Today’ Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt is ‘ex-‘. And we have internet this time! Woohoo! They actually sent someone out on Saturday to fix it last week. I was afraid we’d be internet-less until at least Monday. Which would have made me an antsy mess. But, it’s fixed. Something on the pole at the end of the driveway broke and had to be replaced. All better now, though. Not everything is better, though. One of the guys from the motorcycle club we ride with was involved in a hit and run accident Monday and passed away early Thursday morning. So, we have his funeral today, as well as a family reunion and my daughter’s birthday party tomorrow. Needless to say, my mind is kind of all over the place(which…isn’t all that different from any other time. Anxiety is *so* much fun).
Anyway, fiction helps me deal with all the craziness in my head. So, going back to visiting with Piers and Xavier from Defending the Heart. I’ve been working on Xavier’s back story this week and learning a lot more about him. And, damn, am I mean to my characters, especially during their back stories. Anyway…
“You always have an exit strategy, don’t you?”
Xavier glanced over at Piers, who was already setting up at his computer at the table they’d selected. “That’s what they taught us, isn’t it? Twelve years is hard to just shut away, now that we’re out.” He went back to cataloguing all the doors and the routes they could take to them. But, he kept Piers in sight from the corner of his eye. Part of him worried the man would disappear again if he lost sight of him.
His nickname of Ghost fit for more than one reason.
“There’s more to it than that, isn’t there?” He was tapping away at the keyboard now. “I noticed it all those years ago, too. When we first met at Basic. That was before they taught us anything but getting up at the crack of dawn.”
Xavier let out a soft snort of laughter at that and turned fully to Piers, even though he was still aware of what was going on around him. “You didn’t grow up in a farming community. I was already used to waking up then.”
“You’re changing the subject. You’re good at that, too.”
Xavier knew Piers was shifting the subject as well. This wasn’t just about knowing where doors were if they needed to make an escape. It was about them. “I never had a plan for exit, Piers. Things just…they happen.”
“You made me a promise and didn’t keep it. You had to know what would happen, X. Was that just easier than telling me you didn’t want to be with me?”
“That’s not the way it was,” he said, dropping his voice before people started looking at them. A cup hit against a table not far from them, and his heart jumped. His shoulders hunched up until he got his breathing under control again.
Piers’ gaze shifted to the noise then back to him. “You okay, X?”
“Fine,” he bit out. But, he couldn’t filter out any of the input from the room. It all crammed into his head until there wasn’t any room for his own thoughts. Piers’ large, warm hand covered his, and he jumped even higher. “Don’t.”
Piers withdrew his hand, but he just sat quietly for a moment. Then, he asked, “What’s wrong? You usually aren’t so jumpy.”
Xavier almost laughed at that. If only he knew. If only any of them knew. he couldn’t believe how well he’d hid it from his friends for so many years, not that all five of them had been together all that time. They each got out of the Marines at different times, except him and Piers. And it had always been him and Piers. Until he’d screwed things up. But, Piers was the one person who tore away all his defenses.
“I’m not jumpy,” he said, taking a deep breath and trying to force his nerves to settle. It was nothing he couldn’t deal with. he was always better when he was on a job and had something to funnel this into. “Let’s just get to work.” And he didn’t want Piers to know what he’d been before he’d learned to fight back.
Piers studied him for a moment then nodded and turned back to his computer. Xavier hated that he’d put that shuttered look in the other man’s eyes…yet again. But, it was better this way. He’d trusted someone with everything he was once before, and they’d used it to hurt him. He couldn’t risk becoming that victim again.