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The Gambler, Part Three

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Posted to the RoswellSlash mailing list June 27, 2001


        The room was small and chilly. There was a small closet near the door, and a queen-size bed with its head against the wall. I slipped off my suede jacket and hung it up, then shivered and crossed to the far wall, where I knelt between the wall and the bed to adjust the air conditioning. Then I pushed the heavy drapes aside to look out the window. I could half-see the gardens below, the blue glow of the lighted pool. I could see a hundred glossy windows in the hotel next door, some lit up, most not.

        I wondered who was in those rooms. Families on vacation. Just-married couples. A bunch of kids on a crazy-ass vacation. Was there anyone else, at this very instant, looking out their window, wondering how the hell they'd gotten to this spot, in this place, at this time? Someone who hadn't planned to come to Vegas, hadn't even thought about it eight hours ago, and now they were here, about to spend the night with someone they never thought would look at them twice.

        The electronic lock clicked and I started. I looked over my shoulder and watched Kyle, framed in the doorway. He closed the door, tossing his key card onto the dresser by the door.

        "That wasn't ten minutes," I said, and suddenly I couldn't get enough air. I came away from the window and loosened my tie, trying to look casual.

        "You're the one that's good at math." Kyle leaned back against the door and slipped his hands into the pockets of his slacks, watching me in the dim light. "You know," he said, "I heard that if you're in a dangerous situation with another person, if you might die, you form an intense bond with them. Might even end up having sex. I mean, when you wouldn't normally."

        I stopped, halfway done pulling my tie off.

        "I don't think it's true, though," Kyle said. "I mean, if it were, I'd be here with Max Evans."

        "Oh." I said, and finished pulling off my tie, dropping it on the dresser.

        "Yeah." Kyle shrugged out of his jacket, hung it up in the closet, then took another step closer to me. "So..."

        "Did you really have sex with Liz?" I asked.

        "Did you really have a Swiss girlfriend?" he asked. His face didn't give away a thing. "No, Swedish," he corrected himself.

        "I asked you first," I said, and he narrowed his eyes. Sometimes Kyle looked a lot like his dad, too-- I could almost see him catching on to me.

        "Did you have a Swedish *boyfriend*?"

        "So then you *didn't* sleep with her."

        "Look, I'm trying to be a gentleman." He sighed and sat down on the bed, then flopped down on his back and stared up at the ceiling. "If you want to know what happened, you gotta ask Liz, man."

        "Then you didn't," I said, and pulled off my jacket, leaving it on the dresser before I crawled onto the bed. He looked up at me, and I touched his face, making him twitch. He was blushing. "You're nervous."

        "Maybe," he said, and touched my lips curiously. His fingers traced where he'd kissed me, trailing sensation like fire.

        I leaned back a bit on one elbow, pressing my lips together, and looked at him. Who knew, maybe Michael had really been on to something with the Vegas aliases he'd handed out. Because I didn't feel like Alex Charles Whitman, geek and proud of it. Not here in this strange room, in my tailored shirt and slacks, reclining next to this beautiful stranger. And Kyle didn't seem like the Kyle Valenti that I knew. I knew that boy from a distance. I knew him as a blue and yellow blur at a wrestling match or a football game. I knew him from Liz, telling Maria stories about watching him puke after a beer blast, or how he obsessively lined up his sports trophies.

        The boy lying across from me, with his shirt rumpled and untucked, his tie loosened, his hair slicked back away from his face, was strangely beautiful. The sharp angle of his chin was an obvious challenge, and his earring glinted like a beacon. He arched an eyebrow at me. "You going to do something, or you just gonna look?"

        I blinked at him, at the semi-nervous strain in his voice. Kyle wanted *me* to take the lead? I wasn't the experienced one here. I mean, even if he hadn't slept with Liz, there were always girls that hung around him and his friends. I'd just assumed that he'd already...

        I'd just assumed.

        Well, damn.

        "Yeah. I'm going to do something," I said, and grabbed his tie, hauling him close. I kept my hands above the waist as we kissed, not wanting to freak him out. But then he shifted, pushing me over on my back, throwing his knee over my thighs, and I was pinned to the bed by a hundred and sixty pounds of varsity Greco-Roman wrestler. And he was hard. "God, Kyle."

        "What," he said nervously, moving back just as quickly. "I'm too heavy, I...?"

        "No, you're fine." I pulled him back, and he settled over me, eyes wide. I kissed him again, clumsily trying to get his tie off, but only succeeded in impossibly tightening the knot. After a second, Kyle laughed, pulled away, and just yanked the whole thing over his head like a noose, tossing it behind him on the floor.

        "Better?" he said, grinning.

        "Better." I said.

        Kissing Kyle was nothing like kissing Isabel. With her it had always seemed forced, like both of us were putting too much effort into it. A layer of lipstick and gloss kept me from tasting her skin, and you just didn't put your hands *anywhere* she hadn't explicitly asked for them to be.

