Disclaimer- Sony and. geez, Mainframe now, isn't it? It's getting so a girl can't keep track anymore. Anyway, this short is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for references to a homosexual encounter. Thanks to Alhazred for allowing me to use his trilogy as a jumping-off point. no sooner had I read "Dread the Morning" than Dread started talking to me, and insisting I write it down. He's a pushy bastard, what can I say?

White Knights

Don't fear.

My own words echo in my head as I sit, alone in my study, an alabaster chess piece resting lightly on my palm. The day has been long and tiring, and this is the first opportunity for solitude since this morning. Since I left a very confused young man alone in a hotel bed.

None of my associates have any idea where I spent last night, of course; none of them would understand. Dragonelle would accept it, but she would probably be a bit hurt. she's had designs on young McGrath for some time. Psycho, with his usual pragmatism, would want to know why I didn't simply acquire the boy, keep him as a toy, and then dispose of him once I tired of the game. And honestly, I'm not entirely sure I could explain to him my reasons for doing so.

He is, of course, quite handsome. I've always been appreciative of an attractive face and form, no matter which gender it belonged to. Why, as a connoisseur of beauty, should I limit my access to it? Of course, in my younger days, I had to be more. discreet about such affairs. ah, there are some benefits to the liberal age we live in.

But I'm no longer a callow youth, to be swayed solely by a handsome face and liquid eyes. And Josh is hardly just another pretty face. He's astonishingly intelligent, especially for someone who puts so much work into convincing his enemies, and many of his allies, that he's more muscle than brains. Of course, Psycho has never underestimated him, and I myself only made that mistake once.

Perhaps it's simply that he's so much like his father. Not Jefferson Smith, although I can see traces of his raising here and there. No, it's Jim I see in him, stronger every time we cross paths on the battlefield. Reckless, courageous, and more stubborn than any human being has a right to be. Covering pain and fear with jokes and smart remarks- Good Lord, I'd almost forgotten how much I miss him.

Not that I ever had Jim. Jim was firmly interested in women, and after his marriage, he was only interested in one. I firmly believe Jim McGrath was genetically incapable of infidelity, a trait no doubt passed on to his son. That Ms. Chen could believe otherwise showed just how little, in the end, she knew Josh.

Then again. Josh isn't a carbon copy of his father, and that, too, may be what drew me to him. There's a darkness there, one that Jim never possessed. The boy has a ruthless streak that makes him. well, more like me. To have Jim's son by my side would be far more satisfying than having him in my bed. and frankly, neither is that likely to happen except with force. And only a fool destroys a work of art simply because it will never belong to him.

I wonder. does he understand? Did he realize why I wanted Josh McGrath, and not Max Steel? Max is a handsome enough mask, I suppose. and there is a certain allure in the idea of watching those blue eyes cloud with passion. but I didn't want masks. I wanted to see brown eyes filled with intelligence, not blue ones touched with a hint of insanity. I even removed my sunglasses for him. I wonder if he knows how rare that is.

I've been turning the chess piece absently between my fingers, lost in thought. I can't hold back a dry chuckle as I look at it more closely. This particular knight seems to spend more time in my hands than on the board these days. A worry stone, perhaps, or a talisman. A charm against the memories of a sentimental old man.

Because the way this battle is going. there'll be no time for memories anymore.