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The Gambler, Part Two

Reply to Livia or visit her website

Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list June 27, 2001


        Kyle had good taste, I had to admit. The Morgana's lobby was fantastic. There were huge trees in planters, fake vines snaking along the walls in exotic patterns, and bright tropical flowers blooming everywhere. Kyle snagged a free Coke from a cocktail waitress in a frilly sarong and headed straight for the blackjack tables. I asked for a glass of water, and parked myself by the slot machines, feeding them quarters just to hear them play music at me. After about ten minutes that got old, and needless to say I wasn't making any money, so I gave up and wandered around the casino for while.

        Out behind the slot machines, there was a doorway leading out to a huge, lush garden area with a pool for the guests who were staying in the hotel above the casino. Artificial waterfalls filled the air with soft rushing white noise, and I drifted out, into the warm, peaceful night. I sighed, relaxing a little as I realized that I was actually alone in a *quiet* place for the first time all day. And it had been one long day.

        Farther into the garden, I found a carved stone bench hidden behind a vine-laden trellis, and sat down. Leaning back, I closed my eyes and just breathed. Inside, it was overly air-conditioned and everything smelled like sweaty metal. Out here the night was soft and warm, filled with the perfume of tropical flowers and fresh grass.

        I wondered what everyone else was doing. Maria had been talking earlier about finding a karaoke bar and performing a few encores. Max and Liz probably found someplace quiet to sit and avoid eye contact. Tess had told the story at dinner of her failed attempt to get into the casino, but maybe now with Isabel along instead of Liz "We are seventeen" Parker, she'd finally be able to get in and lose all her money playing pointless games just like the rest of us.

        Except Kyle, of course.

        Kyle was ahead of the game, thirteen hundred dollars and probably more by now. Seeing as how he hadn't spent any time this weekend in jail or the video arcade, that meant he was probably having the best time in Vegas of all of us. He even looked the part. The suit Maria had bought him, and the sleek way he'd combed his hair back for dinner-- it made him look like one of those guys in a James Bond movie. Maybe a little younger, but just as polished. Watching you, with that sharky smile and narrow eyes that took in more than they gave away...

        "Damn it," I said out loud, not caring if anyone heard me. I opened my eyes, then squeezed them closed again. It didn't help.

        I could still see Kyle.

        I'd never told anyone in Roswell about my feelings, my *attraction* to guys. For years I'd even tried to keep it a secret from myself. I kept my eyes to myself in the locker room, I joined in the other guys' assessments of who was a babe, who was hot. But I never felt comfortable faking it, and over the years it was just easier to hang out with Maria and Liz. They didn't expect me to be the macho guy, the manly man.

        Then, almost a year and a half ago, I'd finally saved enough money to get my own computer. My parents trusted me; I'd never really given them any reason not to. They probably never even thought of telling me not to go to porn sites, or any other website with questionable content.

        It took me weeks before I mustered up the courage to explore. I even remember the first phrase I typed into my favorite search engine: "gay teenager."

        Gay.

        I was gay.

        Cyberspace was where I could escape after a long day of being a skinny band geek. I read voraciously about other guys' experiences, their problems and successes. Their lives. For the first time being gay didn't seem like an affliction. For the first time I could actually think the word "gay" to myself without a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I started being more assertive at school, more assertive with Liz and Maria. When I thought they were keeping secrets from me, I confronted them. I demanded to know the truth.

        Maybe, secretly, I wanted them to confront me, too. Oh, I had a million excuses for not telling them myself. Like "it's not the right time." Or "they wouldn't understand." Or "I don't want *everyone* to know." But those were just stupid excuses. I knew for a fact that Liz and Maria were trustworthy. If I needed a reminder, I only needed to remember how closely they'd guarded Max, Michael and Isabel's secret. Even from me.

        I sighed, thinking of Isabel.