        But I could taste Kyle now. Bittersweet rum and coke that I might actually be starting to like, and just Kyle, the hot breaths we were sharing. He was touching my chest, tentatively at first, and then he started to unbutton my shirt. I let him get three undone before I stopped his hand.

        "How far did you really ever get with Liz?" I asked, breathless.

        He shook his head in annoyance, staring over my shoulder, then stared straight into my eyes. "All right. Second base," he said sharply. "But that stays in this room, understand?"

        "Got it," I said, feeling oddly pleased, half protective of Liz and half relieved that I didn't have to be jealous. I let him tug my shirt out of my pants and unbutton it the rest of the way, feeling exhiliarated, freaked out and slutty, but in a good way. Not too slutty, though; I let him unbutton it, but kept the shirt on.

        Small, individually curved spikes of hair fell messily over Kyle's forehead as he ran his hands lightly over my belly, making me twitch. My cock hardened even more, as if it had just now twigged to what was going on and was making up for lost time. Needing to touch him, to get as much of my skin against his as possible, I fumbled at the buttons of Kyle's shirt, pushing his hands away with a soft, frustrated noise when he tried to help me.

        Finally I got his shirt unbuttoned too. He was gorgeous, golden, a healthy tan setting off his muscles. He even had a softly defined six- pack, which I, well, didn't. I ran a hand over it daringly, and he laughed breathlessly, nuzzling my throat. "Okay, your turn." he said, pulling back. "This the kind of thing you did with Lars?"

        "What?" I looked up into his glittering eyes. "Lars who?"

        "You know. Your Swedish dream date."

        I opened and closed my mouth. "Well, I was only gone for a month, you know. I learned to snowboard, I had to cook lutefisk and sing a whole book full of traditional songs, and then there was the whole language barrier, so my schedule was really..."

        "So you didn't actually *do* anything."

        "Did I mention I snowboarded?"

        "You know what I mean."

        "No, we didn't do anything," I admitted. "I mean, besides this. This kind of thing." I moved my hand to his waist daringly. "Touching."

        "Touching's good," he said. "Lao-Tse said 'You should allow everything to run its course without check or restriction. Let the ear hear what it likes, let the eye see what it likes, let the body enjoy what it likes and let the mind think what it likes.'"

        "That's beautiful."

        "Yeah?"

        "We're still not going past second base," I said, and pushed him back down, licking under his jaw.

        "On a first date? What, do you think I'm easy?" he joked, but I noted a fair amount of relief in his laughter.

        Maybe it was a stupid and arbitrary thing to say. Maybe we were just being cowards.

        Maybe we didn't exactly stick to the rule.

        Anyway, I'm not telling. It was our first time, my first time with Kyle, my first time for a lot of things. I'm not a prude, although there are still some topics Maria and Liz can discuss that'll send me out of the room with my hands over my ears. It's just that some things should be private, I think.

        We kissed, and touched each other, and talked, resting our heads on the same pillow. And I found out a lot of things about Kyle that night. I learned that he has a scar on the inside of his upper left arm. It's barely visible now, but you can see that it must have been ugly once. He scraped it up pretty good, a deep gash, trying to keep from falling off his roof. He fell anyway, wrapped his arm in a towel and waited for his dad to get home-- waited outside on the porch, because he was the kind of kid who was always getting into scrapes. He already knew that blood just didn't come out of carpet easily, if at all. He'd been trying to get a football off the roof. He was eleven.

        I showed him the scar from where I'd gotten my appendix taken out, and told him about Liz asking if she could keep it, after the operation. I'd given it to her-- hell, *I* didn't want it.

        He told me about winning the statewide sharpshooting championship, about how after he came back to Roswell he went out with his buddies and got drunk, and shot up a couple of highway signs. The only time he'd ever done something like that. The shooting, of course, not the drinking. He'd been hoping for something, he didn't know what. Some reaction from his dad that he hadn't gotten yet.

        I learned that I could get that look off his face by licking his ear, and I told him about the first three songs I'd learned to play on the guitar. First was 'We Shall Overcome,' because my hippie uncle was my first teacher, and he said everyone with a guitar should know it. Then 'Layla,' because he said it was a good song to pick up girls with. And lastly 'Margaritaville,' because I was in junior high and had the vague idea that Jimmy Buffet was hip.

        I learned that Kyle had, in fact, memorized that particular Lao-Tse quote expressly to use as a pickup line. And he found out what I looked like when I was sleeping, when I drowsed off on his arm sometime around five in the morning. I don't think either of us ever really fell too deeply asleep, but we both drifted off occasionally. With the shades pulled closed and and no lights except the lamp over the bed, time seemed to stop.

        Every now and then I would come half-awake and realize: Kyle Valenti's face is pressed into my back, that's his arm around me. That's Roswell High's star quarterback, his breath on my ear.

        After what seemed like years, an eternity, the phone rang.

        Kyle started against me, clutching me for a moment. "Jesus!"

        I stretched to pick up the receiver and dropped it back down into the cradle again with a jangle. "No, a nine-thirty wake-up call."

        "Oh," he said, and he relaxed a little. "Why?"

