THE LAUNCH PAD
The Launch Pad is a small venue. The 21 and over entrance is on the street-side, Central, the famed Route-66, and it is a double door that barely looks like it can hold its integrity, the metal is so dinged and dented. The under 21 entrance is in the alley, with rundown brick building backs, collapsed rear entrances, and the big black metal doors for the venue, which let people in right next to the stage itself.
There is an upstairs, but it can barely even be called that. The “spiral staircase” is more like three box turns going up, and leads to a small dance floor and a large bar overlooking the stage. The downstairs is a long strip next to the stairs for an ATM, bathrooms, and a booth to sell performer merch, leading to the open standing floor and the stage, at the very back of the venue.
The walls are all painted black, as are the ceiling and hard concrete floor. For a lot of bands, this did them no favors, but for Lights Show, it was perfect. And really, the small venue was an experience, lights and sounds flowing all around the space like the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, just without the floating space baby.
Callister, dressed for the occasion in a latex shirt, many leather bracelets, and moderately expert eyeliner and smudged eyeshadow, and his hair in two rough buns down his his head, entered through the under 21 entrance. He’d heard a lot about Lights Show’s performances, and he looked forward to this one. He smiled at some girls, grinned at some boys and got ready to enjoy the night.
Lights Show most definitely delivered. He was in what looked like a black leather motorcycle racing outfit, standing still at the center of the stage, and slowly, slowly, started moving his hands, like dribbling a ball, and instead it was waves of light and sound, bass thudding, picking up in speed, other sounds adding different streams of colors, until the bass dropped and the whole place lit up like a victory parade with Lights Show himself dancing in the middle of it.
And though he did throw in a few really cheesy dance moves, he did so with a warm laugh that sounded like he was biting his lip– it was impossible to tell, because the mirror black finish on his helmet showed nothing other than a reflection of the lights.
High above, a figure sat on one of the lighting fly bars, looking down with delight at the performance. Ey didn’t notice Callister enter, because there were better things to look at: namely, the fly boy with the sick beats.
Callister leaned back, arms crossed, head nodding to the beats. He didn’t go clubbing often, but he liked life shows. His attention on Lights Show, he didn’t notice the Damselfly near the roof.
And Lights Show played his heart out. About halfway through, he paused, and his boyish, amplified voice declared: “It’s too hot in here!.
Off came the helmet. He took a swig or two of water, quickly, then went right back to playing. His curly hair glistened by what he claimed would be the last song (as he’d claimed for the previous two) and his freckled face shone with sweat too, but he still grinned, enjoying the hell out of it. At some point, he’d unzipped his suit almost down to his navel too.
Nat was utterly enraptured by the performance, grinning from ear to ear and sitting further and further forward on the fly rail until ey wasn’t actually sitting on it at all, just floating in the air in front of it then just below it and then just a little lower, had to see the sweat on his brow, had to peek where that zipper was undone, had to get just a liiiiiiittle closer—
Oh yes, this was turning out to be a much better performance than he expected. Callister started forward, dancing to the beat. He was so focused on the show that he still hadn’t noticed Nat above head. A pair of girls eyed him and he joined them, the corner of his mouth pulling into a grin as they danced against him.
Lights Show did get goaded into one more song, even after saying last one four times, now. This one, however, he was a bit smarter about. He did the beat slower, winding down, so by the end of it, everyone wasn’t jumping with their hearts pounding. His dancing was slowing down too, less jumping, more body waving, because he’d been dancing for a long time and using his powers at the same time, and wow this venue got way too hot inside with so many people dancing.
Callister danced with the girls, slowing his beat to match the changing swaying beat. There were pouting lips and wandering hands and Callister grinned and laughed when one of them found his wallet…and the chain that attached it to his belt. He snapped his teeth at them, big bad wolf, little girls and laughed to himself when they scampered. Callister raised his arms and swayed to the music, still grinning like a wolf.
The Damselfly had finally lost emself in the music, twisting like some kind of sensuous leaf on an early spring breeze. Some members of the crowd had noticed, by then, gasping and pointing. When Nat realized that eir cover was blown, ey gave a quick grin to Lights Show, then descended to the stage and danced with him for the very last bit.
Callister nearly stopped when he saw the Damselfly land on the stage. He instead danced to the beat, turning a circle as he tried to see if there were other Legionnaires waiting in the crowd. It didn’t seem to be so. No sense in wasting a good show. He half closed his eyes and continued to sway.
