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Subject: Chapter 301 - Part 1

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Date Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 07:32:46am
In reply to: KatherineG. 's message, "Dreams in the Dark - continues with chapter 289 >" on Monday, June 18, 06:55:17am

Extra warning: I don't think it deserves a rating, but there are some sexual slurs in this part. Just thought I'd warn.

Dreams in the Dark (301/?)
by Katherine Gilbert

It had been, no matter how he looked at it, a very hard few days. Morning before last, he had been with his wife, had held her in his arms for as long as he could, before giving her one, last kiss goodbye. He supposed that the fan magazines might have expected him to have said something like, "Partings are such sweet sorrow." But he wasn't the sort of man to be so flippant and trite.

As it was, there had been no such thought in Michael's mind, as the taxi had taken him away--had been little left of him at all, without her. Now, a few days and several plane rides later, it was still no easier. No matter how he tried to comfort himself, there was nothing to be said. There was simply no way to reconcile himself to this new life.

His situation, as the naval ship took him further and further away from his beloved, only grew bleaker. While he knew that he should be somewhat accustomed to this new, if unwanted, profession after those several, long months in training, he found that this wasn't proving to be the truth at all. No matter how far away the ship steamed, his wife was all that mattered; the sigh lingered more loudly than he would have liked. No amount of distance was capable of changing that.

This fact remained, his situation doing little to aid him. He was currently on cleaning duty, along with the rest of his unit, the small group of them being ferried across as a favor--and a publicity gambit--to their new assignment in England. Although his presence among them, as well as their early status as part of the Commonwealth war effort, would guarantee a bit of positive newsreel and general press coverage once they reached the country, for right now, the whole lot of them were being used in whatever ways the crew could think up--none of them particularly friendly. More than anything else, they were seen primarily as an annoyance.

He understood the crew's opinion in many ways, knew that he would probably be less than thrilled to be ordered to shift off more pressing duties only to coddle some group of supposed VIPs--ones who were, truly, no more important than any other serviceman--just because the tiny unit was supposedly going to make good press. True, support was still being drummed up in all the Commonwealth countries, the war effort just beginning, and having a well-known actor as one of the first volunteers could possibly influence some other men to join up. Such support would probably even be quite important, in the long run--this conflict undoubtedly not as brief as every war was always, erroneously predicted to be in its infancy. But none of these reasons would make Michael's presence any more welcome now.

The actor had seen this truth only too well, had encountered the same attitudes among his training unit--and was not dull-witted enough to miss it here. He even, mostly, understood it. But none of these facts made being the center of such constant negative attention any more comfortable now.

Still, it wasn't that he was entirely unused to such attention, his countrymen's attitudes toward his French heritage having made his childhood almost entirely unbearable. In Hollywood, as well, he had been the focus of more than enough jealousies and rivalries to have a resigned sort of understanding of these men's feelings--however unenjoyable his position might be. Adding to this now was the fact that it wasn't his star status alone which brought him attention but his very past as an actor--the perceived effeminacy of such a job. No matter how many women he was romantically connected with, no matter the great lover he played for the screen, such perceptions were fixed; this sigh he caught, before it escaped. There wasn't any point in trying to undo them now.

He continued to do his best with his mopping duties, glad for some sort of distraction--however menial--even as his analyses continued. He had experienced the, occasionally violent, dismissal of such men for a long time, had no need to ponder its origins deeply; it was altogether too obvious where such feelings came from. Over and over again, he had observed that men who broke from the, very rigid, accepted standards of masculinity were in trouble--even the slightest deviation a danger. None of them were seen as forgivable in the least.

His thoughts were caught here, even if he knew they would do him little good. But there were so many traits which could get one into trouble: showing any emotions beyond rage and hate--which, somehow, were not perceived as actual "feelings" by such men; doing any sort of work which did not involve either ruthless, high-level commerce or heavy, physical labor; spending any time with women when sex wasn't immediately involved; or showing any sort of interest at all in women's minds, emotions, personalities, or concerns. All of these actions were suspicious, to say the least. No matter how successful with women such men might be--and they often were *far* more successful than their more traditional peers--there was no escape. They would still be labeled as "homos"--and treated accordingly.

