Jun. 16th, 2011

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Now-He holds his friend’s body in his arms and feels him shutter in pain. His anger builds but his friend stops the explosion within from manifesting. His concern mounting as he watched his friend struggle for breath with crimson lips parted. Memory is a funny thing and he found himself going back to the last time that they had been in this position

Singapore had been a total bust. Considering the distance that they had traveled to find a mutant that Charles had insisted on recruiting but that didn’t want to have anything to do with them. He had expressed his displeasure to them with three choice words.

“Now what?” he asked his entirely too cheerful companion.

“Now what what?” came the response.

“We’re on the other side of the world. Do we go home or try that git again?”

“Home, I think. I have this feeling that he will eventually come to visit me.”

“Charles, were you playing in his head?”

The sly smile slipped across his lips, “Only a little. Just enough to save us all some trouble.” He paused and put two fingers to his temple and focused.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to find a good place to eat. I’m rather peckish.”

He observed his friend slip into that place where he was there but not there. His blue eyes went slightly vacant. Then his focus snapped back into place, “That way I think.”

Erik sighed a sigh in resignation and followed his friend.

They walked through the narrow street. Erik felt his old instincts kick in as he kept an eye out for danger. People seemed to sense that getting out of the way was a good idea or maybe Charles was planting the idea in their heads either way they were making good time. Charles pointed to his right and Erik was dubious about the place. Dump would be a word up from how the exterior of this place looked.

Charles suddenly slapped at the back of his neck, “There are days I wish I could convince the animal world to leave me alone.”

The two men entered the doorway of the eating establishment. If they had stayed out just a little longer, they might have seen a bamboo tube pull back behind a curtain.

Erik had to admit that Charles was right. The exterior gave no hint to the opulent restaurant that was behind the curtain. They were shown to a booth and a parade of excellent food starting crossing their table.

“How did you know about this place?” asked Erik.

“I came here years ago with my step father and step brother,” replied Charles with a hint of sadness in his voice, “I remember the dumplings as rather divine.”

‘Step father and brother?’ thought Erik, ‘There is some new information.’ He could tell by the look on Charles’ face that this was not the time or place to push for more information.

They ate their meal and talked about various subjects keeping it very casual. Erik noticed that Charles kept rubbing his neck where he had slapped at the insect.

“Charles, are you all right?”

“Right as rain. Shall we go back to the hotel and continue our game?”

Erik gave Charles a look of concern.

Charles laughed and said, “Don’t worry. Now let’s pay up and get out of here.”

They grabbed a bicycle taxi back to the hotel and retired to the bar where Charles set up their chess set from where they had left their game. Charles had his usual scotch neat and Erik had a very dry martini stirred not shaken.

The game went late into the night. But for both men the game was secondary. Conversation, discussion, debate was the reason for the board between them. They had started playing when they had spare time at the CIA base and quickly found out that they were good competition for each other.

“Erik, I believe that at our core we are good people. It is the old argument of nature verse nurture.”

“I believe I am a prime example of that,” said Erik with a twinge of irony in his voice.

Charles rubbed his forehead and sighed, “I don’t seem to be up to form tonight.”

Erik looked at the board. He had the game in three moves. Concern started to fill his being. This was not Charles at his best or even his distracted best.

“I think I need a glass of water,” said Charles signaling the waiter. The waiter brought them a large glass bottle of French water that had been chilled along with two glasses. The two men alternated between water and their drinks through the rest of their game and the beginning of the next one.

The further they go into the second game the more concerned Erik became about Charles. The bar was dark and maybe a little warm but Charles was visibly sweating and Erik couldn’t remember a time except after their runs that he had ever seen Charles sweat.

Charles drained his Scotch glass and said,” I think I am done for the evening. Can you pack up?” He stood up and staggered a bit. “I didn’t think I had that much to drink,” he said with a laugh and carefully walked out of the bar area. Erik picked up the chess pieces and put them back into the traveling chessboard. He sat back in the comfortable overstuffed chair and slowly finished his martini as a cold feeling started up in the pit of his stomach. Something was wrong with Charles and Erik had a feeling that things were only going to get worse.


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