Lyle Ashley Tate, Gideon Sterling
Afternoon of 25th January, Mystery Island
It started to rain—great dolloping droplets that splattered into dime-sized wet patches on Lyle’s shirt as the two men walked back to the main building. Gideon was shirtless, appearing unconcerned that he was getting wet.
Their day had been productive thus far. During the afternoon, they’d worked easily together, Gideon tinkering various items of equipment into life, including a dune buggy, whilst Lyle fetched and carried as necessary. What Gideon couldn’t fix himself they noted for future reference.
“How do you feel about ‘people like me’, then, Mr Sterling?” There was a challenge in Lyle’s tone. The conversation they’d started earlier wasn’t over yet. With the ice properly broken between them, he needed more from Sterling than his pleasantly sexy company; he needed understanding.
“Call me Gideon, we’re all in this together. Unless you want to remain formal? Seems a bit silly though after we spent the afternoon sweating together.”
“Okay… I’m not even sure what ‘this’ is, though…?”
“This is our current situation. This is our world for the foreseeable future.”
“Living in the moment huh?” Lyle observed.
Gideon turned his head at that comment, looking directly at Lyle for the first time. “I learned to do that a long time ago.”
Lyle smiled wryly. “I guess it depends how good your moments are, whether you want to live there or not.”
Gideon tipped his head back, catching raindrops on his tongue, Adam’s apple bobbing as he did so. He held the pose a moment or two, letting the rain soak his face. It was rapidly becoming a heavy downpour.
“A shower, thank god for that! I feel filthy.” Lyle said, scrubbing at his face and grimacing.
Gideon gave him an appraising look. “Filthy, hah?”
“I feel like a scab on a syphilis-ridden rat actually.”
Gideon laughed, it was a warm, round sound. “Well, you don’t look it… There are showers here, you know?”
“Yeah? Not found them yet.”
“Ought to be enough water in the tanks to supply them…Changing rooms for the gym… Anyway, I believe you asked me a question. Let me ask you one…How do you define yourself?”
Lyle noted that while he’d asked a question, Gideon hadn’t answered it. He decided to play dumb on Gideon’s query. “Pissed off, tired, dizzy and filthy.”
“Shell shocked…Three days ago I had a home; a week ago I had a job, a life and maybe a lover.”
Gideon held the door, rain rolling off his muscular arms and dripping onto the tiles of the entrance hall. “Maybe? Did you leave him behind?” For a moment, Lyle didn’t answer; he was distracted, fascinated by the rain rolling down Gideon’s torso, sliding over well-defined abs.
“No, he seems to have left me behind. I guess some people are only good for one night. Seems I’m one of them.”
A raised eyebrow was Gideon’s only response to Lyle self-deprecation. He turned to the left and opened a door there, entering the room beyond.
It was quite a large room, obviously an office, despite the camp bed resting against one wall, a sleeping bag and pillows laid neatly out on top of it.
“This looks comfy.” Much more comfortable than that bunkhouse you’ve put us in, Lyle thought.
Gideon dropped his shirt and rain-soaked bandana onto the floor by his cot, then reached into his duffle bag and threw a towel to Lyle, who was hovering in the doorway, his gaze taking in both the room and its occupant.
“Come on in, I don’t bite, unless you want me to.” It was an old line, but Gideon sounded like he meant it.
“I’d just as soon go find these showers you say are here.”
“Come on then, I’ll show you.”
Lyle was alarmed when Gideon grabbed his own wash bag, whistling to himself. He didn’t want company in the shower, not today anyway. He suddenly became aware of how wet his shirt had gotten, too, and felt himself colour up. He’d thought the heat would be what exposed him, but it seemed the tropical rain was just as likely to betray him to the others.
“Maybe I should eat first…” Lyle commented as they passed through a room that seemed once to have been the dining room. “We didn’t even get breakfast.” He hovered on the spot as they came to a door marked ‘Gym’.
“Nothing wrong in me showing you where the showers are first, is there?” Gideon’s tone told Lyle he was playing with him. “I know about your… personal situation, Mr Tate… Lyle?
“Right.” Of course. Lyle thought, he’s our security chief. He said he’d seen our files.
“Look, I was wondering…
“I just can’t do that whole communal thing!” Lyle blurted. “I need to undress, relax, wash…”
Gideon tilted his head, studying Tate. He doubted Tate would answer, but his brain was seething with questions, so he decided to ask them. “How far along are you? Bres’ didn’t say, not sure he even knew. What have you had done?”
“Do you mind me asking?”
“Yeah, but you know anyway,” Lyle said.
“Well, hearing it is different from reading it. Anyone can read. Actually hearing it, that comes with different messages attached… like how you feel about it; how comfortable you are; What causes you problems? That sort of thing.”