        "We're all meeting for breakfast in half an hour, remember?" I said, and rolled off the bed, crossing over to the window. Kyle threw a defensive arm over his face as I pulled the curtains open, letting sunlight spill into the room. "You want first dibs on the shower?"

        "Ugh," he mumbled. "Go on."

        By the time I got out of the shower, he was dressed. I came up behind Kyle as he straightened his tie in the mirror above the dresser, then set about trying to comb his hair back with his hands.

        "So what are we going to tell them?" he asked, turning to face me. I didn't quite know what to say. He just smirked. "Hey, if there's one thing I've learned from my dad, it's that the first thing you do is get your damn story straight."

        I shrugged, looking past him into the mirror. "We tell them as much of the truth as possible," I said. There was a hickey low on my throat, and my mouth was a little redder than usual. I remembered the time Isabel had dragged me into the eraser room for a makeout session, kiss after desperate kiss. I'd been the one to pull away, and she'd looked down at me, hardly mussed. Lifting a hand, she'd brushed it quickly over my face, and I couldn't taste her lipstick any more. Handy trick.

        I looked at Kyle again, at the way his lips thinned as he tried again to fix the knot of his tie. "So we walked around, then," he said flatly. "Decided to gamble here, since I'm a marked man at the Bali Hai. We can even tell them we got a room if you want. Picked up some blondes and partied in the hot tub."

        I didn't say anything, and he came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist, burying his face in my shoulder, nuzzling the fabric of my shirt. I frowned, trying to keep my balance as I knotted my tie.

        "Okay, maybe not... Look, I know Liz and Maria and everyone are great at keeping their lips zipped when it comes to our favorite Martians," he said, turning his head so that his mouth moved against the skin of my neck, "but jesus, Alex. Look at what happened to Max and Michael's solo trip to Vegas, and then tell me who can keep a secret."

        "I know," I said, because I felt like I had to say something.

        He let go of me, moving towards the door, and I grabbed my jacket out of the closet and followed him out of the room, watching the way he moved down the hall like he owned the place. The door clicked shut behind me before I could turn back for one long, last look, or even realize that I wanted to.

        I closed my eyes, my hand lingering on the doorhandle for a moment, and then shrugged into my jacket and followed Kyle.

        "You should come over Monday night." he said as we rode down in the elevator, and I glanced at him, startled. "My dad always works late." he explained.

        "Yeah?"

        "Well, Tess might be around," he shrugged, hands in his pockets, then glanced up. "But we could go for a drive. Or something."

        The elevator doors slid open before I could reply, and the noise from the casino floor hit us like a wall. With a last glance at Kyle, I walked out into the world again.


-----

        In the lunchroom at Roswell High, I shifted, pinned by Kyle's intense gaze. "Totally worth it," I agreed, hoping my voice didn't sound too rough. "Best Vegas weekend ever."

        "And there you go." Kyle grinned at something over my left shoulder, not specifically me. I looked down at my tray, biting my bottom lip to keep from grinning like a moron.

        "So wait a minute," Liz said suspiciously, and I froze, but she only glanced curiously at Tess, and then Kyle. "You were only grounded for one week, and Kyle got two? How come?"

        They both flinched, exchanging hangdog glances. "That's a very good question, Liz," Kyle said with a completely fake smile. "Glad you asked. And the answer is: I should know better."

        "That's gotta hurt," I said sympathetically.

        Kyle flashed me a lightning-fast grin. "But I got to keep the money."

        "What? No. You are a *liar!*" Maria protested. "There's no way your dad let you keep money you got from underage gambling!"

        "Well... not all of it." Kyle admitted. "He did make me pay for his plane ticket to Vegas. I mean, last minute and everything. Wasn't cheap."

        "And then the rental car..." Tess added, shrugging.

        "Plus our three tickets back to Roswell." Kyle sighed.

        "How much was left over?" Michael asked, taking a swig from his milk carton.

        Kyle mumbled something.

        Liz squinted at him suspiciously. "*How* much?"

        "I owe him forty-three bucks." Kyle said flatly. Tess snickered. He glared at her, but she was the only one not outright laughing. "Oh, everybody shut up. It was *still* worth it," Kyle muttered.

        I shifted, putting my hand over my mouth to hide my smile, then sat up straight in my seat as a sneaker-clad foot slid next to my own, then retreated. I looked across the table at Kyle, startled, and he looked at me, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards slightly. And I remembered.

        It was Monday.

        I was grounded, he was grounded, there was no way it was going to happen. But I still had a faint bruise on my throat, a mark that hadn't vanished, that couldn't be made to disappear. It was Monday, and I hadn't washed that rust-red shirt yet. The fabric still smelled of my own sweat, the Bali Hai's complimentary cologne, and Kyle. Kyle, who'd had days to think about it already, and who, strangely, miraculously enough, wasn't having second thoughts.

        I kicked him under the table. "Sorry."

        "Watch it, Whitman," he said, but his eyes met mine, and it was Monday, and it was real.

        [end]

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