        I liked her. I did. She was maybe the only person in Roswell as lonely as me, as hidden as me, as twisted up on the inside. But besides that, we had absolutely nothing in common. It didn't make a lot of sense, but I was still thrilled that a girl as gorgeous and popular as Isabel would want to spend time with me. Like maybe it meant I wasn't a total freak.

        Never underestimate the power of denial. And loneliness, of course. Maria and Liz were in relationships, and I was tired of being on my own. But it didn't work out, of course, and we were going to be better off as friends. I hoped so, anyway.

        "You *hate* Vegas, don't you?"

        I opened my eyes to see Kyle, leaning against the trellis, his drink held casually in one hand. His jacket fell away from his chest, revealing the slim lines of his body. I looked away, out into the gardens. God, I was in so much trouble.

        "No, I love Vegas," I replied quickly. "It's the original city of glamor and romance. Joan Crawford was married in Vegas. And Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward." Oh, god, I was babbling. I knew I shouldn't have picked up all those stupid brochures. It was just-- Kyle. We'd sort of bonded, two weeks ago when we'd been trapped in that cave. I'd gotten over the fact that he was a jock. Now he was just Kyle. Which made me nervous in a whole new way.

        "Not to mention the passionate union of Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie." Kyle said, sarcastic as ever. He sat down at the other end of the bench and tipped his head back, breathing deeply just as I had done.

        "Angelina Jolie was married in Vegas?" Great. So we'd bonded. Did that mean I was going to have to spend time with Kyle on a regular basis? Or was he just hanging out with me because I was the only other human guy on the Vegas trip? I didn't know which possibility freaked me out more.

        "Yeah, where were you? It's an official day that will live in infamy for all red-blooded American males," Kyle said distantly. Sliding down a little, he stretched his legs out across the path and crossed his ankles.

        "I guess I didn't get the memo." I said.

        We sat in silence for a while, listening to the waterfall. Close to drifting off, I watched the reflected light from the pool playing over Kyle's face in waves, glancing away whenever it looked like he was about to open his eyes.

        "So," I finally said, "how'd you make out inside?"

        "Made three hundred bucks," he said proudly, sitting up a little.

        "I guess it is your lucky night."

        He smiled, and shrugged. "Better than being trapped in a cave."

        "Definitely."

        "You know you're totally wrong about your statistics thing," he said, turning his head, and he smiled at me, almost fondly. Almost the same way he'd looked at Tess... but not quite. "You're in fast track math, aren't you?"

        "What?" I said. No. It couldn't be. Kyle couldn't be hanging out with me because he wanted... No. He'd changed a lot over the past year, but I'd chalked that up to Max saving his life and the whole redneck Buddhism thing. "Well, yeah. So you'd think I'd be better at this."

        "No, actually I think that's what's hanging you up. See, it's not about math," Kyle explained. His voice got a lot more like his dad's when he was tired, I noticed. Rusty and more drawling. "It's about instinct, being in tune with yourself. There's a flow in everything. Zen is about finding the flow, going with it."

        I nodded, and then Kyle licked his lips thoughtfully. Leaning over, he caught my chin in his hand, a strange, urgent look in his eyes. I froze, wondering stupidly what I'd done to piss him off, and he pressed his mouth against mine, lips moving in a clumsy but unmistakable kiss. He backed off, and I sat still. He stood, folded his arms and stared down into the pool and muttering something to himself, and I watched him, my eyes wide and my heart pounding.

        "I," I cleared my throat and tried again. "Kyle?"

        "Are you mad?" he muttered, not looking back. "'Cause if you're pissed I wouldn't blame you. Really. I just--"

        "Kyle, shut up!" He looked at me, startled, and I took his arm and pulled him to sit back down on the bench. "Why... you're not..." He looked away, refusing to meet my eyes, and I stopped, my heart pounding. "I mean, you're *not,* are you?"

        "I don't know," he said, looking over my shoulder, then straight into my eyes. I knew the look on his face like I knew my own face in the mirror. He was scared as hell. "I suspected," he said scratchily. "For a while. I never let myself get close. To anyone. And then... when I almost died... it was like..." He took a breath, setting his jaw a little. "I always avoided you before, when I was going out with Liz. And I think I just figured out why."

