Warning: This poem includes graphic superpowered kink between two guys, and Gray helping Keane deal with gender dysphoria, so if that's not your thing then you may want to skip it.
"To Perceive Patterns"
[Friday, August 29, 2014]
Even in a nice olive tracksuit
that hid the body's hourglass shape,
Keane looked self-conscious. He
had braided up the hair and hidden it
under the hoodie as best he could,
but his shoulders still curved as if
trying to hide more of himself.
"Welcome to Motor City,"
Gray said, hoping that it
would help distract him.
"Thanks," Keane said.
"I still can't believe I'm here."
It had taken weeks of negotiation
to pry everyone else's head out
of their collective ass, but Gray
was nothing if not stubborn and
Dr. G was a freaking genius.
"Will they stick to the deal?"
Gray asked, draping an arm
over Keane's shoulders.
"I think so. I hope so,"
Keane said. "We got
the budget hammered out
so everyone has at least
a little spending money and
some time of their own."
"So the only thing left to do
is test it," Gray said. "Come on,
you can crash at my apartment."
"Thanks," Keane said. "I don't
think I could deal with a hotel."
"That's okay," Gray said. "Let's
just take one new thing at a time.
You look good. New clothes?"
"Yeah," Keane said, smiling a little.
"We each got to buy a whole new outfit.
Maisie's stuff was okay, but pretty generic.
Clarity and Mira were driving us all nuts
wanting to wear pastels that just don't work
with the body's coloring. It ain't white!"
Gray winced. "I see your point."
"At least the guys all share
some interest in earth tones,"
Keane said. "Though Ham would
wear things painted on, if he could."
"Let him try it when it's his turn,"
Gray said. "Maybe he'll zip himself
and learn why that's a bad idea."
Keane laughed. "Harder to do in
this body than his real one, but yeah,
that might actually put him off."
Gray's apartment complex was
a cluster of buildings nestled
beside Lafayette Central Park,
four apartments and a clubhouse
tucked next to the swimming pool.
"Here we are," Gray said with a sweep
of his hand. "Home sweet crashpad."
"Ugh, I hate blobitecture," Keane grumbled.
"It is not blobitecture, and I can prove it,"
Gray said, trying not to glare at Keane.
"It's a big blob of concrete," Keane said,
"but whatever, knock yourself out."
"First, look at the overall shapes,"
Gray said. "See how the buildings
fit together like puzzle pieces, not
shoving their way into the space?
They cradle the courtyards instead of
looming over us. They give us shelter."
Keane looked around. "Okay, I guess."
"Now look at the details," Gray said.
"The windows and the balconies line up.
The walls are Payne's grey -- the paint color,
not my name! -- and the trim is ash gray."
"Leave it to you to pick a place decorated
entirely in gray," Keane said with a laugh.
"Even the railings on the balconies are gray."
"The railings are brushed aluminum, and they
shimmer when the sun hits them just so," Gray said.
"You should see this place in winter, with the ice
all over everything, it turns into a fairyland."
"Now that I'd like to see," Keane said,
turning in place to look at the balconies.
"You can if you want to," Gray said.
"Okay, I've told you a few things that
I like about my home. What things
do you dislike about blobitecture?"
"It's just a big hunk of concrete
dropped on the ground," Keane said.
"It feels like being in jail or something."
"Okay, I can relate to that," Gray said.
"Look around at the other buildings
and compare them to these."
Keane looked up at the skyline
of downtown Motor City rising above
the apartment complex. "Now that
is blobitecture," he said, pointing at
a narrow skyscraper behind them.
"Yes it is, and I would rather live
here than there," Gray said. "There
was actually an architectural movement
for that sort of nonsense, but fortunately
it didn't last very long. Look farther -- you
can see some of the old Art Deco buildings."
"That one," Keane said, pointing toward
one with a stairstepped peak on top.
"I like Art Deco. It's sleek without being
ugly. It reminds me of some kinds of
stylized African art, or the Pyramids."
"If you like architecture, we could explore
some of the museums tomorrow," Gray said.
"Motor City has a lot of great buildings, and
some that are so hideous we show them off
as warnings. Several of the museums run
bus tours or walking tours of architecture."
"That's a thought," Keane said. "What else
can you tell me about this place, though?"
"Check out the hardscaping," Gray said.
