to worse, I can always move to the suburbs with Byron, I guess.”
Shore Leave got out of bed and slipped into his bathrobe. He paced over to the window.
This was getting out of hand. Now that Al didn’t have anyone else, it might get around that they were… boyfriends. Despite Al’s apparent sincerity, the lingering suspicion that he might have broken up with his lover to be with him was just unacceptable. He was just getting too clingy, dammit! Something had to be done.
Shore Leave wondered if Al would be up to a late-night visit to his workplace. Once he ‘accidentally’ saw the place, Colonel Gathers would insist that his mind be wiped.
No harm, no foul.
The Second Time
While Brock carried Hank to his bedroom to sleep off the effects of the mind-wipe, Al put his hands behind his back and looked Shore Leave over in a frank, self-assured way. Coming from anyone else, it would have been downright lecherous. Al and his damned good-natured look.
“Okay, your turn big boy. Hop in.” Shore Leave braced himself whining or pleas, but Al hopped into the machine without complaint. He leaned over and lifted his eyebrows inquiringly.
“So, was I good?”
Shore Leave put his hands on his hips and rolled his eyes. “As a matter of fact, you were. Doesn’t change a thing, cupcake. Get ready for the brain bleach.” Stepping over to the control panel, Shore Leave pressed a few buttons to start the mind-wipe process.
“Then what was the real reason we broke up?” demanded Al just before the hatch slid down over him. “I could tell you were lying,” he shouted, his voice muffled by the closed lid.
Shore Leave glared at him through the glass.
“I won’t remember in a minute. You might as well tell me.” Al looked at him expectantly.
Shore Leave’s finger hovered over the ‘HATCH OPEN’ button for a moment. He took a deep breath and pressed ‘BEGIN MIND-WIPE’.
The Third Time
After the fight, when the last of the fly-ladies were dispatched, Al and Shore Leave snuck away from the hangar-bay prom to let Rusty clean up the mess he made.
Al leaned against the doorframe of the Venture bathroom humming ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ while Shore Leave tried to clean the unmentionable goo off of his second-best tux jacket.
“Let it soak. You won’t need it again tonight.” Al approached to put his hand on Shore Leave’s back, rubbing slow circles. “My place isn’t far – we can go and make up our own version of the Rusty Venture.” His sly smile crinkled the edges of his eyes. God, Shore Leave missed that. He sighed, then reached back to take Al’s hand off of him. He took Al by the shoulders.
“I’ve had a great night, Al. Really. But I’m got to tell you something.” Shore Leave took a breath and braced himself. He tried to gather all the thoughts that had been forming since the last time they’d ‘broken up.’
“I’m only gonna break your heart,” announced Shore Leave. It sounded infinitely cheesier out loud than it did in his head, so he was only half surprised when Al laughed in his face.
“You know I’m telling the truth,” insisted Shore Leave.
Al tried unsuccessfully to stifle his giggles.
“Seriously, I’m really… immature. And vain. You have no idea.” Shore Leave stepped back from Al, who was trying to lean on him while he laughed. “I’d be ashamed to be seen with you in public. And I’d cheat on you. And lie about it.”
Al’s laughter finally wound down. He wiped his eyes and smiled up at Shore Leave. “You weren’t ashamed to be seen with me tonight,” he stated simply.
“Well, no. But I was kinda drunk. And you were wearing that cute outfit.”
“I’ll try to wear it more often, then,” replied Al with a wink.
Shore Leave crossed his arms. “That’s not a long-term solution.”
Al smirked and shook his head. “Look, I know you’re telling me what you think is the truth, but I’m still not sure what you’re talking about. All I know is that we get along great, and I’d love it if you spent the night with me.” Al reached up to put his hand on Shore Leave’s shoulder.
Warmed by the affection in Al’s gaze, Shore Leave sighed. “If I screw up, how many more chances will you give me?”
“As many as you need,” replied Al.
The man was just too kind for his own good – it made Shore Leave want to slap some sense into him. But who was he to refuse an offer like that?
“Well, let’s hope the third time’s a charm,” he said as he leaned over for a kiss.