        "You were scared," I said. It was all starting to make sense now.

        "Yes!" he said. "I thought people would... that they'd be able to see... But ever since that *fucking* cave I can't get you out of my head. I don't care any more, Alex, I think... Jesus, I think you're beautiful," he said, and his whole face went red.

        I pushed him back against the trellis. Leaves rustled quietly in the breeze as I kissed him softly. He tasted sweet-and-sour, like some kind of liquor, and not the champagne we'd sipped during dinner. But the kiss was better this time, slow and soft. His hands trembled as they came up, under my jacket, to smooth the material of my shirt against my back.

        "*You* were wrong." I said. He smelled great, clean and masculine and just the littlest bit sweaty.

        "I... about what?"

        "This time an all-or-nothing gambit beat the odds." I laughed against his ear and he shuddered all over.

        "It was a zen thing," he argued, and then pushed me back to look at me. I reached out to push his hair back off his forehead, and he grinned, half-embarrassed. "What... what about this, Alex? What kind of thing is this?"

        "I like you." I said, and he nodded. "But I know it's hard. To change the way you look at yourself, think of yourself. I want, I mean, I'd like to do... whatever you're okay with doing."

        "Okay." Kyle smiled, just a little, and lifted a hand to cup the back of my neck. His thumb moved, brushing the top of my spine. He grinned when I shivered and ducked my head. "You tell me. What's fun to do in Vegas?"

        I took a deep breath. "Somewhere in this city... Maria's singing karaoke."

        "What else?"

        "The Mirage has an outdoor volcano display that actually erupts every fifteen minutes."

        He nodded, moving his leg so that his knee touched mine, warm through the thin material of our dress slacks. "What else?"

        "The Flamingo has... uh." I shivered. "Live... live flamingos."

        Kyle stopped. "Oh, now you're just making stuff up."

        "No, it's true." I pulled a few brochures out of my jacket pocket, shuffled through them and showed him. "See?"

        "Live flamingos *and* penguins." he read, eyebrows raised. "Huh." Then he took a deep breath and looked up at me. "We could do that. Or we could get a room." His voice was low, and his knee was touching mine again. "We could get a room right here."

        I looked at him. I could still taste the sour tang of his mouth. "Kyle... okay. Just how drunk are you?"

        "I had one rum and coke." he said flatly. "I'm not drunk." He put a hand next to my collar, fiddling with my tie a little. "This... this red is your color."

        "Maria says I'm a winter."

        "You're a good kisser," he said, smiling crookedly. "I want to..." He kissed me again. Harder this time. His hands slid up my sides, an almost arrogant touch, like he knew what he was doing to me. God, how had Liz ever said no to this guy?

        Pulling away, I stood up and held out a hand. "Some money, uh, give me some money."

        Kyle nodded, pulling a shiny money clip from his pocket. He shelled out a few hundred dollars and slipped the money into my palm. His hand was trembling slightly as it brushed against mine.

        "Wait ten minutes." I said, transferring the money into my pocket. "Then go to the desk, ask for a room key." I smiled. "It'll be under Tom Collins."

        I walked out of the garden, and didn't look back. As I pushed open the door to enter the casino again, the air conditioning spilled over me like a wave, making me shiver as I found myself back in the flashy, glaring, brightly lit world. It was like walking back into reality, coming out of a dream.

        It had to be a dream. It was too crazy to be real. Kyle wanted me. It pounded in my brain as I checked into the Morgana, arranging with the clerk to hold a key in reserve. Kyle wanted me.

        No, I thought to myself, riding up in the elevator. Maybe it was crazy, but it wasn't a dream. I could still feel his hand on the back of my neck, the warmth, the callus on his trigger finger from sharpshooting. It was real, it was happening to me, and I'd be a fool to walk away from it.

        Kyle wanted me.

        (continued in part three)

Continue to Part Three

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