Lights Show nearly forgot what he was doing when Nat joined him on stage. He turned bright red and laughed, but then got right back into the groove of the show, even showing off a few moves he hadn’t done yet since, y’know, the Damselfly was on stage and heck yeah.
But then that last song was over, and like all good New Mexican concert goers, they were already piling out the door as the last notes rang out. The lights came up in the dingy venue, and Lights Show had to shield his eyes a little bit with an arm, but he was grinning like an absolute idiot.
Nat giggled, then leaned in and whispered, “that was so fucking amazing, you were so good. Um, if you’re free do you want to go—” Nat froze as ey saw that Callister was in the audience. Not just in the audience, but not filing out with everyone else.
Callister barked a laugh when he was noticed and shrugged broad shoulders, stretching his latex shirt. He walked to the edge of the stage and held out his hand. “Good show, Lights Show.” He turned his head. “Nat. Looking well.” That was that urge but it was controllable now that he knew what to watch out for. fffffffff
What was that? Was Elliot Lights Show Anders a total mess right now, bright red from ear to ear and stuttering? Ha! Call an ambulance, he totes was.
“Oh, you ca-ca-came. Uh… Hey.” He giggled nervously, biting his lip and glancing rapidly between Callister and Nat. When he sent the address for the show to Callister on Twitter, he hadn’t honestly thought he would show up and WOW was this going to be awkward.
“How could I say no to such a charming invitation?” Well, he could. It could have been a total trap. Like, he didn’t even tell Sin he was coming. In hindsight, that was a bit dumb. “You look hot. Buy you a drink?” Did that line even work? “That includes you, too, Nat.”
Nat sighed heavily, then bit eir lip (fuck, it was cute when ey did that) and nodded. “Yeah. I’m down. Thanks.”
LS was such a sucker for bad pickup lines like, it should be considered a major hinderance on his character sheet (not Dungeons and Dragqueens v23, kthanks). He was already saying yes and hopping off the stage like it was no biggie. He was over twenty-one. He was literally the only one in the room who was over twenty-one. They were all adults. Lol He would totally get huffy if someone tried to convince him this was a bad idea.
“Oh. Um. Wow, my suit is still unzipped. Um…”
“We can’t have that.” Callister reached out and very slowly, but very confidently, pulled Elliot’s zip up to his collarbone. “Who knows what would be out there.”
Nat flushed. Visibly. Having zero chill was not new for the Damselfly, but it was pretty clear that ey was still way into both of the people present, only one of whom was at all a good idea. Ey floated after them, unsure how or whether to interrupt.
Yup, Elliot was just standing there staring at him with his mouth slightly open, and he was sure his ears were on fire. Wow. Callister was literally covering up more of his skin and it was entirely too smoldering? Was that the right word.
“Yeah. Um. Uh-huh. However you want it.”
Wow that came out wrong and he was entirely too embarrassed to correct himself.
Callister reached out and casually smoothed back Elliot’s hair from his forehead. “Is that right?” He looked up at Nat. “Ready? Think there’s a bar around the corner.” He’d already had a possessive hand under Elliot’s neck and he held out a hand to Nat.
Nat hesitated for a moment, but took Callister’s extended hand and allowed emself to be led.
The bar was, quite literally, just down the street, about a block, and looked really nice. Big glass windows, newly painted walls, a welcoming door– oh wait, that was the other bar right there. This bar was the creepy door in the alley right next to it, with a dilapidated staircase leading up between two precariously tilting buildings. Nevermind.
Lights Show didn’t seem to mind, though, and hopped up the stairs in twos like he’d been there before (he had), and even waved at the overweight man slouching on the stool at the door right at the top of the stairs, rubbing his bald head, utterly uninterested in them.
The inside of the bar was dark. Dark like the Launch Pad was dark, black paint used a bit too much, and where the walls weren’t black, they were dark blue, or covered in heavy bookshelves and trippy artwork that faintly glowed in the dark.
The main bar was past a set of u shaped booths– two rows with a wall in between and those bookcases facing them– and wrapped around to face both sides, a glass tower of alcohol in the middle the bartenders could scurry around. Past that little island of inebriation were the pool tables and the bathrooms, bathrooms on the left, pool tables on the right, five of them.
