Alexander had Hephaistion, his alter ego, a second self. But what if Hephaistion already had an alter ego? Not outside--in. A man's alter ego could make him do strange things. Run, hide. Lie.
Whenever Clark lied, Lex had two choices: believe or accept. He had one face for both choices, one smile. Sometimes he hid the lie from himself. But lies, like family, couldn't be shaken.
Funny, his father being the bald-faced liar, and he the master of splitting hairs--for whenever Clark smiled, Lex felt buoyed by myths instead of lies. Nice distinction.
Legends weren't born, but invented.
Jack never checked out guys. He'd trained himself not to at fourteen. A schoolyard brawl, jeered names. Never again.
So he didn't check out Daniel. Nope. No way.
Daniel was a team member, a subordinate, oh so very wrong, yadda yadda. Which of them was the straighter arrow, Jack didn't know. But Daniel was off-limits.
But as Daniel changed, year by year, Jack realized he'd been bullshitting himself. The more competent, soldierly, and distant Daniel got--and older--the more Jack looked. Discreetly. Covertly. Apparently he'd just needed icing on the cake.
I'm a lousy commander, he thought. Between looks.
"That's not quite true, Ray." Fraser took the ice cream cone without breaking cadence. "Inuit blanket-tossing traditionally used walrus skin--"
"And I care deeply, Fraser." Ray walked away, knowing Fraser would fall into step. "I may even write a book someday: *Everything You Didn't Wish You Knew About Inuit Blanket-Tossing*. Could make me famous."
That gave Fraser no pause. "I have reading material--"
"Your ice cream's melting."
"So it is." A silence, then: "Don't look now, Ray, but I think that's our perp."
Ray looked--sideways. "'Perp'?"
"That's hot, Frase. Say that again."
A sleepy slur came from the pillow, too amused. "Don't worry. I'll be silent as the grave, mate."
Norrington rolled onto his side, eyes shut with shame. But shame shouldn't be so exquisite. Shame shouldn't triumph over discipline and decency. He was brought low by his weakness.
"And dear Elizabeth--why, nary a peep will she ever--" Sparrow unslit one eye, studied the sudden knife at his throat. Looked up. "Nary a peep." So soft.
"Good to know, Mister Sparrow."
"Now, now, don't stand on ceremony." Serious, or perhaps mocking.
But Norrington was resolute. Even laying, he would stand.
In childhood he'd learned Draco's sneers, the crooked cruelty of his face. Grown up, the other man seemed drained of venom. A pale snake, supple and jewel-eyed. And tired. Even more tired than Harry, it looked like.
"You didn't have to come," Harry said uncomfortably.
"The great Harry Potter twitched a finger." Draco tilted his head. "Here I am."
"You look--" Unwell.
"What do you want?"
"I've none left."
The scars suggested that was true, and Harry's shoulders sagged. "Sorry. I'd just hoped--"
"I have other things, though."
That proved true in time. And so did Draco.
"It meant most to me that you...chose difficulty over ease." Remus smiled. That too was difficult.
Sirius shook his head, gaze fixed. "But I didn't. It was easy to run with you. Wild, happy."
Remus turned his head to avoid that gaze, which stirred what was wildest in him. He'd thought it wrong for so long, it couldn't right itself now. "We risked everything and everyone who--"
"And we grew up, outgrew that danger."
How could he look so free, Remus wondered. So much freer than himself. "Do you really believe so?" he asked softly.
"I believe...in this. Us."
Happy holidays. :)