"Our parking is underground, which is safer
and less obtrusive. Those curving bridges go
over the sunken driveways. We have sidewalks
and patios winding all through the complex.
You can bike and walk everywhere."
"That's nice," Keane admitted.
"It's kind of barren, though. The park
has all those big trees, and then
here, there's nothing but lawn."
"Look closer," Gray coaxed.
"Our landscaper thought that
everyone else went overboard
planting shrubs and flowers, so
he put in native grasses instead.
The patios just let us walk among
them without getting grass seeds
all over our pants, or worse."
"Yeah, some of those seeds
are sharp," Keane said.
"Close your eyes and
listen," Gray suggested.
Keane obeyed. "Hey!
What sounds like the sea?"
"That's the grass," Gray said.
"When the wind blows, it makes
waves in the grass, and sounds
a lot like the ocean surf."
"Is that a goldfinch?"
Keane said. "In the city?"
"Yes," Gray said. "Songbirds
go nuts for some grass seeds.
They show up in late summer
and hang around through fall
until they've eaten all the seeds.
Then we put out feeders for them."
"Cool," Keane said, turning to look
at the gardens. Some had tufts of
tall green grass with golden heads,
while others were short and blue-green.
Golden groundcovers filled bits between
the bunch grasses and the sidewalks.
Gray pointed them out, saying, "We have
lawns to play on, but a lot of places are
filled in with groundcovers that don't need
mowing, like partridgeberry and bearberry."
"I think that I'm starting to figure out what
you see in this place, Gray," Keane said.
"The apartment buildings may be blocky,
but the whole complex is so full of life!"
"To understand is to perceive patterns,"
said Gray. "When you see how the pieces of
a place fit together and reflect each other, then
you will know how it works and why we love it."
"Yeah, that makes sense," Keane agreed.
"I'm working on it. Just give me time."
"No problem," Gray said. "Hey, look --
there's one of our local superheroes."
He pointed to a tree between the complex
and Lafayette park on the far side, where
a white squirrel sat in a fork of the branches.
"Wow!" Keane said. "What are his powers?"
"None that we know of. White Hat is just
a crayon soup, but we like him," Gray said.
The squirrel chattered at them, then
bounded away through the trees.
"It's weird to think that animals can be
soups too, even crayon soups,"
Keane said, shaking his head.
"Yeah, I know." Gray spotted
a family he knew. "Would you like
to meet some of my neighbors?"
"Sure," Keane said, "why not?"
Gray led him over to where
a little black girl was playing on
one of the benches made of
reddish-brown wood. They had
slanted legs on one end, and kids
loved to slide down the things.
Two black women snuggled on
another bench as they watched her,
and a black man played his guitar.
Then Lamont looked up and said,
"New girlfriend, Gray? You go, bro!"
Keane froze in place at the sound.
Gray looked at him, and that
unfroze Keane enough to nod a bit.
"Lamont, this is Keane, and he is
a play partner, not a boyfriend,"
Gray said. "Keane, Lamont is
one of my favorite blues buskers."
"Hi," Keane said shyly. "Yeah,
I know I look different, but it's ...
complicated. Just try to ignore how
I look and listen at how I talk, bro."
That worked, because Keane
sounded like a young black man,
nevermind the mixed-race girl
that the body looked like.
Marcella caught on first,
the more cosmopolitan of
the couple. "I'm Marcella,
and I work at the tourist shop.
Drop by while you're in town.
This is my wife Bea, and she's
a teacher. The monkey there
is our daughter, Ortheia."
"Mine too, when they needed
a baby-daddy," Lamont explained.
"I was hoping she'd take after me
and I could give her music lessons,
but nope, she won't touch a guitar.
So I'm paying for piano lessons
down at Wayne State instead."
"Piano's more fun," Ortheia said.
"But I still dig the guitar when you
play it." Then she turned to Keane.
"We live over at Central Park, and
we come here a couple times a week
to visit. What music do you like?"
"I listen at different kinds -- blues is
nice -- but I don't play much," Keane said.
Gray wondered if that was because
he had lost it in the split, or if Maisie
had never been much into music.
"You can listen to Lamont play,
he's really good," said Ortheia.
Lamont, who knew a cue when he
heard one, went back to playing.
Keane smiled and nodded in time.