There were a few small groups in the u booths and the far pool table was taken up, but otherwise, the place seemed pretty dead.
Callister guided Elliot through the doors, his hand on Elliot’s lower back. His other hand held Nat’s, his rough thumb gently rubbing against eir hand. “Why don’t you guys get a booth and I’ll get drinks. What’re you having?”
“Um,” Nat said, “I’ll have a mojito?”
Eli blinks for a few moments, then turns red, noticing where that hand was, and stuttered a few incomprehensible syllables before he finally got a sentence together. “Theycan’tmakemojitosherebuttheyhavesomanykindsofrum.”
Well, sort of a sentence.
“Why can’t they make mojitos?”
“Mint.” Eli nods, like this is very, very important and actually explains everything.
Callister nodded slowly. Mint was important. “So another cocktail?”
“I’ll have a Death Fist!”
“Um,” Nat still seemed a little off-guard, hovering over the booth next to Lights Show. “I guess I’ll have a midori sour instead.”
Callister nodded and went to get the drinks.
The Damselfly turned to Lights Show and whispered, “Elliot, what are we doing?”
“Trying not to salivate.” Lights Show watched Callister go– or watched his rear go, rather, “And trying to remember how hard Oathkeeper is going to judge us if we do anything she won’t approve of.”
“We’re having drinks with him, dude, and all three of us have really good chemistry!!” Nat hissed. “Like I like to think of myself as someone with—fuck—”
Callister returned, then, with the cocktails in hand and his bottle of beer in his back pocket. “Did I tell you it was a good show, Lights Show?” He moved into the booth beside Nat.
Elliot was totes about to say something he’d regret Callister hearing, so he was hella thankful Nat very obviously pointed out that he was sauntering back. The question, though, made him laugh nervously, and the first thing to come to mind rolled off his tongue before he could even stop it.
“That a bottle in your pocket or was my show that good?”
Callister grinned, wide and slowly. “Let’s go with both.” He pulled the bottle out, and uncapped it against the table. “What did you think, Nat?”
“I don’t have a bottle in my pocket,” Nat replied, “so I guess it has to be a boner.” Smooth, kid.
Callister took a long pull of his beer, his red eyes darkened, then he turned to Elliot. “Looks like we’re all playing the boner vs bottle game.” His voice had deepened, had grown a little husky.
“Wait, what?” Elliot blinked a few times, really not entirely sure what that was supposed to mean, but it involved that voice, so, what could go wrong?
Nat fidgeted and then took a sip of the drink, almost visibly consulting the devil and angel on eir shoulders.
Callister leaned back, his arm resting on the back of the booth and his hand lightly playing with Nat’s hair. His eyes were on Elliot, however, and he was smiling. Nat shivered, and unconsciously leaned into the hair play, glancing between Lights Show and Callister.
“Oh hey, look, my drink!” Elliot took a quick sip and turned a bit brighter red, part from the situation really, and part because his drink was literally a kamikaze with chile in it. “Yeah, the show was fun. And. You were both there. And. Um…”
Emboldened fingers sunk deeper into Nat’s hair, lightly massaging eir scalp. “It was a good show. I think you deserve something for it.” Callister parted his lips, lightly touching them with his tongue, while Nat struggled to keep eir eyes open.
“Oh, like a cookie. Or a gold star.” Elliot was trying really hard not to stare at Callister’s lips, or Nat for that matter, because ey seemed to be having a blast, and was he really that worried about what Oathke– yes. Yes he was. This was so bad.
“Want to join us over here, Elliot?”
Elliot’s honey brown eyes went about as wide as the lowball glasses, and he just blinked at them for a moment, between looking back and forth.
Just think about all that rough se–BUT WHAT ABOUT OATHKEEPER–pfft, you won’t moan that loud–
And he nodded, looking at the spots on either side of Callister and Nat, not sure where exactly he should slide up.
Callister made a questioning noise. It felt like a rumble from his chest. He slid his gaze away from Lights Show and turned to Nat, his fingers lightly tugging at eir hair. He bent his face towards em and made that deep questioning noise again.
Nat made this little whimpering kind of sound, then slipped up a little and swung eir legs over Callister’s lap, indicating that ey’d float on the other two, or… near them, at least. Ey shot Lights Show a look that was half oh god please get over here and half HELP ME.
