"It's not you, it's me," he says, and he's almost entirely sure the first part is completely true.
She shakes her head; she's seen this coming, he thinks, long ago enough to have resigned herself to it.
"It's not you, it's Kable," she says.
There doesn't seem much left to say after that, so he doesn't.
Simon waits with wishing himself a happy fucking birthday until it's the right date locally. It's not really a big deal; when you've got money and some smarts, you can pretty much do whatever you want anyway no matter how old you are, especially on-line - and Simon's never really cared much about anything that wasn't on-line.
Dad's promised him a surprise. Simon's not holding his breath, really. He strongly suspects it'll be a car or something, as if he's ever going to want to learn how to drive while needing to know all these rules there are when you're off-line. Like, super-boring.
[alert: doorbell] flashes briefly, before Simon clicks it away and logs out, wondering. Dear old dad showing up to hand over his present in person? Not fucking likely.
So then. Maybe his dad's not quite as uncool as Simon thinks he is. Maybe his present's actually going to be something sort of cool. Maybe -
And maybe not. "You're not a stripper, are you?" The idea is half-totally gross and half - well. Simon's never been cool with people perving on Kable or anything (it's a shooting game, all right? you want perving, get a fucking dating sim or something) but he gets where they're coming from, sort of.
Having actually talked to the guy doesn't help. Having heard the guy's voice, even if it was mostly to complain doesn't help. Maybe Sis has got a point when she says he should get out more, but then, where would he go? And why? There's plenty people to meet on-line.
"Why the fuck - do I look like a stripper to you?"
Everything's on-line when you know how to look for it. And Simon's good at looking for stuff. Like, superior good. He's seen Kable strip.
Well, a version of Kable. It wasn't a very good copy, and Simon felt kind of ripped off, after, so he slipped a little something-something into the site where they were showing it. Just deserts, and all that.
"Bet you could make a pretty good living that way," Simon says.
Kable stares at him like he's lost his mind. It kind of reminds Simon of his sister which is erk. Biggest turn-off ever.
"So uh did my dad pay you to come here or something?"
"No," Kable says, his tone calling Simon an idiot.
"It's my birthday today."
"You're not here for my birthday." It's official: he's a genius.
"Can we talk?" Kable asks, and Simon looks at his face and thinks 'fuck me', and then Kable's mouth does this ... thing that makes Simon wonder for just a moment if Kable's actually heard him, which would be sort of embarrassing, maybe, except that plenty of people say that stuff without meaning ... what it actually means.
Kable looks around Simon's room and says: "You've got someone to clean your room?" It sounds judgmental, like Simon's value as a human being is in some way related to whether or not he tosses his own dirty socks into the laundry bin.
"Sure." Simon doesn't see what the big fucking deal is.
"You need to get out of here," Kable says, and it sounds like a command. Like Kable.
Simon imagines what Kable would sound like ordering him to take off his clothes. (So what if he's perving on Kable, too; he's Kable's player. He's allowed to.) "Why?"
Again with the slightly hurtful, 'are you an idiot?' look. "Because you need to get a fucking life."
"Hey," Simon says. "Who do you think you - "
Kable rips open a closet full of perfectly folded clothes. "Remember what you told me back there?"
"In the game? Sure." Simon dreams about it, sometimes. A lot. He's been trying other games, even the stupid ones for kids. Not the same.
"You and I - we've been through a lot of shit together," Kable says, picking out a bunch of shirts seemingly at random and tossing them on the floor. Two pairs of jeans, some socks and other stuff soon follows. Simon wonders how he's going to be able to wear boxers when he knows Kable's hands have been on them.
"Time to add some more," Kable says. "If you're up for it, that is."
"So where are we going?" Simon asks on the third day.
Kable's car looks old and a bit beaten up, but solid. A bit like Kable himself, except that Simon doesn't think sex! whenever he's close to it. Unless Kable's in it, of course.
"Somewhere. Anywhere. Nowhere. Choose your pick," Kable says, which Simon takes to mean Kable doesn't really know; it's not about the destination, is what Kable's saying - it's about them. The trip. The company. Two of them against the world.
On the sixth day, they get to a hotel that's got a sign in the window. It says 'Cash Only'.
"Wait," Simon says, because seriously?
"I've got cash," Kable says. "It's not a problem." 'For me', his tone adds.
"But why would anyone - "
Simon's seriously getting to fucking hate seeing that expression on Kable's face. Stereotypes aside, most people don't actually want to have sex with people they consider to be idiots. Airheads, sure - stupid bitches and/or jerks, absolutely. Idiots, no - unless they're extraordinary good-looking and/or rich idiots, which, sure, Simon sort of is, but Kable not your average person.
"I'm taking you to a farmer's market tomorrow. You'll love it."
Big fucking surprise: Simon does not love the farmer's market.
(Except for the part where maybe he sort of does, just a little bit, because he's there with Kable, and if dragging someone along to look at real, live chickens doesn't count as going on a date, Simon doesn't know what does.)
"Tell me something," Kable says.
It's two AM and they're lying on two separate beds in a hotel room that doesn't even have air conditioning, and Simon keeps telling himself he wants to get back to his games. He's got some characters he was working on; quests and missions to go on.
"Do you ever - this is going to sound fucking weird."
"Try me," Simon says. His lips are dry. It's the heat. He's pretty sure by now Kable's not interested in having sex with him, but he's figuring that if they stick together long enough, then maybe. Well. Guys are supposed to need it, every now and then, right?
"Do you ever feel like you're still a player? My player?"
Tempting, to imagine he could make Kable do whatever he wanted. "No. Never." It wouldn't be cool at all, though. It would be wrong. Worse than that stripping club character look-alike.
Kable makes a thoughtful sound.
"Why?" Simon asks. "Do you?"
"Dream about it sometimes," Kable says, too casually. "It's not so bad. People do it sometimes, you know. Consensual. Let someone else call the shots for a while. It doesn't have to be - like it was."
"I've never had sex in my life," Simon says.
Kable's got a kid, he vaguely remembers. So, sex. With a woman, at least. Probably.
"I want to, though," he adds, figuring he might as well crash and burn all the way down. "With you."
Kable sighs. "Kid, you barely even know me."
"I know you're not some trigger-happy axe murderer."
"Yes. Some fucking glowing recommendation for someone to have sex with that is."
"So, what? You're not interested?" It's the time. The heat. That third beer he didn't finish last night. None and all of the above.
He can hear Kable's breathing. He's heard it go ragged in the game. Imagines it would sound much like that if Kable would actually -
"I am," Kable says.
Simon feels slightly light-headed. "So what's your fucking problem?"
"I want you to control me. Not all the time, definitely not all the time - whoever taught you how to drive should be fucking shot, but right now? I need it."
Simon decides his life sucks. "I've never had sex and you want me to tell you what to do? Are you fucking stupid?" He may not know a lot about sex (only everything that's on the internet, most of which is a truckload of garbage) but Simon knows people who do it for the first time don't have a fucking clue what they're doing. "Anyone's going to be controlling anyone, it's going to be you."
"Okay," Kable says.
On second thought, Simon's life is fucking awesome.
(Well, he deserves it, really. For looking at all those chickens.)