Only when the song ended did
they stroll farther along the sidewalk.
"See, nothing to worry about,"
Gray said. "We're just taking
a walk and chatting with folks."
He had learned, just from
hanging out with Damask
for a little while, that none of
the headmates really felt
comfortable with people.
They'd all lost too much in
the split that turned Maisie into
the headmates who made up
Damask, and they hadn't had
enough time to make up for
what they had lost yet.
Well, Gray would fix
as much of that as he
could, if they'd let him.
They all needed time
to take front and do things,
to make new memories and
learn fresh skills of their own.
Wandering around and maybe
making a few new friends was
as good a start as any -- and if
that flopped, well, Motor City was
a long way from Urbanburg, so they
wouldn't be wallowing in mistakes.
Mathis and Harriette Eugenides
were out in the narrow courtyard
between the two middle buildings,
bounded by the bridges that went
over the sunken driveways below.
They had a box half-full of books
sitting between them on a bench with
a sign that read, Donations Welcome.
"Good evening, Gray, do you have
any books for us today?" Mathis asked.
"No books, but I can spare a few bucks
for you to buy some," Gray said
as he pulled out his wallet.
If he delayed just a little,
maybe Keane would try
And it worked.
"Hi, I'm Keane,"
the young man said.
"I'm visiting Gray. I don't
have a lot, but I can spare
my loose change for books."
"I'm Harriette, and this is
my husband Mathis," she said.
"Every little bit helps! There are
used-book stores where we can
buy a book for a dollar or less."
"How come you're collecting these?"
Keane said. "I don't see a theme."
"There isn't one," Mathis said. "I build
Little Free Libraries, and Harriette
makes sure they stay stocked."
"Oh, I've seen those," Keane said.
"We can always go find some tomorrow,"
Gray said. "People throw in local books,
which will be entirely new to you -- Michigan,
Motor City, our history and our wildlife."
"That's a good idea," said Keane.
"I'd like to read about this place."
"Have you met Marcella?" said Mathis.
"I saw her out here earlier -- she works
at a tourist shop that sells t-shirts and stuff,
but they carry books about the city, too."
"Yes, thanks for the tip," Keane said.
"Maybe I'll check it out tomorrow."
They walked on, making a slow loop
around the apartment complex.
The lamp posts turned on,
and they were literally that --
the top several feet of each post
turned into a bar of golden light.
A dome light over each door
cast its illumination downward,
making an illusionary arch.
The doorways themselves
were straight, but the light
made them seem curved.
Aluminum balconies caught
the light and turned to brass,
and the heads of the grasses
shone bronze and gold.
Against the cool gray walls,
the windows looked like amber,
beckoning people into their warmth.
"It's beautiful," Keane breathed.
"Thank you," Gray said. "I'm glad
that you can see it that way now."
"Well, you're the one who helped me
look at more than just the material,"
Keane said, leaning on the railing.
"Tired?" Gray asked, brushing
a hand over Keane's shoulder.
"Yeah, it's been a long week,
but it's more than that," Keane said.
"Are they pushing at you?" Gray said.
"No, they're keeping the agreement,
not all up in my business," Keane said.
"It's just ... getting pretty hard for me
to hold front. I don't usually go for
this long, only Maze does that."
Which was rather the point of this.
"What would help?" Gray asked.
"We can do whatever you need."
Keane dragged his hand along
the aluminum rail, fingering the holes.
No -- looking for a sharp edge,
Gray realized as he watched.
"Stop," he said, gently pulling
Keane's hand away from the metal.
"There's no need for you to do that.
Do you want me to hurt you?"
"Yes." Keane sagged against him.
"But -- won't people hear us? I don't
want to make trouble where you live."
"You won't," Gray assured him as he
led the younger man toward the door.
"Plenty of my neighbors know that I'm
kinky and I bring home play partners."
"Okay, that's a relief," Keane said.
"Let's sit down for a bit before we
head to my apartment," Gray said.
"The clubhouse has a great lounge."
It was a little building by the swimming pool
which had a large exercise room in the part with
glass walls, and a smaller section that included
a kitchen, a dining area, and a big pit group.
There was even an accessible dottie, although
Gray explained that if you wanted a shower,
you had to go down to the locker room that
served both the bike garage and the pool.
Keane took advantage of the dottie.