“I’ve been living as a man, getting therapy to make sure I’m not just imagining it all… have done the legal stuff, changed my name, etc… Not that this name is likely to stick on me that long…” Lyle huffed a laugh at that point.
“I don’t know… that depends. Lyle Tate, it’s innocuous, unless you know. Anybody called you sugar yet?”
Lyle smiled. “Brits know,” he said, acknowledging Gideon’s accent, “but there haven’t been many of them in my life since I moved to the states.”
“Funny thing about the US, there are a lot of Americans there.”
Lyle laughed again. Gideon was pleased to hear it. “Trouble is,” Lyle added, “there seem to be a lot more in the UK these days.”
“Eidolon isn’t American though, is it?”
“Eidolon is…Eidolon. Multinational, I think you’d call it.” Gideon was hedging and they both knew it.
“I got that sense from what little Breslaw said.”
“As far as the party line goes, they’re neutral…”
“Just in it for the profit huh?
“…like Switzerland. Bankers, the lot of them.” The emphasis Gideon put on the word ‘bankers’ didn’t escape Lyle’s ears. “I still haven’t answered your question…”
Somehow he had managed to follow Gideon, through the door and turning into what was obviously a locker room. To his dismay he noted that the room followed the classic design for a sports area, with open shower stalls.
“Nor I yours,” Lyle said. Gideon noticed his gaze roll over the room and saw Lyle shudder a little at what he was seeing.
“This is making you uncomfortable.” Gideon didn’t bother to phrase it as a question.
“I’m a gay male in a female body, what do you think?” Lyle sounded like their current topic of conversation was putting a strain on him. Gideon decided to ignore that, needing to understand his charge as best he could as soon as he could.
“Why are you uncomfortable, Lyle? You’re anticipating me judging you, because you don’t know me.”
“You already have.”
“You know who and what I am…” Far more than I know about you, Lyle thought.
“And you feel I’ve already judged you?”
“You’ve decided what you think about that, or feel about it. We all judge people when we first meet them, even if we’re completely off track. It’s a survival trait… Is this person going to hurt me? is this person going to fuck me? Do I want them to? Can I stop them if they try? Dozens of calculations in a split second.”
“Faster than those computers you are so at home with, hah?
“Has anyone spoken to you about working for Eidolon?” Lyle had been evasive thus far concerning his history with computers. His file was the exact opposite though. It shouted long and loud about a talent bordering on genius; Gideon hoped the file was right.
“Breslaw started on it, but we never got the chance to talk properly.”
“You’re the IT bod, as I said…”
“I used to be.”
“You could be again. Look, I need a good computer specialist here, to set us up at least—you know the kind of thing; surveillance measures, CCTV, perimeter security, firewalls, anti-hacking.”
“Oh? news to me.” Lyle looked around then with some suspicion. He hadn’t seen any cameras, but then that was the whole point of surveillance, to go unnoticed so that the things people let slip in conversations could be captured and analysed.
“They’re bringing in all the equipment by ship, it’ll take a while.” Gideon added.
“I thought you’d have all that here already.”
“Next time the plane lands, it’s bringing with it some men and materials to fix this place up in the short term, until this thing gets off the ground.”
“Seems like a huge waste of resources, just for us. Not something I think Eidolon does.”
“I need a CCTV network around the perimeter.” Gideon let the comment about Eidolon slide. The less said the better.
“In case a sharkman comes to get us?”
Gideon smiled. Tate’s sense of humour seemed fine-tuned and he was pleased that the man was relaxing enough to joke with him. “I have to cover all bases.,” he said, “and I’d appreciate your cooperation.”
“I would have thought the Creature from the Black Lagoon was more of a threat… or the blue lagoon maybe?
“Maybe. Well, I appreciate it if you don’t want to shower in front of me, but do you object if I shower? You’re not the only one who happens to be filthy. You didn’t go three rounds with the Generator From Hell.”
“As I said… I’m a gay male in a female body…You probably don’t want to shower in front of me either.”
Gideon looked Lyle straight in the eye, his expression open and honest. “Doesn’t bother me.”
“I wondered,” Lyle began, “…sorry, rude of me.”
“Why? I’m not offended… Look, going back to what you were saying—,”
“The others…only Gil knows….about my body, I mean.” Lyle interupted.
Stripping off his pants, Gideon smiled. “It really doesn’t bother me. It might bother a couple of my men. It might bother my mother… God rest her, she never did understand; to her ‘gay’ was a way of saying you were happy, queer was something odd. Different generation, but me…” Gideon shrugged and Lyle couldn’t help but notice how that made his muscles ripple.
“Well, I’m something odd, that’s for sure. It’s how they got me here you know…they promised me surgery. I could never afford it on my own. Looking at this place I figure they lied, though”
“They’ll keep to it.” Once again Gideon gave Lyle an appraising look. “If I know one thing about Eidolon, they keep their promises.” Gideon let his boxers fall and stepped out of them.