There had been times in Michael's life when he had wondered at such ideas, never understanding most men's absolute antagonism toward all women. While he himself had often been less than emotionally open, especially since the early incident with Elena's unintended pregnancy, he had never pushed women away or treated them as simpleminded fools. Of course, what most of the men who despised him for even such marginal acceptance failed to realize was that almost all women were drawn to such a man--but he supposed that attraction was probably part of the point. Those who targeted their "queer" peers the most were always the ones who were trying to cover up their own inclinations.

He was hiding a smile at this point, vaguely amused by such obvious hypocrisy. Of course, he also knew that living in Hollywood--and in the more creative crowd he had spent his time with in New York--had made him a slightly unusual person. He actually did know men who were--relatively openly, to their friends, anyway--anything but sexually interested in women. And the fact that he considered many of them among his most trusted allies meant that he was not entirely a man of his time.

His knowledge, and acceptance, of many such men, their presence among his closer friends, had probably given him an insight into the relationship between the sexes which few in the wider world had--but it also made it far more difficult for him to sympathize with their fears. Rene was only one example which had led him here. Yes, he had been made a bit uncomfortable by his knowledge of the man's sexual choices early on--even more so, given the future designer's open flirting with him. Still, once he had realized that some of his reactions to Rene were a little like those he too had received because of his own French heritage, he had made an effort to change. And that was when he had come to understand that his new friend was only flirting to annoy him.

A smile emerged, even as he drew near the end of his present duties, most of the floor before him now clean. True, Rene had been interested in the actor in those days, had made no secret of the fact, but Michael was well-aware that his friend had made no real effort to seduce him. Apparently, his 16-year-old hormones had made their own preferences perfectly clear from the start.

This line of thought continued to amuse him, distracting him slightly from what lay ahead--at least for a second or two. Of course, it wasn't the skepticism, dismissal, or occasional, open hostility of the Navy men around him which he needed to take his focus away from--their attitudes of little interest. Whatever they did, he and his unit would soon be in England; his heart seemed to fall, the empty pit inside him gaping. And then he would be the furthest away he had ever been from his beloved.

There wasn't much competition for this fact, even if his training in Canada had seemed to drag him worlds away from her. But it wasn't entirely the emptiness he felt without her which caused his misery. Soon, he would be on another continent--and the furthest away from the one of his birth he had ever been in his life.

It took a lot to stifle his sigh this time, his more provincial past making the moment all the more difficult. His studio biography might say that he was born in France--that might even be the excuse he was giving the world for his current part in this dreadful war--but he had never actually left North America. In fact, from the time he was sixteen until three and a half months ago, he had never been outside of the U.S., his adopted homeland suiting him well. Everyone in Hollywood was a transplant, anyway. One more person with a fake background was nothing to make a fuss about.

These facts were not ones the world in general knew about; even had the public guessed that his place of birth was a lie, they would still have assumed that he was broadly traveled, had been everywhere. In fact, there had been precious little time--his early youth providing no such opportunities. And, from the moment he had first gained his contract at 20, he had almost always been working. Everybody with any insight knew that Hollywood movie-making rarely made it off the back lots.

This fact was ironic, in many ways, the actor far less cultured than he often appeared. Even his, much younger, wife had been farther than he had--had been halfway around the world with no more than a prop man for an escort. But this was Michael's first time on any sort of ship--the few sailboats of friends or acquaintances notwithstanding, as they rarely left the harbor. It made everything more difficult. Now, when he was truly away from his wife for only the second time--every moment out of her presence a burden--he was being taken much further away from all he knew than ever before in his life. And that just made the echoing emptiness of sorrow ache all the more profoundly.

He let out a very tired sigh, as he finished mopping the bunk room he had been assigned to, had trouble hiding the sorrow of his real focus--the emotional burden of her loss; he stood for a moment, staring into nothing,
feeling little but his own pain. In a little over a two weeks, he would be 36, an old man in a young man's war. By that time, he would already be performing his assigned role, doing dangerous reconnaissance work over God-only-knew where, waiting to see whether he would survive each new mission. All the while, his beautiful Nikita would be back home, awaiting the birth of their child without him; his eyes closed, soul aching--knowing the only truth. Impossible as it was, he would have given *anything* to be back home with her now.

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Chapter 301 - Part 2 (end of chapter 301)KatherineG.Wednesday, September 26, 07:36:10am

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