While Gray was waiting, he investigated
the small tables scattered around the dining area.
There were bowls of baked sweet potato chips
and beef jerky available, and several families
were doing a lesson on healthy snacks in
the kitchen, making rainbow fruit kabobs.
Gray managed to cadge a few kabobs
and fill a paper plate with jerky and chips.
Then he wandered over to the pit group.
That consisted of a vast couch with
soft gray cushions wrapping around
three sides of the alcove. Wooden trunks
served as end tables, with four of them
pushed together to make a coffee table.
Keane came over and flopped down
beside Gray, snuggling up and
snitching a handful of jerky.
"I know we're supposed
to go out for supper later,
I'm just hungry now and
kinda tired," Keane said.
"No problem, I got enough
for both of us," Gray said,
nibbling on the chips.
"Uh ... what are they
doing?" Keane whispered.
Gray looked up, then grinned.
"They're recharging the fire,"
he explained. "The girl with
blue hair is Neve and she has
Ice Powers. Her twin with
red hair is Nera, who has
Fire Powers. They can mix
their abilities to do ... that."
That was a line of purple flames
spreading through the fireplace.
"Wow," Keane said, tracing the lines
of red and blue energy from the fire
back to the source in each girl. "I've
never seen anything like it before."
"It's how we pay the rent,"
Nera said cheerfully as she
dropped onto the cushions
beside him. "I think it's fun."
"Ladies, this is my friend Keane.
He's from Urbanburg. Please
try not to break him," Gray said.
"We'll be careful," Neve promised,
tucking her blue hair behind her ear.
In her earlobe, a large metal tunnel
caught the light. "Keane, if you have
any problems when Gray's not around,
come find us and we'll help if we can."
"That's nice of you, but ... why?"
Keane wondered, frowning.
"We try to make this neighborhood
nice to live in," Neve said. "I know
Motor City has a rough reputation, but
not all of us want to live in a junkyard."
"Not as 313 as it seems?" Keane said.
"Exactly!" Neve said, grinning back at him.
"We live here. It is what we make of it."
"Ooo! Smoothies!" Nera yipped, and
jumped over the back of the couch.
Neve rolled her eyes. "You are
supposed to walk around, Nera!"
"But then I'd be last in line!"
Nera yelled back. A blender
growled, and children cheered.
Keane winced against Gray's side.
"Too noisy now?" Gray murmured,
shielding him as best he could.
"Yeah," Keane admitted. "It sounds
like sandpaper on my nerves."
"Okay, let's head over to my place,"
Gray said, stuffing the last of
the jerky into his mouth.
As they closed the door
of the lounge, the growl of
the blender muffled down
to a faint, inoffensive hum.
Keane said, "Earlier you
sounded like there were
other reasons you didn't
mind playing with me here."
The two of them walked toward
Gray's apartment, not holding hands,
but close enough to brush shoulders.
"These buildings were well designed for
communal living," Gray explained. "The walls
have drywall over studs -- but that's not all.
The drywall is lined with honeycomb plastic,
and there's fiber fill in the space between.
The doors, floors, and ceilings all have
their own types of soundproofing too.
It muffles the vibrations very well."
"Wow, a quiet apartment building,"
Keane said, then chuckled. "No wonder
you love it for more than its pretty face!"
"Exactly -- it's comfortable for me, and it
makes sure I don't bother other people,"
Gray said as he turned his key and opened
the door. "Welcome to my humble abode."
His apartment lay on the first floor, looking out
onto the trees between the complex and
Lafayette Central Park next door.
The great room stretched all the way
from the door to the windows: kitchen,
dining room, and living room with couches
and viewscreen. Several houseplants
brightened up the long narrow room.
"That door leads to the bathroom,"
Gray said, pointing. "My bedroom is
beyond it. There's a little notch of
an office in the middle, and then
the guest bedroom is on the end."
"It seems really nice," Keane said,
looking around the room. "I can see
how you picked up the colors from
the outside of the buildings."
Gray shook his head. "Most of
this comes from the design itself,"
he said. "The grays and browns
are worked into the apartments.
Major furnishings come along with
the rental -- but we also get access to
a stash of extras. The art is mine, but
the lamps and vases I picked from storage."
"You did a great job of this," Keane said,
wandering over to touch the open bookshelves
that dividing the dining room from the living room.