And that was invitation enough for Callister to bend his head and slowly lap up the column of Nat’s neck. He used his teeth sparingly, opting for a light touch, and he never took his gaze off Elliot. Nat let out a short, quick moan.
Elliot was about to speak up, about morals and don’t threaten our friends and wow, that was his tongue. Huh. How about that. And like the young, testosterone powered DJ he was, he moved around to the side side of the booth, next to Callister, reaching under the table to give one of Nat’s legs a reassuring squeeze.
Nat immediately cuddled up to Elliot, effectively sitting on both their laps without actually putting any weight on them. Ey met the DJ’s gaze for a moment with an expression that possibly read we’re in this together, or possibly we are going to be in so much trouble.
And this was very nice too. He reached out and tugged Elliot’s zip down very slightly, enough to brush his fingers against his chest before also paying some attention to Elliot’s neck.
Oh no. That look. Elliot couldn’t abandon Nat. Like, she’d come to his show, and she was amazing and okay. Bonus points that Callister was totes hot– and reaching into his shirt where there was some pronounced chest scar tissue that Elliot was really nervous about but the dark booth and– oh hey, he’d never had a threesome before.
His nerves were never really going to calm down, but he was committed now.
“So.” Callister breathed against the pulse point in Elliot’s neck. He pressed his lips there and sucked just a little. “We can stop here, say our goodbyes. Or we can go to the nice little hotel that I passed on the way over.” His hand was definitely caressing Nat’s leg.
Nat shot intense puppydog eyes at Elliot. I CAN’T DECISIONS; HELP!!!
Elliot shot the same exact look back at eir, chewing at his lip, trying to concentrate, but there was a hand in his suit and his hand was on Nat’s leg and wow did ey smell really pretty right now, and if the heavy looks Callister was giving her did that (okay, his hands were wandering too), then–
“Hotel. Hotel is good.”
Callister ran his hand through Elliot’s hair as he moved from him to Nat, bending in to capture eir lips. “Then let’s go,” he breathed when he lifted his head back up.
Breathing and heartbeat finally slowing down, glowing with a fine sheen of sweat, Nat ran gentle fingers over Elliott’s chest, watching it rise and fall as he dozed. Eir eyes rose and beheld Callister’s muscular form, stretched out and resting against piled pillows on the headboard. His eyes were closed, but Nat knew that he was not sleeping.
“Hey,” Nat murmured, keeping quiet so Elliot didn’t wake, “can we talk for a minute?”
Callister’s nostrils were filled with Nat’s sweet scent. He’d hoped that Elliot’s musk would distract him, but that was faint chance. “Yeah, I’m up.” He didn’t want to risk falling asleep and falling deeper into Nat’s pull. He could control it now, but he wanted to be gone way before morning.
“I know,” Nat said, drawing in a deep breath and letting it out slow, looking back down at Elliot’s serene visage. “He’s so sweet, isn’t he? Just the sweetest face.”
Callister snorted, pushing himself up to rest his back against the headboard. “Yeah, he’s sweet.” Almost too sweet to fuck. Almost. “Whatcha want ta talk about?”
Nat sighed, running a finger through one of Lights Show’s curls, then looked back up at Callister, intense green eyes boring a hole in him. “This is just sex, right? Not some kind of weird ploy to make us vulnerable to your mom’s brainwashing?”
“Fuck. I left my brainwashing dick in my other pair of pants. Wow. I am such a fuck up.” Callister intoned each word lightly as he met Nat’s green gaze with his own red. Then he laughed softly. “Yeah, this is just sex.”
Nat quirked an eyebrow. “You know what my libido does to people. It’s not a stupid question.”
“Yeah, so I fight it. It’s just sex, I can separate it.” He shrugged broad shoulders
“Okay.” Nat looked down at Elliott for a few more seconds, then renewed eye contact with Callister. “Why did you save my life?”
“I was going to let your friends be the heroes, but there was gas in the room, so why not get you out too?” Callister scratched his chin absently.
“Because it would have made your life simpler,” Nat shrugged a little. “Because it’d be one less Legionnaire to oppose your mother. Because it’s one more… ‘trap’ for you disarmed. Because you could have gotten away without being seen, without any of us knowing that you took Smokescreen. Because you didn’t have to, and if you were really too cool to care, like you act, why would you?”
“Yeah, it wasn’t the best of plans. Maybe I just wanted to tweak noses, hmm? Hi, hello, I’m here.” Callister shrugged. “Why does it matter?”
Elliot nuzzled into the pillow and rolled over on his stomach.
“Because I care about you, and I want to know how foolish that makes me.” Nat whispered.
Callister glanced at Elliot, then up at Nat through his lashes. He reached out and gently cuffed Nat with his knuckles. “Nerd,” he said with affection. “Come meet my boyfriend one day. He’ll love to meet you. We’ll bring you for shaved ice or something.”
Nat smiled in spite of emself, looked down and petted Elliot’s back, then absorbed that statement fully and blinked. “You have a boyfriend? Like. A steady partner? Does he, uh… does your mom…”
“Not yet. Probably tell him soon, but he’s skittish so will leave it a while.” He idly played with Elliot’s hair, eliciting a hum and nuzzle from the still-sleeping DJ.
“What’s his name?” Nat was smiling, eyes on Elliot, running eir hand from his shoulders to the small of his back.
“Benny. Sweet guy, works as a barista. Pulls a mean espresso.”
“Heh. One of my brothers was named Benjamin,” Nat looked up, “he was sweet too. Shy. I wouldn’t have imagined you going for a sweet retail worker, Callister.”
“Yeah? What can I say? He sucks cock like a champion.” Callister smirked like a jerk. “You got a brother named Petey too? He named his cat that.”
“What?” Callister gave em a blank look. “He doesn’t mind if I brag.”
“That’s—” Nat’s eyes flickered away from, then back to Callister. “If I tell you why I know that name, will you please give me your word never to mention it in front of anyone.”
Callister stared at Nat. The light dawned. “No way. Oh fuck. Shit. Benny is gonna freak.” He looked like he was going to lose it himself.
“Please never—” Nat’s voice spiked in volume a little before ey got it back under control. “Callister please. Please promise that you’ll never deadname me. I left my family for a reason—”
“Yeah, okay, I get it. Benny is gonna kill me. I screwed his little-” He stopped, shook his head, getting his head right. “They left too, ya know. Benny and Buster.”
“Okay. Okay. Thank you.” Nat blinked, breathing hard. At the mention of the other name, ey looked confused. “…Buster? Wait, I don’t have any siblings named Buster. Benjamin had a twin brother named Bartholomew.”
“Yeah, you got a sister now. She’s on Luna with PHALANX.” Callister rubbed his hands on the bed. “Fuck.”
“Holy shit, Bart—Buster—oh my god, and Benny’s…” Nat’s face broke into a smile. “My siblings are queer too. My siblings are queer too!”
“Benny is queer as fuck.” Callister confirmed, his face still suffused with dread.
“Wow,” Nat whispered, then looked up. “Okay so um. I really want to reach out to my sibs but I also realize you kind of just put yourself out there telling me this stuff. How would you like to handle disclosure? I can keep my mouth shut if you want to do it, but if you’d rather I break the news, I’m pretty practiced at this stuff…”
Nat’s face seemed to reflect how weird it was to be amicably discussing relationship logistics with eir sworn factional enemy, but also clearly felt more at home in topics like these.
“Hi Benny. Remember when I said I was going to bang Damselfly and Lights Show? I totally did! Then Nat and I got to talking and it turns out Nat is your sibling. Shit. That’s not gonna work.”
“I dunno, that’d work fine for me,” Nat mused. “But maybe it’d be easier if the revelation about his long lost ‘brother’ came first, you know?”
Callister bent over his knees, trying to maintain even breaths. “Yeah, okay. Sounds good. You want me to give him your number?”
“If his—our sister is in PHALANX, I can get in touch with both of them on my own. Um.” Nat’s face was suddenly concerned, as if realizing for the first time that eir glee was not universally shared. “Um. Are you gonna be okay, dude?”
“Oh geeze, I’m fine. Gonna screw my way up and down your family tree. Lots to do, excuse me.” Callister lurched towards the bathroom.
Nat looked genuinely confused. “Cal, why is this bothering you so much? It’s not like you fucked your sibling.”
“Yeah? What are the chances? I mean, what if this means I’m screwing around too much? Yeah, anyway, gonna get cleaned up.”
“Too much for what?” Nat asked the now-empty room. When ey didn’t receive a response for a few seconds, ey jostled the comatose DJ in bed with em. “Hey Elliot Elliot! Wake up! I just found two of my siblings!”