The lamps in the living room were made of
turquoise ceramic, and there was a fat little pot
in the dining room that was poppy red. Over
the couch hung a large abstract painting in
more muted shades of blue and orange.
The neutral gray and brown background
made the small spots of color stand out
and look lively instead of clashing, but
the overall effect was restful and serene.
"I'm glad you like it," Gray said, leaning
against the wall. He opened another door.
"Would you like to see the rest of it?"
"Yes, please," Keane said, following him.
Gray showed him the little bathroom,
a quick peek in the master bedroom,
and then the other back rooms.
The office niche had a desk and
shelves set against an accent wall
painted a deep blue-gray color.
The guest bedroom was done
in warmer cream but had a print of
dark blue-gray ovals on the dresser,
and the pillows had geometric designs
of bright grass-green over cream.
It all hinted at a natural setting.
"Saving the best for last," Gray said
as he led Keane back to the master.
"You can take a closer look now."
The huge bed had a prominent frame
of stainless steel rising above it, only
there was no canopy on the bars.
A pile of pillows covered the head.
The lamps on the end tables were
cut glass, and a fat yellow pot matched
the red one from the dining room.
There were two prints of poppies
blooming against a black background,
and a painting of an agate slice done
in shades of blue-gray and brown.
Keane's breath caught, fascinated
by the big dressing mirror that leaned
against the wall beyond the bed.
"See something you like?" Gray said.
Keane shook his head. "Rather
the opposite," he said. "I don't
look the way I think I should."
"Nevertheless, this is the body
we have to work with, so let's
make the best of it." Gray held out
a hand. "You don't have to do this,
but if you trust me a little, then I can
absolutely make it worth your while."
Hesitantly Keane put a hand in his,
and Gray led him to the mirror.
At once Keane dropped his gaze.
That was fine for now. Gray didn't
need to make eye contact like this.
"Do you still want me to hurt you?"
Gray offered, stroking Keane's arms.
"I could use some skin, if you do."
"Yes, please," Keane said,
pushing up his sleeves.
That would do for a start.
Gray trailed his fingers over
the tinted skin of hands and
wrists, letting his superpower
trickle out in little nips and zaps.
"Mmm, more," Keane begged.
"Okay," Gray said, and locked
onto the image in the mirror.
Keane yelped. "You can
bounce a gaze attack off
the mirror?" he exclaimed.
"Yep," Gray said smugly.
He had needed to practice, but
most people with a gaze attack
could learn how to do that trick.
"Everything I can see, I can hurt."
Keane kicked off his shoes, and
his tracksuit hit the floor in record time.
Underneath, he wore only a tank top
and briefs of soft jade green.
The breasts and hips stood out,
but the body wasn't so curvy that
the masculine-cut cotton clothes
couldn't stretch to accommodate it.
They just looked a little different
than they would on a male shape.
"Perfect," Gray said. He skimmed
his power over all that bare skin.
"You're so handsome like this."
Keane moaned and leaned into
the touch. "More, more, more ..."
"Open your eyes if you want
to ramp up," Gray suggested.
"I hate the way I look," Keane said.
"Okay, gender dysphoria sucks,
but it's something we can deal with,"
Gray said. "It doesn't have to stop you
from getting what you want. I know
the body's not all yours and that limits
some of what you can do, but surely
a binder and a nice packer would
improve the appearance a lot."
"What?" Keane said, twisting
himself around to look at Gray.
"You haven't even -- no, of course not,
because you just got your own budget,"
Gray said. He pushed down the desire
to belt Keane's headmates, which
wouldn't help at all right now.
"I don't know what that has to do
with anything," Keane grumbled.
"A binder makes breasts lie flat
like a masculine chest," Gray said.
"A packer is a prosthetic penis, with
or without testicles, that you wear
under your clothes to look male."
"I waaaant some," Keane said.
"They're not cheap, but there are
places that subsidize such things
as survival needs," Gray said.
"I could maybe talk to Dr. G
about that, he'd probably know
where to look," Keane mused.
"Probably so," Gray said. "What
on earth have you been discussing
if that hasn't even come up yet?"
"How to keep my headmates from
scapegoating me 24/7," Keane said.
Gray snickered. "Then imagine
how impressed Ham and Clement
will be when you tell them all about
binders and packers. They will
really owe you a favor then."
In the mirror, Keane's reflection
grinned and met Gray's gaze.
Gray let him have it good and strong.
"There now, aren't you gorgeous,"
Gray purred in his ear as Keane
writhed against his front.
Keane's knees buckled, so
Gray had to scoop him up and
carry him over to the big bed.
Then Gray reached under
the mattress to hand Keane
the long steel chains that
attached to the bedframe.
"I can run my power through
metal," he said. "Do you want
me to put these on you?"
"Please," Keane said,
holding out his hands.
"No locks for our first time
playing like this," Gray said.
"Wrap the chains around
your wrists a little, and I'll
do the same for your ankles.
Don't pull, because there's
no padding -- these are for
zap play, not real bondage."
There was also the fact
that Gray had intended to do
a lot more negotiation before
they got into heavy kink, because
playing with a black partner could
get very fraught very fast, and he
didn't know where Keane's triggers
might be if he had any of those.
Even Keane himself might not know.
He seemed fine at the moment, though,
so maybe previous conversation was
holding up well enough for now.
"Okay," Keane said as he wound
the chains around his wrists and
gripped them firmly with his hands.
Gray moved to the foot of the bed
and wrapped those chains around
Keane's ankles, just snug enough
to stay put if he moved, but easy
to kick free of if necessary.
"Safewords are red, yellow,
and green," Gray said. "Got it?"
"Green, green, green," Keane chanted.
Gray gave a wicked laugh and let
his superpower race through the chains.
Keane squealed at the first touch,
because the metal magnified
the pain, but he held on.
"You're doing so well,"
Gray praised. "You look
so strong when you're hurting."
Keane shook his head. "I'm not.
Everyone knows I'm the weak link."
"Nonsense," Gray said. "We caught
the Scream, didn't we? And we
couldn't have done it without you,
because nobody else managed
to catch the poor bastard earlier."
"Yeah, yeah," Keane said.
Gray let the power dance over
his bare skin, making him gasp.
Then Gray reached down and
smoothed his hands along
Keane's arms, letting the pain
trail along under his touch.
Keane was whimpering,
low and desperate.
"Not getting quite enough
yet?" Gray said. "Need more?"
"Yes, green," Keane panted.
"I haven't been able to get
lost in it for a while."
"I can do that for you,"
Gray promised, and then
pushed the power into him
with long, deep waves.
Keane screamed and went limp.
Gray ran a quick health check,
and Keane's eyes fluttered open.
"Wow," he whispered, and yes,
that was definitely Keane still and
not Clement trying to clean up a mess.
"Was it good for you too?" Gray purred,
smiling as he grabbed a towel and
began to blot away the sweat.
"Awesome," Keane mumbled,
looking up adoringly at Gray.
"Sorry I zoned out there."
"It's okay," Gray said. "Why
don't you take a nap? I can grab
a snack in the kitchen and we'll
just make it a later supper."
"Mmmyeah," Keane said.
Gray finished cleaning him up
as much as possible -- Keane
would doubtless want a shower
before going out later -- and
covered him with a blanket.
"Do you need anything else?"
Gray asked, tucking him in.
They hadn't gone into detail
about preferences in after care
either, but Gray was flexible.
"Mmm," Keane said, tugging
a little on Gray's hand.
"Would you like to cuddle
until you fall asleep?" Gray said.
"Please," Keane said, trying
to flounder closer to him.
"Shh, lie still and let me
come to you," Gray said
as he climbed into bed.
"I'm not the tired one."
He got Keane propped up
on the pile of pillows so that
Gray could spoon around
the strange visitor in his bed
and not have to worry about
Keane falling out of position
while boneless with bliss.
"Thanks," Keane mumbled.
"You're welcome," Gray said.
"It's no trouble. I love aftercare."
"Mmmtoo," Keane said,
snuggling back against him.
It was a wonderful beginning
to their weekend together, and
Gray hoped it would enable them
to perceive patterns that could
improve Damask's life later.
The headmates had to live
with each other, so they needed
to find ways to accommodate
each other's needs, or they
would all wind up miserable.
Keane shifted a little, and
the sweet jingle of chains
made him smile again.
Nobody tried to steal front,
even though Keane was wiped.
Yeah, they were going to be just fine.
* * *
This poem is long, so the character, setting, and content notes appear separately.